Monday, March 19, 2007


SoH search pa' wIj path je wIj lying bIng, je 'oH acquainted tlhej Hoch wIj Hemey.

You search out my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.

(click for podcast version)

You don't need to be a Klingon to be alarmed by the cry "you're surrounded!" Of course, at such a time a warrior WILL prepare for a siege and a noble, last stand.

But the words CAN be good news - for to be surrounded - by your own support troops, or by one's own sturdy fortress is GOOD thing, a cause for hope, and not fear. And that is what the psalmist brings us in this verse, the third of Psalm 139.

This verse continues the explorations of how God watches over and knows all about us. It begins with the declaration that "you search out my path and my lying down."

You'll note that I didn't translate "search" into Klingon. Not because there isn't a word (it's "nej") but because "search" is not common in the WEB translation (when I wrote my simple re-lexifying translator I only did words that were used 100 times or more). I may add it soon - but it's worth noting here, because there are more ways to translate word here, the Hebrew zarah. The KJV uses words like cast away, compass, disperse, fan, scatter (away), spread, strew, and winnow. That translation uses the term "compass" as in en-compass, or surround, which is what prompted me to consider the plight of being surrounded.

Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.

Considering zarah, I find of interest the meaning "to winnow" - to separate the good from the bad. God, we hear, does just that. Whether still or in motion, he searches us out, he surrounds us, and draws forth - just as the farmer does with grain - the good from the useless.

Reflecting on the notion of "being surrounded," the 19th century preacher Spurgeon gives us some interesting reflections. Quoting Matthew Pool he notes:

Thou compassest my path. This is a metaphor either from huntsmen watching all the motions and lurking places of wild beasts, that they may catch them; or from soldiers besieging their enemies in a city, and setting round about them. --Matthew Pool.
This does not precede an attack, but a care that purifies us, as Spurgeon notes elsewhere:

I am shut up within the wall of thy being; I am encircled within the bounds of thy knowledge. Waking or sleeping I am still observed of thee. I may leave thy path, but you never leave mine. I may sleep and forget thee, but thou dost never slumber, nor fall into oblivion concerning thy creature. The original (Hebrew zarah) signifies not only surrounding, but winnowing and sifting. The Lord judges our active life and our quiet life; he discriminates our action and our repose, and marks that in them which is good and also that which is evil. There is chaff in all our wheat, and the Lord divides them with unerring precision.

For many Christians, this season, the season of Lent is a time to search, and seek for God. A time to reflect and find reconciliation. What a gift to know that we do not face such a time in isolation - We are Surrounded!

Surrounded by watchful care,
Surrounded by a discerning God,
Surrounded by love.

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