In Your Book Were Written…

January 15, 2012

Our pastor is currently preaching a short sermon series on Psalm 139.  This has been one of my favorite passages for years – it is such an amazing text about God’s providence, knowledge, and wisdom.  He knows us to the very depths of our souls, even before birth.

“For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.” (vs. 13-16, ESV)

In the sermon today, our pastor pointed out that “my inward parts”, in the original language, is literally “my kidneys”, which is a Hebrew idiom for what we might call “the heart” today – our intellect, volition, emotions, personality.  In other words, the soul.  So verse 13 is saying that God forms our souls, and knits together our bodies.  Deep in our mothers’ wombs before anyone can see us, He is at work shaping us.  Fascinating and amazing!  (And also a powerful argument for the value of human life from the moment conception.  “My unformed substance” in verse 16 is actually “my embryo” in Hebrew.  I love learning about the original languages; it adds such nuance to one’s understanding of the Scriptures.)

Our oldest child in the womb.

When our pastor reached verse 16, he highlighted something that I had never thought much about before.  “In your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”  I always assumed that “your book” referred to God’s mind and that the verse simply means that God knows all our days.  But our pastor spoke about it like an actual book, similar to the Book of Life we read about in Revelation.

Of course a library in heaven would be way more gorgeous than even this!

Suddenly, I imagined in my head an immense heavenly library, full of God-written biographies of all the saints – except instead of merely telling our life story, each page glorifies God and highlights His work in our lives.  Every day we felt things weren’t going well.  Every trial.  Every sadness.  And through each trouble, temptation, and sin, God’s tender description of how He was working through the bad to bring us His blessing, and bring glory to His name.  How amazing would that be? – to read God’s own account of our lives, from His perspective?  (Maybe they’d even be illustrated, with moving pictures like the wizard photographs in Harry Potter, so we could relive the crucial moments of our earthly existence as we read!)

Of course I’m only speculating here!  But when God gives us a word picture like “in Your book are written…the days that are formed for me”, isn’t that kind of what we’re supposed to imagine?

The thought of reading my life story from God’s point of view reminded me of that song in the movie Prince of Egypt: 

A single thread in a tapestry,
Though its color brightly shines,
Can never see its purpose
In the pattern of the grand design.
And the stone that sits on the very top
Of the mountain’s mighty face –
Does it think it’s more important
Than the stones that form the base?
So how can you see what your life is worth
Or where your value lies?
You can never see through the eyes of man;
You must look at your life,
Look at your life through heaven’s eyes.

From our earthly perspective it is easy to forget that God is in control of everything.  He ordained every minute of our lives.  Not only that, but he is using 60 seconds of every minute to bring glory to Himself, and good to His people.  We may look at a trial and see only badness, but God alone knows the good He plans to bring through the hurt.  It is truly incredible, the love and care that our Savior has for us.  The all-powerful God who sees all and knows all (including our sin) and controls all (even our troubles) is on our side!

“Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered.” – Luke 12:7a

“The Lord is on my side; I will not fear.  What can man do to me?” – Psalm 118:6

I feel that writing books gives authors a unique perspective on God’s providence.  After all, in our own small way, we are imitating His providence.  Within our books, everything is ours to control.  We write every word.  We create worlds.  We bring our characters through every trouble (most of the time…).  But we are imperfect imitators.  We sometimes forget what happens in scenes and chapters we write.  We often don’t know what happens next.  We can’t always bring good for our characters through every situation.  And of course, the people and worlds we create aren’t real flesh, blood, earth, and stone.

God, as the perfect Creator, knows all things and designs all things, and plans everything perfectly.  His will is unchangeable, and His love for us is oh-so-deep.  After all, He sent His own Son into the world of His creation, to save His people from our sins.

“The God who created matter took shape within it, as an artist might become a spot on a painting or a playwright a character within his own play.  God wrote a story, only using real characters, on the pages of real history.  The Word became flesh.” – Philip Yancey

Wonderful are His works!  My soul knows it very well.


  1. So true!!!

  2. Bethany, you have soared! On eagle’s wings He took you.

  3. Bethany,
    Hope it is okay, but I nominated you for The Versatile Blogger Award. Go here to read about it. Do as little or as much as you like in response.


    Lord bless you,
    Maria Tatham

  4. Your comments put a whole new spin on that psalm for me. I always thought the Psalmist was talking about our body parts written in God’s book, not that our life and days made up a book. What you said makes more sense. And how cool is it to think that Heaven could have a library of books that were our lives! How often will be see in our own books, “Those times of adversity when you only saw one set of footprints? It was then that I carried you.” Thank you for sharing your thoughts and what your pastor preached.

    • I’m glad I was able to share some of the things I learned with you, Misty! This psalm is one of my favorites, and I just love the psalms in general…so much depth of emotion and meaning that can apply to so much of our lives.

      It’s great to see you here. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  5. I like this psalm too. At least in my mind, the psalms have a way of saying things we think, but may never be able to articulate at that level.

    Thank you for this post! I never thought about it this way before. “Word became flesh” means more now, too.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it, Greytawnyowl! And that IS a good point about “word became flesh”! I hadn’t thought of the application that way before.

I love to hear your thoughts!

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