I have a love/hate relationship with Psalm 139. At times it provides such comfort, but once in awhile I find myself doubting the truth in David’s words. Right now I’m mulling over the phrase “You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me” (v. 5). What does it mean to be hemmed in?

I don’t have a strong grasp on sewing, but I’ve watched my mother sew before. When she makes a dress, the last section of sewing is the most difficult because she has to work from the inside out to sew the final pieces together. It’s tedious work from what I can tell, but the most essential step.

When David worships God for hemming him in behind and before, he’s painting a picture of God’s nearness and protection. The Father sets a barrier around us in order to keep our paths straight. He protects us from the mortal blows the Enemy would try to inflict. And all this is done from the inside out – the process of being hemmed must happen in the innermost places of our hearts before we can enjoy the freedom and beauty of it.

So I used to think that being hemmed in might be constricting. I believed that the Lord’s barrier around me would restrict the fun I wanted to have and the enjoyment of all the world has to offer. But I’m beginning to see the freedom of being hemmed in. When the Father does the tedious work of hemming us in, He’s making our hearts ready to rejoice in His commands so that we don’t want to wander from the path He chooses for us. The comfort of being wrapped up in His protection and promise is part of the fuel that pushes me to obey His commands. So how do I become hemmed in?

Praise the Lord that He sent Jesus to painstakingly hem us in! Because I belong to Christ, the work of the Holy Spirit is ever present in me. As I submit myself daily to His work in me, He teaches me to love His commands. He shows me the joy in obedience.

So many people I counsel are frustrated with God because they think He’s trying to restrict their enjoyment of life. Today I encourage us all to pray that our hearts would be surrendered to Him, just as we were the day He first invaded our hearts. In our surrender, we are trusting that His work in us is good – even if it doesn’t feel good. And obedience creates a desire for more obedience, which leads to joy in being hemmed in, behind and before.

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