Psalm 56: Our Recordkeeping God

Read Psalm 56.

Most mornings, Jonah and I take a walk around our neighborhood—a couple of miles in the fresh air to start out our day. When we first started this ritual, Jonah would hold my hand and talk to me the whole time, but now he’s decided to be a more independent six-year-old, so he’ll often bring his scooter or his bike. That leaves me lagging behind as he rides up ahead and then circles back to me. In that space, I often pray.

The other day, I was watching Jonah on his bike a few dozen yards in front of me, and I was thinking and praying about something painful that had happened not too long ago. You probably know how it is when you’ve been wounded. It seems you have to keep bringing the thing back to God, keep processing, keep working it through. On this particular morning, I was talking to the Lord about my part in the whole mess, owning up to what I had done. But suddenly a detail came into my mind that I had forgotten. It wasn’t something I had done, but something that had been done to me.

Now, when I say I had forgotten this detail, I mean it was no longer in my mind. Not at all. Not a sliver of a memory. Not even a trace. Nothing jogged my memory as I was walking; there was nothing to jog. Instead, it was as if the Spirit of God was telling what had happened for the first time. I had been beating myself up over my own failures when God reminded me that in this particular instance, it wasn’t my fault. He remembered when I hadn’t.

Nothing escapes God’s notice, and God remembers every detail. The Bible is clear on this point, often using the language of bookkeeping. God is pictured as having books and scrolls filled with names and events. “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books” (Revelation 20:12). Nothing is lost. He has a receipt of every transaction.

In Psalm 56, David appeals to this divine recordkeeping: “Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll—are they not in your record?” (v. 8). He knows that God sees all and will provide justice, one way or another. “In God I trust and am not afraid. What can man do to me?” (v. 11).

It can be easy to forget that nothing escapes God’s notice. But if He’s numbered the hairs on our heads and watches over the sparrows (Luke 12:6–7), we can trust that He sees what happens in our lives. He sees our wrongs and the wrongs done to us. He has always been the God who sees.

About a thousand years before David wrote this psalm, Abram and Sarai were still trying to figure out how to walk with the Lord. They trusted Him, but some of His promises seemed more than impossible. God had told Abram he’d have a child, from whom would descend a great nation, but Sarai was barren and beyond childbearing age. They couldn’t imagine God could grow life in a womb that was as good as dead.

So Sarai took matters into her own hands. She gave her slave, Hagar, to Abram, and he slept with her. Soon, Hagar became pregnant. Sarai’s plan had worked—except no woman really wants to see her husband have a child with another woman, even if it was at her suggestion. So Sarai began mistreating Hagar, and before long it was so bad that Hagar ran away.

To be a woman on your own in the ancient Near East was not liberation; it was a death sentence. Hagar had no one to care for her, to provide for her, or to protect her. She was vulnerable all alone. Anything could have happened to her. I bring this up because, whatever Sarai had been doing to her, it must have been pretty horrible for her to take such a drastic step.

Sometime later, the angel of the Lord found poor Hagar near a spring. He appeared to her and told her what would become of her son, Ishmael, and he urged her to return to Sarai and Abraham. “She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me’” (Genesis 16:13).

Hagar was an Egyptian, a slave, and not the mother of the child God had promised Abraham. She was not part of the chosen nation God would create through Abram and Sarai. She was, at best, a footnote in the story of redemption. Yet God saw her. He knew her whole story. He knew what Sarai had done to her, and He loved her.

God saw it all. Not a thing was missed.

He sees us too—every little detail in our stories, including the things even we don’t see. One day the books will be opened, and we’ll know we were never alone. He saw it all, our glorious God who sees.

What is this all about?

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