All That I Am I Owe To Thee

1 All that I am I owe to thee;
thy wisdom, Lord, has fashioned me.
I give my Maker thankful praise,
whose wondrous works my soul amaze.

2 Ere into being I was brought,
thine eye did see, and in thy thought
my life in all its perfect plan
was ordered ere my days began.

3 Thy thoughts, O God, how manifold,
more precious unto me than gold!
I muse on their infinity,
awaking I am still with thee.

4 The wicked thou wilt surely slay;
from me let sinners turn away.
They speak against the name divine;
I count God’s enemies as mine.

5 Search me, O God, my heart discern;
try me, my inmost thought to learn;
and lead me, if in sin I stray,
to choose the everlasting way.

Hymn #37 from the 1990 Trinity Hymnal is a versification from Psalm 139:14-24. The psalmist expresses a complete confidence in God’s will for his life based on the fact that God created him.

He starts by praising God for this fact, which is most appropriate. We are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” indeed. A human being is an amazing entity, and we are only just beginning to understand how amazing we are. The mechanical design of our bodies, the chemical reactions necessary, the intricate proteins, and the many different elaborate structures and the way they react to each other all point to a highly complex and ordered design. In the past, more than once, certain organs like the tonsils or the appendix have been declared superfluous, just evolutionary holdovers, only to discover later what the functions of these organs are. One of the most amazing things about a human being is his ability to communicate, that I can have concepts and ideas formed inside my head, and that I can communicate those concepts to others by means of electrical and chemical signals along neural pathways that cause my mouth and throat to make vibrations in the air, that in turn cause tiny little bones and membranes in some other person’s ear to vibrate, which in turn sends electrical and chemical signals along neural pathways to his brain, causing the same or similar concepts to appear in the other person’s brain. How appropriate is it then that we offer glory and praise to God with this most incomprehensible faculty? The amazing nature of a human being should not cause us to be prideful, but on the contrary to praise and worship the great power and wisdom of the God who made us, and to listen to His word. So the psalmist gives His maker thankful praise (verse 1).

Since every single aspect of his being has its origin with God, the psalmist knows he can trust God completely with his life (verse 2). Who can know us better than the God who made us? And if we are His creation, we can have confidence that He has the best in mind for us. He certainly has demonstrated His benevolence toward us many times, not least in how wonderfully He made us in the first place.

The psalmist comes to the obvious conclusion of that truth in verse 3. If all this is true, what could be more important than knowing God’s thoughts, as He has revealed them to Him? It is like the great value the owner’s manual of a complex piece of equipment has if you are having trouble working the machine. Without knowledge, the equipment is useless. Without the wisdom of God, prospering in our life is impossible, or even knowing what real prosperity is. But what a joy it is to contemplate that wisdom when we have it, by His grace!

The fourth verse might seem shocking or incongruous or shocking to the modern ear, but in fact the thought flows naturally from the previous. God is wise and perfect, and loves His creation. The wicked are those that destroy His creation and rebel against Him, and it cannot be that God would permit this to go on forever. If God intends good for His creation and His people, then it must be the case that He is hostile to those who would destroy His creation and His people, and this is what rebellion against God always entails.

Therefore, the psalmist desires that God’s grace would be at work, for he knows it is only by that grace that any of us would be on the right side of God’s justice and not exposed to His wrath. So he prays in verse 5 for the inner searching of God, to know the sins that lie lurking in the human heart, and lead him to righteousness instead. If God is our creator and God’s plan is perfect, then He alone can diagnose the problem in the human heart and fix it, and the psalmist knows this. If we are wise, we will follow the lead of the psalmist and desire the sanctifying work of the Spirit of God, working in us the salvation of Jesus Christ, so that God’s perfect intention for us is fulfilled, for the only alternative to that is the destruction of the wicked. But by His grace we can instead come to the “everlasting way.”