139. LORD, You Have Searched My Life and Know

Text Information
First Line: LORD, you have searched my life and know
Title: LORD, You Have Searched My Life and Know
Versifier: Calvin Seerveld (1985)
Meter: 88 88 88
Scripture: Psalm 139
Topic: Marriage; Profession of Faith
Language: English
Copyright: © Calvin Seerveld
Tune Information
Name: LEICESTER
Harmonizer: Harry E. Wooldridge, 1845-1917
Composer: John Bishop (1711)
Meter: 88 88 88
Key: g minor


Text Information:

A prayer for God's thorough examination.

Scripture References:
st. 1 = vv. 1-6
st. 2 = vv. 7-12
st. 3 = vv. 13-18
st. 4 = vv. 19-24

Psalm 139 is a profound prayer asking God to examine the psalmist's heart. It recognizes God's intimate knowledge of our lives, even before birth. It expresses as nowhere else how awesome it is to lay oneself open to God's full scrutiny. I open myself to your searching eye, O God, says the psalmist; you know everyone of my thoughts, words, and deeds (st. 1). There is no hiding from you (st. 2). You put me together in the womb; you know me far better than I know myself (st. 3). My zeal for you sets me against all who are against you; search me, teach me, and lead me (st. 4). Perhaps the author's loyalty to the LORD has been put under suspicion, which makes him long for God's vindication. Or, being zealous for the LORD (vv. 19-22), yet knowing the deviousness of every heart, does the psalmist want God to root out "any offensive way" in order to be led "in the way everlasting" (v. 24)? Calvin Seerveld (PHH 22) versified this psalm in 1985 for the Psalter Hymnal.

Liturgical Use:
During periods of self-examination such as Advent, Lent, and preparation for the Lord's Supper; during services focusing on the work of the Spirit (st. 1-2).

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune Information:

John Bishop (b. England, 1665; d. Winchester, England, 1737) was lay vicar at King's College, Cambridge, England, in 1687. From 1695 to 1737 he served as organist at Winchester College and in 1697 was appointed lay clerk. He was also an organist at Winchester Cathedral. In 1710 or 1711, Bishop published A Set of New Psalm Tunes in Four Parts (c. 1710), a work that was reprinted several times. LEICESTER was a setting for Psalm 112 in that collection (where it was named BEDFORD); the tune is named after the British city in Leicester County. LEICESTER is a minor tune consisting of three long lines, not six choppy phrases. The melodic units of line 1 also appear as parts of lines 2 and 3.

The harmonization, well suited to part singing, is by Harry Ellis Wooldridge (b. Winchester, 1845; d. London, England, 1917). Wooldridge was accomplished in both the visual arts and in music; he studied painting at the Royal Academy and music in London and Oxford. In 1895 he became Slade Professor of Fine Arts at Oxford University. His publications include An English Metrical Psalter (1890), two volumes of the Oxford History of Music (1901, 1905), three volumes of church music by Henry Purcell, and the Yattendon Hymnal (1899), which he co-edited with Robert Bridges (PHH 386).

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook


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