Known by God: God Names Us Backwards

Known by God: God Names Us Backwards

Psalm 139 is one of David’s most personal and beautiful songs, full of intimate lines like, “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it” (nlt). The Message Bible translation says it like this: “I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made!”

Psalm 139 gives us emotional strength; God has designed us with love, artistry, and intentionality.

In years past, I have read this psalm as a confidence booster. When I was feeling insecure or in a self-rejection place, I’d read Psalm 139 aloud and remind myself that God has made me fearfully and wonderfully, in his image. I’d concentrate on how deliberate and poetic my very existence is. I’ve prayed this prayer as a prophetic word over others who were questioning their self-esteem or worth.

But I’ve been rereading Psalm 139, especially in view of those childhood memories. And this time through, my soul has been drawn to one word in particular, a word that David uses sparingly but forcefully: before.

Before a word is on my tongue

you, Lord, know it completely.

You hem me in behind and before . . .

Your eyes saw my unformed body;

all the days ordained for me were written in your book

before one of them came to be.


David declares with awe that God saw, God loved, God knew, God moved, God worked, God called, God protected, God planned, God ordained before. Before can mean “at the forefront of,” as in, “you hem me in behind and before.” It can also mean “prior to.” But before can also mean the sacred before—that sheltered, secret place of God’s heart and God’s dreams, where everything that would exist first began to exist.

When you think of your own existence, do you wonder what God was up to, regarding you—before you came into being?

Was he creatively dreaming about your hair type and skin color and eye color and life’s narrative? Were you born in a flash of holy brilliance or over a long period in the timeless expanse of God’s omnipresence? Did God know your name even then?

The Bible answers with a resounding yes! to all of these questions.

God knew you, formed you, watched you before even one day of your life came to pass.

In the sacred before, God was already longing to lead you along the path of everlasting life. Though your childhood may have felt void of his presence, it wasn’t. He was there, loving you into being all along.

You are, and have always been, entirely, deeply, and categorically known.


I don’t know how life’s longings and heartaches have touched you, shaped you, or made you, but I know one thing to be true: You were made in the secret place, and you are exceptionally loved and ferociously accepted by God who has been with you and who has carried your name with him since before.

Have you ever wondered what the name of Jesus does? Download this list of Scripture passages and brief explanations to strengthen your confidence in the powerful name of Jesus.

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