“Marvelous Are Thy Works”

“I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.” —Psalm 139:14,15

ALL THE CREATIVE works of God are marvelous, and quite beyond the ability of finite minds to fully comprehend. The human organism, with its ability to see, to touch, to smell, to taste, to hear, to think, and, above all, to know that there is a difference between right and wrong, good and evil, love and hate, and to worship its Maker, is one of the Creator’s masterpieces.

Many books have been written describing the complexities of man’s anatomy, and while something is known of the functional coordination of the almost numberless parts of the human organism, of the basic secret of life we know nothing. It is very true that man is ‘wonderfully made’. It is also true that there is much concerning man’s creation that is hidden from his understanding.

It is probably because the human body is such a marvelous display of divine wisdom that the Creator uses it as a picture, or symbol, of the Christ, Head and body. And it is to this ‘body’—the footstep followers of our Lord—this New Creation, that our text particularly applies, which comes to light through a New Testament use of the expression in our text, ‘the lowest parts of the earth’. In discussing the ‘creation’ of the body of Christ, explaining Jesus’ relationship thereto, and the manner in which all the members “fitly framed together” are developed “unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,” the apostle writes that Jesus “descended first into the lower parts of the earth.”—Eph. 2:21; 4:13,9

Jesus’ coming down from heaven into the ‘lower parts of the earth’ had a direct bearing upon the manner in which his body has been ‘curiously wrought’ or created. Evidently the term ‘earth’ as used by the psalmist and by Paul in this connection, does not apply merely to this literal planet. To attempt a strictly literal application would present difficulty. David was not himself ‘curiously wrought’ somewhere beneath the surface of the ground; nor did Jesus descend to any such lower parts of the earth.

Evidently the references in these passages are to the symbolic earth—that is, human society—and particularly what human wisdom considers to be the lower strata of society. As God views the human race, all are fallen, all come short of his glory, all are under condemnation to death, and all finally go into death, thus sinking into the very lowest depth of experience to which sin inevitably leads. It was into this ‘lower’ part of the symbolic earth that Jesus, the Redeemer of the world, descended.

John speaks of Jesus as the one who “came down from heaven.” (John 3:13) In coming down from heaven, he who was the Logos was “found in fashion as a man.” (Phil. 2:8) However, there was more than that involved. He could have come to earth as a man and held aloof from fallen humanity. The sacrifice of his perfect human life would have provided the ransom price for Adam had he never mingled with the fallen race at all. But he associated with human society, and to a large extent with the lower strata of society. One of the charges leveled against the Master was that he fraternized with “publicans and sinners.” (Matt. 9:10; 11:19) When he died he was “numbered with the transgressors,” and in death he “made his grave with the wicked.” (Isa. 53:9,12; Mark 15:28) Thus did Jesus descend from the glory which he had with the Father before the world was, to the ‘lower parts of the earth’.


Speaking prophetically of the Christ, Head and body, the psalmist says, “I was … curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.” As we have seen, Jesus’ death as a human being provided the ransom price, and this was quite apart from any contact he had with the human race. His association with the sinful world, and all the painful experiences which came to him as a result did, however, have much to do with his own development as a New Creature—a new Divine being—and with the development of his body members. Paul explains that it was God’s purpose “in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”—Heb. 2:10

Both Jesus and his body members are ‘curiously wrought’, or developed. The Hebrew word here translated ‘curiously’ means ‘to embroider’. It is the word translated “needlework” in the 45th Psalm, where the bride of Christ is depicted as being brought into the king’s palace in “raiment of needlework.” It is a word, therefore, which in the Scriptures is associated with that which symbolizes Christian character and development. This is the work which is ‘curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth’.

Thus Jesus was prepared to deal sympathetically and understandingly with his body members; for as a New Creature he was “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15) Through our contacts with the fallen race and with world society we are subjected to the same tests of obedience as was Jesus. But we being imperfect, it cannot be said of us that we are always victorious, always without sin, hence we need the provision which has been made through our sympathetic High Priest to come “boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:16) This, too, is part of the arrangement whereby it is possible for all the members of the Christ body to be developed—‘curiously wrought’—through their contact with degradation and death.

Jesus said, “I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!” That is, How can I be completed, or how can the Divine purpose be fully realized in me, until that baptism is fully consummated in death? (Luke 12:50) It was indeed a death baptism, and before Jesus was fully worthy to be exalted to the right hand of his Father, and in this high position to be the Head over the church, his body, he must be faithful even unto death—even the ignominious death of the cross—thus descending all the way into the lower parts of the earth, going all the way that man has fallen, even into the land of the enemy—not because he was a sinner, but because it was the Father’s will that he take the sinner’s place.

Jesus inquired of two of his disciples—and the question applies to all who would follow in his steps—“Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They asserted that they were able, and the Master added, “Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with.” (Matt. 20:22,23) All his body members, in order to qualify for a permanent position in that body, must die with him, must be “planted together in the likeness of his death.” (Rom. 6:5) With these, then, as with Jesus, their full development as New Creatures is not complete until they descend all the way into death, until they have stood every test, learned every lesson, and profited by every experience that comes to them, and through all these continue faithful to their covenant with the Lord by sacrifice, a sacrifice that is completed only in death.


Paul writes, “We are his [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10) Here we are reminded of God’s part in bringing forth the New Creation. After all, he is the Creator. It was the Heavenly Father who raised up Jesus as a New Creature and exalted him to the Divine nature: and Paul tells us that we are being ‘created in Christ Jesus’, that even we who were dead in sin, and ourselves part of the lower strata of the symbolic earth, have been “quickened … together with Christ.” (Eph. 2:5) We are not to suppose that the base elements of this world are the creative power in our lives. It is merely that the Creator, in his wisdom, and in order that the entire Christ company might be a sympathetic priesthood to deal with fallen humanity during the Millennial Age, is able to utilize our experiences in the world as creative tools, as it were, to prepare us for the part he wants us to have in his plan.

In this work of creation, the Heavenly Father is testing every member of the Christ body before exaltation to the Divine nature is granted. With all the other works of creation it was different. The angels were created, and then tested. Some of them have failed under the test, many have not. Man was created in the image of God, and then tested. He failed, but God in his mercy and love has provided another trial, through Christ. But those who compose the ‘new man’ of this Gospel Age, the Christ, Head and body, are tested as they are created. This is essential, for their ‘creation’ involves exaltation to the Divine nature, to immortality, to a condition which is indestructible. If they were raised to the Divine nature and then tested, those who failed in the test would continue to live, and forever would be a detriment, a threat, to the other orders of Creation. Hence God tests these thoroughly, and knows upon the basis of these tests that they will always be loyal to him and to the principles of righteousness represented in his perfect laws.

It is seemingly this viewpoint which is enlarged upon prophetically by the psalmist in a number of statements in the 139th Psalm, from which our text is taken. In this prophecy Jesus speaks for himself and for all his body members, saying to his Heavenly Father, “O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether.”—Ps. 139:1-4

The psalmist then depicts Jesus to be almost lost in wonderment over the Creator’s marvelous love and care, a supervision that reaches from an exalted position in the heavens, even down into the tomb, into sheol. We quote: “Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge [such understanding of all my needs] is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it. Whither shall I go from thy Spirit [power]? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell [Hebrew, sheol, the death condition], behold, thou art there.”—Ps. 139:5-8

While it is true that God’s power, and in this sense his presence, will reach down into sheol and restore all the dead, the thought of this passage seems to be especially fitting to God’s dealings with the Christ. God’s presence is peculiarly with them in death, for his plan is that upon the basis of their faithfulness unto death he will give them a crown of life. Their resurrection to glory, honor, and immortality is an evidence that he was pleased with the loyalty which took them into death, that he supervised this, gave them strength to endure, and will remember and reward them. Paul says that God has made us to “sit together” with Jesus in heavenly places, as mentioned also in this passage, and surely God’s presence is with us there!—Eph. 2:6

The prophet continues, “If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.” (vss. 9,10) And then, the 13th verse: “For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.” This could well be a reference to the Sarah feature of the Abrahamic Covenant, a covenant which, throughout the Scriptures, is symbolized as a woman, from the womb of which is born the Christ. All the features of this covenant—its promises of help and guidance—are a covering, a protection, to all the body members while they are growing up into Christ to form this ‘new man’, the ‘seed’ which will bless the world.


In the statement, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (vs. 14), the Hebrew word translated ‘fearfully’ would be more correctly translated ‘reverently’, or to be filled with ‘awe’. It seems to describe the heart attitude of each one of the body members of the Christ toward the work which is being wrought in them, and the manner in which it is done. The creative power of God in the lives of all New Creatures in Christ is that of his Word. Paul speaks of it as the “Gospel of Christ,” and says that it is the “power of God unto salvation.” (Rom. 1:16) This Word, this power of God, however, is a creative energy in our lives only in proportion to our reverence for it, a reverence which causes us to yield in full submission to its molding influences.

The fear, or reverence, of the Lord “is the beginning of wisdom,” writes the prophet. (Ps. 111:10) Paul writes, “Let us therefore fear [give serious and reverent attention], lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.” (Heb. 4:1) From this we gather that a proper reverence for the Lord is not only the ‘beginning’ of wisdom, but that those who are truly wise toward God will continue to reverence him by giving careful attention to all he has said, that their lives might be fully pleasing to him.

Members of the Christ are also “discerningly” made—the King James Version says ‘wonderfully’. but the Hebrew word here used means ‘to distinguish’. The same word is translated “sever” in Exodus 9:4, which reads: “The Lord shall sever between the cattle of Israel and the cattle of Egypt: and there shall nothing die of all that is the children’s of Israel.” The use of this word in David’s prophetic description of the manner in which the Christ is brought forth as a New Creation suggests the thought of our being separated from the world and set apart to God and to the doing of his will.

This is one of the conditions upon which each member of the Christ company is ‘curiously wrought in the lower parts of the earth’. We are not removed from the world during the period of our development, but by heeding the Divine call to consecration we become separate from the world. “I have chosen you out of the world,” Jesus said to his disciples, and to us. (John 15:19) He said of himself, “I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) He encouraged his disciples in the thought that although they would experience tribulation because of their separation from the world and its spirit, they too would be able to overcome, not in their own strength, but in the strength of the Lord, the power of his Spirit.

This thought of separation is contained in what we speak of as ‘sanctification’. Sanctification means “to set apart to God for the doing of his will.” It is two-sided. Jesus said, “I sanctify myself,” and on behalf of his body members he prayed, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy Word is truth.” (John 17:17-19) The sanctification of the body members of the Christ does not mean perfection of their flesh, but rather a full heart devotion to God, a perfect heart condition of loyalty to him. As the prophet of old declared, “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.”—II Chron. 16:9

Thus it is that God discerns, or distinguishes, between the world and his consecrated people in the world, and works with those who take a stand on his side, who, through carrying out the terms of their consecration to him, “work out [their] own salvation,” while he works in them “to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:12,13) It is true also that those in whom the Spirit of God is working, preparing them for the glory of the Divine nature, will exercise discernment in their tracing of the Divine will in all the affairs of their lives. If they have applied the principles of the truth in their lives they will be among those “who by reason of use [of the truth] have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”—Heb. 5:14


We have seen how the experiences of Jesus in descending into the “lower parts of the earth” not only had much to do with his preparation for exaltation to the Divine nature, but also furnished him with an understanding of the temptations and tests to which all his body members are subjected while they are being developed to share his glory. In addition to this, the apostle tells us that when Jesus ascended up on high he “gave gifts unto men.” (Eph. 4:8) These gifts were the various servants of the church—apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, and evangelists. (Eph. 4:11) The function of these servants has been as ministers of the truth in order that its sanctifying power might be operative in the lives of all the body members of the Christ.

To use the apostle’s words, he explains that the purpose of these ‘gifts’ to the church is “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man [reverently and discerningly made], unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” (Eph. 4:12,13) A proper reverence for this arrangement which the Creator has made for the development of his New Creation is very important on our part if we are to remain in the body. All the servants which God has provided are essential. We need the apostles, the prophets, the teachers, the evangelists, and the pastors.


“When I was made in secret,” David writes. So far as the world is concerned, the bringing forth of God’s New Creation has been a secret, indeed. It is referred to in the Scriptures as a great mystery, “hid from ages and from generations,” but, finally, when God’s due time came, revealed to the “saints,” the separated ones, the ones participating in the great project as prospective members of the Christ. (Col. 1:26,27) And Oh, what blessedness has been the portion of those to whom this secret has been revealed! “Blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear,” said Jesus, for to those who “are without,” he explained, “all these things are done in parables: that seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand.”—Matt. 13:16; Mark 4:11,12

“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him,” writes Paul, “but God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit.” (I Cor. 2:9,10) He has revealed to us the hope of the Divine nature, that it may be an inspirational power in our lives. The “exceeding great and precious promises” of God are given, Peter writes, “that by these [by their power to mold our lives] ye might be partakers of the Divine nature.”—II Pet. 1:4


Again, the Lord puts words into the mouth of David, referring not to himself, but to Jesus, the Head of the Christ, saying, “Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.” (Ps. 139:16) Here we are reminded of God’s foreknowledge of the Christ. Paul writes of this, saying, “Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son.” Rom. 8:29) There is no thought here of the predestination of individuals, but of the characteristics each individual must possess in order to qualify as a member of the Christ. “In thy book all my members were written,” David declares. It was predestinated by the Creator just who would be written in his book as members of the body of Christ, his ‘jewels’, and the prophet explains who they are. We quote, “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.”—Mal. 3:16,17

This is clear enough! Those who were written in the Lord’s book “when as yet there was none of them,” are those who reverence him and who speak often one with the other concerning him, thus thinking upon his name with the desire to please him. They are the ones “which in continuance were fashioned”—or, who continued to be fashioned—into the image of Christ as the predestinated qualification of each of the body members. Any individual who does not thus continue to be fashioned loses his position in the body.

None who continue to yield their lives in full submission to the molding power of the Word of God will ever be severed from the body. This was true of Jesus, and it has been true of each body member since. It is still true today. To all these the Word of God is their life. “How precious … are thy thoughts unto me, O God!” says the prophecy, of Jesus and all his body members, “How great is the sum of them!” (Ps. 139:17) The thoughts of God are indeed precious, and the more so when we realize that it is the power of his thoughts—made available through his Word—in the lives of his consecrated people, that is bringing forth his New Creation.—II Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15, Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott

How great, indeed, is the sum of God’s thoughts! This ‘sum’ of God’s thoughts includes all of his exceeding great and precious promises; also his instructions, and his commands. His ‘thoughts’ tell us of his love in chastening his people, and of his mercy in forgiving them. They tell of his loving arrangement through Christ, that by faith we may live in him and for him. They reveal the privilege of sacrifice which is ours—that “living sacrifice” which is holy and acceptable through Christ. (Rom. 12:1,2) Through the revealed thoughts of God we also have learned of his love for all mankind, and of his purpose to “bless all the families of the earth” through the “seed” of promise, that seed which is the Christ, his New Creation. (Gen. 22:18) This joy which is set before the Christ inspires us to be faithful, and helps us to endure the trials incidental to our training for the glories of the kingdom. What a glorious prospect!

“I will praise thee,” declares our text, in describing the attitude of Jesus and his church. To know of the Creator’s marvelous works in connection with his New Creation, and of his purpose through the Christ to bless all mankind with life, is indeed a great cause of praise. Not only will we want to praise God, but we will realize this to be one of the great privileges of our lives, the use of which will prove our worthiness to be members of the glorified Christ. Using various terms to describe the official glory of the Christ, Peter writes, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”—I Pet. 2:9

Truly, O God, How “marvelous are thy works.”—Ps. 139:14

Dawn Bible Students Association
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