Do you read or watch the news to learn what you don’t know, to uncover new facts? Or to know what other people think of current events? Maybe both? This year, it is estimated that “the entertainment and media market in the U.S. is expected to be worth over 720.38 billion USD.” (1) We like to know what’s happening in our local communities, countries, and the world. Some of us especially like to have hidden facts revealed about ongoing political, crime, or personal dramas. When we were younger, we were more interested in hiding things from our parents and teachers. We warned our new classmates about those teachers who seemed to have “eyes in the backs of their heads,” because we want to hide some of our looks or conduct. These days my challenge is to find that key or thing I “put away in a safe place” and can’t find again, proving how good I am at hiding things from myself. Spiritually, we hide our guilt and shame from ourselves, so we don’t have to see or feel it. We hide our insecurities, fears, doubts, and anxieties as if we won’t be affected by them if we don’t acknowledge them. But deep in our hearts and souls, we want to be loved and known for who we are, without judgment or condemnation. We deal with the conflict between wanting to be known and hiding our faults based on our theology, in large part. If I think my value is wholly in what others think of me, I will be more inclined to put on a good show, leading to their acceptance and appreciation. However, if I put my faith in Christ, knowing that he has already accepted me, I will be more vulnerable and transparent with myself and others. In Christ, instead of being threatened by God’s omniscience of our hearts and minds, it is a blessing that leads us to be more humble, thankful, comforted, and prayerful.
God’s Perfect Knowledge
The first psalm I memorized after coming to faith in Christ is 139. I was changed by reciting David’s words repeatedly, to embrace and enjoy God’s omniscience after decades of running away from myself, my problems, and others. David begins, “O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether…Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.” (Psalms 139:1-4, 6) “‘Nothing is secret,’ said Jesus, ‘that shall not become known’…We have a God who is omniscient, but his attitude towards us is not that of a prison warden, watching us lest we make a false move. Nor is he trying to behave like a transcendent policeman to spy on us. However, we cannot avoid the fact that God knows us completely, inside and out. He knows every deed that we have ever committed; he knows every thought that has gone through our minds.” (2) As we mature in our Christian faith, we recognize that there are more areas of doubts and fears yet to discover, with God’s help, through the work of the Holy Spirit. Instead of being threatened by God’s perfect knowledge, we find our refuge in it. “For an unsaved person this powerful, pervasive knowledge seems intrusive and frightening, and with good reason. God is the end-time judge with whom we must reckon. Strikingly, the response of the psalmist is not fear. He is not trembling when he thinks of God’s omniscience. On the contrary, he shelters himself in God’s knowledge and marvels at it. For the psalmist, God’s knowledge is not a threat; it is a refuge.” (3) God’s omniscience is personal, specific, and perfect—an incredible blessing.
David’s Delight in God’s Omniscience
“The greatest theologian America has ever produced, Jonathan Edwards, once wrote a sermon entitled ‘Man Naturally God’s Enemy,’ in which he listed the attributes of God that sinful men and women dislike and showed why we dislike them. According to Edwards, all are naturally God’s enemies because of five things: God’s holiness, because we are not holy; God’s omniscience, because he knows we are not holy; God’s omnipotence, because this offends our desire for autonomy; God’s mercy, because it is a holy mercy; and God’s immutability, because God will never be other than he is in these ‘offensive’ attributes. We are not what we ought to be. We are sinners, and whether we admit it openly or not, we know it and develop psychological defense mechanisms…We can hide from others. We can even do a good job of hiding from ourselves. But how do you hide from one before whom ‘all hearts are open, all desires known?’ How do you deal with one of whom it is written, ‘Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account’ (Hebrews 4:13)? But God’s omniscience should comfort us. God knows the worst about us and loves us anyway…It should encourage us to live for God. In Psalm 139, David has been reflecting on the omniscience of God, and it has led him to ask God to help him lead an upright life. He knows that God will do it precisely because God knows him so well. We know very little. We do not even know ourselves, but God knows us…If anyone can ‘lead me in the way everlasting,’ it is God. Moreover, since I know he knows me and wants to help me, I can be encouraged to get on with upright living. [Finally, God’s omniscience] should help us to pray… God’s knowledge of what we need is so perfect that he often answers even before we pray to him. ‘Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear,’ wrote Isaiah (65:24). Who can be terrified by a God who knows and answers us like that?” (4) Why wouldn’t we embrace the blessing of God’s omniscience?
The Importance of God’s Omniscience
“Why is it important to know that God knows everything? The answer is in two areas. First, we must know that God is omniscient so that we will not be tempted to try to fool him with some exalted portrayal of our own deep devotion or loyalty. If we could, we would try to convince God that we are serious about following him when actually we would be going our own way. We would try to appear good, when we are not; humble, when we are filled with pride…The second area in which knowledge of the omniscience of God is important to us concerns our trust in him. If God did not know everything, if something could at any moment rise up to surprise him, then God could not be trusted…His promises could not be trusted, for he might decide to break or change them on the basis of this new knowledge. He might even change his attitude toward us, for we might surprise him by the sin we commit and thus cause him to look upon us with abhorrence or even apathy. If God does not truly know everything, any of this is possible. On the other hand, if God does know all things both in the past and future, then nothing unforeseen can change him. He has seen the end from the beginning. He has taken all into consideration. Nothing we can ever do will surprise him. Thus, his promises can be believed, and he can be trusted to remain the same in himself and toward us forever.” (5) Christ “‘knew what was in man’ (John 2:25) and knows every minute of every day what is in every person’s heart. He knows our inward thoughts, the secrets of the heart…he knows what their affections are set upon, on earthly or heavenly things; whether there is any light in their understandings, or not; whether their wills are subdued and resigned to the will of God, or not; whether their minds and consciences are defiled, or their hearts are sprinkled from an evil conscience; in short, whether the internal good work of grace is begun upon their souls, or not; and he knows the secret springs of all actions, good and bad; all which prove his true and proper deity, and show him to be a suitable Saviour of sinners, and qualify him to be the Judge of the whole earth.” (6) He humbled himself to mortal life as a man, sacrificed himself on the cross, and was raised to overcome death and sin—to know us, save, and love us abundantly forever. “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!” (Romans 11:33a) “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalms 139:23-24)
Related Scripture: Job 31:4; Psalm 7:9; 17:3; 44:21b; 94:8-11; Jeremiah 12:3; Matthew 9:4a; Luke 8:16; John 2:24-25; Hebrews 4:12-13.
- Sproul, R. C., “A Walk with God: An Exposition of Luke’s Gospel,” Luke 8:16, Electronic Book, 2016.
- Boice, James, “Boice Expositional Commentary Series,” Psalm 139, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
- Boice, Ibid.
- Boice, John 17, Ibid.
- Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” John 2:25, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/John-2.html
April 28, 2022