“Our Omniscient God” (Psalm 139)

“God is watching and you can’t fool Him” — these were the words of Mrs. Pope Adams, former Westlake teacher, according to a retired school teacher who was reminiscing on Facebook last week about her school experiences.  She wrote that Mrs. Adams had a great influence on her as a young teacher, admonishing her and others: “If nobody else is watching you teach, God is”.  That teacher said she never forgot those words, and they influenced her life greatly.  We would all do well to remember that same thing – God is always watching, and He sees and knows everything that we do.  Today we are continuing the study “Our Great God” by turning to Psalm 139, where we will focus on “Our Omniscient God.”  “Omniscient” means “all-knowing”, and that is what our God is; all-knowing.  Let’s see what this passage and others teach us about the omniscience of God, and what that means for us today. 

 I.  Our Omniscient God: He knows everything.

A. Psalm 139 and Omniscience

     “O Lord, You have searched me, and known me.  You know when I sit down, and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar.  You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways.  Even before there is word on my tongue, Behold O Lord, You know it all.”

     In these verses, David says that God knows everything about him:

— He knows what he does: when he sits down, when he gets up. 

— He says that God even knows his thoughts: “you understand my thought from afar.”

– “intimately acquainted with ALL his ways”.  He knows every single thing about him!

— He even knows what he is going to say BEFORE he says it!  This is what is meant by the doctrine of God’s omniscience – God knows everything there is to know about us! 

     The word “searched” here in Hebrew comes from a root which means to “penetrate”, to “probe.”  It means that God searches us and knows every detail about us, inside and out!  It is amazing that with an x-ray, or an MRI, you can see the details of what is inside a person!  Me and an ultrasound a few years back – I could see my heart beating, and a valve opening, and blood flowing through it – as I was sitting there watching!  It was an amazing experience!  For us, this is relatively new technology.  But God has always had it!  Almost 3000 years ago, David could say that God searched and knew the smallest details of his inner being!  And He knows yours and mine as well! 

     I have heard people say, “I know that place like the back of my hand.”  Have you ever thought about that expression?  Do you know the back of your hand very well?  I don’t.  I wonder if I could pick mine out of a lineup!  Maybe I am just not that self-aware, but I don’t know that I could.  But the amazing thing is: God could!  He knows every detail.

B.  The Bible and its wider teaching on the doctrine of God’s Omniscience

     But God not only knows all about us, He knows everything there is to know.  Article II of The Baptist Faith and Message, 2000 Edition is very clear about the omniscience of God:

“God is infinite in holiness and all other perfections. God is all powerful and all knowing; and His perfect knowledge extends to all things, past, present, and future, including the future decisions of His free creatures.” 

— Job 28:24 says “He sees everything under the heavens.”

— Hebrews 4:13 “No creature is hidden from His sight, but ALL THINGS are open and laid before the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”

— I John 3:20 says “God is greater than our heart, and knows ALL THINGS.”  That is pretty inclusive: God knows “ALL things.” He is absolutely omniscient.  He knows everything there is to know – every single thing. 

     I remember when I was in seminary, I was talking with one of my student friends about God’s will.  He said that he didn’t think that God had a “will” for the “little” things in your life.  He gave an example of shoelaces.  He said, “What does it matter if you tie your left shoelace first, or your right?  God doesn’t have a will about that; He doesn’t care about that.”  I disagreed with him; I said that God knows and cares about every detail.  But I thought it was interesting a few days later, when I read these words in Matthew 10 in my daily Bible reading: “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.   But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”  When I read that, I wrote in the margin of my Bible: “Sounds like shoelaces to me!”  God knows and cares about every detail.  He knows when every sparrow falls to the ground.  He knows how many hairs are on your head.  The average human head has over 100,000 strands of hair on it – actually I have read that it varies by color, of all things, but generally it is over 100,000 on a person.  Amazingly, God knows EXACTLY how many you have: whether it is 99,998, or 110,726!  He knows every single thing there is to know! 

C.  God’s Omniscience and the Future

     The Bible also makes it clear that not only does God know everything there is to know, but God knows everything that is going to happen – even BEFORE it happens!

— “Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O LORD, You know it all.”  Not only does He know everything you say, He knows everything you say BEFORE you say it! 

— This Psalm goes on to say in :16 “Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written all the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.”  God knows exactly how many days you will live – and He knew it even before you were born! 

— Jeremiah 1:5 says: “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” 

— God said in Isaiah 46:9 “I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things not yet done.”  This is how God could inspire prophets to predict the birth of Christ, and the end times in Revelation: He already knows the future – as we saw a few weeks ago, He is already there!

D.  Omniscience and the Trinity 

     Going back to the Doctrine of “Our Triune God”; this is one of the arguments that the Persons of the Father and Jesus and the Holy Spirit are all God, because they each exhibit in various scriptures this quality of Omniscience.  We have seen that this is so of God, but we also see it of the Son and the Spirit:

— In Matthew 9:4, after Jesus forgave the paralyzed man of his sins, the Bible says that some of the scribes said to themselves “This fellow blasphemes” because only God can forgive sins.  Then the Bible says, “Jesus, KNOWING THEIR THOUGHTS, said to them …”.  What I want us to focus on here is the fact that the Bible says that Jesus did know their thoughts.  He demonstrated this quality of omniscience.  We see this in other places too: 

In John 21:17 Peter, talking with Jesus after His resurrection, said to Him: “Lord, You know ALL things.”  Omniscience is a quality of God Himself; thus it is yet another proof of the Deity of Christ.

— We see the same thing about the Holy Spirit.  In Acts 5, when Ananias and Sapphira sold a piece of property, and said that they were giving it all to the church, but really held back some of it for themselves, the Bible says that Peter said to them: “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?”  The Holy Spirit knew; they could not lie to the Holy Spirit!  He knows all things.  He too demonstrates this quality of omniscience. 

     So we see in scripture that God the Father knows all things; God the Son knows all things; God the Holy Spirit knows all things.  It is a reinforcement of the doctrine of the Trinity: God is three, yet one.  Each Person of the Godhead is omniscient; each is a Person of the Triune, Omniscient God, who knows all things.

     Sir Isaac Newton lived to be 85 years old, and has been considered to be one of the greatest scientists of all time.  In his advanced years, someone commented about all that he must have learned during his lifetime. Newtonsaid, on the contrary.  He said, I remind myself of a little boy walking along the seashore picking up shells.  My hands are full of those shells, but I look from shore to shore, and see that it is filled with all that I have never picked up, and never will.  But what we need to understand is that God holds every one of those shells in His hand.  He knows it all!  He is Omniscient! 

 II. What This Means For Us:

     There are a number of applications of this truth.  A.W. Tozer said in one of his sermons that it would cut down on the length of our prayers greatly if we would remember the omniscience of God.  He said he’d heard many a church deacon spend 20 minutes telling God a lot of details in prayer about things He already knew!  But there are a number of other applications of this truth as well:

A.  Theological Application.

     There is a relatively new stream of theology called “Open Theism”, or the “The Openness of God”.  It teaches that the future does not exist yet, so how could God know it?  And if He DID know it, then He would determine it, since He knew what was going to happen, and nothing could change it – so by foreknowing, it makes God the author of sin.  Rather, they say that God does NOT know the future; He is “open” to what is going to happen, thus the title, “Open Theism.”  Well I disagree strongly with that theology totally.  First of all, knowing in advance is NOT the same as causing.  God in His sovereignty has given us free choices to make; choices with consequences – and He knows exactly what we are going to do – but it does not make Him responsible for those choices!  There is a huge difference between “knowing” and “causing.”  And Secondly, as we have seen, the word of God makes it clear that God is omniscient in the classical sense:

— David says here: “Before there is a word on my tongue, behold, You O Lord know it all”! 

— Isaiah 46:9 “I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things not yet done.”  The Bible teaches clearly and repeatedly that God DOES know the future, before it happens.  If you believe the truth of the word of God, you must close the door on “The Openness of God”!

     But perhaps not too many of us deal with “Open Theism” – but we all deal with this next application:

B.  Personal Application: because God knows everything, He knows everything you do:

     Psalm 139 says “You know when I sit down and when I rise up.”  He knows everything you do!  :12 says “Darkness and light are alike to Thee.”  This is both comforting, and convicting, if you think about it.  It is comforting, because God sees through the darkness; there is nothing “hidden” there from Him.  Matthew 6 says that “Your Father sees in secret” all your secret praying, fasting, giving.  No one else may know what you do – but God does, and He will reward you for it.  But this truth is also convicting.  We often do things in the dark so that it can’t be “seen” by anyone.  But “darkness and light are alike” to God!  That means He sees everything you do!  You cannot hide anything from God.

     In II Kings 5, the Bible tells of how when Naaman the Syrian captain was healed of leprosy, Elisha would not take a gift from him for what he did.  So Naaman left.  But Gehazi, Elisha’s servant thought, why should this man get healed, and we get nothing for it.  So he ran after Naaman and his company, and told him that two sons of the prophets had just dropped in Elisha, and that Elisha had sent him to ask Naaman for a talent of silver and two changes of clothes for the men.  So Naaman gladly gave them to Gehazi, who brought them back and hid them in his home.  But he did not hide them from the Lord.  When he came back, Elisha said, the leprosy that left Naaman will now come on to you and to your family.   God had seen everything he had done, and revealed it to Elisha.   

     The Bible tells us that there may be people from whom you can hide what you do, but you can’t hide anything from God:

— He sees every website you visit. 

— He reads every e-mail you send. 

— He knows every object you focus your eyes upon.

— He watches every time you cheat on a test, or rip off someone on the job.

— He is a witness every time you take that drink or drug when you think you are alone. 

— He hears every word you whisper behind somebody’s back. 

— He reads every unspoken thought of your mind.

Hebrews 4:13 says “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”  Charles Spurgeon says:

“Your sin is not a secret. The eyes of God have seen it. You have sinned before His face. You have shut the door and drawn the curtains and kept out the eye of the sun, but God’s eyes pierce through the darkness. The brick walls which surrounded you were as transparent as glass to the eyes of the Almighty!  The darkness which did gird you was as bright as the summer’s noon to the eyes of Him who beholds all things. Know you not, O man, that “all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do?” As the priest ran his knife into the entrails of his victim, discovered the heart and liver and what else did lie within, so are you, O man, seen by God!”

   Is it any wonder, then, that the Bible can pronounce that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”?  It is one thing for us to attempt to put on a “righteous front” before other people, to try to make them think that you are holy and upright – but God knows better.  The best of us have thoughts and words and deeds which we are ashamed of.  Don’t play games with God – He’s seen everything you’ve done; He’s heard every word you’ve said; He knows every thought you think.  That is why your only hope before Him is to admit your sin and ask for His mercy in Jesus Christ.  You don’t want “justice” from God – and neither do I – He knows everything we’ve done!  We want mercy!  And the incredible news is that even though He knows everything about you, He still loves you, and through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross, He has provided for forgiveness for what you have done, if you will confess it, be willing to forsake it, and ask forgiveness for it through Jesus.  But make no mistake, the scripture teaches us that God knows all – and that means He knows everything you do. 

C.  Assurance: God knows you better than you know yourself. 

     Some of us should be troubled because God knows all about us.  But others of us should be comforted by that fact.  I John 3 talks about how if we love not just with word or tongue, but in deed and truth, it shall assure our heart before Him.  In other words, the way you live gives you assurance that you really are saved.  It doesn’t MAKE you saved; it just gives you assurance that you are.  But then it goes on to say in :20, “In whatever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.”  The Bible says there that there may be times when even our own heart doubts that we are the Lords – but that God knows better.  He even knows more than our own heart knows about us.  That is comforting.  There are times when even strong Christians have doubts.  John the Baptist did when he was in prison; it was a dark time for him.  He who once boldly proclaimed: “Behold the Lamb of God” now asked if He really was the Christ.  The truth be told, many of us have those same dark hours.  But in those times when we ourselves even doubt our standing with God – God knows more than we do!  He knows the seal He has put on our hearts.  As II Timothy 2:19 says: “The Lord knows those who are His”!  What a comfort!  “Though we are faithless, yet HE remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.”  When we sometimes get “spiritual amnesia” in our dark hours; God does not forget. He knows all things.  He knows you better than you know yourself.  He knows, child of God, that you are His.  Praise God for His assuring omniscience!

D.  Because God knows all things, we must SEEK Him for the answers we need!

     Some of you are looking for an answer today; a direction; you are trying to make a decision.  You know who has the answer you are looking for?  God does!  Romans 11:33 says: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!”  Colossians 2:3 says that in Him “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”   Every bit of wisdom and knowledge you need – God has.  No one else may; but He does.  He is omniscient! 

     Some of you need to stop going around asking everybody and their cousin what you should do.  Seek God!  James 1:5 says, “If anyone lacks wisdom, let him ask God”!  Now, I am not saying that you should not get good advice from mature Christians.  God will use godly counsel to guide you. But no man knows all that God does.  The One you need to seek more than anyone else for the decision you are trying to make is GOD!  As the Psalm says, “Look to Him until He shall be gracious to you”!  Seek Him in prayer.  Seek Him in His word.  He has the answer; He is omniscient!    

E. More than anything else, this means we need to TRUST HIM! 

     God knows everything.  Matthew 6 says He knows what we need even before we ask.  Romans 8 says that He causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him.  God knows everything we really need, and how to make everything work together for good.  We don’t know those things.  So we need to trust Him, even when we don’t understand why He would ask us to do a certain thing – because He knows what we do not.  He has information that we don’t.

     It is like Philip in Acts 8, when the Lord told him to go down on the desert road to Gaza.  WHY would God have him do that?  He was basically experiencing a revival in Samaria; why should he leave that revival to go down a desert road, which by nature is going to be for the most part devoid of people?  But little did he know that God had a divine appointment waiting for him there.  Acts 8 tells us that on the road, there was an Ethiopian Treasurer sitting, reading the Book of Isaiah in his chariot, and Philip would go up to the chariot and ask him if he understood what he was reading, and he would lead that man to Jesus.  History tells us that there arose a large church in Ethiopia– where did that church come from?  Undoubtedly it came from this witnessing encounter that Philip had on that road.  That Treasurer evidently went back home and spread the message and thousands of Ethiopians were saved.  God had information that Philip did not have.  Philip’s job was not to ask God “why”; his responsibility was just to obey. 

     It is the same way with us.  Why does God have us do so many of the things He does?  Sometimes we can understand why; but sometimes it just doesn’t make sense.  But what we need to always remember in those times when what God tells us does not make sense, is that He has information that we do not.  He is omniscient.  And so we just need to trust Him. 

     A couple of Sunday nights ago, I shared the story of how several years ago in Bristow, Oklahoma, they had a series of contests at the halftime of their high school basketball games, in which people were blindfolded, and when the buzzer sounded, they could run around and try to pick up money which had been scattered around the gym floor.  Most of the contestants did not do very well; they picked up a few random bills, but not many.  Finally one particular man did really well; he went right to the biggest bills and took in quite a haul.  He had been blindfolded; how did he do it?  He said that he had seen how most people just ran around without direction, and let the screams of the crowd direct them to go first one way, and then another.  So he decided in advance that he was going to pick out ONE person who could see the money on the floor, and he would listen to the voice of that person who could see what he could not see, and let them direct him to the money – and so he did.

     You and I need to do the same thing.  God can see what we can’t see.  He has more information than we do.  In fact, He knows everything.  So if we are wise, we will do well to trust Him – even when what He tells us doesn’t make sense to us.  Some of us here today need to remember that God is omniscient – He knows what you don’t know.  And so more than anything else, you need to put your trust in “Our Omniscient God”!

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, provides brief devotions from own personal daily Bible reading, as well as some of my sermons, book reviews, and family life experiences.
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