by Rev. D. H. Kuiper
"O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and my uprising, thou understandeth 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. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it." Psalm 139:1-6
The knowledge of God may be considered in two ways. There is the knowledge of God which the believer possesses; this is a subjective, personal knowledge. There is also the knowledge that God has of all things; this is the knowledge in the objective sense. God knows, God knows everything, and God knows with perfect understanding. He is omniscient! The perfect knowledge that God has of all things follows from the truth that He is the absolutely perfect Being. As the eternal, sovereign God, He cannot be ignorant of anything, nor can His knowledge be increased or decreased. God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. Only with perfect knowledge is God able to judge the world in righteousness.
In the verses quoted above, the psalmist expresses a great deal of wonder, amazement, adoration, and worship. Such knowledge is too wonderful for him! The more we know of God, the more we are increased by the Spirit in our understanding of His greatness; the closer God is to us, the more intimate is our communion with Him, and the better we are equipped to serve Him. The partial knowledge of God that some men have outside of Christ can only inspire fear and dread. But the knowledge of God which is in Christ casts out fear; there is no terror of God when He stands revealed in Jesus Christ!
The omniscience of God simply means that God knows all things fully. He knows all things accurately and with perfect understanding. With God there is knowledge, with man there is ignorance. God is light, and man is darkness. When the light of God shone into the world of darkness through the eternal Son of God, the darkness comprehended it not. Let us be impressed by this: there is no understanding, wisdom, or knowledge outside of Jesus Christ. Any school, university, or system of education that cuts itself off from the revelation of God, the Holy Scriptures, and refuses to call upon the name of the omniscient God in prayer, cuts itself off from all knowledge! There is no knowledge or truth apart from the Word of God, which is the revelation of God in Jesus Christ.
The divine attribute called omniscience means, first of all, that God has perfect knowledge and understanding of Himself. Paul writes that "the spirit searches all things, yea the deep things of God." (I Cor, 2:10) In God there are unfathomable depths of wisdom and knowledge. In God there are infinite riches of knowledge that far surpass His revelation of Himself to us. It is important for us to understand that God knows Himself in all His limitless Being and excellent virtues. This is an important aspect of the life of the Triune God within Himself, the covenant life that is lived within the eternal Godhead. The Father knows the Son in the Spirit; the Son knows the Father in that same Spirit. The Holy Spirit, Who is always the Spirit of Truth, brings forth to the Father and the Son all the deep things that are in God. God communes about Himself within Himself; and he rejoices in that which He is!
In the second place, God has perfect knowledge of all things outside of Himself. God's eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth, so that our things are known to Him. His knowledge embraces the least significant things, such as the number of hairs on our heads, the sparrows that sit upon the housetops, the number of mosquitoes in the world. God knows the thoughts and the meditations of men, his downsitting and uprising, his words before they are spoken (Psalm 139). Jeremiah informs us that God knows the wickedness and sin of men. He knows the past, present and future, for "known unto God are all His works from the beginning." All things are constantly before the mind of the timeless God, and His remembrance of them is perfect. God knew what Adam and Eve had done, and why they were hiding. God knew what Cain had done, and why he had done it. God heard Sarah laugh in her tent, and why she doubted. "The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding good and evil." All things are naked and open unto the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do." (Hebrews 4:13) Since nothing can be hid from God, we must always avoid the temptation of trying to hide our sins; rather, let us repent of them in sorrow before this all-knowing, wonderful God!
It belongs to this same gospel truth that Jesus also knows all things as the Son of God. Jesus knew what was going on in the hearts and minds of His adversaries, why they were asking Him hard questions. Jesus knew what was in man!
Not only does the Bible inform us that God knows all things, but it also reveals that God knows in a manner quite different from our way of knowing things. The way of God's knowing is unique! Not all men will admit to the Scriptural truth on this score. Some equate the knowledge of God to observation; the idea, then, that to know something, that something has to exist first. There are also those who claim that God does not know absolutely what will happen in the future, but He knows all the various conditions and possibilities that may arise. He knows the options, the contingencies that may develop, but not with absolute knowledge what the future holds. finally there are those who make of divine foreknowledge a mere looking into the future to see what men will do in given instances. the Arminians and the Pelagians are guilty here; they say that election and reprobation, for example, is based upon God's looking into the future to see who will and will not believe, who will and will not love Him. And according to this kind of a knowledge, God formulates His decrees of predestination. Clearly, a correct understanding of God's knowledge is basic to all true religion.
Therefore, the first key point regarding the way of God's knowing is that God does not know by observation, but he knows casually and determinately. Not: first something, and then God knows it. But: first the knowledge of God, and then that something. There is no creature or event before God knows it. God's knowledge of something is a knowledge which causes it, which determines it. This is shown most clearly in Acts 2:23 where Peter preaches that Christ was delivered to the cross "by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God," the meanwhile maintaining that the Jews "took Him with wicked hands,
crucified, and slayed Him." The knowledge that God possessed of that great, central event of all history was not by observation or peering into the future, but was a knowledge (for God's knowledge is intimately related to His counsel or will) that determined it or caused it to transpire.
The great objection to this truth that is often advanced is that this kind of a view excludes the freedom of man's will and the freedom of human action. Better, they say, to speak of a middle knowledge of God, that is, a contingent knowledge of the future. Then God knows what He is going to do if a man obeys Him, and He knows what He is going to do if a man disobeys Him, but God does not know whether a man in a given instance will obey or disobey. Sadly, most churches today follow this kind of thinking! However, such a conception destroys the knowledge of God that Scripture teaches, for foreknowledge of human will which is undetermined is not foreknowledge at all. God tells us that His knowledge is casual and determinative, bringing to pass all that afterwards takes place.
Secondly, the unique knowledge that is in God regarding His people is a knowledge of love! We read in Ephesians 1, verse4 and 5, that God has chosen us in Christ before the foundations of the world, in love predestinating us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ. God knew each one of His children in eternity, chose them in eternity, and that knowledge and choice of us was all in the sphere of love. The love of God for His people is the motivation behind election, and is the reason why God condescends to know us! For this reason David exclaims in Psalm 139:17, "How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them!" David is not saying that his thoughts about God are precious (though this is surely true), but is saying that God's thoughts about him are loving, saving thought and are therefore precious to him!
So we read in John 10 that Jesus is the good Shepherd, Who knows His sheep and is known of them. Every single sheep from among the Jews and Gentiles the Lord call and knows; every one of those sheep follow Him and receive eternal life. The relationship between Shepherd and sheep is a relationship of knowledge that is based on love. In love the Christ lays down His life for the sheep, and in love He keeps those sheep unto the end so that no man can pluck them out of His hand. How precious are God's thoughts to the believer!
The child of God responds to the truth of God's omniscience, first of all, in humble adoration. "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me! It is high, I cannot attain unto it!" God is the high and lofty One, Who is so much greater than my puny mind. I believe this is truth but I cannot attain unto such knowledge.
Secondly, the attribute of God's perfect knowledge incites the saint unto prayer. Isaiah tells us, "It shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear." How is that possible? Well, God in heaven, and Jesus our great advocate with Him, know our needs before we speak or ask! What encouragement when we do not know how to pray, when we cannot find just the right words to express the needs of the soul.
Thirdly, the child of God responds to this truth with child-like trust, with total reliance upon His heavenly Father. God knows the future, we don't. God knows the way that lies before us as individuals, families, and congregations of Jesus Christ. He knows in love, He knows in such a way that He will bring it to pass. We are in safe hands with the all-knowing God!
Finally the believer responds to this truth with a holy fear. God sees my heart. God knows me thoroughly, my downsitting and my uprising. He knows my evil nature as well as my membership in Christ. That fills me with a reverent fear. What a great God! And I apply myself to a life of thankful holiness without which no man shall see God. And in the confidence of belonging to Christ, I pray, "Search me, O God, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."