Behold, O Lord, You know it all. 5 You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is too high, I cannot attain to it."
What is entailed in the Biblical concept of God's knowledge? In Psalm 139, David introduces us to God by first noting this particular property of God's essence. God's knowledge, as seen in these verses, covers at least four areas that we find mentioned in the Bible. These areas do not exhaust all the Bible teaches under this broad umbrella of God's omniscience; nonetheless, they do grasp the essentials of this vital truth of God's infinite Being. This post aims to provide a bit of meditation on God's omniscience as we begin this week.
1. The first has to do with God's direct knowledge of all things. For God, there is no such thing as knowledge by comparison. God knows all things directly. David writes in Psalm 139:1 "O Lord, You have searched me and known me." We as human beings perceive things by way of our senses. Our minds take in the information of our senses and translates them into sounds, pictures and memories. Psalm 147:4 says for instance of God's knowledge of the stars: "He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them." Undoubtedly God possess direct knowledge of Himself. James Pettigrew Boice writes in his Abstract of Systematic Theology: "The knowledge of God, therefore, not being acquired, cannot be increased. Time does not add to it. Succession of events does not bring it before God. All the objects of his knowledge are to him eternally present and known."
2. Secondly, God not only knows all things directly, God also possesses knowledge of all things with respect to their location in time. The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 notes: "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." God knew when the fall would occur, knew when Christ would be crucified and where everyone would be at that moment (Acts 2:23-24). God's relationship to time is as a Being that perceives every point of space along the line of time - from beginning to end. Terms such as foreordination, predestination, election and decree are all used in scripture to describe God's omniscience at work with respect to time (Job 42:2; Ecclesiastes 3:14; Daniel 4:35; Romans 8:29; Ephesians 1:11). Hence, the Psalmist speaks of God knowing when he rises and sits, as well as God knowing what would arise on his tongue before He spoke it. Bible prophecy proceeds on this notion of God's omniscience. Amazingly, God's omniscience does not violate human decisions.
3. In addition to God knowing all things directly and all points in past, present and future, God thirdly knows the essence of all things. To illustrate what we've said thus far, God knows, say, an object like a baseball. God knows the trajectory that baseball will take once it is hit. In this third point, God also knows the quantum-mechanical behaviors of every atom making up the baseball. God also knows what direction the baseball would take if placed in different circumstances (called middle-knowledge). God knows the essence of what makes up all things. Boice again notes on this point: "His knowledge is not limited to the manifestations and operations of spiritual beings, but extends to their essences, and includes not only what they are, but also those tendencies which indicate what they may be."
Charles Hodge in his Systematic Theology echoes this idea of God knowing the essence of all things by including scriptural citations: "God, therefore, does and can know in the ordinary and proper sense of that word. He is an ever present eye, to which all things are perfectly revealed. “All things,” says the Apostle, “are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” (Heb. 4:13.) “The darkness and the light are both alike” to Him. (Ps. 139:12.) “He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? He that formed the eye, shall he not see?” (Ps. 94:9.)"
4. So we see that God's omniscience includes the fact He has direct knowledge of all things in space, second, He possess knowledge of all things in all times and then thirdly, God possesses knowledge of the essence of all things. Now lets consider a fourth area in our reflection on God's omniscience from Psalm 139:1-6, namely: that God knows the best means to which to accomplish His greatest ends (i.e wisdom) In Psalm 139:5, David indicates God has enclosed him in from behind and that His hand is upon Him. The preservation of the saint of God in their salvation is a feature of that aspect of God's omniscience we call His wisdom. God knows how to preserve His people, and has promised as much (John 10:27-28; 1 Peter 1:3-5). The guiding of the course of all things to bring the child of God to that safe harbor of His final intended destination is a marvel. These features of God's knowledge cause the Psalmist to exclaim in Psalm 139:6 "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;It is too high, I cannot attain to it."
May we begin this week by praising God for these wonderful aspects of His omniscience.
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