Nothing is hidden from the mind of God—past, present, or future—so nothing can surprise or confuse Him. Today, Barry Cooper introduces us to God’s attribute of omniscience.
I’d like to talk about omniscience.
What would you do if you knew absolutely everything, even things that hadn’t yet happened? I imagine many people would pop into their nearest 7-Eleven and choose the winning lottery numbers. But for me—honestly, just once in my life, I’d like to join the fastest-moving line at my local branch of Target.
Unfortunately for my plan to triumphantly reach the checkout before other people, omniscience is one of God’s so-called “incommunicable” attributes, meaning that it’s an attribute that we do not share with Him. (We looked at two other incommunicable attributes in two earlier episodes of Simply Put when we thought about God’s omnipotence and His omnipresence.)
The word omniscience comes from the Latin omnis meaning “all” and scientia meaning “knowledge.” So literally, omniscience refers to the fact that God has all knowledge. There’s nothing hidden from Him—past, present or future—so there’s nothing that would surprise or confuse Him. And as well as knowing everything about the world and everything about Himself, He also, unlike us, knows how everything appears from every possible point of view.
Psalm 139 says: “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. . . . Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.”
“The Lord searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought” (1 Chron. 28:9).
“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” (Heb. 4:13).
What difference does this make? How does knowing that God knows everything make a radical difference to a person’s life?
Let me suggest three ways that’s God’s omniscience changes our lives for the better.
Firstly, prayer. It is a glorious and comforting thought that when we pray, God answers that prayer not in line with the way we see things but in line with the perfect way that He sees things. For believers, that means that as our loving Father, God gives us precisely what we would give to ourselves if we knew everything that He knows. And He also withholds from us what we would withhold from ourselves if we knew what He knows.
Secondly, suffering. When we suffer or witness evil in the world, our instinctive question is often, Why is this happening? It’s a question asked by the psalmists too, so it’s not an unreasonable question. If God has ordained some great trial or suffering in our lives—just as He ordained the suffering of the Lord Jesus on the cross—then it makes all the difference in the world to trust, in the midst of that suffering, that just because we can’t see any possible reason for the pain we’re experiencing, that doesn’t mean that no such reason exists. God knows infinitely more than we do, and so, since He has ordained suffering, He does have a good reason for it, even though that reason may be hidden from us. The suffering itself is bad, and God does not delight in our suffering, but He ordains it to achieve an ultimately good purpose according to His perfect plan.
Thirdly, let me say something about regret. Many of us feel paralyzed and depressed when we look back on our lives. We constantly beat ourselves up with a big stick marked “if only.” We think to ourselves, If only I’d done this instead of that, everything would be better now.
But if you’re a Christian, God’s omniscience, coupled with His perfect love for you, means that the path you’re now on is no accident. However much you may say “if only,” it’s not as if you missed your exit on the highway of life, and now everything’s ruined.
The path you’re on is the path that He has established for you, based on His perfect knowledge of you, your circumstances, and His loving plans for you. It’s not a mistake. Clearly, that doesn’t mean that if we’re currently sinning, we should continue in that sin. It also does not excuse our past sin. But it does mean that the path God has set for your life is based on knowing you—and everything else—perfectly. So we should trust Him in whatever circumstances we find ourselves rather than trusting our own hearts when they tell us that “things would have been better if only . . .”
As it says in 1 John 3:20, “God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.”
So, that’s God’s omniscience: His perfect knowledge of everything, every circumstance, and everyone, including you.