The Omniscience of GodPastor Lutzer | May 31, 2015
Selected highlights from this sermon
God knows us completely, continually, and eternally. That’s incredible power, and it should be a comfort to those of us who are His children.
No matter what we do or where we go, we’ll never be beyond God’s sight. We can’t hide from Him, and when we sin, He knows about it. Thankfully, we have a Mediator in Jesus Christ, who stands in our place and pleads our case before the Father.
Well, the topic is The Mysteries of God, and the reason I’m preaching this series of messages, in my mind at least, is very clear. I hope it is in yours as well. As a result of these studies of God’s Word, I want you to be overwhelmed by the immensity of God because I am convinced that if we have a big God, our problems become smaller. I want our faith to increase as we consider Him, and His marvelous attributes.
Also, at the end of the day, what I’d love to see is the commitment that all of us make to make the invisible God visible to a very hurting world. After all, we are to be God-like, and what a challenge that is. So we are expanding our mind, and there are many issues that will be coming up still in this series obviously, but today I’m speaking to you on the topic of The Omniscience of God.
You know, we can say very easily that God knows all things, both actual and possible. See, I’ve just said it, but it’s only a sentence until it gets down in our hearts, and we are changed because of that truth. And that’s where we are going today. We are interested in the text, and we are interested in transformation.
I hope you brought your Bibles with you, and I know there are various ways to bring the Bible nowadays, but please turn to Psalm 139, a very critical Psalm. What I want us to do is to notice that in verses 1 to 6 (and basically it divides into four parts - although the last part has two parts to it - in six verses apiece) David here is meditating on the omniscience and the omnipresence of God. In verses 1 to 6 David is saying, “Oh God, you know me entirely.” He begins by saying, “Now the Lord has searched me and known me.” That’ll be important in just a moment, but now he begins to talk about the fact that God knows us entirely. He says, “You know the times when I sit down and when I rise up.” (verse 2) In other words, how many times did you sit down or stand up yesterday? Can you remember? There’s no way I could remember. And yet God knows yesterday as well as ten years ago, and He even knows tomorrow as well as He does today. Knowledge of all things!
Furthermore, he says, “You understand my thoughts afar off. The idea is, “Before I think these thoughts You know them,” which means that God knows what we’re going to be thinking about tomorrow, and therefore, not only tomorrow but the day beyond. All knowledge!
And then he goes on to say, “Lord, there’s not even a word in my tongue.” I’m in verse 4 now. “There isn’t a word in my tongue but lo, oh Lord, you know it altogether.” Now I’m told that the average person speaks enough to fill a good size library in a lifetime. Do I need to tell you that there are some people whose library is bigger than others’? (laughter) And it’s not always related to their age. I’ve often proposed that people who talk too much should have a support group, and maybe it could be called, “On and On Anonymous.” (laughter) But nonetheless the idea is that “Before the word is formed in my tongue, You know what I’m going to say.” And so if we are to take the library of your words, the library of your thoughts, that steady stream of consciousness, all known to God, and add your down sittings and your uprisings…. And by the way, God not only knows the number, He knows how much you were weighing when that happened and how much weight the chair could actually take. He knows everything.
He knows the number of grains of sand that were on your shoes yesterday. God knows us entirely. And you’ll notice he says, and we would agree (I’m now in verse 6), “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.” You can’t get your mind around it. You can talk about it. You can go over to Lake Michigan and you can watch the water as it laps along the shore, and all of those grains of sand have a different configuration every time that happens, and God knows the longitude and latitude of every grain of sand in the world – in this world and anywhere else. Imagine that! It is beyond our comprehension.
So he says, “Oh God, You know me. You know me entirely, but You also know me continually. Is there somewhere where I could run where God isn’t? Is that possible?” That’s what he picks up with in verse 6 and following. And verse 7: “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?” He said, “If I ascend to heaven, you are there!” Well, we’d expect that. To go to heaven, to get away from God would be like jumping into a fire to get rid of the heat. We’d expect God to be there, but then he says, “If I make my bed in Sheol…” This is a parenthesis, but God is actually going to be in hell forever because He is everywhere and knows all things. Frightening? Yes! Maybe we’ll have time to talk about it in another message. But that’s now what the Psalmist is saying here. Sheol is probably thought of as the netherworld. What he’s saying is that no matter how high I go up, and no matter how low I go down, You are there, and furthermore, “If I take the wings of the morning (That is, if I begin in the east where the sun rises and I go to the west, the uttermost parts of the sea, which is to the west), even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall uphold me.”
And then there’s another option. “Well, if I can’t go up except to meet God, and can’t go down or east or west, maybe darkness shall cover me.” He’s thinking about that and he says in verse 11: “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,’ (you’ll notice) even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.”
You know, most thieves commit their crimes in the darkness, thought they are getting a lot braver and they’re doing it here in Chicago in daylight. But you and I must remember that when we sin (and who doesn’t?) we sin at high noon in the brightness of God’s holiness, in the brightness of His presence no matter how well hidden we think our sin might be. So he’s saying, “God, there’s just nowhere.” All sin is committed in broad daylight in the presence of God. And good works are done there too, of course. Not just sins! Everything is present to God. Everything is known.
Now from verse 13 and on we’re going to say now that God knows us eternally and He also knows us relationally. Let’s kind of lump those two ideas together. He knows us entirely. He knows us continually. He knows us eternally, and of course, at the end of the Psalm, very relationally.
Now let’s look at what the text says. Now he begins to get personal. “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. (That’s a figure of speech for his mother’s womb.) Your eyes saw my unformed substance; (There are different ways to translate this verse.) in your book were written every one of them.” That is to say every one of my parts – my fingers, my hands, my eyes – all of it was written in your book. And by the way the number of days I was going to live are also known to God and written in His book and He says, “the days that were formed for me when as yet there was none of them.” When there were no days and there was no me, you already knew it eternally.
No wonder he again expresses himself in verse 17: “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.” There are two ways to translate that also. It can be, “How precious are the thoughts that I’m having about you, oh God,” but possibly he means something else. “How precious are the thoughts that You have about me.” That’s the way some translations have it.
In other words, put this together. God’s thoughts about you are more than the grains of sand. After all, we talked about the library of our words, the library of our thoughts and the library of our actions. You put all that together and it’s millions of bits of information, but more than that, knowledge not only of things actual, but things possible. God knows exactly that you’d have thought of different things and done different things if you had been born in Alaska or Central America or in the Middle East. All of the things possible for you are also known. If God knows that much about you, and that much about me, no wonder the text says, “How wonderful are your thoughts toward me, oh God. I cannot count the sum of them. It is beyond my ability to grasp.”
Now David wrote this, of course, before the days of DNA. And today, because of science, we understand the human body much better. And I was going to bring a book and read a paragraph and I left the book at home. I brought my notes but I left the book at home.
I was thinking this morning, “Did I leave that book at home because of God’s divine decree?” We’ll have to discuss that, won’t we? Is it entirely my fault or did God will it? Well, these are some of the thoughts we’re having right now about the Almighty. But I did take notes of what I was going to read and so I’m going to read my notes, and it has to do with your father and your mother coming together to form who you would be. You’ve had that talk, haven’t you? This comes actually from a book, and the man’s name is (a good friend of mine) and I need to find out what his name is. (laughter) He is such a good friend. His name is Frank Turek. Now come on, you’re laughing, but some of you have to look at your best friends’ names to remember them, don’t you? (laughter) It hasn’t come to the point yet where I have to check – “Oh yeah, it is Rebecca.” It’s not there yet, (laughter) but it’s on its way.
Alright, here goes!
In the process of ovulation when your mother and father came together, your mother unconsciously perfumed her egg with special chemicals to attract the sperm of your father. Your father sent the entire population of the United States - 300 million sperm - to the egg, and you won. You won! Don’t tell me you’re not special. Your father’s sperm cell was about 20 to 30 times smaller than the head of a pin, and it contained one-half of your genetic code. The other half was supplied by your mother, the egg that was the size of a dot at the end of a sentence.
Your cells began to multiply at the rate of 100,000 per second. Each knew where to go and what to do. There were heart cells. There were brain cells. There were fingernail cells. There were eye cells, and they all knew where to go to form you. You eventually will have 34 average trillion cells in your body. Now I looked that up a number of different ways because I couldn’t believe that number. You will eventually have about 34 trillion cells. The National Geographic says this: “The fact that 34 trillion cells can cooperate for decades, giving rise to a single body, instead of chaotic war of selfish microbes, is amazing.” And then it goes on to thank our ancestors for how well evolution developed them. (laughter) Isn’t that great?
My dear friend, if you can’t see God in this, you’re blind. Each cell has about 1.5 gigabytes of information. One estimate is that your entire body would have 150 trillion gigabytes of information.
Somebody put it this way, and I think it’s a better illustration. “There is as much activity in every single one of your 34 trillion cells as you would have in a city such as Tokyo or Chicago.” And cells are dying and new ones are being created, and they all fit in. God was there, supervising you in your mother’s womb.
Now what about those who may have disabilities? A teacher asked a little girl, who was born deaf and mute, a very mean question. She was asked this question: “Why did God, if He loves you, create you deaf and mute?” And she went to the chalkboard and she wrote on the board, “Because He thought it best.”
No matter who you are, whether you have disabilities, whether you are the kind of person you wanted to be, whether or not you look like you want to look when you look in the mirror, God superintended you in your mother’s womb, and created you. (applause) Yes, you can clap for God!
Why do I mention this? This overwhelms me! How could God possibly say to Jeremiah the prophet, “Before you were born, I chose you as a prophet among the nations?” Or how could He say about you that in Jesus Christ you were elect(ed) from before the foundation of the world, before there was a single thought of your creation? How could God do that unless He superintended us in our mother’s womb and we are today where we are by divine appointment?
So the Psalmist understood! He said, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” but he had no idea of how fearfully and wonderfully he was made. No idea! You know, when he gets to the end of the Psalm, he does (by the way) pray against the wicked. People say, “Can we pray these prayers today?” That’s a longer discussion. Yes, I think so. We certainly would want to pray a prayer like this against ISIS, wouldn’t we? But you’ll notice that when he gets to the end of the Psalm, now he gets very personal. He says: “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!”
Notice he says, “Search me, O God.” Now think! Think! Verse 1: “O Lord, you have searched me and known me!” It’s a done deal. “You know all about me. Your thoughts toward me are more than there are grains of sand on the seashores of the world. It’s finished.” Why does he now pray, “Oh God, search me?” What he’s doing here is he is saying, “God, I know that you know all about me. I know that You have searched me. I know that there is no crevice in my heart that I can possibly try to hide from You, in which You do not exist, and which You do not see. I get that, but now, oh Lord, I pray, ‘Show me what You see when you look within me.’”
And so what he wants to do is to say, “God, now is the time for the application.” It’s one thing to talk about Your knowledge as knowledge that is both actual and possible that is about me. How do we apply these marvelous truths, and why is it that when we leave here today it should be with a different perspective? Let me give you some transforming encouragement.
First of all, it’s very obvious that we will never get beyond God’s watchful eye. Let me say that again. You will never get beyond God’s watchful eye. There is no place where He does not see you. And that can be fearful, but it also can be very encouraging. Have you ever been misunderstood? Have you ever gone through a situation in which you are mistreated, you are lonely and you are rejected? God is with you and sees you.
Do you remember the story in the Old Testament of Hagar? She was cast out of the home of Abraham and Sarah because Sarah didn’t want her. There was competition and Hagar was pregnant with Abraham’s child. You know that story very well. And there she was. She was thrown out of the home. She was a slave girl, and the Bible says that she didn’t know what to do, and God revealed to her, twice actually, where there was a well where she could get some water. And she decided to call that well Beer Lahai Roi, which in Hebrew actually means the well of the living one who sees me. And later on (a second time) she was cast out of the home, and it was more desperate because by then her son had been born. And she laid him under a bush and she said, “I have to walk away because I don’t want to be there when he dies,” because they were thirsting to death in the desert. And then the Bible says that God opened her eyes, and she saw a well again, the well of the one who sees me.
My friend, today, at the end of the day it doesn’t matter what other people have said. It doesn’t matter if you are misunderstood, though none of us like to be misunderstood. None of us like to be falsely accused, and we do all that we possibly can to rectify it. But at the end of the day, it is only what God sees and knows that is ultimately important. (applause) Praise God!
David said, “Though my father and my mother forsake me, the Lord will pick me up.” God is there in the desert of your own experience. He is there and, of course, we want to help you in the desert, needless to say. That’s what a church is. A church is a place where believers gather together to strengthen one another, to encourage one another, and to help us along this journey. But it is important for us to realize that no matter where we are, God is always with us. And He’ll be there tomorrow morning when you go to work. Aren’t you glad He’ll be there tomorrow morning when you ride the El? He’ll be there. God knows all things and we will never be beyond His watchful, careful eye and sustaining grace.
There’s a second lesson, and that is that obviously we can’t hide from God. You can’t hide from God! We hide from one another and we think to ourselves, “Surely we are hiding from God, but you can’t.” The Bible says these remarkable and important words, that he who covers his sin will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes his sin, finds mercy.
Yesterday I was with some friends and they were talking about a rather famous individual, and they said, “Yeah, he’s living with his girlfriend but they don’t have the same address.” And I thought, “Wow! I wonder if they are pulling a fast one on God.” That’s actually funnier that I think maybe some of your realize. (laughter) You don’t get away with anything. God sees!
Recently we’ve heard in the news of a famous politician who evidently paid a lot of money to hush someone whom he had hurt or mistreated 30 years ago. And I understand his dilemma, and I can see where the human mind comes from. But you look at it and you say, “You know, it would have been a lot better for him to deal with that years ago, rather than get himself involved in all of these things.” And do you know what? Even when no one knew about it, except maybe two or three, God knew about it. You and I never run from God. We try, but we can’t.
Where shall I go from your Spirit? Where shall I flee from your presence? Heaven? Sheol? East? West? Your eyes are constantly riveted upon me and there’s nothing that I can do to shut you out of my life, or out of any corner of my existence.
There’s something else we must learn, of course, and that is that because of God’s holiness, and because of our sinfulness and our inability to process who we are without His help (and by the way, you don’t know who you are unless you know who God is), we must have someone who stands in for us, somebody who runs interference, somebody who takes our guilt so that we can even stand in the presence of God, and so that we know what to do with our lives, and how to handle our sin.
David understood this as well, but not as clearly as we do, that Jesus Christ ultimately is the one who came to redeem us. And just this morning I was thinking of Romans 8: “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is He that condemns? It is Christ that died, yes rather that is risen again, and is even now on the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.”
There is a Redeemer who takes away our sin, who covers that sin, so that even though we live our lives exposed to God, it is then that we find mercy and forgiveness.
I needed this verse this week. When I was working on this sermon yesterday I thought to myself, “You know, I’m in fellowship with God. Everything is okay.” And then in the back of my mind or my heart, there was this nagging feeling. Everything perhaps isn’t as okay as I thought it was. So I prayed the prayer. “Search me, oh God, and know my heart. Obviously you know all about everything. Nothing is hid. Know my heart. Forgive me and lead me in the way everlasting.”
And what a blessing it is to be able to look into the face of God, and know that all issues are taken care of. And by the way, those of you who are controlling (those of you who will not give up control, you who are into yourself and narcissism), in the presence of God we have the freedom to be who we are. He learns nothing new about us but He wants us to admit who we are in His presence. And that’s where the healing begins to come.
God, in the Garden, says to Adam and Eve, “Where are you?” Is it because God says, “Hey, you know, they are playing Hide and Seek and I can’t find them? There are lots of trees in the Garden.” Well, God knew exactly where they were but He wanted them to tell Him. God has you searched and me searched. He wants us to tell Him.
I think it was Robert Fulghum, and I’m doing this from memory so I could have mispronounced his name, who wrote a book entitled All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten. But he tells the story of watching children in the fall rake leaves, and how they hid under leaf piles. “And it’s okay,” he says, “to hide, but sometimes there are those who hid so carefully that nobody could find them.” So watching from his window he was seeing all this happen. He said he wanted to go over to a leaf pile where he knew there was a kid hiding, and say to him, “Get found, Kid.”
Today God says to you, “Get found. Admit who you are. Come to Christ and receive Him because only through Him is there forgiveness and cleansing in the presence of a God who knows absolutely everything.”
If God has talked to you today, you deal with the sin. You come to Christ to receive His forgiveness and then God will help you process the rest of your life and other issues that you must encounter.
Father, thank You today that Jesus knows all about us, and surprisingly still loves us. We thank You for that. If we knew all about one another it would be very hard to love, but You, in grace, love us. Help us to respond to that grace, and be encouraged by the mystery of Your knowledge. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.