Theology ProperThe Knowledge of God by A. W. Pink
God is omniscient. He knows everything: everything possible, everything actual; all events, all creatures, of the past, the present and the future. He is perfectly acquainted with every detail in the life of every being in heaven, in earth and in hell. “He knoweth what is in the darkness” (Dan. 2:22). Nothing escapes His notice, nothing can be hidden from Him, nothing is forgotten by Him. Well may we say with the Psalmist, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it” (Psa. 139:6). His knowledge is perfect. He never errs, never changes, never overlooks anything. “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:13). Yes, such is the God with whom we “have to do”!
“Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, Thou understandest my thoughts 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” (Psa. 139:2-4). What a wondrous Being is the God of Scripture! Each of His glorious attributes should render Him honourable in our esteem. The apprehension of His omniscience ought to bow us in adoration before Him. Yet how little do we meditate upon this Divine perfection! Is it because the very thought of it fills us with uneasiness?
How solemn is this fact: nothing can be concealed from God! “For I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them” (Ezek. 11:5). Though He be invisible to us, we are not so to Him. Neither the darkness of night, the closest curtains, nor the deepest dungeon can hide any sinner from the eyes of Omniscience. The trees of the garden were not able to conceal our first parents. No human eye beheld Cain murder his brother, but his Maker witnessed his crime. Sarah might laugh derisively in the seclusion of her tent, yet was it heard by Jehovah. Achan stole a wedge of gold and carefully hid it in the earth, but God brought it to light. David was at much pains to cover up his wickedness, but ere long the all-seeing God sent one of His servants to say to him, “Thou art the man!” And to writer and reader is also said, “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Num. 32:23).
Men would strip Deity of His omniscience it they could — what a proof that “the carnal mind is enmity against God” (Rom. 8:7)! The wicked do as naturally hate this Divine perfection as much as they are naturally compelled to acknowledge it. They wish there might be no Witness of their sins, no Searcher of their hearts, no Judge of their deeds. They seek to banish such a God from their thoughts: “They consider not in their hearts that I remember all their wickedness” (Hosea 7:2). How solemn is Psa. 90:8! Good reason has every Christ-rejecter for trembling before it: “Thou hast set our iniquities before Thee, our secret sins in the light of Thy countenance.”
But to the believer, the fact of God’s omniscience is a truth fraught with much comfort. In times of perplexity he says with Job, “But He knoweth the way that I take” (23: 10). It may be profoundly mysterious to me, quite incomprehensible to my friends, but “He knoweth”! In times of weariness and weakness believers assure themselves “He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust” (Psa. 103:14). In times of doubt and suspicion they appeal to this very attribute, saying, “Search me, 0 God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psa. 139:23,24). In time of sad failure, when our actions have belied our hearts, when our deeds have repudiated our devotion, and the searching question comes to us, “Lovest thou Me?”; we say, as Peter did, “Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee” (John 21:17).
Here is encouragement to prayer. There is no cause for fearing that the petitions of the righteous will not be heard, or that their sighs and tears shall escape the notice of God since He knows the thoughts and intents of the heart. There is no danger of the individual saint being overlooked amidst the multitude of supplicants who daily and hourly present their various petitions, for an infinite Mind is as capable of paying the same attention to millions as if only one individual were seeking its attention. So too the lack of appropriate language, the inability to give expression to the deepest longing of the soul, will not jeopardize our prayers, for “It shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear” (Isa. 65:24).
“Great is our Lord, and of great power: His understanding is infinite” (Psa. 147:5). God not only knows whatsoever has happened in the past in every part of His vast domains, and He is not only thoroughly acquainted with everything that is now transpiring throughout the entire universe, but He is also perfectly cognizant with every event, from the least to the greatest, that ever will happen in the ages to come. God’s knowledge of the future is as complete as is His knowledge of the past and the present, and that, because the future depends entirely upon Himself. Were it in anywise possible for something to occur apart from either the direct agency or permission of God, then that something would be independent of Him, and He would at once cease to be Supreme.
Now the Divine knowledge of the future is not a mere abstraction, but something which is inseparably connected with and accompanied by His purpose. God has Himself designed whatsoever shall yet be, and what He has designed must be effectuated. As His most sure Word affirms, “He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand” (Dan. 4:35). And again, “There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand” (Prov. 19:21). The wisdom and power of God being alike infinite, the accomplishment of whatever He hath purposed is absolutely guaranteed. It is no more possible for the Divine counsels to fail in their execution than it would be for the thrice holy God to lie.
Nothing relating to the future is in anywise uncertain so far as the actualization of God’s counsels are concerned. None of His decrees are left contingent either on creatures or secondary causes. There is no future event which is only a mere possibility, that is, something which may or may not come to pass, “Known unto God are all His works from the beginning” (Acts 15:18). Whatever God has decreed is inexorably certain, for He is without variableness, or shadow of turning (James 1:17). Therefore we are told at the very beginning of that book which unveils to us so much of the future, of “Things which must shortly come to pass” (Rev. 1:1).
The perfect knowledge of God is exemplified and illustrated in every prophecy recorded in His Word. In the O.T. are to be found scores of predictions concerning the history of Israel, which were fulfilled to their minutest detail, centuries after they were made. In them too are scores more foretelling the earthly career of Christ, and they too were accomplished literally and perfectly. Such prophecies could only have been given by One who knew the end from the beginning, and whose knowledge rested upon the unconditional certainty of the accomplishment of everything foretold. In like manner, both Old and New Testament contain many other announcements yet future, and they too “must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44), must because foretold by Him who decreed them.
It should, however, be pointed out that neither God’s knowledge nor His cognition of the future, considered simply in themselves, are causative. Nothing has ever come to pass, or ever will, merely because God knew it. The cause of all things is the will of God. The man who really believes the Scriptures knows beforehand that the seasons will continue to follow each other with unfailing regularity to the end of earth’s history (Gen.8:22), yet his knowledge is not the cause of their succession. So God’s knowledge does not arise from things because they are or will be, but because He has ordained them to be. God knew and foretold the crucifixion of His Son many hundreds of years before He became incarnate, and this, because in the Divine purpose, He was a Lamb slain from the foundation of the world: hence we read of His being “delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23).
A word or two by way of application. The infinite knowledge of God should fill us with amazement. How far exalted above the wisest man is the Lord! None of us knows what a day may bring forth, but all futurity is open to His omniscient gaze. The infinite knowledge of God ought to fill us with holy awe. Nothing we do, say, or even think, escapes the cognizance of Him with whom we have to do: “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good” (Prov. 15:3). What a curb this would be unto us, did we but meditate upon it more frequently! Instead of acting recklessly, we should say with Hagar, “Thou God seest me” (Gen. 16:13). The apprehension of God’s infinite knowledge should fill the Christian with adoration. The whole of my life stood open to His view from the beginning. He foresaw my every fall, my every sin, my every backsliding; yet, nevertheless, fixed His heart upon me. Oh, how the realization of this should bow me in wonder and worship before Him!