Chapter 10 - The Divine Omniscience
Lord, You know all things; You know my downsitting and mine uprising and are acquainted with all my ways. I can inform You of nothing and it is vain to try to hide anything from You. In the light of Your perfect knowledge I would be as artless as a little child. Help me to put away all care, for You know the way that I take and when You have tried me I shall come forth as gold. Amen.
To say that God is omniscient is to say that He possesses perfect knowledge and therefore has no need to learn. But it is more: it is to say that God has never learned and cannot learn.
The Scriptures teach that God has never learned from anyone. "Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counsellor has taught him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and showed to Him the way of understanding?" "For who has known the mind of the Lord? or who has been His counsellor?" These rhetorical questions put by the prophet and the apostle Paul declare that God has never learned.
From there it is only a step to the conclusion that God cannot learn. Could God at any time or in any manner receive into His mind knowledge that He did not possess and had not possessed from eternity, He would be imperfect and less than himself. To think of a God who must sit at the feet of a teacher, even though that teacher be an archangel or a seraph, is to think of someone other than the Most High God, maker of heaven and earth.
This negative approach to the divine omniscience is, I believe, quite justified in the circumstances. Since our intellectual knowledge of God is so small and obscure, we can sometimes gain considerable advantage in our struggle to understand what God is like by the simple expedient of thinking what He is not like. So far in this examination of the attributes of God we have been driven to the free use of negatives. We have seen that God had no origin, that He had no beginning, that He requires no helpers, that He suffers no change, and that in His essential being there are no limitations.
This method of trying to make people see what God is like by showing them what He is not like is used also by the inspired writers in the Holy Scriptures.
"Have you not known? have you not heard," cries Isaiah, "that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, faints not, neither is weary?" And that abrupt statement by God Himself, "I am the Lord, I change not," tells us more about the divine omniscience than could be told in a tenthousand word treatise, were all negatives arbitrarily ruled out. God's eternal truthfulness is stated negatively by the apostle Paul, "God' cannot lie"; and when the angel asserted that "with God nothing shall be impossible," the two negatives add up to a ringing positive.
That God is omniscient is not only taught in the Scriptures, it must be inferred also from all else that is taught concerning Him. God perfectly knows Himself and, being the source and author of all things, it follows that He knows all that can be known. And this He knows instantly and with a fullness of perfection that includes every possible item of knowledge concerning everything that exists or could have existed anywhere in the universe at any time in the past or that may exist in the centuries or ages yet unborn.
God knows instantly and effortlessly all matter and all matters, all mind and every mind, all spirit and all spirits, all being and every being, all creaturehood and all creatures, every plurality and all pluralities, all law and every law, all relations, all causes, all thoughts, all mysteries, all enigmas, all feeling, all desires, every unuttered secret, all thrones and dominions, all personalities, all things visible and invisible in heaven and in earth, motion, space, time, life, death, good, evil, heaven, and hell.
Because God knows all things perfectly, He knows no thing better than any other thing, but all things equally well. He never discovers anything. He is never surprised, never amazed. He never wonders about anything nor (except when drawing people out for their own good) does He seek information or ask questions.
God is self-existent and self-contained and knows what no creature can ever know Himself, perfectly. "The things of God knows, no person, but the Spirit of God." Only the Infinite can know the infinite.
In the divine omniscience we see set forth against each other the terror and fascination of the Godhead. That God knows each person through and through can be a cause of shaking fear to the person that has something to hide some unforsaken sin, some secret crime committed against human or God. The unblessed soul may well tremble that God knows the flimsiness of every pretext and never accepts the poor excuses given for sinful conduct, since He knows perfectly the real reason for it. "You have set our iniquities before You, our secret sins in the light of your countenance." How frightful a thing to see the sons of Adam seeking to hide among the trees of another garden. But where shall they hide? "Where shall I go from your spirit? or where shall I flee from your presence? If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yes, the darkness hides not from You; but the night shines, as the day."
And to us who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope that is set before us in the gospel, how unutterably sweet is the knowledge that our Heavenly Father knows us completely. No talebearer can inform on us, no enemy can make an accusation stick; no forgotten skeleton can come tumbling out of some hidden closet to abash us and expose our past; no unsuspected weakness in our characters can come to light to turn God away from us, since He knew us utterly before we knew Him and called us to Himself in the full knowledge of everything that was against us. "For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from You, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, said the Lord that has mercy on You."
Our Father in heaven knows our frame and remembers that we are dust. He knew our inborn treachery, and for His own sake engaged to save us (Isa. 48:8-11). His only begotten Son, when He walked among us, felt our pains in their naked intensity of anguish. His knowledge of our afflictions and adversities is more than theoretic; it is personal, warm, and compassionate. Whatever may befall us, God knows and cares as no one else can.
He does give His joy to all;
He becomes an infant small;
He becomes a man of woe;
He does feel the sorrow too.
Think not you can sigh a sigh
And your Maker is not by;
Think not you can weep a tear
And your Maker is not near.
O! He gives to us His joy
That our griefs He may destroy;
Till our grief is fled and gone
He does sit by us and moan.
From "The Knowledge of the Holy" by Dr. A. W. Tozer. Lightly updated to the language of the 21st century by D. N. Pham. (c) 2012.
Insights of the past for the present
Knowledge of the Holy - A.W. Tozer
ON THE BOOK SHELF
May your insights be worthy.