Now we're turning again, as we did last week, to Psalm 139 - 139th Psalm. You'll remember last week, we didn't so much as do an exposition of this passage, but we did look at the subject, the theme, of one of the stanzas within this Psalm - the theme was the omnipresence of God. We saw also that every stanza within this Psalm has a theme: there is the omni-righteousness of God, there is the omniscience of God also that we're looking at today. So, we're going to look at the verses that apply to our subject this morning - the omniscience of God.
Psalm 139 and verse 1: "O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought 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".
Let's just take a moment's prayer as we come to the word of God. Father, we fear Thine all-seeing eye, for we know that Thou dost see even things that we cannot see ourselves. But yet, in that awesome terror of the eye of the living God, there is a great comfort to know that the God who knows us better than we know ourselves, is the God who loves us and cares for us. Our Father, we pray that the awesomeness of this truth may be impressed upon our hearts, but also that our faith may rest plainly upon our God. Fill me, I pray, in the Saviour's name, Amen.
The young people this evening, after the Gospel meeting, will be looking at the subject of the Trinity of God. This is a good illustration for that subject, as well as also the greatness of the attributes of God. It is a story concerning Augustine, one of the great church fathers and saints of God. You will know that Augustine wrote many discourses on the truths of Scripture and theology, but upon one of those writings he took a break one day and decided that he would go for a walk along the sea shore. It happened to be a discourse on the Trinity of God. As he went for walk along the shore, lost in meditation, he suddenly came upon a young boy who was digging a hole in the sand. It appeared to Augustine that the young boy was trying to bring water from the sea and fill up the hole with water. Augustine stopped for a moment and inquired of the boy, what was the object of his task. The boy replied that he intended to empty the sea into this cavity within the sand - all the great waters of the deep! To that Augustine shouted: 'Impossible! It cannot be done young man!'. The young boy looked up at Augustine and said: 'Not more impossible than for thee, oh Augustine, to explain the mystery on which thou art now meditating'.
He got more than he bargained for from that young man! Augustine says that he learnt his lesson from that moment on, he walked away and he says that that was what he was trying to do. He was trying to fill this little hole of his human mind, and great intellect though it was, with the vastness of the ocean of who God is and what God can do. He says: 'Standing on the shores of time, I am trying to get into this little finite mind things which are infinite'. As we have stood on the shore of God greatness, in these weeks that have gone by, that is one thing: as we learn more about God, we find the little that we can know about Him. We have begun to see that God is a great vast Person, He is vaster than our finite minds can take in - and we learn well when we learn like Augustine, to realise that there is so much that we cannot understand.
This subject that we come upon this morning: 'The Omniscience of God', it testifies too greatly to us how little we can understand - because it is in contrast to our little understanding of Him, how greatly He understands all things. John Wesley said this: 'Bring me a worm that can comprehend a man, and then I will show you a man that can comprehend God'. Omniscience is a word that is made up of two Latin words. The first again, as we have learnt, 'omni' means 'all' - 'science' means knowledge. To put it plainly, the omniscience of God is God's all-knowledge, the attribute whereby He knows all things - He knows everything! That means that He knows all actualities and all possibilities - not only things that are, but things that can be - all actualities, and all possibilities, past, present and future.
It means there has never been a time when anything was unknown to God. It means there will never ever be a time when He will not possess full, perfect and absolute knowledge. It means that God cannot learn. Isn't that an amazing thought? God knows all things, and He cannot learn anything about anyone or anything! Just imagine the opposite of it for a moment: imagine if God could receive some information into His mind, a knowledge that He hadn't possessed from all eternity, that He could learn something. Imagine God sitting at the feet of another, a teacher, learning something that the most high mind never ever knew! It's impossible, isn't it? He knows nothing better than anything else, He knows everything equally well, He never can discover anything because He knows everything. He can never be surprised, God is never amazed, God never sits in wonder, love and praise like we do when we think upon Him - there's nothing, there is nothing that He wonders at.
Whenever, in the word of God, we find God asking questions it's always to bring the person He is asking the question of into the realisation of the knowledge that He already has. He wants to bring us to a knowledge, He wants to reveal us to His truth. We find it right throughout Scripture, don't we? In fact, Paul, in Romans 11 capitulated, I believe, the knowledge that is in most men and women - even atheists, though they will not admit to it - and that is that God is greater, and there has to be an absolute deity, a great God, a great supreme source of life in the universe. Paul said: 'O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!', he goes on, 'Who hath known the mind of the Lord?'
One of the results of the fall in the garden of Eden is that men have tried to promote themselves to the status of the Almighty. One of the ways that is in vogue today is in the mind - in intellectualism. We need to be careful that we do not despise intellectualism, but we must never put it on the pinnacle that the world does - for they believe by learning they can get to a certain stage where they can equal God! But from our vantage point we say - those who know God, those who have known the salvation of God, those who are day by day in His pilgrimage of grace, having revealed to us the great nature of God - we cry: 'Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, it is high, I cannot attain unto it'! So, as we come to the all-knowing God, let us beware that this is a fearful, and wonderful Being.
There are three things I want you to see this morning. First of all that God knows His creation. Secondly, God knows you as a believer. And thirdly, God knows you as an unconverted sinner. The first is: God knows His creation. That is very simple, that God knows every creature. I'm sure that the high-fluting intellectuals would really wonder at this philosophical idea that God would even be remotely concerned with the little ant beneath a rock - but that is the God that we have. That is the God that is revealed to us through the word of God, we read: 'He telleth', or counteth, 'the number of the stars. He calleth them all by their names'. The word of God tells us He knows the ravens and their young ones. The word of God, through the Lord Jesus Christ, tells us that He knows the very sparrows that fall. He said: 'I know all the fouls of the mountains, and the wild beasts of the field are mine'. The Lord said He knows the very hairs that are on our head, and He numbers them! One man put it well when he said: 'Anyone can count the seeds in one apple, but only God can count the apples in one seed'.
This is the God that we have. Basil Manley put it: 'If there is ever any one thought, full, distinct, vivid, thoroughly comprehended by yourself - then just what that is to you, all knowledge is to God'. Let's think about that. Do you know a subject well? I'm not even talking about a theological subject. For instance, take a pea, a little pea out of a pod, and set it down on a plate. Take one week to study that little piece of vegetable, watch it, turn it around from every angle, every aspect that you can see it, watch the light shine on it, look at it in the shade, cut it open, look inside it - by the end of that week your huge mind of humanity will be able to grasp of little piece of God's creation. The truth is, you don't know all about it - but if you think that you know that well, that is the way that God knows everything! He is remarkable, and what a wonderful thing to know that there is nothing, absolutely nothing that is going on in this universe, that our God does not know about. He is not ignorant to anything, He is not ignorant to anything in your life, anything in your circumstances, anything in your heart or in your mind - God knows everything! He knows everything in His creation.
But let's look, secondly, at how God knows you, the believer in Himself. I want to look at this in three ways, and I want to spend a little time over it. First of all God knows you as a believer in your heart. Secondly, He knows your prayers, and thirdly, He knows your trials. First: He knows your heart. Proverbs 15 and verse 3 says this: 'The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good'. Do you remember Hagar, the bondwoman cast into the desert and into the wilderness? She was rejected, and there she was: she leaves her little child Ishmael down in the desert to die, and she walks away. But what was her prayer? 'Thou, God, seest me'. Isn't that it? The omniscience of God - that we can never hide from the sight of the Almighty, He always sees us. One biblical scholar put it like this: 'The whole of my life stood open to His view from the beginning. He saw my every fall, my every sin, my every backsliding - yet He fixed His heart upon me!'. Oh, does that not thrill you? Does that not excite you as a believer in Christ? That there is One in heaven, there is One who inhabits the whole of this earth that we live and move and have our being in - and He is the God who knows all actualities, and all possibilities, and He knows everything about you: mind, body, soul and spirit - yet He loves you! Is that not wonderful to you? We were thinking about it at the Breaking of Bread:
'It is a thing most wonderful,
Almost too wonderful to be.
That God's own Son should come to earth,
To die to save a child like me'.
It is wonderful. It's wonderful because He knows our heart. It's wonderful because He cannot be deceived, we cannot hide anything from God, we cannot - if I can say it reverently - wipe His eye. His knowledge is not only absolute, but it is instantaneous. If you think of us studying that little pea from the pod, we have to study it for a week to really get to know it, but God does not study or learn anything - His knowledge is instant, at that very moment He needs it, it is there. God's knowledge is retentive - what an amazing thought? You can learn, but you forget. If you're like me, you have to continually keep in mind what you're trying to learn. No matter how much you put it into your mind, there are weeks go by and you forget something that you studied in so much detail, but God never forgets! God is retentive of all His instantaneous knowledge.
The word of God says: 'He that planteth the ear, shall he not hear? He that formed the eye, shall he not see?'. Let me say this, believer: this proves to me the folly of hypocrisy. There are a lot of hypocrites within the church of Jesus Christ, and the world will tell you that. People who name the name of Christ, who are supposedly walking the walk, but their life testifies different - they are hypocrites! When we think of the omniscience of God, that God Almighty has a window into your heart, He has an eye-scope right into your breast to see who you are. He has a key to open up the treasure of your heart, and to see all the vile things that dwell within. That should banish hypocrisy from us! Shouldn't it? Like a money lender notes down all the debts that are owed to him, God has a day book for every child of God, I believe, in which He records their life! What they do, what they say, the way they behave, the way they live before a world that needs Christ - and the only way they will see Christ is through His church, His body. But what does the hypocrite do? The hypocrite covers over their sin, they hope to colour it, to shade it in so that no-one will notice, and portray themselves as something else. It is the spirit of Judas Iscariot - when that devoted sister and child of God came before the Lord Jesus Christ and anointed His feet with perfume, remember what Judas said? He had covetousness, isn't that what the word of God says? His hand was in the bag, he was greedy, he was a thief, but he covered over his covetousness with charity! Charity to the poor - the biggest hypocrite, to cover over an unholy thing with a holy thing, and pretend he is doing it for God? It is true that God sees through the fig leaves that hide man's sin.
Now, let's think about this: God's eye is always upon you. Always! At every single moment, at every turning point in your life, His omniscient eye is always upon your life, upon your thoughts, upon your heart, upon your motives, upon everything. Is it any wonder David said: 'I have set the Lord before me'. That's what you've got to get: believer, if you want to live a holy life before God and you're finding it very hard, if you could only get to a realisation of the omniscience of God here and now around the word of God, and set the Lord always before you, you'd never make a wrong move! Never! Seneca, the heathen philosopher, counselled Lucidius (sp?) - and this was his great worldly wisdom, he didn't know it was from the word of God, he said: 'Whatever you are doing, you should imagine some of the Roman worthies stand before you, and that would make you do nothing dishonourable'. That was his philosophy - it was just another way of God's philosophy, only you should be more fearful realising that you're not just imagining, you're not pretending, and it's not some Roman worthy that's in front of you, it's the God of all eternity! Imagine setting Him before our eyes - it would prevent a lot of sin, wouldn't it?
You know, it is said that before Latimer was burned at the stake, and martyred, that during his examination by the church of Rome it says that he took heed to every word he said - why? Because he heard the pen writing behind the hangings. He could hear the scratch on the parchment. Dying! About to be burned alive for God! My friends, as we walk our Christian life this great truth of the omniscience of God is being able to hear the scratch of the pen of the Holy Spirit writing the account of our lives in heaven! What care we would have over our words, what care over our behaviour, if we realised that God's pen never ever stops writing, that God never ever misses anything - nothing is hidden to His great all-seeing eye.
Julius Drusis (sp?), a Roman Tribune, had a house on a hill in the city. It is said that it was in view, it was exposed to the whole of the neighbourhood. The builder on one occasion came up to him and offered him: for five talents he would make it more private, so that no-one could see. This is what Drusis said: 'I will give you ten talents, if you can make every room so open that all the city may behold in what manner I lead my life'. That's an unbeliever! We are always open to God - I just want that to drop into our hearts, I don't want to go on any further if we don't get this into our minds: that we are never ever closed to God in anyway. He sees all of us! All that there is to see, He sees!
He sees your heart, believer - but secondly: He sees your prayers. This is wonderful to me, this should be wonderful to every child who is a child of prayer - because in Malachi 3:16 we read this: 'God has a book of remembrance written for them that thought upon his name'. Isn't that beautiful? There's a book in heaven - a book! Those who shut themselves off from the world, who go into their closet were no-one sees them - now, not standing on the street corner, or standing in the prayer meeting praying away to God with all high-fluting terms - but those who go into the closet and seek God on their own where nobody sees them, there's a book in heaven and your name is recorded there, and there's a day you'll be rewarded. What an incentive, that God sees your prayers! You go into the closet and you groan and you cry to God, but you can say like the Psalmist: 'My groaning is not hid from thee'. You water your prayers with your tears, God says: 'I put your tears into a bottle, I'm counting them, I'm taking note of them' - what an encouragement to pray!
There's no reason to fear that your petitions will be ignored by God, or that He'll not see you, or that He's concerning Himself with the great affairs of the universe, and prophecy and all the rest - and that He hasn't seen you, the humble soul upon his knees! He's looking after millions, think how many millions pray to Him every moment of the day, yet He takes note of you as an individual - and more than taking note, He writes it down in a book. Amazing. Every word that's in your heart, and even in times when you're lying on a sick bed and you can't put into words what you feel - 'It shall come to pass that before they call I will answer, and while they are yet speaking I will hear' - for He sees our hearts. He knows our prayers, He sees our hearts. Thomas Watson says: 'To think God was in this place' - to think God was in this place! Now! In the closet at home when we seek Him - 'would add wings to prayer, and oil to the flame of our devotion'.
Thirdly: we know the omniscience of God in our trials. God knows your trials, believer. Thomas Watson also said this, listen: 'If saints find a real purgatory, it is in this life - but this is the comfort: that God sees what wrong is done to them, and the apple of His eye is touched and He is sensitive to it'. Did you ever have somebody poke their finger in your eye? It's not too nice, sure it's not? That's the way God feels when anything, or anybody, touches you. That's what God's trying to convey to us: we are the apple of His eye. When they came to whip Paul, it was as if they were whipping the King's Son, because God in heaven was wrathful with them that were whipping him. One has said: 'For every drop of a saint's blood spilt, God puts a drop of wrath in His vial'. Isn't it wonderful? You see what you're going through - maybe they're someone here today and they're getting a hard, hard time from someone close to them. They're being put through the mill, a trial that's not your fault, and you never asked for it - but what a wonder to know that God knows! God knows all about it, God knows who is innocent, God knows who is guilty.
In the book of the Revelation, chapter 12, we read of Satan, and he's depicted as a dragon with seven heads. Do you know what that typifies? It typifies the devil's knowledge, and ability, and intuition, to think as he persecutes the church of Jesus Christ - it's as if he's got seven heads, all his plans and his schemes, and his wiles and his methods, he's been doctoring them up for years! What a blessing it is to go to Zechariah 3 and verse 9, and see that God is described there as having seven eyes. He sees every single scheme of the evil one, and He knows it! He's seen it before he's even thought it! Our God is there for us, a righteous refuge that the righteous can run into and be saved.
Where are you today? Are you getting a hard time? Are you perplexed? Do you know what Job said as he was perplexed? 'He knoweth the way that I take'. Are you weary? Do you feel you can't go on any more, you've had it up to here? You can take no more of this trial, of this life, of this temptation, of what this other person seems to be doing to you - listen: 'He knoweth our frame, He remembereth that we are dust'. Maybe you're doubting your salvation, maybe you're doubting that you're making a good job of this Christian life, maybe you've suspicion even about the truths of the word of God: 'Search me O 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'. Maybe you're in sorrow and affliction, and you're thinking: 'No-one knows what I'm going through'. Listen, God said: 'I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their task masters, for I know their sorrows' - I know! For this is the only wise God, this is the God who knows everything!
A little boy was listening to his father reading the family devotions from the word of God, and he was so impressed by his father and mother's discussion as they talked about the limitless power and mercy of their God. The little boy put his hand on Daddy's knee, and said: 'Daddy how big is God anyway?'. They always ask the hardest questions, don't they? The man thought for a minute and then said: 'Well son, He's always just a little bit bigger than your need'. That's the truth - He sees everything, He knows everything, and He can take care of everything too.
Fourthly, believer, He knows your future. He knows your future - you go through the word of God, you go through all the prophecies. He predicted that the Israelites would be in a strange land and afflicted for 400 years. He prophesied that the same people would be in captivity in Babylon for 70 years. He then told them that they would be delivered at the end of that time. You go into the book of Daniel and chapter 2, and you find the prophecy about the times of the Gentiles. You find prophecies right throughout the word of God about the place, and the manner, and the capacity, of Messiah's birth where He would be born, and how He would be born. The reason is: God knows the plan of the ages! He knows the plan of the ages because He has planned the ages!
That's our God, and that is the God that sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might believe through Him that came incarnate, in flesh, to save us. And when we see the incarnate God in the Lord Jesus Christ, we see that He was all-knowing! He knew men's thoughts. He said that He was the only one who knew the Father. He said He knew what was in men, and he said: 'I know them that are mine' - He knows those that are His! There's a great comfort in the fact that God is never taken by surprise - can you rest in that? It might shock you what you're going to hear in the week that lies ahead, but it doesn't shock Him. As Charles Stern says: 'There is nothing round the corner which is beyond God's view' - nothing. So, there are you are, lying in a hospital bed; there you are, with your head weeping on a pillow for a loved one that has gone; there you are, agonising in prayer for a son or a daughter who is outside of Christ and shows no sign of coming into Him - but what a wonder that there is a High Priest in heaven touched with the feeling of our infirmities, who knows because He came in likeness of sinful flesh! We can say with William Blake, the poet
'He doth give His joy to all,
He became an infant, small.
He becomes a Man of woe,
He doth feel the sorrow to.
Think not thou can sigh a sigh,
And thy Maker is not by!
Think not thou canst weep a tear,
And thy Maker is not near.
Oh, He gives to us his joy,
That our griefs He may destroy.
Till are grief is fled and gone,
He doth sit by us and moan'.
Isn't it wonderful that He sympathises? A sympathising Saviour who knows everything.
But thirdly, and finally: God knows you, sinner. You're not saved and you're in our meeting now, He knows your heart. All things are naked and open in His eyes, He is the one with whom we have to do. We can discern our exterior, but He discerns the heart. He says: 'I, the Lord, search the heart, I try the reins even to the very man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings'. There is nothing secret to God: 'For I know the things that come into your mind', He says - every one of them! He saw Cain slaying Abel. He heard Sarah laughing in her tent. He saw Achen burying the bar of gold in the sand. He saw it all, and David painfully realised that he couldn't hide his sin from God when Nathan the prophet came in and said: 'Thou art the man!'. He says to you today, backslider and unrepentant sinner: 'Be sure your sin will find you out' - for every time you sin there are two witnesses, there is your conscience and there is God Almighty who sees everything you're doing.
On one occasion Mark Twain, it was his birthday and he was away overseas. His friends met in his local club and they thought of a prank to play on him for his birthday. So they wrote him a letter full of nonsense, about 15 pages, and they put it in an envelope - but they didn't know were Mark Twain was, so they wrote on the front of the envelope: 'Mark Twain, only God knows'. They sent it away for a laugh, it was only for themselves, they didn't think it was going to get there. A few weeks later there was a letter came back, and it said: 'From Mark Twain, God did'. Now listen: God knows exactly where you are at this moment, He knows exactly what is in your heart, He knows what is in your mind, He knows that you're running from Him, He knows that you're living in sin, He knows that you are knee-deep into rebelliousness toward God and His word - He knows everything! You can't hide from Him! The ancient Greeks, and the statues that they worshipped as their god - do you know what they believed? That when a spider came across the eyes of that statue and spun a web, that their god couldn't see what they were up to! You can laugh at that, but that's the way some of you are living, isn't it? You think God can't see what you're dabbling in, you think God can't see what you're doing - but the miracle is this: God sees your heart, God sees your sin, and God looks most where man looks least. He sees your judgement, He sees everything.
Lafayette tells us that when he was in prison, he was once shut up in a little room for a long long time. In the door of his cell there was a little hole that was sawn out. He says that through that hole there was placed the eye of a soldier to watch him every moment of the day. He says that all he could see was the soldier's eye, and that eye was always there - day and night, every moment he lifted his eye from his bed, he finished washing, he finished eating - every time he looked at that hole there was an eye looking always upon him. This is what he said: 'Oh, it was dreadful! There was no escape, there was no hiding. When I lay down, when I rose up, that eye was watching me!'. How terrible it is to be a sinner, and the eye of the holy God is always upon you.
Let me say, as we close: if you have something to hide from the all-seeing eye of God, He knows everything - He knows the reason for it. He knows, and He says: 'Thou hast set our iniquities before Thee, our secret sins in the light of Thy countenance' - what you think is hidden is open air to God! He sees it all - and you're just like Adam, your father, running in the garden - imagine him trying to hide from God! Where can you hide? 'Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways'. How can you hide from Him? You cannot, and there is not a moment of privacy from the Almighty. But you know something, if you're hiding in the truth of God's omniscience - not from it, but if you are hiding in it - it's very sweet. Isn't that sweet?
Does it not warm your heart to know that your Heavenly Father knows you completely? There's no tale-bearer that can come up to the ear of God and whisper something that He doesn't know about you. There's no informers. There's no accuser that can make an accusation stick upon your name. There's no forgotten skeleton that can come tumbling out of the closet to expose your past. There's no unsuspected weakness in your character that can come to light and make God turn away from you! For He says this: 'For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee'. Isn't it wonderful that we have a God in heaven who knoweth that we are dust? Whatever befalls us, God knows us, God loves us, and God cares for us.
Let us bow our heads. What a comfort to the sorrowing, troubled soul - but you've got to rest on it, you've got to believe that He is the God who sees you where you are, knows everything, and will uphold you with His love. Sinner, He's not missing anything, not a bit, yet He loves you and He longs for you to come by faith and believe in His Son. Let us all today as this church of Jesus Christ commit ourselves, knowing that He never takes His eye off us, and may we live holy and unblameable lives in this evil world - because what the world misses, God sees.
Father, we thank Thee for a terrible truth, but yet a truth that we can trust in, if we believe in humility upon it. We pray that it will be a salve for the sin-sick soul, for the sorrowing soul - and Lord, for our lukewarm hearts, that it may spur us on to follow godliness and holiness, without which no man will see Thee. Hear us, we pray - You see our hearts at this moment, and we pray that You will take the offering that we bring, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the twelfth tape in his 'Behold Your God' series, titled "The Omniscience Of God" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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