Jehovah the All-knowing God: (1) His Thorough Knowledge of His People

June 22, 2003 / No. 3155

Dear radio friends,

      Have you ever told somebody that you loved them, but did not really mean it?  Rather, you were just trying to impress them.  I warn you, you cannot do that with God.

      David teaches us that in Psalm 139.   In that psalm, he speaks of his love for God.  In fact, he tells God of his love for Him.  In verse 14 he speaks of praising God:  “I will praise thee,” he says.  One praises one whom he loves.  In verse 21 he says, “Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee?”  Whatever it can mean now that a man hates other men, when David expresses that he hates those who hate Jehovah, he expresses the depth of his love for Jehovah.  In expressing his love for Jehovah, David is sincere.  That is evident from the fact that throughout the psalm he speaks of Jehovah knowing all things, and even his own heart.  That is Psalm 139, the psalm that teaches us about Jehovah, the all-knowing God.

      We are going to study that psalm, the Lord willing, for several weeks, first of all so that we can know Jehovah better; secondly, so that we are more ready ourselves to praise Jehovah, and thirdly, so that we are motivated to live our whole life before His face.

      Today we examine verses 1-6.  Please open your Bible and read these verses.

      In these verses David not only speaks of Jehovah’s omniscience, the term by which we refer to Jehovah’s knowing all things, but he speaks of that omniscience as applied to God’s people, in fact, to His child David.  “O LORD, thou hast searched me,and known me.” 

      Let us explain, first of all, what the omniscience of Jehovah is.  That Jehovah is omniscient means that He knows all things.  He knows Himself, first of all, His mind, His will, what He will do, what He thinks.  Jehovah knows these perfectly.

      Secondly, He knows His creatures.  Every single creature He knows.  What place that creature occupies in His creation He knows.  When that creature will be born and when that creature will die He knows.

      Thirdly, Jehovah knows, in a special way, His people.  That is the knowledge of love.  Of that especially David is speaking in Psalm 139, for he speaks as a child of God:  “O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me.”

      When David speaks of Jehovah’s knowing all things, he does not merely mean that Jehovah has an awareness of what might happen, that Jehovah knows the various possibilities that exist in David’s life, the various choices that David will have to make.  Some speak today of Jehovah’s omniscience in that way — Jehovah knows what He will do if history takes this course or that course, but He does not know what course it will take.  Or, some might say, Jehovah knows what He will do if this man believes, and He knows what He will do if that man does not  believe; but Jehovah does not actually know whether such a man will believe or not.  That is not true of Jehovah!  When we speak of Jehovah’s omniscience, we mean that He actually knows everything that will happen in time and history, and that He knows these things not merely because He is able to see ahead in time, but because He determined what will happen.

      So Peter says to the Jews, for example in Acts 2:23, when he speaks of the death of Jesus Christ:  “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.”  Peter tells the Jews that their wicked act of killing Jesus Christ was carried out because of the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.  God determined that act from all eternity.  In Psalm 37:18 we read, “The LORD knoweth the days of the upright,” that is, He knows the days the righteous live.   He knows when those days begin and when they end.  He knows everything that characterizes those days.  How can He know that?  The answer is, because He has determined all things.  Jehovah is the all-knowing God because He is the sovereign God who, from all eternity, determined what would happen in time and history.

      Now David bring this doctrine of the omniscience of God to a personal conclusion when he says in verse 1:  “O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me.”  What does David mean by “searched me and known me”?  What does Jehovah know about David?  David explains, in the first place, in the following verses that Jehovah knows his activities, however ordinary they might be.  Jehovah knows his downsitting and his uprising (v. 2), and Jehovah knows his lying down (v. 3).  To sit down on a chair, to get up off a chair, to lie down on a  bed or get up off the bed — these are such common activities in our lives that we do them without thinking.  But the Lord knows what we are doing and when we are doing it.

Jehovah is the all-knowing God
because He is the sovereign God.

      Secondly, David speaks of Jehovah knowing how he lives his life generally.  “Thou compassest … and art acquainted with all my ways” (v. 3).  One’s path and one’s ways refer to the customs or habits in his life — when one spends spare time, what he does for recreation, what his purposes in life are.  Jehovah knows these things — things that we are not always aware of.  Our customs and our habits sometimes have to be told us by other people.  Jehovah knows them because He determined them.

      Thirdly, Jehovah knows every word that we speak.  “For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether” (v. 4).  How quickly we forget the words that we speak.  But Jehovah remembers them.

      Now you say, “But does Jehovah really know these things because He determined them; and is that really the point of David — that even before we knew these things about us, Jehovah knew?”  The answer is, “Yes, that is what David means.”  For he goes on to say, “There is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether,” that is, even before the words are formed on my tongue, Jehovah knows them.  And in verse 2, “Thou understandest my thought afar off.”  You may think that your thoughts are known only to you.  After all, nobody can see inside your head.  Wrong!  Jehovah knew them even before we formed them.

      This, dear radio listeners, is the doctrine of the omniscience of God as David sets it forth in Psalm 139.   Do you think that God does not know about you?  Do you think that God does not know the things you are doing and saying and thinking?  David, as a child of God, says He does.

      This is a confession of a child of God, then.  And it ought to be a confession that you and I are ready to make also.  But along with making the confession that Jehovah does know all things, we must confess how He knows all things.  How is it that Jehovah has this knowledge?

      David answers that question in the psalm when he says, “O LORD, thou hast searched me.”  To search is to examine.  The word that David uses in the Hebrew language translated “search” in our King James version refers to a very careful and intense scrutiny.  Think, for instance, of the work of an archeologist as he searches a piece of ground for historical artifacts.  He does not quickly look over that piece of ground, dig here a little, there a little, and then quickly give up his search when he does not find anything.  An archeologist carefully and painstakingly searches that area of ground, digging and taking note of every little thing that he finds, to determine whether it be of real value for him or not.  So Jehovah God:  when He searches His people, He does not merely take a cursory glance at them.  He digs into the recesses of their hearts.  “O LORD, thou hast searched me.”  David knows that Jehovah has seen his heart.

      There is another verb in this text that speaks of how Jehovah knows us.  “Thou compassest my path and my lying down.”  That word “compassest” refers to the work of threshing.  When a thresher threshes wheat, he shakes (at least in the Old Testament times) the wheat so that the wheat and the chaff are separated.  That is what God does with us once He has examined our heart and found what is in it.  He distinguishes or separates what is of substance from what is not, what is truth from what is lie, what is pleasing to Him from what is not.  Jehovah has this knowledge of His people because He can see their hearts.

      But there must be another answer given to the question of how God knows all things.  That is, He knows because He is God.  Even though David speaks of God having searched and compassed his heart, do not think that Jehovah does not know anything until He takes time to investigate.  Jehovah does not know all things because He learned them.  He does not know all things even because He has intuition.  He knows all things because He is the all-knowing, sovereign God.

David knows that Jehovah has seen his heart.

      Now, have we given two contradictory answers to the question of how Jehovah knows all things?  On the one hand, He searches and distinguishes right from wrong.  On the other hand, He is God.  No, these are not two contradictory answers.  David speaks of God searching and compassing him from the viewpoint of David’s experience.  That is, God does know all things without having ever investigated or studied them.  But the child of God who says, “O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me,” the child of God who speaks of Jehovah knowing all his activities, all his customs and habits of life, his words and his thoughts, experiences the searching of God.

      The child of God does that, first of all, by the operation of a good conscience.  Jehovah, working in His children’s hearts by His Holy Spirit, causes their consciences to testify of the results of Jehovah’s search.  When David says, “O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me,” he will go on later in the psalm to speak of his understanding of what the result of the Lord’s search is:  that David is a child of God, pleasing to God, for the sake of Jesus Christ.

      So it is for God’s children also today.  By the operation of a good conscience, God tells us what He finds in us.  A good conscience, now, not being merely one that never convicts of sin, but rather a good conscience being one that convicts of sin when one has sinned, and testifies of righteousness when one has not sinned.  That is the means that God uses to bring to the knowledge of His people what He knows of them.

      That is not the only means.  There are others.  God performs this activity by the preaching of the gospel and of the law, by our reading of Scripture and by prayer that God will show us what He thinks and sees of us.  The child of God prays, as David will at the end of the psalm, “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.”  When we pray that prayer, and when we turn to Scripture and read the Word of God to find out what the will of God is, God, in answer to that prayer, and by the means of Scripture as it is read or preached, tells us what He thinks of us, what He thinks of our actions.  Then, sometimes, the child of God must confess, “I have sinned and the Lord knows my sins.”  At other times the child of God can say, “I have done right, not of myself, for I have not the power of myself, but in the grace given me in Jesus Christ, I have done right.”

By the operation of a good conscience,
God tells us what He finds in us.

      That is the knowledge of God and the way that God shows His children that He has that knowledge.

      Now, not only does David make a confession about Jehovah’s omniscience and also about the way in which Jehovah could have this knowledge, but David expresses how wonderful this knowledge is (v. 6).  “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.”  It is wonderful, that is, it is incomprehensible.  It is high, that is, it is far beyond us.  David expresses in this verse that this knowledge that Jehovah possesses is a knowledge that David as a mere creature, and even as a child of God, will never have.

      That also must be your confession and mine.  In saying that Jehovah is the all-knowing God and that we, mere creatures, cannot attain unto this knowledge, we are expressing how different we are from Jehovah.  He knows all things.  Our knowledge is limited.  What a God Jehovah is!

      Understanding that He knows all things, we must stand in awe of Him.  David indicates that in verse 4:  “There is not a word in my tongue but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether.”  When David thinks of the all-knowingness of Jehovah, he is moved to awe and reverence of Jehovah God.

      Why is it that this knowledge is so wonderful?  Not only, first of all, because, as we have explained, it sets God apart from us, shows that He is sovereign creator while we are creature and that He is unlimited in everything while we are finite, but this knowledge is also wonderful because of the effect that it has on the people of God who take it to heart.  They will endeavor then to see themselves as God sees them.  There are those who are concerned to see themselves as others see them, desiring to make a favorable impression on man.  Their goal in life is to know how man sees them in order that they might know how to act.  Let that not be so much your desire, dear radio listeners, as it is your desire to see yourself as God sees you.  When we do that, we have given evidence of the wonderful nature of God’s all-knowingness and especially of its gracious and wonderful effect on us who take it to heart.

When David thinks of the all-knowingness of Jehovah, he is moved to awe and reverence of Jehovah God.

      That will lead us, then, to guard against sin.  Where did you sit in the past week?  Where do you plan to sit in the coming week?  God knows where.  Is it in the kind of seat that He will be happy with?  Is it in church, or is it in a place that shows hatred and contempt of God?  On what sort of bed did you lie this past week?  On what sort of bed do you plan to lie this coming week?  Might it be the bed of fornication and adultery?  Jehovah knows.  Or might it be the bed, the marriage bed, which is undefiled?  Jehovah knows.  What works do you plan to do in this coming week or what works have you done?  Jehovah knows.  What are your thoughts, your secret thoughts?  Are they pleasing to Him?  Jehovah knows.  What words have you spoken?  Have they shown hatred of others, perhaps?  Jehovah knows.  When we remember all this, we will guard against sin.

      The wonderful effect of this omniscience of God on believers will be, furthermore, that they confess their sins to Him.  That confession will not consist of our telling Him something that He does not know.  But when we confess our sins to God we will be saying to God, “O Lord, thou knowest my sins.  And Thou hast graciously brought them to my consciousness, and now I confess them and seek Thy forgiving grace.”  That is the wonderful effect of knowing the omniscience of Jehovah.

      There is another effect for the child of God, and that is the effect of comfort.  If Jehovah knows all things, having determined all things, then there is nothing that happens in your life and in mine of which He is unaware.  Is that not a wonderful thing to know in times of trial and trouble?  A word of comfort, it is, in all of the afflictions that we might face.  Not only is Jehovah aware of the troubles that we face, but He has determined them and He will use them to our salvation.

      Can you say with David, “O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me”?  Can you say again, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it”?  And in so saying, are you expressing your conviction that Jehovah is the all-knowing God?

      May God’s people always make this their confession.  Amen.