22 He reveals deep and mysterious things
and knows what lies hidden in darkness,
though he is surrounded by light. – Daniel 2:22 NLT
13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable. – Hebrews 4:13 NLT
3 …for the Lord is a God of knowledge… – 1 Samuel 2:3 ESV
God knows everything. This attribute of God is what the theologians refer to as His omniscience, which simply means “all knowing” (omni = all; science = knowledge). To be omniscient is to have “complete or unlimited knowledge, awareness, or understanding; to perceive all things” (Dictionary.com).
So, as we begin our task of getting to know God, we will begin with the mind-blowing concept that God knows everything. He never requires instruction because He has no gaps in His knowledge. There is nothing He does not know. He has perfect and complete knowledge of the past, the present and, amazingly, the future. God knows what is going to take place long before it happens. Something the theologians refer to as His foreknowledge. But more about that later.
God’s knowledge is so great that He knows the thoughts of every single human being. King David was understandably blown away by this idea. He confessed to God, “you have examined my heart and know everything about me” (Psalm 139:1 NLT). He knew that God knew. There was nothing about his life that was hidden from God’s all-knowing gaze. In fact, David went on to acknowledge the full extent of God’s knowledge of him.
You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. – Psalm 139:4 NLT
But God’s intimate and somewhat invasive knowledge of him was not unsettling to David. It was comforting.
How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!
I can’t even count them;
they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
you are still with me! – Psalm 139:17-18 NLT
God’s knowledge is all-pervasive, penetrating the thoughts of men and the darkness of night. David went to admit, “I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night—but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you” (Psalm 139:11-12 NLT).
There is nothing you can hide from God. There is nowhere you can go where His divine gaze cannot find you. And, according to Jesus, God’s knowledge of you is so complete that “the very hairs on your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:30 NLT). He knows each and every detail about you. From the number of the hairs on your head to the thoughts of your heart. You can’t fool God.
One of the amazing things to consider about God’s omniscience is that He can never be surprised or caught off guard. There is never an occasion when God has to say, “How did that happen?” Because He knew in advance that it was going to happen. This is that aspect of His omniscience known as foreknowledge. In Greek, the term for “foreknowledge” is prognōsis. It comes from the Greek word pro, which means “before” and the Greek word ginōskō, which means “know.” The idea is that God has prior knowledge about all events. He “knows before.” It expresses the idea of knowing reality before it is real and events before they occur.
Because God is divine, He is not bound by time and space. Past, present, and future are all the same to Him. He exists outside of time, so He is able to look into and perceive the future just as easily as He does the past. That is why we find so much prophetic content in the Bible. God’s foreknowledge allows Him to see and know all that will happen as if it has already taken place. That is why He told the prophet Isaiah, “I will tell you the future before it happens” (Isaiah 42:9 NLT).
God doesn’t predict the future, He pronounces it beforehand. He isn’t forced to respond to events as they happen. No, He has already predetermined His response to any and every circumstance because He knew in advance. Again, God assured the prophet Isaiah of His unparalleled foreknowledge.
“I am the First and the Last;
there is no other God.
Who is like me?
Let him step forward and prove to you his power.
Let him do as I have done since ancient times
when I established a people and explained its future.” – Isaiah 44:6-7 NLT
“For I alone am God!
I am God, and there is none like me.
Only I can tell you the future
before it even happens.
Everything I plan will come to pass,
for I do whatever I wish.” – Isaiah 46:9-10 NLT
But God’s foreknowledge is far more than an ability to see into the future and perceive what is going to happen. If this superpower allows God to see future events in advance, it would make sense that He would prevent some of them from happening. If God could have seen the rise of Nazi Germany, He could have kept it from taking place. But it did. So, we must conclude that God either ordained or allowed the events of WWII to come about for a reason. God’s foreknowledge is a true “knowing” of what will come to pass, based on His free choice. He actually decrees what will come to pass. That means that His foreknowledge is far more than an intellectual awareness of future events. It conveys the idea of His sovereign control over all things. Foreknowledge is equivalent to foreordination in that God ordains, or orders, all that will be.
There is an intimacy to God’s foreknowledge that should bring comfort to His children. Because, according to the New Testament, God’s foreknowledge is always directed at people, not events.
The fact is that “foreknowledge” is never used in Scripture in connection with events or actions; instead, it always has reference to persons. It is persons God is said to “foreknow,” not the actions of those persons. – A. W. Pink, Attributes of God
The apostle Paul puts it this way: “For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” (Romans 8:29 NLT). And Peter adds: “God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy” (1 Peter 1:2 NLT).
Paul went on to remind the believers in Ephesus, “we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance” (Ephesians 1:11 NLT). There is a deliberateness about God’s actions in these passages. He is not responding to things as they happen but is ordaining their occurrence from eternity past. His foreknowledge is tied to His foreordination. He foreknows because He has foreordained. God is not looking through His magic mirror and seeing future events before they take place. He is describing what He already knows because He has already declared it to be so.
There is much about this aspect of God’s nature that makes us uncomfortable. It raises all kinds of issues concerning the sovereignty of God and the free will of men. If misunderstood, it can leave us viewing mankind as helpless marionettes on strings, being manipulated by the divine puppetmaster. But if we relegate the knowledge of God as some kind of passive cognition of future events, He becomes all-knowing, but not all-powerful. He has intelligence but lacks influence. But “God foreknows what will be because He has decreed what shall be” (A. W. Pink, Attributes of God).
As difficult as this doctrine is to understand, it is meant to reveal the power and preeminence of God. He is like no other. He is not some distant, disconnected deity, looking down from the lofty heights of heaven and watching as His creation winds down like some kind of cosmic clock. God is not a spectator, viewing the events of our lives as they transpire and forced to respond in time. He is intellectually informed of every aspect of our lives because He has ordained them. And He is intimately involved in every area of our lives because He has had a plan for us that was in place long before we even existed.
And this knowledge of God’s knowledge of us should leave us echoing the words of David:
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed. – Psalm 139:16 NLT
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.