The Omniscience of God


for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.

1 John 3:20 ESV

It was spring, which meant it was time for kings to meet one another in battle. David, however, stayed home. Having finally become king and received rest from the LORD, the appeal of taking a break from it all is easy to understand. Unfortunately, this decision made David ripe for one of his most grievous sins.

While walking upon the roof of his palace, David saw the wife of Uriah, one of his soldiers, bathing. After beholding her beauty, the king sent for her and lay with her. She later sent word to David that she had become pregnant. David scrambled to cover his sin by calling her husband to return from the battlefield and lay with his wife. But Uriah was an honorable man who would not be with his wife while his fellow soldiers were away from their wives. Seeing no other option, David ordered Uriah to be placed on the frontlines of battle and, in the thick of combat, for his fellow soldiers to retreat from him. Thus, Uriah fell in battle, and David took his wife as his own. The plan to cover his sin was successful. Who could know of his adultery and his murder?

God knew.

He sent Nathan the prophet with a story of a rich man with many flocks who stole and slaughtered a poor man’s only little lamb in order to feed a traveler. David’s anger rightly arose against the rich man, but Nathan then revealed the purpose of the story: David was the rich man. Although he attempted to hide his sin, the LORD saw and knew.

ALL-KNOWING

In fact, another branch of God’s infinity is that He knows all things. Just as His presence has no limits or boundaries, so too is His knowledge. The God who is omnipresent is also omniscient. Indeed, these two attributes are necessarily connected to one another. If God is everywhere at once and is fully present in each location, then nothing could ever escape His watchful gaze. Nothing could possibly happen without God Himself being a firsthand witness to the event. Furthermore, since God’s infinity also applies to His relationship with time, His eternality means that He is present at every point in space at every period of time. Thus, He must also be an eyewitness to all things past, present, and future. As we are bound to a singular point within both space and time, our knowledge must be finite. God, however, transcends both space and time as their Creator, making His knowledge also transcendent.

Again, we find abundant displays of God’s infinite knowledge within the Scriptures. 1 John 3:20 plainly states about God that “he knows everything.” Psalm 147:4-5 declare, “He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.” Isaiah 40:28 asks, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.” David likewise counseled Solomon, saying, “And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and a willing mind, for the LORD searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever” (1 Chronicles 28:9).

In addition to God possessing all knowledge, we should also note that He is the source of knowledge. Calvin noted that “no one ever attains clear knowledge of self unless he has first gazed upon the face of the Lord, and then turns back to look upon himself.”[1] Let us go further than simply knowledge of self and apply his statement to our knowledge of all things. Proverbs 1:7 affirms this by saying that “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.” True knowledge can only begin with knowing and fearing the All-Knowing One. We cannot understand anything properly unless we have a measure of understanding of the Creator of all things. He is the Author and Governor of reality itself, so to be ignorant of God is ignorance at the most fundamental level because nothing is more fundamental than God.

This, of course, is not to imply that nonbelievers cannot know anything or have any form of wisdom. By God’s common grace, they certainly can, but if they are ignorant of the One who is eternal life, their knowledge must be transient and fleeting. Mankind’s highest and most profound knowledge, if detached from the Creator, is nothing more than a passing vapor in the span of eternity.

For this reason, the omniscient God repeatedly condemns ignorance. As the LORD spoke through Hosea, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children” (Hosea 4:6). Or through Jeremiah, “For my people are foolish; they know me not; they are stupid children; they have no understanding. They are ‘wise’—in doing evil! But how to do good they know not” (Jeremiah 4:22). But He calls us repeatedly to grow and increase in the knowledge of Him (Colossians 1:10; Ephesians 4:13; 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:18). As David said to Solomon above, “If you seek him, he will be found by you.”

NAKED AND EXPOSED

Hebrews 4:13 points us to another crucial application of God’s omniscience: “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” Because God is with us at all times and knows all things, we are “naked and exposed” before Him. Although we are able to conceal a vast number of things from one another, not a single act, word, or thought escapes Him. He sees all. He knows all. In fact, He knows each sin that we have already forgotten, while simultaneously knowing each one we have yet to commit. Pink was right to exclaim, “How solemn is this fact: nothing can be concealed from God!”[2]

For those who reject God, this is their yet lingering doom. Standing before the throne of judgment, every sin we will be recounted, and absolute justice will be demanded. As Ecclesiastes 12:14 says, “God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” Nothing can be hidden from Him. Nothing will be forgotten.

But for God’s people, His omniscience is a source of unspeakable joy. Although our sins are more numerous than we presently realize, the LORD knows each one and still chose to rescue us from them. Upon the cross, Jesus paid for all of our sins once for all, absorbing entirely the wrath of God that was due against us. And He did so, while beholding the full sum of our treason against Him. He saw with utmost clarity our wretchedness and still died in our place.

Tozer captures the beauty of this good news well:

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.

David, the man of God who committed the heinous sins of adultery and murder, understood the beauty of being known fully by God. Rather than attempting to squirm away from God’s omniscient sight, David asked God for a better vision of himself, praying, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24)! David knew that even the bones that the LORD breaks rejoice at His tender and loving hand in the end.

To be known by God is our highest privilege. The deepest folly of man is to flee from the eye of God. Hiding from God is as foolish as it is futile. There is no adequate hiding place. We can call for the mountains to fall upon us and the hills to cover us. But the eye of God can see through mountains and penetrate the cloak of hills. There is only one adequate cloak for our shame—the righteousness of Christ. Our nakedness and shame are covered by a shield that no guilt can pierce. Our lives are hid in him. He is our refuge. He who knows the fugitive’s crime gives the fugitive a hiding place.[3]


[1] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion: Calvin’s Own ‘Essentials’ Edition, 2.

[2] A. W. Pink, The Attributes of God, 17.

[3] R. C. Sproul, Enjoying God, 87.

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