by Vijay Chandra
God’s Knowledge: His Omniscience and Wisdom [Gen. 16:1-15].
1689 Confession of Faith chapter 2:2 states the following about God’s omniscience and wisdom: “God has all life, glory, goodness, and blessedness in and of Himself. He alone is all-sufficient in Himself. He does not need any creature He has made, nor does He derive any glory from them (Job 22:2, 3). Instead, He demonstrates His own glory in them by them, to them and upon them . He alone is the source of all being, and everything is from Him, through Him and to Him. He has absolute sovereign rule over all creatures, to act through them, for them, or upon them as He pleases. In His sight everything is open and visible (Heb 4:13). His knowledge is infinite and infallible. It does not depend upon any creature, so for Him nothing is contingent or uncertain (Ezek 11:5). He is absolutely holy in all His plans, in all His works (Psa 145:17), and all His commands. Angels and human beings owe to Him all the worship (Rev 5:12, 13, 14), service, or obedience that creatures owe to the Creator and whatever else He is pleased to require of them”.
One wonders what went through the mind of Hagar on the road to Shur (Gen 16:13, 14). She fled from her mistress, Sarai, and turned her face toward her homeland of Egypt. In her womb grew Abram’s son, Ishmael. She was a foreigner, a woman, and a slave—hardly someone whom the ancient mind-set would regard as a likely candidate for a visit from God. Yet the angel of the Lord found her in the wilderness, told her to go home, and gave her extraordinary promises about her son and his posterity. In response to God’s favor, Hagar called “Thou God seest me” or “the God who sees” [Elroi] and named the place Beer-lahairoi or “Well of the Living One who sees me” (Gen 16:13, 14).
Hagar’s life testifies to the personal attention that God gives to each human being, regardless of ethnicity, gender, social status, or location. Whoever or whatever we are, God sees us and knows the whole panorama of our life—past, present, and future. He is the all-knowing God, and the doctrine of infinite and exhaustive knowledge of all things helps us to understand and love his sovereignty and compassion.
The messenger who spoke to Hagar is thrice called “the angel of the LORD” (Gen 16:9, 10, 11), and His intervention led to a greater revelation of the “name of the Lord” (Gen 16:13). God’s knowledge is an aspect of his personal lordship. It distinguishes him from pantheistic concepts of an impersonal, unknowing deity and from polytheistic concepts of a local or limited god. Francis Bacon [a scientist, (1561-1626)] said “knowledge is power”. He was expressing the biblical truth that knowledge is an aspect of God’s sovereign ability to act like the working of His power. We read in the Word, “A wise man is strong; yea, a man of knowledge increaseth strength” (Prov 24:5; cf. Eccles 7:19).
God speaks of his knowledge to communicate not of mere cognizance but his faithful love. The Bible extols God’s knowledge as the root of his great acts of judgment and salvation. At the same time, we must not reduce the doctrine of God’s knowledge to his power and goodness. Knowledge is a distinct attribute of God revealed in His Word. We will bring three things about God’s knowledge: That is, (1) God’s infinite knowledge, (2) God’s omniscience, (3) God’s wisdom, then (4) Practical Applications of God’s Knowledge and Wisdom.
- GOD’S INFINITE KNOWLEDGE:
Our minds cannot fully comprehend or describe God’s knowledge. It is “high as heaven” and deeper than hell’, “longer than the earth” and “broader than the sea” (Job 11:7, 8, 9). Elihu twice said that the mighty Maker shows Himself, “perfect in knowledge”, both in his moral government of mankind and in his natural providence over the weather (Job 36:4, 37:16). The word translated as “perfect” [tamim] means ‘complete‘ or ‘whole’. God lacks no knowledge or wisdom requisite to be perfect King. Shortly after Elihu’s statement, God questioned Job or reminded him how little he understood God’s creation and ways (Job.38-39). Greg Nicholes comments: “In the seasons of perplexity and trial, we should dwell on God’s supreme knowledge. We should compare our knowledge with his until we sense afresh just how little we really know”.
- The Display of God’s Infinite Knowledge:
- Contemplating the universe, or the whole creation, helps us to recognize the immense magnitude of God’s mind. As the Psalmist says, “He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them names. Great is our Lord and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure” (Ps 147:4, 5).
- Exhaustive divine knowledge is inseparable from God’s limitless power [‘great power’], ‘infinite’ translates the Hebrew phrase meaning ‘there is no number or counting’ [eye mispar]. God’s understanding cannot be measured, for it has no quantity or boundary. Therefore, God’s chosen people praise him with confidence that he will restore them (Ps 147:1, 2, 3), and even multiply them as the stars in the sky (Gen 15:5). The Lord knows how to fulfill his promises when it seems impossible to us.
- Isaiah teaches us that the infinite knowledge of God is an aspect of his incomparable glory. After meditating on God’s sovereignty over the stars (Isa 40:26), the prophet addressed the doubts of Israel: “Lift up your eyes on high and see who created thee? He who brings out their host by number; calling them all by name, by greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing”. Isaiah 40:28 says “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” [ESV]. God’s people should not be surprised when they cannot understand God’s dark providence, for, as E.J. Young commented, God’s way of bringing salvation displays a wisdom that they “could never wholly grasp”. Yet those who wait on the triune Lord will find his unfailing support (Isa 40:29, 30, 31). God weds his infinite knowledge to his covenantal love for his people. He will come to them both as a mighty king and a tender shepherd (Isa 40:10, 11).
His knowledge is not a mechanical knowledge that simply stores information and algorithms, but knowledge warmed by sovereign love and steeled by faithful resolve to keep his promise. Therefore, God’s saints should never think that God has forgotten them (Isa 40:27), however much it may seem to him that he has (Ps 44:23, 24, 77:9).
God’s thoughts infinitely transcend ours (Isaiah 55:8, 9): “ For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD”. [Isa 55:9] “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” [ESV]. This tells us that God’s thoughts are his mysterious wisdom by which he raises up his people for the sake of his glorious name just as beautiful trees grow out of the thorns and thistles of our cursed condition (Isa 55:13). But if God’s thoughts are so far above ours, how can we know the mind of God? He sends his word, which descends like a rain from heaven to give life and fruitfulness as he wills (Isa 55:10, 11). These words woo sinners to turn back to God (Isa 55:1, 2, 3, 6, 7). Therefore, we encounter God’s transcendent knowledge by his revelations and redemption when it bears fruit in our repentance. Paul compared God’s knowledge and wisdom to a bottomless vault of treasure (Rom 11:33). The “ways” in view here are God’s action of “goodness and severity” toward sinners as he accomplishes “the election of grace” (Rom 11:5, 22). Here again we see that God’s Word couples his infinite knowledge with his activity and love; it is a practical, sovereign knowledge (Rom 11:34, Isaiah 40:3). What fools we are to hope in the wisdom of men! How rash and proud we are to criticize the ways of the only wise God! Calvin said that the worldly mind “improperly subjects his inscrutable counsel to human reasonings, but Isaiah’s words deter us from judging of the unreachable counsel of God”. Job said, “Shall any teach God knowledge?” (Job 21:22). His knowledge is infinitely self-sufficient (Job 22:12).
2.The Divinity of God’s infinite knowledge:
These Scripture testimonies exalt Good’s knowledge far above man’s. Human beings know by a process that involves observation and experience, listening to the words of others, and reasoning in our minds. Our knowledge is limited and waxes and wanes over time. We may contemplate ideas with passive detachment . God’s mode of knowing is very different from ours.
- His knowledge is altogether worthy of his divine being and nature. He knows truth. Immediately and independently without any learning process (Job 21:22, Isa 10:13, 14).
- His knowledge cannot change and is immutable. It need not change, because God’s wisdom is infinite, always grasping all truth with eternal fullness of understanding (Isa 40:28).
- God is light (1 John 1:5). In the Bible, light is often used to represent knowledge, because light reveals things. God does not receive illumination from outside sources, his nature is his own illumination. All knowledge is in Him and radiates from him, either from his essential glory as the triune God or from his will concerning his creation. All our knowledge shines from Him, and our greatest knowledge is to know him (Dan 2:22). David says, “In thy light shall we see light” (Ps 36:9). This is no cold light, but the warm light of overflowing life (Ps 36:9). Divine knowledge is like a bright light of fire, for our God is consuming fire. He revealed and concealed himself through a pillar of cloud and fire. In visions of Revelation, Christ’s eyes are as “a flame of fire” (Rev 1:14, 2:18), the source of light, while our eyes see by receiving light.
- His knowledge exalts him, but it does not distance him from his people. Believers cherish his infinite knowledge when he draws near to meet our needs. After meditating upon God’s knowledge of him, the psalmist says “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I count them, they are more than the sand, I awake, and I am still with you” [ESV, Ps 139:17, 18]. “he cried to the Lord”, and when God brought him out of the pit; he said “You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us, I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told” (Ps. 40:5, ESV; 1 Cor 8:3; Gal 4:9).
C. GOD’S OMNISCIENCE:
God’s infinite knowledge encompasses all reality. Scholars calls God’s exhaustive knowledge of all things his omniscience [Latin ‘omni’ ‘all’ and ‘scientist’ ‘knowledge’]. John writes that God knows us better than we know our own hearts, for “he knoweth all things’” (1 John 3:10). Pink said, “he knows everything; everything possible, everything actual; all events and all creatures, of the past, the present, and the future, he is perfectly acquainted with every detail in the life of every being in heaven, in earth, and in hell— His Knowledge is perfect”.
- God’s Complete Self-Knowledge:
- The greatest object of God’s knowledge is God Himself, the doctrine of divine revelation presupposes God’s self-Knowledge, for God could not reveal himself if he did not know himself. God is self-conscious and speaks in the first person: “I am God” (Isa 45:22). Hoeksema said, “the very act that God reveals himself as “I AM” (Ex 3:14) implies that he is the eternally self-conscious being” (Christ brings this out again in Matthew 11:27.
- Since God knows himself, he knows all he is capable of doing ,all possible worlds that he might create, and all possible histories his providence might direct. There are many things that God does not do, but could do. He might have sent twelve legions of angels to rescue Christ from crucifixion, but did not (Matt 26:53). He is able to raise up children of Abraham from the very stones but he does not (Luke 3:8).
- God’s exhaustive Knowledge of Creation: Let me point out the following:
- He knows the world that he created. Genesis 1 says seven timers that “God saw” that what he had made was good. After the fall of man, God ‘saw’ the wickedness and evil of mankind (Gen 6:5). He is a great watcher, auditor, and evaluator of all creation. Psalm 33:13, 14, 15 says “The Lord looks down from heaven, he sees all the children of man; [v.14 ] from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth; [v.15] he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds”. The Bible often portrays God’s knowledge by an analogy to seeing, but his is a pervasive and penetrating vision. Job 28:24 says “For he looks to the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens”; “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give an account” (Heb 4:13 ESV). God knows reality directly and exhaustively without discursive reasoning or limitation.
- God’s omniscient knowledge of his creation coordinates with his omnipresence . He knows all things because he is present in all places (Ps 139:5, 9). Proverbs 15:3 says, “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good”. God is the universal eyewitness. As we read in Jer 23:24, “Can any hide himself in secret place that I shall not see him? saith the LORD.
Do not I fill heaven and earth, saith the LORD” [Gill, John: Body of Divinity, 58].
- He also gives perfect attention to each individual man, woman, and child. David said, “O Lord, Thou hast searched me, and known me” (Ps 139:1). The Lord knows when you sit and when you stand; he knows your travel and your rest, your thoughts and your words (Ps 139:2, 3, 4). There is no place you can escape his knowledge (Ps 139:7, 12).
- God’s knowledge extends to the smallest details of his world: he knows every bird and beast (Ps 50:11). He hears the cries of these creatures and satisfies them with food (Job 38:39, 40, 41; Ps 104:21, 27). Christ comforted his disciples in the face of persecution by telling them that not a ‘sparrow’ can ‘fall to the ground without your Father’ and ‘the very hairs of your head are all numbered’ (Matt 10:29, 30). He pays attention to minute details of our lives that even we do not know. His Word searches all; all things are exposed before Him (Heb 4:12, 13). Therefore, hypocrisy is stupidity, for the LORD will reveal everything hidden (Eccles 12:14, Luke 12:1, 2, 3). God knows the innermost thoughts and motives of a man. The Lord said to Samuel, “man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (1 Sam 16:7). He knows the hearts of all men, and thus is eminently qualified to rule and judge the world (1 Kings 8:39). God says to the sinners, “I know the things that come into your mind” (Ezek 11:5). Knowledge of men’s hearts is supernatural and divine: who can know it?, for our true inner-selves are wrapped in layers of deception (Jer 17:9, 10).
Therefore, God’s knowledge is a powerful motive to repent of sin and seek forgiveness through His blood. There is no other way to escape the condemnation of the all-seeing God. His omniscience is a great comfort to us. God hears our groaning and sees our affliction (Ex 2:23, 24, 3:7). He understands our weakness and responds with tender pity, “for he knoweth our frame, he remembereth that we are dust” (Ps 103:14). He will never misjudge true saints or falsely accuse them of sins they have not committed. “Shall not God search these out? For he knoweth the secrets of the heart” (Ps 44:21); “would not God discover this, For he knows the secrets of the heart” [ESV].Though in this life faithful children of God are “as sheep for the slaughter” (Ps 44:22), they may rejoice that God knows that they belong to him and nothing can separate them from his love (Rom 8:35, 36).
- The Omniscience of Every Person of the Trinity:
- The Lord’s complete knowledge leads us to glorify the triune God with holy fear and confident hope.
- The Father knows what his children need before they ask him, and this doctrine frees them to seek first his kingdom and righteousness while entrusting all their needs to his care (Matt 6:8, 31, 33. cf. Isa. 65:24). Believers’ greatest ambition is to please their Father, “who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work” (1 Pet 1:17).
As to the Son of God, even in the days of humiliation, Christ exhibited supernatural knowledge of the hearts of men. His apostles confessed to Him, “Thou knowest all things” (John 16:30, 21:17). In Revelation, Christ says to the seven churches, “I know thy works” (Rev 2:2, 9, 13, 19). Christ says in Rev 2:23, “I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works”. Such knowledge of the hearts is a mark of deity. Charnock concluded, “Jesus Christ is not a mere creature. Christ’s Knowledge of us sharpens the wonder of his love for us, His love is not blind to our sins, He loves his penitent people and desires to commune with them, just as a friend sits at the table with a friend” (Rev 3:20).
We also worship the Holy Spirit as the omniscient God. The Spirit is not an impersonal force, but a conscious person who speaks in the first person. “The Holy Ghost said, Separate Barnabas and Saul for the work where unto I have called them” (Acts 13:2). We can depend upon the Spirit of God to reveal to us “the things that are freely given to us of God, for the Spirit searcheth —the deep things of God” (1 Cor 2:10, 11, 12). The Holy Spirit possesses infinite knowledge of God’s divine nature and eternal counsels.
D. GOD”S WISDOM:
- What is God’s wisdom: God’s wisdom is one aspect of his knowledge. Biblical wisdom is knowing how to use knowledge; God’s perfect knowledge is shown by the perfect wisdom displayed in all his works. He is “the only wise God” (Rom 16:27, ESV). God possesses all wisdom and gives whatever wisdom men have (Job 38:36, 37). Job said, “With him is wisdom and strength, he hath counsel and understanding”.
What is God’s wisdom [defined and delineated].
What is wisdom? In the Scriptures, wisdom often appears parallel to or correlated with knowledge and understanding. However, the words translated as ‘wisdom’ [Hebrew khahmah, in Greek ‘sophia’] carry the nuance of ‘practical skill’ (Ps 104:24, 136:5). God’s wisdom gives the universe its structure and stability (Prov 3:19) so that wise men and women can study it (1 Kings 4:29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34). The infinite wisdom of the Creator distinguishes him from the false gods worshiped by the world (Isa 10:11, 12).
* God’s wisdom glorifies him as the Lord (Dan 2:20, 21).
- God’s Wisdom in Christ [how Christ is the wisdom of God].
a. Jesus Christ is the embodiment of divine wisdom joined to human nature. He is the “Wonderful Counselor” (Isa 9:6), the King of Supernatural insight and extraordinarily excellent plans. He is anointed by the Spirit of wisdom and understanding so that he overflows in the fear of God and executes his righteous will (Isa 11:1, 2, 3, 4, 5).
b. The Lord Jesus identified himself with the personified Wisdom [Prov 8-9].
c. God glorified himself alone by hanging his Wisdom on the cross. Though the world looked for divine wisdom in miraculous power or magnificent speeches, God both concealed and revealed his wisdom “in Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness, but unto them which are called both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:23, 24). For those united to Christ by God’s effectual calling, “Christ is made unto us wisdom” (1 Cor 1:30), for in Jesus Christ and his church, God has manifested to heaven and earth the unsearchable riches of the wisdom that he purposed before the creation of the world (Eph 3:8, 9, 10, 11).
What are the practical implications of God’s knowledge and Wisdom for us as believers? Although God’s knowledge and wisdom are infinitely above ours, they have limited but faithful reflection in the image of God in man, especially as it is renewed in Christ (Col 3:10). Therefore, the doctrine of divine knowledge has much practical relevance.
First, seek to grow in knowledge: If God of glory is wise, then it is our glory to receive more wisdom from him. The very ‘angels’ long to look “more deeply into God’s wise plan” (1 Pet 1:12 ESV). “Therefore seek wisdom as you would silver, and search for it as hidden treasures” (Prov 2:4).
Second: rely upon God’s wisdom when you are undergoing trials and do not know what to do. Be often in prayer (James 1:5, Matt 7:11, Prov 3:5, 6, 7).
Third, trust God’s knowledge when you cannot understand his ways: When God’s church seems like a valley of dry bones, and the question comes, “Can these dry bones live?” then say with the prophet, “O LORD GOD, thou knowest” (Ezek 37:3).
Fourth, admire God’s knowledge and wisdom displayed in all his works: Have an eye upon the marvelous beauty and the order of the stars (Jer 51:15). Meditate upon Christ and his cross, and how the foolishness of God is greater than the wisdom of men (1 Cor 1:18-25).
Fifth, live in sincere piety because God’s eyes are always upon you: We need to remind ourselves every day that his eyes are like flames of fire, and they search our secret thoughts and feelings (Rev 2:18, 23). Cast off all hypocrisy. Set your heart upon Christ as your only righteousness before God. Let the fear of the omniscient God turn you from evil in secret temptation. Charnock said, It is the language of every sin…. “The Lord sees not” (Ezek 9:9). Aim to please God not just with outward conduct, but in your thought life and your inner spirit (Rom 1:4, 5, 9). Encourage yourselves in the life of hidden devotion and service by the knowledge that the Father who sees in secret will reward you (Matt 6:4).
Sixth, when you are falsely accused of wrongdoing, quiet yourself with the knowledge that the Judge of all earth knows all and will vindicate you. Follow Christ, who, when accused and insulted, did not accuse and insult in return, but “committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (1 Pet 2:23).
Seventh, do not succumb in the temptation to believe that God has forgotten you: If you belong to Christ, then your name is written on the heart of your priestly intercessor in heaven (Ex 28:21). He knows your tears, trials sufferings. Therefore, wait on the LORD, wait on his timing, wait on his salvation, wait on his glory, and he will renew your strength (Isa 40:27, 28, 29, 31).