God chided the false prophets of Israel, asking, “Can a man hide himself in hiding places, so I do not see him? … Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” (Jer. 23:24).
The answer was obvious.
God is omniscient. He knows everything perfectly. “The eyes of the Lord move to and from throughout the earth” (2 Chron. 16:9). His knowledge and power extend from things as large as the orbit of planets (Josh. 10:13) and the change of seasons (Job 38:29) down to things as small as the meal of a caterpillar (Jonah 4:7) and the flight of a sparrow (Matt. 6:26).
For the righteous, this is a great comfort. David’s meditation in Psalm 139 assures us “If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your right hand will lay hold of me … Even the darkness is not dark to You.” Christians in school need not fear that God has abandoned them in the immoral and threatening hallways. Christians undergoing surgery need not fear unconsciousness or hospital corridors. Christian sailors need not think that they will get too far away from solid ground for God to help.
For the sinful, on the other hand, God’s omniscience is a great concern. Criminals work under the cover of darkness, hoping to escape notice. But God sees, and God will eventually judge (Amos 9:2-3).
Perhaps the most unsettling example of God’s omniscience is found in 2 Kings 6:12. The king of Aram kept launching surprise attacks against Israel, only to find Israelites ready for him every time. He accused his inner circle of harboring a spy. They said, “No, my Lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.” What a disconcerting thought! There are no dark corners into which God’s gaze cannot penetrate. When you sneak into your room and close your door to watch trash on your phone – God sees.
God’s knowledge is unbound by time. He knows the past, and the present, and the future. He distinguished Himself from the idols by pointing out, “I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:9-10). That is, God can stand at the beginning of a series of historical events and declare the outcome. He knew the victors of WW2 before it started. He knew the combatants in WW2 before those nations existed. He knew the name and rank of every soldier on every battlefield before they were born. David confessed, “In Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them” (Psalm 139:16). Mankind cannot approach such knowledge. A scientist can count the number of acorns on a tree, but only God can count the number of trees in an acorn.
God’s knowledge is so complete, He even reads the heart. David both assured and warned his son Solomon, “serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts” (1 Chron. 28:9). It’s not enough, in the face of such a God, to go through the motions or make a good show of things. God commands not only obedience, but heartfelt obedience (Deut. 6:5). God commands not only charity, but heartfelt charity (Deut. 15:7-10). “I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind” (Jer. 17:10).
When God Asks a Question
Why, then, would the all-knowing God ever ask a question? Obviously, it’s not so that He can gain information. It must be that God is trying to help us to discover something that He already knows.
When I was in elementary school, my parents came home from work and sat me down. They asked, “what is on the carpet over there?” Of course, they already knew the answer—muddy footprints. “How did those get there?” They already knew the answer—the evidence was all over my shoes. “What do you think should happen next?” They already knew the answer—but this was my opportunity to influence my own outcome, by offering to clean it up, or face worse punishment.
God, the perfect parent, often asks His children questions to teach us something about Him, about the world, about ourselves, or about our course of action. They are not loaded questions, but they are definitely leading questions.
In this series, we will consider some questions that God asks His children. Each of these have meaning beyond the immediate context. There’s something we can learn by asking the questions to ourselves. –John Guzzetta