When someone says, “God is omniscient” what does it mean, and how does God’s omniscience affect our beliefs and actions?
Omniscient means having knowledge of all things; universal knowledge. This word comes from two Latin roots: “omnis” which means “all” and “scientia” which means “knowledge.” Scientia is the same word that we get our English word “science.”
When Christians say God is omniscient, they mean that God knows all things — the past, present, and future. God is the source of all knowledge. God also knows all the potentialities of any situation. God knows every person’s thoughts — even before they think it.
A.W. Tozer wrote in The Pursuit of God, “He is omniscient, which means that He knows in one free and effortless act all matter, all spirit, all relationships, all events.”
Our knowledge is limited, and our best efforts at understanding are finite. We are trapped by our own experiences in a specific place and time. God’s knowledge is unlimited. Knowing that God is omniscient should allow us to trust His will, His Word, and His timing. Though we don’t know all the answers, God does.
God Has Perfect Knowledge
In Job 37:16, Elihu asked Job if he knew “the wondrous works of Him who is perfect in knowledge?” This verse contains a starting point for understanding the vastness of God’s knowledge. The Hebrew word “Taman,” translated in this verse to “perfect,” does mean perfect, but it also means complete, finished. https://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/hebrew/kjv/tamam.html
Nothing is missing from it. It is unblemished and has complete integrity. My family likes to complete large puzzles piece by piece on our kitchen table. It is obvious to everyone at the table when we finish the puzzle. Every piece is in place and the picture is complete. When God looks at the world, His perspective is perfect; He knows how the picture is going to look for all eternity.
Our knowledge is incomplete. Even after years of study and observation, scientists are still discovering new attributes of creation in our bodies, the depths of the ocean, and in the vastness of space. Pieces of the puzzle are missing. Our understanding isn’t perfect. We don’t know what our boss was thinking yesterday at 2:57 p.m. or realize how the people we eat lunch with every day are genuinely feeling. We can’t imagine every possibility of every situation and relationship in the world for all time. We don’t even know the specifics of what our life will be tomorrow or remember every breath today. Though we can’t trust our knowledge or understanding, we can trust God.
God knows what we each of us need before we say a word, so we can pray confidently, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10
God Is Our Source of Knowledge
“…God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything.” 1 John 3:20
Before we even say a word in prayer, God knows what we need. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He explained, “…your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” Matthew 6:8
God Is Our Creator
Just as architects would know the intricacies of the buildings they designed, God knows every atom and chemical reaction in all creation. Nothing is too small or too large for our Creator’s intimate knowledge.
“He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.” Psalm 147:4
“Elihu said, ‘Hear this, O Job; stop and consider the wondrous works of God. Do you know how God lays His command upon them and causes the lightning of his cloud to shine? Do you know the balancing of the clouds, the wondrous works of Him who is perfect in knowledge?” Job 37:14-16
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.” Matthew 10:29 -30
God knows the details of our development in our mother’s womb and the days of our lives before we were born.
“My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.” Psalm 139:15-16
God Knows Our Hearts and Minds
“For the word of God is living and active… discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 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.” Hebrews 4:12-13
“Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.” Psalm 139:4
“…the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought.” 1 Chronicles 28:9
“Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts?” Luke 5:22
Jesus explained to his followers that God would hold us accountable for impure thoughts, just like our impure actions. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27-28
God Knows the Past, Present, and Future
“Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’” Isaiah 46:9-10
Because God is omniscient, He inspired prophets who were able to tell the future. Joseph was able to prophesy that there would be seven years of famine and seven years of plenty. Genesis 41:17-31
God commanded Ezekiel to prophesy that the temple would be desecrated. “Say to the people of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am about to desecrate my sanctuary — the stronghold in which you take pride, the delight of your eyes, the object of your affection.’” Ezekiel 24:21
God Sees Everything
“Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit.” Psalm 147:5
“The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.” Proverbs 15:3
“Lord, you have searched me and know me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.” Psalm 139:1-3
God’s Omniscience Allows Us to Trust Him
Often our most prominent questions focus on suffering and pain. We look at the wickedness and the misery in the world and wonder as Psalm 73:11 records, “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?”
Just as the Lord explained to Moses that He had seen the suffering of His people, we can trust that God sees our painful situation and hears the cries of people who are suffering.
“Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings.” Exodus 3:7
If God knows everything, we wonder why painful situations and suffering continue. We may doubt God’s goodness and His plan. Job’s story of suffering reminds us that we don’t know everything, and there are some things we will never comprehend with our finite knowledge.
“God thunders wondrously with His voice; He does great things that we cannot comprehend.” Job 37:5
Because God is not limited by time or place, His judgment of evil may seem delayed, but it will happen. Jesus explained to His followers, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37
God Gives Us Wisdom
Adam and Eve were tempted to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil by their lack of knowledge. Genesis 3:5
When we feel our lack of knowledge has put us at a disadvantage, rather than researching or trying to figure things out on our own, we should stop and ask God to teach us what we should know.
When Moses was feeling insecure, God promised him that He would teach him what to say.
“Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” Exodus 14:11-12
God will also help us if we ask for knowledge. He will reward us with knowledge and wisdom.
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” Romans 11:33
A Final Prayer
Dear God, you are the Creator. Your knowledge is infinite, complete, and perfect. You are omniscient. You know everything about me — everything seen and everything unseen. You know when I sit and when I rise, you have numbered the hairs of my head. Please forgive me for my unspoken thoughts and the things I did that I tried to hide from everyone — they were not hidden from you.
Please teach me the way that I should go, please give me the words to speak, and imbue me with the understanding that is beyond my human knowledge and ability. Please take care of my loved ones — you see their hearts, and you know their every action — nothing is hidden from you. Please protect them and guide them according to your will.
Help me depend on your omniscience and not my knowledge. Please help me not worry and trust you. May your kingdom come, and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.
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Penny Noyes, M.Ed. is the author of Embracing Change - Learning to Trust God from the Women of the Bible and two books about Hezekiah. You can follow Penny on her blog and on Instagram @pennynoyes.