The Attributes of God in Biblical Counseling: Omniscience

attributes“Nobody saw me.” Kelly had confessed to, once again, looking at pornography. This week he did it in the library on his college campus. When I told him that the boldness of his sin was very disconcerting this was his response. He had turned the computer away from the prying eyes, nobody saw. He knew that it wasn’t okay to indulge in his lust, but at least nobody else saw him do it. His “witness” was intact, he said. But someone did see, and He knew precisely what Kelly was doing.

Sasha, on the other hand, was depressed. She had experience tremendous heartbreak and abuse at the hands of people who claimed to love her. She wept as she said, “nobody understands.” She felt alone and abandoned in the world. But there was someone who understood, someone who saw her suffering and knew it in detail.

The Omniscience of God can be an immensely useful tool in counseling. As a doctrinal truth about the character of God it serves both to confront and comfort. Competent counselors can use this doctrinal truth to stir hearts and rebuke attitudes.

Omniscience is a Medieval Latin term that refers to the quality of infinite knowledge. Theologians developed the term to speak of God’s attribute of all-knowingness. In multiple places the Bible speaks to God’s supreme knowledge of all things. Isaiah 46:9-10 gives us one clear picture; the prophet writes:

for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me 10 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,’

He knows the beginning and end of all things. He declares them and they come to pass. Job 12:13 tells us that “with God are wisdom and might, he has counsel and understanding.” The very essence of these things is with God. Psalm 139 is even more pointed in its application of God’s omniscience to our lives. There we read:

O Lord, you have searched me and known 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.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it. (v. 1-6)

God knows us intimately, perfectly, and completely. He sees everywhere we go, everything we do, and knows our thoughts and words before we even have them. He is “acquainted with all” our ways. He even knows the number of hairs on our head (Matt. 10:30).

In both Kelly’s and Sasha’s situation this is an important truth. For Kelly he needs the reminder that God is always watching. He can’t escape the presence of the Lord. Hebrews 4:13 speaks to him, saying:

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.

The Psalmist wonders, “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence” (Ps. 139:7). God sees all and knows all. You can’t escape Him. Though we often think we can hide from others, keep our sins, failures, and weaknesses close to our chest, God knows all.

On the one hand this can be immensely unsettling. We are never more fearful as when we are exposed, and before God we are most definitely exposed. Yet, on the other hand this can be an amazing comfort too. For, God knows us deeply and intimately, He knows our deepest darkest secrets and yet still offers us love, forgiveness, and relationship. He knows us and loves us still! Kelly needed both these messages. He wasn’t hiding from God, God saw His sin. He wasn’t hiding, but he didn’t have to either. God was ready to forgive and help him.

Sasha felt alone in the world. Nobody cared for her. Those who had confessed their love had violated and used her. When they got sick of her they tossed her aside like old newspapers. She had shared very little of herself, as a result, with others. She lived in isolation, she was not known. Yet, God knew her intimately and deeply. He knew here better even than she knew herself. She had convinced herself of many false things: she was unloveable, broken, damaged, and disgusting. She condemned herself for things that had happened to her. But God knew her better. 1 John 3:20 tells us:

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

God knew the truth and He did not condemn Sasha. He knew everything. The story of Hagar became a powerful tool in Sasha’s life. As Hagar is forced to flee from her master, taking her son Ishmael with her, she prepares to die. Then God speaks to her, calling himself El Roi – the God who sees. God saw Sasha’s hurts. She was known more deeply than anyone on earth would ever know her. God saw, God knew, and God cared!

God knows all, and He knows all perfectly. As Brad Hambrick has written:

God knows all things actual and possible, completely and without strain of memory. God does not fail to act in a particular way because he did not consider the possibility and its contingencies. God does not forget. He never fails to act or sympathize because of lack of knowledge. He does not overlook or neglect details. He does not emphasize some facts to the neglect of others. (God’s Attributes, 29)

This is the God of all-knowledge who can comfort and care for Sasha perfectly, and who can confront and challenge Kelly boldly.

Within life’s struggles we find many people who think they are hiding from God, or that they are invisible to Him. To hide from Him means to keep your sin secret, to be invisible means that He just doesn’t know you or understand you. Both are false and the doctrine of God’s Omniscience is a bold response to both. It serves both to challenge and encourage us. Good counselors can take people to the character of God and remind them that He sees you. He sees you when you sin and when you ache. He knows you and offers you comfort and forgiveness.

Comments

  1. Abigail Byers says:

    Dave,
    I believe this is an excellent article and has encouraged me. I hope you do more like this!
    Miss Abigail

  2. I do not think that god claims to know everything that might possibly be known – to be allowed to say about himself in precisely this way that he is all knowing. This does not contradict the bible, because in practical terms the difference between a truly all knowing god and the god of the bible might not be obvious at all. I am open to other points of view – based on the bible.

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