Job 37:16

Sermon preached on November 18, 2001 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

Some people have had a remarkably short-sighted vision of knowledge. In 1899, Charles H. Duell, the Commissioner of the US Patent Office, urged President William McKinley to abolish the office of Patent Commissioner because,

"Everything that can be invented has been invented."

Can you imagine anyone being so short sighted? Consider the things that have been invented since then—the airplane, TV, the transistor, the microprocessor, computers, to name a few. For the past century human knowledge has been advancing at a breathtaking speed. I read one recent estimate that our knowledge is exploding at a rate of 2000 pages a minute and that if you read 24 hours a day, from age 21 to 70, and retained all you read, you would be one and a half million years behind when you finished.

Yet even in our age, when knowledge is advancing so quickly, some people are still as short-sighted as Mr. Duell. Just over twenty years ago the famous astronomer Carl Sagan began his series on the Cosmos with the words something like,

"The universe is all that has ever been. It is all that will ever be."

He refused to accept the existence of God, of the heavenly realms, of heavenly beings. He eliminated those things from his frame of reference. To do so was more of a mistake than Mr. Duell's.

There is much that we should know about God. God is the Creator and Sustainer of life. He is the One we were created to serve. To deny His existence is to do away with the greatest knowledge that there is. We dare not make that mistake.

Rather we should celebrate our great God, delight in His perfections and praise Him for them. So this morning I want to look at another of God's attributes—His knowledge. I'm going to look at what the Bible tells us about God's knowledge so that we can understand some of the greatness of our wonderful God and draw comfort and strength from it.
Elihu said to Job,

"Do you know how God controls the clouds
and makes his lightning flash?
Do you know how the clouds hang poised,
those wonders of him
who is
perfect in knowledge?"

God is perfect in knowledge.

One of God's perfections is His knowledge. He knows all things. His knowledge is perfect. The Hebrew word that is used here means 'perfect, entire, full, whole, complete'. God's knowledge is perfect and complete. He never has to learn anything because He already knows all things.

We see this teaching in many places in Scripture.
1 John 3:20 talks about how to set our hearts at rest whenever our hearts condemn us. It says,

"For God is greater than our hearts,
he knows everything."

There is no gap or defect in His knowledge. In Psalm 147:5 the psalmist declared,

"Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
his understanding has no limit."

Now the verses I've quoted thus far are general statements that tell us that God knows all things. But there are also verses that are more specific, telling us that

God knows everything about creation.

Hebrews 4:13 says,

"Nothing in all creation
is hidden from God's sight.
Everything is uncovered and laid bare
before the eyes of him
to whom we must give account."

God knows everything that goes on in the universe. He knows all about us, about our actions, about our thoughts. Acts 15:18 tells us the same thing. It reads, (KJV)

"Known unto God
are all his works
from the beginning of the world."

Other passages elaborate on this. Proverbs 15:11 tells us that God knows our hearts. It says,

"Death and Destruction
lie open before the LORD
— how much more the hearts of men!"

He knows our hearts, our thoughts, our circumstances. God knows all about His creation. There is nothing in it that He is unaware of. Perhaps the most detailed description of this doctrine is found in Psalm 139, which we read as our Responsive Reading. We read,

"O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.
You hem me in — behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain....
If I say,
'Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,'
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together
in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts,
O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand."

Much of Psalm 139 is a celebration of God's knowledge of us. It tells us that every detail of our lives in known to God. God knows us much better than we know ourselves. (Verse 2) He saw us in the womb. (Verse 16) (Verse 4) He knows our thoughts. He knows when we sit and when we rise. Verse 5 tells us that He hems us in front, in back and above. God holds us in His hand and inspects everything that we do, so that we cannot move a hair's breath without Him knowing it. (Calvin) Is there anything in us, about us that God doesn't know? Absolutely not. He knows us completely, thoroughly.

But God doesn't just know all about the universe in the present and the past.

He also knows all about the future.

Verse 4 of Psalm 139 tells us that God knows our words before we speak them. It reads,

"Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely,

The truth of verse 16 is even more astounding. David wrote,

"All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be."

He knows what every day of our lives will be like. If you're going to die before the Lord comes, God knows exactly how you're going to die. He knows all of your days. He knows exactly where you will be and what you will be doing—a day from now, a week from now, a year from now, ten years from now. God is transcendent above time. He knows the future. He knows all about us, what we are, what will happen to us.

But God's knowledge goes even beyond knowing the future.

God not only knows the future as it is going to occur, He knows what would have occurred in other possibilities.

In the Bible we see that God sometimes gives information about events that might have happened but that in reality did not come to pass. We see this in 1 Samuel 23:11-13. David had saved the city of Keilah. King Saul was seeking to kill David and found out that he was at Keilah. David asked God if Saul would come down to try to capture and kill him. He asked God,

"'Will the citizens of Keilah surrender
me and my men to Saul?'
And the LORD said,
'They will.'"

God knew that if David stayed in the city, the people would hand him over to King Saul. God told David that. So David didn't stay there.

We see this doctrine as well in Jesus' words in
Matthew 11:21f. Jesus said,

"Woe to you, Korazin!
Woe to you, Bethsaida!
If the miracles that were performed in you
had been performed in Tyre and Sidon,
they would have repented long ago
in sackcloth and ashes.
But I tell you,
it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon
on the day of judgment than for you.
And you, Capernaum,
will you be lifted up to the skies?
No, you will go down to the depths.
If the miracles that were performed in you
had been performed in Sodom,
it would have remained to this day.
But I tell you that
it will be more bearable for Sodom
on the day of judgment than for you."

God knows all possible outcomes. He not only knows everything that happens, that will happen, He knows what would have happened if certain things had been different. Wayne Grudem writes, p. 191.

"This fact is indeed amazing. God has made an incredibly complex and varied universe. But there are thousands upon thousands of other variations or kinds of things that God could have created but did not. God's infinite knowledge includes detailed knowledge of what each of those other possible creations would have been like and what would have happened in each of them!"

God knows all possibilities.

Why does God know all possibilities?

The answer to that leads us to another aspect of God's knowledge that we should know about. It is this:

God knows Himself fully.

Louis Berkhof defines God's knowledge this way: (Systematic Theology, p. 66)

"that perfection of God whereby He… knows Himself and all things possible and actual in one eternal and most simple act."

God knows Himself, completely, fully. We're not like that. We don't know ourselves completely, fully. We sometimes surprise ourselves by what we do or think. We sometimes forget what we have done. But God is not like that. He knows Himself fully.

But where does the Bible teach us that? If you asked me that question before I prepared this sermon, I might have had to do a little thinking. But basically, it's a doctrine that's deduced from certain passages. For example,
1 John 1:5 reads,

"God is light;
in him there is no darkness at all."

1 Timothy 6:16 tells us that God

"lives in unapproachable light."

One of the symbolic meanings of light, one which stands in the foreground (Bavinck) is that of 'knowledge'. Light reveals that which is hidden. Bavinck writes,(The Doctrine of God p. 184)

"the word 'light' when applied to God signifies first of all that God has a perfect knowledge of himself…”

That's why God knows all possible things. He knows everything He could do. Wayne Grudem writes, p. 191.

"The fact that God knows all things possible can also be deducted from God's full knowledge of himself. If God fully knows himself, he knows everything he is able to do, which includes all things that are possible."

God is perfect in knowledge. He knows Himself. He knows His creation perfectly. He knows the past, present, future of it. He knows all other possibilities.

Now what does all this mean for us?

This has so many implications for us that it's hard to know where to start. But I want to draw your attention to just a few.

First, of all,

what profound thankfulness you ought to have for the grace that God has given you.

I draw this lesson from Jesus words in Matthew 11 and what He said about Sodom, Korazin, Bethsaida and Tyre. Do you remember what He said about them? He's saying that if He had done the miracles there that He did in Capernaum, they would have repented. God knew that about them. Yet He did not give that grace to those people. They perished.

God knows such things about us too. If He had given you a little less grace, if He had arranged your upbringing just a little less—you would not have had the grace to believe. He arranged things exactly so you would believe in Jesus. He (perhaps) gave you Christian parents, gave you circumstances,
gave you just the grace you needed—so you would believe.

There's a great mystery here. It reminds me of
Romans 9:15 where it says that God has mercy on whom He will have mercy and compassion on whom He wants to have compassion.

How gracious Christ has been to you. He knew how much grace you needed and He gave you that grace. How thankful you ought to be to Him. Indeed, we all ought to praise Him with the words of
Romans 11:33f,

"Oh, the depth of the riches
of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
'Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?'
'Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay him?'
For from him and through him
and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever!


what a comfort this ought to be to you Christians.

The Good Shepherd that watches over us knows all about us. He knows which temptations are too strong for us and He arranges it so that we never meet them. As 1 Corinthians 10:13 says,

"God is faithful;
he will not let you be tempted
beyond what you can bear.
But when you are tempted,
he will also provide a way out
so that you can stand up under it."

God also knows that we don't know how to pray as we should. (Romans 8:26) So what does He do? We read,

"but the Spirit himself intercedes for us
with groans that words cannot express."

Now I could mention many other examples. But the fact is that Jesus knows all about us and that He uses that knowledge to express His love for us. We see this in Matthew 10. Jesus said to His disciples, (Matthew 10:30)

"the very hairs of your head
are all numbered."

Why did Jesus tell them that? If you look at the context, you'll see that He was telling them not to be afraid, that He would take care of them.

God knows our present and future circumstances and the point is that
He uses His knowledge to express His love for us. As Hebrews 4:15 tells us—our God is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. He takes care of us in each of those circumstances. As Romans 8:28 says,

"And we know that in all things
God works for the good
of those who love him,
who have been called
according to his purpose."

We should rejoice in God's knowledge because He uses it for our benefit. That's why David celebrated it in Psalm 139.

One other aspect of God's knowledge that ought to be a comfort to Christians is the fact that

God knows that His purposes shall stand.

As He said in Isaiah 46:10,

"I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times,
what is still to come.
I say: My purpose will stand,
and I will do all that I please."

Our God is not like Baal. Remember how Elijah taunted the prophets of Baal when Baal didn't answer them? Elijah said, (1 Kings 18:27)

"Shout louder!
Surely he is a god!
Perhaps he is deep in thought,
or busy, or traveling.
Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened."

Our God is not like that. He knows all things—past, present, future. One of the things that God knows is that our future is certain. Jesus is going to establish a new heavens and a new earth and His people will be with Him there. It's certain. It's sure. It cannot be otherwise. God says,

"My purpose will stand,
and I will do all that I please."

The third application that I want to make is for those of you here who haven't accepted Jesus.

God knows the way things are. You ought to listen to Him.

God knows what's true. He knows what you need. He knows what would be good for you. You ought to listen to Him. You're lost without Jesus. God tells you that. Only in Jesus will you find joy, satisfaction and contentment. God tells you that. 1 John 3:23 tells you about the Father's command to you. John wrote,

"And this is his command:
to believe in the name of his Son,
Jesus Christ,"

God tells you that you need to believe in Jesus now. As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 6:2,

"I tell you,
now is the time of God's favor,
now is the day of salvation."

You need to do what God says and you need to do it now. No excuse will stand up with God. He knows you completely. You can't fool Him. Hypocrisy is useless. God sees right through it. Go to Jesus now. Find life in Him.