(H) For the director of the choir, a psalm of David. (1) Yahweh, you have searched me, and you know (me). (2) You know when I sit down and when I rise up. You discern my thoughts from afar. (3) You scrutinize my path and my lying down and are familiar with all my ways. (4) Even before (there is) a word on my tongue, behold, Yahweh, you know it entirely. (5) You have enclosed me behind and before and laid your hand upon me. (6) Such knowledge is incomprehensible to me. It is too high. I am not able to grasp it.
This carefully crafted psalm is David’s meditation on three of Yahweh’s divine attributes or character traits as they affect us personally: Yahweh’s omniscience (vss. 1-6), his omnipresence (vss. 7-12), and his omnipotence (vss. 13-18). In the final segment David considers how he should live in the light of such overwhelming truths about Yahweh (vss. 19-24).
The repetitions and synonyms found in the opening segment explore God’s omniscience, that he knows everything about everything. The verb “to know” occurs three times (vss. 1, 2, & 4). The related noun, “knowledge,” is found in the final verse (vs. 6). Synonyms include “searched” (vs. 1), “discern” (vs. 2), “scrutinize” and “are familiar” (vs. 3). In essence, there is nothing that escapes Yahweh’s awareness. David uses first person singular pronouns twelve times in six verses. Nothing about his personal life is hidden from Yahweh’s penetrating gaze.
I. Reflection: how thoroughly Yahweh knows me! (1-4)
II. Response: how overwhelming such knowledge is to me! (5 & 6)
When we begin to grasp how thoroughly Yahweh knows us, we feel completely overwhelmed.
The New Testament contains several important statements regarding God’s omniscience. Twice in Luke’s Gospel Jesus says, “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known” (Lk. 8:17 & 12:2). The writer of Hebrews observes, “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” (Heb. 4:13).
Paul attempted to correct the critical spirits of the Corinthian believers by writing, “Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God” (1 Cor. 4:5). While a future day of judgment is the emphasis of these passages, they serve as strong warnings that we need to live each day in the light of God’s omniscience.
In coming to grips with the unlimited breadth of God’s knowledge, it may help us to consider how God actually knows what he knows. We finite creatures gain knowledge by learning and experiencing life. Since birth we have been accumulating the knowledge that we now possess and far too often forget. However, that is not how God learns. In fact, using the term, “learn,” is not appropriate when speaking of God. He never needs to learn anything because he already knows everything inherently in his timeless eternal existence. Everything exists because he already has it in mind.
Consider these observations from theologian Norman Geisler: “If God is a timeless being, then he knows all of time in one eternal now, the whole of time, past, present, and future (for us). God’s knowledge is not simply of the actual, he also knows the potential. He knows both what is and what could be. God knows whatever exists in himself as the cause of those things.” How difficult it is for us who are trapped in time to cope with the omniscient awareness of our great eternal God! All we can do is echo the request which the father of the demon possessed boy made to Jesus: “I believe...help me with my struggles to understand” (Mk. 9:24 paraphrased).