God Knows you Completely
God Knows you Completely
When Eli Gabriel Conklin went into the Doctor this week for his checkup with his mother, the doctor said he was doing very well. Eli is the son of Cherie's niece, Randi. The doctor said that his heart was beating very strongly. He was eight months old and would be born in only another month. By Wednesday evening, Randi felt like something was wrong. Eli had not moved all day. The doctor called her in on Thursday and they could not find a heart beat. They induced labor and little Eli was stillborn. Sometime between Tuesday and Wednesday night Eli had, for reasons that no one knows been called into eternity.
When Cherie found out we were obviously stunned. We ached for Randi and her husband, Bill. I found out yesterday that they want me to do the graveside service for them, and I naturally asked myself, “what do I tell them?” How do I answer them if they ask, “Did God know THIS was going to happen?” Yes. “Could he have prevented it?” I know the next 6 verses of Ps 139. I know that he has all power. Yes. Ps. 139 will not let us escape these conclusions. This is the problem of God's knowledge. When we take up these first six verses of Ps. 139 we will be exploring the limits of God's knowledge. What does He know? What is the nature and extent of his knowledge. I want to point out the wonder of God's knowledge. David explains it here very well. Then I want to explore the problem of God's knowledge, we cannot escape this. Finally, I want to point out the beautiful application that David makes.
The point I would like to draw from that story is that, while we thought we knew the M-1 rifle well, stress and pressure exposed our weakness. We did not know that rifle as well as we thought we did.
This imperfect knowledge is in sharp contrast to the God whom David presents to us in Psalm 139.1-6. This is a God of infinite, complete, perfect knowledge. He knows us, David says, completely.
Last time we introduced this most beautiful of Psalms to you. We certainly agree with one commentator who when writing about this Psalm said that the “consciousness of intimate personal relationship between God and man, which is characteristic of the whole Psalter, reaches its climax here.” We certainly think that it does.
We pointed out that the God revealed in this Psalm by David was a God Most Intimate. A God who was radically different from any other gods among the cultures surrounding the Hebrews, and indeed, we find in Ps 139 a conception of God that is unique to Judaism and Christianity alone, and, to the extent that this God is revealed in the person of Christ, unique to Christianity alone.
Tonight we take up David's first revelation of a God Most Intimate. This God knows you and knows me completely. (Read Ps 139.1-6).
Wonder of God's Knowledge
Notice first, the wonder of God's knowledge.
I do not want you to go wrong from the very start here. David says in verse one, “O Lord, You have searched me and known me.” This is a summary statement of everything that will follow in the Psalm. It is a common device in the Hebrew culture. David is saying, “God knows me completely,” and “here is how he knows me.” He proceeds to work out the implications of his title statement. We need to be careful here, however. “Searching” to us implies a lack of knowledge. If we search for our glasses, as I often do, I am searching because I do not know where my glasses are. This is not true of God. David is trying to put a characteristic which is true of God into words that we can understand. This is a very difficult thing to do. “Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord, or what man shows him his counsel?(Is 40.13), Isaiah asks. The answer is no one. God does not need to learn from man because he knows all.
When David says that the Lord has “searched me and known me,” he is trying to communicate that God knows me completely. It is finished. Done. An accomplished fact. When I have searched and found my glasses, then it is an accomplished fact, I can now read something. This is what David is trying to communicate. God's knowledge of me - and of you is complete, full, whole.
Look at verse 2. “You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you understand my thoughts from afar.” David uses a common literary device here, which we actually use as well. He names two opposite things - sitting down and rising up - as figures of speech denoting completeness. We do the same thing. “Gee, he understands calculus from A to Z, means, he knows everything there is to know about calculus. God knows all of my ways, from when I rise up in the morning, to when I lay down at night, and everything else in between.
He understands my thoughts from afar. Ponder that for a minute. We live as if God did not know what we were thinking, often don't we. In a way it is both comforting and scary. God knows everything that I am thinking, my deepest longings and frustrations. That is so satisfying to me. Uh, oh…He also knows how I feel about my boss, and what I REALLY think about my football game being interrupted. Comforting…and scary.
You search out my path, David writes in vs. 3. You are acquainted with all my ways. I like the way the NASB renders it. You are intimately acquainted with all my ways. The LXX, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament translates the verb “search out” with a word that means to track or trace or explore. It helps us understand that word I think. When a hunter tracks or traces his quarry, he uses every bit of knowledge he has to help him be successful.
You may recall Gabe Vanwormer giving his “advice to graduates” and he got up and asked the question, “where do Turkeys sleep during the night?” I had no clue. Randy Richards and Joel Howard knew though because they both said, “in the tops of trees!” Who knew?!? Well, the turkey hunters knew. In order to be a good turkey hunter they knew all about the animal that they were hunting. God tracks, traces, searches us out, for the purpose of entering into an intimate relationship with us. This is amazing to me. It is stunning! This is a God like no other God.
Before there is a word on my tongue, behold O lord, you know it altogether (vs. 4). God knows what you are going to say before you even say it. He knows you better than you know yourself.
He knows the past. That is pretty easy for us to get a grip on, because the past has already happened. Sure, that is knowable. He knows the present - that is what verses 2 and 3 are all about. That is incredible to us, but it is understandable. He also knows the future. This is where things get a little difficult for us to understand. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. Then vs. 16 In your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet tjhere were none of them. He is talking about the future, from our words to even the day of our death. God knows it all. Does He not see my ways and number all my steps? (Job 31.4), Job asks.
Now ponder the implications for a moment. First, we have no reason to hide anything to a being who already knows it. Do you see how freeing that is. I can bring my hurts, my difficulties, my struggles, my lack of knowledge to the Lord and say, “Lord, I do not understand what is going on here. I am in great difficulty. I do not see you moving here. Why are you doing this?” This is the tone of many of the Psalms and it is perfectly fine with God. What we must not do is shake our fist at God. Pouring out our heart? Okay. Questioning? Good. Shaking our fist, which in essence is being our own God. Not okay.
Second. You are known. Someone understands you completely. Someone is tracking you, in pursuit of you. Do you see the sense of worth that brings. No matter what your own feelings or what difficulty you are in, or even what you have done whether it be the most heinous sin imaginable. God knows you. He desires an intimate relationship with you. Do you feel that you are without hope? I am here to tell you that there is hope! Great hope!
If only Kurt Cobain would have understood this truth. Kurt Cobain was the lead singer of a grunge rock group called Nirvana. From a “success” viewpoint he was on top of the world, his band was one of the most successful of the early 90's. In the midst of all that success he was absolutely hopeless - Nirvana actually means “extinction or annihilation.” He wrote a note to his wife and 19 month old child of which I quote a portion,
: /I have a a daughter who reminds me too much of what i used to be, full of love and joy, kissing every person she meets because everyone is good and will do her no harm. And that terrifies me to the point to where I can barely function. I can't stand the thought of Frances becoming the miserable, self-destructive, death rocker that I've become
Peace, love, empathy.
He wrote that note, then took a shotgun and put it to his mouth and literally blew his brains out. Totally without hope. If only Kurt Cobain could have understood the truth of Psalm 139. You are known. You are loved. God desires an intimate relationship with you. You are of infinite worth to God. Amazing.
!! Problem of God's Knowledge
God's knowledge, specifically his knowledge of the future presents huge problems for us. The problem can be stated this way. If God knows the future, and if God is all-powerful, then whatever happens must at least be allowed by Him, if not specifically ordained. Whatever happens he could have stopped, so why does He allow so much pain and evil, and specifically, why does he allow believers to go through pain. Why did God allow Anthony Hayes to fall onto the concrete while working. He knew it was going to happen didn't he? Why did he allow Annaliese to be struck down with this mysterious illness? I know some of you are struggling with this issue. All one has to do is read the prayer requests that come over the prayer chain. So much pain and suffering, and God knows all this?!
There is a whole branch of theology, called Open Theism, which attempts to explain away this truth because of the difficulties it raises. Open Theism tries to explain this away by saying, some parts of the future, especially human's choices, cannot be known in advance, even by God. I will dispense with that argument in the interest of time simply by pointing out that the words of Psalm 139 refute Open Theism. The answer must lie elsewhere, because God knows the future just as well as he knows the past and present - completely.
What do we do with this difficulty of God's complete foreknowledge?
- First of all, one thing we do not do is try and justify God. I say this because this is what we normally try to do. We see God acting in ways that we do not expect and we have to justify Him, so we start making excuses for Him. I think the reason that we do this is because we have God packaged up in a nice little box and we have to explain him in some way that keeps him fitted into that nice little box we have constructed which says, “Here is how God acts.” We try and “let God off the hook.”
The only problem is that I do not believe God wants to be let off the hook. I think it is just the opposite. He is trying to tell us something. Do you ever see God making excuses for his actions in the Scriptures? “Sorry Job, I know you are hurting here, I know I allowed you whole family to die, but I have a point I want to make to all of the people who follow you, that is why I am doing this.” God does not explain Himself. There is all of this clear teaching on his foreknowledge in the Scriptures as if to say, “Do you see the difficulties that arise?” Yes, so do I. They are very difficult. He knows the difficulties his foreknowledge presents and He never explains it, because He doesn't have to. He is God. If God feels no necessity to explain away the obvious difficulty, what can we learn from that? What lesson is there for us?
#.First, and I say this without hesitation, one thing God wants to do is destroy the box that we are trying to fit Him in. God does not fit in our little boxes. He does not! Have you ever seen the way John Durling signs his emails. He signs at the bottom, a reference to the Chronicles of Narnia in which Aslan the lion is an allegory for God. One of the characters says this about Aslan, which John puts at the end of his emails. “He (Aslan) is not a tame lion, but he is good.” I love that. God is a lion whom we cannot, in anyway tame, who will occasionally act in ways that confound us and frustrate us, so that we shrug our shoulders and say, “I cannot explain it, but I know He is good.” He is not a tame lion, but he is good.
- The second lesson I want to point out is that I cannot explain the way God acts sometimes. I cannot explain to my niece why God called little Eli into eternity. I can think of a lot of platitudes and a lot of ways to try and justify God with my small brain, but I will not. I will simply say. I do not understand what He is doing, and I am here to hurt with you, and to maybe offer you some hope in the midst of tragedy.
When I cannot understand something, like what God is doing here, I fall back on what I know. I know with a certainty this fact. I have absolutely no hope apart from Jesus Christ. If there is no God in this world, then there is no meaning, this I know and am completely convinced of. It is either Christ or nothing. Nothing else gives me hope that fills both my heart and my brain. I would rather hope in a God that I do not always understand, then in the fact that life is a result of random chance and has no meaning. I want you to grasp that fact.
Can I explain away the problems presented by God's foreknowledge?. No I cannot, and I was never meant to explain it away. That is God's problem, not mine. I will leave it to Him. However, I will at the same time cling to him through good and bad, through joy and suffering, because what I do know is that without Him I am lost and hopeless. I will cling to the God of mystery. I am satisfied with that.
God knows us completely. He knows us in the past, present, and future. That fact raises in us both wonder and problems.
Then I want to ponder for a moment the beautiful application that David draws from this truth. What good is God's knowledge in my own life? What good is omniscience? He tells us in verse 5, You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. It is a beautiful picture and translation. The verb, “hem” means to press down or to besiege in the Hebrew, as if you had a city under siege. Hemmed in so no one can enter or exit without your knowledge. So David says, “You hem me in. You press me down. You have me under siege. Of course our question is, “to what end?” Why this imagery?
I think it is revealed by this little phrase, you lay your hand upon me. That is a picture of protection. It is beautiful imagery here. When did you know that you were absolutely safe when you were growing up. Your cornered by thugs and all of the sudden you feel a hand on your shoulder and it is your Dad! And he says, “boys, is anything wrong here?” Whoa!! From fear to courage in an instant. My Dad is here, he will see that nothing hurts me.
When Cherie and Kelly went off to Alaska with the missions team this summer, Kelly got to go visit her brother and sister-in-law in Fayetteville, NC for a week. While she was gone she and I were emailing back and forth just to keep in contact. Now, you have to understand that any Army town attracts all sorts of people, so they are usually pretty rough towns, especially to a girl from the country. So she is emailing me telling me about how things are going and she says, Kristen and I went all the way to Raleigh to go shopping they have a really nice mall. /On Thursday we are going shopping again just at the mall in Fayetteville. I miss you so much. The one thing I don't like about Fayetteville is I don't always feel safe, but then I remember Psalm 27:1-10 or I think it was psalm 13:1-10 were it said " You hem me in behind and before- you have laid your hand upon me"
Love you Kelly/.
She is quoting from Ps 139.5 there (she had memorized all of those passages just recently). Is that not beautiful? She got the point. She understood what David was saying there. If God knows all my ways, then he knows the future, and if he knows the future then I am safe. I am in his hands. I am in his arms. Nothing will get through without his say so, without his approval.
I don't know about you, but I can live with that. I am happy with it. I affirm it. I will cling to the God I do not fully understand. I will cling to the God of mystery. So my question to you is, “Do you get it?”