“Remember this, and be assured;
Recall it to mind, you transgressors.
Remember the former things long past,
For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is no one like Me,
Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things which have not been done,
Saying, ‘My purpose will be established,
And I will accomplish all My good pleasure…’” (Isaiah 46:8–10; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).
Several posts over recent months have looked at some of God’s majestic attributes, including the Bible’s teaching that He is all-powerful (omnipotent), sovereign (He rules over all creation), and eternal. Many of the Bible verses that speak of God’s omnipotence and sovereignty tell us that He is all-knowing, or omniscient. Isaiah 46 tells us that God’s purpose will be established because He declares the end from the beginning. In other words, God already knows how everything will turn out, so He can tell us what will happen before it happens. He can accomplish whatever He plans to do, because He knows what will happen next. If He does “a,” He knows “b” will happen next. Even if I do what I think is unexpected (let’s call that “c”), He is not caught off guard and is prepared to do “d” so that His will comes out at the end. We are not going to outwit God. He will not be outsmarted.
God knows all, even the number of all the stars. Photo by NASA, ESA, H. Teplitz and M. Rafelski (IPAC/Caltech), A. Koekemoer (STScI), R. Windhorst (Arizona State University), and Z. Levay (STScI). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
This creates a paradox. If God knows all, is He responsible for everything? Is He responsible for evil? Does this mean that He is responsible for sin? Isn’t it really His fault if somebody becomes a drug addict, prostitute, child abuser, rapist, etc., since He knew this would happen before they were born? Isn’t it His fault that I committed that sin? Isn’t the COVID-19 pandemic all His fault?
The list goes on. Some people reject faith in God because they have trouble figuring out how God can be all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving while the world seems to be going totally insane.
On the subject of sin, Scripture is clear: even though God is all-knowing and all-powerful, He is not the cause of sin:
“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust” (James 1:13–14).
I will not try to address every question about this paradox. Such questions—How God can be all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good, yet still allow evil to occur—fall into the realm of mysteries. There are things about God that we cannot understand. They are far beyond human comprehension and, at that point, we simply have to trust Him:
“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD.
‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8–9).
Human wisdom cannot answer some questions. We probably have a better chance of standing on our tiptoes to touch the moon than we have of figuring out all of the mysteries about God. Although we cannot understand them, though, what we can grasp can give us confidence and comfort as we trust in Him.
We might make decisions and plans with the best of intentions. Even so, we may fail. Even with our best intentions and planning, we may encounter the unexpected. Somebody may do something we did not expect, and the entire plan falls apart. However, God is not caught off-guard. He knows what He plans to do and how we may try to avoid His will. Nobody will outsmart Him.
Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.
[If you do not have a place to worship, please visit my church at http://live.intercessorchurch.com; services stream at 9:30 and 11:30 AM on Sundays, 12:00 noon on weekdays, and 6:00 PM Saturday evening (all times ET).]