IT is the abiding conviction of the godly that God has at all times a full and perfect knowledge of all things, past, present and future,. What a solemn, profound and precious mystery is the omniscience of God! As Robert Shaw says in his commentary on the Confession of Faith, “God knows things, not by information, nor by reasoning and deduction, nor by succession of ideas, but by a single and intuitive glance; and He knows them comprehensively and infallibly.” Profound as this fact is, the godly have been led by the blessed Spirit to understand and acknowledge it. Therefore they echo the words of the Apostle, “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.”
They are certain also of the fact that they themselves, completely and constantly, are under His eye. They fully agree with the Psalmist when he said, “O Lord, thou hast searched me and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compasssest my path and my lying down, thou art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord thou knowest it altogether.”
At the same time God’s omniscience is a comforting fact to His believing people. It is a consolation to them, for example, when they themselves are in great need or are passing through fiery trials. They then have some experiential understanding of Job’s statement about God, “He knoweth the way that I take, and when he hath tried me I shall come forth as gold.” Undoubtedly it was comforting to Peter to be able, in his time of testing by the Saviour after the resurrection, to appeal to His divine omniscience, saying, “Lord, thou knowest all things . . .”
It is also a comfort to Christians that God knows the low state and pressing needs of His church in the world. When there is little of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, and when the number of the godly has so much decreased, it encourages them to think that His eye is upon His vineyard “night and day”. As they think of the activities of the enemies of His cause, whether they are humanists or followers of false religions, it heartens them to remember this:
all sons of men full well:
He views all from His dwelling-place
that on the earth do dwell.”
Because God is also all-wise and almighty, He is able to do for His people and cause, exactly what is rquired, and at the most appropriate time. Indeed, as the merciful, loving, and faithful covenant God of His people, He has promised to supply all their need “according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus”.
But for all that, the all-knowing God has ordained that we should take both our own needs and the needs of His cause to Himself in prayer. God’s manner of working, in bestowing blessings on His church and on men, is to act in response to the prayers of His poor and needy people.
With regard to personal affliction and our need of help, we see in Scripture that prayer precedes the giving of help: help is given in answer to prayer. Deep was David’s distress when he found himself in “an horrible pit” and “miry clay”. By and by he said, “The Lord . . . set my feet upon a rock and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth.” But not before David had been waiting on the Lord in prayer. This is the appointed order: affliction, prayer, deliverance. See it recurring in Psalm 107, in such words as these:
He them from straits did save.”
The duty therefore to which we are called by God is to inquire of Him; to be frequenting the throne of God; to be seeking His blessing for ourselves, for others, and for His cause. As Thomas Manton says, “What cometh from God must be sought of God. . . . God will not force spiritual blessings upon us, nor give them to us unless we desire them. Some things He gave us unasked, and without our desire, consent, or knowledge, as a Mediator, a new covenant, or offers of grace, yea, the first gift of the Spirit; but in other things we are obliged to ask.” Thomas Goodwin says something similar in emphasing that God insists on this inquiring, even although He has engaged Himself by his faithful promise to show mercy to His church. According to Manton, it is as if God said, “I will nevertheless, be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them.” He knows all our need, He promises much, but He requires us to pray.
The promises of God regarding the future prosperity of His church must be fulfilled. He is faithful that promised. But let us not fail in our duty of pleading with Him to build up His Zion, so that it will appear to all men to be what it really is great and glorious. “Ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence, and give Him no rest, till he establish, and till He make Jerusalem a praise in the earth” (Isa 62:6,7).