We use a lot of big words when we talk about God.
Omnipotent. Omnipresent. Omniscient. He is all-powerful, all-present, and all-knowing.
If a word means all encompassing, it’s probably been used to talk about God.
Where do these words come from?
These words express the upper limit of our ability to understand power, wisdom, and time.
When Scripture tells us about the power, wisdom, and eternal nature of God, how else could we describe him?
Here are some of the ways the Bible helps us understand our awe-some God:
1. Isaiah 55:8–9
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither 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. (see whole passage).
The Faithlife Study Bible says verse eight is “a direct statement about God’s transcendence. His nature and plan are infinitely beyond human understanding. God is infinitely different from us in His thoughts and ways. Because God is holy (Leviticus 19:2), we are to strive to reach the higher and nobler ideals of his thoughts and ways, as expressed by the command to ‘be holy.'”
With three layers of study notes, the FSB lets us take an even closer look at this passage.
By clicking the plus sign, we can dig into the second layer of notes to read: “The biblical portrait of God develops both transcendent and immanent aspects of His nature. The transcendent nature is not like people and infinitely above people. The immanent nature is intimately present with people and among people. God’s transcendence places Him beyond the limits of time and space. His nature as uncreated and separate from His creation is a fundamental concept distinguishing a biblical understanding of God from other philosophical or religious theories, such as pantheism or monism.”
Sometimes it’s discouraging to recognize that we don’t know what God’s thinking. We don’t have all the answers and we don’t know the plan.
We serve a God that thinks about our lives, our world, and his creation on a completely different level than even the smartest human has the capacity to think. (click to tweet).
A pastor recently shared with me, “When things don’t go our way, we ask ‘Why, God, why?’ What we should be asking is ‘What, God, what?’ What is he trying to show us?”
We can’t possibly hope to understand what God’s thinking, because his thoughts transcend our own. But we can ask him questions and pray that he points us to something we can understand.
2. Isaiah 40:28
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. (see whole passage).
The FSB says that the phrase “creator of the ends of the earth” points back to Isaiah 40:27.
It states, “The focus on God as Creator and totally ‘other’ than His creation answers the statements of v. 27. Since God’s ways are unknowable, how can they make such a claim?”
We don’t know what God is thinking, so how can we say that he’s not thinking about us? (click to tweet).
3. Job 26:14
Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him! But the thunder of his power who can understand? (see whole passage).
In the first layer of the FSB we read, “These mighty acts of God give only a glimpse of His power. Here, Job’s description of God’s majestic power anticipates God’s speech in chapter 38.”
The FSB also comments on the phrase, “how small a whisper,” stating, “The mighty thunder and wind is only a whisper to God. This description again anticipates God’s response in chapter 38, where God speaks from a whirlwind. Elsewhere, God speaks in a whisper (1 Kings 19:11–13).”
Read chapter 38 to see God’s powerful response to Job.
4. Psalm 147:5
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure. (see whole passage).
A.W. Tozer says, “Because God knows all things perfectly, he knows no thing better than any other thing, but all things equally well. He never discovers anything, he is never surprised, never amazed.” (click to tweet).
“Beyond measure” is a tough concept to grasp. In The Heavens: Intimate Moments with Your Majestic God, Kevin Hartnett grapples with what understanding beyond measure looks like:
“Indeed, through His own gracious revelation of Himself, we can understand God in part, but we can never fully comprehend Him, or even a single one of His qualities. There will always be more of His wisdom to understand, more of His power, more of His holiness, more of His love. We will never fathom Him, and we will never tire of Him. Through all eternity, we will look upon Him and marvel at the endlessly creative, wonderfully gracious, uniquely righteous, timelessly beautiful, unsearchably glorious, infinitely loving Maker and Ruler of all.”
5. Psalm 8:3–4
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? (see whole passage).
At first glance, this verse may appear to dismiss God’s concern for our lives—but with the help of the FSB, we see that is clearly not the case.
Check out what the FSB says about the phrase, “that you think of him”:
“The psalmist marvels that God—the supreme Creator—involves Himself with humanity. Job uses a similar phrase but with a different emphasis. Instead of wondering at God’s care, Job—in the midst of his suffering—wishes God would leave him alone (Job 7:17–21).”
The FSB also discusses the phrase “your fingers”:
“The finger of God symbolizes His power: Pharaoh’s magicians attributed the third plague to the finger of God (Exodus 8:19); the finger of God wrote the Law on stone tablets (Exodus 31:18; Deuteronomy 9:10); in the New Testament, Jesus cast out demons by the finger of God (Luke 11:20).”
When we look at the work of God’s fingers, our lives seem far less significant—and that makes his deep concern for our lives that much more meaningful.
Consider the next verse, in light of the works of “the fingers of God.”
6. Luke 12:7
Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, you are of more value than many sparrows. (see whole passage).
Dale C. Allison Jr. says, “Throughout the Scriptures God is held up as one who can count the humanly uncountable: clouds, sand, streams, the length of heaven, stars, etc. Faith does not make clear all mysteries, but it is consoling to believe that a loving God knows the answers.”
In What Jesus Demands from the World, John Piper elaborates on the verse, “In other words, the suffering you may undergo in speaking the truth is not because God is disinterested in you or unfamiliar with your plight. He is close enough to separate one hair from another and give each one a number. Fear not; he is close. He is interested; he cares. Be of good courage, and speak the truth whatever the cost.”
7. Jeremiah 1:5
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you. And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations. (see whole passage).
The FSB has a lot to say on this one verse. In the second layer of notes on “before you were born” it remarks:
“The Apostle Paul seems to have applied this aspect of Jeremiah’s ministry to himself in Galatians 1:14–16. Paul’s rationale in doing so appears to be based on Jeremiah’s reputation as a prophet ‘to the nations’ and reflected in his calling ‘from the womb.’ Paul makes an implicit comparison between himself and Jeremiah as a means to legitimize his own qualifications as an apostle to the Gentiles.”
God had a purpose and a plan for Jeremiah before he was even born. But that doesn’t mean Jeremiah knew his purpose—he tried to convince God he had the wrong guy (Jeremiah 1:6).
Don’t be discouraged when you don’t know God’s plan. God knows where you’re going, and he knows what you need to get there (Jeremiah 1:7–9).
8. Deuteronomy 10:17
For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and does not take a bribe. (see whole passage).
In Immersion Bible Studies: Deuteronomy, Jack A. Keller says, “The supreme God who is ‘God of all gods’ and ‘Lord of all lords’ has a special interest in the way the community treats its most vulnerable members: widows, orphans, and resident aliens (10:17–19).”
The more we recognize how powerful and mighty God is, the more incredible it is that he cares for us personally.
Keep reading about God’s omniscience in this reflection on Psalm 139.