Three “Omni” attributes of God.
(Omni is a prefix, simply meaning “all” or, “Of all things, in all ways and places.”)
As a human, a characteristic I assume is shared by all of those reading this post, I am well acquainted with finitude. “Nothing lasts forever” or “all good things come to an end” are familiar phrases to us and to our world. We only know of the history of the world through chapters, snapshots, and limited personal experiences. We have not witnessed the world in its entirety.
These attributes are known as some of God’s incommunicable attributes. Meaning, that God does not share these attributes with his creations.
Psalm 139 gives us the clearest examples of each attribute. Read each section of verses and think about how God has revealed himself in these ways to you.
As we think about these three attributes, let us realize that God is not like us and yet, he makes himself known. The infinite can be known by the finite, the eternal by the temporal, the Creator by the created.
I could have every historical fact memorized, know every word of the dictionary, speak every language in the world, and still have no idea what will happen in my own life five minutes into the future. Of course, I don’t have this much knowledge! My wife and I like to watch Jeopardy and it makes us even more aware of how much we don’t know. My knowledge is limited in so many ways: by time, by availability of information, memory capacity, by experience, etc.
God is not limited in any of these ways. His knowledge is infinite and complete. I’m also limited to perception. I may not know how someone lives in private, but God does.
Many live their lives duplicitously, one way before others and another way in private, God is not fooled.
Isaiah 29:15 says:
“Ah, you who hide deep from the LORD your counsel,
whose deeds are in the dark, and who say, ‘Who sees us? Who knows us?’”
The answer to this question is obvious. The Lord sees and knows, not only the deeds but the inward thoughts of every person throughout all of history from beginning to end. Even thoughts that have yet to be thought.
When I was a kid, I thought my mom had this power. My dad seemed to know all facts in the world and my mom seemed to know everything I personally thought and did.
That question, “David, what are you doing?” as she called from one room just as I “successfully” had taken a cookie from the cookie jar in another room, was alarming! I just knew, somehow, that she could see through walls.
As I got older, I realized intuition, instinct, and deduction are the true superpowers that moms possess. However, this is not omniscience.
When we truly begin to grasp the idea that God knows everything, it brings fear to the wicked, but it should bring great comfort and even greater trust to those who love the Lord. He knows everything about us and continues to offer us grace, love, and mercy.
Look at how the Psalmist is comforted by God’s knowledge more than he is fearful about it:
“1 Lord, you have examined me
and know all about me.
2 You know when I sit down and when I get up.
You know my thoughts before I think them.
3 You know where I go and where I lie down.
You know everything I do.
4 Lord, even before I say a word,
you already know it.
5 You are all around me—in front and in back—
and have put your hand on me.
6 Your knowledge is amazing to me;
it is more than I can understand.”
– Psalm 139
In Harry Potter, Hermione once took too many classes that overlapped. (I feel this pressure now whenever one of my classes goes too long and I’m forced to run-walk to my next class in order to make it in time.) In order to help her be in two places at time, she has a trinket that enables her to turn back time and go to another class while her past self is in another class.
As we would imagine, this gets exhausting! Many times I have wished I could be two or more places at once… wished for a clone when there was simply too much to do, or said “like a good neighbor, State Farm is….” to no avail. (Probably because we went with the fancy British lizard)
What we should recognize, is that through all of these, it is only a shadow of this attribute of God. God is not merely “multi-present” he is everywhere, all the time.
God does not manipulate time to exist in elsewhere. He exists outside of time… time itself is a creation of God’s. He is present at every point of history and into the future and beyond the beginning of creation and the end of time itself. Is this starting to boggle your mind? Great!!
Only when we begin to realize that God is beyond our comprehension, do we truly begin to understand his glory.
Observe the wonder expressed here that God is truly everywhere!
7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.
— Psalm 139
One of my favorite Disney movies is Aladdin. One of the lines from the Genie and later repeated by Aladdin as he [spoilers!!] defeats Jafar indicates the power a genie possesses: “Phenomenal cosmic power! …itty bitty living space.” God himself has ultimate and indeed phenomenal cosmic power, his ability to create the universe, to manipulate time and space, to make the earth his “footstool”. This is certainly phenomenal cosmic power!
The difference, (besides this being a fictional cartoon), is that the genies presented in this story are limited. God does not have an itty bitty living space. Even when Jesus came to the earth, God didn’t cease to rule the universe. He limited himself by taking on a human form, but the Father didn’t cease to rule as the Son lived and worked miracles among his creation. This is where a biblical understanding of the Trinity is essential.
One of the most evident places we can witness the power of God is in his creative power. The fact that you have the cognitive ability to read these words, that I can write these words, that we can communicate, that we exist, that our world exists, is a testament to God’s power.
And not only did God create us with incomprehensible complexity, he continues to keep the universe.
See the awe expressed by the Psalmist:
“13 For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.”
I hope this exploration of the “omni” attributes of God in Psalm 139 has been encouraging and thought-provoking! Thank you so much for reading.