Tom Allen tells the story of a large bowl of Red Delicious apples, placed at the front end of the cafeteria line at Asbury College, a theological institution for the training of Christian leaders. The note attached read: "Take only one please, God is watching." Well, some prankster attached a note to a tray of peanut butter cookies at the other end of the line. It read: "Take all you want. God is watching the apples!"
We laugh. Why? Because we instinctively know that God sees both the apples and the cookies, simultaneously! It's part of what it means to be God. Even atheists know that.
But sometimes even Christians forget that their Father knows everything equally and effortlessly. Like the clutch in my old, beat-up car, this truth often fails to engage our minds, forever slipping in and out of our conscious thought-especially during seasons of struggle. No doubt this is due in part to a culture that has dethroned God, shrunk him down to size, so to speak, and which has little or no time for His All-seeing, holy Presence. We live among a community of people who can only think of ways to limit His claim on their lives. But, in contrast to much popular opinion, God's never had a "senior moment." He's never forgotten His name, nor where He lives...nor those whom He loves and those with whom he has a "bone to pick." Thus, in keeping with Isaiah-and in contrast to some of the smoke popular theologians are blowing these days-I praise God that He knows the end from the beginning, the top from the bottom...and like a sandwich, all the "boloney" in between (Isa 44:6-8; 45:1-6, 21)!
Now the fact that God knows everything is at once a great comfort and a great "stressor." If you're in love with Him and seeking His will during difficult times, it's a great comfort. Why? Because you have good reason to rest in the ultra capable arms of your Father. He knows your situation, problems, and needs better than you do. Like a thick blanket on a cold night, there's real spiritual warmth in the personal knowledge that His care takes every single factor into consideration; nothing catches Him by surprise!
This truth, i.e., that God knows all things and that he is always present with us, should work itself out in our prayer lives: we should pray intelligently rather than babbling on like pagans who think they're heard because of their many words. We all know God listens to people, not prayers. We pray to Him, not some scaled down version of Him! The former is alive, willing, and powerful; the latter is dead, deaf, and dumb! Isn't this what Jesus taught us (cf. Matthew 6:5-8)?
I'm glad that God knows all things about me and that I'm present to his mind each and every moment. The truth is, knowing my sinfulness as I do, I am deeply thankful that I cannot escape from his thoughts and therefore his hands, even for a second. For I fear that having somehow escaped his notice, I should, like a child wandering from its mother, never find my way back home again-that I should be lost forever. I praise God that he knows me into eternity as his very own son (Rom 8:15-16, 29-30)!
So the foundational doctrine that God knows all things and is everywhere at once with his whole being is good news for those who love him. But there's another side to this story. If you're running from "The Law"-for this is how God looks and feels (i.e., like Law) to those who are on the run-the thought that He knows everything is really not good news after all. In other words, He needs no APB to determine your whereabouts. Oh, it is true that he might call out for you, and ask, "Where are you?" But trust me, that's not for His benefit. It's for yours. God knew where Adam was all the time, but did Adam know his own whereabouts (Gen 3:9)? I doubt it. The truth is, most of us don't.
In short, then, there's no place to hide from a God who knows all the hiding spots-which is, of course, patently unfair in hide `n' seek-but then again, this really isn't a game, is it? If you know the Lord-as Jonah did-and you're running from Him, be assured of one thing: he's tied your sneakers together beforehand. You won't get far and you certainly won't win. Just as you're about to make that mad dash for your favorite hiding spot, guess who's already waiting there for your "victorious" arrival. So return to the Lord your God! Seek him while he may be found! Rejoice in Him and let Him-the divine and jealous Lover-rejoice over you with singing! The Lord loves you; he crowns the humble with salvation! If, on the other hand, you do not know the Lord, what are you exchanging Him for? Is it really worth it? Have you found a hiding spot you're certain he knows nothing about (cf. Jeremiah 23:24)?