Theme: The Omniscient One
In this week’s lessons we are reminded that in his time the Lord will both punish the wicked and vindicate the righteous.
Scripture: Psalm 94:1-23
In the meantime, the psalmist boldly warns the arrogant oppressors of this world whom he calls fools (vv. 8-11). He does it by a sharp series of rhetorical questions that remind us of Amos’s questions in chapter 3 of his prophecy (“Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so? Does a lion roar in the thicket when he has not prey?…When disaster comes to a city, has not the LORD caused it? [vv. 3, 4, 6]). Psalm 94 asks, “Does he who implanted the ear not hear? Does he who formed the eye not see? Does he who disciplines nations not punish? Does he who teaches man lack knowledge?”
The bottom line of the psalmist’s rhetorical questions is that “the LORD knows the thoughts of man” (v. 11). In other words, God is omniscient. He has to be if he is God. Therefore, anyone who thinks that he or she is getting away with anything, just because judgment is not immediate, is like a senseless brute, a fool. A man would have to be a fool to think that the all-seeing God does not see or that the Judge of all the earth will not judge justly at the proper time.
Moreover, according to verse 11, God does not only know the thoughts of man, he also “knows that they are futile.” This is not a statement against the value of human thought itself, for the psalmist has just appealed to the arrogant to think rightly by his questions. It is a comment on the folly of supposing that God does not see or care what one is doing. It is the folly of acting as if there is no God (see Psalms 14 and 53). Paul quotes this verse in 1 Corinthians 3:20 to prove that “the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight” (v. 19).
H. C. Leupold says, “There has, perhaps, never been a more devastating demonstration of the foolish thinking which men occasionally become guilty of when they imagine that the Lord is not aware of what they are doing.”1 He is right. But how often we all make that very foolish error.
The rabbis said that the three best safeguards against falling into sin are to remember: 1) that there is an ear which hears everything; 2) that there is an eye which sees everything; and that 3) there is a hand which writes everything into the Book of Knowledge, which shall be opened at the judgment.2
In the meantime, what are the righteous to think? The psalmist has asked God to rise up and execute justice. He has described the crimes of the arrogant, which he is asking God to avenge. He has warned the arrogant. But what of those who are oppressed? What about the righteous? In this stanza the tone of the psalm becomes quieter as the psalmist addresses these people (vv. 12-15), assuring them that the evils they endure are for their discipline in the school of faith and that righteous judgment of oppressors will surely be provided by God in the end.
Verse 12 speaks of “discipline,” but this is not discipline that is a punishment for sin. It is the discipline of a hard life that causes us to turn to God to learn more about God, which is why the psalm links discipline with being taught from God’s law. Four things are promised to God’s people in these verses. We will look at the first promise today and the remaining three in tomorrow’s study.
1. Relief from days of trouble (v. 13). The upright do have trouble, as the psalm and common experience both teach. But the trouble is never utterly unmitigated or unrelieved. God provides relief from trouble in his time, and in any case, he is always with his people when they are called upon to go through it. Jesus foretold trouble for the preachers of the gospel, but he also said, “Surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).
1H. C. Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1969), p. 671.
2J. M. Neale, quoted by Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. 2b, Psalms 88-110, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1966), p. 153.
What does the psalmist ask the arrogant? Why?
What can you learn about God from the psalmist’s series of questions?
Explain what verse 11 means when it calls the thoughts of men futile.
What does the psalmist tell the oppressed righteous?
Tell what God provides for those who endure.
Omniscience: the state of having complete or unlimited knowledge, awareness, and understanding; perceiving all things
Reflection: Have you had the discipline of a hard life? If so, how has it shaped your faith?
Application: Write down three safeguards against falling into sin and put them where you see them daily.
Prayer: Ask forgiveness for times you have arrogantly thought you could hide your sin from God, or for those times when you were indifferent to the sufferings of others.