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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Does God Know Everything?

Don Stewart :: Does God Know Everything That Could Possibly Happen?

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Does God Know Everything That Could Possibly Happen? (David and Saul, Elisha and Jehoash, Jesus and the Cities Which Did Not Repent)

Does God Know Everything? – Question 21

The Bible teaches that God not only knows everything that will happen, He also knows everything that could potentially happen. The Bible gives several examples of this. They include an episode in the life of David and Saul, the story of Jehoash and the prophet Elisha, as the account of Jesus and the cities which did not repent. The evidence is as follows.

The Episode of David and Saul

Scripture gives the following episode in the life of King David that illustrates that the Lord knows what may happen, as well as what will happen. We read what occurred in this manner.

When David learned that Saul was plotting against him, he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring the ephod.” David said, “LORD, God of Israel, your servant has heard definitely that Saul plans to come to Keilah and destroy the town on account of me. Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me to him? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? LORD, God of Israel, tell your servant.” And the LORD said, “He will.” Again David asked, “Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me and my men to Saul?” And the LORD said, “They will.” So David and his men, about six hundred in number, left Keilah and kept moving from place to place. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he did not go there. (1 Samuel 23:9-13 NIV)

Here we find a great example of the God of the Bible knowing all future possibilities. We learn the following things from this passage.

David Asked God What Would Happen If He Stayed in Keilah

David and his men were in the city of Keilah. David asked the Lord what would happen if Saul came to Keilah. Would the men of Keilah deliver David and his men over to his enemy King Saul? David wanted to know what would happen. So he asked the Lord.

God Told David What Would Happen: He Would Be Handed over to Saul

The Lord answered with a, “Yes.” If Saul came to destroy Keilah, the men of that city would not fight. They would hand over David and his men to King Saul. This is the fate that awaited David if Saul came to Keilah.

David Chose Not to Be Captured

Once David had that knowledge, he and his men escaped. This prevented him being taken captive by Saul. God, therefore told David about a potential event in the future that never happened. This shows that God’s knowledge extends to not only actual events that will occur, but also every possible event that could occur. This gives further testimony to the omniscience of God. God not only knows what actually will happen, He also knows what potentially would have happened had David remained.

David Did Not Change the Future

Some people mistakenly think that David changed the future by leaving Keilah. But this is not what the Scripture says. We do not find God saying that it was ordained that David by captured by Saul at Keilah. David did not change the future by leaving the city. God know what David’s response would be and that he and his men would leave before Saul arrived. Therefore, we do not find here an example of a human being changing the preordained future.

We find God continuing to protect David from Saul after he left the city of Keilah. The Bible says,

David now stayed in the strongholds of the wilderness and in the hill country of Ziph. Saul hunted him day after day, but God didn’t let Saul find him. (1 Samuel 23:14 NLT)

Consequently, a number of important truths about God’s knowledge are learned from this account of David, Saul, and Keilah.

Elisha and Jehoash

We have a similar instance with the prophet Elisha and King Jehoash. The Bible records the incident as follows.

When Elisha was in his last illness, King Jehoash of Israel visited him and wept over him. “My father! My father! The chariots and charioteers of Israel!” he cried. Elisha told him, “Get a bow and some arrows.” And the king did as he was told. Then Elisha told the king of Israel to put his hand on the bow, and Elisha laid his own hands on the king's hands. Then he commanded, “Open that eastern window,” and he opened it. Then he said, “Shoot!” So he did. Then Elisha proclaimed, “This is the LORD’s arrow, full of victory over Aram, for you will completely conquer the Arameans at Aphek. Now pick up the other arrows and strike them against the ground.” So the king picked them up and struck the ground three times. But the man of God was angry with him. “You should have struck the ground five or six times!” he exclaimed. “Then you would have beaten Aram until they were entirely destroyed. Now you will be victorious only three times.” (2 Kings 13:14-19 NLT)

There are a number of points to be made from this story.

Elisha Told Jehoash to Strike the Ground with Arrows to Represent Victory over His Enemies

God gave King Jehoash the opportunity to gain victory over his enemies. He simply had to strike the ground a number of times to represent the victories. Every time he would strike the ground, a victory would be achieved.

The Enemy Could Have Been Destroyed If the King Had Struck the Ground Five or Six Times

The prophet Elisha, speaking for God, told the King that he would have completely destroyed the enemy if he had struck the ground five or six times. Yet he did not do this.

Because He Only Struck the Ground Three Times, His Enemies Would Only Be Partially Destroyed

The king only struck the ground three times. The complete victory that he would have won over his enemies never did occur. Thus, we have another example of what the future might have been if only someone had acted differently. Yet, the future did not turn out that way.

Jesus and the Cities That Did Not Repent

We find in the ministry of Jesus an example of what would have happened to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Tyre and Sidon had they repented. The Gospel of Matthew records it as follows.

Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent: “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you. (Matthew 11:20-24 NKJV)

In this case, we have Jesus comparing the cities of Capernaum, Chorazin and Bethsaida to Sodom and Gomorrah and Tyre and Sidon. We learn the following.

These Ancient Cities Did Not See Jesus’ Miracles

These ancient cites did not see the miracles of Jesus as did the cities which existed around the Sea of Galilee. They had only limited knowledge of God.

The Would Have Repented Had They Seen Them

The cities in Jesus’ day were not ignorant. Indeed, they saw the great works that He performed. If the miracles that Jesus performed in these three cities around the Sea of Galilee would have been performed in the cities that were judged in the past, Tyre and Sidon and Sodom and Gomorrah, then these people would have repented. However, the miracles were not performed and they did not repent. This gives us an example of Jesus, God the Son, knowing what would have happened had these cities been visited by Him and His miraculous deeds. It is another example of God knowing all future possibilities as well as everything that will actually happen.

Conclusion: God Knows All Things That Could Possibly Happen

We conclude that the God of the Bible knows everything. This even includes things that did not happen but could have happened. Speaking of God’s knowledge, the psalmist said that it was too wonderful to comprehend! He wrote the following.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it. (Psalm 139:6 NRSV)

God know everything that will happen, as well as everything that may happen. He knows all. This is the testimony of Scripture.

Summary – Question 21
Does God Know Everything That Could Possibly Happen? (David and Saul, Elisha and Jehoash, Jesus and the Cities Which Did Not Repent)

From a reading of the Bible, we discover that the God of Scripture knows all things that will happen. Furthermore, He also knows all things that may potentially happen. Biblical examples of David and Saul, Elisha and King Jehoash, as well as the Lord Jesus Christ and the cities that did not repent, illustrate the truth of God’s knowledge of all potential events.

In one instance, the Lord told David that if he stayed in the city of Keilah the people of that city would hand him over to King Saul. David did not stay in Keilah, and Saul did not capture him. Thus a potential future event was avoided.

In another example, God through the prophet Elisha told Jehoash to strike the ground with all the arrows that he had. This would represent God striking out against the enemies of Jehoash. Yet Jehoash only struck the ground three times instead of five or six times. This meant only partial victory over his enemies would be achieved. Elisha told him that if he had struck the ground five or six times, then he would have had a complete victory. Again, the future did not occur as it might have taken place.

In His day, Jesus told certain cities which were around the Sea of Galilee that the ancient cities of Tyre, Sidon, Sodom and Gomorrah would have repented had they had seen Jesus’ miracles. He knew what would have happened if the miracles would have been performed in those cities of old.

In each of these three instances, God showed His knowledge of potential events. Although these events did not happen they would have happened had circumstances been different. This illustrates the truth that God knows everything that will happen, as well as everything that might happen.

What Should We Conclude about Certain Passages That Seem to Teach God's Limited Knowledge? ← Prior Section
Can Anything about God Change? Next Section →
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