God is everywhere present, sees and knows all things
Prov 15:3/ Ps 139:7-10/ Job 34:22,21
God is not everywhere present, neither sees nor knows all things
Gen 11:5/ Gen 18:20,21/ Gen 3:8
1) What is the supposed contradiction and why is it believable?
Proverbs 15:3 says, “3The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch upon the evil and the good.”
Psalm 139:7-10 says, “7Where could I go from Your Spirit? Or where could I flee from Your presence? 8If I ascend up into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol (the place of the dead), behold, You are there. 9If I take the wings of the morning or dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10Even there shall Your hand lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.”
Job 34:21-22 says, “21For [God’s] eyes are upon the ways of a man, and He sees all his steps.22There is no darkness nor thick gloom where the evildoers may hide themselves.”
Genesis 11:5 says, “5And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built.”
Genesis 18:20-21 says, “20And the Lord said, Because the shriek [of the sins] of Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is exceedingly grievous, 21I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether [as vilely and wickedly] as is the cry of it which has come to Me; and if not, I will know.”
Genesis 3:8 says, “8And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”
It appears this contradiction is supposed to be implied. The words, at face value, never say God is not always present, or does not know all things. One could ask though, in reference to the verses in Genesis 11 & 18, why does God have to “come down to see” if He already knows and sees. Interesting enough, they did not include Genesis 3:9, “9But the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, Where are you?”
2) What is the truth in these verses and why do they NOT actually contradict each other?
I’m intrigued by Proverbs because honestly, I never paid much attention to it. I’m glad that today I am forced to look into the book more deeply. The history given in my study bible annotates that King Solomon spoke over 3,000 proverbs and most of them are contained in this book. Proverbs is not a story or a historical annotation, but rather “food for thought” on how to live a Godly life. It is said that the book of Proverbs touches upon all facets of human relationships. There is no context surrounding verse 15:3. It is a simple statement. In regards to “human relationships” I see it as the facet of life in our relationship with God: He is everywhere.
We have discussed the book of Psalms before: They are praise songs to God. A majority of them were written by King David and this is one of them. In understanding how the Psalms are written, we must look at the style of poetry or songwriting used in that time. One form is called “synthetic parallelism” meaning in a verse, the first line gives the idea the author is trying to get across and the following lines support that idea by expounding upon it with examples. It is as if the author makes a statement and then tries to explain it by creating metaphors to relate the idea to the audience. The reference in this instance actually cuts off 2 lines to the whole verse of the song. I added them so we can see the whole picture: Psalm 139: 7-12, “7Where could I go from Your Spirit? Or where could I flee from Your presence?8If I ascend up into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol (the place of the dead), behold, You are there.9If I take the wings of the morning or dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,10Even there shall Your hand lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.11If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me and the night shall be [the only] light about me,12Even the darkness hides nothing from You, but the night shines as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to You.” David introduces the idea that God’s presence is all encompassing. God is omnipresent. Personally, this makes sense. Who would want to follow a God that couldn’t be everywhere? Sometimes we try to think God isn’t everywhere, again putting humanistic qualities upon Him, “since we can’t be everywhere, surely He can’t.” This in essence negates his sovereignty since we try to lower His glory to our understanding. We talked about this before. Just because we close our eyes, it doesn’t mean the things around us go away, God included.
In the excerpt from Job, the few verses are part of a speech against Job. Elihu, who has listened to Job’s justification as to why God has allowed him to become turmoiled, is using an explanation of God’s justice and sovereignty to counter Job’s faith. He is comparing worldly views to the awesomeness of God. Let’s zoom out a little and see the tone of Elihu’s message here, “19[God] is not partial to princes, nor does He regard the rich more than the poor, for they all are the work of His hands.20In a moment they die; even at midnight the people are shaken and pass away, and the mighty are taken away by no [human] hand.21For [God’s] eyes are upon the ways of a man, and He sees all his steps. 22There is no darkness nor thick gloom where the evildoers may hide themselves.23[God] sets before man no appointed time, that he should appear before [Him] in judgment.” Skimming through Elihu’s argument is interesting, to say the least and it is quickly followed up by God’s response. It has made me more interested in this book and I look forward to studying it in the future. However, I do not want to detract from my current train of thought: analyzing this contradiction.
Now that we have looked into the reasons for the writers that said God is everywhere, let’s look at the passages that supposedly imply otherwise.
In exploring the story of the tower of Babel, we see there is more involved than just “God coming down from heaven” Genesis 11:1-8 tells us, “1AND THE whole earth was of one language and of one accent and mode of expression.2And as they journeyed eastward, they found a plain (valley) in the land of Shinar, and they settled and dwelt there.3And they said one to another, Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly. So they had brick for stone, and slime (bitumen) for mortar.4And they said, Come, let us build us a city and a tower whose top reaches into the sky, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered over the whole earth.5And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built.6And the Lord said, Behold, they are one people and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do, and now nothing they have imagined they can do will be impossible for them.7Come, let Us go down and there confound (mix up, confuse) their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.8So the Lord scattered them abroad from that place upon the face of the whole earth, and they gave up building the city.”
This is a story of man trying to elevate himself to be like God (interesting how we also see this in the references to Genesis, man trying to be “like God” by eating of the tree of knowledge). Remember what I was saying before about God’s sovereignty and that just because we refuse to see Him, that it doesn’t mean He is not there? This is an example of when God makes Himself known, despite the fact that man refuses to acknowledge Him. You see, by having a mind of selfishness and self righteousness, the men involved in the construction of the tower of Babel blinded themselves to God and His will, however God is not subjected to man’s desires. Man blinded himself to God, but God showed up anyway to fulfill His will. Let’s roll this into the story of Adam and Eve…
In Genesis Chapter 3, we cut in as Eve is talking to the serpent what God instructed them in regards to the tree of knowledge. The serpent is convincing Eve that God is afraid of what man is capable of, which is why He doesn’t want them to eat of the tree, “5For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing the difference between good and evil and blessing and calamity.6And when the woman saw that the tree was good (suitable, pleasant) for food and that it was delightful to look at, and a tree to be desired in order to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she gave some also to her husband, and he ate.7Then the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves apronlike girdles.8And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.9But the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, Where are you?10He said, I heard the sound of You [walking] in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.11And He said, Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?12And the man said, The woman whom You gave to be with me–she gave me [fruit] from the tree, and I ate.” I have read many lessons and heard many sermons based on this piece of scripture. The part I’d like to focus on now as a part of my analysis is this: notice the difference in the relationship between God and man once man disobeyed God’s will. Man was ashamed of himself and hid, turning away from God. This is what happens when we sin, we focus on our shame and guilt, turning away from God so we no longer see Him. Also notice Adam immediately made an excuse for his actions, blaming the woman for what he did and not taking immediate responsibility. God did not question Adam because He did not know what happened, rather as a test to give Adam the opportunity to take responsibility for his actions, just like when God asked Cain where Abel was (Genesis 4: 9-10). What is the purpose of all this? What is the purpose of the bible? To teach us. This is the point of the words in the bible.
The passage from Genesis 18 is of the same theme, God’s presence is not observed in Sodom and Gomorrah because they have denied recognizing Him and instead have turned to their own ways of living. He “goes down” to that city with fire and brimstone, a presence of God that is not quite easy to ignore, to say the least. Here, God is having a conversation with Abraham and God told him His plans for Sodom and Gomorrah. After His statement, Abraham pleads for mercy and the account of Lot, the two angels rescuing Lot’s family, his wife turning to a pillar of salt, and God being just and righteous to save those who are worthy, even if it is just one, would not exist. If God chose not to have this conversation with Abraham, it would not be recorded as yet another example of God’s mercy and righteousness. The fact that the count exists proves that He had a purpose for it…to be a part of the bible.
3) How can we use this to educate ourselves and others to further the Kingdom?
As we discussed before, God is seen and heard if we choose to see and hear Him. He will not compete for your attention. However, that does not mean that we have the power and strength to negate His existence. These signs of God showing up in places that are unfavorable to Him prove to us that His Will be done…regardless of what we do. While His presence is not always recognized by us, He is still there and will show Himself as He sees fit to carry out His will, whether it is to give us a reference to learn from, to show His awesome power in a display of greatness, or to speak through the silence which we have become accustomed to. Look at the “Damascus Experience” of the Apostle Paul. He was a “godly man” in every sense of the humanistic concept of the phrase. It wasn’t until Christ broke through his sins and spoke to His heart. God does this to all of us in our individual ways that He knows we will hear Him clearly. This is what happens when someone wakes up out of their sin and recognizes God’s will for their life. He “comes down” and delivers His will, His message to us in a way that we will understand and accept. For those of you that have experienced this, it is a story we are to share with others.