God is omniscient. Some say that means God can never be surprised. Is that true?
Last Reflections, we looked at “Does God Laugh?” At the end, I asked everyone to reflect upon the question “What is required to make people laugh?” In general, a person laughs when something is unexpected. After a joke becomes “old”, it loses its power to make you laugh. It becomes expected, so it isn’t funny any longer.
This can have a powerful effect. Certainly, M*A*S*H was a popular comedy for a long time. It went into reruns in syndication. I’ll admit that I watched some episodes multiple times. Why? Because the joke was so funny that watching it again triggers the memory of the event and causes anticipation of the upcoming joke. We choose to be surprised again and enjoy the moment and the memory of a moment simultaneously. However, it still loses its effect over time. Otherwise, we would be watching M*A*S*H reruns to this day.
So, how can an omniscient God be surprised in any way? Well, we have to keep in mind that God is also omnipotent. He can also choose to be surprised. He has the power to cause certain knowledge to be hidden or even forgotten. This is not a figurative expression. Otherwise, there is no forgiveness of sins.
As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.
~ Ps 103:12
Remember, O LORD, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses; for they have been ever of old.
Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness’ sake, O LORD.
~ Ps 25:6-7
I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.
~ Isa 43:25
For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.
~ Heb 8:12
It is worthwhile to remember that a perfect God can forget perfectly. Jesus was the perfect human, yet He did not know the day or hour of His return.
God tested Abraham. What did He say after the test?
And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.
And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.
~ Ge 22:11-12
The word for “know” here is “yada’”, and one of its definitions is to know by experience. Why would God choose to “know” in this way? Well, it says in the beginning of the passage:
And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.
“Tempt”, of course, means “to test, try”. Have you ever considered that we are all tested and tried so God can know us better? King David asked to be tried and for God to know his heart (Ps 26:2; Ps 139:23).
I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.
~ Jer 17:10
God chooses to know us in an intimate and experiential manner. Why? Well, when you consider the rebellion of Lucifer, is it that surprising?
Back to the point, God can “know” things many ways. He may choose one way of knowing over another, but He also has the ability to put things out of His mind. He can ignore certain knowledge. He can be surprised, as He can choose to be surprised.