The Conviction and Comfort of Coram Deo

Posted On October 23, 2018

In Luke 12:2-7, Jesus draws from the single truth of God’s omniscience two points of personal application: we ought to fear God, and we ought not to fear anything else. There is conviction in the realization that “nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known” (Luke 12:2). In fact, Jesus says, “I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!” (Luke 12:5).

Yet the same reality of God’s knowing every detail of our lives should also lead to great comfort when we submit to him and trust in him: “Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not…” (Luke 12:7).

Everywhere in the Bible, we are told that God is everywhere. Thus, we live our lives Coram Deo, an old Latin phrase that simply and strikingly means “before the face of God.”

The Conviction

There are countless examples in Scripture of the sobering nature of Coram Deo. Cain kills Abel and shrugs off responsibility for it, yet God says, “Your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground” (Genesis 4:10). David secretly sins with Bathsheba and against Uriah, but somehow Nathan points his prophetic finger at David and says, “You are the man” (2 Samuel 12:7). Hezekiah shows visiting dignitaries every corner of his treasuries and soon after Isaiah shows up to ask, “What have they seen in your house?” — clearly already knowing the answer, because Isaiah delivers the news that Babylonians will take everything Hezekiah showed them.

In the New Testament, the Pharisees try to trap Jesus with a question about paying taxes, and he replies, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me?” While Jesus is busy enduring a mock trial, Peter denies him three times; yet then Jesus turns and looks at him, and Peter immediately knows that Jesus knows what he’s done. And perhaps most striking, when Jesus forgives the sin of a paralytic man, the Pharisees in Mathew 9:3 “said to themselves” that Jesus was blaspheming; but then in verse 4, “Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, ‘Why do you think evil in your hearts?’”

Even better than example—because examples can be the exceptions rather than illustrating a rule without exceptions—is the simple principle in Scripture that God is aware of everything we do, say, and think. And that we will have to one day give an account before him for it!

It is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us will give an account of himself to God (Romans 14:11-12).

I wonder, how well do we reflect the reality of God’s ever-present, all-seeing eyes in the way we act and speak—and even think—each day? We are never truly alone, even in our thought life.

If we lived our lives Coram Deo, it would mean the bankrupting of the pornography industry, which thrives on secrecy. Netflix probably wouldn’t fair very well either. It would radically transform the content and tone of a high percentage of our conversations, at work and at home, throughout the week. And it would definitely revolutionize our prayer lives.

The Comfort

Amazingly and beautifully, the very same truth that brings incredible conviction also brings unspeakable comfort when we realize that God is using his very omniscience—of each of us individually, and of everything and everyone around us—for our good, as believers in Jesus Christ.

The reason Romans 8:28 is so reassuring, after all, is that we know “all things work together for good” precisely because God knows about (and has control over) all things.

I recently was reading to my children about the 16,000 creatures housed in the London Zoo. The zoo staff, we learned, weighs each and every creature—whether a spider or an elephant—once each year. This is an admirable feat of logistics, and it is impressive to see the intimacy of their knowledge regarding each animal under their care. Yet this is nothing compared to God’s intimate knowledge of you. Jesus informs us that God at every instant knows the number of the hairs on your head!

So, yes, it is a sobering thought that God is watching our every move, and listening in on our every conversation; but at the same time, this reality brings comfort beyond description because we know that God, who loves his people in Christ Jesus, knows us better than we know ourselves. The very omniscience that made our judgment inevitable without Christ makes our salvation sure in Christ.

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