Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty in Theology, Living Education
Estimated Reading Time: 8 min., 54 sec.
Did you know that God observes everything on our blue-green gem of a planet floating in the blackness of space?
He sees it all – the good, the bad, the miraculous, the appalling, the beautiful, and the ugly. Many live as if He does not exist, or if He does, as though He is unobservant of the goings-on here below. This Digging Deeper highlights a proverb that demonstrates God’s observing eyes over this miracle planet of life that humankind is threatening to destroy.
The music world lost a singer/songwriter and guitarist last week whose career was vaulted by her recording of a song composed by Julie Gold entitled “From A Distance.” Nanci Griffith had a long musical career whose recordings transpired genres including folk and country music. Many people prefer her beautiful rendition of this song in which the words of the chorus are “God is watching us, God is watching us, God is watching us – from a distance.” The aspirational theme of the song imagines what the world could be if only humankind lived in peace and harmony with God, itself, and the natural world. Instead, it suffers from war, disease, deprivation, hatred, and chaos because of global sinfulness.
Our focus verse is: “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3 KJV throughout). Ger de Koning’s Commentary on the Whole Bible contrasts these two groups of people: “The evil people are both the great sinners and the friendly people who live decently, but none of them allow God into their lives. They are both those who openly sin and those who secretly sin. God wants them to become aware that He sees them, so that they may repent. The good people are in themselves also sinners, but they do good because they have acknowledged to be sinners. They live from a good relationship with God. That relationship has become good by their confession of sins and their faith in the forgiveness of those sins by God” (BibleTime 3.0.1).
His eyes run to and fro
We will consider a few parallel cross-references. Bible reference works, both printed and electronic, make it convenient to perform such side studies. One cross-reference is especially pertinent in the light of recent world events. This was spoken by God during the reign of King Asa of Judah: “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars. ” (2 Chronicles 16:9).
Proverbs has a good deal to say about God’s overview of humankind, as illustrated by The ESV Study Bible: “The eyes of the LORD is a major theme in Proverbs: the Lord knows the actions and hearts of all, so he is neither pleased with nor fooled by one who offers sacrifices while continuing in the way of wickedness (cf. vv. 8–9, 11, 26, 29)” (Tecarta Bible App). Some may think they can appease God by their “religious” activities like monetary gifts to charities, hoping God will overlook their habitual sinfulness. God is not so easily fooled.
The College Press Bible Study Textbook Series declares that God is a perfect witness when it asserts: “Since He beholds both the evil and the good, God is not human, for human beings tend to see only the evil of their enemies and critics and to by-pass the evil in their friends and close relatives” (e-Sword 13.). Our problem is that we cannot read people’s hearts (minds) like God can. This proverb explains how observant the Almighty is: “Hell and destruction are before the LORD: how much more then the hearts of the children of men”? (Proverbs 15:11 KJV). We cannot hide anything from Him.
Beholding with a loving eye
Sometimes parents inform misbehaving children that God is watching them. To a point, this may remind children of what is expected of them by God. On the other hand, parents need balance, as explained by the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 3: “Beholding. Better, ‘keeping watch.’ Sometimes children are given the impression that God watches them in order to find cause for blame; but our heavenly Father watches with the pitiful, loving eye of One who knows the frailty of our nature (see Hebrews 4:13; Psalm 33:13; 90:8; 103:13-14″ (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1977, p. 999). The cross-references from Psalms listed here are heart-warming: “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13-14).
The Hebrew word translated beholding has a colorful usage in the Old Testament, as explained by The Holman KJV Study Bible: “The Hebrew word for beholding or being vigilant implies that proper action will be taken with regard to what is observed. It is used of the capable wife who watches over her household (31:27), of the watchman in Ezekiel who is obligated to sound the alarm (Ezek. 33:6), and of God Himself who watches and judges the nations (Ps. 66:7)” (Tecarta Bible App). The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges adds further: “The word is commonly used of a watchman (1 Samuel 14:16; 2 Samuel 13:34;18:24), and calls up the figure of the Almighty observing, as it were, from His lofty watch-tower in heaven all the doings of the dwellers upon earth.” (e-Sword 13.0).
Seeing the good and evil
Proverbs 15:3 not only alarms the wicked but encourages the faithful, as explained by The NKJ Study Bible: “That the eyes of the LORD are in every place watching everything chills those who do evil and comforts those who submit to Him (see Ecclesiastes 12:14)” (Tecarta Bible App). The cross-reference verse they offer is pertinent to our study: “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14 KJV). Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible assures God’s people: “The wicked shall not go unpunished, nor the righteous unrewarded, for God has his eye upon both and knows their true character; this speaks as much comfort to saints as terror to sinners” (e-Sword 13.0).
Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible describes our focus verse’s instructional balance: “And if the consideration that his eye is in every place, have a tendency to appal those whose hearts are not right before him, and who seek for privacy, that they may commit iniquity; yet the other consideration, that his providence is everywhere, has a great tendency to encourage the upright, and all who may be in perilous or distressing circumstances” (e-Sword 13.).
God is extremely patient with human behavior, but there is a limit to His patience, as explained by Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers: “Beholding the evil and the good.—Waiting till the iniquity of the one is full (Genesis 15:16), watching to aid the other (Psalm 34:15,17)” (e-Sword 13.0). When some cross the line of no return in their evil, God will act – but within His overall plan. By contrast, the cross-references in this source from Psalms offer strong encouragement to God’s faithful people going through extreme troubles:
“The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.” (Psalm 34:15)
“The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.” (Psalm 34:17)
He sees and will act
Suffering people sometimes wonder if God truly sees what is happening here below. Joseph Parker’s The People’s Bible assures them: “Such words are at once a comfort and a terror. The universe would be but an infinite darkness were it not for the assurance that the eyes of the Lord watch every throbbing heart, every thought, every purpose, every action of the multitudinous life of men” (e-Sword 13.). God is watching and He will act on His own timetable. In the meantime, His people must continue to trust Him to rescue them.
God not only sees all, but He also knows our thoughts. Another cross-reference reminds us: “To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off” (Psalm 139:1-2). Joseph S. Exell’s The Preachers Complete Homiletical Commentary explains these verses: “God is the one potentate and judge who can claim a perfect knowledge of all His subjects from personal acquaintance with each individual. Not one is lost in the crowd; each one stands before Him as distinctly as if He were the only creature in the universe” (e-Sword 13.). Now that is personal attention!
The righteous may be assured that, though God bears long with them in their suffering while they continually cry unto Him (Luke 18:7), He will finally act and reward them accordingly. Daniel Whedon’s Commentary on the Old and New Testaments explains that God beholds the evil and the good in order: ” … as is implied, to judge accurately of their character and conduct, and to reward and punish accordingly. Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (e-Sword 13.0). The Bible reference this source just summarized was spoken by Abraham to God as He was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah: “That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25). God is fair and can be trusted to fairly punish the wicked and reward the righteous for the “eyes of the LORD are in every place…”
Kenneth Frank was born and raised in New Jersey, USA and attended Ambassador College, graduating in 1973. He served in the Canadian ministry from 1973-1999, after which he returned to the USA to pastor churches in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina for 15 years. Having earned a BA degree from Ambassador College he later earned a MA degree from Grand Canyon University before being assigned to the Charlotte office to teach at Living University, now Living Education. Currently, he teaches the Survey of the Bible course to the on-campus students and writes the Digging Deeper column for our online Bible study program. He is married, has four children, and seven grandchildren.