“The Very Hairs of Your Head
Are All Numbered”
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
In today’s Gospel Reading, Jesus says something that really blows our minds: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”
In theology we talk about the “attributes” of God, how the Bible describes what God is like. Three of the Biblical attributes of God start with the word “omni,” meaning all.
God is “omnipotent,” all-powerful. When the Virgin Mary asked the angel how she, a virgin, could conceive, the angel replied, “Nothing is impossible with God.” That’s why one of the names for God is the “Almighty.” We’re so used to that word, we might forget what it really means, literally “all-mighty,” having the might, the power, to do all things.
God is “omnipotent,” all-powerful; and God is “omnipresent,” present everywhere. As we read earlier in Psalm 139, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” The Lord says in Jeremiah, “‘Can anyone hide in secret places so that I can’t see him?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do not I fill heaven and earth?’ declares the Lord.”
In addition to being “omnipotent,” all-powerful, and “omnipresent,” present everywhere, the Bible tells us that God is “omniscient,” all-knowing. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”
There are nearly seven billion people in the world, and other than a few handsome exceptions, most of us are constantly growing and losing what is estimated to be an average of about 100,000 individual hairs on the head of a typical person. You will have a significantly different number of hairs on your head when you leave the church today than when you came in. Does Jesus really mean that God literally keeps track of every hair on every person? That blows our minds because it just doesn’t seem possible to us. And that’s the point. Jesus is using that mind-blowing example of God’s omniscience to bring home to us what is expressed in today’s Psalmody: “Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.” God truly is omniscient. “His understanding has no limit.” So, yes, Jesus really does mean it when he says, “And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”
The complete, unlimited omniscience of God is not only incomprehensible, it also makes us uncomfortable. Because that means God knows. As Moses says in Psalm 90, “You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.”
Your secrets may be secret from everyone else, but never from God. He knows. He knows your wicked deeds, he knows your wicked words, he knows even your wicked thoughts. As today’s Psalmody says, “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.”
That is the fearful aspect of God’s omniscience. He knows; he can’t be deceived. Before him we must all confess like David in Psalm 51, “I have sinned and done evil in your sight, so that you are right when you pass sentence, and justified when you judge.”
That’s what we all deserve because of our sins. But, in today’s Epistle Reading, Paul proclaims the Good News: “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Jesus’ whole life here on earth was really a rescue mission, for you. He was on a rescue mission when he came down from heaven and was made man, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary. He was on a rescue mission as he taught the crowds and proclaimed the Good News of his salvation. He was on a rescue mission as he suffered, was crucified, died, and was buried. He was on a rescue mission when on the third day he rose again from the dead.
“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” His life, death, and resurrection was a sacrificial offering, to pay for your sins and earn your salvation. Hebrews puts it this way: “He came to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. . . we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
You are holy in God’s sight, your sins are all forgiven, because of Jesus’ sacrifice for you. In today’s Old Testament Reading your loving heavenly Father gently reassures you: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. For I am the Lord your God . . . your Savior. . . Fear not, for I am with you.” Do not fear God’s omniscience. Yes, he knows all your sins. But, on account of Christ, he also forgives all your sins.
In today’s Gospel Reading, Jesus says that for those who trust in him for salvation, God’s omniscience is not fearful, but comforting. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” As the old Gospel song says, “He’s got the whole world in his hands . . . he’s got you and me, brother, in his hands.” Today’s Psalmody puts it this way: “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to pass.”
Paul says in Romans, “And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love him.” Like numbering the hairs on your head, God in his omniscient wisdom knows all about you and your life, and he is working all things together in your life, even negative things, somehow for your good. People often ask why things happen the way they do. We are not omniscient, but God is. Often we don’t know the reason why, but God always does, and he is always—somehow—lovingly working all things together for the good of those who love him. As the Lord promises in Jeremiah, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” It blows our minds to think that God has that kind of complete, unlimited omniscience. As Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, you know all things.”
For you and all who trust in Christ, God’s omniscience is not something to fear, but a comfort and a blessing. There’s an old saying that puts it this way: “I know not what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future.”Amen.