Knowing God

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. Proverbs 9:10

Do you remember the lyrics from Game of Love, the popular oldies-but-goodies tune from the sixties? “It started long ago in the Garden of Eden, when Adam said to Eve, baby you’re for me?” That phrase wasn’t so far off the mark:

Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib, and he brought her to the man. “At last!” the man exclaimed. “This one is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh!
She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken from ‘man.’ ”
Genesis 2:22-23 NLT

Unfortunately, the first couple made the fateful decision to eat from the fruit of tree of the knowledge of good and evil, choosing to disobey God’s perfect plan for their lives in an effort to be more like Him; and it’s been all downhill from there as mankind has continued his quest to gain intellectual understanding about all that we encounter. We send our kids to the best schools and push them to study, study, and study some more. We work hard in our jobs to stay abreast of the latest developments so new technology won’t render us obsolete. We become obsessed with reading, studying, taking notes and memorizing facts about the things that are of most interest to us. To be honest, that’s not always a bad thing. After all, God did invent knowledge, and intellectual understanding can often be a good thing. Sadly though, the events in the Garden skewed God’s concept of righteous knowledge, spinning it out of balance from His perfect plan.

And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. Isaiah 11:2-3a

You see; wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge and the fear of the Lord are meant to work together in conjunction with the Spirit of the Lord. They are meant to complement each other; but all too often we place knowledge at the top, constantly seeking facts and figures as we try to extrapolate wisdom and understanding from the corrupted knowledge of the world.

We do this not only in our day-to-day roles at work, home or play, but also in our pursuit of God; which is not His perfect plan. Yes, He wants us to be knowledgeable about Him, but studying everything we can find and trying to pack our brains full of such knowledge isn’t the way we’re going to get it. By so doing, we fall into the same trap as Adam and Eve, seeking after the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We seem to think if we just absorb enough of this knowledge we’ll have all the answers, but that never happens and can easily get so caught up in the quest to figure God out that we never get around to experiencing Him. We miss the truth:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! Romans 11:33

Wanting to know God is admirable, and we should constantly seek Him out:

Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, who do his just commands; seek righteousness; seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of the Lord. Zephaniah 2:3

But if knowing Him isn’t the same thing as having an intellectual knowledge of Him, what are we to do? One morning, the Lord woke me up and gave me a quick overview of how to know Him intimately, and I remembered God’s promise in Isaiah 33:6:

… and he will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is Zion’s treasure.

It was very clear to me that it is His desire that we know him, and then I was shown five ways it will happen outside of our own pursuit of knowledge:

1) Hunger for God: Moses cried out, “Teach me your ways so I can know you.” This was after he’d been up Mt. Sinai the first time and had come back down to find the people in sin, worshipping a golden calf. God’s response to Moses’ plea was to place him in a protected place, in the cleft of a rock, as He passed by in the fullness of His glory. God called Moses His friend. Why? Because he was always hungry for more; he just couldn’t get enough of His Lord.

Consider the necessity of food to sustain life: As the body approaches death, it is a very normal thing for a person to lose all desire for food or water. In fact, they eventually lose the ability to swallow anything; and even if they did, their body could no longer process it. The need for food and water is evidence of life, and if we carry the analogy over into the spiritual realm, hunger for God is what keeps us alive spiritually; it’s what keeps us growing in our understanding or knowledge of Him.

2) Intimacy with God: Just as intimate relationships between people are developed through a process of building trust and communication over time, so are the intimacies of God revealed to us. In high school, teenage girls tell secrets to girlfriends they trust; sweethearts who are dating begin sharing secrets with one another; in a good marriage, husbands and wives are even more intimate, sharing not only their hearts and minds, but also their bodies. The manner in which relationships deepen as trust is gained reflects the manner in which we gain knowledge of God. The more time we spend with Him, the more He shares His mysteries with us.

How do we do that? Reading His Word is a start; but reading with a listening ear for the Spirit’s prompting that there is something special there for you; or perhaps reading until a particular verse just jumps off the page and burns itself into your heart. Then it will be clear that you’ve heard from the Lord; that He has imparted experiential knowledge.

Praying and worshipping are helpful practices, but simply waiting quietly for Him cannot be undervalued. Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10a) is not about just asking for things, but silently waiting on the Lord. Then, suddenly He speaks and you have a new understanding of something; or, you may actually hear his voice. You will have found knowledge through intimacy.

3) Experiential knowledge: God is gracious in that even when we aren’t willing to hungrily seek after Him, He shows himself in other ways and we experience His intervention on our behalf; we experience His hand, His power, at work in our lives.

Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. Exodus 6:6-7

Here, you shall know equates to experiential knowledge. How many times has God delivered each one of us from a difficult, seemingly hopeless situation? Perhaps it was financial or relational, or perhaps an illness that had no solution aside from God’s intervention. Such times, whether we recognized it or not, were opportunities to know Him better, to know His love, His power; to gain that elusive knowledge that cannot be found in books.

4) Observation: All we have to do is open our eyes – open our hearts – and observe God’s Hand at work in the lives of mankind to gain knowledge of Him. He’s not out of the miracle working business either, so watch and see what the Lord can do:

And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.”  Exodus 14:18

But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” Matthew 9:4-6

Well, some may say, that’s fine for the ancient Egyptians and the people of Jesus day, but when do we have the chance to observe such things? Scripture is clear that His works surround us daily:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. Romans 1:18-20

Did you notice that last sentence? So they are without excuse. When we stand before God, we will be left with zero justification for not knowing Him!!!

5) Judgment: All men everywhere will eventually have knowledge of the true and living God!  Surely this is not the way we would choose to came to know God:

And they will be loathsome in their own sight for the evils that they have committed, for all their abominations. And they shall know that I am the Lord. I have not said in vain that I would do this evil to them.” Ezekiel 6:9b-10

How much better to learn of Him now, and to experience all of God’s blessings that to gain experiential knowledge of His wrath once it’s too late:

For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 6:2 NLT

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him… Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 1 John 5:1, 10-12