Knowing God, chapter 3: Knowing and being known

Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3)

This is what the LORD says:
“Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom
or the strong man boast of his strength
or the rich man boast of his riches,

but let him who boasts boast about this:
that he understands and knows me,  (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings. (Hosea 6:6)

The main reason we are here for is to know God. What sort of activity, or event, is it that can properly be described as ‘knowing God’?

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Knowing God is more complex than knowing a fellow man in the same way that knowing my neighbour is more complex than knowing a house. A person who says, “I know this horse,” normally means that they know how it behaves and how it should be handled. Human beings, unlike horses, cover up and don’t show all that’s in their hearts. Thus, the quality and extent of knowing a person depends more on them than on us.

Imagine that you’re to be introduced to someone you feel is ‘above’ you (Barack Obama, the Queen, Steve Jobs…). The more conscious we are of our inferiority, the more we shall let them take the initiative in the conversation. If they confine themselves to pleasant formalities, we may be disappointed, but having no claims to friendship we cannot complain. If however, we are taken aside and engaged in a private conversation in which we’re invited to participate in future undertakings, we shall feel greatly privileged!

This is an illustration of what it means to know God. He comes to us, speaks to us and takes us on as His fellow-workers (1 Cor 3:9). Therefore, knowing God involves first, listening to His word and receiving it and applying it to oneself; second, taking note of God’s nature and character as revealed in His word and works; third, accepting His invitation, doing His commands; fourth, recognising and rejoicing in the love He’s shown in drawing us into fellowship with Him.

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The pictures the Bible uses are of a son knowing his father, a wife knowing her husband, a subject knowing his king and a sheep knowing its shepherd. In all these, the knower looks up to the one known, and the latter takes responsibility for the welfare of the former.

The Bible also adds that we know God through knowing Christ (John 14:9, 6). To know Jesus Christ means to be saved from sin, guilt and death.

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In light of what it means to “know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent”, we have the following points:

  1. Knowing God is a matter of personal dealing—dealing with Him as He opens up to you and being dealt with as He takes knowledge of you
  2. Knowing God is a matter of personal involvement in mind, will and feeling. Part of involving our feelings comprises rejoicing when God is honoured and vindicated and being distressed when God is flouted. Examples include Barnabas in Acts 11:23 and the psalmist in Ps 119:136.
  3. Knowing God is a matter of grace. The initiative throughout is with God. Gal 4:9—the Galatians’ knowing God was a consequence of God’s taking knowledge of them. See also  Ex 33:17, Jer 1:5, John 10:14, 27.

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In conclusion, what matters is not that I know God, but that He knows me.

“There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion him about me… and quench His determination to bless me. There is, certainly, great cause for humility in the thought that He sees all the twisted things about me that my fellow-men do not see (and am I glad!), and that He sees more corruption in me than that which I see in myself… There is, however, equally great incentive to worship and love God in the thought of that, for some unfathomable reason, He wants me as His friend, and has given His Son to die for me in order to realise this purpose. ”