For many of us, ‘knowing God’ seems like an obscure pursuit. Or it simply doesn’t really feature on our radar. Because we figure, what’s the point when we can never know everything about God, plus He already knows everything about us?
If we’re honest, most days our interactions with God revolve around us – our needs, our requests, our complaints. To be sure, that isn’t necessarily wrong or inappropriate, seeing as He’s our Heavenly Father, and we relate to Him as His children.
But actually knowing God gives us so much more.
Knowing God makes believing and receiving from Him simple
When we talk about knowing God, we mean more than just knowing about God. It’s not just about what He does, His roles and titles, and what He said. More importantly, it’s about who He is to us, what He’s like, and what He says to us. It’s knowing Him personally and intimately, as you would a close friend.
God is love (1 John 4:8). He is also holy, righteous, and just. To the unsaved, He says: “I am the Creator and the Judge, I have made the way for you to return – come to Me, and I will give you rest.” To His children, He says: “I am your righteousness, your protector, provider, and deliverer. I am the Lord who fights for you, the guarantee of your hope and salvation.”
We touched on this in the last post, and we’ll say it again: It is when we know the One who has promised and provided, that believing and trusting Him becomes simple.
Because it’s hard to trust your life’s issues with and consistently depend on someone you don’t know very well. That’s just the way it is.
God knows that, of course. He made us in His image. God wants us to have and grow a relationship with Him not so we can serve Him, but so we will be able to receive all that He has already given us.
Knowing God personally ultimately is to our benefit, not so much His. No doubt the fellowship, worship, and serving will come too. But after, as an overflow, never an obligation. Just as He doesn’t love us because He has to, but simply out of the overflow of who He is – love.
Yet all the love that God is and lavishes upon us will have little effect if we don’t believe. Faith is how God’s kingdom operates. Without faith it’s impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). And without faith it’s impossible to receive anything we need from Him – salvation, healing, breakthroughs, anything. It doesn’t matter how hard we work or try. Only through believing can we receive from God.
Knowing God ourselves bridges this gap that so many of us tend to envision in our minds as an impassable abyss.
When we know God personally, we naturally start telling Him stuff (i.e. pray). We automatically seek Him out (read His Word) and rely on Him to help us when we ask – and sometimes, even when we don’t (faith). Receiving from Him becomes a matter of simple expectation, no longer a distant hope. And when we realise just how good and dependable He is, we unconsciously live our lives like Him (right living) and easily talk about Him to others (evangelise).
Knowing God causes us to love and end up doing more for Him
The description above sounds like any solid friendship. Because that’s what it basically is. And as friends, we tend to love, defend, and do things for the other.
Of course, this is a pretty unique friendship, considering that we can never out-love, out-protect, or out-do God, the perfect friend. Nonetheless, the more we know God and receive from Him, the more we will naturally respond and reciprocate.
Just like Abraham, who is named in the Bible more than once as a “friend of God” (2 Chronicles 20:7, Isaiah 41:8, James 2:23). Not a servant, not a follower, but a friend.
God favoured Abraham so much He cut a covenant with Abraham – only He put Abraham to sleep and signed it on both ends Himself, making it an infallible covenant. He never – publicly or privately – rebuked Abraham, even when Abraham didn’t exactly follow what He said, or when Abraham behaved badly and lied about his wife to save himself. God even let him in on His plans to destroy Sodom, the city of sin, and allowed Abraham to intercede and bargain with Him on behalf of the city.
Abraham went on to receive big time from God – protection, wealth, renewal of health and youth, the miracle child he always wanted. Ultimately, he worshipped God wholly and trusted God so much he was prepared to offer his miracle son as a sacrifice when God asked him to (as a test of his faith, since God was never going to take his son).
Then there’s David. Known as the slayer of the giant Goliath, and a “man after God’s own heart” (Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22). He was so devoted to finding a permanent place for the Ark of the Covenant (where God’s presence dwelt) that he did not rest until he brought it to God’s chosen site in Jerusalem. His psalms make up the longest book in the Bible.
But way before all of that, David spent seasons in the shepherds’ fields just being with the Lord. God was never just ‘God’ to David, but ‘the (covenant-keeping) Lord’. David knew the Lord was always with him, lovingly watching over and protecting him from all harm. He simply enjoyed His presence, writing and singing songs (psalms) to his beloved Lord.
When we know God well personally, at some point we’ll unconsciously go beyond just receiving, to doing great things for Him.
Knowing God begins with seeing His heart
Knowing God can seem confusing at first, as we may have certain preconceived ideas about Him based on what we’ve heard or assumed about Him, and this colours how we read the Bible.
So where do we start? By seeing His heart.
We already know that God is love. Grace and mercy follow close by, because He sent His Son to die our death and take the punishment we deserved.
David knew God’s heart well. He often focused his psalms on the lovingkindness and mercies of the Lord. He openly poured out his feelings to the Lord in his psalms, because he knew God was full of grace and mercy towards him. And that often gave him clarity and victory over his problems.
Of course, ultimately he too failed (incidentally, in the areas he didn’t open up to the Lord about – sex and parenting). He had an affair, got the husband killed, and mishandled a bad situation between his children which led to further tragedy.
But David knew God well enough to know God’s heart as being rich in mercy and grace. And that’s what he appealed to. Because David was under the Old Covenant of the law, his sins were punished – but always tempered by grace when David appealed to God’s heart.
In Abraham’s case, the point of change came before God cut the covenant with (and for) him. We read at the start of Genesis 15 that Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Abraham’s closeness and friendship with God began on a foundation of accepting His righteousness as his by faith, not by works.
Abraham experienced and enjoyed a covenant of grace, where his rightness and standing with God was never based on his own effort, but what God had given him as a gift. By the time God asked him to offer his son Isaac, Abraham had gone through enough with God to know God was always for him and would never fail him.
The foundation to knowing God: understanding grace and righteousness by faith
As we have seen, knowing God and growing in true intimacy with Him begins on the basis of understanding two things: grace, and righteousness by faith.
It’s important to note that even though both Abraham and David were examples from the Old Testament, they were under different covenants. Abraham’s was one of grace, unconditional to his performance. David’s was one of law, conditional to his obedience to the law. Hence David suffered punishment, whilst Abraham did not.
Nonetheless, David understood grace. That’s why he famously penned the words describing the blessedness of the man whose sins are forgiven, and to whom the Lord does not impute sin (Psalm 32:1-2, Romans 4:7-8).
Today, David’s wish is our reality. Through Jesus, we enter into the New Covenant of grace, bearing all the same promises and privileges Abraham enjoyed.
So knowing God no longer needs to be an obscure pursuit. Receiving from God no longer needs to seem always out of reach. For thanks to Jesus, we now have both the gift of righteousness by faith, and abundance of grace.
Because when you encounter Jesus, you encounter grace.