Featured Items Ritchie Christian Media

Knowing God

W Ferguson, Antrim

Knowing1 God

It is interesting to notice in John 10 how the chapter develops around the statement, "I…know my sheep, and am known of mine" (v.14). This shows that the Shepherd acknowledges His ownership of His sheep with the responsibilities which that involves. At the same time it sets out the responsibilities and characteristics which are seen in the sheep as they acknowledge their role to obey, honour, and follow their shepherd. This mutual acknowledgement between the Lord and His own is seen in many passages in both Old and New Testaments. The theme is not just knowledge about, but also practical acknowledgement of, a relationship.

Exodus 5.2. Moses and Aaron have just told Pharaoh that Jehovah, the God whom Israel worships, commands him to let His people go. Our conventional rendering of "Jehovah" by the spelling LORD (in capitals) produces an odd feeling as Pharaoh seems to call the God whom Israel worships, "Jehovah". One thing seems clear: Pharaoh is not confessing that he does not know to whom Moses and Aaron are referring. He is not confessing ignorance. He is telling them that he does not acknowledge the authority which they are claiming for the God whom they worship. He is denying that Jehovah is the God of creation, the maker of the universe including Egypt, the only true God. In effect, when he says, "I know not Jehovah", he is saying, "I do not acknowledge Jehovah". There may be a parallel reference in Psalm 79.6: "Pour out thy wrath upon the heathen that have not known thee, and upon the kingdoms that have not called upon thy name". This may be a charge of not recognising the true God, rather than of being ignorant of His existence.

1 Chronicles 28.9. David is here giving an earnest charge to Solomon as he soberly declares him to be his heir to Israel’s throne. In this verse he charges him, "know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind". The context shows that the exhortation is a call to loyalty and worship towards the God of Solomon’s father. In other words, he is calling on Solomon to "acknowledge" his father’s God by bowing to His exclusive right to be worshipped. David has always remained unmistakably faithful to Jehovah as the one true God. He is calling upon Solomon to follow in his steps. Sadly, Solomon did not maintain as steadfast a path of worship as David’s. Nehemiah (Neh 13.26) refers to the fact that Solomon was caused to sin by the foreign women whom he married. In 1 Kings 11.4-11 the nature and extent of Solomon’s disloyalty to the Lord is specified. He went so far as to provide for the idolatrous practices of his wives. What is in view is not ignorance but a lack of practical acknowledgment of the unique rights of the one true God.

Psalm 9.10. David is celebrating here the faithfulness of Jehovah. His universal righteous rule is declared in v.8. His protection of those who trust Him is declared in vv.9-10. David calls these worshippers of Jehovah "they that know thy name". The context shows that it is not a matter of knowing about Jehovah or Jehovah’s name, it is recognition of His right to rule and His ability to defend His worshippers. "Knowing His name" is a condition which brings peace of mind, for he is able and willing to help: "he forgetteth not the cry of the humble" (v.12). In Psalm 36.10 "those who know the Lord" seem to be identified as "the upright in heart".

Isaiah 19.21. This part of Isaiah 19 prophesies a day when Egypt will be brought into divine blessing. Egyptians will worship Jehovah and depend on him to protect them. Verse 21 says, "The Lord shall make himself known to Egypt" (RV margin), and adds, "the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day, and shall do sacrifice and oblation; yea, they shall vow a vow unto the Lord and perform it". That they "shall know" the Lord blends smoothly into "shall do sacrifice". Knowing is here virtually equivalent to acknowledging by worship. By way of contrast with future blessing for repentant Egypt, it is instructive to look at the lament of Jeremiah for unrepentant Judah (Jer 9.3,6). The last clause in v.3 is rendered, "they do not take Me into account", by the Holman Standard translation. The sense is made more explicit in v.6: "they refuse to know Me".

Daniel 4.17,25,32. Nebuchadnezzar has had a disturbing dream about the cutting down of a mighty tree, "that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men". Daniel interprets the dream to show that Nebuchadnezzar is the great tree, to be humbled, "till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men". In both of these statements "to know" is virtually equivalent to "to acknowledge". So, when Nebuchadnezzar was humbled and later restored, he confessed (v.34) that "At the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the Most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion". This is a confession of his own limitation and an acknowledgment of the unique majesty of God.

Hosea 2.8,20. Hosea charges Israel in this passage with unfaithfulness to God, which he likens to that of a wife unfaithful to her husband. He says that the Lord will judge the nation until she says, "I will go and return to my first husband; for then was it better with me than now" (v.7). The Lord adds, "For she did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil" (v.8). This is virtually an indictment that the nation refused to acknowledge that she owed her prosperity to her Lord. The return of Israel to the Lord will climax in the statement in v.20: "and thou shalt know the Lord". Again, in v.23, "they shall say, Thou art my God". This is a matter of acknowledgment more than of mere knowledge.

Genesis 18.19. The Lord is about to act in judgment against Sodom. He knows that Abraham has a nephew in the city. He decides that He must tell Abraham of His intention to overthrow Sodom. His reason for this decision is that he has a special relationship with Abraham, described in the words of v.19: "For I have chosen him (literally "known him"), that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord" (ESV). The point at issue is the covenant relationship between the Lord and Abraham.

A Practical Challenge

We have seen that knowing God in the Old Testament sense is more than knowing about Him; it is a matter of acknowledging Him as God, almighty, eternal, to be revered, obeyed, worshipped, adored. This is very important to understand in so many contexts of the Old Testament.

An immediate implication of this knowledge is spelt out in Proverbs 3. Verse 6 reads: "In all thy ways acknowledge him (literally "know") him, and he shall direct thy paths". The first 10 verses of the chapter spell out the wide implications of this acknowledgment. They merit close study. Another example is in Isaiah 33.13 where the people "acknowledge" God’s might. The following verses emphasise how important such an acknowledgment is, for God is mighty, not only to deliver but also to destroy. Verses 13-17 make the dual application solemnly clear.

But there is another dimension of "knowledge" which is equally challenging - knowledge of ourselves. Again this is more than some kind of psychological analysis of ourselves. If acknowledging God involves bowing to acknowledge His character and accept His authority, knowledge of ourselves involves accepting as right what we know to be true of our own nature and character. Confession of sin to God is only possible when we have the self-knowledge of the kind exemplified by Paul when he writes, "…sinners; of whom I am chief" (1 Tim 1.15). When David prays, "Deliver me from blood guiltiness" (Ps 51.14) he shows that he knows himself in the sense of acknowledging what he has done and what his deeds tell about him. Jeremiah in chapter 3 exhorts Israel to return to God. Central to his message is the challenge, "acknowledge thine iniquity" (v.13). Confession to God implies acceptance of one’s guilt, self-knowledge through God’s Word to us. The confession of Israel in Jeremiah 14.20 is, "We acknowledge, O Lord, our wickedness, and the iniquity of our fathers: for we have sinned against thee". Confession to God includes identifying our sins and acknowledging that they are ours. It is not an accident that Jeremiah 14 ends with an acknowledgment of the might of God, for self-knowledge and God knowledge go closely together.


1 Strong 3045


Back issues are provided here as a free resource. To support production and to receive current editions of Believer's Magazine, please subscribe...

Print Edition

Digital Edition

Copyright © 2017 John Ritchie Ltd. Home