It was our Lord who said, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent (John 17:3). His statement underlines the crucial importance of us ‘knowing God’. But can we know God, the Creator, the Holy One, immortal, invisible, eternal, dwelling in unapproachable light? It is true we cannot be familiar with Him, as we might be with fellow humans, but it is clear, too, that He would have us address Him as “Our Father which art in heaven”. He would have us draw near to Him and learn about Him as a human father would his children. Remember too that Abraham “was called the Friend of God” (Jas 2:23), and with Moses God said He would “speak mouth to mouth, even apparently” (Num 12:8), “as a man speaketh unto his friend” (Exod 33:11). Sometimes we feel so remote from such a relationship even though we can pray to the Father in the name of His beloved Son at His right hand.

Moses’ experience

Moses, “the servant” of God, had close dealings with Yahweh like few others. At the burning bush in Sinai the angel spoke to him, commissioned him to deliver His people Israel and revealed to him His Name (Exod 3). Yahweh’s great love of Moses can be seen from the words Moses used to appeal to Him on behalf of wayward Israel; he wanted to know whom God would “send with” him (Exod 33:12), and strengthened his plea by repeating the words God had spoken to him: “Yet thou hast said, I know thee by name, and thou hast also found grace in my sight.” These words show God’s esteem for Moses; He knew Moses by name.

But at this dramatic time Moses felt that he did not ‘know God’: the apostasy at the foot of Sinai had provoked God and the survival of the nation hung on Moses’ intercession (Exod 32:9–14). He therefore besought God to show him His way, “that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight” (Exod 33:13); and this led to the proclamation of the name of Yahweh, His glorious character, “merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty …” (Exod 34:6–7).

Significantly, following this revelation, Moses made haste, bowed his head toward the earth, worshipped and used these very words to implore God to forgive His people (v8–9). What does this mean for us? It reveals to us the character, the “way” of our loving heavenly Father and it inspires us with hope.

Josiah, Jehoiakim and the sons of Eli

An arresting statement is found in 1 Samuel 2:12, “Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not Yahweh”; yet they ministered on His behalf in the tabernacle. Obviously they knew of Yahweh, but did not know His Name, His ways, His character. So it could be said that they knew Him not. They are contrasted with Samuel, who let none of Yahweh’s “words fall to the ground”. Yahweh revealed Himself to Samuel in Shiloh (1 Sam 3:19,21).

Jehoiakim, prince of Judah, son of Josiah, was rebuked by Jeremiah for his indifference to the plight of his people and his extravagance in a troublous time: “Shalt thou reign, because thou closest thyself in cedar? did not thy father eat and drink, and do judgment and justice, and then it was well with him? He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well with him: was not this to know me? saith the Lord” (Jer 22:15–16). Here we learn that Yahweh observes the ways of His servants and those who keep His ways know Him and He them.

Earlier Jeremiah speaking the Word of Yahweh discounts what men esteem when he cautions against boasting in wisdom (worldly), might and riches.

Then he reveals what men can truly boast and glory in: “that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am Yahweh which exercise loving kindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight” (Jer 9:23–24; 1 Cor 1:31). I wonder how often we appreciate how great a privilege it is to know God and His Son. It transcends everything else. Do we value this privilege?

“You only have I known”

These were words spoken to Israel (Amos 3:2). They emphasize the honour that this nation alone enjoyed (Jer 13:11; Exod 19:5–6). But with privilege comes responsibility, and if what is properly expected is not forthcoming then punishment will follow. Tragically this was the case with the apostate ten tribes and so Amos announced, “therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” The reverse also is true, for in the justice of God those who love and serve Him will be blessed.

The Psalmist understood Israel’s special relationship to God: “He sheweth his word unto Jacob … He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them (Psa 147:19–20); and also, “He also exalteth the horn of his people … even of the children of Israel, a people near unto him” (Psa 148:14). Fickle human nature finds constancy before God hard to maintain. There are many distractions today and, if given place in our lives, they will soon dilute our appreciation of privilege.

“Ye have known God, or rather are known of God”

These words were spoken by the Apostle Paul to the Galatians (4:9) to make them contemplate the privilege of their calling (4:4). It is an interesting statement. What is the greater fact, that we should know God or that God should know us? Clearly the latter, and that is made clear by Paul’s inclusion of the word “rather”. It is humbling to think that the God of heaven actually knows us, those whom He has called to His Kingdom and glory. All the subjects of a kingdom know the king, but how many does the king know personally? Very few. Well, this illustrates the privilege.

The Psalmist reminds us that God “knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish” (1:6). He identifies with them because they have espoused His ways and ‘identified’ with Him. This is implicit in this psalm for there we read that “his delight is in the law of Yahweh; and in his law doth he meditate day and night” (v2). God knows our thoughts, our hearts, what our affections turn to and find joy in.

Some of the most terrifying words in the whole of Scripture are found in Matthew 7:21–23; some at the judgment will vainly protest and claim to have known and served the Judge, only to be dismissed with the words, “I never knew you: depart from me ye that work iniquity.” They are sobering words and we need to take stock of our motives today so that we never hear these words.

“They shall all know me”

There is another dire consequence of not ‘knowing God’ for the inhabitants of the earth. They have largely and wilfully rejected the compelling evidence of His existence, to be found in creation and also in the gospel records of His Son; so they are “without excuse” (Rom 1:18–20; 2 Pet 3:5–7). The just judgments of the Almighty shall be poured out upon them, for we read that “the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess 1:7–8).

This awesome demonstration of power will ‘instruct’ all flesh, with the result that Yahweh will be known in the eyes of many nations; “they shall know that I am Yahweh” (Ezek 38:19–23). This is the theme, the constant refrain through Ezekiel’s prophecy.

With the humbling of human pride man will be disposed to learn of God and His Son, the King enthroned in Jerusalem: “Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of Yahweh … and he will teach us of his ways …” (Isa 2:3; Zech 8:22–23). Ignorance of Him will be no more, so much so that Jeremiah tells us that in the Kingdom “they shall teach no more every man his neighbour and every man his brother, saying, Know ye the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord” (Jer 31:34); until finally “the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Hab 2:14; Zech 14:9; Matt 6:10).

“I have manifested thy name”

The disciples who followed the Son of God in the days of his flesh had the clearest revelation of what God was like: he was “the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person” (Heb 1:3). Unlike the prophets Jesus did not have to say, “Thus saith the Lord”, for all his words were God’s, the Spirit having been given him without measure (John 3:34). He did his Father’s will always; his mighty works demonstrated His power; his teaching, His principles and wisdom. The glory of God shined forth in the face of Jesus Christ. So evident a fact was this to the apostle Jesus loved that he could say that “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotton of the Father) full of grace and truth”(John 1:14); and he adds that though no man has seen God at any time, God can be understood and known by considering His Son: “the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him”(v18, rsv ‘made him known’; roth, ‘interpreted’; Grk exegesis).

With these thoughts we come to the crux of the matter: how well do we know God? We have seen how important it is for us to come to know God and that He has graciously called us to Him by Jesus Christ. Through him the Father can be known. He speaks of his disciples as “those whom thou hast given me” (John 17:6,9,11,12,24). So each of us has been “given” by the Father to the Son, so that we might know the Father and be part of His eternal purpose. This is truly an inestimable privilege. May He help us to be worthy of it.