When David, king of Israel, was old and about to die, he began preparing his successor, Solomon, to become king of Israel. David gave him detailed instructions about how to build a magnificent temple for the Lord (1 Chronicles 28:10-13). Likely David also gave Solomon much advice about how to rule a nation of several million people. But the most important counsel David gave was this: “And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father” (1 Chronicles 28:9). This advice given by an aged king of Israel nearly three thousand years ago is still very important counsel.
A person begins to know the Lord when he repents of his sins and believes in Christ as his Lord and Savior. But truly knowing God goes far beyond this first step. Knowing God involves understanding His character. Knowing God means to love and serve Him. To know God is to walk in fellowship with Him; it speaks of a living relationship with a living God.
Those who truly know God are also known by God (John 10:14). In the Day of Judgment Christ will say to some who claim to know the Lord, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:23). This warning should compel us to make certain that we do indeed know the Lord, lest Christ say to us, “I never knew you.”
Many today know their friends or their jobs or sports or politics—but few know the Lord. Many simply do not care about knowing God. They would rather know the many vain pursuits of this world than know the Creator of the universe. God longs for us to know Him. For this purpose we were created. Knowing God is the only thing that will truly satisfy our souls.
1. Knowing God means to understand His character
“Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:23-24).
Many today do glory, or boast, in their own intelligence or cleverness. They may glory in their physical strength or in the power of a position they hold in society. They may glory in their large bank account or in the stuff their money has purchased. But because God knows that neither wit nor power nor wealth will ever meet our deepest needs, He commands us not to trust in them. Instead we are to glory in knowing our God.
Moses once prayed to God, “Shew me now thy way, that I may know thee” (Exodus 33:13). In response to this plea, God promised to reveal Himself to Moses. God took Moses and put him in the crevice of a rock. “And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, 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” (Exodus 34:6-7).
Moses learned to know the Lord better by this revelation of God’s character. Likewise, if we would know the Lord we must understand His character. As we look at Christ we see the Lord’s lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in action.
God is love. He is slow to anger and ready to forgive. He often withholds the judgment we deserve, and gives us blessings we do not deserve. God loved us enough that when we were sinners—outcasts in His sight—He sent His Son to rescue us from our hopeless state.
God’s great love is expressed by Christ’s great sufferings for us. Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Christ did just that—He gave His life for sinners. It was for sinners that Christ agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane, sweating great drops of blood. It was for our sins that Christ was flogged by cruel Roman soldiers. It was because of God’s great love for us that Christ was mocked by those soldiers as they placed a crown of thorns upon His head and with a rod drove the thorns deep into our Savior’s skull. For sinners, Christ was nailed to a cross (the cruelest form of Roman execution) and hung there, dying for six torturous hours.
Can we fathom how much God must love us to have willingly endured death by Roman crucifixion? The Apostle Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians was that they “may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge” (Ephesians 3:18-19). Christ’s love is so great that it passes knowledge! We can search to know God’s love our entire lives, but our human minds will never comprehend it all. May our prayer be, “Lord, help me to know the love of Christ.”
Sadly, many today have a corrupted understanding of God’s love. They think God’s love is a permissive and indulgent love, a love that allows them to live as they please. They continue in their sin thinking that God’s “love” will cause Him to overlook their greed, selfishness, and immorality. But God’s love does not give us liberty to indulge in sinful behavior, rather “the love of Christ constraineth us” (2 Corinthians 5:14). Christ’s love compels us to love Him, it urges us to obey Him, it excites us to live for Him. If we truly know God’s love we will not live in sinful pleasures, but in obedience to God’s will. God’s love compels us to love and serve Him, motivated not by brute force, but by amazing love.
God is the Judge of all the earth. As sovereign Judge, God alone decides what is right and what is wrong, who is guilty and who is innocent. God told Moses that He will by no means clear the guilty: those who sin will receive their just punishment. God is a holy God who hates sin. Psalm 7:11 says, “God is angry with the wicked every day.”
God is not angry in the same way men are usually angry. God’s anger is not uncontrolled rage; God does not storm about Heaven in a passion. God’s anger is a controlled and measured anger; it is a settled displeasure against sin; it is a verdict of “guilty” upon sinners and a just meting out of punishment upon them.
The Bible warns us that Judgment Day is coming for all of us—whether we are saved or unsaved (2 Corinthians 5:10-11; Revelation 20:11-12)! God will judge whether the things we have done here on earth were right or wrong. This fact ought to shake us awake! It ought to motivate us to live a life that is well-pleasing to God (see 2 Corinthians 5:11, 14). It ought to move us to go and persuade others to also live a life that is pleasing to God.
God is love. He is also holy. We must hold these two aspects of God’s character in balance. Some speak only of God’s love, failing to understand God’s hatred for sin. Others view God as a cruel taskmaster, always demanding more, never satisfied, ever ready to whack us with a stick if we fail. The Devil tries to push us to either extreme. God’s love is not without holiness, nor is His wrath without mercy. We must properly understand both the goodness and the severity of God (Romans 11:22).
In the death of Christ we not only see God’s love, but also God’s judgment against sin. God could not simply overlook sin—God’s justice had to be satisfied, judgment had to be meted out, blood had to be shed. In holiness God had to mete out judgment on our sin; but in love God provided a way for Someone else to bear our judgment. “Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many” (Hebrews 9:28). Christ bore the judgment, the wrath of a holy God against sin, that should have been ours—and we have gone free!
All that God does is right, and He commands us to also live rightly (Matthew 5:48). God told Abraham, “Walk before me, and be thou perfect” (Genesis 17:1). God requires the same thing of us, but not without giving us the power to do it. God exercises righteousness in the earth by making His followers righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21).
The Apostle Paul’s prayer for believers was that they might know “what is the exceeding greatness of his [God’s] power to usward who believe . . . which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead” (Ephesians 1:19-20). The power God gives believers is the same power that raised Christ from the grave. If God could give life to a dead man, how much more can He give us the power to live righteous lives!
Yet many Christians today live powerless lives. They complain that obeying the commands of the Bible is too hard. They say, “God expects too much. Obedience is too unpopular. Can’t we enjoy a little that the world has to offer?” They are unwilling to forsake their addictions to the pleasures of sin. They think Satan is an easier master than Christ. But Christ calls us to a life of self-denial, sacrificial service, and consecrated holiness. God gives us the power to live such a life and thus escape the bitter consequences of sin. God is in the business of making sinful human beings into righteous persons.
If we would truly know the Lord, we must understand His character as it is revealed to us in the Bible. Search the Scriptures, for therein you will find the character of the true and living God.
2. Knowing God means to obey Him
If we truly know God, we will love Him and delight to obey Him. In fact, disobedience to God’s commands is proof that one does not know God intimately, regardless of what that person may say. First John 2:4 says, “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar.” Those who refuse to forsake their sin do not truly know God, for Scripture says, “whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him” (1 John 3:6). Christ will say to those who claim to know Him, yet are living in sin, “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23).
Daniel 11:32 prophesied of a time when “the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.” One possible fulfillment of this prophecy could be the time when Antiochus Epiphanes became king over the land of Israel in 175 b.c. This wicked king desecrated the temple at Jerusalem, ordered everyone to sacrifice to false gods, and forbade them to obey the laws of the Lord. Many who did not know the Lord allied themselves with the king, willingly submitting to his decrees and adopting heathen practices.
But those who knew the Lord refused to make any treaty with wickedness. They continued to circumcise their children and refused to eat unclean animals, or to sacrifice to false gods. As a result of their obedience to God many fell “by the sword, and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil, many days” (Daniel 11:33). A ninety-year-old scribe, because he refused to eat pork, was sent to the torture wheel and died under the strokes of his persecutors (2 Maccabees 6). Seven brothers were brutally tortured and killed by fire because they refused to eat swine’s meat (2 Maccabees 7).
Judas Maccabeus gathered an army of men faithful to the Lord and did heroic acts. He fought against and defeated the armies of King Antiochus. He punished those who transgressed the Law. He purified the temple and restored the temple worship. When King Antiochus ordered Judea and Jerusalem destroyed, the faithful of Israel gathered at Mizpeh and fasted and prayed, beseeching the Lord to help them. In answer to prayer God gave Judas Maccabeus and his band of three thousand men, victory over an army of forty thousand soldiers and seven thousand horsemen (1 Maccabees 4). (While the books of the Maccabees are not a part of the inspired Word of God, they do have historical significance. Perhaps these were some of the people to whom the writer of Hebrews 11:35-38 was referring.)
As Daniel prophesied, the people that knew their God were strong and did heroic acts. Some stood strong in their obedience to God—and died for it. Others did exploits in the name of the Lord—and triumphantly defeated their enemies. Although today God’s people live under the Law of Christ and not under the Law of Moses (as did Judas Maccabeus), still it ought to be said, “Those that do know their God are strong and do exploits.”
If we truly know Christ, we will joyfully submit to His commandments (John 14:15; 1 John 5:3). We will stand strong, even if we are ridiculed and scorned, even if it costs money and possessions, even if we are tortured and killed. We will do exploits, fighting for the truth, not with a sword of steel, but with the sword of the Word of God, warring against the sin that so easily besets us, earnestly contending for the truth, and striving to rescue others from sin. Those who know their God will do these things.
3. Knowing God means to have fellowship with Him
Those who truly know their God not only understand His character and keep His commandments, but they also enjoy sweet fellowship with Him. As Jesus spoke to His disciples He often referred to God as “your Father.” Christ described God as the heavenly Father of His disciples who knows what we need before we ask, who cares even for the sparrows, and who knows the number of hairs on our heads (Matthew 6:8; 10:29-30). With great care, the Father watches over His children and lovingly chastens them when they go astray (Hebrews 12:6). Christ also called His disciples His friends and His brothers and sisters (John 15:14; Matthew 12:50). These terms describe the close fellowship the disciples of Christ have with God even today.
David, who admonished his son to know the Lord, was himself a man who knew the Lord. The psalms David wrote reveal the close fellowship he had with his God.
Because David understood that sin in his life broke his fellowship with God, whenever David sinned he confessed his sin and asked for cleansing (Psalm 66:18; 51:1-3). First John 1:6 says that if we claim to have fellowship with God but are living in sin, we are liars. In order to have fellowship with God, we must confess and forsake our sins.
David fellowshipped with God by spending time in prayer with Him. David said, “Pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us” (Psalm 62:8). David was open and honest about how he felt, telling God all his troubles and heartaches. David said, “I poured out my complaint before him; I shewed before him my trouble” (Psalm 142:2).
David’s prayers also contained praises to God. David prayed, “I will extol thee, my God, O king; and I will bless thy name for ever and ever” (Psalm 145:1).
David had a time set aside to pray to God. He said, “My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up” (Psalm 5:3). We ought also to have a time set aside each day to pray and fellowship with our God.
David communed with God by spending time in God’s Word. In Psalm 19, David extolled the benefits of God’s words and concluded, “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:10). We also commune with our God by reading the Bible, which is the Word of God. Because God does not change, whatever was true of God thousands of years ago, is still true of Him today. Through the Bible we learn to know our God better and better.
David walked with the Lord by meditating on God (Psalm 63:6). Psalm 1:2 says that the godly man meditates on God’s law day and night. We draw close to God by meditating upon Him, pondering His power to create the world, reflecting on the great love of Christ, contemplating God’s perfect holiness, ruminating upon His truths and promises, and considering the glorious eternity we will enter after death. Thoughts of God ought to occupy many moments when our minds are idle.
David also lived in unbroken fellowship with God by being continually aware of God’s presence (Psalm 139). David said, “I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved” (Psalm 16:8).
David expressed his earnest desire to know God when he said, “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land where no water is” (Psalm 63:1). The word early means “to be up early at any task.” At the dawning of the day David was up, seeking to know His God. David’s example encourages us to seek our God early every day. The phrase early will I seek thee also urges us to learn to know our God early in life, to build a friendship with God in our youth that will last until death brings us face to face with God. Above all, this phrase teaches us that striving to know God ought to be the first priority of our lives (Philippians 3:8-14).
Some readers know God and are striving to know Him better. Continue to thirst for God and you will be satisfied. Some readers may not truly know God as they should. Begin today to earnestly seek after your Creator, and you will find Him. Perhaps you do not know God at all. Repent of your sins, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and begin today to know a Savior Who will truly satisfy the needs and longings of your heart.