Understanding and Knowing God

Posted under The Rectory Bulletin

Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” Jeremiah 9:23–24.

You will recall that yesterday I pointed you to you Bible, and spoke of the difference between knowing God and knowing about God. I suppose you could say that I was trying to draw a distinction between thinking about God as a concept, and relating to God as a person.

Ah, one might object, but how can we relate to God? After all, if God is infinite how can we as finite creatures know anything about him? Surely that’s as ridiculous as expecting a goldfish to carry out psychoanalysis on the owner who sprinkles flakes of fish food into the bowl!

In one sense, I would tend to agree. We must beware of simply making God a bigger version of ourselves at our best. God is other, which is why we have to allow him to disclose himself to us. This is why it is important to allow the scriptures to speak for themselves, and not filter them through whatever views our wider society holds.

However, as the verses from Jeremiah demonstrate, we should not simply push God so far above the heavens that we despair of knowing anything about him. As the LORD says: “let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me”. Knowledge of God is possible, and something we can strive towards. The gulf between the Christian and God is not so vast that it cannot be bridged. The all powerful God does, after all, have the power to communicate to us.

The key is to seek God humbly. To allow him to speak on his own terms. That is something worth more than human riches, strength or wisdom. That is something eternal.

“I know whom I have believed”

“But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.” (2 Timothy 1:12) - Over the years I have from time to time leant over the pulpit and urged you to go home and pick up your Bible. And then read it. Once more I urge you: pick up and read! To read the Bible is to come face to face with God. And then draw strength from what you discover. It is to be able to say that you know God, and not simply know about God. That is why I urge you to look to your Bibles.

The Westminster Assembly

“Consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD.” (Joel 1:14) - On 15th October 1642 Parliament passed a bill which called for a gathering of “divines” in London to revise the Thirty-Nine Articles, which stand as the statement of faith for the Church of England. These divines were to be people who were learned in the faith, and among their number were theologians, bishops and ministers of other denominations.

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