Knowing about God
Just as a person in love wants to discover everything they can about their beloved, we too desire to learn all we can about the One who has so thoroughly captured our hearts. Now that Jesus has “introduced” Himself to us through our faith-conversion, we know that we are on very solid ground in seeking to gain true knowledge of God through the pages of scripture. The Living Word will help us understand His Written Word to us. As good as that is it is only one of the ways...
Truly, you are a God who hides yourself, O God of Israel, the Savior. Isaiah 45:15 ESV
You will seek me and find me. When you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you, declares the Lord. Jeremiah 29:13-14 ESV
A Divine Game of Hide and Seek
Is God playing hide and seek with us? Why so much mystery? Why the screen of invisibility? Why do we have to search and dig for truth? Doesn’t it seem at times that life would be so much better if God would just show up make a few things plain as day? In point of fact He has shown up and wasn’t shy about giving His opinion when He did. Because God came to live with us in the Person of Jesus Christ, we now have a rock-solid starting point in our quest to know more about God. Don’t think that just because you know Jesus, the game of hide and seek is over. No, my friend it is now beginning in earnest. Ready or not, Jesus, here we come!
Imagine life as a gigantic board game, Jesus as the starting point, you as the player, and true knowledge of God as the hidden prize, scattered all along the way. True knowledge about God always leads to greater intimacy with Him and (as we are discovering) there is no greater joy than being in His presence. What an incentive!
There are five main ways that you can gain true knowledge of God. God has hidden these all over the board. Let’s say that He did this so that those who don’t want to play the game won’t be bothered and pestered by bumping into Him every time they take a step. He also did it so that you and I could experience the joy of discovery. What are these five main ways of gaining true knowledge about God? In order of authority they are Jesus Himself, the Bible, all of Creation, human History and You (don’t skip ahead to that one, it is the least dependable!).
I. Knowing About God through Jesus
The first principle for understanding what the Bible has to say about God on any of its pages is Jesus. He is the Beginning and the End of our journey in this as in everything else. Just as intimately knowing God can only happen through a faith relationship with Jesus, so too, knowing true things about God and God’s ways primarily comes to us through Jesus. Consider these qualifications possessed by our glorious Lord:
Jesus' words give us His definitive interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures.
Jesus believed that many things in the Hebrew Scriptures spoke about Him.
Jesus’ life is a living display of God’s Word.
Jesus’ life is a living display of God.
Jesus is the Eternal Word of God.
Everyone on earth has an opinion about God. Jesus is the only person whose opinion is absolutely correct in every respect. Who He is, what He says and what He did are the final words on any question about the nature of God. He told us many times in the gospels that everything He did and said was at the direct leading of His Father in heaven. No one has ever revealed the invisible God so completely or so perfectly and no one else ever could, for He Himself is fully God. It takes One to truly know One.
No man has ever seen God at any time; the only unique Son, or the only begotten God, Who is in the bosom [in the intimate presence] of the Father, He has declared Him [He has revealed Him and brought Him out where He can be seen; He has interpreted Him and He has made Him known]. John 1:18 AMP
The statement is often made that all religions of the world must be compared to what the Bible says about God and in particular what it says about Jesus. This is true, but it doesn’t go far enough. Even what the Bible seems to say about God and Jesus, must be compared to what Jesus says in the Bible and how He lived. Jesus is the central principle of our efforts to interpret and understand what the Bible is trying to say to us. Without Him at the center we risk being as mistaken as the Pharisees and the Sadducees. They honestly thought they knew a lot about God based on their understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures, but they missed it by a mile.
And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. John 5:37-40 ESV
II. Knowing about God through the Bible
Both testaments of scripture make up the fullness of God’s written Word. He has not stopped speaking, but He has (apparently) stopped writing scripture. This is important for it means that everything that the Lord wanted to say to us in written form has already been recorded. We can, therefore, be absolutely confident that the Bible contains everything necessary for putting us on track with God and for overseeing our growth in a true knowledge of Him. Nothing needs to be added to or taken away from the scriptures we have been given.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV
The Bible is our ultimate authority in the absence of Jesus’ magisterial Presence. How His Return will affect our relationship to His Word is hidden beyond the veil of time. God’s Word will never “pass away,” but its unique place in our life will likely change when faith becomes sight and everything now hidden is finally revealed. We won’t be looking something up in scripture, if Jesus happens to be standing beside us! We won’t be trying to chart the events of the End Times once we have passed through them. So things will be different then, but how different?
This much is certain: until the King arrives in Person, His written Word is the final Word on any subject. For now even our personal faith-knowledge of Jesus must be placed under submission to His written Word. Whatever we may think that we know about God, Jesus or anything else must pass the test of scripture: does it conform to what God has written? The Living Word will never contradict His written Word. Not so the devil. We can be sure that the deceiver will be continually trying to throw us off track. God’s Word, however, is so true and so important that the Lord even place it above His incomparable Name.
Because the Bible is so vital to our knowledge of God, the question of interpretation naturally rises. Do we have what was originally written down? Is it being accurately translated? Are we able to understand it as God would desire? While we don’t have any of the original documents straight from the hands of the Biblical authors, we do have the most highly attested manuscript evidence of any writing coming out of antiquity—hands down. We also have a wealth of translations to choose from and compare, not to mention whole libraries of commentaries. Just remember that the translation preferred by heaven is French. It’s the R.S.V.P.—r(épondez) s('il) v(ous) p(laît), or please reply!
“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him." John 14:21 ESV
III. Knowing about God through Creation
What a shame it is that so many of the people who peer most devotedly into the mysteries and beauties of creation take as their starting point a world view that excludes the Creator. What joy, what wonder, what gratitude is lost to those poor benighted scientists who see only nature, while turning a blind eye to nature’s God. Prior to Darwin’s Origin of Species the vast majority of the world’s scientists were Christians, Darwin included. Now that has flipped. Though this is undoubtedly a personal tragedy for scientists captured by atheism, it demonstrates a widespread spiritual disease: putting creation above its Creator, the essence of idolatry.
Think of creation, just for a moment, as a pair of glasses. It is much more than that, but it is also precisely that. From the vast reaches of interstellar space to the tiniest particles of subatomic matter all of creation is designed as a pair of glasses, a set of lenses through which we can peer into the Mind of the Maker. Just as every work of art bears the stamp of its artificer, so creation reveals the One whose Hands formed it out of nothing. Odd, don’t you think, that so many are studying the glasses, never realizing that we are meant to put them on and gaze upon Someone who is already looking into us?
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows and proclaims His handiwork. Day after day pours forth speech, and night after night shows forth knowledge. There is no speech nor spoken word [from the stars]; their voice is not heard. Yet their voice [in evidence] goes out through all the earth, their sayings to the end of the world. Psalms 19:1-4 AMP
The Lord apparently expects that we will “see” Him through His creation and that this is meant to give us accurate information to add to our knowledge of God. From His point of view we are “without excuse” if we fail to read the visible evidence He has given us in the way that He intended. We are not nearly so much “in the dark” as atheists and agnostics would have us believe. Such arguments may seem reasonable to those who don’t want to look beyond the veil of time and space, but the truth is quite different.
For that which is known about God is evident to them and made plain in their inner consciousness, because God [Himself] has shown it to them. For ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature and attributes, that is, His eternal power and divinity, have been made intelligible and clearly discernible in and through the things that have been made (His handiworks). So [men] are without excuse [altogether without any defense or justification]. Romans 1:19-20 AMP
Even so, all this talk of science and study is sliding past the point: the highest response to the glory that the heavens “declare” isn’t an equation, it is joy filled with wonder. Gazing upon the sheer beauty and serenity that so much of the natural world evokes lifts all of us heavenward, even if we don’t believe that there is a heaven beyond what our eyes see. Oh, but how much higher it carries us when we do!
Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861), from “Aurora Leigh”
IV. Knowing about God through History
Seeing the Lord’s Hand in history is, admittedly, a bit murkier than looking through the clear lens of the natural order. That’s because our history, practically from the beginning, doesn’t speak nearly so loudly about creation as it does the fall. Down through the ages comes the oft-repeated doom of our inhumanity to ourselves, as well as the curse of catastrophes not directly traceable to our depravity. Where do you find God in that? With the help of “training glasses”!
Rather than jump into secular history first, we school ourselves to see the Lord’s Hand at work in the redemption of our story that He initiates and which the Bible illuminates. The term for this is salvation history. Jesus is not only earth’s Creator (seen through nature), He is the world’s Redeemer (seen through history). For this reason our history is rightly called His-story for without His Hand upon the process, the world’s history would be unrelieved darkness, spiraling into oblivion. As it is there are many points of light where His redemption breaks through, enlightening, ordering and relieving the chaos we continually create.
The most notable events of salvation history are the calling of Abraham, the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, the conquest of the Land, the Exile and return from Babylon, the life and ministry of Jesus, and the spread of the Early Church. These and the many other events recorded in scripture show us how God works in history. By them we can learn to look for signs of His hand in secular, or non-biblical history, as well as in our own individual stories.
Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. The Lord has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations. Psalms 98:1-2 ESV
We learn, for instance, that God sets his favor upon certain individuals and nations, but that doesn’t mean He lets them get away with murder. Over the Topsy-turvy course of its history Israel was both highly favored and severely punished. There is always a higher expectation and a corresponding discipline placed upon those whom God has favored: The rich are expected to be charitable; the strong are expected to protect the weak. If not, the favor of their position is removed. In terms of justice He doesn’t “play favorites” at all. He is the active judge of the nations as well as individuals, interceding for the oppressed and opposing the obstinate.
The nations have sunk in the pit that they made; in the net that they hid their own foot has been caught. The Lord has made himself known; he has executed judgment; the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands. Psalms 9:15-16 ESV
Frederick Dennison Maurice, an Anglican priest and theologian in Victorian times, once commented that the absence of any abiding kingdom on earth, far from making him disbelieve in God’s hand in history was in fact its surest proof: God is always at work taking down every reign of fallen humanity that does not live up to its high calling of doing justice. However, the Lord doesn't only take down, He also raises up. Interestingly, the Bible shows us that God “raises up” individuals and nations to accomplish His purposes without always telling them what He is doing or even letting them know who it is that is using them. Cyrus, the Persian king, had no idea that He was directly serving the mercy of Israel’s God, rather than his own; nor did Pharaoh suspect that his own hardness of heart was playing perfectly into God’s plans for Israel. By this we can see that even if we can’t see how God may be using our nation or ourselves, He very likely is. Seek Him for eyes to see as well as ears to hear. You just may be surprised and delighted by what He shows you.
V. Knowing about God through Our Lives
You are the living experiment. You get to put “to the test” everything you are learning about God. We are never to put God to the test by making demands or trying to force His Hand, but we are invited to put to the test things that He tells us about Himself. In fact there is no better way to really get to know God that to step out in faith in response to something You believe He is telling you to do or showing your about Himself, and then find out in the process how He works, how merciful He is and how faithful He is. As you can see, this leads very nicely into knowing Him better in an intimate and relational way. But it also reinforces all of the “objective” things that we are learning about Him in His Word. What are you waiting for? Set up you next experiment in trusting and obeying God by asking Him to lead you step by step through this day and right on into your destiny. You are certain to learn many great things about Him along the way!
More to Explore
Mysterious Other: Non-Transferable Attributes In saying “Let Us make man in our image,” our God didn’t mean that we would be like Him in every respect. Father knows better than to turn over to the likes of us, these 7 characteristics of absolute deity. We will never know what these are like, but it is such a great, good thing that He does! Let your appreciation for the Lord soar as you gaze upon the Most High God.
Intimate Friend: Transferable Divine Nature The funny thing is how we are so bent on trying to be like God when it comes to being all-knowing, all-controlling, and everywhere at once in our own little worlds. We race past the true God-likeness waiting for us every day! At any moment we can enter into His divine nature, whenever we settle down and let Him be God in our place. As we abide in Him, the amazing transfer happens. When John writes that in heaven we will be like Him, this is what he means.
Scriptures on Knowing About God
He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel. Psalms 103:7 ESV
Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness. Isaiah 40:21-23 ESV
“Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth." Hosea 6:3 ESV
But Jesus answered them, "You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.” Matthew 22:29 ESV
Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. Luke 24:44-45 ESV
Scriptures and Foot Notes
 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalms 16:11 ESV
 Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), Pensée 149: “Thus wishing to appear openly to those who seek him with all their heart and hidden from those who shun him with all their heart, he has qualified our knowledge of him by giving signs which can be seen by those who seek him and not by those who do not.”
 It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out. Proverbs 24:33 ESV
 This example from the Sermon on the Mount gives us one of many ways in which Jesus demonstrated that His interpretation of the scriptures was accurate and definitive for all of us: "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire." Matthew 5:21-22 ESV
 This example from the road to Emmaus shows how Jesus understood the scriptures to be speaking about Himself: And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. Luke 24:27 ESV
 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 ESV
 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. Colossians 2:9-10 ESV
 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1 ESV
 Since this warning comes at the end of the Book of Revelation which is also the last book in the Bible, it is generally taken as a final word on the whole canon of scripture: I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. Revelation 22:18-19 ESV
 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished." Matthew 5:17-18 ESV; Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. Matthew 24:35 ESV; Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens. Psalms 119:89 ESV
 God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? Numbers 23:19 ESV
 I will worship toward Your holy temple, And praise Your name For Your lovingkindness and Your truth; For You have magnified Your word above all Your name. Psalms 138:2 NKJV
 That God intended His redemptive acts in Israel’s salvation history to be instructive for those on the outside is shown by this Psalm: Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. The Lord has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations. Psalms 98:1-2 ESV
 He who has ears to hear, let him hear. Matthew 11:15 ESV; His rebuke to Israel shows us that He wants us to have “eyes to see”: But to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear. Deuteronomy 29:4 ESV; He promises to come to our rescue by giving us what we seek: And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. Luke 11:9 ESV
 Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 1 John 3:2 ESV