You Can Know God Personally
YOU CAN KNOW GOD PERSONALLY
Before the days of television, jet airplanes, and superhighways the ancients had more time than we do to discuss ideas and issues. A favorite discussion topic was, WHAT IS SUMMUM BONUM? What is the greatest good? The good from which all other good is derived?
Countless hours were spent interacting intellectually about this intriguing question. The answers given are numerous. However, there is a final authority on what constitutes summum bonum.
It is the Bible. “Let him that glories, glory in this that He understands and KNOWS ME.... Jeremiah 9:24) KJV. The greatest, the highest, the supreme good is KNOWING GOD.
God further tells us in the Bible that to know Him is to DELIGHT HIM. To know God and delight Him goes to the top of the list in the volumes of answers to the question, "what is the greatest good?
Before the Bible tells us what the supreme good is, it tells us what it is NOT.
There are three kinds of attainments which human wisdom and experience erroneously conclude are the greatest good. They are:
- WISDOM AND SKILL
- POWER AND STRENGTH
- EARTHLY RICHES
The Bible tells us they are not the right accomplishments in which to boast. "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." (Jeremiah 9:24) KJV
Many of the great truths of Scripture are brilliantly illustrated through the lives of great men of God. In his masterful oration just before his martyrdom, Stephen paid tribute to Moses and his wisdom. He said, "Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.” Josephus tells us about Moose’s early life and education. The Egyptian princess who had Moses taken out of the Nile River was Thermuthis. The Egyptians called water Mo and such as are saved out of it "Uses". She combined the words and called him "Mouses". She had no child of her own and perceiving him to be a remarkable child adopted him as her own son. On one occasion she showed Moses to her father and told him if she should have no child of her own, Moses would be the king’s successor. "The king hugged him close to his breast and on his daughters account, in a pleasant way, put his diadem on his head.”
This infuriated the king's staff who had other ideas about the successor. The king and princess protected Moses, and Josephus reports “He was, therefore, educated with great care."
His education was both academic and practical. According to some authorities he was educated at the College of on located about six miles from Cairo in the present city of Heliopolis. In his day a student had to complete all of the courses offered by the college. Moses was learned in Government, Law, Music, Poetry, Literature, Languages, Medical Science, and Military Science to mention a few of his major subjects.
On the practical side, Josephus tells us several princes were in training as possible successors to the throne. They were in attendance with the King when he held court for numerous occasions. They saw how he handled domestic issues. They observed how he received foreign dignitaries and conducted foreign policy. They were aware of any military threat from without and their own state of readiness and plans.
According to Josephus, the first major responsibility given Moses was being appointed General of the Army. He led the Egyptian army in a successful war against Ethiopia. As the result of that campaign he married an Ethiopian princess.
It was out of this background that he eventually refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter and gave up the treasures of Egypt to which his position entitled him.
Moses may have well been the best educated man of his generation. Josephus says, “He was mighty in words and deeds and highly respected in royal circles for his sagacity”.
The supreme good to Moses, was not to exercise his great learning and wisdom for his own selfish pleasure but rather, through obedience and servant hood, to share experiences, which would bring him to know God better. "Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt..." (Hebrews 11:24-25) NIV
Moses made a request to God, “If I have found favor in your eyes, teach me your ways that, I MAY KNOW YOU... (Exodus 33:13).
After a lifetime of shared experiences with each other, the Bible summarizes, “Since then no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, WHOM THE LORD KNEW face to face." (Deuteronomy 34:10).
WISDOM is not the greatest good, neither is great POWER.
Daniel’s career reached heights only God could provide. As a teenager he was taken captive by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. He and some of his friends were assigned as the king’s top advisors. In this capacity he interpreted Nebuchadnezzar's dream about future Gentile history and was elevated to high position. The Babylonian Empire continued another 23 years after Nebuchadnezzar's death. Under the last ruling Regent, Belshazzar, Daniel was the third ranking in the political hierarchy behind the sitting regent and city restoration minded absentee king Nabonidus. When the Babylonian Empire fell to Cyrus the Persian, Daniel's position was the second highest in the new government.
Secular historians do not identify the biblical Darius. Some believe he was General Gobryus who led the Persian army in the capture of Babylon. He then became head of the military government he set up.
Daniel chapter six tells us that Daniel was first among the troika set up to govern the newly conquered Babylonian Empire. He did his job so skillfully that the language of the Bible leads us to believe King Cyrus was considering giving him a comparable position in the massive Medo Persian empire. As chief of the three presidents, he may have been in the most powerful political position in the world being second only to the king.
Then temptation came. It revealed what he regarded as the supreme good. It was not retaining great political power. Having been forbidden to pray to Jehovah for thirty days, under penalty of being thrown to the lions, he chose to jeopardize his powerful position in favor of getting to know God better in a new and challenging experience. Never again would he fear for his safety even if he had to spend the night in a den of ferocious lions. He summarized for King Darius how God had undertaken for him. "My God sent His angel and He shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in His sight... (Daniel 6:22)
Daniel tells us the result of those who get to know God through shared experiences. His word for all future generations is: "But the people who know their God shall prove themselves strong and stand firm, and do exploits (for God)." (Daniel 11:32) Amplified Bible.
As Moses and Daniel have so admirably modeled, the greatest ultimate good is not wisdom and it is not power. According to the Bible, neither is having earthly riches summum bonum.
Not only was Abraham the greatest of those who have trusted and exercised faith in God but he was very wealthy. The scriptures reveal that he was VERY rich. His assets included livestock, silver and gold. (Genesis 13:2)
He may well have been the richest man of his generation. Yet being rich was not the supreme good. He was willing to enter into the experience of killing his only son through whom heirs had been promised, and see God raise him from the dead in fulfillment of the promise. "Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death “. (Hebrews 11:19) Rather than raise his knife to slay Isaac, he could have chosen to disobey God and spend the rest of his days enjoying his wealth as his top priority. By offering up Isaac he shared his greatest experience with God. As the result God said,” now I know that you fear and revere God... (Genesis 22:12) Amplified Bible. As God knew Abraham better so Abraham knew God in a new way.
What does it mean to know God? This can be answered by comparing knowing God with knowing another person.
Next to God Himself, who knows you better than any other person on earth? If you have been married at least fifteen years it is your wife or husband. Otherwise it is probably your mother or in some cases your father.
Let us assume it is your spouse. He or she can predict with a high degree of accuracy how you will react in any given situation about which we might inquire. Why? Because you and your spouse have SHARED that experience.
HOW WELL YOU OR I KNOW ANOTHER PERSON IS RELATIVE TO THE NUMBER AND DEPTH OF SHARED EXPERIENCES.
A person who has been a Christian for one year may know the Lord better than someone who has been a Christian for many years. This is true if the new Christian has shared more answers to prayer and other shared experiences with the Lord that the older Christian.
Knowing the Lord is progressive. When David kept the sheep a lion attacked the flock and grabbed a lamb between his jaws. David went after the lion. When he caught up with the beast, the ferocious lion turned on him. David seized it by the beard then struck and killed it. God delivered him from the mouth of the lion by giving him the speed and strength and skill he needed to kill it.
David may have made a note in his diary, “ I have experienced how God handles the situation when a lion tries to devour me. When I am again threatened with the death I will not fear for I know the Lord my Shepherd is with me.”
The next threat was a bear. God again delivered David and he added bears to the list of enemies from which God had demonstrated deliverance.
And then there was the giant experience. Hard hearted as he was and as desperate as he was for a hero, Saul could not bring himself to see the brave but inexperienced young David slaughtered by Goliath.
Then David enlightened him, "The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." Saul then realized how God fit into picture.
David wasn't going to prevail against Goliath in his own strength. It was the Lord who was going to provide the victory. Then Saul agreed, "Go, and the Lord be with you.” He then added "Giants" to the list of enemies from which God would deliver him and for which he held no fear. He was getting to know God through shared experiences. In a few years he added King Saul’s army and other enemy armies to the list. Later he added Leagues of Nations. He knew God and through shared experiences, which were progressive in challenge; he got to know Him better and better. The mathematical sum of his shared experiences is long. It took scores of Psalms to list them. Sometimes he failed to remember what he had written in his diary and fell into sin. The new-shared experience was then one of forgiveness.
Some of our lists of sharing the experience of God's forgiveness with Him may approach seven times seventy.
David was part of a special band about whom he wrote: “those who know you”. (Psalm 36:10).”
Damon Runyon was a famous sports writer who died of cancer. After his death some of his friends compiled a book of what they considered his best writings. Among them was a story he reported as having happened to his father and a business partner.
An interviewer came to Mr. Runyon's place of business. He gave the name of Mr. Runyon's former business partner and asked, "Do you know him?"
"No I can't say that I do", his father replied.
"He gave your name as a reference. There must be some reason.” the puzz1ed interviewer responded. "Have you had any association with him at all?"
The following dialog continued:
“Yes, in fact we were in business together for about twelve years."
"What was the nature of the business?
"We ran a hardware store. No other employees, just the two of us."
"How many hours a week did you spend to gather?"
"Twelve hours a day, six days a week. And by the way we were very compatible socially. If he were not at my house on Sunday I was at his. We took our vacations together and hunted together every season."
The interviewer couldn't believe what he was hearing.
"And you are telling me, YOU DON'T KNOW HIM. WHY?"
Mr. Runyon explained, “Before he and I went into business together I had another partner. The situation was identical. We were extremely close. One weekend we were on a hunting trip. A blizzard came up unexpectedly. We sought refuge from the storm in an old cabin. We only had one blanket between us. We covered ourselves up with it and tried to get some sleep. Every few minutes I would wake up freezing. When I checked to see why, I found out my partner had pulled the blanket off me and had rolled up in it. I thought I knew the man well. I never thought he would do a thing like that. So I made a decision. I'll never say I know a man until we have been caught in a blizzard with only one blanket to share.
THE DEGREE TO WHICH WE KNOW A PERSON IS DEPENDENT ON THE NUMBER AND DEPTH OF EXPERIENCES WE HAVE SHARED.
Yes, Summum Bonum is the relationship of KNOWING GOD. If there is a sub-summum bonum it is knowing others and experiencing relationships with people who mutually respect and trust each other.
Too many discover too late that fulfillment in life comes only from relationships, not wisdom, power, or riches.
Of my acquaintance the ones who seem to know the Lord best are those who trust Him for finances on a day by day (or month to month) basis. They have a new experience of His concern and faithfulness day by day.
Are you getting to know the Lord better? Our relationship ceases to grow if there is any part of our life we are not willing to let Him share.
Knowing God is the relationship in which He delights. Inviting Him to share every experience in our lives is the secret of getting to know Him better daily and in progressively challenging situations, and in any crisis He allows.
We are not talking about an “out of body” or existential experience. Knowing God grows out of the spiritual reality of accepting His invitations and obeying His commands.
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