Summary: God knows all that we are doing, but that can be comforting as well as frightening.
One of the key thoughts in all the Old Testament is the idea of knowing God. God said through Jeremiah, "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; But let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me." (Jeremiah 9:23-24). God says the one thing that we can take pride in is the fact that we know him.
Following this same line of thought, Jesus said, "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." (John 17:3). So, eternal life is based on whether or not we’ve come to know God.
But, having read these passages, and incidentally there are many more that convey the same thought, let me suggest to you that it’s possible for a person to know a great deal about God without ever knowing God. And I think too often we’ve confused the two.
We have managed to come up with this list of qualities about God -- he’s eternal, holy, all-loving, all-wise, omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), omni-present (everywhere at the same time). And we somehow come to the conclusion that if we understand all these qualities about God, then we know God. But that’s knowing about God and it doesn’t really apply to whether or not I know him.
You may know, for example, that I was born in Washington, D.C., that I graduated from high school in Jacksonville, Florida, that I attended Freed-Hardeman College in Tennessee, that I was married in 1977 and that I have three children. But knowing all that doesn’t mean that you know me; it merely means that you know something about me.
In order to know God, we must be willing to commit our lives to following his will. John wrote, "Now by this we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He who says, ’I know him’, and does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him." (I John 2:3-4).
But even doing what God commands is no guarantee that we really know him. To the people of Israel long ago, God said through Hosea, "For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings." (Hosea 6:6). You see, the people of Israel were going through all the right motions, but they didn’t really know God.
When it comes to knowing God, we have no right to demand that God, the Almighty God who brought this world into existence by speaking the word -- we have no right to demand that God open himself up to us, to demand that God be on close and intimate terms with us. And yet that’s exactly what he has chosen to do. And I think that’s why God said through Jeremiah, "But let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me." Because it’s a tremendous privilege to have the opportunity to know God.
But, again, we need to be careful lest we confuse knowing about God with knowing God. If you’ve ever been to a Christian college, it’s like going through a freshman survey class. You go through the Old Testament and you learn names and dates and events. What happened on the fifth day of creation, who were Moses’ parents, who was the second judge, what objects were in the ark, and so on?
You come away from a class like that thinking that you know God, but you may never pause to ask, am I really growing closer to him? As I study, as I meditate, as I worship, is there a sense that I’m coming to know him as I know my wife, as I know my children?
To know God is not just to have an intellectual knowledge about God; it’s to have an intimate personal relationship with God, which is the most important relationship in our life.
I heard about a young man by the name of Dennis Wise He has spent his whole life collecting Elvis memorabilia. Elvis Presley is his hero. Dennis has bought his clothes, records, photographs. He even underwent plastic surgery to try to look more like Elvis. But his great regret was that he never got to meet the man he adored.
A similar but greater tragedy with many Christians is that they spend years listening to sermons, reading scriptures, maybe even teaching Bible class, but they fail to enjoy a close relationship with God. And, if we’re not careful, we’ll end up like the Israelites in Hosea’s day who went through all the right motions, but they never really knew God.
Having said all of this to emphasize the importance of us knowing God, I want to turn to Psalm 139 and see that God already knows us. Even before we know God, even before we make the effort to know God, God knows us inside and out. That’s a thought that can be a bit frightening or it can be comforting, depending on our perspective.