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Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Reflections On What It Means To Know God At An Ever Deepening Level
Exodus 6:2-3 "God spoke further to Moses and said to him, “I am the LORD; 3 and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, LORD, I did not make Myself known to them."
Why knowing the Lord is central to the Christian's faith-walk
We see God revealing His identity to Moses in the passage above. He uses the Holy Name "Yahweh" (translated "LORD" in all capital letters, same as Jehovah or "I AM" which we looked at yesterday). In verse 2 we find the phrase rendered by the New American Standard Bible "And God spoke further". That is a pretty good translation of the Hebrew, since God is literally giving Moses further insight into the revelation of His character, authority and reputation.
God is intentionally making Himself known to Moses, and desires Moses to know Him in a profound way. God makes mention of the three patriarchs of Israel - Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the level of their acquaintance in comparison to what He was revealing to Moses. Amazingly, the level of acquaintance Moses was going to have with God would exceed the patriarchs! When God reveals Himself to people in the scriptures, two things are occurring:
1. He is making Himself known
2. He is aiming for them to know Him
When He states at the end of Exodus 6:3 - "but by my name, LORD (Yahweh), I did not make Myself known to them", it is not that God was not Yahweh in Genesis and then suddenly became Yahweh to Moses in Exodus. Rather as God was making Himself known to the Patriarchs. Their level of illumination that was affected by His revelation to them was at a more fundamental level than Moses'.
The Patriarchs "Knew God" in the level of understanding and experience of Him as "El-Shaddai" or "God Almighty". They knew what kind of God that was making Himself known to them. In their given-level of light, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob walked out their faith-walk. However, as you go throughout the scriptures, God is slowly but surely "increasing the level of understanding" for His people each time He reveals Himself. Knowing God is an ongoing activity in the life of the saint - since there will never be a time that the believer ever fully comprehends all of God in who He is. As Jesus states in John 17:3 “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
The experience of knowing God proceeds from knowing the works of God, to the ways of God to God the Way
As we think about what it means to progress in our relationship and knowledge of God, we can consider it in terms of progressing levels of illumination - with Christ being of course the apex of such illumination.
The first level of illumination is knowing the works of God. God tells Moses that He "appeared" to the Patriarchs as "El-Shaddai" or "God Almighty" in our English Bibles. Five particular texts are in mind where we see God appearing to the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and (we'll include) Joseph:
Genesis 17:1 "Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless."
This is the first mention of God's name "El-Shaddai" (God Almighty in our English Bibles). Clearly it was indeed the LORD (Yahweh) appearing here, however He expressed to Abraham the name "El-Shaddai" (God Almighty). Recall that all the names of God with "El" are expressions of the main name "Elohim", which answers the question: "What kind of God is God?" In this instance He is revealing to Abraham that He is mighty enough to follow through in the promises He made to Abraham in his faith-walk. Four other passages are listed below without commentary, and the reader is encouraged to look at them and draw further conclusions: Genesis 28:3; 35:11; 43:14; 48:3.
The next level of illumination knowing the ways of God. Abraham and the other patriarchs knew God in the degree as the God who was mighty enough to fulfill all of the promises He had made. Yet the level of illumination needed in seeing how exactly He was going to do that would not come until the days of Moses. As Psalm 103:7 states - "He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the sons of Israel".
In Christ, the fullest level of knowing God is knowing Him who is the Way
When we speak of our Christian experience, we understand that we come to know God by the scriptures through Jesus Christ. Hebrews 1:1-2 notes "God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world." Christ of course is the fullest level of illuminating light by which we can truly know God - since He is the LORD, Yahweh Himself.
So as we can see, we proceed in a deepening cycle of becoming acquainted with God's works, ways and Christ-Himself. It is in Christ we find the culmination of every work and way revealed by God in the scriptures.
The name "Yahweh" or "LORD" signifies the purpose of the faith-walk - to know God
2 Corinthians 3:18 says this about our knowing God the Way (Jesus Christ) in comparison to Moses: "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit." As we said in the beginning, God in the scriptures makes Himself known in order to prompt His people to further know Him. By God revealing Himself as Yahweh, God's people could not only know the works, but also the ways of God. As a result of Christ coming as God in Human flesh, God's people could truly know God the Way (John 14:6). That dear friend, is the chief concern of the Christian life - to Know Him.
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