Tag Archives: knowing God

The Known Land

I can’t remember if this gem was passed along to me by the hand of another or if I came across it myself in my Bible reading, but in any case I wrote it down in my notes, and came across it again today, and it is too beautiful to keep to myself. (And regardless how I came across it I certainly know where it originated.)

Here is what I wrote down:

          The promised land becomes the known land.

“…Them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised” (Num. 14:31).

That to me is a telling illustration of the kind of knowledge we have in the new covenant. God’s new covenant promise is that “they shall all know Me,” and He means this in much the same way He meant it when He promised that the new generation would “know the land.” Back then, this meant that God brought them into the land, and they walked in the length and breadth of it, and searched it out, and dwelt therein, and enjoyed its bounty and riches. Thus the promised land became the known land.

That is just what it means to enter our spiritual heritage in the heavenlies in Christ. It means knowing God Himself in just this way—abiding in Him, living in Him, walking in Him, searching out (not just mapping out) His unsearchable riches in Christ.

Yes, searching out. Knowing the land. Coming to know the breadth and length and depth and height of the love of Christ which passeth knowledge.

The apostle John wrote, “everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.”

That is new covenant knowledge. That is new creation knowledge. The kind of knowledge that makes us like Him.

Lie not one to another seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man which is renewed in knowledge [Gk. unto full knowledge] after the image of Him that created him (Col. 3:9,10).

What wondrous knowledge is this– new creation knowledge: it is the kind of knowledge that makes us like Him, more and more like Him, in all we say and do.

God gave the patriarchs and their progeny a promise back then—the promise of a land. And He was faithful to cause them to know that land. In the fullness of time He gave a further promise—that those in new covenant relationship with Him would know Him, each one of them, from the least to the greatest. He is faithful to His promise yet.

The apostle John wrote, “This is the promise that He hath promised us, even eternal life” (1 Jn. 2:25).

And what is eternal life?

This is life eternal,” Jesus prayed, “that they may know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent” (Jn. 17:3).

And so, dearly beloved family of God, let the promise of eternal life become more and more for each one of us the knowledge of eternal life. Let eternal life be the land in which we live and walk—our heritage in Christ Jesus. Eternal life. Knowing God, and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent…

…In just the same way those of old came to know the land.

 

The Exegesis Of God–Part Two

Let’s recall from last time Solomon’s proclamation at the inauguration of the temple that God had instructed him to build for Him.

 The LORD hath said that He would dwell in the thick darkness.  But I have built an house of habitation for Thee, and a place for Thy dwelling forever (2 Chr. 6:1,2).

This is what Solomon’s temple was all about.  It was to be the place among men where the God who had formerly dwelt in thick darkness now shone forth.  Solomon’s temple was, however, only a shadow of the true temple not made with hands—the Son of God Himself.  And so last time we also quoted a verse from John.

 No man hath seen God at any time.  The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him (Jn. 1:18).

The word declared is the Greek exegesato, and is related to our word exegesis, which is the biblical science of discovering and explaining what the Scriptures really say and mean.  Patient exegesis of the Bible will yield to the yielded much fruit.  But in John 1:18 we discover that the Son of God when He walked the earth was the exegesis of God Himself.  He was the One who explained, made known, revealed, shone forth, the hard-to-understand, unseen, obscure, unknown God.

That’s very wonderful, but I wonder if I don’t hear someone thinking, “Well and good that Jesus the Son of God was the exegesis of God the Father back then, but He is not here now.”

I know the regret you’re expressing: if only we could have lived back in Jesus’ day… or if only He were still here today.  Too bad the Devil succeeded in tearing down that living Temple in whom God dwelt and was revealed.

Just a minute.  Remember what Jesus said about that.

 Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up…
But He spake of the Temple of His body (Jn. 2:19,21).

And so the Devil has his own regrets that he and his cohorts conspired to have the Lord of glory crucified, thinking to be done with Him.  For He rose from the dead.  And He ascended into Heaven, where, seated at the right hand of God, He began His more excellent ministry of the New Covenant, and an enlargement of that Temple which would continue to be the same exegesis of God.

How so?  When Christ ascended to the right hand of God, He “received the promise of the Father” (Acts 2:33), on the day of Pentecost sending the Spirit to His waiting disciples, just as He, in turn, had earlier promised them.

 I will not leave you comfortless.  I will come to you (Jn. 14.18).

I will come to you?  This is a mystery.  The coming of the Spirit was such that the same One who was the exegesis of God at the right hand of the Father, while continuing to abide at the right hand of the Father in the Heavens, came to His disciples again, and took up residence in them.  For, those in whom the Spirit dwells, it is Christ Himself who dwells in them, as we read in many places in our New Testament.  (For example, Romans 8: 9,10, and many other places that speak of the indwelling Christ.)  And thus they become part of the same Temple Solomon prophesied of, the same habitation the Son of God fulfilled—the same living Exegesis that reveals God and makes Him known among men.

That is the astonishing implication of the sending of the Spirit.  Those in whom Christ dwells now become part of that same exegesis of God that the Son of God was.

This is what the New Covenant assembly is all about, or ought to be.  The church—which was formed by the coming of the Spirit to individual disciples—is to be the fullness of that same Exegesis of God who walked the earth two thousand years ago, and is now seated at the right hand of God.

 The church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all (Eph. 1:23).

The fullness of Him?  The church is His very body—the fullness of Him?  I am sure this is what Jesus had in mind when He “spake of the temple of His body” which He said He would raise up.  “The church, which is His body…”  The Devil thought to be rid of Him by the cross.  What he did, to his great chagrin, enabled God to lay in Zion the foundation Stone for an enlargement of that temple.  It began with the sending of the Spirit at Pentecost.  He comes for nothing less than to continue the same exegesis of God that the Son of God was when He was here.

That is the nature of Christ’s more excellent ministry of the New Covenant.  It is a ministration of the very knowledge of God, and thus, “all shall know Me from the least to the greatest” (Heb. 8:11) .  This is something more than knowledge as we generally think of the word.  It is New Covenant knowledge: the kind of knowledge—the knowledge of God—whom to know means our being like Him.

How imperative, then, that we in the church, as ministers of the New Covenant (which all Christians are to be) give the Prime Minister of the New Covenant—the Holy Spirit—His lordship and pre-eminence in our individual lives, and in our gatherings.  He comes for nothing less than to reveal, to make known, the same God of love and righteousness that dwelt in the Son… so that the same exegesis of God now dwells in and shines forth from the churches—you and me and our brothers and sisters in the churches.

This is what the New Covenant, and the New Covenant assembly, is all about—or is supposed to be—the exegesis of God to a world in darkness.  Anything short of this… we are sorely missing His mark.

And it has to be said that much of what is called church in our day has in fact done that.  Has fallen short.  Has missed the mark.  Let the broken and repentant heart be encouraged.  Christ is still on the Throne at the right hand of the Father, and the Holy Spirit sent from the Throne is still in the earth.  The temple He inaugurated at Pentecost is still here, though in the midst of much that man has built cannot always readily be seen.  In fact her enemies are gloating these days that they have succeeded in destroying her and treading her down in the dust.  The Lord on the throne has a surprise in store for His enemies.  The power and principle of His resurrection life is still at work.  He continues to raise up this Temple—the One that was torn down on Calvary’s cross—just as He prophesied He would do.  He will beautify her, set living stones in her just like Himself.  He will yet be fully revealed, will yet shine forth in this temple in all His glory in the Heavens and in the earth…

…And all the confusion and debate and doubt and misunderstanding as to who He is—all the thick darkness—will vanish like the morning mist in the light of the sun.

The Exegesis Of God

Let me tell you a little story.  Once there was a young man who as a new Christian greatly admired an old saint whose teaching in the word of God had opened a vista the young man had no idea even existed. He aspired to be like the old saint.  The young man greatly admired the old saint’s worn, time-weathered Bible as well.  Its pages were wrinkled and crinkled, its verses underscored, its margins inked with notes.  Because of the aura that went with it—that of a seasoned saint steeped in the word—the young man wanted a Bible like that very badly.  But oh, that would take time, and patience, and what young man has patience and time, especially one who wants to distance himself as fast as he can from a life he has thus far wasted on himself?

And so how does a young man of 25 become an instant seasoned saint?  He buys a new Bible, and, being careful not to tear its pages, crinkles them one by one in his hand, attempting to imitate the effect.

It was a sorry disappointment.  He eventually gave the Bible to an acquaintance, who told him some time later that he had accidentally left it in a phone booth.

The young man is older now, and thinking back the other day, had a good laugh at himself and his immaturity.  He eventually learned that there are no short cuts in the pathway of coming to know God—or to owning a well-worn Bible, either.  Now he has two or three Bibles that look like that old saint’s Bible… but for some reason, his love of Bible exegesis has brought him to the place where he knows less now than the young man he used to be.

Exegesis?  It was only when the Internet and its resources came along that the young man, grown quite a bit older, came across the word.  Bible school students take classes in exegesis; they are taught careful procedures to rightly get at the actual meaning of Scripture.  An exegesis of any given word or passage explains that passage in its context going into, among other things, the meanings of the Hebrew or the Greek, thus hopefully bringing to light the obscurities of the word of God.

For, the Bible can indeed be a very obscure book… just as God Himself can be a very obscure God.

On the day that God gave Israel His commandments, He had come down on Mount Sinai clothed in cloud and smoke and thick darkness.

 And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was (Ex. 20:21).

Communing with God in the cloud, Moses received further commandments for the people, and eventually instructions for the tabernacle that God wanted built.  What was the significance of the tabernacle?

 Let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them (Ex. 25:8).

Five centuries later when Solomon’s temple had been finished to the last detail, and the sacrifices had been made, and the ark brought into its place, the temple was filled with a cloud “so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God” (2 Chr. 5.14). Upon this, Solomon spoke the following words:

 The LORD hath said that He would dwell in the thick darkness.  But I have built an house of habitation for Thee, and a place for Thy dwelling forever (2 Chr. 6:1,2).

As I was reading this passage one day, the light came on.  What was the significance of the temple?  This.  The God who had been cloaked in thick darkness, in cloud and mystery and obscurity… He was here in His temple now, not afar off in Heaven, but nigh, not hidden away, but unveiled. That was the whole purpose of the tabernacle and the temple—that the unknown inscrutable God might dwell there and reveal Himself openly, make Himself known.

And so a thousand years after Solomon, we come to John’s words about the Temple not made with hands.

 No man hath seen God at any time.  The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him (Jn. 1:18).

The word declared in the Greek is exegesato, a verb form of the noun exegesis, meaning that the Son of God declared the Father, revealed Him, made Him known. Vincent’s Word Studies confirms this.

 Hath declared (ἐξηγήσατο)  Or, rendering the aorist strictly, ‘He declared.’ From ἐκ, forth, and ἡγέομαι, to lead the way. Originally, to lead or govern. Hence, like the Latin praeire verbis, to go before with words, to prescribe or dictate a form of words. To draw out in narrative, to recount or rehearse (see Acts 15:14, and on Luke 24:35). To relate in full; to interpret, or translate. Therefore ἐξήγησις, exegesis, is interpretation or explanation (Vincent’s Word Studies of the New Testament, Volume Two).

In other words, according to John 1:18, the Son of God is Himself the exegesis of God.  The tabernacle and Solomon’s temple were but types and shadows of the true temple not made with hands; it was the Son of God Himself who declared, explained, interpreted, made known, revealed, shone forth, the God who had dwelt so long time in thick darkness, and no one had ever really seen.  In the Temple of His Son, this God now dwelt, and shone forth.  The obscure, mysterious, hard to understand, distant, way-up-there-somewhere-far-away God… the Son of God brought Him nigh and revealed Him and made Him known to men.

Only the Son of God Himself could do that.  In fact only the Son of God could be that explanation, the kind of exegesis that is God Himself making Himself known to men.

The young man I referred to is older these days, and is himself a little wrinkled and time-worn now.  He has loved Bible exegesis over the years.  What has it done for him?  This.  He finds in his heart a perpetual cry.  Oh to know more fully this One in the bosom of the Father—this One who is the exegesis of God Himself.

Apart from that exegesis, Bible exegesis has missed the mark.

…More next time.

The Disciple Jesus Loved

During the last supper when Jesus revealed that one of those present would betray Him, the disciples looked at one another anxiously, wondering who it was, each one worrying that it might even be themselves. Peter therefore beckoned to John to ask Jesus which of them it was.  For John, they all knew, had a special relationship with Jesus.  He was very close to Him, as we read in John’s own account of that night.

 Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved (Jn. 13:23).

That’s the King James Version. My Greek/English Interlinear has, “But there was reclining in the bosom of Jesus one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.”

You can see them in your mind’s eye; that’s the way they dined back then: reclining on couches around a low table likely in the shape of a U. This enabled the servants to come into the centre of the U to set on the table the dishes of food for the guests.  John, leaning on his left arm, was reclining so that his head was close to Jesus’ bosom.  With some distance between the disciples around the table, and with the servants coming and going, and everyone talking, John was able to quietly ask Jesus who the betrayer was, and Jesus was able to answer him without others being aware of what He was saying.

I won’t go into that. What I want to focus on is this.  A while ago I was reading John’s opening words in His account of the Gospel, and I came to this:

 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him (Jn. 1:18 NKJV).

There were those same words, “in the bosom of…” I stopped reading.  In my mind’s eye, I saw Jesus reclining in the bosom of the Father just the way John reclined in the bosom of Jesus at that supper.

It is a beautiful image to me, a precious image: the Son of God reclining in the bosom of the Father.  And I think that when John wrote these words he could well have had in his own mind’s eye that supper, and himself reclining in Jesus’ bosom.  If he knew that he was the disciple Jesus loved, he also knew that Jesus was the Son the Father loved.

It was, in a sense, an exclusive love.

 This is My beloved Son in whom is all my delight…”

The Father loved no one else the way He loved His Son. But it was never God’s intention that this exclusive love be forever confined there.  It was exclusive, but it was not confined.

For, Jesus said during that same supper, speaking to them all, “As the Father hath loved Me so [that is, even so] have I loved you: continue ye in My love” (Jn. 15:9).

We know He was speaking to them all. But if that is so, what was there about John?  Why did John call himself the disciple whom Jesus loved? Was this too a special love, something exclusive, for John alone?

Not according to the verse we just quoted. As the Father loves the Son, the Son loves all His disciples.

I think that John called himself this—the disciple whom Jesus loved—simply because there was a certain trusting childlikeness about John, a certain open facedness, that enabled him to receive Jesus’ love, whereas the others (much like you and I?) had questions and doubts about themselves, and therefore doubts as to Jesus’ love for them.

I do pray that you and I become more sure of the love of Jesus for us, and, like John, take the risk of reclining our head in His bosom. We will surely make a wonderful discovery.

One more thing. We find John writing many years later:

We have known and believed the love that God hath to us (1 Jn. 4:16).

How did John know that? It was because John had seen this love before his very eyes in the Son of God.  The love he saw in this Man… somehow he began to realize, to know, that it was the love of God, that it was God the Father dwelling in this Man, and revealing His love.  John saw it, and believed, and came boldly to Him—I don’t mean brazenly, I mean boldly, openly, trustingly—and reclined his head in His bosom.

Who’s bosom? Since the Son of God Himself reclines in the bosom of the Father, it was the Father’s love that John was reclining in when he reclined in Jesus’ bosom.

For that is the nature of the Son of God. The Father dwelt in Him; He was the revelation of God the Father—the Father’s love.  Paul called Jesus, “the Son of His love” (Col. 1:13).  The Son of God’s love.  It is the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:39).

And what was the result of John reclining his head in Jesus’ bosom, and knowing, believing, that God loved him?  It is that John himself was filled to overflowing with that same love.  It is a continual stream through all his writings.  “Beloved, let us love one another…”  John knew he was beloved, knew he was loved, knew he was the disciple Jesus loved.  Therefore, he loved.

That is God’s intention in loving us.  God intends that same love—the love of God that dwelt in Jesus—to dwell in you and I. Jesus prayed as much during that same supper.

I have declared (made known) unto them Thy Name, and will declare it (make it known), that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them (Jn. 17:26).

You mean the very love of God dwelling in you and me as He dwelt in Jesus?  The love of God?  And people seeing that love before their very eyes?  When this happens, beloved (I don’t use that word tritely), we might well discover others around us taking the risk of reclining their head in our bosom.

 

Feed God First

Our Lord has accomplished something very special when He sees us beginning to consider His own interests first in all we go through, and in all we seek from Him.  When this becomes our first consideration—when in every problem, every situation, every need, every petition, our foremost concern is our Lord’s own interests—we have come into something very beautiful in His sight.

This is not to say that our problems and needs are not God’s own interests.  They are.  He cares for us deeply.  But His primary goal in all the things we are going through is that we have fellowship with Him in the midst of it all—that we come to know Him, and be conformed to the image of His Son.

It was the Father’s interests that were His own interests.

Take the story of the widow of Zarephath in the time of her great need.  When she met Elijah she was out with her son gathering sticks for the fire so she could bake her last bit of flour, and then die, she told him.  Don’t be afraid, yes, do that, Elijah responded.  “But make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and thy son” (1 Ki. 17.13).  Kind of selfish of him, wasn’t it, taking a poor widow’s last meal?  But this was a man who stood before God.  God’s interests had become his own, God’s hunger His own.  And he wanted this woman to know that regardless how desperate her need was, she would come out the loser if she too did not make God’s need her own– her priority.

But when she did this, behold how wonderfully God met her need!

The same with you and me.  God is not being selfish when in the midst of our great anguish and deep need He says, “Feed Me first.”  It is our own great advantage He has in mind–that is, bringing us to the place where His advantage has become our own.

Yes, we seek Him for His help in all our dire circumstances and deep needs.  But getting Him to answer our need is not the first in importance.  First comes fellowship with Him, and getting knowing Him and His own heart’s longing.  First comes worshipping Him—which means giving Him our all on the altar of burnt sacrifice to satisfy His own great longing for you and me.

Otherwise God may become to us no more than a dispenser of help for our troubles, one who answers our prayers… but we still haven’t come to know Him, to walk with Him, and become like Him.

We may have a deep wound that some circumstance has brought into our life.  But to have been wounded with the wound of longing for God… this is a precious gift that can only be healed in finding Him in the midst of what we are going through.  It causes our first prayer in all things to be, Lord, I want to, I must… know You in this thing!  This is my first and great desire above and beyond Your answering my prayers and meeting my needs.  I must know You!  Bring me through the secret door in this situation, which, going through, I discover myself face to face with You in my great distress, and come to know You in a deeper way.  And in this way I become a kind of firstfruits that satisfies Your own deep hunger… for fellowship with one who is just like You.  For, the firstfruits are always Your own to enjoy first– and then when Your own hunger is satisfied others enjoy the bounty.

So… are you and I in the midst of a trial that is very difficult for us?  Let us be crying out like Job, then.  He cried out in the midst of his great trial, “Oh, that I knew where I might find HIM” (Job 23.3).  We must find GOD in our trial—as Job did.  So often our prayer is, “Deliver me from the trial, Lord!”  Job cried that too in his anguish.  But God answered Him in a way that was higher than Job could comprehend at the moment.  God’s objective was that Job come to know Him—actually see Him.

He has the same thing in mind for you and me.  That is His objective in what we are going through—that we find Him.  God Himself, that is.  The implication is becoming one with Him… as Elijah was.  “Make me a little cake first,” he had said.  It was God’s request, really. 

…And look how God answered Job after He had first brought him to know Him—know him oh so wonderfully—like never before.

“Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord, that the Lord is full of tender pity, and compassionate” (James 5.11).

I think of David in the midst of all his trials and afflictions—how he swore unto the LORD that his first priority would be to make a habitation for his God (Ps. 132.1-5).  See how God responded?  Once He has that habitation for Himself He says, “I will abundantly bless her provision: I will satisfy her poor with bread.  I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her saints shall shout aloud for joy.”

God is not unmindful of our needs and great longings.  Far from it.  But our God is a God of great love, and great wisdom.  His love for us is, oh, so deep.  When what we long for seems so far away, is nowhere in sight, there is something near He is working to help us discover—something very special He has in mind for us to find right there in the midst of our trial and unanswered prayer—Himself.  This is His own great longing.  And this is why we find ourselves in this kind of trial—and needing to endure, like Job, and be patient.  Our God loves us deeply, and wants the very best for us.  The very best.  He wants us to find Him in our trial.  Once this happens, and patience has had its perfect work, like the widow of Zarephath we will find our desires and prayers answered far more fully than we were ever able to formulate.