Come, let us return to the LORD;
for he has torn us, that he may heal us;
he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.
After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live before him.
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.”
What shall I do with you, O Ephraim?
What shall I do with you, O Judah?
Your love is like a morning cloud,
like the dew that goes early away.
Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets;
I have slain them by the words of my mouth,
and my judgment goes forth as the light.
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
—Hosea 6:1-6 ESV
There is a fearfulness among many today, even Christians, to know the Lord. The result is that we have became a church largely devoid of people who know God.
It is said of A.W. Tozer that he would go into his office at his church every morning at seven and pray on his face till noon. Did he know God? Reading his works, it is hard NOT to see how well he knew Him. The Knowledge of the Holy is one of his masterpieces, filled with an astonishing revelation of the character of God. Tozer knew God.
But do we?
Jesus said in John 17:
And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
If eternal life is truly knowing the triune God, then why do we give so little time to that endeavor? We pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” once, thinking we are saved, but what if our lack of desire to know God means that real eternal life escapes us? Why are we Christians consumed only with doing things for the Kingdom, but never knowing the King of the Kingdom we purport to serve?
The Lord said through the prophet Jeremiah:
But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
Discipleship has fallen on hard times. We no longer teach our neighbor, saying, “Know the Lord,” not because everyone knows, but rather the opposite; no one knows at all. Worse yet, not only have we we have failed to see the value of teaching others to know God, but of even asking for a greater depth of that knowledge. Merely inquiring of someone, believer or not, as to their knowledge of God is taboo—our own paucity of knowledge the new millennium’s version of the mad aunt in the attic.
Our knowledge has been replaced with activity, in all its spiritual forms, or with the simplemindedness of “just being loving.” (Although, it is beyond me how we can possibly extend love to fallen men without a deep well of supernatural love that comes from knowing God in His manifest fullness.) We think that if we do, we don’t have to know. We think that if that if we only believe, we don’t have to dwell. Neither of those positions is what God desires of us.
I am troubled by my own shallowness in knowing God. But I look at the example of Tozer and I no longer wonder just why we are still struggling to make progress; we have confused the hard and easy paths. Five hours a day of prayerfulness will overcome five hours of church committees any day, yet how much easier it is for us to think we are going in the right direction if we soldier on through one activity after another?
There is a healthy fear of God, but the misbegotten fear we have today is of the still, small voice that comes in the silence of our days. It speaks, that voice, and we fear what it may tell us about ourselves, things we do not wish to have exposed, things that might be healed if we only pressed on.
In the end, not only do we avoid knowing God, but in our avoidance of Him, we no longer know ourselves, nor the very people we are called to serve.