And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.” John 17:3
Do you know who Donald Trump is? But, do you know him? Do you know the political leaders in your own country? But, do you know them? Do you know the names of your neighbours? But, do you know them? It is one thing to know who people are, but it is quite another thing to really know them.
When the Israelites were living in Egypt, after the death of Joseph, “there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph.” Exodus 1:8. Did this Pharaoh really not know Joseph? Joseph was the most famous man in the country as he saved the country in a time of crisis. Surely the record of his great deed was recorded in Egyptian history. And it is possible that the Pharaoh was a young man when Joseph was old and nearing the end of his life. Yet we read that he did not know Joseph. He chose not to know.
Even more serious, he went as far as to say, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go.” Exodus 5:2. They had heard of the true God from the Israelites. “The sin of the Egyptians was that they had refused the light which God had so graciously sent to them through Joseph.” –The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 1, p. 1098. The knowledge was there, but they refused it.
At one time, in the Middle Ages, the Bible was a forbidden book, so few knew what it really contained. Today, there are Bibles every where—all over the world. Bibles in many different languages. It is the most widely sold book in the world. Why is it then that still there are only a few who really know and understand what is written therein? Why are many people, Christians included, knowing of the Bible, but not really knowing the Bible? You can also ask any Christian and many non-Christians if they believe there is a God in heaven, and yes, they do believe there is. They know He exists. But do they know Him? Very few do. Even in God’s church, there could be some who do not know Him. Nothing is new.
LACK OF KNOWLEDGE
Sadly, we read from the prophets in the old testament that, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee.” Hosea 4:6
Who is destroyed for lack of knowledge? Was it the Gentiles? No, it says “My people”. Should not the people of God have had the greatest understanding of the truths of God because “unto them were committed the oracles of God”? Romans 3:2. What knowledge did they lack? Hosea here is speaking to the people of God—the Israelites. “My people.” The nation went into captivity because they were lacking an experiential knowledge of God. It is one thing to know who the Lord is, and the fact that He is the ruler of the universe and is working as a High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary, but it is another thing to really know the Lord, experientially.
Isaiah had a similar message. “Therefore My people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their honourable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst.” Isaiah 5:13. Who had no knowledge? Again, he wrote, My people. What knowledge did they not have? “It was because they had persisted in turning aside from His law that God was compelled to let them go into captivity.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 297
To have a knowledge of the law without really knowing Christ personally, is lacking knowledge. By claiming to have knowledge of Christ, without knowledge of His law, is also lacking knowledge. All may have knowledge
if they put forth the effort to obtain it. A very serious thought to consider is that people are held responsible not only for what they know, but also for what they might have known had they put forth the effort to obtain essential knowledge, and therefore are destroyed due to the lack of this knowledge.
You may tell yourself that you know all the doctrines of the church. You know the prophecies very well, you know the sequence of end-time events. You have a great knowledge of the Spirit of the law of God and are keeping it. But is this enough? The Jewish leaders were very strict with the keeping of the law, and yet Jesus called them hypocrites (Matthew 23:13). “For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” Romans 10:2–3. “Shall the warnings from God be passed by unheeded? Shall the opportunities for service be unimproved? . . . Will they reject God’s word as the Jewish leaders rejected Christ? The result of Israel’s sin is before us. Will the church of today take warning?” –Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 306. Are you lacking this essential knowledge?
Clearly and repeatedly God had pointed out what the results of transgression would be, but the people of Israel and Judah were revealing their complete lack of “knowledge” by persisting in evil and thereby ensuring their own destruction.
“The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, My people doth not consider.” Isaiah 1:3. Animals know where to find their food and often form an attachment to the one who provides it for them. So often people, even Christians, have been guilty of being most ungrateful of their heavenly Father’s tender care.
CHILDREN OF ISRAEL DID NOT KNOW
Going back in history, we read: “And Joshua, the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being an hundred and ten years old. And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in Timnathheres, in the mount of Ephraim, on the north side of the hill Gaash. And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which He had done for Israel.” Judges 2:8–10
Why did they not know the Lord? This generation grew up in the land of Canaan and knew little of the hardships of their forefathers in their wilderness wanderings. Why did their parents not instruct them in the way of the Lord? Although they did not know from experience the mighty workings of God in the past, and they were surrounded by heathen people, and so it is written that they knew not the Lord. However, it is very likely they heard of the Lord from their parents, the elders and leaders, and knew of the Lord, but when the elders all passed away, they willingly chose to not know. They did not have an experiential knowledge of God. Such an experience with the Lord would have preserved them from the evil influences around them.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For Thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35–39. If they had made their own experience with the Lord, they would really have known Him personally, regardless of their surroundings.
It is absolutely important that all Christians examine the foundations of their faith to see whether their experience is a personal and direct relationship with God, or merely an outward endeavour based on the experience of others. Unless you have your own experience, you may suffer the same fate as these second-generation Israelites. Israel forgot the providential leadings of God in the past. “We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history.” –Counsels for the Church, p. 359
ELI’S SONS DID NOT KNOW
Years later, there was a High Priest who had two sons, and these sons were also priests. But it is written of these priests that “the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD.” 1 Samuel 2:12. How could they not have known the Lord? They were brought up in the temple and taught of God. Yet Hophni and Phinehas had no proper understanding of God. They enjoyed no communion with Him felt no sympathy with His purposes, and had no sense of their obligation to Him. They merely employed their positions for their own selfish corrupt ends. They knew of the Lord, but they did not know the Lord.
Why did the Lord allow these corrupt priests to continue in office? It was to prove that environment does not determine a soul’s destiny. Unless you know the Lord and your life is hid in Christ, and you are making daily experiences with Him, when you are buffeted by the evil one you will fall, regardless of how favourable your surroundings and upbringing may be.
“Eli had instructed his children in the law of God, and had given them a good example in his own life; but this was not his whole duty. God required him, both as a father and as a priest, to restrain them from following their own perverse will. This he had failed to do.” –The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 2, p. 1009
As a parent he was indulgent. How many parents fear to correct their children and excuse their behaviour by stating, “they are only children and will grow out of it when they get older.” Although he taught them well, he did not restrain them when they did wrong.
DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM
“Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but He revealeth His secret unto His servants the prophets.” Amos 3:7. Before the destruction of Jerusalem, Jesus gave warning signs. If these signs were heeded, the people would have been spared.
Jerusalem was destroyed twice. The first time, the prophet Jeremiah was sent to give them warning after warning, of which they chose to ignore. It came as a seeming surprise to them when their city did fall. They had opportunity to know, but chose not to. “Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but My people know not the judgment of the LORD.” Jeremiah 8:7
“They are not valiant for the truth upon the earth; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they know not Me, saith the LORD.” Jeremiah 9:3. They knew of the Lord, but they did not know the Lord. “Therefore I said, Surely these are poor; they are foolish: for they know not the way of the LORD, nor the judgment of their God.” Jeremiah 5:4
“In his testimonies to the church, Jeremiah constantly referred to the teachings of the book of the law that had been so greatly honored and exalted during Josiah’ reign. He emphasized anew the importance of maintaining a covenant relationship with the all-merciful and compassionate Being who upon the heights of Sinai had spoken the precepts of the Decalogue. Jeremiah’s words of warning and entreaty reached every part of the kingdom, and all had opportunity to know the will of God concerning the nation.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 428–429. Yet they did not know.
The second time Jerusalem was destroyed they again received warnings, but again it was unheeded. “And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.” Luke 19:44. Why did they not know? Did any Christians die? They knew. They believed the words of prophecy and they fled when they saw the signs. The others who perished could have known, but they chose not to.
Prior to the end of the world, warning signs have also been given. No one needs to be taken by surprise unless they willingly choose to not heed the signs. Jesus’ coming will be as a “thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2) to those who are not prepared. Those who are ready will proclaim. “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.” Isaiah 25:9
“Thine habitation is in the midst of deceit; through deceit they refuse to know Me, saith the LORD.” Jeremiah 9:6. The people’s ignorance of God was wilful. Transgression is a choice. They were given the opportunity, but they refused to know the Lord.
“Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished.” 2 Peter 3:3–6
In the time of Noah, they all
heard the message of salvation, but they refused to heed it. They were willingly shut out of the ark by their own choice.
In the time of Christ, many who cried “Crucify Him” did so out of ignorance, as they were following the crowd. “No Excuse for Willful Ignorance.—’I wot that through ignorance ye did it,’ said Peter; but this ignorance did not excuse the action; for they had had great light granted unto them. The statement is made that had they known that He was the Prince of life, they would not have crucified Him. But why did they not know?—because they chose not to know. They had no interest to search and study, and their ignorance proved their eternal ruin. They had had the strongest evidence on which to base their faith, and they were under obligation to God to accept the evidence He had given them. Their unbelief made them guilty of the blood of the only begotten Son of the infinite God. –The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1056 (emphasis mine)
The Apostle Paul wrote about the Jewish leaders that, “they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient.” Romans 1:28
He continues by saying that those that do not know God will be, “filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful.” Romans 1:29–31
Go back and read this list again—slowly—one by one. Do any of them apply to your life? The word “debate” is also translated as “anger.” Perhaps you may not be a backbiter, or a hater of God, or an inventor of evil things, but are you proud? Are you boastful? Unmerciful? Do you have uncontrolled anger? Are you guilty of being without understanding—not knowing the Lord? The end result? “Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death.” Romans 1:32
DO YOU KNOW THE LORD?
Let us get personal here now. There are those who think they know the Lord, but in reality, they do not (even in God’s church). “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny Him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.” Titus 1:16
We read a testimony written to the church, “With some the knowledge of their true state seems to be hidden from them. They see the truth, but perceive not its importance or its claims. They hear the truth, but do not fully understand it, because they do not conform their lives to it, and therefore are not sanctified through obeying it. And yet they rest as unconcerned and well satisfied as though the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, as token of God’s favor, went before them.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, p. 406
They “believe that they are on the right foundation, that they have the truth; they rejoice in its clearness and boast of the powerful arguments in proof of the correctness of our position.” But, “The love of the world with many, the deceitfulness of riches with others, have choked the word, and they have become unfruitful.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, p. 125–126
“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.” Matthew 7:22–23. Does not the Lord know everyone? The verse above indicates that the Lord did not know these people. “But whosoever shall deny Me before men, Him will I also deny before My Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 10:33. Just like they chose not to know the Lord, the Lord chose not to know them. The Lord wants to know everyone, but not everyone wants to know Him. And so He will not force His presence. These people are Christian people, and there may even be some from God’s remnant church. Will it be you or I? I pray not.
“The people here described, who make these pretentious claims, apparently weaving Jesus into all their doings, fitly represent those who claim modern sanctification, but who are at war with the law of God.” –The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1087. We believe and keep the Ten Commandments, so surely this cannot apply to us, we may say. But what about the spirit of the law as written in the testimonies? The finer points of the law, such as health and dress reform? Correct Sabbath observance? Our thoughts and our motives?
David counselled his son: “And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve Him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek Him, He will be found of thee; but if thou forsake Him, He will cast thee off for ever.” 1 Chronicles 28:9
There are many though, who did know the Lord. David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). Abraham was a friend of God (James 2:23). Moses spoke with the Lord face to face (Exodus 33:11).
King Josiah knew the Lord, and how do we know this? “For thus saith the LORD touching Shallum the son of Josiah king of Judah, which reigned instead of Josiah his father . . . did not thy father eat and drink, and do judgment and justice, and then it was well with him? He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well with him: was not this to know Me? saith the LORD.” Jeremiah 22:11, 15–16
Josiah’s actions clearly showed that he knew the Lord. It is not greatness through secular accomplishments, or preaching great sermons only. It is greatness found in fellowship with the Lord, that is revealed in justice and mercy towards “the cause of the poor and needy”. Josiah possessed this inner greatness that his son was greatly devoid of. In the eyes of the Lord, his inner greatness was more glorious than the glory of Jehoiakim’s palaces.
LEARN SOMETHING NEW EVERY DAY
So, you know it all? You know the truth—you know the doctrine. Is there nothing more to learn? The Prophecies in Daniel and Revelation are nearly all fulfilled. What else is there to learn?
Yes, you may know the doctrine. But do you know the Lord? Every day we need to be making new experiences that will bring us closer to the Lord. Every day we are to deny ourselves and overcome every temptation in our pathway. The temptations will not cease until the Lord comes. They may get more intense as time goes on, but we can overcome if we know the Lord.
“Every day you should learn something new from the Scriptures. Search them as for hid treasures, for they contain the words of eternal life. Pray for wisdom and understanding to comprehend these holy writings. If you would do this you would find new glories in the word of God; you would feel that you had received new and precious light on subjects connected with the truth, and the Scriptures would be constantly receiving a new value in your estimation.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 266
“New truth is constantly unfolding; at every step, new and clearer light is shining upon the pathway of God’s people, that they may go onward and upward.” –The Signs of the Times, March 16, 1882
“Knowledge is power, either for good or for evil. Bible religion is the only safeguard for human beings. . . .The blessing is pronounced upon those who are familiar with the revealed will of God in His word. The Bible is the great agent in the hands of its Author to strengthen the intellect. It opens the garden of the mind to the cultivation of the heavenly Husbandman.” –Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 111
“Only those who have been diligent students of the Scriptures and who have received the love of the truth will be shielded from the powerful delusion that takes the world captive. By the Bible testimony these will detect the deceiver in his disguise. To all the testing time will come. By the sifting of temptation the genuine Christian will be revealed. Are the people of God now so firmly established upon His word that they would not yield to the evidence of their senses? Would they, in such a crisis, cling to the Bible and the Bible only?” –Maranatha, p. 160
You believe that Jesus died for the sins of the world. That is well and good. But do you believe He died for you? For me? He came for me, for my sins. He is a very personal Saviour. “So in spiritual things. To talk of religion in a casual way, to pray without soul hunger and living faith, avails nothing. A nominal faith in Christ, which accepts Him merely as the Saviour of the world, can never bring healing to the soul.” –Conflict and Courage, p. 298
“It is not enough to believe about Christ; we must believe in Him. The only faith that will benefit us is that which embraces Him as a personal Saviour; which appropriates His merits to ourselves. Many hold faith as an opinion. Saving faith is a transaction by which those who receive Christ join themselves in covenant relation with God. Genuine faith is life. A living faith means an increase of vigor, a confiding trust, by which the soul becomes a conquering power.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 347
It is my prayer that each reader will know the Lord. Not just know of Him, but know Him as your most trusted and intimate Friend. He is the One who you automatically turn to when life gets difficult; the One who you will walk with and talk with every day. He will never disappoint you, and will only lead you in the ways of eternal life. Will you follow Him and get to know Him? Or will you choose to not know Him? The choice is yours. Choose wisely. “And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.” John 17:3