Editorial: June 2008
KNOWLEDGE OF GOD
We are living in a fastpaced world, inundated with information. Philosophies have gone to absurd lengths. We have been driven to ridiculous limits. The extremes to which human mind has gone with respect to morality justifies the cynical castigation by Malcolm Muggeridge that we have educated ourselves to imbecility. The philosophers have cut the nerve of morality apart from God. Material prosperity has not made life meaningful. Success and creative strength do not bring meaning to life, even if they are fulfilled to capacity. People now live in relationships devoid of love's commitment or moral fidelity. In the midst of the bright urban lights, there is demand for everything except morality. With the loss of God came the loss of joy, love, light and peace.
There is a complete sense of alienation in the world. The farcical and the absurd are the hallmarks of our trapped society, devoid of all hope. Solomon, who knew more, and was renowned more than anybody else in his time, asserted the pointlessness of existence. His book Ecclesiastes opens with the words: "Vanity of vanities! All is vanity."
Nietzsche, the most imaginative and articulate spokesman for atheism, once prognosticated that "the twentieth century would become the bloodiest century in history, and that a universal madness would break out." He was proved right on both counts. "More people were killed because of ideological differences, and destroyed on the battlefields of geopolitical maneuvering in the twentieth century than any other century in history, and by some calculations, more than in the previous nineteen centuries put together." In a self-fulfilling prophecy, Nietzsche took the first step and went insane himself.
"Man can relate to the material world and to the world of knowledge and machines only upto a point. If he does not rise above that, every association in his life is reduced to that level and becomes an object for his own purposes." Pascal said, "There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man, and only God can fill it."
Is it any wonder that many people are committing suicide, while several others escape into the oblivion of drugs and alcohol? A large number of people live in the darkness of depression. Psychiatrists, psychologists and counsellors abound; but they are not able to treat the sickness that plagues the souls.
Why do today's youngsters turn to drugs in such large numbers? Why are they opting for other states of consciousness? This is just because they face the unbearable emptiness with a philosophy of life that provides no hope and no answers. St. Augustine said that the mind of man will never rest until it rests in God. Throughout human history, practical men of all nationalities, religions and philosophies have sought an answer to this quest.
Thomas Merton summed up the situation as follows: "Man is not at peace with his fellow man because he is not at peace with himself; he is not at peace with himself, because he is not at peace with God."
Ravi Zacharias put it this way: "After wrenching the past from the hands of a divine Creator, we barter away the present, convinced that there is nothing to hope for in the future. By rewriting the past, we have changed its influence on us. Our generation has nothing to look forward to, but oblivion. The entailments of this are terrifying: drugs, AIDS, suicide, alcoholism, crime, child pornography and a host of other symptoms that are heart-breaking. It is a short step from the ‘exploded’ doctrines of the past to the disintegration of hope for the future."
As a young man with a great job in the music industry, three things defined Bob Coy's life in the 1970s: sex, drugs and rock n' roll. Coy succumbed to the tempting influences around him, only to discover that his life still felt empty. But when Coy opened a Bible and read about God's love and forgiveness, he decided to put his faith in Christ and was never the same. Pursuing happiness had failed him-but the knowledge of God rescued him and changed his life.
The story of Bob Coy and many others were aired across the US by Billy Graham in early March. This special programme "America's Dream: Pursuing Happiness" inspired many viewers.
In the prophecy of Hosea, Jehovah brings against Israel a threefold accusation: lack of truth, lack of goodness, and lack of knowledge of God. Specifics of the accusation are: swearing, lying, killing, stealing, adultery and murder. Natural repercussions are that the land is not producing; it is filled with sadness, and all living things grow sick and die; the animals, the birds and even the fish begin to disappear. There are spiritual reverberations such as contention among the people and priests, and prophets stumbling as "blind leaders of the blind" (Lk.6:39). The people are destroyed because they do not know God.
Three virtues are missing among the people: no faithfulness, nor honesty in daily life; no kindness in personal relationships; and no knowledge of God, i.e., spiritual ignorance. Evils quickly move in to make a godless situation. The appalling spiritual darkness of the people leaves them groping in superstition, praying to idols, with a deep-seated desire for idolatry. The people exchanged the glory of God for the disgrace of idols.
"The priests rejoice in the sins of the people; they lap it up and lick their lips for more" (Hos.4:8 TLB). Since the priests have deliberately rejected the knowledge of God and His law, Jehovah will reject them. Because the priests flourished on the gross iniquities of the people, "feeding on the sin of the people and setting their heart on their iniquity," the same fate awaits both the people and priests. There was nothing to choose between the priests and the people. They will have utter frustration in all their efforts, due to their willful disobedience. As ever, "the wages of sin is death" (Rom.6:23).
When people turn away from the true God, they dishonour their own bodies. When they persist in this, "God gives them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonour their bodies among themselves," and "God gives them up to vile passions" (Rom.1:24, 26). There was respect neither for the purity of womanhood, nor for the bond of marriage. Nothing has a more direct bearing on the moral choices made by individuals, or the purposes pursued by society, than belief or disbelief in God.
The people have no knowledge of God or His law, and therefore, they are unfaithful to Him and deceitful in their dealings with one another. Their wickedness is the reason for the drought they are suffering (Hos.4:1-3). Nature suffers for man's sin. Lack of understanding (discernment) is the slow-acting poison of a nation doomed to destruction. God says: "Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children" (Hos.4:6).
"My people are destroyed because they don't know Me, and it is all your fault, you priests, for you yourselves refuse to know Me" (Hos.4:6 TLB). Chiefly to blame for this nationwide corruption are the priests. They have not taught God's law to the people. Instead, they have encouraged the people to offer more sacrifices so that they (the priests) can profit. Since they receive the meat of the sin offering, the priests welcome the people's sins. The more the people sin, the more sin offerings the priests receive. The priests are as bad as the people and are guilty of the same sins.
Is this not what we see daily all around us? Is this not what we read daily in our newspapers? Don't we hear such stories regularly through the TV? People are being destroyed for the lack of knowledge of God.
What is recorded in the Scripture is written for our instruction so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might apply God's Word in our lives. Then we will have hope in life. Application of God's Word will mean ordering our thinking and our lives in accordance with the truths we discover in God's Word. It is the responsibility of the church to teach God's Word to the people. But, the church is more concerned with outward regalia and has little concern for the spiritual needs of people.
God loves His people in spite of their sins and rebellion. He still desires the people's repentance rather than their destruction. If they repent, God in His love will give them a spirit of faithfulness to replace their unfaithfulness. He will bless them with refreshment, beauty and strength, and help them develop fruitful lives for Him. He will give them blessings far greater than those they looked for.
Departure from God denudes humans and results in the death of meaning, in spite of all the learning, education and hyperactivity of modern man. The situation was summarised powerfully by T.S.Eliot as follows: "Where is the life that we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information? The cycles of heaven in twenty centuries bring us farther from God and nearer to the Dust."
"God has put enough into the world to make faith in Him a most reasonable thing, and He has left enough out to make it impossible to live by sheer reason or observation alone." God desires that the people of His creation know Him. It is not enough that they should know about Him, but that they should know Him personally through a personal relationship with Him (Jer.24:7; Hos.6:6; 1 Jn.4:6, 8).
As we go through the Scriptures, we see a growing revelation of God's heart toward us and His purpose for man. The purpose of His revelation is that humankind may know Him intimately and personally. Only if we truly seek God with all our heart, will we find Him. Knowing God is to know God's Word.
"God knows those who are really His, and a person who calls himself a Christian should not be doing things that are wrong" (2 Tim.2:19 TLB). He has chosen them and He has taken them into a spiritual union with Himself (Am.3:2; Jn.10:27). We can know God only because He has first known us; that is, He loved us, chose us and made us His own (Exo.33:17; Jer.1:5; Jn.10:14). "How is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?" (Gal.4:9).
Knowledge has a very practical purpose. When we come to know the truth, we grow in that truth through learning more of God and His ways (2 Pet.1:5; 3: 18). If we profess to belong to God, but do not know or obey His law, we only bring God's judgement upon ourselves (Isa.5:13; Jer.4:22; Jn.9:39-41; Heb.5:12-13). The person who exercises a reverent submission to God has already taken the first step towards true knowledge. We who believe must increase our knowledge of God and all that He has done for us through Jesus Christ. As a result, we will know more of the power that Christ has made available to us. If we are to make correct decisions in life and develop character of true quality, we must increase our knowledge of God and His Word. We cannot expect to do God's will unless we know it (Psa.32:8-9; Phil.1:9-11; Col.1:9-10). We will be able to trust Him only to the extent that we know Him! Let us pray, like the Psalmist, for commonsense to apply God's rules to everything we do (Psa. 119: 125).
The knowledge that we are to seek can be obtained only as our minds are renewed and developed according to our new life in Christ (Rom.12:2; Col.3:2, 10). We must remember to put into practice what we learn (Psa.119:34; Jn.13: 17; Jas.1:22; 1 Jn. 2:4).Let us not fool ourselves. In using our knowledge, we should act with humility before God, and with love and consideration for fellow human beings (1 Cor. 8:1-2; 13:2).