In his book, One Holy Hunger, Mike Cope talks about several myths or misconceptions that people have about God.
In this book we've tried to better understand God and, to this end, have reviewed a couple of the myths that actually hinder our deeper knowledge of and relationship with Him. For example, we have noted that God is Spirit but uses human and material images to help us relate to Him. In addition to this, we see His greatness in the qualities that He possesses. This knowledge should inspire us to be like Him, not to run away or be afraid of Him.
I also said that imitating God's holiness is the best way to grow in our knowledge of Him. In other words, the best way to know God is to imitate Him, and imitating His holiness required us to do two things:
- Go where He is at (prayer, service, worship, etc.)
- Act in the way that He acts – with purity.
Knowing God is the reward of the spiritual life we lead as Christians.
In this chapter we will look at another misconception about God. The idea that God is only interested in judging and condemning us, and that Christian life is only about rules and regulations.
When I first became a Christian, the one quality of God's personality that really bothered me was His omniscience (the fact that He is all-knowing). I was happy to know that He was all-powerful, all-good and all-wise because these things could help me in times of need or trouble. However, the fact that He knew everything about me made me feel uncomfortable. He knew what I thought. He witnessed and judged every word that I spoke, and everything that I ever did, good or bad.
This idea of not being able to have anything secret can make a person paranoid and drive them to abandon God if they don't realize how God sees our exposed life every day. David, king of Israel, explored this idea of nakedness before God in Psalms 139 and he came to a comforting and encouraging observation as he examined the One who was examining him.
What is interesting about this particular psalm is that David goes from being closed to God, even running away from Him, to being fully open and accepting of God's complete presence in his life.
This psalm helps us to understand the phenomenon of God being continually with us and how that complete intimate knowledge affects a person.
1O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
- Searched – God does His searching through the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26-27).
- Known – This penetrating look into our spirit by the all-wise Holy Spirit produces not only a casual acquaintanceship or a general idea of who we are, but a deep and intimate knowledge of who we really are, sometimes not even understood by ourselves.
In the following verses David explains the results of this kind of knowledge; you cannot hide from God and are naked before Him at all times.
2You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar.
God is aware of us while we rest and knows what we think about, good or bad.
3You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
God knows what we do and where we go.
4Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O Lord, You know it all.
God knows what we are going to say before it is said. He therefore knows the intent of what we say.
5You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
6Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is too high, I cannot attain to it.
God surrounds a person both physically and spiritually. The intensity of this type of presence is too much for the writer here to grasp.
7Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
8If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
9If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
10Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
11If I say, "Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,"
12Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You.
He tries to imagine a place or a condition where he could actually get away from God. His conclusion is that even the best hiding place (darkness) still cannot conceal him, because God is light and where He is, there is no darkness and nothing is hidden from Him.
The author now realizes that he is virtually naked before God.
At this point the author begins to see that his condition of nakedness before God may not necessarily be a bad thing. Instead of being uncomfortable or frightened, he begins to appreciate this special quality that God has.
13For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother's womb.
14I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.
15My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
16Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.
David realizes that it is this powerful knowledge that was at work in creating him.
- He recognizes that everything that exists does so because of God's knowledge, and for this reason he can rejoice in everything (i.e. he can rejoice in the sun because God made it).
- He also recognizes that God knew from the beginning what David's life would be and where his life would end. This brings him comfort (i.e. if God is with you at birth and at death, you are never alone).
His attitude changes from, "I want to hide" to "Well, this isn't so bad" to "I praise God because He knows so much!"
17How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.
When I awake, I am still with You.
In his understanding of God's omnipresence David moves from appreciation to praise for God's knowledge that has made his present life possible and knows about his future life as well.
His feelings have gone through four stages: discomfort at having someone's knowledge "surround" him; appreciation of that knowledge; praise for such great knowledge; and the fourth and final stage, prayer and confidence based on that knowledge.
He now relies on this full knowledge and rejects the darkness in which he once tried to hide.
19O that You would slay the wicked, O God;
Depart from me, therefore, men of bloodshed
20For they speak against You wickedly,
And Your enemies take Your name in vain.
21Do I not hate those who hate You, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against You?
22I hate them with the utmost hatred;
They have become my enemies.
David, confident that God knows him and how he feels, asks God to destroy his enemies. The idea not expressed here is that the enemies don't know God and refuse to acknowledge or be known by Him, therefore they deserved to be punished.
23Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
24And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.
The last stage sees David asking God to completely know him. This represents his full surrender. Before, he looked for ways to hide, places that could be kept secret, but once he realized that God's knowledge had always been there to create, preserve and protect, he opened his heart and invited God to search, know and examine him deeply. At this point he wants God's knowledge to heal him of his anxieties, sinfulness and infidelities.
His final plea is for God to take him by the hand and lead him to heaven because he is no longer afraid.
Have we ever contemplated where we are in the process of being known by God? Are we still hiding things or living a double life pretending that God may not see or care about our secrets? Hopefully we've moved away from this immature stage of development and arrived at the point in our lives where we can rejoice, praise and have confidence in God because God knows:
- how we feel and why we feel this way
- what we need
- when to act
- how to solve our problems
- who we really are and yet still loves us
I pray that as we press on in Christian maturity we not only have confidence that God knows us, but we consciously invite God in:
- to examine us in every way
- heal us of our sins and our weaknesses
- discipline us like sons and daughters
- change us for the better
- fill us with His love
- use us in His service
- help us to know Him in the way that He knows us
This total submission to the scrutiny of God is the final stage of our development in Christian maturity.