If we were to closely observe the Gospels and the Epistles, one of the prime directives we can see is that God wants us to ‘know Him’ and that we increase in the ‘knowledge of Him’. God is not pleased when we do all our Christian activities with precision but fail to take the time to get to know his heart.
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 3:18
“so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.” Colossians 1:10
‘Knowing God’ is beyond ‘being saved.’ Salvation is perhaps the first step in our journey of ‘knowing God’ and discovering the infinite riches of wisdom hidden in Him. The scriptures lay it out beautifully for us to learn from the lives of men and women who took the time to know His heart and others who followed the dictates of their own hearts, thereby failing to understand the heart of the eternal One fully.
David and Saul:
The testimony that God gave about David was that he was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:22). What an incredible honor to have such a testimony from God Himself! If we read the Psalms, we get a glimpse of the heart of King David. One of the aspects that stood out to me was that He knew the ‘heart’ of his God.
For instance, David lived under the Mosaic Law, at a time when the children of Israel were expected to follow the law to the ‘T’. The daily sacrifices, the ceremonial cleansing and all of the laws that we read in Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy and Numbers, were a part of the Judaic lifestyle back then.
Yet, in Psalm 51 when he was repenting about his sin with Bathsheba, this is what he says:
“For you do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart – these, O God, You will not despise.” Psalm 51:16-17
Although daily sacrifices and burnt offerings were something God commanded, how did David know that God’s heart was not after the sacrifices but had a more profound significance beyond that? How could he connect daily sacrifices and burnt offerings to ‘a broken spirit’ and ‘a contrite heart’?
Although he held the law with honor, more than just having a ‘knowledge of the law’, David had a deeper understanding of the ‘heart’ of the Law-Giver. He saw the desires of God’s heart and understood what ‘delighted’ God. Indeed, it was not the sacrifices of bulls and goats. Instead, it was a broken heart that comes before him in repentance and a contrite spirit that is leaning on his strength to change.
On the contrary, when we read about the Pharisees and the elders of Israel during the time of Jesus, we see that they had excellent knowledge about the law but little or no understanding about the ‘heart’ of the Law-Giver.
Although Saul was from the tribe of Benjamin and familiar with all the laws of Moses, he failed God time and again by his disobedience to God’s Commandments. Saul thought that the mere act of performing a ritual sacrifice would be sufficient to please God. That’s perhaps why he didn’t think twice before making the offering to God instead of waiting for Samuel to come (1 Samuel 13). Saul disobeyed God’s command again for the second time when he disobeyed God’s command by not fully destroying the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15). Prophet Samuel sharply reprimanded him saying,
“Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15:22
Clearly, Saul did not have the understanding of God’s heart, like David did.
Cain and Abel:
“Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering.” Genesis 4: 3-5
I’ve often wondered what Cain’s wrongdoing was, in bringing the offering. After all, he brought an offering from his hard labor too. The scriptures give us a glimpse into the situation. A few verses below, God speaks thus:
“If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” Genesis 4:7
This verse tells us that there was something that Cain didn’t do right in the sight of God.
Let’s look closely at Abel’s offering. We will see how Abel’s offering accurately pointed to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross because, when God gave the law to Moses many centuries later, he commanded that the lamb to be offered must be without blemish, and the ‘fat of the lamb’ must be offered as a peace offering. (Leviticus 4:26-35). How did Abel know about the ‘fat of the lamb’ if God had not revealed it to him? How could God have revealed it to Abel unless he diligently sought the LORD? For God is no respecter of persons, but is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him, to know Him.
Abel’s offering was pleasing to God because Abel gave a sacrifice having an ‘understanding of God’s heart’, while Cain just gave what he thought was best.
Jacob and Esau:
Although known as a deceiver and hated by his brother, Jacob was still loved by God, while Esau missed the mark. When you study their personalities closely, you will see that Esau was the ‘good boy’ by all worldly means. What was it then that made God favor Jacob over Esau? (Romans 9:13)
One of the reasons I found was, Jacob had such a hunger for the living God that he wanted his blessing at all costs. While Esau despised a great God-given gift, Jacob longed for the same. God was looking at the heart, which desired to somehow draw near to the God of Heaven.
Even while he wrestled with the angel of God (Gen 32), we see a glimpse of his hunger to know more about God. “What is your Name,” Jacob asked.
In wrestling with God, all that Jacob cared, even more than his life, was to know more about God! The stories of how his father Isaac and his grandfather Abraham walked with God, could have caused Jacob to long for the same and perhaps hunger for more. Jacob must have learned from his fore-fathers that desiring God Himself was more noble than any earthly blessings one could possess.
Indeed, Jacob esteemed his life lightly compared to the glorious riches of knowing God.
“Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Genesis 32:29
The hunger of Jacob to know God and how he diligently sought God is noteworthy.
One of the common characteristics that we see running in the lives of men and women who found favor in God’s eyes is that they had a hunger to know more of God and his heart. They had a deep desire for a relationship with God himself. Religion, which is nothing but a list of do’s and don’ts, could not satisfy them. They had a desire that could not be satiated until they knew God for themselves.
Even today, God is looking for a people who will go after his heart and diligently seek him to know him. For the Father seeks such to worship him – those who will worship him in Spirit and truth, not according to flesh, rituals, and the dictates of one’s own heart.
“God looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.” Psalm 53:2
Man was created to know God. We are much more privileged than David, Abel, and Jacob because what was kept hidden under the Old Covenant has been revealed to us in the New. The name which God did not give Jacob when he asked, has been revealed to us. God has revealed himself through Jesus Christ. We see God most clearly and know Him most intimately through His Son, Jesus Christ.
The veil is now torn and simple believers like you and I, can get to know more about God than Jacob ever did. Nothing delights God more than when we take the time to know him just a little bit more than yesterday. Take time to know him. Indeed we shall find Him when we seek him with all our heart.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.” Matthew 5:6