In the Bible we read: “…And the LORD said to Moses,…I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” (Exo. 33:17). To know God must surely be the ultimate aim of true religion. It is typified in Adam before the fall. We are told that Adam walked with God in the Garden of Eden. We are also told in scripture that Enoch walked with God. The two had such friendship, that one day Enoch went for a walk with God and never returned to earth (Gen. 5:24). Abraham also walked with God and was called God’s friend. The patriarch is still referred to in the Arabic language simply as el Khalil (the friend). Moses walked with God and talked with him, even on a “face to face” basis (Num. 12:8).
It seems that the essence of both Judaism and Christianity involves relationship with God. Micah 6:8 has been called a “high water mark” of Old Testament theology. It states: “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” In Judaism, the whole body of commandments and traditions governing the religion is called Halakhah. In the Hebrew language, Halakhah is derived from the word “walk” (ha-lak). Yes, real religion is a walk, a relationship, a friendship with God.
In the New Testament (Brit ha-da-sha) a great deal of emphasis is placed upon the subject of relationship with God and of knowing him. The gospel writer John tells us that Jesus knew the Father (10:15), and came to make the Father fully known to us (Jn. 1:18; 14:7). The New Testament declares Jesus to be “Immanuel” (God with us), spoken of in Isaiah 7:14. It also declares that through the Holy Spirit, God now comes to live with the believer and to abide in his heart (Jn. 14:23). To accept and know Jesus is to know the Father and life. In John 17:3, Jesus says: “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
Still there is always a cry in the healthy relationship to know God better. The Apostle Paul, to whom Christ appeared , later made this sigh: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings…” (Phil. 3:10). If Paul needed to know the Lord better, then surely we do too.
It even seems that the criteria for the final judgment of mankind will be based upon the matter of knowing God. Jesus once spoke of this judgment. He said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven…Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'” (Matt. 7:21-23). Outward acts of so-called “service to God” can never substitute for real relationship.
In the world around us it is often said, “It is not who you are, but who you know that counts.” A similar thing seems to be true in the spiritual world. Just as all of us have had doors swing wide open for us because we knew someone in authority, the Bible says that heaven’s doors will also swing open for those who know Jesus on an intimate basis.
THINGS THAT WRECK RELATIONSHIP
The thing that wrecked Adam’s relationship with God was sin. This has continued on through the ages to wreck the relationship with God for all of Adam’s heirs. The prophet Amos asks this pertinent question, “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3 NKJV). There can be no walking with God; no meeting him face to face until we agree with him about our sin, and let him solve our sin problem. We must learn to look upon sin as God does. We should withdraw from it in horror. We often want God to hear us and help us, but there is a problem. The prophet Isaiah says, “…your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear” (Isa. 59:2). We thus need repentance and God’s forgiveness.
The Christian faith holds that the Lord Jesus was offered once for all to solve this sin problem and to bring fallen and alienated man back into a relationship with God. Because of the great chasm between us and God – a chasm caused by our sin – we could not reach God. Instead, God in Christ reached us, and through the sacrifice of the blood of Jesus, our sins were covered forever. Hebrews 10:19-22 assures us that we can now approach God with confidence.
In addition to the sin problem between all of us and God, our relationship with others also clearly determines our relationship with God. The writer John states, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen” (1 Jn. 4:20).
Quite frankly, in many cases we will probably not get much closer to God than we are to our associates. We may not get any closer to God than we are to our husbands or wives. If anyone doubts this last statement, let him try to have an intimate prayer time with the Lord immediately after an argument with his wife! The royal law enunciated by Jesus in Mark 12:29-31, and also seen in the pages of the Old Testament is very simple. Not only must we love God with all our hearts; we must love our neighbor as ourselves.
In regard to this matter Jesus once taught, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift” (Matt. 5:23-24). It is abundantly clear by this, that our relationship to those near us has a profound impact upon our relationship with God.
HOW RELATIONSHIPS ARE STRENGTHENED
Let us look at the practical side of how relationships are strengthened. First of all, they are strengthened by quality time together. Some time ago I saw a little sign that read, “How do kids spell love? T-I-M-E.” God may spell love the same way, as he measures the quality and quantity of time we give him. We can all probably think of those blessed moments when we opened the Bible and God was so real, or when we bowed for prayer and God was right there with us. God would undoubtedly like more times like these. We surely would too, and we really need them.
It is interesting that when people are married for many years, they sometimes begin to favor each other? The Bible says this is what happens to God’s saints. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:18, “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” When Moses spent a few days with God on the mountain, his face became so glorious that the people couldn’t bear it and he was obliged to cover it.
People who spend time together often think similar thoughts. My wife and I have been married 46 years now. Very often we will open our mouths simultaneously to say the same thing, or we will suddenly begin singing the same song. It always amazes us. On the other hand, it is possible sometimes for people who know each other well to take each other for granted. We can also do this in our relationship with God, but it will bring us much heartache and trouble.
In the Hebrew Bible a common word for “know” is ya-dah. This word expresses a very intimate relationship and even includes the sexual relationship between man and woman. Today in modern Hebrew, there is a separate word used to expresses ordinary friendship and acquaintance. The beginning Hebrew student must take great care to use these words properly in order to avoid embarrassment. Thus, even the biblical language makes plain that our walk with God is an intimate one. We are conformed to his image (Rom. 8:29). We learn to think his thoughts and to speak his mind. The Apostle tells us that the very mind of Christ is mysteriously implanted within us (1 Cor. 2:16).
Rabbi Mordechai Gafni notes: “Jewish tradition is about nothing if it’s not about God. The fundamental Jewish imperative is to know God. Not the intellectual knowledge of the philosopher; in Jewish text, knowledge is always a quest for intimacy: “And Adam knew his wife Eve” (Gen. 4:1). To know God is to be intimate with God.”*
There are other means whereby our relationship with God can be strengthened, such as listening, praying, being absorbed with God’s word, walking in his Holy Spirit, etc. One of the greatest means of knowing God and his ways is through biblical meditation. In recent years the subject of meditation has fallen into a bad light due to its emphasis in the eastern cults. We must not let the devil steal this biblical concept.
Biblical meditation is mentioned many places in scripture. The Psalmist says, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psa. 1:1-2). We know from scripture that Isaac was meditating as he waited for the arrival of his wife to be (Gen. 24:63). The great men of the Bible had unusual insight into God’s plan and they may have gotten it by meditation.
What a challenge we have – a challenge to personally know the King of the Universe! We are assured in the Bible that such a thing is possible, but we must press into it just as Paul and others did. In Hosea 6:3 the prophet challenges us, “Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”
After this age closes, there will be many who will know God. It is said in Jeremiah 31:34, “No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,’ declares the LORD. ‘For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.'”
This updated article is presented courtesy of Bridges For Peace, Jerusalem.
*Close Encounters of the Divine Kind, by Rabbi Mordechai Gafni