Knowing God Bible Study
EVIDENCE OF KNOWING GOD
We have said that when people know God, losses and “crosses” cease to matter to them; what they have gained simply banishes these things from their minds. What other effects does knowledge of God have on a person? Various sections of Scripture answer this question from different points of view, but perhaps the most clear and striking answer of all is provided by the book of Daniel. We may summarize its witness in four propositions.
1. Those who know God have great energy for God. In one of the prophetic chapters of Daniel we read, “The people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits” (11:32 KJV). RSV renders thus: “The people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.” In the context, this statement is introduced by “but” and set in contrast to the activity of the “contemptible person” (v. 21) who sets up “the abomination that causes desolation” and corrupts by smooth and flattering talk those whose loyalty to God’s covenant has failed (vv. 31-32). This shows us that the action taken by those who know God is their reaction to the anti-God trends which they see operating around them. While their God is being defied or disregarded, they cannot rest; they feel they must do something; the dishonor done to God’s name goads them into action.
This is exactly what we see happening in the narrative chapters of Daniel, where we are told of the “exploits” of Daniel and his three friends.
These were four men who knew God, and who in consequence felt compelled from time to time actively to stand out against the conventions and dictates of irreligion and false religion. Daniel in particular appears as one who would not let a situation of that sort slide, but felt bound openly to challenge it. Rather than risk possible ritual defilement through eating palace food, he insisted on a vegetarian diet, to the consternation of the prince of the eunuchs (1:8-16). When Darius suspended the practice of prayer for a month, on pain of death, Daniel not merely went on praying three times a day, but did so in front of an open window, so that everyone might see what he was doing (6:10). One recalls Bishop Ryle leaning forward in his stall at St. Paul’s Cathedral so that everyone might see that he did not turn east for the creed!
Such gestures must not be misunderstood. It is not that Daniel, or for that matter Bishop Ryle, was an awkward, cross-grained fellow who luxuriated in rebellion and could only be happy when he was squarely “agin’” the government. It is simply that those who know their God are sensitive to situations in which God’s truth and honor are being directly or tacitly jeopardized, and rather than let the matter go by default will force the issue on men’s attention and seek thereby to compel a change of heart about it—even at personal risk.
Nor does this energy for God stop short with public gestures. Indeed, it does not start there. People who know their God are before anything else people who pray, and the first point where their zeal and energy for God’s glory come to expression is in their prayers. In Daniel 9 we read how, when the prophet “understood from the Scriptures” (v. 2) that the foretold time of Israel’s captivity was drawing to an end, and when at the same time he realized that the nation’s sin was still such as to provoke God to judgment rather than mercy, he set himself to seek God “in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes” (v. 3), and prayed for the restoring of Jerusalem with a vehemence and passion and agony of spirit to which most of us are complete strangers.
Yet the invariable fruit of true knowledge of God is energy to pray for God’s cause—energy, indeed, which can only find an outlet and a relief of inner tension when channeled into such prayer—and the more knowledge, the more energy! By this we may test ourselves. Perhaps we are not in a position to make public gestures against ungodliness and apostasy. Perhaps we are old, or ill, or otherwise limited by our physical situation. But we can all pray about the ungodliness and apostasy which we see in everyday life all around us. If, however, there is in us little energy for such prayer, and little consequent practice of it, this is a sure sign that as yet we scarcely know our God.
J. I. Packer, Knowing God (Westmont, IL: IVP Books, 2011).