Wednesday, February 8, 2012

To Be Known

A couple of posts ago I made passing reference to this topic of 'being known' by God.  

Paul talks about this specifically more than anyone else does in scripture. It's not one of his major themes, but it does pop up in his writings more, probably because he was well-versed in the Old Testament scriptures (more about those later).  

To introduce this idea, perhaps I'd better turn to one of the more beloved passages in Scripture: that of the love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, written by the apostle Paul.  Verse 12 says (about when he finally gets to Heaven) "... then I will know fully, just as I also have been fully known."  

But doesn't God know everything and everyone?  After all, Jesus said that the hairs of our head are numbered, David talked about God knowing everything about us.  However, given the context, I believe that Paul is talking about a different kind of knowledge.  He talks about being "fully known."  This is a reference to the ancient Hebrew term "yada" which means to know someone the way a man "knows" his wife - that is, in an intimate way.  Ooh.  That puts a WHOLE new spin on it!  

Which explains the teaching of Jesus about judgement day, when people start listing all the wonderful things they've done, and the Judge says, "Depart from Me ... I never knew you."  

OUCH.  I guess that's kind of important, then.  So ... what does it mean to be "known by" God?

Source (via Google Images):
In 1 Cor. 8:3, Paul says, "If anyone loves God, he is known by Him." (By the way, that "loves" is the Greek agapé - often referred to God's love - which means it's humanly impossible!  It's so like Him to proactively give us the kind of love we need, with which to love Him back!!  It speaks of John's words, "We love Him because He first loved us.")  This also rings true with the secondary meaning of the term "to know" - which is "to progressively become familiar with" - that is, as in a very close friendship (which, if it works right, is the foundation out of which springs every good intimate relationship - but I digress).

In Galatians 4:9, Paul says again, "But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?" (I may come back to the book of Galatians - one of my faves - in another post.)

So from the above verses, we've seen that being known by God is far more than just being known the way a creator knows his creation - it involves an intimate personal relationship which is progressive. It produces a desire to know God in that same way (Paul speaking here again): "More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish, that I may gain Christ, and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him..." (Philippians 3: 8-10a)   

Wow!!  That's passion!  and it originates with Christ's love and passion for us.  

The intercourse imagery behind the verb "to know" brings me right back to a couple of Old Testament references.  One is the Song of Solomon - which if you would like to read as an allegory between Jesus and us, do so in a version that shows who is speaking - such as the Message. (By the way, the intensity of the language is enough to make some of us blush!)  The other is the reference in Genesis 3, after the fall of man, where (in the King James Version) it says, "And Adam knew his wife..." (This is the Hebrew word 'yada' which I mentioned before.)   It doesn't take much imagination to picture that. This kind of "to know" is repeated again and again in the Old Testament - Moses and the prophets are full of sexual references!  Anyway, I was thinking primarily of these two passages.  And there are some parallels that I would like to draw before I close this post, keys to allowing God to know us.  Individually.  Completely.

1.  We have to get close.  God took the initiative on this one - but we can always say no - and when we say No, there is no know.

2.  We have to spend time at it.  This is not a one-time thing and we've done our duty.  It's meant to be enjoyed, something to look forward to.

3.  We have to open ourself.  Spiritual penetration is not possible until we are open to it.  Um... I think I'll leave it at that.

4.  We have to talk.  (Sorry, guys.)  Spiritual intimacy is the context for conversation about what matters. It builds trust, deepens the bond.

5.  We have to linger.  Not just the act itself, but also the little things shared throughout the day can enhance spiritual union. Solomon talked about his bride "ravishing" him with just one glance.  Whew!  

The topic has been a hot one!!  Here's hoping the spiritual fireworks get ignited...

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