Teresa Lockhart Stricklen | Bible Explorations
Knowledge of God lies at the heart of all understanding. | Read: Proverbs 3:1–26
Presbyterians promote education as one of our central values. Indeed, we are educational reformers because we value knowledge, all knowledge, including human knowledge. But the apex of all knowledge is the knowledge of God. With it, we come to better understand who God is and what the divine intentions are for all of creation. With the joy that comes from this understanding, we can serve the Lord with our whole being, including our minds.
Presbyterians cannot check our brains in the narthex, because we believe that knowledge is part of faith itself. As John Calvin says, faith is “a firm and certain knowledge of God’s benevolence toward us, founded upon the truth of the freely given promise in Christ, both revealed to our minds and sealed upon our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Institutes, 3.2.7).
The knowledge required to know God is an interactive, relational kind of understanding, not just a “knowing about” knowledge, though this, too, is necessary. Knowledge of God involves deep intuition about the person and work of the Holy One as seen most fully in Christ, whom we know primarily through the Holy Spirit and Scripture, but also through participating in the practices of the community of faith.
Proverbs 3 mentions many kinds of knowledge, with reverence for God being primary. This reverence is inextricably bound with one’s way of being in the world. This way is one of pleasantness and peace when one apprehends wisdom and clings to it as to a tree of life (vv. 17–18). No wonder one of the earliest designations of Christ is as the embodiment of wisdom (Luke 2:40; 1 Corinthians 1:30).
Pray: Psalm 119
This psalm is about knowing God. It’s long, so you may want to pray it over a week, averaging about 25 verses a day.
Study: What the Bible says about knowledge
It is no coincidence that sin involves striving for knowledge outside holy bounds. Adam and Eve had no knowledge of sin or evil until they desired to know as God knows and sought to cross the line between human and divine knowledge (Genesis 3). As 1 Samuel 2:3 says, ““[T]he Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.” The Old Testament prophets are continually trying to draw people back to knowledge of God’s way.
One of the worst things we can say to God is what Job describes the wicked doing: “They say to God, ‘Leave us alone! We do not desire to know your ways” (Job: 21:14). Job’s confession of faith at the end of his trials involves a right knowledge that God is God and we are not. Job says to the Lord: “I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (Job 42:3b).
The Gospel of John sees Jesus as the logos of God, which can be translated as word, thought, idea. In Christ we have the knowledge of God. The early church writers expounded upon this idea. In 1 Corinthians 1:18–31, Paul argues that Christ crucified reveals the wisdom of God, which is imputed to us for our transformation. In him, as Colossians 2:3 says, “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Thus, in and through Christ, the church prays that all might be filled with the knowledge of God for the continuous sanctification of the world (cf. Colossians 1:9) so that we might cry with all the saints, “Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen” (Revelation 7:12).
Remember: Habakkuk 2:14
“The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”
Live: Serving God with our minds
Though knowledge and wisdom are connected, we would do well to distinguish between human knowledge and wisdom, which is knowledge of and embodiment of God’s way in Jesus Christ. How can we use the knowledge we have in ways that are wise in that they bring glory and honor to God? If the whole earth is at least partially filled with the knowledge of God’s glory through Christ until it becomes fully so at the eschaton, where do you see “the knowledge of the glory of the Lord” revealed in the natural world? Our bodies seem to have a knowledge of how to heal when they’re working correctly, for example. How can we serve the Lord with our whole mind wherever we are, in whatever we’re called to do?
As we learn about our world and encourage others to do the same, may we pause in praise for the wisdom of God!