Sermons

Knowing God Through His Word

Sun, May 23, 2021
Teacher: Tom Blackford
Duration:27 mins 7 secs

Message text

Knowing God Through His Word
Jeremiah 9:23-24

INTRO:

Good morning. I ran across something in Jeremiah that I would like to look at this week. We will get back into the Book of Acts in a future lesson.

Our text is in Jeremiah chapter 9 and the topic of that chapter is the judgment against Judah. The pitifully wicked and immoral behavior of God's Once Chosen People had reached its terminal extent; and the horrible punishment which their apostasy so richly deserved was soon to be executed upon the degenerate, reprobate nation. In this chapter is a warning to those that would glory in themselves.

Now let’s look as our text in Jeremiah 9:23-24 – “Thus says the Lord: "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,'' says the Lord.”

There are many verses in the Bible that stress the need to know God but how do we do that? How do we know God? Isaiah 55:9 tells us; “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” It would seem then that we have an impossible task in knowing our creator... yet we are admonished to know God.

I think most of us understand that we can learn some things of God through His creation. The existence of beauty tells us something about the nature of God. Romans 1:20 tells us; “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,”

What I would like to do in this lesson is explore the fact that we can also know God through his Word. If the Bible is inspired, then it should help us to know God.

Let me relate to you a personal parallel to this as told by one individual. He wrote that his relationship with his wife took place in a similar way. When his first wife died in 2008, he found himself strongly missing what had been a good marriage. He said, “Through a series of unlikely connections, I began writing to a woman who had attended one of my presentations in Grand Junction, Colorado. In a period of months, I came to know this person well enough to believe that we had so much in common that marriage was possible.” That marriage happened with virtually no personal contact. He explained that while there had been a few surprises, they were now in their tenth year of marriage, and the relationship was a great blessing.

In the same way, we come to know God through His written Word. John 1:1 - tells us that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Verse 14 tells us “... the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” First John 1:1-2 refers to the same Word as the “Word of life” – “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us ”

The Greek word used in these verses is “logos,” and that word conveys what the dictionary calls “the divine wisdom manifest in the creation, government, and redemption of the world”. Let me share with you some of the different ways in which the Bible helps us know God, just as the written correspondence of that individual with his future wife enabled him to know her before they were in each other’s physical presence.

I. THE BIBLE HELPS ME TO KNOW GOD IN A NON-GENDER WAY. Our culture is obsessed with concerns about gender. Whether it is transgender or sexual identity, people today tend to couch everything in some sexual way.

A. The Bible repeatedly presents God in a way that transcends sexual concerns. When Proverbs 8 finds wisdom challenging us, wisdom is presented in the feminine gender.
B. When Jesus portrays God reaching out to Jerusalem in Matthew 23:37 He portrays Himself as a hen gathering her chicks. “"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”
C. When Paul writes to the Galatians in Galatians 3:28 he says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

II. THE BIBLE HELPS ME TO KNOW GOD AS A KIND, JUST, AND MERCIFUL BEING. We have all been around men and women who radiated kindness and fairness. You cannot read the life of Christ and not see that He attracted people by His fairness, His mercy, and His kindness.

A. Let’s look at John 8:3–11 – “3. Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, 4. they said to Him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act.” This woman was caught in the act of adultery and brought to Jesus in the hope of catching Him out and in Verse 5 they said; “"Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?''”
B. The response of Jesus was kind and fair. He confronted the accusers with the challenge, “"He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.''”
C. Jesus did not condone her sin, but His kindness and compassion radiated the attitude God has towards our struggles. The word “eleos” (el'-eh-os) translated “mercy” in passages like Matthew 5:7; 9:13; 12:7; and James 3:17 is most accurately translated as kind, compassionate. The Old Testament word “ḥeseḏ” (kheh'-sed) in Hebrew involves “loving-kindness” but is translated “mercy” in our English translations.
D. When we think we see God as being unkind or unfair, it is always a situation where humans are ignoring God’s purpose and reaping the consequences of what they have done. We tend to look selfishly at our own immediate gratification and not at the long-term purpose of God when He does not act in the way we think He should, or when we think He should.

III. THE BIBLE HELPS US TO UNDERSTAND THAT GOD HAS AN INTEREST IN AND FUNCTIONS IN ALL ASPECTS OF OUR LIVES. A science teacher in a public school observed that kids who had a father who was interested in them and in all aspects of their lives had a distinct advantage over kids whose fathers were disinterested or non-existent.

A. When we investigate the different words used in the Bible for God, what we find is that each of those words associated with a different part of human life. “Yahweh” carries with it the idea of love. “Elohim” means strength and might. “Adonai” indicates majesty, master.
B. There are a variety of less common names which convey God’s involvement in an area of our lives. Translators have struggled with this varied use. That is the reason we have “God,” “Lord,” “Jehovah,” “I Am,” “Father,” etc., used in different passages in the Old Testament.
C. What this tells me is that God is active and concerned with all aspects of my life. God is not some judge sitting in a judgment seat looking for ways to condemn me. He is an active, personal being who, as the Bible puts it, “...is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9).

IV. THE BIBLE HELPS ME SEE GOD AS THE CREATOR OF BEAUTY, POWER, WONDER, AND WISDOM. Have you ever sat by yourself in a place of incredible beauty and thanked God for what He has prepared and allowed you to perceive?

A. In scripture, we see people mesmerized by what surrounds them.

1. Proverbs 8 reminds us that wisdom was involved in the creation process.
2. Psalm 19 tells us that, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and skies proclaim the work of his hands.”
3. David looks at his own body in Psalm 139:14 and expresses amazement at how God made him.
4. Psalm 23 speaks of God’s support for us in the trying times of life. Jesus calls his followers to reflect on the beauty of the lily, and Romans 1:18-23 tells us we can know God exists by seeing the design and complexity built into all that surrounds us.

B. One of the most illuminating books of the Bible on this is the book of Job. The subject of the book of Job is God's dealings with mankind in a world in which Satan, the adversary of God, has introduced sin, suffering and death. Nevertheless, the ways of God with mankind always have a good purpose. Romans 8:28 says; “... we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

1. Job was a wealthy but righteous and God-fearing man. God allowed Satan to take away from Job his wealth, his family, and his health. With his three friends Job discussed the problem of why a righteous God allows a righteous man to suffer innocently. Job's three friends were not able to understand these ways of God. They thought God was punishing Job for sins and could not see that God also uses suffering to refine and to teach believers.
2. Job’s friend Eliphaz (el-ee-faz') bases his response that this is Job’s fault, on human experience in all three speeches (See Job 4:8).
3. Bildad (bil-dad'), who also addresses Job three times, gives reasons for his philosophical statements with tradition (see Job 8:8).
4. Finally, Zophar (tso-far') in a haughty and legal way traces Job's sufferings back to lack of obedience in respect to God's demands (Job 11:5-16).
5. Through all this Job sticks to his righteousness and sincerity. He thinks that God treats him in an unrighteous way and yet hopes that God will finally accept him.
6. Then Elihu (el-ee-hoo') appears. Let’s look at Job 32:1-10 – “1. So these three men ceased answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. 2. Then the wrath of Elihu (el-ee-hoo'), the son of Barachel (baw-rak-ale') the Buzite, (boo-zee' ) of the family of Ram, was aroused against Job; his wrath was aroused because he justified himself rather than God. 3. Also against his three friends his wrath was aroused, because they had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job. 4. Now because they were years older than he, Elihu had waited to speak to Job. 5. When Elihu (el-ee-hoo') saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these three men, his wrath was aroused. 6. So Elihu, the son of Barachel the Buzite, answered and said: "I am young in years, and you are very old; therefore I was afraid, and dared not declare my opinion to you. 7. I said, 'Age should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom.' 8. But there is a spirit in man, and the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding. 9. Great men are not always wise, nor do the aged always understand justice. 10. "Therefore I say, 'Listen to me, I also will declare my opinion.'”
7. Elihu (el-ee-hoo') begins his long tirade which continues through chapter 37. He is patronizing, his speech is loaded with repetitions, he protests too much about his sincerity and is blatantly unfair to Job. Job never claimed perfection, Job never accused God of malice or injustice. What Job did was complain bitterly that the things happening to him were undeserved. He could not understand why God allowed them to happen.

C. The whole cycle of speeches in Job is a marvel of human failure to understand.

1. The relation between sin and suffering Job never for a moment disputed. The thing that confronted Job was that, despite his integrity toward God and the absence of any gross wickedness that could possibly have deserved the terrible misfortunes that had overtaken him, he was judged by his friends, and everyone else, as a wicked sinner who was getting exactly what his wicked conduct deserved.
2. Elihu was not reasoning with Job with a view of helping. He was attacking Job. If we were to take the sayings of Elihu out of context, as many do, we might convince ourselves that they are commendable sayings but the invariable purpose of everything he said was for bringing about Job's renunciation of his integrity toward God, the same being the primary purpose of Satan himself. No speech with an evil purpose is a good speech, regardless of the content of it.
3. In chapter 36 Elihu shows himself. Now I’m reading Job 36:2-4 – “2. "Bear with me a little, and I will show you that there are yet words to speak on God's behalf. 3. I will fetch my knowledge from afar; I will ascribe righteousness to my Maker. 4. For truly my words are not false; one who is perfect in knowledge is with you.”
4. No one should miss the unqualified arrogance and egotism of such a declaration as this. Elihu pretended to be speaking on God's behalf; but his speech was totally dedicated to the destruction of Job's confidence in his integrity, that being, of course, not God's purpose at all, but as we said it was Satan's.

D. Now I would like us to look at one of the most delightful passages in the Bible Job 38-41.

1. We do not have the time here to examine this whole passage but let’s look at Job 38:1-12 – “1. Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said: 2. "Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? 3. Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me. 4. "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. 5. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6. To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? 8. "Or who shut in the sea with doors, when it burst forth and issued from the womb; 9. when I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band; 10. when I fixed My limit for it, and set bars and doors; 11. when I said, 'This far you may come, but no farther, and here your proud waves must stop!' 12. "Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place”
2. Here and following God unleashes a barrage of facts at Job and his friends. God challenges their attempts to explain things too complex for their understanding. Science is still investigating some of those things, but all of them speak of the beauty, the power, the wisdom, and the design of God.

E. This understanding brings me to the statement of David in Psalm 8:3-9 – “3. When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, 4. What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him? 5. For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor. 6. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, 7. All sheep and oxen even the beasts of the field, 8. The birds of the air, And the fish of the sea that pass through the paths of the seas. 9. O Lord, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth!”

V. THE BIBLE SHOWS ME THAT GOD HAS AN ETERNAL PURPOSE IN ALL THAT HE DOES. In Isaiah 55:11 we find God saying, “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”

A. Time after time the biblical record shows that the purpose God had for something, was accomplished. It does not always happen in the way that it seems to us God desired, but it happens.
B. Remember when Paul stood on the Areopagus and said, "Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to the unknown God. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you:”

1. Paul proceeded to explain that it was "God, who made the world and everything in it” and that He did “not dwell in temples made with hands.”
2. He explained that “in Him we live and move and have our being,... 'For we are also His offspring.”
3. Then Paul told them about Jesus and that now God “commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.''
4. Then in Acts 17:32 we find “... when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, "We will hear you again on this matter.'' So Paul departed from among them.” Like the Athenians of Acts 17, we frequently do not understand the spiritual purposes that God has for the things that happen, but the result is always what God intended.

C. That is not just true of the biblical characters like the ones described in Hebrews 11. The Bible tells us of their success stories and their failures. How things worked out for them helps me to know God and to know that God has a purpose for my life just as He does for every human on the planet.

1. The problem is that many of us simply do not allow God to accomplish His purpose through us. If that happens, God uses someone else to achieve that purpose.
2. We are not just mindless robots programmed to a certain destiny. We are creatures who can love, and we are able to choose not to love.
3. The beautiful exchange between Jesus and Peter in John 21:15–22 shows God’s purpose in Peter’s life. Jesus uses “agapao” asking Peter to be prepared for what is in front of him. Peter keeps responding with “phileo” indicating friendship but not a self-sacrificing love. God had a purpose for Peter.
4. And we know that Paul was referred to as “a chosen instrument” in Acts 9:15. These men could choose not to accept the purpose for which Christ had called them. Paul expresses fear about that very fact in 1 Corinthians 9:27 when he says, “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”.

CONCLUSION:
I know it can seem incredible to us that God has a purpose for our life. Like Paul, our past has opened the door to that purpose. We serve a God whose capacity to love and to lead us to something far better than we could ever do on our own propels us forward.

Do not assume you are just a speck drifting aimlessly through space/time. You are a being created spiritually in the image of God, and God has great things planned for you. God is a God of purpose, and His will always gets done. I just want to be a small part of that purpose. As I get to know God better through his Word, my confidence in being with God in eternity grows — and yours will too.

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We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God; and be baptized for the remission of our sins... If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.

Perhaps there is someone in the assembly today with the need to be buried with Christ in baptism. If you have never done these things, we urge you to do so today. If anyone has this need or desires the prayers of faithful Christians on their behalf, we encourage them to come forward while we stand and sing.

Invitation song # 607 – All Things Are Ready

Reference John N. Clayton and James Burton Coffman.

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