Today’s reading: Jeremiah 7-9.
Think about someone you know well – a friend, a parent, your spouse. You know things about them, such as the foods they like, or what they like to watch on TV, or what they like to do for fun. You can predict how they will react to certain situations. More than that, you can easily talk with them because of the time you have spent together and the understanding you share with them. Finally, think about what they will do for you, or you will do for them, if either of you need help. You would do it because of the bond between you.
Someone has said that how well we know another person depends on the number and depth of our shared experiences.
- Number. You have a huge number of shared experiences with your family. Many of them are mundane, but the sheer number of them guarantees that you will get to know your parents and siblings.
- Depth. Consider someone you have fought beside in a war, or a person you worked closely with on a work project, or someone with whom you fell in love. The power of the emotions creates a lasting connection. The intimacy opens you up to sharing much more than superficial knowledge about yourself.
Now consider your knowledge of God. Many people claim to know God, but most only know about him, as they would know about the President. Few people know God through a relationship with him that is based on a number and depth of shared experiences. That was exactly God’s charge against the people of Judah in Jeremiah’s time.
This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD. “The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will punish all who are circumcised only in the flesh– Egypt, Judah, Edom, Ammon, Moab and all who live in the desert in distant places. For all these nations are really uncircumcised, and even the whole house of Israel is uncircumcised in heart.” Jeremiah 9:23-27
God said if the people really knew him they would know his character and his heart. The fact that the people depended on their own abilities, rather than on God’s power, was further proof that they did not know him. Finally, God taught them that an outward show of religion, such as circumcision (you could substitute attending church services), was no substitute for surrendering one’s heart to God. As Jesus said in John 4, we must worship God in spirit and in truth.
It’s time for us to know God better, and it won’t happen without increasing the number and depth of our shared experiences. We can increase the number through times of daily devotion (prayer and Bible reading) and worship with other believers. We increase the depth of our shared experience through dependence on God, by putting ourselves in situations where we rely more completely on his power than our own. We can also grow deeper with God in times of worship and by being more honest with him about our own character.
Jim Elliot, the martyred missionary, wrote in his personal journal: “I walked out on the hill just now. It is exalting, delicious, to stand embraced by the shadows of a friendly tree with the wind tugging at your coattail and the heavens hailing your heart, to gaze and glory and give oneself again to God – what more could a man ask? Oh, the fullness, pleasure, sheer excitement of knowing God on earth! I care not if I never raise my voice again for Him, if only I may love Him, please Him . . . If only I may see Him, touch His garments, and smile into His eyes.”