Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” [Jeremiah 9:23-24 (ESV)]
My husband loves to watch the chefs on Food Network but watching food being prepared on television doesn’t fill his empty stomach any more than just seeing his bottle will quiet a hungry baby. I could show you photos of the tulips and daffodils in Holland’s Keukenhof Gardens but that wouldn’t give you the experience of walking among hundreds of thousands of blooming flowers and smelling their fragrant aroma. You could tell me all about your children and even show me their pictures and, while I’d know about them and even recognize them, I wouldn’t know them until we met face to face and spent time together. Before I had my first child, I attended birthing classes and read all about labor and childbirth but nothing I learned came anywhere near to approximating the actual event! It’s been thrilling watching the Olympic athletes compete in the bobsled and monobob events, but watching from my sofa doesn’t come close to actually riding a sled down an icy track at more than 80-mph, dropping 384 feet in less than a mile while negotiating 16 turns, and feeling forces five times the pull of gravity on one’s body! Second-hand information is fine as far as it goes, but it never equals the genuine experience.
Do we have a first-hand relationship with God? Do we truly know Him or do we simply know about Him? There is nothing wrong with learning about Him through Bible study, our pastors, church friends, religion books, and even blogs. Nonetheless, we don’t want a second-hand faith or a long-distance relationship. Rather than living vicariously through another person’s faith journey, we must take that journey for ourselves. Listening to someone else read the Bible is not the same as reading it ourselves. As happy as I am to have you reading my words, just reading about the Bible and learning someone else’s interpretation of God’s word is not a substitute for studying His message and letting His word change your lives. Instead of just listening to our pastors tell us about God, we must come to know God and develop a personal relationship with Him.
There comes a time in our lives when our second-hand knowledge about God must become the first-hand experience of knowing Him. Consider the book of Job. The man endured the worst of the worst—losing family, wealth, health, and even the respect of his friends. As he questioned what he did to receive such suffering, his friends explained what they knew of God—some of it was right and some wrong but the part that was right was misapplied in Job’s situation. His friends meant no harm; they just were as ignorant as Job and had no idea what God was doing in the man’s trials. When God finally revealed himself to the suffering man, Job finally understood he and his friends had been speaking in ignorance because, while they’d heard about God, they really didn’t know Him.
We must never make the mistake of thinking that knowing what we believe is the same as knowing God! While God may not reveal Himself in a whirlwind as He did to Job, He can be known. Television ads for a jewelry store here in southwest Florida always end with the owner asking, “Have we met yet?” Could God be asking that question of you?