By Mike Conn
Earthly power, wealth, and wisdom are not as important as being intimately acquainted with God. It should be our greatest goal to develop a feel for knowing God in every way possible. The greatest accomplishment in life is to be pleasing to Him. It is impossible to please Him if one does not know Him. The ultimate follower of Christ is the person who knows Him and continually seeks to know Him more.
When a person is seeking to “know” God he is engaged in the greatest endeavor known to man. Many religious people know about God in a superficial way, but they have not plumbed the depths of the reservoir of His greatness. Unfortunately, many are satisfied with a thimble full of His blessings, while there is an ocean of grace that is available.
Many Bible characters incurred the wrath of God when they did not fully obey God’s instruction. Their lack of full obedience is an indication that they had gaps in their understanding of God.
The man that was after God’s own heart (I Samuel 13:14) once displayed a lack of understanding when it came to the things of God. David wanted to bring the Ark of the Covenant back to a prominent place in Israel. He gathered thirty thousand men of Israel to accomplish this great feat. Since the Philistines had modernized the method of transporting the Ark by using an ox-drawn cart, David thought that he could do the same. However, the proper way to transport the Ark had been given by Moses. It was to be carefully carried by golden staves on the shoulders of the Kohathite clan of the Levitical priesthood (Numbers 7:9). A stipulation God gave was that no human hand was to touch it (Numbers 4:15).
Even though there were thirty thousand people praising God while the ark was being transported, nobody knew that God was displeased by the oxen and the cart method of transporting the Ark.
As it would happen, the oxen “stumbled” and Uzzah simply used his hand to steady the ark from falling to the ground. The displeasure of God fell upon Uzziah and he died. This act of God took place while a great uproar of praise was going on. It must have left everyone thunderstruck. It was such a stunning disappointment that David called off the endeavor. This must have looked like a heavy-handed act by God. David came close to losing his faith in God. He was “displeased” with God for a period of time.
“And when they came to Nachon’s threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God. And David was displeased, because the LORD had made a breach upon Uzzah: and he called the name of the place Perezuzzah to this day. And David was afraid of the LORD that day, and
said, How shall the ark of the LORD come to me?” (II Samuel 6:6-9).
Logic seemed to say that God ought to be happy with King David for bringing the ark back and having thirty thousand people praising Him. Human reasoning would conclude that God should not be so strict with His instructions. However, the lesson for David (and all of us) was and is that God is more concerned with our obedience than He is with our praise. David’s failure to “know God” cost a man’s life and almost cost David his soul. David seemed to learn very quickly that God’s thoughts and ways are different from ours (Isaiah 55:8-9).
Eventually David saw his mistake and obeyed the command to carry the Ark on the shoulders of the Priests. The Ark was properly transported to Jerusalem and David grew in his knowledge of God. Later the writings of David gave proof that he valued the “ways” of the Lord and desired to know them.
“Show me thy ways, 0 Lord; teach me thy paths” (Psalm 25:4).
“The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works” (Psalm 145:17).
MOSES’ NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCE
When one reads the life of Moses, he can get the feeling that Moses was not overjoyed in the beginning of his ministry. He was reluctant to go to Pharaoh and deliver God’s message. He did not seem too excited about being on the spot in the ongoing saga of God’s redemption of man. He had given God five reasons why he could not go to Egypt and preach to Pharaoh. Moses had “beaten around the bush” (forgive the pun) with God for two whole chapters (Exodus 3-4), but finally acquiesed.
While he was on the way to Egypt something very strange happened. Moses became sick and was almost killed by the Lord. From all indications, it appeared that he wanted to avoid a disagreement with his wife. (Haven’t we all been there.) It seems that she did not want to circumcise their son as Moses did. After all, he was not an infant and this rite is not too pleasant on adults. Yet, the Lord held Moses responsible and “sought to kill him.”
“And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the Lord met him, and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me. So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision” (Exodus 4:24-26).
When Zipporah finally obeyed her husband and circumcised their son, God healed Moses. However, this disagreement caused a division in Moses’ house and
Zipporah appears to have returned to Midian with her son. She rejoined Moses after the Exodus (Exodus 18:1-2).
Logic and reason would conclude that since Moses was doing something he did not want to do and was sacrificing his career as a shepherd that God would let him slide a little. Since he was being obedient to the Lord by going to Pharaoh, surely a little ignorance could be tolerated, but it was not so. It was a very amazing incident that indicates God’s intolerance for man’s disobedience to His instructions. One thing is for sure: Moses learned something about God in this painful incident. He learned that God will not tolerate disobedience or compromise. This may have been the reason why Moses stood firm against the four compromises that Pharaoh proposed concerning the Exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt (Exodus 7‑11).
Once I visited the city of San Francisco. The place was very crowded with people. Waves of people were walking in every direction. We walked by a man who had his Bible and was in the process of preaching to the mass of people. He was really giving everybody a verbal assault. He was saying something to the effect that we love our money and that we are all going to hell and so on. Several hours later we were in a different part of town and saw this same guy, this time he had a ghetto blaster boom box and was singing a worldly song on a sidewalk. I stopped and asked if he was the same guy that was being so hard on everyone a few hours before. He said yes, but he said that he felt that if he would preach like he did on one side of town that God would allow him to slide a little on the other side of town.
This admission on the part of this man indicated that he was woefully lacking in his understanding of God. It also reveals what might be in a lot of people’s hearts. However, God will not let us slide on anything that He has told us to do. He expects us to be obedient in everything.
“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Joshua 1:8).
It was not long before Moses saw his need to know Him. While he was on the mountain he requested to “see God’s glory” (Exodus 33:18-20). This he was denied but Moses was given a glimpse of the hinder parts of God. He then requested to know more about God.
“Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight: and consider that this nation is thy people” (Exodus 33:13).
Later the inspired psalmist wrote about Moses and said, “The LORD executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed. He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel” (Psalm 103:6-7).
ABRAHAM DISPLAYED A KNOWLEDGE OF GOD
The great patriarch Abraham looked up one day and saw three men near his tent. Instinctively he seemed to realize that one of them was God and that His two companions were angels. He evidently was so keen in the Spirit that he knew and recognized his Maker in an instant. What looked like three ordinary human beings was, in fact, Almighty God and two angels in human form.
“And the Lord appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said. And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth. And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it” (Genesis 18:1-7).
Abraham served them a meal and displayed lavish amounts of hospitality and graciousness. They conversed about God’s plan to give him a son through Sarah.
Finally, God revealed to Abraham that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were about to be judged. This led to an appeal for mercy from Abraham. This intercession on Abraham’s part brought about the deliverance of Lot and his family. This shows an amazing amount of knowledge that Abraham had of God (Isaiah 41:8).
When the angels went to Sodom, the Sodomites did not recognize them and attempted to mistreat them. Their wickedness brought about the destruction of all the “cities of the plain” (Genesis 19:29). In modern language they were vaporized. Lot and his two daughters escaped with only the clothes on their backs. This tragedy happened because they did not “know God.”
ELIJAH S TEMPTATION
The prophet Elijah had to go through the learning process of knowing Jehovah God. One of his problems was that he became disappointed in the seemingly slow process that was used to get rid of Baal worship in Israel. Those who are closely acquainted with God have learned that waiting on God can sometimes be the most difficult thing that we are called upon to do. The Scripture is filled with admonitions to “wait” on the Lord and not get in too big of a hurry.
“Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD” (Psalm 27:14).
“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass” (Psalm 37:7).
“Wait on the Lord, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it” (Psalm 37:34)
“And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the Lord is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him” (Isaiah 30:18).
“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
Because Elijah lost patience and got discouraged, he requested for himself that he might die (I Kings 19:4). Then the angel of the Lord instructed him to go to Mount Horeb. After he arrived, Elijah found himself surrounded by some very phenomenal events. In a matter of a short period of time the mountain experienced a great wind, and then a great earthquake, and then a great fire. But the Lord was not in any of these events. Suddenly, Elijah heard a “still small voice” (I Kings 19:12-13), and he knew that it was the voice of the Lord. He wrapped his face in his mantle and braced himself to hear from God.
The question should be asked, If the Lord was not in the “wind,” the “earthquake” or the “fire,” then what was? If God was not in them, then it must have been the spirit of deception, the evil one. It seems evident that Satan was making a bid for the prophet to lead him astray with lying wonders (II Thessalonians 2:9).
How coincidental that about five hundred years before Elijah’s experience, Moses saw similar things on the same mountain. They involved wind, fire and earthquake (Exodus 19). Thus, it appears that the devil was attempting to get Elijah to believe that God was going to give him a repeat of Moses’ experience. However, Elijah knew God and could not be fooled with a counterfeit. He exercised discernment that probably saved him from falling into a satanic delusion. He survived the test and he got instructions from God that would eventually lead to the total destruction of Baal worship, albeit several years later.
BALAAM’S FAILURE TO KNOW GOD
When Israel was in their exodus from the land of Egypt, Balak, the king of Moab, sent for Balaam to curse the people of God. Balaam told the messengers of Balak that God would not allow him to go with them. He said the Lord would not allow him to curse Israel. His exact words were, “If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord my God, to do less or more” (Numbers 22:18). Balaam’s problem was he knew how to talk the talk but he did not know how to walk the walk. He was similar to the people that Jude described in the New Testament. They speak “great swelling words, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage” (Jude 16). The advantage that Balaam wanted was to have the “wages of unrighteousness” (II Peter 2:15).
Balaam was almost killed by the angel of the Lord as he was riding on his donkey. His mistake seemed to be that he did not completely follow God’s instruction. He was told by the Lord that he could go with the messengers “if” the messengers called for him the next morning
“And God came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him, If the men come to call thee, rise up, and go with them; but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do” (Numbers 22:20).
Unfortunately, Balaam did not wait for the messengers to call for him the next morning. He simply got up early in the morning and went with them. As a result the angel of the Lord was sent to slay him, for his way was “perverse before the Lord.”
“And God’s anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the Lord stood in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him. And the ass saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and the ass turned aside out of the way, and went into the field: and Balaam smote the ass, to turn her into the way. But the angel of the Lord stood in a path of the vineyards, a wall being on this side, and a wall on that side. And when the ass saw the angel of the Lord, she thrust herself unto the wall, and crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall: and he smote her again. And the angel of the Lord went further, and stood in a narrow place, where was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left. And when the ass saw the angel of the Lord, she fell down under Balaam: and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff. And the Lord opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times? And Balaam said unto the ass, Because thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee. And the ass said unto Balaam, Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? was I ever wont to do so unto thee? And he said, Nay. Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face. And the angel of the Lord said unto him, Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times? behold, I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me” (Numbers 22:22-32).
Though Balaam seemed to “know God” to some degree, he was unable to discern God’s displeasure.
THE BESETTING SIN OF MAN IS PARTIAL OBEDIENCE
Partial obedience seems to be the besetting sin of all humanity. Failure to follow explicit instruction is repeated over and over again in the Bible. Bible characters failed to realize that God’s Word is to be followed to the dotting of the “i’s” and the crossing of the “t’s.” The Bible makes mention of those who fully obeyed the instructions of the Lord in the task that God had given them.
Noah’s obedience is mentioned when he built the ark.
“Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he” (Genesis 6:22).
Moses built the Tabernacle according to all God’s instructions.
“Thus did Moses: according to all that the LORD commanded him, so did he” (Exodus 40:16).
Ruth was obedient to all that Naomi instructed her.
“And she went down unto the floor, and did according to all that her mother in law bade her”
SENSITIVE TO HIS LEADING
In order to know God we must be sensitive to His leading. Though God’s communications can be so faint and His signal so small, yet those that know Him can comprehend the slightest signal.
“Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets”
It is evidently possible that a person can be so in touch with God that he can sense when God is grieved or displeased. This will trigger a response that will cause him to act accordingly. We can be so in touch with God that we can actually think His thoughts and breath His breath. This ability to sense what is in God’s mind is evidently what Paul meant when he said, “That I might know him” (Philippians 3:10). It is the ultimate degree of spirituality and it is the the highest point of Spirit-led living possible.
Paul said he would someday know God as God knows us (I Corinthians 13:12).
The above article, “The Ultimate Follower of Christ” was written by Mike Conn. The article was excerpted from chapter 11 in Conn’s book, New Testament Treasures in Job.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.