I am a naturally curious person. I love to learn new things. I’m a sucker for well-done infographics. The dictionary is one of my closest friends. If I had a set, I would probably read through the encyclopedia. I’ve always wanted to do that.
Shoot, I even had the time and temperature number on speed dial on my phone back when we had landlines and there was such a thing as a “Time and Temperature” number you could call. Just because I wanted to know.
I love knowledge. And, sometimes that gets me in trouble.
In fact, I bump into that when I consider God. I can set out to study a passage of scripture and get so hung up on one little piece of scripture where I–in all my “wisdom” (roll eyes)–think the authors of scripture should have given us more information. That, God, Himself, should have given us more information.
That is so wrong of me.
I want to know why God had to knock Jacob’s hip out of join in order to win the wrestling match. I want to know how a fish could have swallowed Jonah, and then proceed to vomit him out. I want to know what was going on in Jesus’ life between the ages of 12 and 30. I want to know where the Ark of the Covenant went. I want to know the “Why” behind dozens of tragic stores. And joyful stories, too.
And, the questions I have about the meaning of different scriptures in and of themselves could fill an entire notebook. Or two.
Is it wrong to want to know? No, I don’t think so. God wouldn’t have created with a thirst for knowledge. Desiring knowledge is not a sin. Seeking knowledge drives us to gain skills that we need to hold jobs. Seeking knowledge compels us to make wise decisions with finances. Parents seek out knowledge on how to best care for their children. And, a desire to know God drives us to study scripture. And to prayer.
So, where do I go wrong? I go wrong when I allow the frustration of “not knowing” to stand in the way of seeking to know Him.
That’s a little confusing, I know. I’ll try to explain it better:
There are times–sadly, many times–that I find myself frustrated with my lack of “knowing” to the point that I allow that lack of knowing to come between God and I. In fact, I allow it to feed my cynical tendencies. I allow it to harden my heart, and even to evolve into bitterness.
This, is sin.
This, is letting my desire to “know” and “understand” become an idol, placed above God.
There is a difference, though between knowing God, and understanding all there is to understand about God. Because, while God is approachable and present and knowable, He cannot be fully understood. We are taught in Psalm 145:3 this:
And David proclaims in Psalm 139:6:
And, the questions I have about scripture have been pursued by men and women far richer in knowledge that my feeble mind, and yet so many questions remain. Questions that drive me insane, when I allow them to.
But, that doesn’t mean God is unknowable.
I used to like the idea of a huge, unknowable God–one that couldn’t see me or know me. One that wasn’t personal. The idea of a God who was relational terrified me. Absolutely petrified me. I was ok with a creator God. I was not ok with an intimate God who searched me and knew my thoughts from afar. To me, that kind of God was far too dangerous.
And, He is. He is dangerous.
And, He is personal. And knowable. But not always in the ways we wish He was.
I am slowly learning to love Romans. I have to fight my way through that book, but I am painfully, slowly doing so. One of the passages I fought with is Romans 1:19-32. In that passage is verse 19:
The reason we know anything about God, is because He has revealed to us what it is He desires us to know. Any knowledge we have of Him, comes from Him. Yes, we must pursue that knowledge, through scripture work and through sitting under sound preaching and teacher. But it ultimately comes from Him. There is something both maddening and comforting in that. Maddening, because I want to know more. Maddening, because I would probably be the first to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil–simply because the word “knowledge” was involved.
But, there is comfort, too. Comfort in knowing that God knows what I need to know in order to understand His grace and His salvation. There is comfort, too, in knowing that while there are still times that I think I would prefer a God who is far off, creating and too large to know, He knows that I need a God that is knowable, and who knows me. A God who sees and knows, in the darkest nights.
I’m currently reading War and Peace by Tolstoy. In there are these words: “We can know only that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom.” There is some truth in that. There is some sense that knowing that I know nothing about God, apart from what He reveals to me, is the only place I need to be, in seeking Him.
If you’d like to read more about knowing God, I’d suggest reading J.I. Packer’s book by that title: Knowing God. Incredible work. In fact, after writing this tonight, I feel prompted to dig out my dog-eared, marked up copy and review it. Knowing God is a life-long pursuit that will continue till we see Him face to face–and beyond.