Know Your God
THE king had ruled for nearly forty years, and the nation had grown and prospered under his wise administration. But now he was old, and was nearing the end of his life. In order to reaffirm the. appointment of his successor and to enlist the nation’s support of him, the king summoned all the princes and officials from throughout the land.
In time, these many leaders gathered to the capital city, Jerusalem, and aged King David gave them wise parting counsel. He encouraged them to “take care and search for all the commandments of Jehovah.” Then the king directed his attention toward the successor to the throne and, before that congregated throng, said to him:
“And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a complete heart and with a delightful soul; for all hearts Jehovah is searching, and every inclination of the thoughts he is discerning. If you search for him, he will let himself be found by you; but if you leave him, he will cast you off forever.”—1 Chron. 28:8, 9.
What fine counsel for a father to give his son! How appropriate for David to instruct Solomon before the prominent officials of the entire nation to know God and to search for Him! It is equally appropriate that parents give similar instructions to their offspring today. But what did King David mean by saying: “Know the God of your father”? Did he simply mean that Solomon should know that his God was Jehovah, and not Molech, Baal or some other deity? What is involved in knowing God?
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF “KNOW”
The word “know” can carry a wide range of meanings. For example, a person Who had never met him might say: “Yes, I know Dwight Eisenhower. He is the former president of the United States.” On the other hand, another person who has, on numerous occasions, seen the former president might acknowledge: “No, I don’t know Mr. Eisenhower.”
In the first instance, “know” simply denoted that the speaker had knowledge of Mr. Eisenhower’s former position as president of the United States. In the latter instance, however, “know” had reference to a personal acquaintance with the former president, which the person admittedly did not have. Thus, you might know that a person exists and know the title of his position, and yet not know the person intimately as a close friend or companion. In the ancient Hebrew language spoken by King David the Hebrew word for “know” yada‘, had a similar wide range of meaning.
This can be appreciated by examining a few examples of its use. There was the time, for instance, when the high priest Eli’s sons ministered at Jehovah’s tabernacle at Shiloh. These priests were extremely bad, the Bible record saying of them: “Now the sons of Eli were base men; they knew not Jehovah.”—1 Sam. 2:12, AS.
Although it is said, “they knew not Jehovah,” obviously these priests did know Of the God at whose tabernacle they were serving.. The Hebrew word for “know” in this instance denoted more than merely having knowledge regarding God’s name and certain facts about him. Thus, some translations render the passage, “they had no regard,” “they cared nothing for,” or, “they did not acknowledge Jehovah.” (RS, Mo, NW) The priests knew who Jehovah was, but they had not developed an appreciation of him so as to be moved to carry on his worship faithfully.
A somewhat similar use of the Hebrew word is found at 1 Kings 9:27 (Yg), which says: “Hiram sendeth in the navy his servants, shipmen knowing the sea, with servants of Solomon.” The expression “knowing the sea” did not mean that the shipmen of Hiram had only a casual knowledge of the sea, having simply heard about the sea, or perhaps only seeing it on a previous occasion. Rather, the Hebrew word here used denoted an intimate familiarity with the sea and its behavior. Thus, other translations say that the shipmen “had knowledge of the sea” or “were familiar with the sea.” AV, AS, RS, AT.
Another example in which a form of this Hebrew word refers to an intimacy or familiarity is recorded at 2 Kings 10:11. The passage reads: “Moreover, Jehu went on to strike down all who were left over of the house of Ahab in Jezreel and all his distinguished men and his acquaintances [that is, “those that he knew”] and his priests, until he had let no survivor of his remain.” Jehu did not kill all those whom Ahab had merely seen or known casually, but only his closer acquaintances. Thus, some translations say that Jehu struck down “his familiar friends.”—RS, AT.
It is seen, therefore, that the Hebrew word for “know” can refer to a close friendship or intimate relationship. But how does this information help us to appreciate David’s instruction to his son: “Know the God of your father”? And what should it help to impress upon parents today in connection with the needs of their children?
MUCH INVOLVED IN KNOWING GOD
The foregoing assists us to appreciate that there was real significance to David’s fatherly counsel. Though at the time his son was a young man, he already knew of God. Solomon had access to about one-third of the inspired Hebrew Scriptures, and it is only reasonable to believe that David had seen to it that he was acquainted with these writings about Jehovah. So in giving his counsel to ‘know God,’ David meant much more than for Solomon to know a few fundamental facts about God, such as his name, his being from everlasting to everlasting, and so forth.
Rather, David desired that Solomon come to know Jehovah God as a real, living Person. God should be much more to him than just a name or a doctrine that is read from a book. Jehovah is not merely a word that has been committed to paper, or a figment of man’s imagination. He is a powerful, invisible Being to whom one can draw close in prayer, and to whom one wisely renders worship and obedience. High priest Eli’s sons failed to appreciate this; “they knew not Jehovah,” and were cut off for disregarding His instructions. (1 Sam. 2:34) David, on the other hand, wanted his son Solomon always to acknowledge and have respect for Jehovah God and His laws.
Just as the shipmen of Hiram knew or “were familiar with the sea,” so David desired that Solomon become familiar with Jehovah and form an intimate acquaintance with His ways. Such a familiarity is not obtained overnight; it requires time.
Persons who really “know” one another generally have similar interests, enjoy close association with one another and are on friendly terms. It was that way with those who knew King Ahab. Undoubtedly they enjoyed the same way of life, had similar interests and possessed desires similar to those of wicked Ahab, and for this reason Jehu sought to cut them off. Certainly the many persons who simply heard him speak in public or heard others talk about him were not the object of Jehu’s sword. They did not really “know” Ahab; they were not “his familiar friends.”
King David wanted his son Solomon to know God in the sense of becoming God’s intimate friend. This meant that Jehovah’s interests must become Solomon’s interests, his behavior an imitation of God’s exalted ways, and his work that which was directed and approved by Jehovah. This could be achieved by learning of God’s requirements and purposes and letting the knowledge penetrate his heart. After learning the will of Jehovah, he must do it. And, too, Solomon needed to keep in regular communication with God through prayer. Only in this way could he really come to know Jehovah.
A TREASURED RELATIONSHIP
It is similar today. We must read the Bible and let what God says there penetrate our hearts, so that we have a deep feeling about it and so that it motivates us, guiding our lives. We must become responsive to the counsel contained in the Bible, not holding certain reservations about it, ignoring what it says, for example, about worldly associations, marrying an unbeliever, and so forth. (1 Cor. 15:33; 7:39) Further, we need to share God’s company through personal prayer. Only in this way will one be accepted as an intimate acquaintance of God. (Ps. 25:14) And what a privileged relationship that is!
It is, therefore, one that should be guarded and nurtured, for close acquaintances can again become strangers. This occurs frequently in the marriage relationship. Couples who once were very close have often been noted to drift apart, and have even said: “We live in the same house, but we are complete strangers.” Why does this happen? It is principally because couples no longer discuss matters with each other, they lack concern about what the other is doing and they fail to share common interests any longer. One’s relationship with God can deteriorate through similar neglect.
Solomon is a prominent example. At first he heeded his father’s advice and came to know God, perhaps better than most men before him or since. He was a remarkable king, and God used him to write a considerable part of the Scriptures—the books of Ecclesiastes and The Song of Solomon, most of Proverbs and a psalm or two. Yet, in his latter years Solomon neglected to follow the wise instructions of his God and married women who served false gods. As a result, he was influenced by them and developed a harshness peculiar to false worshipers. Relations with his people were ruined, and he drifted apart from his God.—Deut. 7:3, 4; 1 Ki. 11:1-11; 12:4; Neh. 13:26.
Never let this happen to you! After learning about Jehovah God by studying his Word and regularly associating with persons that discuss it, allow His fine qualities to sink into your heart. Then show that you have truly come to know God by imitating his love, kindness, goodness, long-suffering and other wonderful qualities. Regularly approach him in prayer, and share in the work of ministering to others, which he has entrusted to his friends. Then jealously guard your precious relationship with God,—Gal. 5:22, 23; Heb. 13:15, 16.
HELPING YOUR CHILDREN TO KNOW GOD
If you are a parent, it is vital that you also encourage your children to draw close to God by serving him. Notice how King David showed the close association between knowing God and serving him, saying: “And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a complete heart and with a delightful soul.” Yes, for youth really to know God it is necessary for them to serve him. Therefore, as godly David impressed this fact upon his son, you parents should do likewise.
It is not only a matter of seeing that youngsters know basic facts about God. They must also be taught the significance of the information. It has to be presented to them in such a way that they are moved to want to serve God, even “with a complete heart and with a delightful soul.”
For example, merely to have your children know that one of the major attributes of God is wisdom is not sufficient. They need to be shown why and in what way God’s laws and instructions are wise and are for their personal good. The lesson has to be brought home to them so that they can appreciate it. Examples need to be cited demonstrating the disastrous results of rejecting God’s wise counsel, and of the benefits of following it.
In time this careful guidance will pay off. (Prov. 22:6) That Jehovah is a God of wisdom will not simply be a fact known, but it will be a personal conviction of your youngster. With a delightful soul he will refrain from bad associations, drunkenness, fornication, and other such conduct, because he appreciates that God’s wise counsel was given for his own personal benefit. He will view God’s laws as a protection, not as a collection of rules given to take the pleasure out of living.
When this attitude develops within one, he does not simply know about God, but he begins to form an intimate relationship with God, Jehovah God becomes a real, living Person to him, someone who is regularly consulted in prayer and whose interests are kept close to the heart. And O what a treasured relationship that is! There are so many benefits to be realized by truly knowing God, by being his friend.
Now, during the present world trouble, how often Jehovah proves to be a God of Comfort! (2 Cor. 1:3, 4) In the near future, how grand it will be to know Him as Protector, when he preserves his people through the end of this wicked system of things, even as he saved Noah and his family through the Deluge! (2 Pet. 2:5; 3:5-7) Then, what a joy truly to come to know Jehovah as Healer, when he cures all physical infirmities and stops the onslaughts of old age and death! (Ps. 103:3; Rev. 21:3, 4) Afterward, what ecstasy God’s friends will realize as they become acquainted with their God in the role of Resurrector of the dead!—Acts 24:15.
O there are so many reasons why you should now come to know Jehovah God! So do not hesitate! Take the necessary steps immediately to know God.
“God is love.” (1 John 4:8) “The Rock, perfect is his activity . . . A God of faithfulness, with whom there is no injustice; righteous and upright is he.” (Deut. 32:4) “O the depth of God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge!” (Rom. 11:33) “Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and truth, preserving loving-kindness for thousands, pardoning error and transgression and sin, but by no means will he give exemption from punishment.”—Ex. 34:6, 7.