Have You Really Come to Know God?
“For this very cause I am also suffering these things, but I am not ashamed. For I know the one whom I have believed, and I am confident he is able to guard what I have laid up in trust with him until that day.”—2 Tim. 1:12.
1. What situation in ancient Israel causes us to ask ourselves if we really know God?
DO YOU know God? ‘Why, yes,’ you reply, ‘everyone knows God, does he not?’ On the surface it may seem so, but 2,700 years ago a prophet by the name of Hosea said something that may make us stop and ask ourselves, ‘Do I really know God?’ Hosea lived in Israel during a time when that nation was in a special covenant relationship with Jehovah God. Doubtless most Israelites knew that God’s name Jehovah literally meant “He Causes to Become.” No doubt they knew the part God had played in their national development and, for the most part, knew his laws. Yet despite all this acquaintanceship with their Creator the prophet Hosea was compelled to say to them: “Hear the word of Jehovah, O sons of Israel, for Jehovah has a legal case with the inhabitants of the land, for there is no truth nor loving-kindness nor knowledge of God in the land.”—Hos. 4:1; compare John 7:28.
2, 3. (a) What is involved in really knowing someone? (b) Why is it important really to know God?
2 So, then, these Israelites did not really know God. There is, therefore, more to knowing someone than just to know his name and perhaps have some information about the person’s history, or his likes and dislikes.
3 How much do you really know about God? Are you willing to stake your life on what you know? You are going to have to do so. The nation of Israel was rejected on account of their lack of knowledge, and God feels the same way today about those who reject true knowledge of him. The time is near at hand when “he brings vengeance upon those who do not know God.”—2 Thess. 1:8; John 17:3.
4. How does lack of knowledge about God become apparent?
4 It is readily apparent that today the majority reject knowledge of God, just as the nation of Israel did in the days of Hosea. After decrying the deplorable lack of knowledge among his fellow Israelites, Hosea went on to show how evident was their lack of knowledge. He said: “There are the pronouncing of curses and practicing of deception and murdering and stealing and committing of adultery that have broken forth, and acts of bloodshed have touched other acts of bloodshed.” (Hos. 4:2) Yes, one’s actions reveal how well one knows God. A Christian writer commented on this when he said: “And by this we have the knowledge that we have come to know him [that is, God, as referred to in 1 John 1:5], namely, if we continue observing his commandments. He that says: ‘I have come to know him,’ and yet is not observing his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in this person.” (1 John 2:3, 4) So, for one to know God means more than merely being a religious churchgoer. He would have to be obedient to the will of God. Where do you stand in this regard?
5. In what way does knowledge build confidence in our Creator?
5 An accurate knowledge of God is characterized by complete confidence and trust in him. The psalmist David says: “And those knowing your name will trust in you, for you will certainly not leave those looking for you, O Jehovah.” (Ps. 9:10) Those who know God’s “name,” that is, his characteristics and reputation, will not believe lies about their heavenly Father. If He does or says something they do not readily understand, they will not impute bad motives to him. They know there is a good reason for all that He does even if they do not understand it at the time. And if He seems a little slow to you, surely there is a good explanation. In the first century of the Common Era some felt this way, causing the apostle Peter to write: “Jehovah is not slow respecting his promise, as some people consider slowness, but he is patient with you because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9) God is just as patient now as then, and people are just as impetuous now as then.
ELDERS, DO YOU REALLY KNOW GOD?
6. How can elders reflect Jehovah’s viewpoint of imperfection?
6 Elders or overseers in the Christian congregation can demonstrate how well they know God by their dealing with others as God would. For example, take the matter of how elders view their brothers. Is their attitude a reflection of Jehovah’s viewpoint? Notice what is written in the Psalms: “If errors were what you watch, O Jah, O Jehovah, who could stand?” (Ps. 130:3) So the Creator does not go around looking for faults, nor is he hypercritical. The general tenor of Jehovah’s viewpoint toward mankind is further expressed in the Psalms: “Jehovah is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness. He will not for all time keep finding fault, neither will he to time indefinite keep resentful. He has not done to us even according to our sins; nor according to our errors has he brought upon us what we deserve. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, his loving-kindness is superior toward those fearing him. As far off as the sunrise is from the sunset, so far off from us he has put our transgressions. As a father shows mercy to his sons, Jehovah has shown mercy to those fearing him. For he himself well knows the formation of us, remembering that we are dust.” (Ps. 103:8-14) Do our dealings with the brothers reflect that we really know these things about God?
7, 8. How does the elders’ knowledge of the flock serve to benefit the congregation?
7 If so, the elders cannot be oblivious to how the flock is doing. They might well apply to themselves as spiritual shepherds the words: “You ought to know positively the appearance of your flock.” (Prov. 27:23) But what do elders do with their knowledge of the flock? Well, like Jehovah, they see the good in people. They acknowledge the good being done by others, and so they strive to be upbuilding to those around them. Is this not in harmony with the example of Jehovah and the counsel he gives us in his word? “Let a rotten saying not proceed out of your mouth, but whatever saying is good for building up as the need may be, that it may impart what is favorable to the hearers. But become kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, freely forgiving one another just as God also by Christ freely forgave you.”—Eph. 4:29, 32; Gal. 5:22, 23; Heb. 10:24, 25; 1 Thess. 5:14, 15.
8 Also, they are aware of those needing assistance in the congregation. Perhaps some of the older ones are having difficulties that affect their service to God. Maybe they are depressed and thus need encouragement. Are others missing meetings or in other ways slackening off in their service to God? Do some travel alone to meetings and field service through dangerous neighborhoods? Could younger ones be used to help other younger ones in field service and in preparing talks for the Theocratic Ministry School? Could they be given responsibilities around the Kingdom Hall? The elders are alert to all the details that affect the spiritual lives of the brothers and do what they can to help. These are the things they talk about when they meet together.
9. Did the Israelites receive the counsel of Jehovah regarding the taking of a human king, and what was God’s reaction to their attitude?
9 However, what if a member of the congregation is starting in a trend that the elders feel may lead to spiritual difficulty? Is it an expression of kindness to ignore the situation? Jehovah’s dealing with Israel on the occasion of their asking for a human king illustrates how to handle such a situation. Jehovah warned the Israelites in unmistakable terms what would happen to them as a result of having a human king; nevertheless, he did not interfere with them. Their request really amounted to a rejection of Jehovah, and even though they insisted upon ignoring his counsel at this time he did not turn his back on them, but made further appeals to the nation right down to their destruction. Knowing God, elders deal in a similarly patient manner even with those who ignore counsel.—1 Sam. 8:4-22.
10. Explain the proper viewpoint of the overseers toward one who rejects counsel.
10 An unmarried member of the congregation may be having close association with an unbeliever of the opposite sex. The elders will offer appropriate Scriptural counsel explaining how God views matters, showing that it is really against Jehovah’s law to marry an unbeliever. Even if the counsel is ignored, the elders will lovingly try to help such a one as long as this one remains a part of the Christian congregation. The elders need not feel discouraged if their advice is ignored, but they should remember that it is their responsibility “to exhort . . . and to reprove those who contradict,” and it is also true in the final analysis that “each one will carry his own load.”—Titus 1:9; Gal. 6:5.
11. What quality is very important for counsel to be effective? Illustrate.
11 In regard to giving counsel, something important should be learned from the example of Jehovah: Be kind, be tactful, but be specific. Make sure that the one being counseled gets the point. For example, situations arise in which counsel must be given to a married couple. Perhaps they are having difficulty in getting along with each other and thus seek the assistance of an elder. The first thing one may do is to listen to both sides of the story, with the husband and the wife present. Jehovah God always listened to the nation of Israel when they asked for help. Often the elder will find that only the symptoms of the problem are brought to his attention and that at the root of the matter is something more basic, such as their view of sex. It could be that the wife has been influenced by the idea that sex is only a necessary evil and thus she resents sexual attention from her husband. Or, on the other hand, perhaps the husband is inconsiderate of his wife’s emotional makeup and is overly demanding in sexual matters.
12. How can pointed Scriptural counsel be used to aid a married couple toward a more balanced relationship?
12 If now, the elder merely tells this couple to pray to Jehovah and that things will work out, they may feel as hopeless as before. Chances are that they already have prayed to God and Jehovah is now answering their prayer through the counsel of His Word and the help of a loving elder. Realizing this, once the problem has been completely surfaced, the elder now proceeds to give Scriptural counsel. He is not evasive but goes right to the Scriptures that deal specifically with their problem. He may first explain that one should not feel impure because he has sexual desires, and the fulfillment of these within the marriage arrangement is a wholesome thing. Of course, self-control and consideration for the other are essential to a balanced sexual life. All of this and more may be pointed out in detail when the Scriptures are read and discussed to establish the points.—Gen. 1:28; Prov. 5:15-19; 1 Cor. 7:3-5; 13:4, 5; Gal. 5:22, 23; 1 Pet. 3:7.
13. Should an elder feel discouraged if counsel he has given from the Scriptures is not put into practice, and why?
13 Whether the couple want to follow the Scriptural advice in their sexual life or in any other regard is up to them; still the elder can be happy that with the help of Jehovah he was able to give proper direction and demonstrate that he really does “know” God. Of course, elders should not try to tell people what to do, but when giving counsel they should be very straightforward in explaining the Scriptural principles involved.
14. What action of Jehovah God in connection with King Ahab shows the value of listening to others?
14 There is another way in which elders can show that they have a true knowledge of God, and that is by the way they listen to viewpoints expressed by members of the congregation. Surely Jehovah God always knows how to handle any situation and always has matters completely in control. Yet, in dealing with unfaithful King Ahab of Israel, Jehovah allowed the angels to express their viewpoints as to how to deal with Ahab. Certainly the God of the universe did not need the advice of his angels, but he listened. On other occasions God listened to men. What better way for an elder to feel the pulse of the congregation than to listen to what others say and take it to heart. How much more effective a teacher this will make the elder who listens.—1 Ki. 22:19-22; Gen. 18:22-33; Prov. 21:13.
ALL IN THE CONGREGATION NEED TO KNOW GOD
15. Why is doubting to be avoided among Christians, and how can it be avoided?
15 As we see the conclusion of this system drawing near, all who are to endure will have to know God. Unless we are well acquainted with the way he deals with us, we could easily succumb to the pitfall of doubting, as some dedicated, baptized Christians have done. Doubting usually does not involve fundamental Bible truths such as (1) Jehovah’s sovereignty, (2) the Kingdom or (3) the ransom. Rather, we may become concerned with some minor matter, and due to pride we put our personal opinions ahead of God’s Word and Jehovah’s organization. A half brother of Jesus warned us against doubting: “He who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven by the wind and blown about. In fact, let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from Jehovah; he is an indecisive man, unsteady in all his ways.” (Jas. 1:6-8) A knowledge of how God has dealt with his people in the past and the present will help us to avoid doubts.
16, 17. Has God used imperfect men to lead his organization in the past? Give examples.
16 Those who know God will well recall how God has used imperfect men in positions of weighty responsibility to keep his people organized. For example, there was Moses, whose imperfection forfeited for him his right to enter the Promised Land. Yet, God continued to use him. At the edge of Canaan when Moses reviewed and explained the law of God to the nation of Israel, the Israelites could easily have reasoned: ‘Who are you to counsel us, Moses? Why, you are not even worthy of going into the Promised Land.’ How easy it would have been to criticize the man, rather than to benefit from God-directed counsel!—Num. 20:2-12.
17 God’s using imperfect men continued with the establishment of the Christian congregation. Consider the apostle Peter. On the day of Jesus’ death, Peter denied Jesus three times. That was a serious mistake. However, it is of interest to note that only fifty-two days later Peter became a member of the anointed governing body of the newly formed Christian congregation. He was used quite prominently on that day of Pentecost as a spokesman for the apostles to deliver a stirring discourse. Though imperfect, on that day Peter demonstrated that he knew God well and was intimately acquainted with his Word, as shown by the references he made to the Hebrew Scriptures.—Luke 22:54-62; Acts 2:1-47.
18. Can a Christian excuse himself from accepting the advice of overseers in the congregation because they are imperfect, and why?
18 The same holds true in the Christian congregation today. Imperfect men who know God are used to take the lead. Perhaps an elder in your congregation will give you counsel on your attitude. Are you going to spurn the good Scriptural advice he gives and have the viewpoint: ‘Who are you to be telling me what to do? You are not exactly perfect.’ Or are you, rather, going to show that you “know” God, that you realize he uses imperfect men to counsel, organize and direct his people on earth? Really, if Jehovah is content to work with imperfect men, who are we to be critical of the arrangement? The key thing is that we should benefit from the Scriptural counsel given.
19. What is the proper reaction to statements made against a brother in the Christian congregation?
19 On the other hand, perhaps you hear something about one of your brothers that seems to put him in a bad light. Do you relish hearing such things and immediately believe them? Perhaps the brother is an elder in the congregation. Do you now not only begin to doubt the brother, but perhaps develop serious reservations about the whole body of elders? One who knows Jehovah will act quickly to dispel such doubts. He will ask himself: ‘Do I really have all the facts, or is it just hearsay? I should not sit in judgment of my brother in view of Paul’s words: “Who are you to judge the house servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls.”’—Rom. 14:4.
20. Keeping what things in mind will help us always to get along with our spiritual brothers and sisters?
20 It may be that you disagree with the way matters have been handled in connection with the remodeling or building of a Kingdom Hall. Perhaps you feel that you would have selected a different design, another type of floor covering or a different color of drapes. But are there not many possible designs, many types of floor coverings and numerous colors of drapes? Will a different interior decoration affect our relationship with Jehovah? Why not follow the advice of Paul: “Make sure of the more important things, so that you may be flawless and not be stumbling others up to the day of Christ”? (Phil. 1:10) Should we not thank Jehovah that he has provided men to take the lead and to see that we have a place to meet together for pure worship?
21. Why does one with a true knowledge of God not waiver on receiving an adjustment of his understanding of a Scriptural matter?
21 Perhaps something is said in one of the Watch Tower publications that you do not grasp or that adjusts our previous understanding of matters. How do you view this? Will you allow doubts to creep in? Will confidence be replaced with skepticism? Ask yourself: ‘Where did I gain the knowledge of the Scriptures that I already have? Has not the spiritual food provided through the Watch Tower publications helped me to change my life and find contentment and satisfaction? Where else would I go?’ This is the feeling toward Jehovah’s arrangements that the disciples had toward Jesus: “Lord, whom shall we go away to? You have sayings of everlasting life.”—John 6:68.
22. How will an accurate knowledge of God in these “last days” prove to be beneficial to each one of us?
22 Today it is true concerning millions of persons: “They publicly declare they know God, but they disown him by their works, because they are detestable and disobedient and not approved for good work of any sort.” (Titus 1:16) Insecurity, doubts, anxiety are all symptoms of a generation that does not know God. In contrast, Christians feel as did the apostle Paul: “For I know the one whom I have believed, and I am confident he is able to guard what I have laid up in trust with him until that day.” (2 Tim. 1:12) Confident, steady, undaunted in these momentous days are all those who really know God.
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Has your church really helped you to learn God’s will? Are you truly conforming your life to God’s requirements as set out in the Bible?