The Knowledge of the Lord
By: Bruce D. Curtis, MA, M.Div. ©2017
“They will not do evil or corrupt in all My holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord <YHWH>, as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:9)
And this is eternal life: that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou didst send. (John 17:3)
Can knowledge save us?
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The prophet Hosea [‘deliverer’] presents a stark picture of the earth as a place devoid of truth, kindness, and knowledge of God [Elohim]. It is the substance of the Almighty’s case against His people, but as we shall learn, likewise against the whole world. The indictment is laid out in chapter 4.
Listen to the word of YHWH, O sons of Israel
For YHWH has a case against the inhabitants of the land [earth],
Because there is no truth or kindness
Or knowledge of God in the land.
There is adjuring, deception, murder, stealing, and adultery.
They employ violence, so that bloodshed follows bloodshed.
Therefore the land mourns,
And everyone who lives in it languishes
Along with the beasts of the field and the birds of the sky;
And also the fish of the sea are taken away.
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
Because you have rejected knowledge,
I also will reject you from being my priest.
Since you have forgotten the Law of your God,
I also will forget your children.
They have stopped giving heed to YHWH.
(Hosea 4:1-3,6,10, emphasis added)
The question emerges naturally for the reader: what sort of knowledge can nullify that destruction? Can Hosea, as one whose name means ‘deliverer’ possibly be implying that there is a knowledge that can prevent the destruction of God’s people? Is there some kind of knowledge that exists that would preserve them, and if so what is the meaning of that for our life? Surely, the whole world knows that everyone will die, and that all flesh will pass away. How can we prevent that destruction of the flesh?
The answer is that we certainly cannot and are proscribed by Christ from seeking to save it, namely that which cannot be saved. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor. 15:50) Therein lies the rub, for there is no amount of knowledge or kind of knowledge of this world or of creation that can save the flesh. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit.” (John 3:6) So knowledge which proceeds from the flesh cannot do the impossible, that is, to save itself. The poetic words of Isaiah remind us “All flesh is green grass.”
A voice says, “Call out.”
Then I answered, “What shall I call out?”
“All flesh is grass,
And all its covenantal love is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
When the breath [ruach] of YHWH blows upon it;
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the Word [dabar] of our God stands forever.
(Isaiah 40:6-8, emphasis added)
There is a greater Mystery of God here, and we shall return to it in due time, and one elegant solution realized by a member of the early church. For now the follower of Christ must contend with the injunction of Christendom, viz. knowledge is not salvific. This response to the gnostic heresy emerged during the second and third centuries largely in Egypt within the greatly varied Coptic communities and also from the Greek mystery schools in Asia Minor. Briefly, many gnostic groups – though not all — held that there is a special type of knowledge, or gnosis, which is conveyed to initiates of “the mysteries” that gives them salvation, and the possession of which conveys a special spiritual nature and status with God. If it sounds reminiscent of much we see today in the world of New Age mysticism, it is because it is. To put it bluntly, there is nothing new in the New Age.
How does that kind of knowledge differ from the knowledge of which Hosea speaks? Are the seminaries right, salvation is sola fide, by faith alone, as Luther said? In John’s gospel the final and ultimate salvation, i.e. eternal life as complete deliverance from death, is seen only in terms of knowledge of God and Christ. How does that knowledge differ from that in Hosea, the absence of which seems to lead to the antithesis of eternal life, namely destruction?
The really deeper answer must be in two parts, for as faith without works is dead, so is knowledge without action. In Hosea, the knowledge of God in 4:1 is linked to truth and kindness, the lack of which results in lying, murder, theft, and adultery; blood upon blood.
But knowledge of God may not be reduced to an intellectual understanding since God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not ours (Isa. 55:8). Building an understanding upon Paul’s model of relationship with Christ likened to a marriage of husband and wife, knowledge in the Hebraic sense is linked to the most intimate union. The verb to know is used in the Old Testament in reference to conjugal relations between a man and a woman, and in that regard it implies a union and participation in the being of the other. The pronouncement of YHWH is that man and wife shall be one flesh, a unity that results from the commingling of flesh. Transposed into Spirit, the implication is clear. There must be a commingling of Spirit for a man to know God or for God to “know” a particular man.
When Christ says emphatically “I never knew you” (Matt. 7:23), it is tantamount to Him saying that His Spirit had never entered into those of whom He is speaking. Our spiritual marriage to God – and there is much in Hosea that speaks of that marriage to Israel – requires a commingling of Spirit, an interpenetration which allows us to partake of the divine nature (2 Pe 1:4).
To cut to the heart of the matter, it can never be knowledge of the world that saves, for the endurance of our time of tribulation must be perseverance under trial, steadfastness to the Lord, a loyalty such as is called for by our covenant with Him, hence covenantal love, in Hebrew chesed. James provides a second witness to that of John in Revelation, and a third to that of Matthew 24.
Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (James 1:12, emphasis added)
And the words of Christ Jesus to the church of Philadelphia echo this promise:
Because you have kept the word of My endurance [steadfastness], I also will keep you from the hour of temptation, which is about to come upon the whole inhabited earth, to test those who dwell upon the earth. I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, in order that no one may take your crown. (Rev. 3:10-11, emphasis added)
Thus the words of Jesus in Matthew find their fulfillment, viz. everyone who endures to the end will be saved – i.e. they will receive the crown of Life.
But in what does this “endurance” consist? It is faithfulness, and as James says persevering under trial. The root of the word in Greek speaks of standing up under trial. So it is not to be relegated to “survival,” but to continuing to keep the commandments and to bear witness to Christ Jesus. Note John’s words
Here [in this place and time] is the endurance of the holy ones, those keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. (Rev. 14:12)
Returning now to the knowledge of God, how do these words illuminate what the knowledge of God means? One cannot know another without a relationship. The kind of relationship of a husband and wife, for example, is an intimate one, and it allows for intimacy to be expressed. One can say the same for our relationship with God. We MUST be in relationship with God to know Him. If we want Him to listen, we must listen to Him. That is well established by the prophets.
But the qualities God expects for an intimate relationship are first, to believe Him. That is a fundamental of faith, and every Christian knows, intellectually at least, that without faith it is impossible to please Him (Heb. 11:6). But clearly there is so much more, particularly as the Hosea passage cited above indicates that we perish without knowledge of God. We ought to believe Christ Jesus, at the very least, that knowing them (Christ and the Father) IS eternal life.
So what is the knowledge missing in Christendom? Clearly, the keeping of the commandments is at the top of the list. For Christians to say they follow Jesus and to not keep the Sabbath is simply self-deception. The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath, so to follow Him is to meet with Him on the Sabbath. That is what He asks and expects. Did He ever say otherwise? No, but the traditions of men have twisted the Lord’s words and nullified them in practice.
Revelation 14:12 reminds us that the holy ones have the faith of Jesus and they keep the commandments. That simply sums it up. In fact, early textual witnesses to Revelation 22:14 give a different reading from what is common today in the words “those who wash their robes.” In some ancient manuscript versions, and cited by both Tertullian and Cyprian in the 2nd and 3rd centuries there is a variation that predates the one found in Codex Sinaiticus (IVth c.) and Codex Alexandrinus (Vth c.). It reads in Greek: poiountes tas entolas autou – “the ones keeping His commandments.” It is the textual version witnessed in the textus receptus, basis for the King James Version.
Blessed are the ones keeping His commandments that the authority to the tree of life might be theirs, and they may enter into the city by the gates. (Rev. 22:14, emphasis added)
This is knowledge of God, as is the corresponding principle of salvation which Hebrews articulates: “Having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.” (Heb. 5:9) So, to know God we have to understand that He wants our loyalty not sacrifice; that love means keeping His word. Hosea continues this theme beyond what was cited above. To know God is to know what delights him and do it.
For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice,
And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. (Hos. 6:6)
He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord <YHWH> require of you
But to do justice and to love kindness [covenantal love]
And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)
To know your spouse is to know what they love and what they do not. To know God is the same. If one says they love God and do not know what He loves and what He hates, then they are actually not in relationship with God. He does, in fact, know the hearts of His faithful ones, His “anointed ones”, especially.
To say that we know God and not to know that He is not concerned with our survival but our faithfulness is to be greatly mistaken. He said that the flesh and blood avails nothing, so He is really concerned with our “inner man” and the growth of that into a mature son of God in Christ. If we love Him, we will keep His commandments (John 14:15), that is the long and the short of it. Love is not a feeling or emotion divorced from action, it is always seen biblically in action.
Apart from this walk with God, this humble and intimate experience of walking with our Creator, we will certainly perish.
Do two walk together unless they have agreed? (Amos 3:3) God has made a covenant with us, and if we keep our part of the covenant then we walk with Him. If we do not, then we are not agreed and we do not receive life. The New Covenant, in His blood allows us to walk in the newness of Life. If we want the benefits then we must keep the covenant, and must be steadfast to Christ Jesus. Paul writes to the Thessalonians:
When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in blazing fire, He will inflict vengeance on those who do not know God and who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (2 Thess 1:7-8)
It appears incontrovertible that those who do NOT know God will perish, and that knowing God is to believe what He says that keeping His commandments is a necessity for entering the kingdom (cf. Rev. 22:14).
There is much more to the knowledge of God which is literally infinite, so it is expected that we will pray and seek Him, listening for the voice of the Logos, and reading the scriptures to hear what He has said in self-revelation. Moses, David, the prophets, and the Lord Jesus are replete with statements about what gives God delight. Solomon too, in Proverbs tells us what God loves and hates. David discloses such things in the psalms such as “How good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity.” (Ps 133:1)
Is that not what God is seeking, that we dwell together in the unity of the faith? Isn’t that what is so clear in all of the millennial passages in the prophets where every man is under his own vine and fig tree? So it must be incumbent upon us to sweep clear all iniquity from our heart so we can contribute to the establishment of the kingdom.
Take away the wicked before the king,
And his throne will be established in righteousness. (Prov. 25:5)
So we can participate in the establishment of God’s kingdom, which is the removal of wickedness and the ushering in of everlasting righteousness (Dan. 9:24). This we can do by circumcising our hearts, by removing wickedness from our own souls, walking in the way of Jesus Christ, so that we contribute to making straight the highway in the desert.
It is a certainty that we cannot remove wickedness from the heart of another, nor are we permitted to remove anyone by taking their life, so we can only seek Him and be sanctified in His truth. That requires knowing God and the One whom He sent, Jesus Christ, King of kings, and Lord of lords. In this way we can clear iniquity from the world within the only domain where we have authority, ourselves.
The world is perishing! Is technology going to save them? No. Is some new philosophy or self-realization going to save them? No. Is some new political and economic system with a global religion going to save them? No. Sin and death will follow of necessity, unless people turn their hearts to God. And so shall the hearts of fathers be turned to sons and those of sons turned to fathers (Mal. 4:6). That is how to know God. Turn your heart to Him. James put it in the simplest of terms: draw near to God and He will draw near to you. And God has revealed what draws us near to Him.
So what is the knowledge of the Lord, unless it is connected to not doing evil? In other words, if we are going to not do evil, and not corrupt, then we must know what God recognizes as good and evil. It means that we will not re-define good and evil as the adversary, the luxurious tree in Eden did, namely the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This tree is noticeably absent in Jerusalem, the heavenly city, as John portrays it at the end of Revelation – only the Tree of Life is there. There shall be no evil in all His holy mountain, that is, in all His holy kingdom.
What is our access to all this knowledge and wisdom of God? That is simple too. Isn’t it taught in 1 Corinthians that we cannot know the things of God without the spirit of God. And Paul also wrote to the Colossians saying that the true knowledge of the Mystery of God lies in that mystery, namely Christ. Yes, in Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:2-3). So it is to Him we must come and in coming to Him as to a living stone, we receive of His fullness and come to the knowledge of God, for He truly is the perfect image of the Father.
Now we are indisputably in possession of the answer to our opening question. Yes, knowledge can save us, can prevent us from perishing eternally, if it is knowledge of God and His Christ. Knowledge of the world cannot save us and cannot help us to endure under suffering, to remain faithful in affliction. This knowledge of the world cannot do. Only knowledge of God can sustain us, to know that he will bring us through our trials and be waiting to bestow upon us the crown of life.
To know that God is Holy and that He will visit His justice on all and that He will have His vengeance to repay all who do evil – this too, it to know God, and not to replace Him with a God who will let everything go. That is rather the adversary’s way: anything goes. And isn’t that how the world has come to be the way it is? Doesn’t our society live by that motto to allow anything which doesn’t “hurt” anyone else? But the Most High knows better, and Christ knows better, that many of these actions hurt the order and righteousness and holiness of the kingdom. To tolerate everything is to tolerate evil and there is no evil or darkness in God at all. No good can come of that tolerance.
But there is forgiveness and to know God is to understand that He is a forgiving God; and that although we have sinned against Him, if we confess our sins before Him, He is just and forgiving and will plead our case and deliver us from sin and from death.
Who is a God like Thee, who pardons iniquity
And passes over the rebellion of the remnant of His possession?
He does not retain His anger forever,
Because He delights in steadfast love. (Micah 7:18)
To have knowledge of God is to understand this about Him. And it is to understand that taking refuge in Him is the only sure way out of this abyss.
Though He is jealous and requires fierce loyalty, He is also steadfast in His love, keeping His promises forever. We are being made into His image, and thus are to follow in the footsteps of His Word, Christ Jesus. For this, man is called to be mindful to have an expectant watchfulness for YHWH (Micah 7:7) and to endure the indignation of the YHWH which is necessary to cleanse evil from the world.
These attitudes alone can help us be spiritually ready for the great tribulation and to bear witness to Christ in our bodies, and to be ready to give account of our actions. No knowledge of the world can do this, no amount of food storage and physical preparation can do this. No awareness of the Illuminati and their plans can help nor any knowledge of so-called hidden histories in the bible such as the Nephilim [giants] of Genesis. All of that is a noise and distraction from the adversary who would have God’s people taken away from seeking Him and getting to know Him intimately. He is our Father, the one who breathed life into us, and the only One deserving of all honor and glory and praise. Now, then, let us delight in getting to know Him better and better each day.
There is no knowledge of anything physical that can replace the knowledge of God who is Spirit. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of Spirit is spirit. If we come to him in silence (Ps 46:10), “Be still and know that I am God,” then we may, by being in such a receptive state, learn more of Him than we can imagine.
During the day of distress, though we be there to behold the coming of the Lord in fire and judgment, and the cities of the world taken down in the judgment of the nations, we will endure to the finish and remain within our covenantal love, by remaining in the Spirit and not minding the flesh which is death. In this way alone will we find true peace in Christ and fulfill the promise of Isaiah 26:3: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee.”
Note: Look for Part II wherein the words of Jeremiah will speak to us of the future reality where no one will teach another since all with know the Lord, life under the New Covenant where the Law is written in our hearts.