photo by Laura Evans
The ox knows its owner,
Isaiah 1:3 ESV
Dear ICB family,
What was the essence of Israel's problem? Someone might say that it was their idolatry. Someone else might say it was their sinfulness—their abandonment of God's law as evidenced by their oppression of the weak and vulnerable and their violations of justice.
While both of those charges are certainly true, and while God certainly makes a big deal of both of those, there is something else more essential that resulted in Israel's idolatry and sin. Isaiah reveals the essence of Israel's problem to us in 1:4. Simply put, Israel didn't know God. Oh, they knew things about God, but they didn't know him as a husband knows his wife, as two dear friends know each other, or as a child knows his parents.
Israel didn't know God.
To know God is to know God's character.
First, a big part (though not all) of what it means to know God is to know God's character. That is, the person who knows God knows what God is like. The more deeply you know God, the more deeply you know his attributes. Because Israel didn't know God, they didn't grasp what he was like.
To know the beauty of God's character is to love that beauty.
Second, to truly know the beauty of God's character is to love that beauty. We as human beings inevitably admire, esteem, value, and love what we deem as beautiful. Because Israel didn't know what their gloriously beautiful God was like, they didn't love his gloriously beautiful character traits. That is, they didn't love traits like righteousness and compassion. They didn't value traits like justice and holiness.
To love God's character is to imitate it.
Third, once we as human beings have identified something as lovely and valuable and desirable, the next step we inevitably take is to move toward that beauty like a moth to a flame. When it comes to lovely attributes that we view in others, that means we begin to imitate those traits. We desire to have those traits for ourselves. If we esteem someone else's sense of humor, we will want to be funny, too. If we love the wisdom we see in others, we will desire to be wise.
Because Israel didn't love God's character, they didn't desire to share in his character. They didn't think righteousness was a very beautiful trait to have; therefore, they didn't act righteously. They didn't think that faithfulness to worship one God alone was a lovely attribute; therefore, they dove headfirst into idol worship.
In summary, because Israel didn't know God personally, they didn't know what God was like. Because they didn't truly grasp what God was like, there was no way for them to love the beauty of his attributes. Because they didn't love his attributes, there was nothing to draw them into imitating those very traits.
To say it in reverse order, Israel didn't want to be holy as God was holy because they didn't love holiness. They didn't love holiness because they'd never seen how beautiful holiness is. And they hadn't seen the beauty of God's holiness because they did not know their God as they should.
Do you know him? Do you really know him? I'm not asking you if you know things about God. I'm asking if you've met him face to face, if you've come to know him as you know your spouse, your best friend, your parents, your children, or a close family member.
If you know him that way, you will love what you see in him, and that love will compel you to imitate his character. If you aren't growing in holiness, it's because you don't love holiness. If you don't love holiness, it's because you haven't seen it as you should. And if you haven't seen God's holiness, it's because you don't know him as you could know him.
If you know him, you will love what you see in him, and that love will compel you to imitate his character.
There is simply no biblical concept for a person who knows God yet does not begin to adopt his character. And the adoption of God's character is impossible apart from knowing him intimately.
God wants you to know him. In fact, he's promised that his people will know him. "'You are my witnesses,' declares the Lord, 'and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me'" (43:10). And, "Therefore my people shall know my name. Therefore in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here I am" (52:6).
So come and know your God. And let your intimate knowledge of him have its intended effect: that you might be holy as he is holy.
Desiring to know him more that I might be more like him,