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by Jacob Ninan
God says through His prophet that His people get destroyed because of lack of knowledge (Hos.4:6). He is not talking about the people of the world, but His people who are perishing in spite of belonging to Him.Was He talking only about the people of Israel in the time of Hosea or does it refer to our times also? In the case of Israel, they were being physically punished for their disobedience through foreign invasion, exile, etc. But how does it relate to us? Certainly we are at a much greater advantage in many ways compared to them. If it was a lack of the knowledge of the Bible, there has never been such a lot of knowledge as now; but the fact is that even with all that knowledge God’s people are still perishing—suffering unnecessarily, living in confusion, not making spiritual progress—because of lack of knowledge of God Himself.
Knowing God is a personal experience. Of course we begin by getting to know about Him from the Bible, but we are supposed to go on from there to have a personal relationship with Him through repentance and faith in Jesus as our Saviour. This personal relationship is not just a legal relationship by which God adopts us as His children, but a growing intimacy with Him as we walk through life along with Him. It is in the ups and downs of daily life that we get to know Him as a Father, shield, fortress, provider, healer, wisdom, strength, counsellor, etc. But what a great mistake we make if we just continue to learn about God from the Bible, apply the knowledge we get from there as a set of rules and regulations, but fail to relate to Him in a real, direct, personal way!
Our knowledge of God, or lack of it, is manifested in times of trouble. Everyone has trouble, and when we face them do we run to Him, or to our own methods or other people? This is a very searching question. Perhaps we may say that we have learned these ‘methods’ from the Bible after a lot of study. But when we can turn to God Himself, why do we still go after methods? Does it not indicate that we are not so familiar or free with God? We know in theory that the veil of the Most Holy Place was rent when Jesus died on the cross and that we can enter any time into His presence boldly. But then, what is lacking in practice?
How we fail in this should become clear to us if we look at some examples. Do we think that we can get answers from God more easily if we get one or more people to ‘agree with us’ in prayer? We can get healed if we can get someone to anoint us with ‘holy oil’ or place a handkerchief on us which has been ‘blessed’ through prayer? If we move into a new house we feel safe once the pastor has blessed it? If we keep a Bible under our pillow we can avoid bad dreams, and if we fix a crucifix on the wall it would protect us from demons? If we keep the palm leaf which we got from Palm Sunday, it would bring us blessings for the next year, and there is a special blessing at the end of the year if we burn it and mark a cross on our forehead with its ashes?
Shall we walk prayerfully around land or building that we would like to possess? Shall we blow a shofar (ram’s horn) on the top of the city hill to bring down God’s blessings? Shall we use prayer shawls with tassels like the Jews and expect prayers to have more power? Will lighting a menorah (the Jewish lamp with seven spouts) bring God’s presence into the church or home? There are many experts willing to teach us (for a certain sum!) how to do these things exactly with the right material, shape and colour (to follow the right procedure).
We can watch people (Christians and others) who take meticulous effort to see that all such things are done exactly according to the books, whether it is for a wedding or a funeral, puja or service. Isn’t this the essence of ‘religion’ in contrast to spirituality?
We who claim to have a Living God—how are we different from the people of other religions around us who do similar things to ward off evil and to bring luck? Is it only our mantra (the name of Jesus) that is different? We know that under the new covenant which Jesus has made with us, even the least of us can know God and can have a real relationship with Him (Heb.8:11). It is those who know God personally who will be able to stand and take action in these last days (Dan.11:32). They live by every word that they hear from God, instead of lifelessly following written words or imitating patterns.
-- Published in the Light of Life magazine, June 2013
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