This sermon is number 13 in a series of 13
Behold Your God - Part 13
"Knowing Your God"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2001 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
We're turning to Daniel, the prophecy of Daniel in the Old Testament, Daniel chapter 11. This is our [thirteenth] and our concluding, our final, study in the series 'Behold Your God!' - and we have, I hope, had a blessed time as we've been contemplating the great God, and indeed our Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ through whom God has revealed Himself to this dying world. Now, I want to bring a challenging message to you in the close of the series, as to what are you going to do with the knowledge that you have gleaned over these weeks. Now, perhaps in the weeks that have gone by, you haven't learned anything you didn't already know - and that's probably the case. But with what you do know about our God, what are you going to do?
I have referred, in weeks gone by, to this verse. Indeed, in our first study we looked at it, in Daniel chapter 11 and verse 32. Now, I want you to keep your finger in the book of Daniel, because we will be looking at further passages from it in this study. I've entitled this morning's message: 'Knowing Your God' - knowing your God. Daniel 11 and verse 32: "And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flatteries: but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits".
Knowing your God - in 1 Samuel chapter 4 and verse 21 there is the birth of a child. The birth of that child is heralded by his name, and the name of the child was: 'Ichabod'. The verse tells us that Ichabod means: 'the glory has departed', and it defines why the glory had departed - the reason being that the Ark of God had departed out of Israel, it had been taken away. You will remember that the Ark of God was the resting and residing place of the presence of God, literally speaking His presence abode over the Ark of the Covenant. With the removal of that Ark went the removal of God's presence, and the removal of the glory of God.
The question I ask at the outset of our study today is: has the glory of our great God departed? The God that we have been learning about in weeks gone by, all His attributes, all of His great divine nature - has His glory departed from His church? Now, think of it: if you take all of the great truths that we have learned and compare it with the situation that prevails through Christendom today, has the glory departed? Is this great glory, and majesty, and power of God evident among us, and evident among the church of Jesus Christ at large? I think it would be true to say that today we have more knowledge of God than we have ever had. I believe that we know more, theologically speaking, about God than any generation has ever known. There are more books about God, there are more books on the secrets of the Christian life, there are more resources, tapes, records, libraries, churches, missionary organisations, in this world than there has ever been - but, arguably, we could say that God is little-known! There is much known of God, but what about knowledge in God?
We have books on the Holy Spirit, books on God the Father, books on the Lord Jesus Christ - books without number, and the writing of them goes on, as the great prophet said. We have books on the baptism of the Spirit, we have books against the baptism of the Spirit, we have books on tongues, books on how not to speak in tongues is how to find fulfilment - we have books on everything, we have knowledge about everything. Indeed, evangelistic Christianity today, it could be said, has all the answers, and indeed the answers that all want! You can get them, no matter what your view is, you can get knowledge upon it. We know the Gospel inside out - indeed, even the unregenerate, especially in our land of Ulster, knows the Gospel inside out. We know that the Lord Jesus Christ came in flesh, He was incarnate, He was the Word of God, He was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, the Lamb of God coming to take away the sin of the world. We know He rose from the dead, we know He showed Himself among the apostles, we know He ascended to heaven, when He ascended on high He gave gifts to men. We know about His second coming, we know about the millennium kingdom that will be formed upon the earth after He comes and takes His church. We know it all! But do we know our God?
Whatever you do, do not mistake knowing God by, first of all, a knowledge of God. I am not speaking of a knowledge of God - we have a great knowledge of God, but do we know our God? Secondly, I am not talking about knowing godliness - for we all know godliness, we know what it is to live a godly life, even if we are not living it, we know how to live it. We read from the word of God the precepts and promises of what it is to live a godly life, but that - do not mistake that for knowing your God. John the apostle tells us: 'This is life eternal, that they might know Thee', the only true God, 'and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent'. In all of our knowledge of God and godliness and His word, the question is: do we know our God, and where is that joy unspeakable and full of glory that is promised to the child of God who knows his Father?
This cannot be known through study or through learning, and Paul tells us: 'But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned'. We cannot study to know God - we can study to know about Him, we can study to know about godliness, and about Christianity, and about the assembly, and about prophecy. We can study these things, but there must come a time that we must follow on to know our God. With that in mind, I asked the question at the outset of our meeting: will you get to know this God whom you have learned about?
'How?', you say, 'How can I know Him? I know about Him, but how can I move - make that transition from knowing about, to knowing Him?'. I give you an answer from the book of Job: 'Acquaint now thyself with Him, and be at peace'. I believe what the church of Jesus Christ needs today, and what we need after eleven weeks studying the person and attributes of God, is that like Ezekiel sitting by that great river, that the clouds of heaven would open, that there would be a cleft in the sky, and that we would have visions of God. We need to have a fresh vision that will transform us, that will change us, so that we will get to know our God better.
Now, what are the pre-requisites to get to know God in an intimate way? I want you to note these, please - this is the conclusion of these messages, and what is burning upon my heart today, five things that we need to do and need to be, to get to know this God of ours. They can all be summarised in one simple statement, listen: 'If we are to get to know our God, we must live a holy life'. If we are to get to know our God, we must live a holy life. The first thing I'll leave with you is part of that holy life, and it is this: a holy zeal for God. In Daniel 11 and verse 32, that we read, we saw this: 'But the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits'. One translation says: 'They shall stand firm and take action'. Now we find that verse in this prophetic chapter of chapter 11, and the opposite to that verse is found in verse 21: 'And in his estate shall stand up a vile person, to whom they shall not give the honour of the kingdom: but he shall come in peaceably, and obtain the kingdom by flatteries' - antichrist, all that is opposed to Christ, the antithesis of Christ. We find a picture of antichrist within the book of Daniel, and he will raise up that abomination of desolations - that is what the first half of verse 32 is speaking about, those who do wickedly against the covenant, corrupt by flatteries.
So, these who stand firm and are strong in the strength of the Lord, those who do know their God and do exploits, are the exact opposite of all that is antichrist. Now, we have not seen Antichrist yet, but there is the antichrist system. There is that spirit of antichrist, that spirit of iniquity that doth already work among us, and we as believers are to have a holy zeal against it. That is part of the holy life whereby you get to know intimately this great God. What is it? It is a holy indignation of all that is not of God. Ichabod, the glory has departed - well, what is our reaction to it? What is our reaction to that? What is our reaction when we see God's name trodden in the dirt, when we see society totally ignoring the precepts and laws of our God, when we see the church diluting the Gospel, when we see apostasy all around - what is our reaction to be? Are we just to shut up and say nothing? Are we to be gracious in the sense that we don't protest about anything when the name of God is trodden underfoot of men - what are we to do?
Well, if we know our God, we will stand up for God. If we know our God there will be a holy indignation that will rise in our bosom, because of the lost glory of God that was once here, that was once in us, and we will become angry about it! We'll not be able to rest at the world's defiance against God - it will goad us into action, and if we need anything today, we need a baptism of holy anger from God. Remember Paul when he went into the city of Athens to preach the Gospel? It says that the city was so completely given over to idolatry that he was stirred within himself. J. B. Phillips translates it: 'He was exasperated' - exasperated at the idolatry, of how these people were so easily bewitched by false gods, by demons, by a false religious system - and it made Paul angry!
We see it in our Lord Jesus Christ, don't we? Gentle Jesus meek and mild, going into the temple with a whip. Picture it: holy indignation - 'My Father's house shall be a house of prayer, but ye have made it into a den of thieves and robbers' - and He goes in with a holy righteous anger, why? Because the glory of His Father is at stake - Ichabod! We find that in the person of Daniel. You don't need to think too hard about him, but you remember within the book there are the four Hebrew children. There they are, four young men of God standing in front of the whole Babylonian system of the devil - and four men stand firm for God, and openly challenge the status quo. Rather than suffer contamination by the King's meat, or drink the wine and eat the flesh of debauchery in Babylon, they eat vegetables - why? Because it is better to obey God, rather than men.
Think of this: Darius, the Emperor, bans prayer. We all know that Daniel prayed three times a day. Now, what did Daniel do when Darius bans prayer? Daniel goes up to his front window, opens the windows, and decides: 'Well, I'll pray where everybody can see me pray. I will stand firm, I will take action'. He is willing to stand against the worldly system, to challenge everything that is not of God. That's what we need, oh, we need men and women like this - we are sound you know, but as the man said: we are sound asleep many of us! We need to stand up and be counted, we need to stand up against the world, because it is them who know their God that shall do exploits for God. There's a lot of fanaticism about, I know that, but there was one writer said this - and I believe he was right: 'I would rather calm down a fanatic than try to resuscitate corpse'. Isn't that better? We need to stand, we need to have the life of God in us and to be seen to be for God and be counted for Him.
Now, in Daniel that holy zeal was not only challenged to stand up publicly - because if you know many a person that stands up publicly, you'll find that their private life has a lot to be desired, it's very different than the way they protest in public. But for Daniel, that stand for God in public channelled also into his private life. If you look at Daniel 9, turn to it, Daniel 9 we find that in verse 2 - look at it - it says he understood from the Scriptures, he was studying the books of the word of God, that Israel's captivity was drawing to a close - but he also knew that Israel's sin was so great that it would provoke God to wrath upon them rather than mercy. So because he knew the prophecies, that God should be fulfilling them, but Israel's sin was so bad that He would pour wrath on them rather than mercy - look at verse 3: 'By prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes'. Daniel's holy zeal is conveyed in the energy of private fervent prayer - for the fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
Now, let us analyse ourselves. We want to have an intimate knowledge of our God, but we cannot have that knowledge if we do not have a holy zeal. We need a holy zeal in our stand for God and in our private prayer for God. Well might the hymnwriter have said:
'May Thy rich grace impart
Strength to this fainting heart.
My zeal inspire!
As Thou hast died for me,
So may thy love to Thee,
Pure, warm and changeless be:
A living fire'.
That's the first thing: a holy zeal for God. Secondly: a holy obedience to God. A holy obedience to God - Titus 1 and verse 16 we read this: 'They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate'. So there is a people who profess that they know God intimately, but by their works they deny it - they haven't got that holy obedience to God. But John says, 1 John 2 and verse 3: 'Hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments'. Now I want you to direct your thoughts to our Lord Jesus, I want you to look at the great biography of His life - for it was the life of God in flesh upon the earth. We can see there that He had a holy zeal for God, and He had a holy obedience to God. He said: 'My meat is to do the will of my Father. My life, my energy, my resources, everything I am and have, I am living in obedience to my Father and according to His will. I am here to finish His work'.
Now, listen, if you're wanting to know the God that we have been talking about for eleven weeks, you're going to have to be obedient. This is very simple, this is elementary stuff, this is the basics of Christian success - if I can put like that. If you're wanting to get to know God, if you're wanting to go on with God, you're going to have to be obedient to God! The Lord Himself said: 'Neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whosoever the Son will reveal Him' - and He had God revealed to Him, the Father revealed Himself to the Son, and it was no coincidence that His life was an obedient one. 'And him to whosoever the Son reveals the Father to', if He's going to reveal Him to you, if He's going to reveal Him to me, it'll be through an obedient and a holy life. Now we must grasp this! We cannot know a holy God if we are not willing to be holy. We can't know a faithful God if you can't take our word as our bond. This is serious stuff, this is where the rubber meets the road, this is where we take off - when we forsake our sins, when we forsake the things that we do and so easily beset us and we leave them by, and we decide: 'I'm going on for God, and nothing's going to stop me. I'm going to know my God, and sin certainly isn't going to be a barrier or a stumbling block to that'.
Billy Sunday told a story one time when he was preaching, about a church down the road that was on fire. The local atheist, that everybody knew, ran down and he started to help them trying to put out the fire. One wise guy out of the church said: 'Oh, this is the first time I've seen you at church'. The atheist turned round to the Christian and said: 'Well, it's the first time I've seen the church on fire!' - and isn't that right? We can't blame the world for not wanting certain things to do with us at times, can we? I know that these things, to the natural mind they don't understand spiritual things, but there are times that there is nothing to attract people to us. Nothing! There is not a holy life, and let us be assured today that if there is a holy life there will be folk attracted to you! And many of them will be Christians.
Our Lord's words are still true today: 'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God' - they shall see God, the pure. The apostle was right in Hebrews: 'Follow peace with all men, and holiness without which none shall see God'. We need a holy zeal, and we need a holy obedience - and thirdly: we need a holy death to self. Do you want to see God? Do you want to know God? Not just know about Him, but follow after to know this God intimately that we have been studying and looking at - well, if you do, you're going to have to do what Paul says and reckon yourself dead to sin, and throw open your life to the inflow of the Holy Spirit. There's no other way! Come to your meetings, have your time of prayer, wear your denominational badge or whatever theological persuasion you have - but if you want to know God you're going to have to submit to God!
This is a detachment from everything that the world holds dear - to love not the world, neither the things that are in the world, for the love of the world is not the love of the Father. And anyone who has the love of the world in them, the love of the Father dwells not in them - the two cannot dwell together. Let me say that this is also applicable to the church of Jesus Christ, that their self must die. If I can use the word 'organisation' - I don't like using it - but as an organisation of people our self must die! Our reputation must fall into the ground and die as a corn of wheat, or it will abide alone. We must move away from the lifeless textualism, that: 'It's in the Bible, and I take it, but there is no reality of these truths in my life to show it'. We must move away from the fact that these things happened 2000 or more years ago, and we will sit in a huddle studying these things and learning about history - to step forward, to let this great, almighty, supernatural, sovereign God start doing things in our lives.
Can we do that? Can we change the facade of what is Christianity today in Northern Ireland into a reality of a life filled with the very breath and life of God? Yes, we'll lose friends, we'll maybe lose our reputation, people will look at down us and say that: 'You're holier than thou' - but this is what Daniel was. He had a great boldness for God, to follow after God, to obey God rather than to obey men - and he counted the cost for God. Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Daniel, put their neck on the block for God - they counted the cost, they knew their stand was right and nothing would shift them. For them that know their God, they stand firm and they take action.
Think of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego - they embraced the fires, they embraced them! Total self-death! I'm sure that there was a lot of Jews - I mean, it's interesting that there's only three of them that we hear about going into the fiery furnace, isn't it? With all the Jews in Babylon, I'm sure, I'm quite sure that they weren't the only ones that didn't bow down to the idol - but I'll tell you this much: maybe some of the ones that bowed down to the idol were saying to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego: 'You're getting about fanatical now. OK, don't bow down to the idol, but going into the fiery furnace and just walking into it?'. My friend, this is what we are talking about - and if you want to call it a fanaticism for God, you call it that, but that's what Paul had. Listen: 'Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung that I might win Christ'. Listen to him in the book of Acts chapter 20: 'And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God'.
I'm sure there was many a man said: 'Now Paul, no! You don't need to go to these extremes, you're accepted in the beloved. The grace of God is for you, God doesn't expect you to do these hair-brained to show off for God. What do you think you are?'. Do you know what he was? He was a follower of our Lord Jesus Christ, and if we call ourselves 'Christ's ones', we will be followers too. Do you remember in Matthew 16 we read: 'From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him' - imagine somebody rebuking the Lord! 'You're not going there, what are You talking about? Going to die? Are You a fanatic? Have You lost Your mind?'. 'Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that are of men' - that is what is killing the church of Jesus Christ today: the things that are of men and not of God. We must go for that holy road of self-sacrifice, that Christlikeness - and if we claim to be partakers of the divine nature that we have been studying in weeks gone by, you can't say you follow Christ if you don't die like Christ!
Fourthly: there is a holy satisfaction in God. First of all, a holy zeal after God; secondly, a holy obedience to God; and thirdly, a holy death to self; and fourthly, a holy satisfaction. What did the Babylonians say to Daniel and his friends? 'You bow down to that idol, or we'll throw you in the fiery furnace. We will! You do what we say, or we'll throw you in'. Now, look at Daniel 3, turn with me to Daniel 3. Daniel 3 and verse 16, now this is mighty: 'O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter' - in other words they're saying: 'It's not necessary for us to give you an answer on this point'. 'If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up'. Do you know what he was saying? This often confused me, do you know what they were saying? 'It makes no difference whether you kill us, or whether you let us live, we are satisfied with our God. We're satisfied in our God whether we're alive, we're satisfied in our God whether we're dead - we're content with Him, and there's nothing you can offer us in any god, any riches, any reputation, that will change it'.
Satisfied in God! You know there's a lot in the church today that aren't satisfied in God. Now, I know that we have to move into the 21st century - but they want gimmicks, they want to bring things in because they're not just satisfied with hearing the word of God and praying to their God - God is not enough! Now we have to - if we're going to know God - we have to be satisfied in God! We have to decide [that] it makes no difference what life throws at me, or what illness throws at me, or what death brings to me, how soon it comes - I'm satisfied in God - and if you're like that you'll get to know God. For Paul said to Timothy: 'For the which cause I also suffer these things', I'm suffering you know, 'nevertheless I'm not ashamed' - I'm prepared to suffer! 'For I know', literally, 'I have knowledge and am acquainted with him whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I've committed unto him against that day'. Was it not a holy satisfaction in God that said: 'For me to live is Christ, to die is gain'? The poet put it in these words:
'Lord, it belongs not to my care,
Whether I die or live.
To love and serve Thee is my share,
And this Thy grace must give.
If life be long I will be glad,
That I may long obey.
If short, then why should I be sad
To soar to endless day?'
A holy satisfaction with God. Fifthly, and finally: a holy meditation upon God. You see, those who know their God have great thoughts of Him. You have to have great thoughts of God if you know God, you've been brought into communion with Him and fellowship with the great Almighty. You find that in the book of Daniel, if you look at chapter 5 and verse 22. He revealed Himself to the emperors, first of all to Belshazzar, chapter 5 and verse 22, and what was it? It was the greatness and the glory of God: 'And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this; But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified'.
Nebuchadnezzar, in chapter 4 and verse 34, he's told again that God's dominion '...is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation'. The world is in God's hands. He reveals Himself to Darius in chapter 6 in the same way - and in chapter 4:25 we read this: 'The most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will'. Now look, if you're not satisfied with God you'll never be satisfied as a Christian! And let me say this: if you're not satisfied on earth studying the Lord Jesus Christ and the great Almighty Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - I don't think you'll enjoy heaven! For in heaven, we will be eternally satisfied with Him - and if a believer can't be satisfied on earth with Him...I wonder are they going to heaven? This is where we practice for heaven, this is where we learn the art of beholding God, of meditating upon God, of contemplating God that we've been doing in our weeks gone by - and it's a lost art within Christian lives today, and that is why the glory of this great God has departed! The focal point has been put on man now, but all the holy men, prophets, patriarchs, apostles, and great preachers of the past, prostrated themselves regularly before God and meditated upon Him.
We have many problems, all of us, but A. W. Tozer said: 'The instant cure of most of our religious ills would be to enter the presence, in the spiritual experience to become suddenly aware that we are in God and God is in us. This would lift us out of our pitiful narrowness, and cause our hearts to be enlarged'. What is it? Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace. It is to study the transcendence of God and to be lifted from the mundane grind of our lives - lives that are full of moods and fickleness. If we look to the changeless God, we will be anchored from the blowing of the winds of life. When people let us down, and when we let ourselves down, and let God down, there is a faithfulness in God that will always meet our needs. For all our shortcomings and all our sins, there is grace and there is mercy with God. It's amazing! In the deep pain of life and of death, there is the love of God for us all. In our loneliness, there is God's omnipresence. When we're in perplexity and confused, there is His all-knowing ability. When we are weak, He is strong. Our life is to obey Him, and to enjoy Him forever:
'Only to sit and think of God,
Oh, what a joy it is,
To think the thought,
To breathe the name.
Earth has no higher bliss,
Father of Jesus,
What rapture it will be:
Prostrate before Thy throne to lie,
And gaze and gaze on Thee'.
Let me just finish by saying this: will you taste and see that the Lord is good? The old Chinese sage said this: 'The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step' - do you know what the one step towards knowing our God is? A desire to know Him. Do you want to know Him? The Psalmist wanted to know Him: 'My soul followeth hard after Thee. As the deer panteth after the water brook, so doth my soul pant after thee, O God'. 'For I am determined to know nothing among you, save Jesus Christ and him crucified...O, that I might know him, and the power of his resurrection, and fellowship of his sufferings'. 'Then', Hosea says, 'Then shall we follow on to know the Lord: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth'. May we learn to know our God.
Our Father, in the weeks that have gone by we have learnt all about Thee. Our appetites have been whet, but Lord, we long to taste more, we long to have a holy life filled with zeal and obedience, with a death of self and a satisfaction in our God - and to be found meditating often, and thinking God's thoughts after Him. Lord, we thank Thee that they that hunger and thirst after righteousness shall be filled. We pray that all who have that desire to follow after, to know God, that Lord You would give them the grace and the strength to follow hard after Thee. Bless us now, we pray, in the Saviour's name, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the thirteenth tape in his 'Behold Your God' series, titled "Knowing Your God" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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