It’s TIME to EXAMINE how WELL we ‘KNOW’ GOD: "Shall you reign because you enclose yourself in cedar? Did not your father eat and drink, and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well. Was not this knowing Me?" says the Lord. (Jer. 22:15-16)
In the above passage, the prophet Jeremiah bitterly denounces king Jehoiakim who was oppressive, covetous, corrupt, and an idolater. He cared only for “dishonest gain”, “oppression”, and “extortion” (v. 17). He had enlarged and adorned his house (v. 14) by unjust means (v. 13), which included using forced labor and levying heavy taxes on the people (2 Kings 23:35). The people were forced to work without pay as Jehoiakim lavished money on cedar panels for his palace. This exploitation of the people was contrary to the Law that God had given through Moses (see Lev 19:13; Deut. 24:14).
Perhaps Jehoiakim thought that because he was an Israelite and because his father had known the Lord that he automatically ‘knew’ the Lord as well. However, he was mistaken. His father Josiah had matched his words with actions, actually doing justice and righteousness, and in that sense, he truly 'knew' the Lord (22:15–16). The prophet Jeremiah thus denounces the wicked rule of Jehoiakim to the humble reign of his father Josiah who was truly a model for kingly justice and righteousness. The contrast was between the kingship engaged in the exercise of justice (Josiah), and the kingship always looking for opportunities for getting wealth (Jehoiakim). Josiah truly cared for the poor and needy, and this altruism exemplified that he knew the Lord (see 9:23, 24).
Thus, knowledge of God here is related to concern for the poor and needy (20:13). Jeremiah equates bringing “justice and righteousness” to the “poor and needy” with “knowing” God (vv. 15, 16). To know God is to be and behave like Him in loving our neighbor as ourselves (Luke 10:27). Knowing the Lord also requires being faithful to His commandments (Mic. 6:6–8; John 14:15, 17). Unfortunately, the people of Israel perished because of their lack of knowledge of God (see Hos. 4:6), and disobedience to His commandments!
At the present time, there are two ways by which we can ‘know’ God: first, by having a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ: "But as many as received Him (Jesus), to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:12-13). Second, by living a godly lifestyle that pleases Him. If we say that we 'know' God, then our actions should reflect it: "If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth" (1 John 1:6). "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God" (1 John 4:7). It was on this point that the prophet Jeremiah challenged the King Jehoiakim (vv. 15–16).
It is time for us to examine how well we know God in the above two aspects. Not only should we have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, we should also develop a personal intimacy with God and reflect Him in our everyday lifestyle. In the words of Jesus: "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent" (John 17:3). God wants us to truly know Him, not just know about Him (31:34). To do that, God will inscribe His Word in our hearts through the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 3:1–3), which will shape our identity and behavior (see Jer. 31:33). Let us endeavor to know God today!