Humans were created to seek their worth in God. When man cut himself off from God, he began to seek his worth in other things. No longer did he have God’s measure for himself and his existence. He lacked any objective, spiritual ruler for himself.
The prophet Jeremiah speaks of man’s casting about for worth as glorying. To glory in something is man’s attempt to raise himself up and value himself. Having rejected God’s measure, he winds up comparing himself to others. The weeping prophet must have cried when he wrote:
The Lord says,
“Wise people should not boast that they are wise.
Powerful people should not boast that they are powerful.
Rich people should not boast that they are rich.
If people want to boast, they should boast about this:
They should boast that they understand and know me.
They should boast that they know and understand
that I, the Lord, act out of faithfulness, fairness,
and justice in the earth
and that I desire people to do these things,”
says the Lord. Jer 9.22-23
Jeremiah’s list is merely a start, but knowledge, power, and riches probably cover most of the territory. Add to those beauty, youth, pleasure, acceptance, and any number of false weights of worthiness.
The problem with all of these begins in the comparison with others. And comparison leads us to compete. The person without God as his measure inevitably seeks to pull others down and climb to the top. At some point, somebody more powerful, rich or knowledgeable will come along, and our worthiness goes out the window. Also, knowledge becomes outdated, riches slip through the fingers, power loses its grip. We’re on shaky ground. Glorying in such as these turns out to be a frustrating and unsatisfying exercise.
Jeremiah seeks to return his fellow Israelites and all who have adopted their worldly weights of worth to the only right measure that ultimately satisfies: the knowledge of God. This is not merely another, superior type of knowledge. It is not knowledge about God, but a deep, intimate relationship with God.
Before going further, it’s important to note that some see this point as being a subjective feeling that many use to justify religious error. An evangelistic book popular among the brotherhood rails against the idea of knowing God and having a relationship with him. It apparently seeks to debunk the old denominational idea of a salvation “better felt than told.” But let us not throw out the baby with the bath water.
The summation of God’s purpose for man is to know and understand him. A large word group expresses this relationship, principal among them ideas such as abiding, love, covenant, and fellowship. Christ invites us to abide in him, or live united with him, Jn 15.4. God loves and abides with the one who obeys in a special way not available to the disobedient, Jn 14.23. Fellowship with God is to be valued above all else, 1 Jn 1.3. The whole Godhead is involved in this fellowship, for we have it with Christ, 1 Cor 1.9, and with the Holy Spirit, 1 Cor 13.13. To say (and experience it) that we have fellowship with God is the essence of being a Christian, 1 Jn 1.6. Our fellowship with God is what creates our unity as his people, 1 Jn 1.3.
Fellowship with God, knowing God, does not occur because we feel it or think it. We are in God and in Christ through faith and obedience. It is altogether an objective and identifiable process. Union with God is possible because he creates the way in his Son. And it is this knowledge of him that give us the great purpose of our lives.
My aim is to know him, to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings, and to be like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead, Phil 3.10-11.