For those of you who are familiar with the book of Acts, I'm sure you would have heard of the story of the people in Athens found in Acts 17.
During this time, Paul is debating in the synagogue and during the meeting, he stands up and begins to proclaim the Gospel. This is how he begins in Acts 17:22-23a,
"Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you." (NIV)
Its very easy to get caught up in being 'religious' without knowing the living God. The Pharisees managed to do it. They demanded the crucifiction of God in the flesh.
And I'm not sure we're all that different. We may not physically crucify Him, but we become prideful in our ways. As what was talked about several weeks ago about the grace of God and how we sometimes have a tendency to think that we deserve God's grace... but that other person down the road? Nah, not a chance.
At what point do we get so out of touch with God that He becomes the unknown God in our lives?
I ask this because of a warning that God gives to Israel a number of times in Deuteronomy. I'm trying (note: 'trying') to get through the Bible in a year and as I read through the Old Testament, I notice how several times in the book of Deuteronomy, when God speaks out against false gods, the attribute of these 'gods' that He repeats is this,
"the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known."
"Of which you have not known". And remember, this is God-breathed Scripture we are talking about. God could have mentioned any other attribute: "which have no power/authority/being/life".
"Which you have not known."
Too many people think of God as some derelict God who winds up the clocks of time and leaves it there and yet this very same apathetic behaviour He speaks out against.
Or maybe its not that, maybe it isn't about religious pride but, instead, someone was hurt in their past by their father and because of that, this idea of a Godly Father figure just seems too unbelievable and too big to be known.
Listen to the first proclamation that Paul says in the rest of Acts 17:23b,
"Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you." (NIV)
Each one of the reasons that make us feel bitter towards God as if He doesn't care about what we're going through can cause just as resentment towards God as the last one.
But this God we serve? Man, this is a very, personal God who cares about us.
A lot of the time we talk about how God moves for His glory, brings salvation for His glory, works our His will for His glory. But all of what He did as well is throughout the Old Testament and into the New is summed up in what Paul says in verse 27.
"God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us." (Acts 17:27 NIV)
In John 14:7, Jesus proclaims that since we have known Him, we know the Father.
Matthew 10:29-31 NIV says,"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."
And this love that God has for His people. This isn't something new.
Isaiah 40:27-28 NIV, says, "Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, 'My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God'? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom."
And again, "Do you not know?"
Not only is God concerned, but He is also capable and He wants us to know this so we may trust in Him.
And our trust in Him isn't blind in that He's some distant God that we have no clue about. He longs for us to know and simply know who He is so that we may trust.
And this very same God that is not far from us, is the same God who decided that despite our failings and sin, that He would reconcile ourselves to Him. And whether its in our pain our in our prideful religion that we come to forget Him, He remains the same.
This is the very same God who proclaims "Be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10 NIV).
So regardless of what you are struggling with, know that He wants you to rest in the knowledge that He alone is the everlasting God who is very, very known to us.
And He has made Himself known through His Word, all it takes is for us to ask Him to reveal Himself and He will.
God bless you all.
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13 NIV