Packer begins this chapter with a series of questions. What were we made for? To know God. What aim should we set for our lives? Ditto. Eternal Life? To know God. His point is clear the Summum bonum of life is to know the all satisfying God. Jeremiah tells us that if we are to boast in anything, we are to boast that we understand and know God (Jeremiah 9:23-24) Parenthetically evil is the reciprocal – to turn from God to other things for our life and satisfaction (Jeremiah 2:13) Knowing God is the most perpetually thrilling and satisfying thing in life. It is truly the one thing that will never grow tired, dull, and lifeless over time. Only God is big enough to inspire wonder, to give love, to give us truth, and ultimate security for this life and the next. A few quotes from GK Chesterton came to mind about the wonder of God and the joy of knowing him…and the drudgery of life without God…somewhat related: There is a vital objection to the advice merely to grin and bear it. The objection is that if you merely bear it, you do not grin. GK Chesterton, Orthodoxy (New York: NY, Image books, 1959) 104. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon.
Ibid 58. But what does it mean to know God? Packer lists several possibilities:
- An emotion
- A bodily experience
- Intellectual experience
- See a Vision
- Hear a Voice
All, I admit have crossed my mind at some point in my short life. Packer next begins by a discussion of how we know things – objects, animals, people, important people, and finally God. His line of thinking stems from this – to know a person they must reveal something to you about themselves, to know a high ranking person – they stoop low to reveal to someone of a lower standing. Such it is with God – he stoops love in his grace to love and reveal himself to us. Packer summarizes this short discourse with the following statement: We must say that knowing God involves, first, listening to God’s Word [in this he means Scripture] and receiving it as the Holy Spirit interprets it, in application to oneself; second, noting the God’s nature and character, as his Word and works reveal it; third, accepting his invitations and doing what he commands; fourth, recognizing and rejoicing in the love that he has show in thus approaching you and drawing you into this divine fellowship. JI Packer, Knowing God, Americanized Edition (Downers Grove: IL, Intervarsity Press, 1993) 37. The next part of this chapter goes to Knowing Jesus – the God-man, the Word (Logos) made flesh. This Jesus is our access to God – to knowing God as he reveals himself in the person of Christ. Though the first disciples walked with Jesus bodily, we too walk with him today in intimate and personal fellowship through the Spirit. Jesus comes to us as our savior, to free us from sin, guilt, death, and judgment. Knowing Jesus is knowing the mercy of God. I was refreshed to see Packer affirm the emotions in knowing God, as well as the intellect and the will. In our days, and in days past I suppose, we seem to ping pong back and forth between the emotional/existential and the intellectual/contemplative. Such balance is refreshing and indeed what I need for my soul. Both the call to THINK and to at times WEEP for JOY. Packer closes the chapter reminding us that we know God by his grace because he reveals himself to us. He knows us and this is why we can know Him. His choice – a cause for pause and humility.Out. --------