A few years ago, because I wanted to look up something about God’s character, I pulled out my copy of The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer, then decided it was time to re-read that slim volume again. The preface alone was arresting.
In reference to the hearer, Tozer says the “message must be not only timeless but timely.” He then launches in on the rationale for his book—Christians have a low view of God. (If he thought this back in 1961 when he wrote the book, imagine what he would think today!)
The low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us. A whole new philosophy of the Christian life has resulted from this one basic error in our religious thinking…
The only way to recoup our spiritual losses is to go back to the cause of them and make such corrections as the truth warrants. The decline of the knowledge of the holy has brought on our troubles. A rediscovery of the majesty of God will go a long way toward curing them. It is impossible to keep our moral practices sound and our inward attitudes right while our idea of God is erroneous or inadequate. If we would bring back spiritual power to our lives, we must begin to think of God more nearly as He is. (pp 6-7, emphases here and throughout are mine)
Because Tozer started with the remark about the timeliness of the message, I had to ask, is this a timely message for postmodern America? What I hear and read most often proclaims God’s mystery, not His majesty. In fact, a quick check using Google search revealed seven times more blog articles discussing God and mystery than God and majesty.
Of course, if those using the term “mystery” actually mean “transcendence,” then they’re on the right track. But too often the meaning is, “We cannot know”; God—the great Question Mark, about which we cannot know and should not claim to know—is hidden from us.
Except, all throughout Scripture, God declares who He is. Take Exodus 29:46 for example:
They shall know that I am the LORD their God who brought them out of the land of Egypt, that I might dwell among them; I am the LORD their God.
Or how about Hosea 6:3:
So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD.
His going forth is as certain as the dawn;
And He will come to us like the rain,
Like the spring rain watering the earth.
Then there is Hebrews 8:11 quoting from Jeremiah:
AND THEY SHALL NOT TEACH EVERYONE HIS FELLOW CITIZEN, AND EVERYONE HIS BROTHER, SAYING, ‘KNOW THE LORD,’ FOR ALL WILL KNOW ME, FROM THE LEAST TO THE GREATEST OF THEM.
Christ, the mediator between God and Man has made this possible.
For in Him [Christ] all the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form (Colossians 2:9)
Then we have Jesus’s own statement:
“If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.” (John 14:7)
A mystery, God is not, at least for those who know Jesus Christ.
This contradicts our postmodern culture. Our problem, then, seems to be that we no longer grasp the majesty of God because we no longer believe it is possible to do so. Who could grasp what is shrouded in mystery?
What a subversive lie Satan has introduced. (He’s good at that, being the father of lies). First the idea that God is unknowable undermines the authority of the Bible. If we can’t know because God is mystery, then whoever or whatever claims knowledge of God is suspect. No longer is the believer to give definitive answers, and the one who seeks and keeps seeking is considered wise.
Except this position contradicts Jesus Himself.
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. (Matt 7:7-8)
Throughout the Bible, God promises Himself to those who seek Him:
- But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul. (Deut. 4:29)
- the LORD is with you when you are with Him. And if you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you. (2 Chron. 15:2b)
- You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. (Jer. 29:13)
- Draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4:8a)
A. W. Tozer took it upon himself to write The Knowledge of the Holy as his timely, timeless message—a way of calling Christians back to an elevated view of God.
It seems to me we have a different timely, timeless message to convey today before we can grasp Tozer’s—that is, God revealed Himself precisely because He wants to be known. Would Jesus have come in the form of man, lived on earth, and died otherwise? Would God have sent His Holy Spirit if He didn’t plan for us to have an intimate relationship with Him? Would He have given us Scripture if He didn’t want us to know about His person, plan, and work?
At every turn, God reveals Himself so that we can enter into relationship with Him.
Thus says the LORD, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD. (Jer. 9:23-24)
This article with some changes is a reprint of one that first appeared here in March 2012.