By Not Known
How do we come to know God? The Old Testament figure of Samuel gives us a
glimpse of this issue in a particular setting.
Like many of us, and our children, Samuel grew up knowing about God and
surrounded by religious life. In his case, he literally grew up in God’s sanctuary,
from the time he was weaned (1 Sam 1:24). While there he continued to grow in
stature and in favour with the Lord and with men (1 Sam 2: 21 & 26), just like
Jesus (Lk 2:52).
There can be little doubt that Samuel knew much about God, and it seems that
his life took a generally godly path in behaviour. This is also true for many
children of Christian parents. Our children know Bible stories by heart, are well
behaved and eagerly join acts of family and church worship.
But, there is a big difference between knowing about God and behaving in
religious ways and ‘knowing God’. We see this in today’s Bible passage (1 Sam 3).
Samuel was sleeping in the sanctuary when God spoke to him three times. He
mistook this for the voice of Eli, his mentor. We are told why Samuel made this
mistake: Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: the word of the Lord had not
yet been revealed to him (1 Sam 3:7).
The word used for ‘know’ has to do with much more than ‘knowing about’. Its
focus is ‘knowing’ in a relational sense – for example, in the way in which a
married couple ‘know’ each other in intimate moments. To ‘know about’ God is
to have information. To ‘know God’ is to acknowledge, honour, obey, trust and
worship him – starting in our heart and touching all that we are or do.
This difference between ‘knowing about’ and ‘knowing’ is critical when it comes
to God. It is the difference between death and life. We may well imagine that
hell has many people who were greatly learned about God but who did not ‘know
God’ in the sense of Samuel.
Take a few moments in prayerful self-examination: do you know about God, or
do you know God? Again, those who are parents need to consider this issue with
regard to our children. It is good that they know about God through Bible
teaching. But do we ensure that they know the difference between this and