Knowledge of God and ourselves

The book of Judges speaks of a people who repeated the cycle of serving the Lord and sinning against the Lord. Because of their sin, they had to experience slavery in the hands of their enemies. This led them to look to the Lord for deliverance. In answer to their prayer, God sent a judge to deliver them. Then they began to serve the Lord again. But sadly, before long, the cycle started again – from service to sin to slavery to supplication to safety to service. Such a cycle does not appear to be unique only to the days of the Judges.

Psalm 107 recounts a similar story of the Israelites years before the period of the Judges. In a recent reading, what captured my attention was the refrain, ‘Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress,’ which is repeated in vv 6, 13, 19 and 28. The cycle seems familiar.  Take for instance the passage –

11for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High. 12So he bowed their hearts down with hard labour; they fell down, with none to help.  13Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. 14He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart.’

Sadly, the cycle was repeated. Consider what the Psalmist said of them – ‘they rebelled against the Word of God (11a); they ‘spurned the counsel of the Most High’ (11b). The Psalmist spoke of ‘their sinful ways’ (17a) and ‘their iniquities’ (17b).

The question is: Are we also in an unending cycle experiencing God’s salvation to serving with passion, to succumbing to the world, the flesh and the devil, to crying out to God for release and victory, to His forgiveness, to the joy of salvation to serving with passion to . . .?

From the experience of the Israelites, we are reminded that God is a God of steadfast love and we must respond with thanksgiving.

Right from the start in v 1, the Psalmist says, ‘Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!’.  It ends in v 43 with the call, ‘Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the LORD.’  In-between is another refrain, ‘Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love for his wondrous works to the children of man!’. This call to thank God for His enduring love is repeated in vv 8, 15, 21 and 31.

Quoted innumerable times: ‘Nearly all wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves’ – John Calvin. 

Here are two devotional responses:

1.  Know ourselves. It is so easy for us to stray. After having tasted the kindness and goodness of the Lord, let us be on our toes in walking worthy of our God.

2.  Know God. Be thankful that God is always there for us. ‘38For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.’  (Rom 8:38,39).

Elder Richard Lai