What a great question to begin with! Never a more difficult nor more important question was ever asked.
There are many good answers to this question, but I must first set the context for this discussion. I grew up knowing all the “right” answers, following all the “right” methods, being in the “right” community; yet God was very small to me. People have sought to learn about God in rules, in rites and rituals, in studying sacred writings, in prayer and contemplation, in communities, in isolation, in self-inflicted suffering, in punishing others, in serving others, and countless other ways. While many of these things are useful, too often these become the method of controlling God rather than a way to let God control and shape us. When people yearn, “Why didn’t God answer my prayer?” it shows a motive to control God. Well known evangelists often espouse, “Just say this prayer, and God will come into your heart.” Is God really waiting for us to dot the ‘i’ or cross the ‘t’ before he reveals himself to us? If I reiterate the prayer formula, do I then receive His abundant blessing. If I join the correct community and follow the right rules, will that gain His favor? If I call Him by the right name, does that unlock the door? If I die a martyr’s death, will that gain me great treasure? I have seen religious folks from all faiths and traditions pursuing God as if he is a vault that can be opened with the right combination. Is God really this arbitrary?
Not at all.
Moses said, “if … you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart (Deut 4:29)”
King David advised his son Solomon, “acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever. (I Chr 28:9)”
Azariah and Jeremiah had similar quotes.
Jesus said, “For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matt 7:8)”
It is important to understand, that we have a conundrum. A natural being cannot perceive a spiritual being unless he first becomes spirit. The Calvinists say God is in control of revealing himself to whomever He chooses. The Arminian says, that we are in control of our own destiny. We see both examples in scripture. Some were chosen before they were born or at an arbitrary time – Jacob, Moses, the 70 elders, Samuel, Samson. Others were chosen or rejected as they responded accordingly – Cain, Joseph, Isaiah, Ezra. The best answer is that God works all things for His purpose. In some situations he picks a man or woman before they have responded. In other situations he responds to our seeking by revealing himself. I personally believe, their are more examples of the latter, and that the verses above lean this direction. Who can discern the Spirit’s movements? The best we can do is see the fruit that is born out in someone’s life.
Finally, it is important to understand that the goal is not to know ABOUT God, but to KNOW God. Job asked many hard questions of God. He called Him to account for the catastrophes that overtook him. Instead of answer Job, God gave him question after question. After all this, Job repents but says, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. (Job 42:5)” That is the goal.
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