The Importance of Knowing God
Apart from Jesus Christ, King Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived (1 Ki. 3:12). When he dedicated the Temple in Jerusalem, he told the Israelites, “Let your heart therefore be loyal to the LORD our God, to walk in His statutes and keep His commandments” (8:61).
Scripture records some of his decisions, which demonstrate his great wisdom and discernment; and his proverbs guide us to this day. In fact, Solomon wrote most of the book of Proverbs, sharing his wisdom on a variety of topics.
Though our circumstances and times differ vastly from Solomon’s, his insights are timeless and shed light on how we are to live. The essential element of his writings can be summed up in Proverbs 9:10: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.”
Unfortunately, Solomon apparently failed to heed his own advice.
Wisdom is not merely knowledge. It involves the application of knowledge and godly life skills. Wrote Bible expositor Warren Wiersbe in his book Be Mature, “Knowledge enables us to take things apart, but wisdom enables us to put things together and relate God’s truth to daily life.”
Scripture reveals a conflict in Solomon, who expressed his frustration in the book of Ecclesiastes:
I communed with my heart, saying, “Look, I have attained greatness, and have gained more wisdom than all who were before me in Jerusalem. My heart has understood great wisdom and knowledge.” And I set my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is grasping for the wind. For in much wisdom is much grief, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow (1:16–18).
How could the wisest human being who ever lived come to such a conclusion? What was going on in his life that led to such a statement?
There is a profoundly sad chapter in the life of this man whose reign began with such humility. His life took a tragic detour along the way: “Solomon loved many foreign women” (1 Ki. 11:1), in direct violation of God’s command not to intermarry with non-Israelites. Why was this command so important? Because love is a powerful motivator, and it motivated Solomon to forsake the Lord: “Solomon clung to these in love. For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God as was the heart of his father David” (vv. 2, 4).
It is no wonder this man, endowed with such knowledge and wisdom, also experienced such grief and frustration. All the wisdom in the world holds no guarantee of happiness and contentment apart from knowing and fearing God. Indeed, in the closing years of his life, Solomon confessed, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all [duty]” (Eccl. 12:13).
The First Step
The fear of the Lord involves more than merely knowing about God or having sound theology. Such knowledge—absent from truly knowing and loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind—leads to what is called a cold orthodoxy.
Certainly, we should desire wisdom. “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy” (Jas. 3:17). How do we obtain such wisdom? By fearing the Lord. And the first step to fearing the Lord begins with actually knowing Him.
God is indeed knowable. He told the Israelites, “Let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth” (Jer. 9:24).
The apostle Paul’s desire for the believers in Colossae and Laodicea was “that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:2–3, emphasis added).
Wisdom for living involves knowing and loving God. Such a life begins with acknowledging our sin and our need for a Savior. Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son—Israel’s Messiah—gave His life as our substitute. Scripture says, “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Jesus bore our sins and took the punishment of death we deserve. When we place our faith in Him alone for salvation, we are delivered from “the power of darkness” and transferred “into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Col. 1:13). In other words, He saves us from suffering eternally to pay for our sins. He paid for them and set us free. Our responsibility is to believe.
Walking With God
At salvation, we begin our walk of faith with the Lord Jesus Christ. From that point forward, God expects us to mature: “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving” (2:6–7).
In my own walk with Christ, I have found it easy to listen to the counsel of others or read books about the Christian life. But knowing how to seek God’s wisdom with my heart is another thing entirely.
Recently, intent on understanding God’s will for my life, I set out to know what God desired; and I prayed very specifically. I was in the process of memorizing Paul’s letter to the Colossians when two verses hit me hard:
For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God (1:9–10, emphasis added).
I had focused so intently on the “what” of God’s will that I neglected the “why” of knowing His will for me: that I might walk worthy of the Lord. Doing so involves my heart, desiring God’s wisdom so that my life would reflect my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
All the wisdom in the world won’t bring us to God unless we come with our hearts. Somewhere along the way, Solomon gave his heart to the women he loved instead of giving it to God. May Psalm 90:12 be our prayer: “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” That way we won’t end up like Solomon—empty and filled with regret.