God had permitted sacrifices to be offered in His Temple in Jerusalem but He searches the hearts and minds of all who come before Him. In like manner God desires that we may also gaze into His heart to know about Him and then worship Him in true spirit. It is only through knowing God intimately can we understand the ‘image and likeness’ that God desires us to be transformed. In any case without knowing God how can we even love Him with all our heart, soul and mind.
How can we try and search God’s heart? – Scripture quote about God, ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways’, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thought’ (Isaiah 55:8-9). Likewise the exclamatory statement of Apostle Paul about God’s Word, ‘Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the LORD?’ (Romans 11:33-34). These statements are quoted by many that man is totally incapable of knowing God and should refrain from attempting to know Him more than what is already revealed by Him.
God did not intend this to be the case. First, God created man in His image and likeness (Genesis 1:27) and this was affected by Him when HE breathed into the nostrils of the form of man created from the dust ‘the breath of life and man became a living being’ (Genesis 2:7). God commanded, ‘Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind; cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth’. But before creating man there is a Divine participation of the Holy Trinity, and then comes the word, ‘Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness’ (Genesis 1:24-26). Oxygen being pumped into a human form of dust cannot become a living being till God puts a part of Himself into Him. In Him, Lord Jesus, was life and the life was the light of men’ (John 1:4). It is only when the Son of God puts part of Himself in that breath, that the man received life. In Lord Jesus, through Him and for Him all things were created and in Him all things exist in Him (Colossians 1:16-17).
When man distorted his original state and died a spiritual death of separation from God due to sin, God gave the gift of ‘eternal life in Christ Jesus’ in the same manner as ‘in the beginning’ (Romans 6:23). God became man to reveal Himself to us to help us become aware of our original state and then be transformed into that same image and likeness for He desires to have close fellowship with us. Lord Jesus has blessed all believes to be ‘His friends’ and not servants, ‘for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you’ (John 15:14-15). God wants His relationship with man to be of a friend for only a real friend knows the inner secrets of the other’s heart. The final words to the seven churches reveal the Savior Lord’s intent to ‘come in and dine with him and he with Me’ and this is for those who open the door of their heart to Him (Revelation 3:20). Even if we take this to mean material food and not spiritual food being shared, one’s body and soul are most receptive over a meal. God’s Son wants to share with us His concerns while learning about our concerns.
What more can God do to reveal His intent of revealing the inner secrets of His heart to mankind? God called Abraham ‘My friend’ (Isaiah 41:8) and after dining at His friend’s place, God listened to Abraham’s word, ‘Would You destroy the righteous with the wicked?’ God shared His plan of destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah with Abraham, His friend (Genesis 18:23). King Saul was ‘afraid of David, because the LORD was with him’ and King David was ‘a man of God’s heart’ for He truly loved God (1 Samuel 18:12). When the Ark of the LORD was being brought to Jerusalem, ‘David danced before the LORD with all his might and David was wearing a linen ephod’ (2 Samuel 6:14). He was so overwhelmed with joy that he was willing to violate the norm of wearing of the linen ephod and the king danced with abandon even to the extent that his wife, Michal, daughter of Saul, ‘despised him in her heart’. God desires and honors such love. God declared to the prophet, ‘I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways’ (Jeremiah 17:10). God would not subject mankind to something that He Himself is not willing to undergo.
Why would God open His heart to an earthly man? – God commanded us to love Him with all the heart, soul, mind and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5). How can we love someone without knowing him fully? King David declared that ‘The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork’ and we have to see that (Psalm 19:1). God’s purpose of sending His Son as man is not only about redemption but also about revealing Himself to mankind. Apostle John realized this to say, ‘The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14). Lord Jesus clearly admitted that ‘the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Farther do, for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner’ (John 5:19). We can see some of the things that the Lord did, that revealed His heart. Lord Jesus’ heart reveals God’s heart for He is fully Divine and fully human.
Lord Jesus’ heart is full of compassion, He saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick (Matthew 14:14). He went with the disciples to Tyre and Sidon to give them rest (Mark 7:24). He saw the widow of Nain with the dead body of her only child and ‘His heart went out to her, full of compassion’ (Luke 7:13). Lord Jesus expressed His willingness and then reached out to touch a leper, a ceremonially unclean person, and healed him (Luke 5:12-13).
He revealed love and justice, the two traits of God, who desires to keep us in His love but we keep straying into the area of His judgment. Both these are interrelated ‘For whom the LORD loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights’ (Proverbs 3:12 & Hebrews 12:6). After Apostle Peter had denied his Lord three times, ‘the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord… he went out and wept bitterly’. That was a look of compassion and love and not of condemnation for He had prayed for Peter and others that ‘your faith should not fail’ and Satan’s plan be defeated (Luke 22:61-62 & 32). A woman caught in adultery brought alone and without the man, her partner in crime, before the Lord for judgment and stoning to death but He reminded them all of their sinful nature and need for a Savior to forgive the woman (John 8:3-11). Asking Simon Peter three times about his love for His Lord, He helped Peter overcome his sense of guilt and assigned Him great responsibility to tend to and feed His sheep with the spiritual food. Jonah had rebelled but was saved when he called out to the LORD. But on seeing his anger over the damaged plant, God asked him, ‘is it right for you to be angry about the plant?’ God’s heart is full of love and He gives ample chances for us to repent and turn back.
Lord Jesus termed His command to ‘love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind’ as the ‘first and great commandment’ (Luke 10:27). It is impossible to obey this command all the time for a man with a fallen nature and Pharisees were continually reminded by the Lord of their inability to obey this and their need for a Savior. The Greek word ‘Ole’ or ‘holos’ is translated as whole and it is about using every part fully, heart fully to love God and not that in some corner there is something else receiving equality with God or sharing equal love. King Solomon advised us, ‘Keep your heart with all diligence for from it flow the springs of life’ (Proverbs 4:23). The Savior Lord has said, one who has good ‘treasure in his heart brings forth good and an evil man brings forth evil’ (Luke 6:45). The Sermon on the Mount Lord Jesus says that only ‘pure of heart shall see God’ (Matthew 5:8).
God has amply clarified about the link between love, bringing offerings and obedience that ‘when I brought your ancestors out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, but I gave them this command: Obey Me, and I will be your God and you will be My people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you’ (Jeremiah 7:22-23). Was offering sacrifices then, not God’s original intention for the Israelites? First, The word is, ‘I did not just (only) give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices’, these were but a part of the whole picture. Second, in an ideal world God wants people to worship Him or ‘avodah’ but since the Isaraelites were used to the practices all around, they could not conceive ‘avodah shebalev’ or ‘service of the heart’ or prayer and thus sacrifices were given as a concession in lieu. Third, from Exodus 25 to Leviticus 25, the sin of making of the golden calf revealed man’s desire to have God close within the camp and not distant on top of the mountain, accessible to everyone and not just to Moses and that too on a daily basis and not during rare moments of performing miracles. The Tabernacle, its service rituals and its sacrifices represented fulfillment of this desire of mankind. Hebrew word ‘korban’ translated as sacrifice is about ‘bringing it near’ and thus coming close. In the Tabernacle God came close to the people and in bringing sacrifices people came close to God.
But God being Sovereign and Judge cannot be a neighbor to mankind but distant and the people would obey His word and not bring sacrifices on a regular basis (Exodus 33:3). Pharaoh and Egypt were and are symbolic of the slavery of humanity to an imperfect and fallen nature and all our technological progress makes this prison more comfortable. What brings us close to God has to do with us and not God for He has given us free will to find and do His will. To break out of this prison we must be able to catch a glimpse of an attainable destination which would define the purpose of our very existence. ‘God has put eternity in their (mankind) heart, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end’ (Ecclesiastes 3:11). To escape the prison of this world we must make contact with eternity and that is only in God.
God’s command is, ‘Look to the LORD and His strength; seek His face always’ (1 Chronicles 16:11). The command to love the LORD is reciprocity of God’s action of loving us, since man was created as a last act of the creation process when everything that he would need was already there. ‘We love Him because He loved us first’ (1 John 4:19) and God reveals His heart to us so that we can open our heart to Him and love Him.
How does God reveal His heart to us? – Lord Jesus lived what He preached and His own holiness could overcome any uncleanness in any person, leper or dead, for He loves His creation. As per Scripture what is the mantra of pleasing God, for God is love (1 John 4:8) and again that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all’ (1 John 1:5) ‘without faith it is impossible to please God’ (Hebrews 11:6). These three statements reveal two important traits of God, first, that He desires to give His choicest things to believers for God gave His most treasured possession, His own Son, for us, ‘how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things’ (Romans 8:32) and that love always gives and faith always asks, seeks and receives. Second, darkness hides while light reveals and God desires to reveal all about Himself to us. Lord Jesus has promised He is in His Father and the believers shall be in Him and He in them and the Holy Spirit fulfills that promise (John 14:20 &26).
God is closest to us before we are likely to face a difficult assignment from Him. After receiving blessing of the firstborn from his father, Isaac, through deception, Jacob flees to Laban, his mother’s brother, to escape Esau. On the way during his sleep in a place he saw that ‘a ladder was set up on the earth and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold the LORD stood above it’ (Genesis 28:12-18). Jacob needed comfort for he was going off to an unknown place and people and God revealed Himself to him to bless him and promised to be with him while repeating the covenant made with Abraham. Even on his return, God met Jacob to teach him humility but Jacob tried to force a blessing which resulted into Jacob getting a new name and to suffer physical deformity that would make him to bend forward. God’s love was revealed in Jacob’s going out and coming in.
Before His transfiguration Lord Jesus had questioned the disciples about what the crowds thought of Him and then what the disciples thought of Him. After a few days He took Peter, John and James with Him up on the mountain to pray for Lord Jesus was well aware of the difficult times the disciples would face later. The transfiguration event is interpreted to show to the disciples about fulfillment of the law and prophets in Lord Jesus. In the Gospel accounts Moses and Elijah were seen to be ‘talking to Him’ and even while leaving they did not worship the Son of God. The cloud appeared only after Moses and Elijah had left and thereafter the declaration, ‘This is My beloved Son, Hear Him!’ The whole episode was to build up the disciples’ faith and Moses and Elijah probably did not fully realize Lord Jesus’ identity.
Moses’ presence was probably about his breaking down under pressure in the wilderness in Kadesh when the Israelites demanded water and instead of speaking to the rock Moses hit the rock twice. Before that Moses told the Israelites, ‘Must we bring water for you out of this rock’ and in this way tried to usurp God’s glory (Numbers 20:1-12). Prophet Elijah had seen God’s marvelous act of fire from heaven consuming his offering and resultant killing of 850 prophets of Baal and Asherah by the people. Elijah ran in fear after hearing the threat of Jezebel, the queen (1 Kings 18:18 to 19:18). God in His love and mercy took care of Moses’ dead body and ‘He buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth Peor, but no one knows his grave to this day’ (Deuteronomy 34:6). Prophet Elishah saw ‘a chariot of fire with horses of fire’ and Prophet Elijah ‘went up by a whirlwind into heaven’ (2 Kings 2:11). Despite their weaknesses God took care of both and the disciples also needed this reassuring message for their future. The disciples were aware of these two instances and presence of Moses and Elijah was probably to tell the disciples that God’s heart is full of compassion and love and He cares for His people in every situation.
Knowing God is not about being friendly with Him for He is God but it is about worship and adoration. The disciples stayed with Lord Jesus in close quarters for more than three years yet they were awed by His presence. Apostle Paul asked the believers to imitate him as he imitated Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:1). Apostle Paul, Silas and Timothy imitated the Savior Lord by sharing not only ‘the Gospel with them but also our own lives’ (1 Thessalonians 2:8). That is the way God reveals Himself to us and that is what He expects from us.
God reveals and opens His heart only to those who wish to be restored into His image and likeness so that during the process of transformation God could then use them to do His work on earth. The Blessed Holy Spirit dwells in us to continuously remind us of our real self and lead us on that God decreed path for us. Knowing God is about knowing His will and then doing it explicitly and obediently and in the process peeping into God’s heart to receive encouragement, enlightenment and empowerment!