One of the most significant areas in which modern life is out of step with God relates to the things that we value. In today’s world, people place enormous value upon wealth and education. We tend to measure people’s success in terms of their material prosperity and academic achievement.
However, God views the matter quite differently. He tells us says through the prophet Jeremiah that our aspirations and priorities are totally misplaced. Jeremiah challenges our thinking in these words, “This is what the Lord says – ‘Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom, or the strong man boast of his strength, or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness in the earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the Lord” (9:23).
Clearly, in the mind of Jeremiah, things like wealth and prosperity, intellectual ability, personal influence and social connections, while no doubt useful in their place, come a distant second to the most important thing of all – a personal and intimate knowledge of God. And this is why we should not be surprised that a little later in his prophecy he announces that one of the great blessings that are to be found amongst the promises of the New Covenant is the personal knowledge of God – “They shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest” (31:34). Here we discover that the great prize of life consists not of wealth, or power, or worldly wisdom: rather, it is to be found in a direct, personal and intimate knowledge of God.
It is not surprising that this gift of the personal knowledge of God should be one of the blessings of the New Covenant. It flows naturally out of the preceding promise, “I will be their God and they shall be My people” (31:33). The language of this promise is reminiscent of marriage vows. God pledges that He will take us into a union similar to marriage. Now since it is characteristic of partners in a marriage that they have a deep and intimate knowledge of one another, “the two shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24), so the kind of knowledge that we have of God through this covenantal union is one that is intensely personal.
Interestingly, this is exactly what the apostle Paul says. He claims that the one thing that characterises the Christian is a personal knowledge of God gained through the Holy Spirit, “‘For who among men,’ he asks, ‘knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.’” Then he goes on to say, “We have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us” (1 Corinthians 2:11,12). There we have it – one of the great blessings of the Gospel is an intimate knowledge of God, which God discloses to us through the Holy Spirit.
Now this is the great prize of the New Covenant. If you receive Jesus Christ as Lord, then you know God personally. It is not simply that you know things or believe things about God – it is beyond that; it is that you can know God intimately as a Friend and can commune with Him as such.