"23 Thus says the Lord: "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; 24 But 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. For in these I delight," says the Lord."
Jeremiah 9:23-24 NKJV
Through the mouth of the prophet Jeremiah, the LORD declares that he does not want any to glory or boast in their wisdom, might or riches but instead, if anyone wants to boast he must boast in one thing alone "that he understands and knows me." The following passage unveils why the Lord would instruct us to boast in knowing and understanding him. "That I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these, I delight," says the Lord." "That I am the LORD", knowing who he is, his identity and character will produce the things that he delights in, "lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth". In other words, things that the Lord delights in (lovingkindness, judgement and righteousness) is a natural outgrowth of knowing and understanding who he is. Wisdom, might or riches does not produce the things that are pleasing to God, but rather the knowledge of God is what produces those things within us. Hence, The Lord wants his people to glory in knowing and understanding him because it is that knowledge and understanding that produces within them the things that are pleasing to God.
"5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus' sake. 6 For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."
2 Corinthians 4:5-6 NKJV
The Apostle Paul, in the above passage, reveals that the light that shines out of darkness is the knowledge of the glory of God. Thus, the same God who spoke light into the darkness (Genesis 1:3) has shone the light of his knowledge in the hearts of the Apostles so that they could shine that light in the hearts of other men. Now, darkness is the absence of light, and since the light of God is the knowledge of God, we can conclude that darkness is the absence of that knowledge, that is, the ignorance of God. Therefore, when people are in darkness (ignorant of God), they will manifest the works of darkness (sin and all unrighteousness). But, on the other hand, when people are in the light (the knowledge of God), they will manifest the works of light (righteousness, lovingkindness and judgement in the earth). Therefore, it is the knowledge of who God is that produces righteousness in the heart of men, and it is the ignorance of God that produces all kinds of unrighteousness in the hearts of men. We can, therefore, say that all sin and unrighteousness is rooted in the ignorance of God, and all righteousness is rooted in the knowledge of God. Again, one can examine the Scripture to see that this is the case; for example, see the following passage of scriptures.
"Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame."
1 Corinthians 15:32 NKJV
Notice how the Apostle Paul connects the sins taking place in the Corinthian church to the ignorance of God. Thus, the Apostle Paul is essentially saying that some are manifesting the works of darkness (sin) and are utterly dead to the works of light (righteousness) because they do not have the light (the knowledge of God).
"20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me"
John 15:20-21 NKJV
"1 These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. 2 They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. 3 And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me."
John 16:1-3 NKJV
In the above passages, Jesus reveals to the disciples that the evil works that people will do against them are rooted in their ignorance of God. They do not have the revelation of the Father and the Son. Thus, out of this ignorance, they are led to persecute the people of God. One such man was Saul. Although Saul was well trained in the law, he did not know the God of the law. It is important to note that the knowledge of Scripture without knowing the God of the Scripture is meaningless. Since Saul was ignorant of God, he was in darkness and doing the work of darkness. Saul thought he was doing God a service when in reality, he was persecuting him. When Jesus was revealed to him on the road to Damascus, Saul realised how ignorant he had been. Therefore his first question was, "who are you, Lord?"
"And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, 13 although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14 And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 15 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief"
1 Timothy 1:12-15 NKJV
Much like the Apostle Paul, we were all living in ignorance, and our works were the works of darkness. But God, in His infinite mercy, shone the light of his knowledge in our hearts and brought us out of the darkness. Therefore, there is mercy for those who are living in ignorance. When the light of the knowledge of God is revealed, if we choose to let go of our ignorance and embrace the knowledge of God, we will receive mercy just as the Apostle Paul did. But, sadly, even when the light of the knowledge of God is revealed, there will be those who choose to remain in ignorance. Jesus spoke of this when he said, "And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil" John 3:19. The condemnation is not that they were in darkness but loved the darkness. Hence, the condemnation is not that they were ignorant, but they loved ignorance rather than the knowledge of God.
"Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry."
Acts 17:16 KJV
"Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars' hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. 23 For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, To The Unknown God. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you."
Acts 17:22-23 KJV
The Apostle Paul was disturbed in his spirit when he saw the city of Athens wholly given to idolatry. Paul had not seen a city so morally depraved in all his missionary trips as Athens. All kinds of sin and immorality were being committed in this city. The Apostle Paul noticed an altar to the unknown God while passing through the city. This city was not only ignorant of God but also worshipped their ignorance. The world today is much like Athens; people are not only ignorant of God but also worship their ignorance. Atheists who brazenly proclaim, "God does not exist" are highly esteemed and elevated in society. They are the modern-day priest of the altar of ignorance. As a result of this brazen worship of ignorance of God, gross darkness had covered the city. We are witnessing today deep darkness that has covered many people over the world. The moral fibre of society has crumbled to the point that sins that were shameful to be spoken of in public are now being celebrated in public.
"And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them."
Romans 1:28-31 NKJV
The Apostle Paul notes that those who did not like to retain God in their knowledge were given over to a debased or unsound mind. As a result of their ignorance, they committed all kinds of sins and approved of those who practised them. Again, it is made clear that all the sins mentioned, unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, etc., result from being ignorant of God. The Apostle Paul tells us that people choosing to be ignorant of God have lost the soundness of their minds. We are seeing an unprecedented amount of people struggling with mental illness. People are struggling with depression, and suicide rates are through the roof. Sadly people choose to seek all other means to avail this problem rather than seek the knowledge of God. The solution is still the same solution that The Apostle Paul proclaimed to Athens. "Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent," Acts 17:30. Repentance of one's ignorance of God will deliver one from the grip of darkness.
"Hear the word of the Lord, You children of Israel, For the Lord brings a charge against the inhabitants of the land: “There is no truth or mercy Or knowledge of God in the land. 2 By swearing and lying, Killing and stealing and committing adultery, They break all restraint, With bloodshed upon bloodshed. 3 Therefore the land will mourn; And everyone who dwells there will waste away With the beasts of the field And the birds of the air; Even the fish of the sea will be taken away."
Hosea 4:1-3 NKJV
In the days of Hosea the prophet, God brought a charge against the land of Israel. One of these charges was the lack of knowledge of God in the land. As a result, all kinds of sins were committed against God, and every form of moral restrain was being broken. The ignorance of the inhabitant of the land had a direct impact on the land itself. The land was wasting away, and the beast of the field, the birds and the fishes were dying. The earth today is suffering as a result of people being ignorant of God. Hardly any day passes without seeing on the news a mass death of animals, either birds dropping dead from the sky or dead fishes washing ashore. Last year in Australia alone, the bushfire is estimated to have killed over 3 billion animals and estimated to have burned 11.46 hectares of land, an area comparable to England. Scientists say the cause is climate change. However, the Scripture reveals that the lack of knowledge of God in the land is causing this devastation. The only hope for restoration is for the land to be filled with the knowledge of the Lord. For this reason, in the millennial reign of Christ, the animals themselves will be blessed with peace as a result of the earth being "full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea."
"There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots. 2 The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. 3 His delight is in the fear of the Lord, And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, Nor decide by the hearing of His ears; 4 But with righteousness He shall judge the poor, And decide with equity for the meek of the earth; He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked. 5 Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins, And faithfulness the belt of His waist. 6 “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, The leopard shall lie down with the young goat, The calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little child shall lead them. 7 The cow and the bear shall graze; Their young ones shall lie down together; And the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den. 9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord As the waters cover the sea."
Isaiah 11:1-9 NKJV
Firstly, the individual must have a heart that wants to know God. Then, according to one's ability, the individual must seek and pursue the knowledge of God. God does not reveal his knowledge to someone who does not want to know it. For example, have a look at the below passages of Scripture.
"Let us know, Let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord. His going forth is established as the morning; He will come to us like the rain, Like the latter and former rain to the earth."
Hosea 6:3 NKJV
"Yes, if you cry out for discernment, And lift up your voice for understanding, 4 If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; 5 Then you will understand the fear of the Lord, And find the knowledge of God."
"26And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;"
"And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart."
It is clear from the above passages that a person, to a certain degree, must seek the knowledge of God; indeed, the Apostle Paul proclaimed to the Athenians that it was for this purpose that God created mankind. Therefore, the Lord is always watching to see if there is anyone that seeks him so that he may reveal himself to them.
"God looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God."
Once God finds someone sincerely desiring and seeking to know him, he does two things. First, he places the light of his knowledge in a vessel and sends it to give that light to anyone seeking it. We can see this from the account of the life of the Apostle Paul.
"So I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. 17 I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, 18 to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me."
Jesus revealed himself to Paul to make him a minister and a witness of the light that has been revealed to him. It was to use him to open the eyes of those in darkness and bring them to the revelation of the glorious knowledge of Jesus Christ. Just like the Apostle Paul, God by his mercy has revealed himself to us. He has done this so that we may be his vessels to open the eyes of those who are still in the darkness of ignorance. The Lord Jesus has not revealed the light of his knowledge to us so that we may hide it but rather manifest it to those around us. Hence we are "debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise", to preach to them the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 1;14).
"Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened to me by the Lord, 13 I had no rest in my spirit, because I did not find Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I departed for Macedonia.14 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?"
2 Corinthians 2:12-16
We are to God fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. The fragrance is the knowledge of Christ, and it pleased God to place that fragrance in the most fragile and weak vessel. He chose through us to diffuse the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. Knowing our insufficiency for such a great task, Paul asked, "who is sufficient for these things?" Later in the Epistle, he reveals "our sufficiency is of God" (2 Corinthians 3:5). Therefore, we as believers must diffuse that fragrance wherever we are, in our workplace, schools, neighbourhood and anywhere we may go. Not everyone will like the fragrance of Christ; some will love it and be pulled towards it, but some will be repelled by it and ridicule and despise it. Nonetheless, we have a duty to diffuse it, knowing that it will be the fragrance unto life for some and the fragrance unto death for others.
"6 For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. 8 We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body"
2 Corinthians 4:6-10
God's light has shone in our heart "to give the light of the knowledge of the Glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." The key phrase is "to give"; in other words, God did not shine the light of his knowledge in our heart to be kept in us but rather to be given through us. So don't keep the light to yourself! Instead, give it away, share it with those around you, spread it far and wide.
God chose, by his divine will and purpose, to place this powerful and glorious treasure in earthen vessels. He could have chosen his mighty angels to be carriers and spreaders of this knowledge. However, he chose to use us, and he did this so that the power and the glory may be of him and not of us. Though we are earthen vessels, we are hard-pressed but not crushed, perplexed but not in despair, persecuted but not forsaken, struck done but not destroyed. Why? Because of the treasure that is in us. Like a man who protects the fragile container because of the treasure that it contains, so does God always watch over us because of the treasure he has placed within us. The earthen vessel has no value in of itself; the value comes from the treasure which is in it. We are valuable to God because of the treasure that he has placed within us. We believers must never forget that. As a result of this treasure within, we are persecuted and hated by the enemy, and we are loved and protected by God.
Another element in the work of illumination of the soul is the opening of the heart to the things of God. Though God may send someone to speak the words of light, it will not be profitable if God does not open that person's heart. See the below passage for an example:
"14Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. 15 And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” So she persuaded us."
Acts 16:14-15 NKJV
In the above passage, two things were instrumental for the salvation of Lydia: (1) Paul had to speak, (2) God had to open her heart. Therefore, it is not enough for us to speak the words of Christ; we have to pray that God would open the hearts of men to heed the words spoken from our mouths.
In conclusion, the light of the knowledge of Jesus Christ is what illuminates the heart and brings one out of ignorance into the marvellous light of the knowledge of God. This light will change one's works from being the works of darkness to the works of light. Praise be to God who, by His infinite mercy and grace, has brought us into the marvellous light of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we must not be silent, we must share and diffuse the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ so that those who are in darkness may come to light and experience the liberating power of the knowledge of God. We must pray that God will open the hearts of men so that the " gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them" (2 Corinthians 4:4).