Ignorance of God.

Oh that my head were waters,
    and my eyes a fountain of tears,
that I might weep day and night
    for the slain of the daughter of my people!
Oh that I had in the desert
    a travelers’ lodging place,
that I might leave my people
    and go away from them!
For they are all adulterers,
    a company of treacherous men.
They bend their tongue like a bow;
    falsehood and not truth has grown strong in the land;
for they proceed from evil to evil,
    and they do not know me, declares the Lord.

Let everyone beware of his neighbor,
    and put no trust in any brother,
for every brother is a deceiver,
    and every neighbor goes about as a slanderer.
Everyone deceives his neighbor,
    and no one speaks the truth;
they have taught their tongue to speak lies;
    they weary themselves committing iniquity.
Heaping oppression upon oppression, and deceit upon deceit,
    they refuse to know me, declares the Lord. Jeremiah 9:1-6 ESV

Once again, we have two contrasting perspectives provided for us in these verses. The first belongs to Jeremiah, the prophet. It is found in the first two verses. He has already expressed his dismay over the fate of his people.

My joy is gone; grief is upon me;
    my heart is sick within me. – Jeremiah 8:18 ESV

 I mourn, and dismay has taken hold on me. – Jeremiah 8:21 ESV

He knows full well that they deserve what is coming to them. But he can’t help but feel pity for them. They are his people. He cares for them deeply and longs to see them spared the destruction headed their way. He expresses his deep grief in very descriptive terms.

If only my head were a pool of water
    and my eyes a fountain of tears,
I would weep day and night
    for all my people who have been slaughtered. – Jeremiah 9:1 NLT

It is because of this statement and others that Jeremiah has often been referred to as “the weeping prophet.”

But if you will not pay attention to this warning,
I will weep alone because of your arrogant pride.
I will weep bitterly and my eyes will overflow with tears
because you, the Lord’s flock, will be carried into exile. – Jeremiah 13:17 NLT

And God knew how much Jeremiah suffered. He was well aware of Jeremiah’s love for his people and even encouraged him to share his grief with the people in order to convince them that what he was saying was really true and was going to happen.

“Tell these people this, Jeremiah:
‘My eyes overflow with tears
day and night without ceasing.
For my people, my dear children, have suffered a crushing blow.
They have suffered a serious wound.’” – Jeremiah 14:17 NLT

But another part of Jeremiah wanted to run and hide. He was saddened, but also sickened by the actions of his people. So much so, that he expresses his desire to give up his role as prophet and find remote place in the wilderness where he could find relief from the constant presence of sin.

Oh, that I could go away and forget my people
    and live in a travelers’ shack in the desert.
For they are all adulterers—
    a pack of treacherous liars. – Jeremiah 9:2 NLT

Their behavior repulsed him. It sickened him to have to watch their hypocrisy as they went through the motions of worship, feigning allegiance to God, while they worshiped false gods on the side. Their actions were inexplicable and disgusting to him. But he had persistently given his time and energy to try and turn them back to God, all with nothing to show for his efforts.

And then God speaks up. He gives His assessment of the people of Judah and summarizes it all in one very short statement: “They do not know me” (Jeremiah 9:3 ESV). That says it all. It provides us with a succinct explanation for their sinful behavior and stubborn refusal to repent. They didn’t really know God. They may have been known as the children of God, but they had no real knowledge of Him. They may have believed in His existence, but they had no concept of who He really was. Their knowledge of Him was academic rather than personal and intimate. They had heard the stories about Him told to them by their parents and grandparents, but they had no personal relationship with Him or first-hand experience of His power. And this was not the first time this kind of thing had happened among the people of Israel. In the opening chapters of the book of Judges, we have a similar statement made regarding the spiritual status of God’s people. Under the direction of Joshua, the people had conquered the land of Canaan, the land promised to them by God, and had taken up residence there. But Joshua died, along with the generation that had taken part in the conquest of the land. Then we read these sobering words.

And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel. – Judges 2:10 ESV

The next generation had no first-hand knowledge of God. All they had were the stories and the personal anecdotes of their parents and grandparents. And their ignorance of God led to rebellion against Him.

And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals. And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the Lord to anger. – Judges 2:11-12 ESV

The knowledge of God is essential. And that knowledge has to be far more than head knowledge. It is not about having information regarding God. It is about having an intimate understanding of His true nature and a firm belief in His existence. Over in the book of Hebrews, the author reminds his Jewish readers:

Now without faith it is impossible to please him, for the one who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. – Hebrews 11:6 NLT

That chapter in the book of Hebrews is often referred to as “the Hall of Faith.” It contains references to many Old Testament characters like Ahab, Enoch, Abraham, Sarah, Rahab, and others. And they are commended for their faith in God. They believed in His existence, but they also believed His words. They placed their hope and trust in His promises.

Through faith they conquered kingdoms, administered justice, gained what was promised, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, gained strength in weakness, became mighty in battle, put foreign armies to flight. – Hebrews 11:33-34 NLT

And these all were commended for their faith, yet they did not receive what was promised. – Hebrews 11:39 NLT

In other words, they believed in God and trusted in the promises of God, but for the most part, they never lived to see those promises fulfilled. Abraham never had the pleasure of having a home in the land God had promised to give him. Moses never set foot in the promised land. Sarah never lived long enough to see God’s promise fulfilled that she and Abraham would have a host of descendants. But they knew God. They had faith in God. And they were willing to suffer the temporary setbacks that came from living in obedience to God, because they knew He could be trusted to what He said.

There is an interesting statement made by Jesus that reflects the importance of knowing God. It is found in the prayer He prayed to His Father on the night He would be betrayed.

“And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” – John 17:3 ESV

The essence of eternal life is knowing God. It is not a place. It is not about heaven. It is about a relationship with God the Father. An intimate, personal, loving relationship with the God of the universe. And Jesus came to make that kind of relationship possible.

The people of Judah had no excuse for their behavior. They had a long-standing relationship with God Almighty. He had been their faithful God for generations. He had led them, protected them, repeatedly forgiven them, patiently put up with them and faithfully rescued them from the consequences of their own sinful behavior. But His patience had run out. He had determined that enough was enough.

“They all fool and defraud each other;
    no one tells the truth.
With practiced tongues they tell lies;
    they wear themselves out with all their sinning.
They pile lie upon lie
    and utterly refuse to acknowledge me,”
    says the Lord. – Jeremiah 9:5-6 NLT

Their lack of knowledge of God showed up in their behavior. They lived as if He didn’t even exist. There was no fear of Him. They showed no respect for Him. They treated Him with contempt and acted like He was powerless to do anything about their rebellious behavior. The true essence of life is knowing God. If heaven represents unbroken fellowship with God, unhindered by sin; then the life we should long for on this earth should be of a similar, though obviously incomplete, nature. We should long for fellowship with God. We should desire to know Him. We should seek to live in constant communication with Him, listening to His every word and doing everything in our power to live in obedience to His divine will for us. Knowing God is knowing that he can be trusted. It is knowing that He is loving, kind, gracious, merciful, all-knowing, and all-sufficient to do what He has promised. In his letter to the Colossian church, Paul told them that they were constantly in his prayers.

So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. – Colossians 1:9-10 NLT

We grow to know God better as we learn to trust Him more. Reliance upon God produces a growing knowledge of God. Trust produces intimacy. Faith results in deepening love for and knowledge of God.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson