There is a desire in some to try and explain away many of the miracles described in scripture, as if there were loopholes in the divine plan – and that these things could not possibly be as written. Maybe Jesus, they might say — when feeding the five thousand — really sent the disciples into town for a carry-out.
The comic actor W C Fields spoke truer than he knew in one of his final remarks. As he lay dying of alcohol poisoning, he began to read the Gideon Bible placed by his hospital bed. I do not know what sort of faith if any, that Fields had, certainly those who knew him thought it an unusual act.
‘Searching for comfort in the Bible, Mr Fields?’
‘Looking for loopholes, my boy. Looking for loopholes.’ was Fields reply, as if he could find a way of ‘putting one over’ on the Almighty.
The title of this meditation is ‘...and they knew Him not’ from Matthew 17:12. I had intended it to be ‘...and the world knew Him not’, from John 1:10, but it didn’t come out like that. But I believe that the LORD got His way in all this, because that subtle change made me re-think what I was sharing.
Our key bible verses are thus from I John 3 – Here are verses 1-10.
Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.
Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.
And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. Whoever abides in Him does not sin.
Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.
Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.
Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.
In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest:
Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.
The Lord has given me three ‘lines’ to pursue. The first was ‘Jesus came to His own and they knew Him not’. The second was ‘Be content in whatever state we are in’ [for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. Philippians 4:11 KJV].
And finally ‘like hind’s feet on high places’. Now here is the funny thing – you may recall the special ‘implications of perfection’ inherent of the number 7. Well in context of this message, you might be interested to learn that the phrase ‘knew him not’ appears but 7 times in the Authorised Version. The call to ‘be content’ occurs 7 times, and ‘hind’s feet’ are mentioned 3 times.
7 is the number of fullness, wholeness or completeness, and spiritual perfection. [The 7-branched candlestick signifies perfect illumination by the Spirit].
3 represents the triune God, completeness again, divine perfection, strength [as in a three-fold cord is not easily broken], and resurrection. Consider Proverbs 22:20 ‘Have not I written to you excellent things in counsels and knowledge,’. The word ‘excellent’ means triple, three or three-fold, saying that God sends all his counsel, messages and knowledge in threes, reflecting His own nature. And indeed, what I believe that I heard from the LORD came in three parts. I am therefore convinced that the Lord desires that this word should be a calling to all of us to come higher [like the hind’s feet] into the fullness of Christ. But why ‘...and they knew Him not’?
The word translated as ‘knew’ means ‘to recognise, acknowledge, know, respect, discern, or regard’, ‘to be acquainted with’. We know from Isaiah 53 that Jesus was a man ‘acquainted with grief’. Not that he had a casual understanding of grief. No, we feel that the prophet is showing us that Jesus was intimately bound to grief – that His knowledge and understanding of that condition was full and complete. And we are to be in that state with Jesus – fully and intimately involved. He already knows us so well.
In Jeremiah 32:17 ‘Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee:, or hidden from thee as we now understand it to mean. He numbers of hairs on our heads – and we should know Him no less completely. From our reading in I John ‘For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. ‘...and they knew Him not...’ [KJV]
Jeremiah puts it this way in chapter 2, verses 7 and 8:
And I brought you into a plentiful country, to eat the fruit thereof and the goodness thereof; but when ye entered, ye defiled my land, and made mine heritage an abomination.
The priests said not, Where is the LORD? and they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit.
Tough words – but this IS a serious business. This is not just looking for loopholes – this is re-writing the text. This is full-blown iniquity, which as we know means ‘going our own way’. It means expecting God to do OUR bidding, instead of our doing His.
In Philippians 4:11-13, we learn of the place to be:
Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
— I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
‘Being content’ is one of the hardest things we can try to do in our own strength. If you think about it, striving for peace and contentment cannot be achieved. The very act of striving brings stress and tension; certainly not peace. Then we get annoyed with ourselves for not ‘doing the right thing’ or ‘being out of the Spirit’. But as we heard a moment or two ago ‘For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.’ The effort of striving cancels out any sought after benefit. Only with Christ’s strengthening do we come anywhere close. Only by following Hosea 5:15 ‘I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early..’
Seek the LORD early – before the difficulty becomes ingrained. Be in His presence, in His Holy Spirit. And that is the only way to be in the fullness. Yes, there is a co-labouring with Him. Jesus does not do all the work – far from it. He wants us to come up higher, and if we choose to do so He will offer an abundance of help. But we have our part to play – often merely making the right choices, opening ourselves to hear from Him and be guided. It comes down to opening ourselves to allow The Lord’s work to proceed unhindered.
This contentment is a gift – and we should remember that the Lord has joined us all together as a body – and we should thus ‘be content’ in this place, expecting a manifestation of His Spirit and His truth right here. We should not be too quick to seek enlightenment from outside, however anointed. The Lord provides the ministry and spiritual gifts a-plenty through each one here, if we will move in them.
Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
Philippians 1:27: ...stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;
And Galatians 5:25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
All this is just pointing the way to the Christ-life. It is what God is looking for from His saints – that we come up higher.
‘...and they knew Him not...’ 7 times in scripture – walking completely in our own way.
‘be content' 7 times in scripture – completely at rest in Him – in His presence – knowing Him completely, so that we can step up – one step at a time into the heavenly places.
To stay in His presence requires us to ‘stand fast’. Galatians 5:1 says ‘Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.’
Don’t let us fall back into our own ways.
As I am going through this meditation, I have been struck by how verse after verse contains a line from a song or hymn.
• Like Hind’s feet on High Places, I will run after you...
• Ah Lord God, thou hast made the heavens and the earth by thy great power...
• I can do all, all, all things, through Christ who strengthens me.
• Nothing is too difficult for thee...
• Come let us live in the Spirit, Come let us talk in the Spirit.
Come let us walk in the Spirit, in the city that is built for thee. [‘a city that is compact together’]...in unity, as John mentioned.
• Stand fast in the liberty, For in Christ Jesus that sets us free, take every thought into captivity, stand fast in the liberty...
and of course that old standard
• I’m just looking for loopholes, but none there could I see...
OK, I made that last one up...I needed a perfect 7, but I am sure you can find more anyway. ‘...let us go on unto perfection’ as it says in Hebrews 6:1.
‘The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places’, from Habakkuk 3:19 is one of the divine three uses of ‘hinds’ feet’ and ‘high places’. The word ‘hind’ is the feminine form [the church is the woman in scripture] of the word ‘stag’, ‘deer’ or ‘hart’. This in turn derives from a word meaning:
1) ram (as food) (as sacrifice) (skin dyed red, for tabernacle) 2) pillar, door post,
3) strong man, leader, chief
4) mighty tree.
Now this is significant, as these are all ‘types’ for Christ. And Christ dwells in the ‘high places’.
A hind is nimble and sure-footed over the high ground, though it can stumble on uneven rocky terrain. Only by keeping its sight fixed on the way ahead, looking ever upward can it find the freedom of the upper reaches – one step at a time. Once there it stands at rest and surveys the heights.
‘For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.’ I Thessalonians 3:8. And this is a matter of life and death...and perhaps a talk for another time.
Luke 24:36 ’And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.’ This is what is in store for us when we seek the higher ground – the holy ground. Jesus standing in the midst of us. His presence, the guest of honour at our table – which of course is His table. So, let us not say ‘I knew Him not’, but embrace the presence of The LORD and step up to another level as He leads. And remember that this is all work in the realm of the spirit. We do not need to go anywhere else to find the Holy Ground.
I want to finish with this passage from the Christian writer George Warnock. It is entitled ‘The High Calling’, from his book ‘The Family of God’.
To be called to be ‘Sons of God’ is the highest of high callings surely. However far WE get in attaining God, there is always a step higher on the ‘pathway to sonship’. Our God is so far above our concepts of Him, there will always be mystery. Yet, we understand that He wants us to know Him better, deeper, more completely.
As we read at the beginning in I John 3:
1 ¶ Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.
2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
3 And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.
I believe we should be ‘going for gold’.
Out of my innermost being
Rivers of Water flow
Out of my innermost being
Life celestial flows
Out of my innermost being
Banishing all my fears
Out of my innermost being
Jesus the Christ appears.