It begins with talking about the purpose for the study of God. While studying the Bible, theology, and doctrine has been something I was interested in since middle school (boy did that make me popular), this is not the case for everyone. Some people do not see the point in studying God. Packer talks about how people often times study different things, conquer them (so to speak) and come away thinking, "Behold I am wise", but this is not the case when we study God.
"But when we come to this master science, finding that our plumbline cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass's colt; and with solemn exclamation, 'I am but of yesterday, and know nothing.' No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God..."
(C.H. Spurgeon as quoted by J.I. Packer page 17-18, Knowing God)Wow, can we even fully take that in. I mean, go back and read that quote a few times. Doesn't that blow your mind? It should. We have to study God in order to live in a place created by Him and run by Him.
Packer goes on to accuse (rightfully so) most of us of knowing about God with out really knowing Him. Do we? Are we so wrapped up in books about theology, about the history, about the context, biographies of biblical people, biographies of Christian celebrities (missionaries, martyrs, etc.) that we have missed Him altogether!? I would say to Packer, RIGHT ON, I think most of us do not know God as He would have us know Him because we know so much about Him without applying Him to our hearts and lives. It's not enough to have truth in your brain if that's where it dies. If we knew God "many of us [would never] naturally say that in the light of the knowledge of God which we have come to enjoy, past disappointments and present heartbreaks, as the world counts heartbreaks, don't matter." (25) This means that not only do we 'count them as loss' but that we don't have them consistently in our mind. Of the comparison Packer makes asking the reader, "what normal person spends his time nostalgically dreaming of manure?" Yet, isn't that what it means to count it as loss or to say that the things of the world no longer matter? Definitely. Knowing God should lead to an uncontainable joy that shatters disappointments and heartbreaks. Packer uses the book of Daniel to show us how God has already taught us this lesson in His Divine Word. News flash to Claire (that's me), Packer is not super novel, God already knew it, said it and meant it. Daniel and his buddies definitely knew God deeply. Packer breaks it down into four characteristics, but they are powerful.
1. "Those who know God have great energy for Him." Think about Daniel and his 3 amigos, think about all they went through. They showed great energy for Him. They stood firm in their beliefs and they took deliberate action to show this dedication to God. Most often times, this shows itself through prayer. That verse about the prayer of a righteous man is legitimate. If we feel unrest when we think of what the world is doing and about the need to act in God's will according to His plan, it'll manifest itself in our prayer life.
2. "Those who know God have great thoughts of God." This doesn't mean we think God is a cool guy, no way. Daniel realized that God's hand was coming for Israel and He knew that in spite of the overwhelming power of Babylon, God had it under control. God was the one orchestrating the plan. He is history. I love when Packer said that God "will have the last word." No worries, guys, because whatever happens.... God will have the last word. This aspect also evidences itself in a solid prayer life (although not only in prayer) that is sold out on the truth of who God is and recognizing ourself in comparison to that.
3. "Those who know God show great boldness for God." Daniel went the lion's den because he was unwilling to pray to any other king, and he represented this love for God boldly. He wasn't praying in his closet, he was doing it for the world to see. Whew, that's a frightening one. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were willing to be burnt to death to show that the believed in God, which flows perfectly into the next point...
4. "Those who know God have great contentment in God." Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were not frightened to enter that furnace, but had peace that only God could bring. They knew how big their God was and that He could do something miraculous to save them, yet (Daniel 3:16-17) "even if he [God] does not we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods." They knew that God did not have to intervene, but were at peace that He would do what was in His plan and what would bring glory to His name. Wow, that is some serious trust.
Packer ends with this poem...
"Lord, it belongs not to my care
Whether I die or live;
To love and serve Thee is my share,
And this Thy grace must give.
If life be long, I will be glad,
That I may long obey;
If short - then why should I be sad
To soar to endless day?"
We need to recognize how little we actually know God. We need to seek Him with everything we've got.
Luke 11:9 "Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be open to you."
If we will just seek God with all our heart, fully realizing that we are lacking and small, unable to gain true wisdom without Him, He will teach us wisdom. That is the desire that He will grant.
This is all a summary of Packer's Knowing God with some of my added commentary.