Hearing about someone and meeting them are worlds apart. Years ago, was blessed to be a part of a mobile sound company. We went all over the place setting up sound for concerts — indoors, outdoors, small venues, large venues. And I learned something about musicians: they’re just people. I know this isn’t a paradigm shift for a lot of people, but for a guy in his late teens, that was a bit of a news flash. Shooting the breeze with bass players and trying to encourage vocalists after they’d been chewed out by a manager (not sure if I should have done that, but I was young and dumb and the band did well, so I don’t think any harm was done) taught me that those people that I had looked up to were just as flawed and fragile as me — we all have feet of clay. So it should be no surprise to me that the difference between hearing of God and hearing from God is pretty world-altering, too.
Job and his friends spent the whole book going back and forth about why Job was in that predicament. His friends all insisted that God only blesses the righteous and only punishes the wicked. That God blesses the righteous and punishes the wicked are both certainly true, but they are surface level knowledge. Anyone who is passingly acquainted with me is likely to know that I’m a word nerd. It takes someone intimate with me to know why. Job had a deeper understanding of God than his friends. Job starts the book off by telling his wife that they will accept whatever God sends their way — feast or famine, good or bad. As the book progresses, Job moves to wanting to understand why God would allow Job’s circumstances. He wants to know if he did something wrong or if there’s something he doesn’t understand. By the end of the book, Job has moved to justifying himself instead of seeking to understand God. This is where God steps into the frame and everything changes.
Job says that he had heard of God before this book began. He knew God by reputation. He knew that God is good and that God is merciful and that God is forgiving. But he only knew those things based on reputation. He had heard that God was those things and he accepted it. But now, at the close of the book, he sees God for himself. Seeing God results in humbling (I retract) and repentance (and I repent in dust and ashes). Job sees the gaps in his understanding of God not because of some new teaching, but because of a personal encounter with God. People can tell me that God is good all day every day and I can accept their estimation because I have found those people trustworthy. But I will never truly know the goodness of God until I experience it for myself. I can say with the apostle Paul that God is the God of all comfort and that the Holy Spirit is the Comforter in deed as well as name based on my experience with them after the death of my youngest sister years ago. I can testify to the peace of God and how it surpasses our understanding from having experienced it years ago when a relationship fell to pieces in a singularly spectacular fashion. There are times when the world shifts and God is ready to step in and prove Himself to be what we have heard Him to be. Those moments define our relationship with Him. Will we let our Father wrap us in His arms and give us the Comfort we crave? the Peace we need? Will we bury our faces in Him and let Him enfold us or will we push away?
My daughter does both. Sometimes, she wants comfort and daddy’s arms are precisely the place she wants to be. She lays her head on my chest and she’s wrapped in my arms and, for that moment, all is right with her world. Sometimes, she pushes away from me; tries to escape my arms not knowing that my arms are the only thing keeping her from falling and being hurt. We believers are much the same with our Heavenly Father.
In those places where I have heard of God and believe in some truth about Him based solely on reputation, I should expect that He will seek to make that a truth I know based on experience. He wants to be known based on our experience with Him. Just as I want to be known to my wife based on her experience with me and her intimate knowledge of who I am in the depths of my being. Most people see the surface of the oceans that are us and the billows can be frightening. But beneath the surface is a life and depth and drama played out that only those who go below the surface ever know. If I never go below the surface of who my wife is, then I will never truly know her. If she does not go below the surface of me, then she will never know me. But we suffer a far greater loss if we never go below the surface of Who God is. God has promised that I will find Him if I seek for Him with all my heart. I know this promise to be valid from my own experience. Let us; let me seek to know more about the God behind the reputation every day.