Paul, in the epistle to the Colossians, speaks of being filled with the knowledge of God's will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, and of increasing in the knowledge of God (Colossians 1. 9, 10). Whilst there is close association between the knowledge of God's will and the knowledge of God, the two terms are not synonymous. The will of God, as this relates to ourselves, is the revelation of His mind as to what we ought to do to please Him, and in the doing of it is our highest and best good. Man by nature is naturally foolish, and the bent of his mind is to do that which is evil. Paul puts it in his forceful way when he says that " the mind of the flesh is death." This was the mind by which we were dominated prior to regeneration. It is the mind that is still in the flesh of those that are born of God. Such are not in the flesh (the evil corrupt nature that is in their flesh), but are in the Spirit because the Spirit of God dwells in them. "The mind of the flesh is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be" (Romans 8.6-9). Thus it is that the child of God has a battle to fight with himself, that is, with his old nature, if he is going to do God's will after learning it.
The knowledge of God may be acquired in two ways, a knowledge of the ways of God and a knowledge of the names of God which are given in the Scriptures. The Hebrew word for way is derek, which is derived from the verb derak, which means to tread, that is, to walk. Gesenius says that derek means (1) the action of walking, a going, a journey one takes; (2) a way, a path, in which one goes, it may either be the way of, or the way to; (3) the mode or course in which one goes, a way of living or acting. It is in this third sense that the Scripture speaks of God's ways.
It was in this third sense that Moses asked God in Sinai, "Now therefore, I pray Thee, if I have found grace in Thy sight; shew me now Thy ways, that I may know Thee, to the end that I may find grace in Thy sight: and consider that this nation is Thy people. And He said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest." These words of Moses, "Shew me now Thy ways, that I may know Thee," clearly indicate to us that in the mind of Moses a knowledge of God's ways was necessary to the knowledge of God, and the knowledge of God was necessary to the receiving of further gifts of divine grace. God's answer to Moses' request is alluded to in Psalm 103. 7, where David says that
"He made known His ways unto Moses, His doings unto the children of Israel."
Moses had revealed to him the way in which God acted, but Israel only knew God in His acts. How scant indeed was the knowledge of God on the part of His ancient people! This lack of the knowledge of God led to the complete disaster to almost the whole nation. David refers to this in that psalm wherein he encouraged Israel to get upon their knees in the light of the purpose which God had laid upon his heart to bring up the Ark of God to Zion. He said,
"0 come, let us worship and bow down;
Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker:
For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.
To-day, Oh that ye would hear His voice!
Harden not your heart, as at Meribah,
As in the day of Massah in the wilderness:
When your fathers tempted Me,
Proved Me, and saw My work.
Forty years tong was I grieved with that generation,
And said, It is a people that do err in their heart,
And they have not known My ways:
Wherefore I sware in My wrath,
That they should not enter into My rest" (Psalm 95.6-11).
Let the quotation in Hebrews 3 be carefully considered in its context and it will be seen how important it is to have a knowledge of God and of His ways.
David, too, in his time, in which there was a great revival of the truth of God's house, asked, as Moses did," Shew me Thy ways, 0 LORD" (Psalm 25.4).
As we have elsewhere pointed out, the knowledge of God is bound up with a knowledge of His ways, even so is it with a knowledge of His names. God tells us that His thoughts are not ours, nor are our ways His ways, His being higher than ours as the heavens are higher than the earth (Isaiah 55.8, 9). God reveals Himself by the names by which He is known in the Scriptures. The earliest names for God found in the Scriptures are Elohim (Genesis 1), and Jehovah Elohim (Genesis 2). How it came to be that men called God by different names, whether God so described Himself to enlightened men so that they might be able to lay hold upon Him, or whether by divine enlightenment they so named God according to their understanding of the Divine Being, or yet again, whether men by their own estimate of God so described Him, may be a moot point. Of the Greek word for God (Theos), Parkhurst in his lexicon says, "A name reclaimed from the heathen, and used by the writers of the N.T. for the true God." By this and by other words we see that God uses the language of men.
"God", in the Old Testament, may be a translation of one of three Hebrew words, El, Eloah, Elohim. In contrast to El, and Eloah, which are singular, Elohim is a plural word. Whilst some think that Elohim is a plural of majesty, that is, although a plural it is used as a singular, the view of others is that it is a plural, denoting the three Persons of the Trinity. Genesis i. 1 : Mr. Newberry says of this verse, '"In the beginning God (Elohim) created the heavens and the earth"; here it (Elohim), is joined to a verb in the singular: God (Elohim, plural) created (singular), showing the Trinity acting in unity. It also frequently occurs with adjectives, pronouns, and verbs in the plural.
El means a mighty One; strength and might are what are indicated in this name for God. El is first used in the Scriptures in Genesis 14. 18, where Melchizedek is called' priest of God Most High" (El Elyon). Then he blessed Abram," Blessed be Abram of God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth." Here among the heathen of Canaan was this unique man maintaining amidst the surrounding darkness the knowledge of the true God and a service proper to such knowledge.
Eloah: on this name Mr. Newberry makes helpful comment; " (God, singular), from Ahlah, to worship, to adore, presents God as the one supreme object of worship, the Adorable One." He also says, "First, in Deuteronomy 32.15, 'Then he forsook Eloah, which made him' ; again, verse 17, 'They sacrificed to devils (demons), not to Eloah.'" He points out that it is often used in the book of Job, and that Elah, found in Ezra and Daniel, is a Chaldee equivalent of Eloah. Whilst strength permeates the meaning of El, worship is the thought that springs from Eloak.
Elohim, the plural form of Eloah, is the name of God most frequently used in the Old Testament, and occurs over 2,000 times. Our view is as that of Mr. Newberry expressed above, that this is a plural noun and is indicative of the Trinity, not simply a plural of majesty.
In Genesis 2 we have Jehovah Elohim (LORD God) for here God in making man entered into a covenant with him regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Upon man's obedience to the covenant terms to abstain from that tree was bound up man's well-being and that of his posterity. Alas, he ate and sinned and fell. Jehovah, the eternal I AM, who changes not, is He who covenanted with Israel in that name (Exodus 6.2-8; Malachi 3.6). In Genesis 2 we have also the covenant of marriage (verses 23, 24; Malachi 2.14-10), to which the Lord was and is witness. Much has been said and written about the Elohistic record of Genesis I and the Jehovistic record of Genesis 2, as though Moses put together two accounts which are opposed to each other. How could any man have am account of Genesis 1, man being created only on the sixth day and the last of all God's work? If we believe the Scriptures to be inspired of God, then we must accept the fact that the Holy Spirit is the Author of these chapters and of all else in the sacred canon. He caused Moses to write the account in the desert, out and away from, and free from the thoughts of men. The Lord Jesus, who is the Truth, believed these accounts and quoted from them as being divinely authoritative and true. That is enough for the believer; those who doubt Christ will doubt everything that matters within the covers of the Bible. It is interesting to study the occurrences of God (Elohim) and LORD (Jehovah) as used in the
book of Genesis.