For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.
Knowledge is important. Studying the scriptures are important – and even commanded. However, knowledge cannot produce spiritual maturity, wisdom, or understanding. That seems like an odd statement, but there are many who have much knowledge but little understanding.
One of the meanest men I’ve ever met could quote scripture for any situation, and he’d waste no time pulling out something to beat down anyone who dared to question him. He had knowledge, but not understanding. You can have knowledge without understanding, but you can’t have understanding without knowledge. We must keep this in mind as we study. Our goal is not to gather information, but to learn of God. According to Proverbs, the knowledge of the Holy is the beginning of understanding. God is ‘the Holy’ we are supposed to learn about. Study is a quest for understanding.
One of my favorite portions of scripture is Proverbs 2:1-9. In this passage God lays out the pathway to gaining wisdom and understanding. It begins with knowledge, “My son, if you will receive my words and store my commandments within you.” That is the source of knowledge; however, it is not merely the gathering of facts, but learning the things of God for the purpose of keeping God’s commandments.
Each of God’s commands serve to do one of two things. Either it is to remove something from our lives that would inhibit a close relationship with God, or it gives us something that teaches us how to grow closer to God. All scripture reveals God to us. Morality and commandments are born from God’s own nature and character. He is unchanging and nothing that affronts God can stand in His presence. Yet, God desires to have close fellowship with us. For this reason, God reveals to us the things we need to conform to His character so we can draw closer to Him.
This is the basis for obedience. It isn’t merely keeping rules to appease God. Nor is it doing things in order to earn the right to be accepted by Him. We are already accepted through the cross of Christ, yet to have perfect fellowship, we must learn how to receive His nature and make it our own. That’s why 2 Peter 1:4 says that “Through these things we become partakers of the Divine nature.” We aren’t using works to make ourselves divine, but learning the knowledge of the Holy so we can be partakers of God’s nature. This is what it means to conform to the image of Christ.
In our opening passage, the Bible is using the failure of the Israelites in the desert as an example to show us these principles. They received the word just as we have today – though Christ was only foreshadowed to them. Yet they could not receive the promises of God. They had the word – knowledge – but it didn’t profit them because it wasn’t mixed with faith. They didn’t treasure the word of God in their heart so they could learn of Him and grow closer to Him.
The word of God has no profit without faith. Faith is believing God so that we put our trust in Him. I may know not to lust after the world, but if I don’t believe God, my heart will be in the world and my life will be crowded and the word choked. My knowledge will not profit me.
Because I believe the promise that God works all things for my good, I can trust Him in difficult times. Because I believe the promise that it’s God’s pleasure to give me His kingdom, I can turn my heart away from the kingdom of the world. If I believe in the fellowship of the Lord, I will pursue God through the word.
When you take time out for study, devotions, or any time of learning, don’t look at it as a duty, nor as a task of gaining knowledge. Approach the word with the attitude of discovering God through His word. According to the Bible, knowledge puffs us up with pride, but when knowledge becomes our heart reaching out to God because we recognize He is reaching out to us through the scriptures, knowledge becomes a tool for faith and not the sole reason for study. Through knowledge we seek the Lord – not our own status or a check off from our list of spiritual duties.
Let knowledge be the lamp to your feet so you can follow the Lord and discover a deeper fellowship with the Lord.
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