Bible Reading: Psalm 107; Proverbs 1:7
When I first moved to Birmingham, the thing I dreaded most was traveling around the city. When you look at a map of Birmingham, it looks so complicated and difficult to navigate. When you are used to two-lane country roads, and move into one way streets and multiple interstate exits and merging points, it is a massive life transition. Despite the tangle of roads on the map, Birmingham is actually a fairly simple and beautiful city to live in. In observing the picture of the map of Birmingham, and then comparing it with this skyline snapshot, it is hard to imagine they are the same city. There is a way in which these two are linked, and do not make sense without the other. On one hand, if you never experienced the city, then the map my terrify you, or appear so difficult that you do not want to get involved with it. On the other hand, without the map, you can never experience all of the beauty and opportunities the city has to offer.
I think this a good analogy for how our relationship with God works. There is an aspect of knowing God through studying His Word and all of the terrific works He has led people to produce concerning Him and His Word. Studying the Bible, biblical languages, and theology helps us to form a road map of who God is. This map is of course not perfect, but a dim, not-yet-fully-revealed map through which God teaches us about Himself. The other piece of this relationship is experiencing God. To be in an active relationship by which God is answering prayers, opening doors, transforming your heart and mind to that of Jesus Christ. There are moments stored away in our memories of times we knew and experienced the reality and love of God for us and for His creation. We have felt Him tug on our heart, or speak to our minds something to do or know. Experiencing God forever changes us, and we are never the same. Much like the map and city are linked, knowing about God and experiencing God are also linked.
When we read psalm 107, we are given stories of people experiencing God and also growing in their knowledge of Him. They are lost and wandering in the desert, but God leads them into a city to call home. Some were prisoners to darkness due to their rebellion and sin, but God, “brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart.” Others were fools to the ways of God, but He sent His Word to instruct them. Some were even traveling on the sea and were in awe of creation, but when the creation turned into a storm on the sea, their awe turned to terror. God then quiets the storm, and their awe moves from creation to Creator.
To experience God must be linked to knowing God. If you have one and neglect the other, you end up in troubled waters. A map without experience leads to legalism, like that of the Pharisees. They knew about God, but they did not know God in a real, experiential way. On the flipside, if you experience God but never set your heart and mind to seek Him and learn about Him from His Word, you can be led into strange places and miss Christ altogether.
Call to Action: We should never neglect knowing or experiencing God. We grow in our knowledge by reading and studying His Word. This can be done at home in your own quiet time, and also should be done in a group Bible study of some kind. Our knowledge should draw our hearts closer to Him, in which we experience Him more. We go deeper into prayer, and our minds become like Christ’s. Set your heart to training in godliness, which entails growing in knowledge and experience of God. May He lead us in how to do both for the glory of His name. Amen.