To know God involves more than the simple knowledge of truth. It requires a personal and emotional experience. It depends on a mutual exchange. Truth is good, but not alone. Understanding the ways of God is good, but not enough. Knowing God is about relationship, and relationship only exists within the context of ongoing personal encounter, shared experience, and emotional interaction.
If we seek the truth of God without experiential encounter, we will eventually stumble into error. If we seek encounter with God without the truth of the Word, we will fall into deception. If we seek to know the ways of God without longing to feel the heart of God, we will misunderstand Him completely.
The Bible doesn’t use the phrase, “relationship with God.” In fact, the word relationship isn’t even in any translation of the Bible that focuses on literal accuracy. Instead, it admonishes us to know the Lord.
The original Hebrew word translated as know is yada. So we may gain a better understanding of what real relationship with God looks like if we better understand the meaning of yada.
But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, Know [yada] the Lord, for they shall all know [yada] me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:33-34 ESV, [notes added])
… the people who know [yada] their God shall stand firm and take action. (Daniel 11:32 ESV, [notes added])
5 Meanings of Yada
- To know in fact (Exo. 7:5; Psa. 44:21); having knowledge, possessing facts or truths.
- To know in operation (Exo. 33:13; Psa. 25:4); laying hold of the ways and wisdom of God.
- To know in experience (Psa. 16:11; 89:15); the personal experience of the nearness of God; being “deeply aquatinted with” on a real, yet emotional, level (“…Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psa 139:14).
- To know in encounter (Gen. 28:16; Deu. 9:3); the awareness of the personal attention of God; to reveal yourselves to one another.
- To know with interaction (Gen. 4:1; Psa. 25:14); an interactive exchange within the context of mutual commitment.
Let us know [yada]; let us press on to know [yada] the Lord. (Hosea 6:3 ESV, [notes added])
The Revealing of Jesus
For those of you who are already pressing on to or experiencing a deeper level of relationship with God, you may look at this in another way. The meanings of yada not only teach us about real relationship with God, but they also describe five different levels of the revelation of Jesus to us personally. Jesus intends to make Himself known to us all!
The person who has My commands and keeps them is the one who [really] loves Me; and whoever [really] loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I [too] will love him and will show (reveal, manifest) Myself to him. [I will let Myself be clearly seen by him and make Myself real to him. (John 14:21 AMP)
First, you will notice that there are expectations on both sides of the relationship. Jesus expects our whole-hearted, whole-life interaction and He gives His in return. Jesus never expects us to engage Him without response—He promises to make Himself known to us.
O Lord, you have searched me and known [yada] me! (Psalms 139:1 ESV, [notes added])
In all your ways acknowledge [yada] him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:6 ESV, [notes added])
Jesus wants us to yada Him as He yadas us—that we would know Him even as we are known by Him. He makes Himself known to us in five ways corresponding to the five meanings of yada.
5 Ways Jesus Makes Himself Known
- In fact: He reveals Himself through Truth.
- In operation: He gives us wisdom and understanding of His ways.
- In experience: He makes us aware of His nearness, causing our hearts to burn with the fire of God.
- In encounter: He invades our space, overwhelming our senses, allowing us to see and encounter Him in our reality.
- With interaction: He interacts with us in a tangible exchange for fruitfulness and mutual benefit.
I pray that this provokes you to desire and expect more in your own relationship with God; that your heart would cry out, “Oh, ‘that I may know Him!’” (Phi. 3:10).
Jeremy Caris is the founder and president of Caris Ministries. Since he is called as a prophet and gifted as a teacher, much of his focus involves equipping believers to hear, know, and follow God in their own daily experience. He teaches the foundational truth of the Word with simple clarity, while revealing deep things of the spirit in practical ways. He has the unique ability to demystify the supernatural side of real relationship with a living God and make it an embraceable and accessible reality for all believers. Jeremy has been married to his best friend, Mandy Caris, for twenty years, and is the proud father of two boys.