I want to know God and know Him personally. I don't want you to tell me about Him. I don't want to rely upon someone else's experience with Him. I want to know Him. What I often lose sight of is that God wants me to know Him too and He gives me a how-to in Jeremiah.
Why knowing scripture is not enough to know Him personally
I am told by so many the 3 keys to a good relationship with God: Read the Bible, pray, and attend church weekly. These are good habits, but no where in scripture does it say that this is the essence of our relationship with God. Knowing scripture does not mean we know God. Demons know scripture (James 2:19). Satan knows the Bible (most likely better than I do - see Jesus' temptation in Luke 4). Knowledge alone does not mean we know God personally or that He knows us.
So, how do we get to know Him? God, through Jeremiah, explained how we can know Him.
“Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar? Did not your father have food and drink? He did what was right and just, so all went well with him. He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?” declares the Lord.
Enter Mike Rowe and "Dirty Jobs"
"Dirty Jobs was a TV series on the Discovery Channel in which host Mike Rowe was shown performing difficult, strange, disgusting, or messy occupational duties alongside the typical employees." -Wikipedia
What Dirty Jobs can teach us
In the show, Mike Rowe travels to a person or group of people who have an especially 'dirty' job. It is not a documentary. Instead, it is a record of his experience. Mike rolls up his sleeves and completes the job along with the other workers. He could probably learn about the jobs and the people employed to do them just by interviewing them and researching on his own. However, when he lives a day in their life, does their job, participates, and acts in their stead, his knowledge of them completely changes.
Mike Rowe, who really wanted to know these people, knew that he had to do what they do if he was ever going to understand them. Likewise, if we want to know God, we must do His work. This takes action, not doctrine.
He defended the cause of the poor and needy... Is that not what it means to know Me? - Jeremiah 22:16
Who and How?
Who are the "poor and needy" and how can we defend their cause? After learning more about many industries, I am confident that 'poor and needy' includes the very people our consumption directly affects. They are the farmers and farm hands who grow our foods both here and in impoverished countries, suffering from chemical injuries and cancers due to. pesticides and herbicides. They are the garment workers who make our clothes for pennies on the dollar who can't afford to feed their families, much less educate their children. They are those who bear the brunt of pollution, without the means to protect themselves. They are the people in need and displaced by droughts, storms, and more catastrophic weather events- with no place to go, and no money to get there. They are the people whose lives we affect through every purchase we make. So how can we defend them? We can simply change our consumption so that we're not supporting businesses that take advantage of the poor.
Consider these thoughts going through my head. Am I crazy?:
We won't really know Him until we love our neighbors more than the next gadget.
We won't really know Him until we care more about those who made our clothes than what we look like wearing them.
We won't really know Him until we love our farmers more than saving money by buying cheap food.
We won't really know Him until we love others more than our environmentally costly convenience.
We won't really know Him until we roll up our sleeves and get dirty defending the poor through ethical purchases.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:16-18