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The ancient Hebrew people believed that the heart, not the head, was the source and center of cognition. This is because their understanding of “knowledge” was much different than ours in the West. For us, to “know” means to have the correct facts about something; knowledge has more to do with data. We claim that we know something when we have the right objective facts.
The Hebrew people were far more holistic. Knowledge didn’t reside only in the brain, but in the heart. To know something stemmed not just from thinking, but from experiencing. “Knowing” something or someone was a five-sense-experience.
It’s one thing to know where Boston is or to know facts about the city itself, but it is quite another thing to know how the red bricks feel beneath your feet when you’re standing in one of its winding alleyways, drinking in the nostalgic atmosphere. It’s one thing to know what it means to be a dad, but it’s quite another to place your worn hand on the fresh body of your newborn son, as he wriggles into this world, longing to be held.
To know means to put your heart and soul into it. Knowledge is not just a mental activity, but a physical one, as well.
In the Hebrew Scriptures, a favorite theme was that of knowing God. In the book of Ezekiel, the reader experiences the constant waves of “that they might know that I am the Lord” reverberating again and again throughout the chapters. In fact, this line is repeated about 76 times from chapters 6-39. Again and again, God works in this world, both causing harm and giving help, “that they might know that I am the Lord.”
But the faucet is suddenly turned off in chapter 40 through the remainder of Ezekiel’s book. The significance could not be more staggering. The reader can’t help but ask herself, “What happens in chapter 40 that ends this constant echo?”
Then we realize that in chapters 40-48, the temple returns to God’s people. The temple was considered the place of God’s dwelling on this earth, where the Divine met the depraved. It was the place where humans were able to experience the glory of God, hearing the sound of animals being sacrificed, smelling the smoke of incense, seeing streams of people approach the altar, as they chatter and sing and pray. The pilgrim could touch cleansing water and taste the leftovers from the offerings. The temple truly was a five-sense-experience.
This is what Ezekiel is saying in his book by drying up the repetition of that famous line, (“that they might know that I am the Lord”): When you are plunged into the world of the temple, you begin to have knowledge of God. You see what is so profound about this? Knowing God is far more than a cerebral activity; God wants you to experience him at every level, as if you were standing right next to the burning altar. To know God is to be absorbed by him, heart and soul; or, as the Hebrews liked to say, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut. 6:5).
Does this means that you have to have a temple in order to know God? Yes, it does. While you may not need the physical temple of Ancient Israel, you still need a temple. Do you have a temple? Do you have a way of experiencing God so that it’s more than just mere thoughts?
All of this teaches us that God wants to make himself known. Can you feel the significance of that? God does not keep to himself, but wants to be The-God-We-Experience. He wants us to have a temple, a way of knowing him. He wants to be experienced.
It’s one thing to know that God might exist or that some other people know him. It’s quite another to walk with him through the dark valley. It’s one thing to know the definition of “divine,” it’s quite another to surrender your sins to his forgiveness and feel the liberty that he brings.
Do you have a temple?
© Samuel Kee, 2011