R W McClean
Revelation 2: 2 (“I know”)
My thought was as to this expression, “I know”, and I wish to speak of the Lord's knowledge of every circumstance. Apparently the Greek word used here is ‘oida’. There is a very helpful note in the Darby translation to 1 Corinthians 8: 1, which says, ‘Two Greek words are used for 'to know' in the New Testament - ginosko and oida. The former signifies objective knowledge, what a man has learned or acquired. The English expression 'being acquainted with' perhaps conveys the meaning. Oida conveys the thought of what is inward, the inward consciousness in the mind, intuitive knowledge not immediately derived from what is external’, and the note goes on to explain this distinction. I seek help to speak of three examples of the Lord’s inward, conscious, intuitive knowledge: firstly in relation to our individual lives, secondly in relation to our Christian lives, and thirdly, in the context of what is said in Revelation, in relation to the collective side, the assembly.
The Lord uses this word for inward, intuitive, conscious knowledge several times in John 8: for example, “I know him”, v 55. Think of those relationships between divine Persons; how blessed they are! The man in John 9, in that often quoted remark where he mentions things he does not know, says, “One thing I know”, v 25. That is the same word; he knew inwardly. He said, “One thing I know, that, being blind before, now I see”, v 25. He knew it in himself. He did not need anybody to tell him. It was what he knew inside himself. And then in John 10 the Lord says, “I know those that are mine” (v 14); He knows His sheep. So, you see, it is quite a common word, and I thought it was interesting that this is how the Lord knows our circumstances. He knows your personal life and mine; He knows when we are wrong: He knows our sins. Of course He knows our sins - He had to bear the penalty for every one of them on the cross.
He knows our sins, but I do not want to focus on that. I want to focus more on the side of how He knows the circumstances in which we are. We referred in the reading to a babe, and I was thinking of the way that it begins to respond, instinctively first, and then there is a bond of affection and intelligence growing together, and there comes a point when the child has to go to school, and the Lord knows about that. He knows the circumstances in which we find ourselves. We go through school and meet difficult and easy circumstances. They vary, no doubt, as do our family relationships and other things. I am thinking on just a simple natural level; the Lord knows about all these things. There are challenges and there are difficulties and there are sorrows and sadnesses that come upon all men, and the Lord knows about them; He would say, “I know”, and He would desire that you would seek His company in relation to them. How simple it is, really! The apostle Paul speaks to some, expressing his concern, that they were being “corrupted from simplicity as to the Christ”, 2 Cor 11: 3. How simple it is that we can just turn to the Lord whatever circumstances we find ourselves in. We need not be embarrassed about it; He is not! The Lord exemplified dependence in every moment of His life here, a dependent Man doing only the will of the Father, and so He would have us be dependent too. He says, “I know”; ‘I know about that circumstance, that exam that is coming up and is worrying you. I know about that’. It is not that we do not have to study and that we do not have to work. Perhaps you have a problem at work; He knows about that. It is not that we do not have to exert ourselves, but the Lord knows about it, and there can be a certain assurance and comfort in being with the Lord in relation to every circumstance of our life. I think that would relate to piety; piety is really giving due reverence to One who is greater. It has been said that where it speaks of the fear of God in the Old Testament, it is like piety; it is a similar expression, FER vol 9 p481. So you can bring the Lord in. And you are not bringing the Lord into circumstances He does not know about, nor are you bringing Him into a circumstance that He has no experience of. “He knoweth our frame” (Ps 103: 14); He has been in our condition; He has been a Man here. ‘Well’, you may say, ‘He has not met this particular circumstance’. The Lord is able for every circumstance. There is no circumstance in your life or mine that He is not able for. And so we can be near to Him.
We spoke of affection and intelligence in the reading. Intelligence involves learning, and the Lord would desire that you might learn what He is for you in your circumstances because He would say in relation to them: “I know”. You may think of Peter at the end of John when the Lord is probing him. Remember those three questions that the Lord asked him? He says: “lovest thou me more than these?” Peter says, “thou knowest that I am attached to thee”, John 21: 15. We often use that scripture to explore the different words for love, but Peter also uses this word ‘oida’, that we are speaking of, “thou knowest that I am attached to thee”. He knew that the Lord knew, in inward conscious knowledge, that Peter was attached to Him. Then the Lord says, “lovest thou me?”, and Peter says the same again, “thou knowest that I am attached to thee”, v 16. And then the Lord says, “art thou attached to me?”. He uses the same word for love as Peter, and Peter says, “Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I am attached to thee”, v 17. The Lord knows your affection; He knows that you are attached to Him but He would still probe and encourage you in every circumstance, to show you that you have a resource to turn to in Himself. It is as if He says to Peter, ‘I know’.
I thought about our Christian lives. The Lord knows about them as well, and again He knows how we fail and how we feel. Perhaps one of the experiences of getting older (I speak for myself) is that you realise how much time you have wasted in not really dedicating yourself to the Lord’s things, and the Lord knows that. I was not particularly thinking of focusing on that, but I was thinking that if you love the Lord Jesus - and I trust you do - and you want to be here for Him, and to seek to be faithful to Him, then He may put you through things that you would never have had to go through if you did not love Him and did not seek to be faithful, and the Lord knows about that. He knows about the challenges you face simply because you want to be here for Him. Other people may not face them. I do not want to be fanciful or emotional about it. That might involve relationships: because you want to be faithful to the Lord, that might have an effect on relationships. I remember recently a young brother saying in my company that there was a gender imbalance in his age group amongst the brethren that we meet with. Well, the Lord knows about that, and He would desire that you might converse with Him, not just pray about it, but converse with Him about it and hear what He would have to say because He knows all about it. There are other things; that is just one example. Maybe even in work, because you do not want to be a member of some organisation, you suffer reproach, or you cannot progress beyond a certain level. The Lord knows about these things and He does not forget about them either. We might forget about them, but the Lord remembers; He treasures it. Every step, every stand, you make for the Lord, however small or insignificant it may seem to others, the Lord values, values very, very highly, where you have sought to be here for Him and been with Him in the circumstances He has arranged for you.
I remember a brother saying once that life consists in relationships; that is how we are. We do not live alone; we do not live as an island, as it were; we have relationships with our family and so on; and the Lord knows about all of that. He knows where His matters might affect that, and we may have to make a stand. He says that in one place: “And every one who has left houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall inherit life eternal”, Matt. 19: 29. The Lord knows about it and He has something in mind for you. He would desire that you would bring it to Him and converse with Him about it and listen to what He would say.
These things are testing - I am not pretending they are not - but James says, “the Lord is full of tender compassion and pitiful”, Jas 5: 11. He knows all about it, and when you bring it to Him, He does not say, ‘Well, it is all right. I know all about it’. No, He likes to hear your exercise. He likes to hear you express your exercise about it in order that He may come in for you. He may come in for you in a spectacular way, or He may not; He may choose not to. It may be that you do not think He has come in for you, but be sure that He has! For Saul of Tarsus, the Lord intervened in his life in quite a spectacular way, but then there are others that you read of who were converted just as soundly, though not quite so spectacularly, but that is no less reflection on the Lord. He may bring each of us, and He does bring each of us, a different way. I think we should be encouraged by that. You may think some brother did not have to suffer this, and someone else had it easy. Well, no, because, the Lord brought them a different way, and they went through different exercises, but the Lord was with them in it, and the Lord will be with you in your circumstances too as you go through them with Him. He knows all about them, and He loves you and He brings you through them for your blessing. If you want the blessing, if you want the best of the blessing in a right sense, then you must be with the Lord in them. If you kick against them, then He cannot bring in the blessing that He has in mind. He will surely not forget you or neglect you but how much better just to be subject to Him, to be dependent, and to find, in the Lord Jesus, One that knows everything, and has the answer for you, and who will be with you. He says at the end of Matthew, “I am with you all the days, until the completion of the age”, chap 28: 20. You will never be without the Lord if you have brought Him into your life. I trust we are encouraged by that and stimulated too. I feel the edge of it; I am not pretending to be in the gain of all of this; you need to understand that. It says in one place, “the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of trial”, 2 Pet 2: 9. He knows all the circumstances, and has chosen to pass you through them.
Then finally the third thought was in relation to the context in Revelation where the Lord is speaking to the assemblies. He says to John, “Write therefore what thou hast seen, and the things that are, and the things that are about to be after these”, chap 1: 19. Earlier in verse 11 of chapter 1 He says, “What thou seest write in a book, and send to the seven assemblies: to Ephesus, and to Smyrna, and to Pergamos, and to Thyatira, and to Sardis, and to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea”. Each of these assemblies we would be seen as progressive, representing the history of the church. We have been helped about that, and what does the Lord say to each one of them? He speaks to the overcomer and He has a promise to the overcomer; He speaks to those that hear; but He also says, “I know”. He uses the same word, “I know”, to each one of them. To some of them He says, “I know thy works”; to Pergamos He says, “I know where thou dwellest” (chap 2: 13); to Smyrna, “I know thy tribulation and thy poverty”, chap 2: 9. The Lord knows these things. I was quite struck - some things are fairly obvious when people point them out to you and you think, why did I not think of that? - but it was recently pointed out in Grimsby that each of these seven assemblies got the same book, the same letter. They were all together: “What thou seest write in a book, and send to the seven assemblies”; so the whole book of the Revelation was sent to each of these seven assemblies, and they could all read about what the Lord said about each assembly. Do you think that was their focus? ‘Oh, He is saying this about the saints in that place’. No, the Lord had something very, very specific to say to each of them. I just wondered, if the Lord said ‘to the angel of the assembly in Edinburgh write’, or, ‘to the angel of the assembly in Grimsby write’, what would He say? What do you think the Lord would say to any of our localities? He is writing to the place, as it were. Who would be included in that? Would you be included? I think it would be right to say it would be everybody in the place that claims to be the Lord’s. It is not to a particular group of Christians; it is, “to the angel of the assembly in Ephesus”, or wherever it might be. The Lord is not isolating, in that sense, a group of Christians, such as we may be. We speak carefully because we do not want to take a name or be in any way sectarian. The Lord knows what the situation is in a place, and He knows about the overcomer, and He knows about those that hear. Our place, if it is anything, is to be seeking to walk in the light of the truth. It is not that we claim anything. We must not claim anything; that would be pretentious. Mr Coates says, “I doubt whether the Lord would have us to look for a company which should be the true expression of the one body. I think this would be too pretentious a ground to take in the midst of all the confusion of these last days. I believe the Lord would have His saints to recognise the truth of the one body, and every other part of the truth, and to seek to maintain consistency with it by following righteousness, faith; love, peace …”, Letters p231. This surely would be our desire.
He says to Ephesus, “I know thy works”. They look quite good to start with; everything was outwardly in order. They knew how to maintain things: “thou hast tried them who say that themselves are apostles and are not, and hast found them liars”, v 2. They knew how to apply the Scriptures; they knew the scriptures about withdrawing from persons and so on - I am not trying to belittle that - I am saying they knew that. But then the Lord has to say, “but I have against thee, that thou hast left thy first love”. That is, the first church that He writes to had left its “first love”. Then, to Thyatira, the fourth one, although He commends them for their love, He speaks about adultery and fornication, leading finally to the lukewarmness and indifference of Laodicea. The Lord knew about those things. What a fall is traced in these letters! Not only had they left first love, but they had gone back into these dreadful things that love had nothing to do with. The Lord was no longer the chief object of their love, and He knew about it. He had something to say. And He may say to me, ‘What about your love?’. Mr James Taylor raises a question (vol 56 p93) about it: are we able to gain a brother, as it says in Matthew 18 where it speaks about a brother sinning: “If he hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother”, v 15. Mr Taylor wonders if that was what was lacking at Ephesus, the love that would gain the brother. The Lord would know about that. I am not accusing anybody or any locality. That is far from my thoughts; I am just saying that the Lord knows. He knows the circumstances in every local assembly; He knows what is responsive to Himself, and where there is something for Him. There is a message for the overcomer in every place, and there is a promise. What is the promise? We may observe that the trend in the overall state descends, all the way down to Laodicea where the Lord has to be very challenging. He is outside, knocking on the door. They thought they were rich and had need of nothing and did not realise they had need of everything and they had shut out the One who could supply it. The Lord knows about the situation in every place, and He has a promise to the overcomer; that promise would no doubt be related to the state in the place. Before He speaks about the overcomer in those places, He would draw attention to all these things that He knows about concerning the conditions there. Then He shows His appreciation of the overcomer and describes the promise, and in the later letters He says, “He that has an ear”, after He addresses the overcomer, as if to say that if you want to hear what the Spirit says, you need to be an overcomer. The Lord knows about that. It comes down to us: am I going to be an overcomer, so that I can hear what the Spirit says? Are you? Are you going to be an overcomer? There is much to discourage around; the Lord knows about that. The enemy would like to rob God; He has various ways that he would try to do that. He does not care about you, but he might use you as a tool and try and spoil your enjoyment of divine things. The psalmist says, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation”, Ps 51: 12. He had been used by the enemy as a tool, but then he gets back to God. He overcomes, and the Lord would say to such, “let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies”.
I do hope that we may be encouraged to be sure in our own knowledge, to be able to say, “I know”. The apostle says, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded”, 2 Tim 1: 12. You need to know the One that knows you intimately, knows you in every circumstance, intuitively knows what is going on even in your heart, even at this moment. You have come to Him as your Saviour, as I trust we all have, to own Him as your Saviour and Lord, but He would say, ‘I know; I know about all your circumstances; I know all about what you may endure or have to face because you love me, because you want to be here for me’. He would know about that. It may be that you say, ‘Well, other Christians might be free to do certain things’. That is not your matter; that is the Lord’s matter. The Lord would say, ‘I know. I know what I am putting you through. I am putting you through these circumstances for your blessing’; because the result, if you are with the Lord in them, is that there will be an increase for Him, and that is what He is looking for. And then He would say in all the exercises you might face, what we might call assembly exercises in various places, the Lord would say about that: “I know”.
Let us be comforted and encouraged! Let us be overcomers and let us hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies. For the Lord’s name’s sake!
30th May 2015