Throughout our series on the Book of Jonah, I’ve talked about Jonah as one who ‘knew God.’ On Sunday I invited us all again to press on to know him (Hosea 6:3). Some people doubt that such a feat is even possible. Others go as far as to say that it is proud for you or me or anyone to claim that they know God rightly.
Kevin DeYoung in his book, Taking God at His Word, tackles this idea in a way that has stuck with me. He writes,
You may have come across the little story about the six blind men and the elephant. There are six blind men touching an elephant, trying to determine what it is they feel. One man touches the belly of the animal and thinks it’s a wall. Another grabs his ear and thinks it’s a fan. Another thinks his tail is a rope. On they go, each grabbing a part of the elephant without any one of them knowing what it is they really feel. The point of the story? We are all blind me when it comes to God. We know a part of him, but we don’t really know who he is. No one is more right than anyone else. We are all just grasping in the dark, thinking we know more than we do.
But of course there are two enormous problems with the analogy. For starters, the whole story is told from the vantage point of someone who clearly knows that the elephant is an elephant. For the story to make its point, the narrator has to have clear and accurate knowledge of the elephant. The second flaw is more serious. The story is a perfectly good description of human inability in matters of the divine. We are blind and unable to know God by our own devices. But the story never considers the paradigm-shattering question: what if the elephant talks? What if he tells the blind men, “That wall-like structure is my side. That fan is really my ear. And that’s not a rope; it’s a tail.” If the elephant were to say all this, would the six blind men be considered humble for ignoring his word?
We must not separate epistemology (that is, our theory of what we know and how we can know it) from the rest of theology. These high-sounding debates about perspicuity and hermeneutics really have to do with the character of God. Is God wise enough to make himself known? Is he good enough to make himself accessible? Is he gracious enough to communicate in ways that are understandable to the meek and lowly? Or does God give us commands we can’t understand and a self-revelation that reveals more questions than answers?
We can know God rightly because he has revealed himself. He has revealed himself in creation (Psalm 19:1-4) and through redemptive acts, which culminated in Christ (Hebrews 1:1). Now he reveals himself authoritatively through his Word. 2 Timothy 3:14-15 is where Paul reminds Timothy, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” The writings that Paul referred to were the Old Testament Scriptures. They were able to make him wise for salvation in Jesus Christ. He was able to come to a saving knowledge of God because God had revealed himself in his Word.
Church, saying that we know God is not a sign of pride, it is a sign that God has graciously revealed himself. I pray that knowing God would have its humbling affect so that like Timothy, may we continue in what we have learned and firmly believed.
 Kevin DeYoung, Taking God at His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014), 68-69.