You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
Have you ever wondered what God’s Privacy Statement looks like?
We live in a day and age where we have grown accustomed to fighting for our right to privacy. While many of us use Facebook daily (hourly?), we have also wrestled with trying to balance the benefit of sharing our lives with “friends” (both online and “In Real Life” friends) versus the dangers and forfeiture of people knowing too much about us.
Don’t believe it is an issue? Go to Google or Amazon.com and search a product—just for fun, let’s say lawn sprinklers—and then count how long it takes for those products to appear in the sidebar of your Facebook page or some other web site you frequent.
There are some anecdotes floating around the Internet about individuals being targeted with custom ads (think: coupons for diapers for someone who is pregnant) based solely on their buying habits, not the customer revealing to the store their pregnancy and fathers (think: pregnant daughters) getting angry only to later discover the actual truth.
[Want to know more? The most commonly cited of these stories and the methods stores (in this case, Target) use purchase history can be found in an article from Forbes here and the NY Times Magazine here.]
When discussing this strategy, an analyst for Target was quoted as saying (in the Forbes article cited above): “If we send someone a catalog and say, ‘Congratulations on your first child!’ and they’ve never told us they’re pregnant, that’s going to make some people uncomfortable,” Pole told me. “We are very conservative about compliance with all privacy laws. But even if you’re following the law, you can do things where people get queasy.”
Um, yeah, they would. We are pretty cautious about people knowing too much about us. Even if things are above board and a company is simply trying to gain our business, we do get a little “queasy” about anyone knowing too much about us.
We don’t want people to know when we sit or when we rise up. We do not want people to perceive our thoughts, from near or far. We don’t want people to know what we are going to say before we say it.
Those words sound familiar? If not, perhaps you need to read through Psalm 139 again. They are words penned by the psalmist that cause us to receive comfort. If it had been a supermarket that said those things, back to queasy feelings, no? So what’s the difference?
We need to keep two things in mind here. First, when God says he knows everything about us, he should: he was the one who created us. Before we were ever born, God knew us and in fact, “knit us” together in our mother’s womb, the psalmist writes. Sovereignty has privileges and knowing us inside and out is one of them.
The second thing is even more important. When a store uses information about us to encourage us to purchase an item, however legal and innocuous that information may be used, the ultimate benefactor of the information is … the store. When God knows information about you that no one else knows, his “use” of that information is in your best interest.
Why does God know you and search your thoughts? So that he can remove those things that keep you from knowing and following him better. God’s desire is for us to love him more and he wants nothing more than to be able to remove those things that stand between him and us.
You may justifiably want your privacy, but trust me, God’s not one you want to try to hide from. Him knowing you is best for you.
•If God did a complete searching of your heart, what would he find? What would he want to remove? What is preventing you from letting that happen now?
•We do not like to think about the punishment that comes upon God’s people (or us), yet his prophets often foretold of just that. Why does Amos describe punishment coming on God’s people Israel? Was this punishment unjustified? Why or why not? What do you think Israel could have done to prevent this?
•Why are divisions amongst God’s people such a barrier to faithful living?
•What do you think Peter and Andrew were thinking they were getting into when Jesus called them to “fish for people?” What other analogies could be used to describe the process of bringing people to Jesus?
•How would you describe Jesus’ activities as he went around preaching, “the kingdom of heaven came near?” How does his activities compare to the things we do today as his church? What do we need to change to better match what he did?