Knowing The Ways Of God

God's Will

Exodus 33:12-14

One of the questions Christians will ask most often most is: “How can I know the will of God?” We must know His will if we’re going to make choices that lead to the abundant, fruitful life He has for us.

Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). But how many of us are living that abundant life? And how do we go about finding the will of God?

First, understand there’s no secret formula guaranteed to unlock His will for us. But there is a way God will reveal His will for you. That’s by knowing God so intimately, His will for you will unfold for you, day by day.

I think we all agree, a person cannot know true stability and victory in their life without knowing the Lord Jesus, God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit intimately. You see, there are two levels of knowing God, two levels of knowledge about Him:

Know God’s works, what He does,
Know God’s ways, who He is.

Some of us only know God’s works but don’t know His ways, and if we stay there, we’ll never really know Him.

We’ll be like the Israelites when they came out of Egypt. They had witnessed His worksup close—the ten plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night—and they were infatuated with this miracle-working God who had joined forces with them to release them from bondage and bring them into a land flowing with milk and honey. And He was going to give them that land. Who wouldn’t be infatuated with a God like that? But they didn’t know Him intimately. They barely knew him at all.

The most important question you must ask yourself is, “Do I know Him? Do I know His ways? If you do, it follows as night follows day, you will know His will in your life.

So how do I know him intimately?

Let’s back up and look at someone who did it the right way, and a whole bunch of people who didn’t—and suffered for it.

In Exodus 33, the Bible says the Israelites were eager to get on their way to Canaan, their Promised Land. Now, God had already said this land and this new life were His will for them. But because of their sin, this chapter tells us what’s about to happen to them.

1. Turn to Exodus 33:1-4. Fill in key words.

1 And the Lord said unto Moses, “Depart, and go up hence, thou and the people which _____ _______ _________ ____ out of the land of Egypt, unto the land which I sware unto Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘_______ _____ ______ _____ ___ ______ ____.
2 “And I will send ___ ________ before thee; and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite:
3 Unto a land flowing with milk and honey: for ____ will ______ go up in the midst of thee; for thou art a stiffnecked people: lest I consume thee in the way.
4 And when the people heard these _______ __________, they ____________...

“Evil tidings” in the King James version doesn’t mean that what God said was evil, but that this was extremely bad news for the Israelites. The Amplified Bible gives verse 3 through 4a this way,

3 “Go up to a land [of abundance] flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, because you are a stiff-necked (stubborn, rebellious) people, and I might destroy you on the way.”
4 When the people heard this sad word, they mourned

2. What was God planning to do?

3. In light of that, would His presence be with them?

4. Who besides Moses would be with them for what lay ahead?

5. Why was God not going to go with them? (v. 3)

God had said, “You people can go. I’ll give you provision. I’ll give you protection. I’ll send an angel with you, but you’ll not have My presence.
Moses wouldn’t settle for what that meant. He faced a huge undertaking, leading God’s chosen people through the wilderness into Canaan. He wouldn’t take that deal without God’s presence. Looking at this tremendous responsibility—so much was unforeseen, unknown—in a heartfelt plea Moses says, “No, Lord, it can’t happen that way. I’m not going to settle for any angel. God, if You’re not going, I’m not going. Don’t send us; go with us. You are my serenity, You are my security, You are my sufficiency. I want You.”

  • I don’t want provision and protection without Your presence.
  • I’m not going to settle for any blessing without the Blesser.
  • I don’t want the land without the Lord.

Many people would settle for God’s protection and provision without His presence. They don’t care that much about God’s presence.

6. That wasn’t Moses. Verse 11 describes his close relationship with God.

11 And the Lord spake unto Moses ______ to ______, as a man speaketh unto his ___________ (Exodus 33:11).

7. Continuing,

12 And Moses said unto the Lord, “See, Thou sayest unto me, ‘Bring up this people,’ and Thou hast not let me know ________ Thou wilt _______ ______ me. Yet Thou hast said, ‘I know thee by name, and thou hast also found grace in My sight.’
13 Now therefore, I pray Thee, if I have found grace in Thy sight, _______ ___ ____ ____ ____, that I may ______ Thee, that I may find grace in Thy sight: and consider that this nation is Thy people.”

8. What does Moses ask God to show him, so Moses can know God more fully?

9. Moses could have just said, “Lord, just show me the way [to the Promised Land].” But he wasn’t about to. Moses doesn’t ask for or need another miracle. He says, “Lord, I’ve got a gigantic task, so I need You to _____________________________.”

Remember back at the Red Sea, at the beginning of their journey, when they were trapped? In front of them was the sea, and behind them were Pharaoh’s chariots and horsemen. Moses was the only one who didn’t panic. Everybody else panicked because all they could see was what was happening. They did not know the ways of God. If all you see are the works of God, then when the works of God don’t work out as you think they should, you push the panic button.

Some people ask, “Does God have favorites?” I don’t believe God has favorites, but I do believe God has intimates—people who know Him intimately. The problem is, so many people don’t know God intimately. All they see are His works. They don’t know His ways. Their relationship with God is just infatuation. It is not real, genuine spiritual love.

Why is there is no genuine love? Because there is very little knowledge. There’s no intimacy. When you love someone, you trust them. It’s a progression; one leads to the next.

If all you see are the works of God, then you don’t have that intimacy. But when you know the ways of God, to know Him is to love Him, to love Him is to trust Him, to trust Him is to obey Him, and to obey Him is to be blessed.

10. Look again at Moses’ great prayer (v. 13). That ought to be the heart cry of each of us. It touched the heart of God and moved Him when Moses said that. How did God respond?

14 And He said, “My _________________ shall go _______ ______, and I will give thee rest.”

11. Turn to Hebrews 3:7-11 and notice some key words that mesh with Exodus 33. This happens so often in Scripture—a passage from the Old Testament connects with and confirms one from the New Testament. Although many writers penned Scripture under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, the Bible truly has only one Author: God Himself. God is speaking here:

7 Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, “To day if ye will hear His voice,
8 Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the _________________________:
9 When your fathers tempted Me, proved Me, and _____ ____ ______ _________ years.”
10 Wherefore I was ____________ with that generation, and said, “They do alway err in their heart; and they have _____ known ____ ________.”
11 So I sware in My wrath, “They shall not enter into My _______.”)

Knowing the ways of God will bring rest and peace into your troubled world. And God knows we face a troubled world.

Even though they “saw My works forty years,” Israel found no rest because they never knew His ways. Therefore, they never entered into His rest. Those of us who know God’s ways are going to live in rest.

To help explain the difference between knowing God’s works versus knowing His ways, let me give you an example from my own life: my relationship with my wife, Joyce. How many of you know Joyce personally? You may say, “I’ve heard you talk about her. I’ve seen her, but I wouldn’t say I know her personally. And I certainly don’t know her well." I can tell you, I know the ways of Joyce Rogers, and she knows my ways, because we have lived together so long.

Joyce and I have known one another since we were in grammar school. When we first met, we only knew each other by what we did—we knew each other’s works. Her desk was one row over and about four desks up from mine. So rather than paying attention to the teacher, I was sitting there paying attention to Joyce the whole time. I thought she was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. I would sit there and fix my eyes upon her. I had a real case of puppy love. But I didn’t know her intimately. All I knew was that I liked what I saw. I was taken with her smile. I was impressed that she always had her homework done, and I never had mine done. I was infatuated with this girl.

But as our relationship grew, we began to know each other’s ways. Now that we’ve been together for many years, Joyce knows my ways intimately and I know her ways. I trust her completely. If Joyce were to say, “If I ask you to do something, will you do it?" I would say “Yes” before I even knew what it was, because I know her, I trust her, and I know she would never ask me to do anything that would be wrong or harmful to me. You see, you may know my works, but Joyce knows my ways. You may know Joyce’s works, but I know her ways. I know Joyce intimately.

This is the kind of intimacy we must have with God before we can know His ways.

There’s nothing wrong with infatuation. And many times it leads to genuine romance. But the problem with so many people is they don’t know God intimately. All they see are the works of God. They don’t know the ways of God. Their relationship with Him is just infatuation, not genuine spiritual love.

If all Joyce and I have with each other is infatuation, our marriage is going to be unstable.

God says to every Christian, “Do you want to know Me? You’re not going to know Me by merely studying about Me. You are going to know Me by communion with Me face to face.”

You see the difference.

  • The Israelites only knew God by His works; they saw what God did.
  • Moses had already seen plenty of God’s works—the burning bush, miracles in Egypt, manna in the wilderness, water coming forth from a rock. But Moses knew something the rest of Israel did not know. He had insight into God’s character; Moses knew God’s ways.

12. Psalm 103:7 confirms this. Turn there.

He made known His _______ unto Moses, and His ______ unto the children of Israel.

In the New Testament, you see people still looking for a miracle, just as the Israelites did, seeking out God’s works, but not His ways. The Bible says many followed Jesus when they saw the miracles He did (Matthew 12:15, Matthew 27:55, Mark 2:15, John 7:31).

13. Turn to John 7:31.

And many of the people believed on him, and said, “When Christ cometh, will he ____ more ______________ than these which this man hath done?”

Were they looking at His works or His learning ways?

And in John chapter 2,

23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover, in the feast day, many believed in His name, when they ______ the ______________ which He did.
24 But Jesus did not commit Himself unto them, because He knew all men,
25 And needed not that any should testify of man: for He knew what was in man.

14. Why did Jesus not commit Himself to these folks?

They believed in Him, but He did not believe in them. Jesus knew people could be infatuated by miracles but not know Him intimately.

It occurred often—as when Jesus fed 5,000. The people flocked to Him. They said, “Look! A human cafeteria! That’s incredible. He’s feeding us bread and fish!” and they followed Him. But when Jesus began to talk to them about knowing His ways, knowing Him intimately, eating His flesh and drinking His blood (John 6:51-56), they left Him like rats leave a sinking ship. They were miracle mongers. They were infatuated, but they never really knew the Lord.


I’ll give you another example. The average believer loves the doctrine of eternal security. It’s a good doctrine—a Bible doctrine. They say, “Whew, I’m heaven-born and heaven-bound. Nothing can take me away from God. I’ve got protection: the devil can’t get me. And I’ve got provision: I’m going to heaven.

But how many of those same people want to know God intimately? They say, “God, You’re going to carry me on to my heavenly Canaan. You’re going to send an angel escort. You’re going to get me there. The devil has not been able to get to me. All I want from You is provision and protection.”

That doesn’t mean you’re right with God. You say, “Well, I must be right with God, look how He’s blessing me.” Does it bother you that you might have provision and protection but still be missing the best? You’re not walking in the Spirit and enjoying victory.

Don’t ever mistake the provision and protection for the presence. Even an unbeliever can have provision. People who don’t believe in Jesus are breathing God’s air today and have food, shelter and clothing. God makes it rain on the just and the unjust.

Do you really long to know God, to have that intimate relationship with Him? You only have true sufficiency when you know God intimately. We need to know God in such a way that come thick or thin, good or bad, you can say, “Though You slay me, yet will I trust You, Lord, because I know Your ways.”

Abraham, the patriarch of what would become the Hebrew nation, was a man God chose and called to leave Ur of the Chaldees—all that was familiar to him—and move his family, flocks and herds to a place he’d never been: Canaan. Abraham followed God’s leading. His relationship with God at first was a mixture of times of faithful obedience spotted by fear and manipulating circumstances just in case God didn’t show up.

The life of Abraham, so fully detailed in the book of Genesis, is a study in the developing relationship with God. From being an upright man but completely ignorant of Almighty God, his Creator, Abraham grew into the patriarch of God’s people—and one God called His “friend.”

  • Twice after God called him and was leading him, Abraham lied about Sarah not being his wife for fear he might be killed. (Genesis chapters 12 and 20). He did not fully trust God.
  • God promises Abraham that he and Sarah will have a son—an heir—through whom he will become the father of multitudes. When many years pass with still no heir, failing to believe God would show up, he and Sarah concoct an alternate plan to produce an heir, a plan that has resulted in strife and chaos between two warring factions for thousands of years.

Nevertheless, through years of walking with the Lord, Abraham grew to know God’s ways, not just His works.

We know he came to trust God so much that one day after Isaac, the heir of the promise, had become a young man, a word came from God that must have shaken Abraham to his core. Shortly thereafter, the promised heir, Isaac, Abraham’s most precious treasure, walked up Mt. Moriah with his father to be place upon an altar at God’s command, as a sacrifice.

15. Turn to Genesis chapter 20.

Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and ________ _____ _______ ____ ___ _________ _________ upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.

Remember—we already know the end of this story, but Abraham does not.
Read the next verse.

Did Abraham bargain with God?

Did he procrastinate?

16. Abraham tells his servants accompanying him and Isaac on this journey, “Stay put here….”

5 …and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and _______ _________ to you.

Either Abraham is trying to head off any questions from his servants, or he has faith to believe _______________________________________________________.

7 And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, “My father,” and he said, “Here am I, my son.” And he said, “Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”

Isaac’s innocent, logical question must have been the most difficult Abraham has ever faced:

17. How (v. 8) does Abraham answer Isaac’s question?

8 And Abraham said, “My son, _____ will ___________ Himself ___ ________ _____ ___ _________ _______________,” so they went both of them together.”

Abraham’s obedience to God continued to the point where Isaac is on the altar and Abraham’s knife is drawn.

18. Who speaks in verse 11?

This occurrence in Scripture is called a “theophany,” an appearance in the Old Testament of the Second Person of the Trinity before His incarnation—before He came to earth to be born in Bethlehem and become the eternal Sacrifice—God’s One and Only Son, who took upon Himself the payment for the sins of the world. In this instance, God intervened to stop Abraham from offering Isaac as a sacrifice. Someone has observed that when the Second Person of the Trinity spoke out in that moment, He called off the deal for Abraham and at that moment committed Himself to becoming the once-for-all sacrifice for our sin. He freed Isaac and one day would put Himself on the “altar” of the cross at this very same place. Mt Moriah, where Isaac lay prone on the altar, is today known as the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
So Abraham went from pagan sojourner (although an upright man) an itinerant sojourner in the wilderness to being know as The Friend of God. Abraham came to know God’s ways. At least three times in Scripture, God calls Abraham His friend:

19. a. See 2 Chronicles 20:7:

Art not Thou our God, who didst drive out the inhabitants of this land before Thy people Israel, and gavest it to the seed of Abraham, Thy ___________forever?

b. Isaiah 41:8

But thou, Israel, art My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham, My ___________.

c. James 2:23
23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, “Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the ___________ of God.”

Your friends know things about you others don’t know. Your friends know your ways.

How can you know the ways of God and thus know His will for you?

First, let me tell you how you will not know the ways of God: It will not be through human reason or ingenuity.

As we wrap up our study, turn to this passage:Isaiah 55:8-9. It’s one you need to commit to memory.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,” [now watch this] “neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord.” Don’t ever make the mistake of thinking God’s ways are like your ways or God’s thoughts like your thoughts. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Your thoughts are never going to reveal to you God’s ways. God’s ways are always mysterious.

“Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known” (Psalms 77:19).

God walks on the water, but you will never see His footprints there.

How are you going to know the ways of God? Not by looking around. Not by human ingenuity. Not by reasoning.

Having looked more closely at the lives of Moses and Abraham today and observed them, what do you see about their lives—what did both of them do, that they came to know the Lord God? Name some things you observed:

In Abraham and Moses we find that you know the ways of God through intimate, face to face dealing with Him. This is how, where and when God reveals His ways to you.

  • Remember, Moses got to know the ways of God because “the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his __________..."
  • “My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.”
  • I will make all My goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee… (Exodus 33:11, 14, 19).

God is saying, “You are going to know Me by communion with Me face to face.”

An intimate relationship with God does not come by observation, like seeing God part the Red Sea. It does not come by interrogation or reasoning. It comes by spending time face to face with God.

You cannot love a person until you know their ways, and you cannot know their ways until you spend time with that person. When we learn to seek His face and not His hand, we will know His ways and find rest for our souls.

If you don’t have the blessing of peace and rest, I must tell you, there is no blessing without obedience. Many people are not living in blessing. Why do we not obey? Why is our obedience so poor? Because we do not fully trust God.

You cannot trust someone you do not know. And you cannot know anyone if all you see is their works and you don’t know their ways. You have to know their ways in order to love them. You have to love them in order to trust them. And you have to trust them in order to obey them.

When you know God intimately, there is serenity. Peace comes into your life. God gives you rest. There is stability. There is sufficiency. And you learn, no matter how bad the problem, not only is God necessary; God is enough.

How do you know God? Not by observation. His ways are above our ways. You know God by a face-to-face relationship. And frankly, that’s what a quiet time is all about. You can’t know someone if you don’t spend time with them. As you spend time with Him, He begins to manifest Himself to you, and you begin to know His ways.