The Greatest Yearning of the Old Testament – Philippians 3

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The Greatest Yearning of the Old Testament

The Greatest Yearning of the Old Testament

“7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[i] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:7-11 NIV

According to Exodus 33:13, we can observe that the greatest yearning of men and women in Old Testament times was to “know” Him.

13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.” Exodus 33:13 NIV

The Old Testament Jews yearned for the coming of the New Covenant, when Jeremiah 31:34 would come to pass and a relationship with God would become available to all people.
“34 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more
.” Jeremiah 31:34 NIV

When he speaks of “whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ,” Paul is not trying to put down his heritage. He is not saying that his achievements were inherently bad or harmful. Rather, he is pointing out that there were ways through which Paul formerly lived his life trying to please God through the flesh. Before he came to a saving faith in Jesus Christ, Paul is showing that all of his energy, efforts, and works of the flesh were given to try and satisfy God. If anyone thought he could consider himself a success of the day, Paul was the man. Before he was saved, Paul considered himself a success based on his own performance.

In Philippians 3 however, Paul now recognizes that his accolades amount to nothing compared to the great importance of knowing Jesus Christ. Knowing God was the greatest yearning of people in the Old Testament. The Jewish people referred to God as YHWH. His name was unpronounceable. They held God’s name with such reverence that they recognized that their very lips were too unclean to even speak a name for God. YHWH, in their language was unpronounceable. We have added some vowels for our language and call Him Yahweh. The greatest yearning and desire for the people under the old covenant was to know this unknowable God.

Paul says that when we need encouragement in times of adversity, we should not try to find our hope in our own works and righteousness, but in knowing God through Jesus Christ. A personal relationship with Jesus Christ, according to Paul, was at the very center of the Christian life. There was nothing better. There is nothing better. He would joyfully accept the loss of all other things to grow in that relationship with Jesus.

Do you know Jesus Christ? There is nothing better and nothing more eternal than knowing Him. Are you giving your life to follow Him? There is nothing better you can do with your life. I don’t think it would be an overstatement to say that ALL of the patriarchs of the Old Testament would lay down their lives in order to have the great privilege of knowing God. Any of them would likely have given all that they had in order to have the great privilege of being in a relationship with Jesus Christ. The greatest yearning of the Old Testament Prophets and priests is available to Christians today if we are honestly willing to embrace it.

Renew a passion within me to be closer to You Jesus. Forgive the many times that I have taken too lightly the great privilege I have in You which was surely the greatest yearning of those in the Old Testament. Amen.

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