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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

Nothing More Precious

Than knowing and loving the Lord.

The Celtic Revival: Afterglow (4)

You have nothing more precious
than the love of God, if you perform it:
you will not regret
adoring the King of clouds.

  - Oengus mac Oengobann, Féilire Oengusso, Irish, 9th century[1]

There is no truth or mercy
Or knowledge of God in the land...
My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge.

  - Hosea 4.1, 6

It is sometimes the case that we do not realize what we have until we have it no longer. In the years following the Celtic Revival (ca. 430-800 AD), the institutions that had been so prominent in promoting the Gospel and advancing the Kingdom of Christ deteriorated, becoming competitive, ingrown, and self-serving. Open warfare broke out between monastic communities to settle differences, assert territorial claims, or overthrow political sugar daddies. The love of God, which for four centuries had sustained a movement of self-denying, missions-minded scholar/monks, seemed to factor but a little in the agenda of post-9th century monasteries and parishes.

Céili Dé thinkers like Oengus longed to recover the most precious love for God, which, they feared, had all but disappeared from the Irish ecclesiastical landscape. His martyrology (Féilire Oengusso) looked back fondly at the heroes of the Celtic Revival, recording their achievements as monuments to the love of God.

If only indirectly, Céili Dé leaders questioned the genuineness of the faith of many in their generation. If they had no love for God or neighbors, how could they know Him? The Celtic lands in the 9th century and beyond seemed more like Old Testament Israel than the Church in the book of Acts.

The prophet Hosea had played a role similar to that of the Céili Dé. The people of Israel were perplexed by Hosea’s charge: “What does he mean, ‘no knowledge of God’?”

Why, they were a very religious people. They were so religious, in fact, that they thought they outstripped their sister state, Judah, in worshiping God. Whereas the poor, benighted people of Judah only had one center for worship, well Israel had set up two. It was much more convenient not to have to travel so far, and, by making worship more convenient the religious leaders of Israel attracted more worshippers than those rigid “Puritans” in Judah.

Plus, in Israel anybody could aspire to the priesthood, from any of the tribes who lived there, not just those from one privileged tribe, as in Judah (how narrow-minded!).

And besides, hadn’t the Israelites shown more flexibility in their worship of God, making room for the “best practices” of many of the “seeking” folk from the surrounding nations? Oh, so what if they referred to God as “Baal” (Hosea 2.16, 17)? What’s in a name? Everybody knew what they meant. Show a little tolerance, would you? If we adopt a few of their cultural forms, it will help to draw them to the true God. Lighten up.

Yes, indeed, the people of Israel in Hosea’s day were very religious. They seemed to be fairly dripping with the knowledge of God. So they must have been puzzled, if not offended, by Hosea’s accusation.

Hosea’s word was precisely to the point Oengus was making: To know God is to love Him, and if we would love God, it must be as He makes Himself known to us, on His terms, not ours. Love for God is not merely something to profess. Love for God must be performed. And it is performed in the ways He prescribes, not those we invent, from the heart and out into the life.

Like the people of 9th century Ireland and those of ancient Israel, we will forfeit our covenant relationship with God if we insist that we can improve on what He has revealed concerning how we must know, honor, love, and worship Him. To know God truly is to submit to Him completely, and to hang on His every Word – to love Him obediently. There is nothing more precious than to love God, and to love Him as He prescribes.

No amount of good intentions, clever innovations, or culturally sensitive adaptations will substitute for loving God by knowing Him and keeping His Word (Matt. 22.34-40; Jn. 14.15).

We will not regret knowing God in this way; but we will regret not truly loving Him if we insist on doing so on our terms, rather than His.

For Reflection
1. How would you explain what it means to “know God” to an unbelieving friend?

2. What can we do to grow in the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3.18)?

Psalm 116.1-3, 10-14 (Mit Freuden Zart: All Praise to God Who Reigns Above)
I love the Lord because He hears my cries and pleas for mercy.
Because He bends to me His ears, my prayers shall ever thus be.
The snares of death encompassed me; hell’s grip could not unloosened be;
Distress and anguish pressed me.

Afflicted, I believed His Word, though lying lips would undo me.
What shall I render to the Lord for all His blessings to me?
Salvation’s cup I lift above, and call upon the God of love,
And pay my vows most truly.

O loving God, let love for You wash my soul, content my mind, and render all love of lesser things hateful. And keep me from…

To Know Jesus
Knowing Jesus is more than just having certain knowledge about Him. It means to love and live for Him, to commune and have fellowship with Him, and to adore and love Him always. Our book To Know Him can help you learn how to keep growing in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Order your free copy by clicking here.

If you’re not a supporter of this ministry, won’t you please prayerfully consider making a gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe? Only God can move you to do this, and we believe He intends to support this ministry from within the ranks of those who are served by it. If this includes you, please seek the Lord in this matter. You can click here to give with your credit card or through Anedot or PayPal, or send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.

T. M. Moore, Principal
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All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


[1] Carey, p. 190.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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