Reflective Questions

Sometimes God asks questions of men that He already knows the answers to.  Actually, there are no other kinds of questions.  He asks them not for information but for our reflection.  They are “window into our soul” questions.  Here are a few:

“Where are you?”  This is the first question God asks man; it was asked of Adam and Eve as they hid from Him in guilt and shame (Gn 3:7-10).  Obviously, God knew exactly where they were, but He wanted them to face the reality of what they had done.  Before this, they had fellowship with God in a perfect world; nothing hindered the accord between man and his Creator.  But that had now been catastrophically destroyed.  Adam’s answer revealed more than he intended:  “I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself” (3:10).  God then asks:  “Who told you that you were naked?  Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” (3:11).

Indeed, “where are we?”  This is a question we need to ask ourselves regularly.  If we listen to the academics they will confuse the issue with all sorts of explanations of where we are and how we got there:  genetics, economics, oppression, nurture, peers, etc.  Rephrased, God’s question to Adam was:  “Have you sinned?”  Of course, the painful answer was “yes,” and herein lies the root of all of our most serious problems.  Life in a fallen world invariably comes with hardships, setbacks, handicaps, failures, injustices, etc.  But we are often in a place of our own making.  It is hard to admit this, but it is necessary if we are to deal with it effectively and not be destroyed by our own faults.

Adam, with no external disadvantages, had put himself squarely where he was by his poor choices.  When we mess up, we need to take responsibility for where we are and follow the “bread crumbs” back to God.

“Why are you angry?”  God poses this question to Cain (Gn 4:6) who also exercised his free will poorly by bringing an inferior sacrifice to God.  God rejected Cain’s sacrifice but accepted Abel’s, which led to Cain’s raging jealousy.  God graciously attempts to block him from compounding his error with further questions:  “And why has your countenance fallen?  If you do well, will you not be accepted?  And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door.  And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it” (Gn 4:6-7).  These words of God to Cain run completely counter to psychologists, social engineers, the educational establishment, etc. who want us to “own” our feelings and will validate them with their academic rhetoric. 

God here gives the recipe for a healthy psyche:  “do well.”  Following God’s will and maintaining harmony with Him leads to clarity, properly ordered priorities and the appropriate reaction to others.  Anger is one of the most natural responses of humans, and it is one of the most destructive.  Even a direct warning from God Himself couldn’t redirect Cain, for anger had taken up residence in him and was a guiding force in his life (cf. 1 Jn 3: 12).  Are we harboring poisonous attitudes that keep creating havoc in our life?  Why do we allow this to happen?  Let us be diligent to purge our lives of destructive thoughts and attitudes, for if we do not “sin lies at the door” and threatens to capture us in service for Satan.

“Get up!  Why do you lie thus on your face?”  This sharp reprimand was given to one of the greatest Israelite leaders – Joshua (Jsh 7:10).  On the heels of their grand and glorious success in taking Jericho, Israel had just been defeated by the people of Ai.  While Joshua is perplexed at this turn of events, the defeat at Ai wasn’t random.  Hidden to Joshua and the rest of Israel was the theft of Achan who had taken spoil from Jericho – an act forbidden by God:  “By all means keep yourselves from the accursed things, lest you become accursed when you take of the accursed things, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it.  But all the silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are consecrated to the Lord; they shall come into the treasury of the Lord” (Jsh 6:18-19).  Achan didn’t merely steal from the spoils; he stole from the “treasury of the Lord.” 

How can a man as great as Joshua, with all he has seen and heard as Moses’ assistant – the plagues in Egypt; the victorious battles; the scenes on Sinai; etc. – how can such a man tear his clothes and fall on the ground the whole day?  How can he utter the very things that caused the Israelites to die in the wilderness:  “Alas, Lord God, why have You brought this people over the Jordan at all – to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us?  Oh, that we had been content, and dwelt on the other side of the Jordan!” (Jsh 7:7).  This was not Joshua’s finest hour.

Rather than be despondent, there was a cause for the defeat that needed to be exposed and eradicated.  Again, God’s question has meaning for us.  Are we needlessly wallowing, feeling sorry for ourselves, thinking the world – and perhaps even God – are against us?  When we are troubled the solution often lies in God’s words to Joshua:  “Get up!”  Deal with what is ailing us as best we can, and when we have done all to correct the situation – with God’s help of course – move on with life.  There is too much that God wants us to accomplish to be wasting time and energy fretting over things unfinished business.

“Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge?”  This is God’s challenge to Job when Elihu finishes his soliloquy and He has heard enough from both Job and his friends (Job 38:2-3):  “Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me.”  God proceeds to pepper Job with questions about His creation and management of the world:  “Where were you …?”; “Have you …?”; “Can you …?”  “Do you know …?” (cf. Job 38-39).  Job has been sure that God has mismanaged his life and treated him unjustly, but he spouts these lamentations before the matter is fully resolved – which later results in Job being restored to greater blessings than he had in the first place.

God continues:  “Would you indeed annul My judgment?  Would you condemn Me that you may be justified?  Have you an arm like God?” (40:8).  There is both rebuke and comfort in this cross-examination of Job.  First, God is always aware of what is happing in our lives, the lives of our loved ones and the world as a whole.  Our present circumstances do not tell the whole story.  God is managing all the needs, free-will decisions, self-inflicted harm, ignorance, etc. of the whole world.  That means things usually unfold gradually and may not be perceived until we look retrospectively at where we’ve been.  How often have we complained to God about a matter He was about to resolve in our favor?