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Weekly Devotion with Beckyjohn – THE IMPORTANCE OF UNDERSTANDING WHY GOD ASKS QUESTIONS – JOB’S CASE STUDY

THE IMPORTANCE OF UNDERSTANDING WHY GOD ASKS QUESTIONS – JOB’S CASE STUDY

  • God is at work even in those times where we don't see it or can't feel it. Everything ultimately comes down to trust (Ryan Stevenson)
  • Great character, like massive roots, grow deep when water is sparse and winds are strong (Charles Swindoll)
  • The mere fact itself that God's will is irresistible and irreversible fills me with fear, but once I realize that God wills only that which is good, my heart is made to rejoice (A. W. Pink)
  • God is perfectly complete within his own being (Tim Temple)

 TEXT: Genesis 1:9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” . . . 11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

Job 38: 4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?  Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!  Who stretched a measuring line across it?

Is it possible that beneath the preoccupying struggles to the battles raging in our hearts, there is a God who has the Master plan?  It is possible that beneath many things happening, including politics, there is an invisible realm where unseen battles rage and it is in listening to God’s voice that one gets a healthy perspective. This dawned on me while preparing to speak in a university community chapel whose theme is ‘the questions in the bible and particularly the questions that God asks’. The topic that I was given was based on God’s questions to Job “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?’  (Job 38:4).

THE ART OF QUESTIONING

The word question is said to originate from the Latin root, quaestio, which means ‘to seek’. Question is a quest which suggests a search or pursuit or expedition that leads to a discovery of newness or hidden treasure. To take time to ponder questions can lead to a revelation that leads one on track in living a fulfilled life. Questions give opportunities to learn, share, think and grow.  Socrates, who lived 400 Before Christ, used questions that encouraged his learners to analyze the situation and find answers for themselves, which in turn helped them remain continuous learners able to come up with solutions to the challenges they faced.

In addition, the concept of having questions has the ability to connect the people from inside. In his book ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’, Paulo Freire argues that instead of teaching students to seek correct answers for problems we present to them, help them identify their own questions and find the problems in life and in society that will compel them to learn, grow, and develop their critical consciousness. Questions provoke reflection. If you don't critically ask for the why over and over again, you will never succeed at the what. Asking questions gives participants a greater sense of intimacy and understanding, and makes them feel respected and heard. In communicating the gospel, questions are powerful because they spark change. Giving facts and information is helpful, but questions can shift one's thinking, inspire innovation, and result in true change.

THE QUESTIONS GOD ASKS

When God asks a question, there is a need to sit up and pay attention. He does not ask to obtain information, since He already possesses all information. The questions that God asks serve a different purpose, and that purpose varies based on the context of the question and the needs of the one to whom the question is directed. Some reasons why God asks the questions:

Focus on the problem -Think of a teacher teaching new learner basic arithmetic asking, “What is 2 + 2?” The teacher does not ask this because she doesn’t know the answer but because she wants to focus the student’s thinking on the problem at hand. For example,’ where are you? was the first question God posed to humanity. It came at a crisis point between human beings and their Creator God.

Involvement -God is a Father who uses language to teach within the context of relationship. He is a Teacher who uses questions to involve His students, force them to think, and point them to the truth. When He asks a question, it’s not because He doesn’t know the answer but because He wants us to know.

Self -retrospection – God’s questions are intended to cause the people to have self-retrospection and get into a healthy relationship with Him.  

Reveal an aspect of God’s character – God may choose to reveal an attribute about Him to us through questions. He may ask us questions that will lead us to better understand a specific portion of His character.

GOD’S QUESTION TO JOB

Job was a righteous man in whom God took pride. ‘Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil’ (Job 1: 8). The hedge of protection that Satan claimed was what made Job faithful was removed and things went bad. He experienced losses – family, wealth, friends, etc. Job, who recognized that he had no entitlement to anything that God had given him, remained faithful.’ In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing’ (Job 1:22).

Job’s wife and his friends’ theology was wanting. The wife saw no hope and her strategy was to exit – His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”(Job 2:9).  His friends insisted that there was something wrong he had done. Their sense of justice was based on the knowledge and insights that assign blame to the victim.  They had formulated a worldview based on the processed information they had gathered through their experiences in life. Job did not give in to the deep persistent pressure; instead, he held firm and expressed desire to have an audience with God. Job in his relentless suffering said, ‘Oh, that I had someone to hear me!  I sign now my defense—let the Almighty answer me; let my accuser put his indictment in writing’ (Job 31:35).

Yes, God appeared with a series of questions that helped him to know God’s ways are often beyond human understanding. It is unwise for any human being to imagine that God can be put in a test tube so that one can define Him and understand Him. Using questions, God revealed to Job the attributes of His sovereignty and ultimate power. Though Job gets the audience with God that he has been asking for, he does not get the answer to his main question which was whether he deserved the suffering he experienced. God’s opening question is really a statement. He is telling Job who and whose he is, that he is an image bearer of his Maker (Genesis 1:26-28).  So in response to Job’s sense of injustice, his attention is drawn to the Big Picture, God’s grand design. Much like someone who stands too close to a painting and cannot appreciate the artist’s perspective, Job needs to step back a few steps so that he can glimpse — if not fully understand — God’s larger purposes with greater clarity.

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?  Job needed to realize his humanness he was not around when God laid the foundations of the earth. Isaiah 48:13 ‘Surely My hand founded the earth, And My right hand spread out the heavens; When I call to them, they stand together’. Job needed to understand that God does not rule the earth on Job’s terms. God does it on His terms, and in His time, He will bring about justice.

Human sense of justice and understanding is earthly. ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, ”declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’ (Isaiah 55:8-9). Using human sense of justice to evaluate God’s sovereignty and love is extremely fraud. This should humble us.

The point of God asking Job questions is to:

  •  Bring out many facets of God’s attributes of His sovereignty and ultimate power,
  •  Reveal man’s ignorance regarding a wide range of issues,
  •  Reveal man’s powerlessness in many situations, and
  •  Reveal the type of communion and communication He is willing to have with His creation.

It is unwise for any human being to imagine that God can be put in a test tube so that one can define Him and understand Him. None of us can detail how things were started. By experimentation and guesswork, understanding and beliefs are developed. Yet all human knowledge cannot be sustained because God’s work precedes creation of humanity. Jesus said, ‘Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world’ (John 17:24). Apostle Paul writing to Ephesians said, ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world’ (Ephesians 1:3-4). We are not from the beginning. Our best observation and formulation of the universe is indeed an act of faith.

RELEVANCE OF GOD’S QUESTION TO US PARTICULARLY WHEN GOING THROUGH SUFFERING

Embedded in the midst of God’s authority over the natural world is a profound insight into the human condition. How can we comfort ourselves when pure evil leaves us paralyzed, numb and questioning? God’s question provides a way to think about suffering when one does not have all the answers. Though there is longing and aching for understanding, like Job, silence in awe of God is the better choice. “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10).

For the question, ‘Where were you?’ It is God who has the answer. That question both affirms our search for understanding and demonstrates its limits. The wisdom God puts in our inward parts makes it possible for us to yearn for an answer when going through suffering and losses. Yet our wisdom comes only from God, so we cannot outsmart God with wisdom of our own. God is the source of wisdom.

The wisdom God puts in our inward parts makes it possible for us to yearn for an answer to the mystery of suffering. The truth is that God has implanted in us only a small fraction of his wisdom, so we will never have the capacity to comprehend all his ways. While it may be good for our souls to voice our complaints against God, it would be foolish to expect him to reply with, ‘Yes, I can see now that I was in error’.

God's questions are never asked in vain. To Job, God’s question both humbled and honored him. The questions serve the eternal purpose of strengthening spiritual foundation in addition to leading people to Him. While human beings ask questions in hope of gaining information or clarifying an issue, God, on the other hand, knows everything. He is omniscient and nothing is a mystery for Him. God does not ask questions because He doesn't know the answers. He asks us deep, penetrating questions because He wants us to think. It is worth noting that God has a grand design and we are included. Abram was struggling in sleep because he did not have a son to inherit his great wealth. It is at that time that God communicated to him about the design in heaven – The reality in heaven was very different from the reality he was experiencing. Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. (Genesis 15:13-14). That then means the hatred of Joseph by his brothers was in God’s plan. The birth of Moses was also in God’s plan.  While we do not see the whole picture and how the dots connect, we can trust God who does not sleep or slumber. Job realizes the fault is his, expecting to know the answer, not God’s for failing to provide it. The foundation of God’s divine assignment begins with getting the right perspective of who we are to Him and that gives us a perspective that enables us to obey, live in gratitude and security. How are you responding to the realization that your interaction with God reminds you that the life of faith involves lament, complaint, and the pouring out of honest emotions and feelings to God?

God's attribute of omnipotence means that God is able to do all that He desires to do. When He plans something, it will come to be. If He purposes something, it will happen. Nothing can prevent His plan. When His hand is stretched out to do something, no one can turn it back’ (Ron Moore)

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