You Got Questions? So Does God!
“Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9)
We all have questioned God when adversity or disappointment occurs. I suspect we all excel at clearly telling God what we want. How many times have you questioned God? When will I get promoted? Why did my good friend die? Where am I going to live when I can no longer care for myself? What doe God want from me? Who am I? A teacher encourages their students to learn. Of the 90 times Jesus was directly addressed in the gospels, on 60 occasions He was addressed as “Teacher.” Jesus himself used the term when He said, “You call me Teacher and Lord, and rightly so, for that is what I am” (John 13:13). When Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, he said, “We know that you are a teacher who has come from God” (John 3:2).
God is teaching us when He asks us questions. The purpose of the questions is likely for us to engage in a meaningful self-examination. God is omniscient and already knows the answer. Our answer to His questions provides an opportunity for spiritual growth. He wants us to think. The more we think, the more we learn. Some of the questions cut right to the heart of difficulties in our lives. If we answer honestly, we’ll be confronted with some ugly truths in our hearts and lives we’d rather not deal with. This is to be expected; any good relationship helps us know ourselves better, including seeing our faults more clearly. When this happens, we must remember to distinguish between the experiences of conviction and condemnation. Though both come from encountering ugly truths about ourselves, conviction often comes from God, but condemnation never comes from God. Condemnation is conviction robbed of hope. The difference is huge.
Below are five of my favorite questions from God. Imagine Him asking these questions to you, and your response, as you read.
Where are you?
“They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. (9) Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” (10) He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” (11) And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (Genesis 3:8-11).
This is the first question from God. God wants Adam to acknowledge where he is and why he is there. Adam was hiding from God. He had disobeyed, fallen into sin, and he was now fearful.
This question from God is one that He continues to ask us each day. Man has continued to run and hide from God, and the Good Shepherd continues to seek us. How would you respond if God asked that question to you?
What is your name?
“Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When He saw that He had not prevailed against him, He touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while He wrestled with him. (26) Then He said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” (27) So He said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” (28) He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” (29) Then Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And he blessed him there” (Genesis 32:24-29).
The story of Jacob is a fascinating story of a man that battles with others and even with God. God asked the question to get Jacob to acknowledge his identity. Jacob means “supplanter” or “trickster.” Jacob had tricked his father and stolen a blessing intended for his older brother. God had higher aspirations for Jacob and changed his name to Israel “Prince with God).” Israel’s twelve sons became the “Tribes of Israel.” God has always been in the business of changing people and a change of name is but an outward sign of the inward change. What would you say if God asked you your name?
What are you doing here?
“Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.” Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. … There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the LORD came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too” (1 Kings 19:1-10).
Elijah had faced down the prophets of Baal and was now faced with the wrath of Jezebel (wife of Ahab, King of Israel). Fear took over and Elijah hide in a cave. The word of the Lord came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:9). God did not want his prophet to physically or spiritually be in this condition. We all are members of a royal priesthood and God certainly does not want us to be hiding in a cave. So what does God want from us? For Elijah, God wanted Elijah to acknowledge that he was operating in fear, not faith, and had taken his eyes off the Lord and onto the circumstances. He wants us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).
Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations?
“Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said: “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand” (Job 38:1-4).
The story of Job is a familiar one to Bible readers. You may recall how Job and his friends debated the reasons for Job’s problems. Everyone had a say and everyone had a theory. Job was a righteous man and could not understand why he was suddenly experiencing such misery, and he began to doubt the goodness of God. It is interesting to note that God remained silent throughout the early discussion but eventually asks some very soul-searching questions for Job (Job 38:1-4).
Job is unable to answer the questions, which is likely the point that God was trying to make with him (and also with us). God was, is, and will be a sovereign and omniscient God acting in power and knowledge of all things before Job (or us) even existed. God asked Job questions in order to remind him that His ways are often beyond our understanding (Isaiah 55:8-9). I wonder how often we doubt the goodness or justice of God in times of difficulty. In times like this we need to remember the questions of God to Job because it reminds us of His wisdom and power of our God. We can take comfort in knowing, “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28)
Whom shall I send?
“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. (2) Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:1-8).
Isaiah was a prophet during one of the most turbulent periods in Judah’s history. He saw Judah fall to Assyria. The Lord sent Isaiah a serious question, “Whom shall I send?” (Isaiah 6:8). God is still asking the same question. The Bible is full of examples of God using weak outcasts, orphans, poor, etc. to do His work. This included Isaiah in his day but could also include us, if we answer His call. We are all called into ministry through our baptism and profession of faith in Jesus Christ. This is both a privilege and a responsibility.
Dear God: Thank you for asking us questions that cause us to think, learn, and grow closer to you. Please continue to sit as a refiner of silver.
Meet the Author
Todd Shupe is the President of DrToddShupe.com and is a well recognized expert on wood-based housing and wood science. Shupe worked as a professor and lab director at LSU for over 20 years. He is active in several ministries including his Christian blog ToddShupe.com. Todd is the Secretary of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men, Database Coordinator for Gulf South Men, and volunteer for the Walk to Emmaus, Grace Camp, Iron Sharpens Iron, Open Air Ministries, HOPE Ministries food pantry. Todd is currently preparing to be a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men.