Monday, January 03, 2011

QUESTIONING GOD

BY CHARLES WOODRUFF

This short article I wrote is a result of hearing so many times "You can't question God". Certainly that is true regarding a demanding interrogation of God, but there is a sense that that statement is untrue. Perhaps you never thought about it. Maybe after you read the article, you will see that there is a sense that we may question God.

I have so often heard it said “It is wrong to question God; you can’t question Him.” If this is so, there are prophets and preachers who questioned God. Were they sinning by doing so? The answer should be clear; it is not wrong to ask questions of God. As far as I can see, the Bible does not prohibit that. What is wrong is to question His sovereignty; His providence; His truthfulness; His purpose: His faithfulness. You see, we all have things we would like to ask God. Perhaps we have asked Him at times. These are questions. They are not a sin if done with reverence toward His person, and humbleness in His presence.

He is Almighty God, and as Abraham said “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25b). It is interesting that Abraham made this statement as a question to God, and it was in a series of questions to God about the pending destruction of Sodom. In this series of questions we see the humility of Abraham in asking “And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes” (Genesis 8:27b). Of course, the prime motivation for Abraham’s questions was his concern for his nephew Lot.

It is granted that sometimes under conditions of extreme anxiety, or fear, even a child of God has questioned God in a way that is not exhibiting faith. An example is David in Psalm13:1,2 “How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?

How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?” The Psalm starts out with David questioning God. His questions almost seem to be in despair. Almost accusative in regarding that God has forsaken him. I believe there have been times that most of us have felt that way. He sounds almost frustrated. Instead of a psalm of praise, it seems to start as a psalm of blame.

Charles Spurgeon has some good thoughts on this psalm in the Treasury of David. ‘“How long?’ - This question is repeated no less than four times. It betokens very intense desire for deliverance, and great anguish of heart. And what if there be some impatience mingled therewith; is not this the more true a portrait of our own experience? It is not easy to prevent desire from degenerating into impatience. O for grace that, while we wait on God, we may be kept from indulging a murmuring spirit! ‘How long?’ Does not the oft-repeated cry become a very howling? And what if grief should find no other means of utterance? Even then, God is not far from the voice of our roaring; for he does not regard the music of our prayers, but his own Spirit's work in them in exciting desire and inflaming the affections. ‘How long?’ Ah! how long do our days appear when our soul is cast down within us!”

I offer one more thought. David did not stay in that vein. In verses 3-6 he says “Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death; Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved. But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation. I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.” So we can see that though he started with concerned questions, his spirit rallied as God worked in him a reminder of who is in charge. I can do no better than to quote Mr. Spurgeon again here on verse three. “But now prayer lifteth up her voice, like the watchman who proclaims the daybreak. Now will the tide turn, and the weeper shall dry his eyes. The mercy-seat is the life of hope and the death of despair. The gloomy thought of God's having forsaken him is still upon the Psalmist's soul, and he therefore cries, “Consider and hear me.” He remembers at once the root of his woe, and cries aloud that it may be removed. The final absence of God is Tophet's fire, and his temporary absence brings his people into the very suburbs of hell. God is here entreated to see and hear, that so he may be doubly moved to pity. What should we do if we had no God to turn to in the hour of wretchedness?

Note the cry of faith, “O Lord my God!” Is it not a very glorious fact that our interest in our God is not destroyed by all our trials and sorrows? We may lose our gourds, but not our God. The title-deed of heaven is not written in the sand, but in eternal brass.”

GOOD QUOTES TO THINK OVER

“A truly humble man is sensible of his natural distance from God; of his dependence on Him; of the insufficiency of his own power and wisdom; and that it is by God's power that he is upheld and provided for, and that he needs God's wisdom to lead and guide him, and His might to enable him to do what he ought to do for Him.”--Jonathan Edwards

"Who would not prefer to have his affairs in the hands of a God of infinite power, wisdom, holiness and love, rather than to have them left to fate, or chance, or irrevocable natural law, or to short-sighted and perverted self? Those who reject God's sovereignty should consider what alternatives they have left."--Loraine Boettner

“If we come to Scripture with our minds made up, expecting to hear from it only an echo of our own thoughts and never the thunderclap of God's, then indeed He will not speak to us and we shall only be confirmed in our own prejudices. We must allow the Word of God to confront us, to disturb our security, to undermine our complacency and to overthrow our patterns of thought and behaviour.”--John R.W.Stott

“I am not what I ought to be.

I am not what I want to be.

I am not what I hope to be.

But still, I am not what I used to be.

And by the grace of God I am what I am." --John Newton

Editor’s note: I have seen this statement of Newton expressed with some variation from place to place. I am not surprised, because likely he said it more than once; perhaps with different emphasis. As far as I can discover, this is an accurate quote. Oh, may it be a motto of ours! (cw

2 comments:

mblordi.com said...

Very good, Charles. And did not our blessed Savior cry out to his Father, "Why have you forsaken me?" In his human state, Jesus asked what we all would have and yet he fully submitted completely to the Father. I think that God understands our questions when they are followed by our surrender to his will.
Marianne

charles said...

Thanks Marianne, You added a very good point to what I was trying to say about questioning God. It all has to do with surrender to His will. That is the most difficult part for we mortals.