Thursday, October 14, 2010

Questioning Questioning

Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe." John 20.24,25

Me and Thomas -- we have a lot in common. I won't believe until I see. Show me.

Some days He responds softly, gently, the way He did to Thomas. "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe." And I fall to my knees and worship.

Other days He responds more fiercely like He did to Job. "Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?" (Job 38.2) And I fall to my knees and worship.

So what's up with the inconsistent response? (*1) I've generally taken the stance that questioning is basically a good thing. My case for this is as follows: Assuming, of course that the Fall was not a miscalculation on God's part nor a surprise to Him, after He ordains it (*2), He declares, "Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil." (Gen 3.22) And the rest is history. Free will is imparted. Wisdom, in some small measure, is imparted (Prov 2.6 etc.). And He meant for this to happen.

Paul takes this a step further in writing to the church in Corinth, "Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God... 'For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?' But we have the mind of Christ." (1 Cor 2.12,16) So, question away -- right?

Someone recently made the following comment in a conversation about questioning God's character: "These questions shouldn't even really occur in our minds; all questions regarding defining God [are] rooted in faithlessness -- if you trust God, if you have real faith in Him you will never question Him." (*3) This made me consider another scenario in Scripture, where God's people go question happy: Massah and Meribah.

You might not instantly remember the story, but you're probably familiar with the verse that Jesus quotes to Satan in the wilderness: "
You shall not put the LORD your God to the test." (Lk 4.12). The rest of that verse, which Jesus leaves off, continues, "as you tested him at Massah." (Deut 6.16) Ok, now that you know what I'm talking about, let's look at this. The drama all goes down in Exodus 17. Everyone's grumbling and questioning the way God is providing for them. They even go as far at to wish they were back in Egypt (Ex 16.2,3). Ouch.

Here goes a moment of vulnerability: I've felt like that before. I've often looked back fondly on my B.C. days, when it was easy to sin, before painful things like regeneration started to work inside me (*4). What happens next is no surprise. God gives them what they want, but His anger is kindled. Ultimately it's these events that result in Moses being forbidden to enter the Promised Land. So what's the issue here? It seems there are two possible motives for questioning the King of Kings:
  • Desire for intimacy 
  • Doubt 
When Paul encourages the Corinthian Church to judge all things, to ask the hard questions, it's out of a pursuit of knowing Christ! This is why He says with confidence, "Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord." (Php 3.8) To know Christ surpasses anything else we can do or have or know.

There's a nuance here in the Greek that you're probably familiar with. The Greek word "to know" is ginōskō, which is the same word translated in the Septuagint "to lie with." You see, ginosko implies intimacy. Consider, too, the connection Paul goes on to make between knowing Christ and suffering with Him. This type of knowledge, this intimacy, goes far beyond answers. It's experience. We serve a King who delights to dwell with His people, who interacts with us and communes and fellowships with His adopted ones whom He calls "friends." The LORD is near to the brokenhearted (Ps 34.18). He reveals Himself to His children (Matt 11.27).

I love the way the psalmist reflects on the relation between seeking God and being near to His word: "With my whole heart I seek You; let me not wander from your commandments." (Ps 119.10) The two are inseperable. Scripture itself is God's own testimony to us about Himself and everthing else, as David declares in Psalm 19, "The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple..." More to be desired than gold, sweeter than honey. Wow. I understand what he means. This desire for the One Thing that's more valuable than anything else drives us to pursue Him relentlessly.

My prayer is that I will forever seek to know Him more. To get closer to my Love. And when I do "test the Lord" like they did at Massah, when I doubt like Peter did and begin to sink, that I would see His hand reaching out to take hold of me (Matt 14.31).

Footnotes
*1 - Any Dispensationalists care to shed some light on this one?
*2 - I say ordain because it's a nice "umbrella word" to encompass both His causing it, or His allowing it while simultaneously having the full ability to prevent it. Either way, between the two, He ordained the fall. But that's another blog entry (or 500...)
*3 - I'm not really sure he meant for me to be quoting him, so let's keep it as a hypothetical proposal...
*4 - All of which, as I quickly realize, is always worth it a thousand times over...

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