If we are all honest most of us have parts of Scripture that we like more than others. There are also parts of Scripture that makes us feel uncomfortable theologically, for example most Calvinists feel uncomfortable with Hebrews 6 and most Armenians feel uncomfortable with Ephesians 1. Today in my reading I was reading through 2 Kings and came across a passage that many believers will feel uncomfortable with. The passage comes in the story of Naaman in 2 Kings ch. 5. We all know this story from Sunday school, how Naaman an Aramian Commander got healed by going to Elisha and bathing in the Jordan River 7 times. After this Naaman is speaking to Elisha and he says in verse 18 and 19,
“Except this, and may Adonai forgive your servant for it; when my master goes into the temple of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand, and I bow down in the temple of Rimmon – when I bow down, may Adonai forgive your servant for this.” Elisha said to him, “Go in peace.”
When I read this, everything inside me cries out saying “what do you mean Elisha “Go in Peace.”” Are you condoning Idol worship? At first glance this doesn’t make any sense. Are you saying that if your hearts in the right place then it’s ok to bow down to Idols. What about the boys in the book of Daniel when they refused to bow down to the Idol and where thrown into the fiery furnace. Why where they not permitted to bow down? These are all legitimate questions, but I think that the answers come down to two things; Maturity and Situation. How mature in the faith is the person? You cannot expect a new born baby to walk and talk so why do we expect new believers to do everything at the beginning. Also I believe that God deals with everyone in his own way and what God expects from me he may not expect from you and vice versa. In the last chapter of John Peter asks Jesus what about John and Jesus basically told Peter to mind his own business and not worry about how John would be dealt with. When Elisha said “Go in Peace” he was not condoning what Naaman may or may not do, but he was basically saying that it was between God and Naaman. Maybe if we put more emphasis into our relationship with God and how God wanted us to live and less time worrying about what some else was doing or not doing, we might all grow stronger as believers. As I said at the beginning, I feel uncomfortable with what Elisha said but in the end of the day God never told us that it was going to be comfortable.
We have all at different times asked the question, “why do bad things happen to good people”? Books have been written about it and people have spoken about it. But everytime you hear someting bad happening the question keeps coming back again. Yesterday My Wife (Gwendyta) heard some bad news from Ecuador. A friend who she had gone to university with had died along with her husband and one of her children, She and her family had been missionaries in Central Asia. After 5 years they had come home on furlough and where planning to go back in June this year. On Saturday night Her Husband, her, her 2 children and her father where driving when some teenagers who where driving a truck while drunk crashed into them killing the 2 parrents and one child leaving behind her father and one child. Why do things like this happen. Yes I know and have read all the theological reasoning and while it does make sense in does help in the moment. I must admit that when I first heard about it I asked why wheren’t these drunk stupid teenagers killed? And if they wheren’t killed why did no one who was about at the time not chase after them when they ran away like the cowards that they are? When I hear stories like this I always wonder why God allowed it to happen and why did people who serve Him suffer and die while people who wasting their life survive? I always come back to the book of Job at times like this. If you are looking for concrete answers to why specific things happen to specific people you will be disappointed. But for me the book of Job gives us permission to ask questions of God. Even shout and get angry at God. You may not get an answer but it sure does help when you get all your frustration out. Maybe it is good that we do not know why things happen. And maybe it is definitely good that I am not in control. God’s ways are mysterious to us. It is at times like this that we realise how short life can be and no one knows what a day may bring. All we can do is Love God with all are being, love are families and serve God and not our own selfish desires. I pray that God will be with the we girl of 9 who survived and her extended family and that despite what has happened and she will feel God protection.
Unless you have grown up in a Christian or religious home your first contact with the Bible was probably when you where looking for answers. You where either going through a difficult situation in your life and you where looking to make sense of it or you where looking for answers to life in general.
There is nothing wrong with this approach and the Bible does provide many answers. It also provides us with most important answer of all which is “What must we do to be saved?” which I recently put an article up about. This is all good and well, but for me the Bible is more a book of Questions. Maybe it is because of my job but I am usually more interested in the question people are asking and why they are asking it rather than finding the answer (although eventually the answer is important).
The very first question asked in the Bible was not asked by man but rather by God, “Where are you?”. Why would God ask such a question? Is God not all knowing? Did God not know where Adam and Eve where? Of course He did. God asked this question more for their and our benefit than for His. Questions are fundamental part of Scripture. Examples of this can be found in Jacob struggling with God; Moses at the burning Bush; The whole book of Job; The Psalms; the prophets; Pilate asked “What is Truth?. This goes on and on. Sometimes God gave an answer and sometimes He didn’t. Philip Yancey in his book “Reaching for the Invisible God” tells a story about Him driving in Texas in the 1960’s. He saw a Bill Board with the phrase “Jesus is the answer” written on it. Underneath someone had written “Yes, but what was the question”. For some people, especially some Christians this would have offended them, they would have even found it blasphemous, but obviously they hadn’t read the book of Job or some of the Psalms. God invites questions because he wants to interact with us. Obviously on many questions there are absolute answers but along the way God wants us Questioning Him and He questioning us.
All this questioning is good for us. If you like me have grown up all your life in Church you have not had to search much because everything was given to you on a plate. But do you know why you believe what you do? Do you know how it fits into scripture? Or do you just repeat what you Pastor tells you each Sunday? A good Pastor will not only teach you but send you away to search it out yourself. He will make you question everything until you make the belief your own. Many Christians say they believe the truth and a lot of them do but when asked to explain the truth they believe they can’t. The reason being that they have never searched these things out themselves. We need more depth to our faith. The only way that this can come about is by Studying more ourselves and questioning everything until we make the Truth our own and not someone elses version of the truth.
At School I never liked subjects like Math, Science etc (unlike my wife and daughter) simply because the answers where nearly always right or wrong. I prefered subjects like History, Politics, Religion etc. Because it wasn’t matter of being told how to solve a problem and then solving it, rather you had to work the answer out yourself and explain yourself with backing material in your favour. Many Christians treat the Bible like maths where the expect to be told how to solve something and told what the answer is instead of studying it themselves.
So I say always Question, even question your questions and in the process you will come closer to God. Just look at people like Job, Jacob, David etc etc.