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Four Rhetorical Questions God Asked
The Omniscient God knows everything. His questions must have some other purpose besides obtaining information. They are sometimes asked to make a point, pose a challenge, or in the following situations, to call attention to something about Him He wants to underscore.
These four rhetorical questions addressed to Old Testament characters Abraham, Moses and Job, and Saul in the New Testament tested their understanding of God and the measure of faith they have in Him. Even today, these questions challenge our thinking, demonstrate the limitation of our wisdom compared to His, and stir us to confess that He is wise and good.
(1) God to Abraham
And the Lord said to Abraham . . . “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14)
God had promised Abraham that he would have descendants more than he could count (Genesis 15: 4, 5). When he and his wife believed that she was past her child-bearing years, they lost faith, became creative (or meddlesome) and attempted to help out God by allowing their maid to sleep with Abraham. Abraham was 86 years old when his maid, Hagar, bore him a son.
More than ten years later, Abraham “sat in the tent-door in [Mamre] in the heat of the day; not so much to repose or divert himself as to seek an opportunity of doing good, by giving entertainment to strangers and travelers,” states the Matthew Henry’s Bible Commentary. He extended his hospitality to the men and ran back inside the tent to ask Sarah his wife prepare them a meal.
When he returned, the spokesman (whom some believe was the Son of God in human form) announced that in one year Sarah would have a baby. Sarah overheard Him and laughed. Abraham had his doubts too. If they couldn’t produce when they wanted to, how could they more than a decade later? The Omniscient God read their skepticism and confusion, and answered their unspoken questions with one of His own. “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” He repeated His promise that she would have a child in one year when she was 90 years old, and Abraham was 100. It happened just like He promised.
(2) God to Moses
And the Lord said to Moses, “Has the Lord’s arm been shortened?” (Numbers 11:23)
Within a few days after God delivered the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt, they wanted to trade their freedom for the food they left behind. “We remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted. But now . . . All we ever see is this manna!” (verse 5). They began to cry for meat.
They complained to Moses who was chosen by God, the leader of the historical event. He in turned complained to God that their complaint was too heavy for him. God told Moses that He would give them so much meat, they would be sick of it. Moses found it necessary to remind God that there 600,000 people, as if challenging God to do what He said.
Moses had seen God rain down ten plagues on the Egyptians without harming the Israelites. He had walked with the people on dry land through the Red Sea, and watched the Egyptians drown when they tried to cross afterwards. Did Moses forget who was responsible for these miracles? Or, did he think that God’s miracle-working arm had lost its power? This rhetorical question is a reminder that no task is ever too big for God.
(3) God to Job
Moreover the Lord answered Job, and said: “Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him?” (Job 40:1, 2)
God challenged the devil that no matter what happened to Job, an upright, wealthy man in the land of Uz, as long as the man was alive, he would honor Him. Consequently, Job’s children died, he lost his property to invaders and natural disasters, his wife discouraged his faithfulness, but Job kept the faith.
Which of these questions are you most likely to reflect on?
When his physical health was threatened with boils all over his body, his friends hastened to his side to sympathize; but they irritated him by their suspicions that his dilemma resulted from sin in his life. Job responded by asserting his innocence and airing his views on God and suffering.
Job trusted God to vindicate him, but questioned Him. Had he not been righteous, contrary to the suspicions of his friends? Was it necessary to make him suffer so much? He grew impatient. “Oh, that the Almighty would answer me,” he prayed. Then God joined the conversation with a series of rhetorical questions (Chapters 38-41) which could be summarized in the one quoted above.
God established His sovereignty, His wisdom and His managerial skills. Job was convinced that he was unqualified to question the Omniscient, Omnipotent God about His control over the affairs of the world, including incidents which happen in the lives of individual men. “I put my hand over my mouth . . . I will say no more.” Job responded (40: 4, 5). God had made His point once again.
(4) God to Saul (Paul)
As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. Acts 9: 3-5
Saul had convinced himself that he was living in God’s will, although he was doing the very opposite. What made him think that the person asking the question was God? Why would God accuse anyone of being against Him, if that person is doing His will?
It is obvious that somewhere in that light, God and Saul had an intimate encounter which left Saul aware of who he was and what he was really doing.
We also need an encounter with God which may not take the same form, but dramatic enough to wake up our consciences. Is it possible that we could be busy doing in God’s name the very thing that He despises?
Sometimes we get involved to impress someone, to maintain our popularity, or any such ungodly reason. What a rebuke it would be for God to inform us that our mission is totally against His will. What is worse is that we cannot argue with Him because He knows our innermost thoughts.
© 2013 Dora Weithers