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IS IT ALL RIGHT TO QUESTION GOD?
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
28 August 1988
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
The Preparation: (Psalm 35:17-18)
17. Lord, how long wilt Thou look on?
Rescue my soul from their ravages,
My only life from the lions.
18. I will give Thee thanks in the great congregation;
I will praise Thee among a mighty throng.
Is it all right to question God?
What do you think?
Is it all right to question Him?
The answer is “yes”; but it is important to understand our motives and reasons for questioning Him.
If we question God's motives, then we may be treading on unstable ground. God created all things, and He set all the standards by which we are to live. When we question Him in this area, we are questioning His authority.
We can easily understand that God's creation motive and intent was to have peace and understanding between all living beings, and that they would not hurt or destroy one another and that all would eat plant foods.
But to question God for the purpose of understanding what He really means, and to make sure that we are really hearing our message from Him, is the way we grow in faith, and God will most assuredly answer us.
Such a question could be, "Do you want us to do everything in our power to live in the peace of creation and heaven here on earth, today?"
And we would receive that answer that yes He does, which is confirmed by many Bible passages.
Another question could be, "How long will You allow the horrible human inflicted pain, suffering and death of millions of humans and billions of animals to continue on the earth every year?"
We may not get an answer to the "how long", but we most likely will get an answer to what we and other can do to help end the suffering, which will most likely include a recognition of what we put on our plates to eat.
In our Old Testament lesson for this morning, Genesis 15:1-11, we listened in on a conversation between God and Abram. Let's go back and take another look at it in light of our being permitted to question God.
And remember that this all takes place in this corrupted would.
1. After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying,
"Do not fear, Abram,
I am a shield to you;
Your reward shall be very great."
Abram had recently returned from fighting a war against the armies of five kings of the north led by Chedorlaomer.
Without losing one man, Abram with only 318 of his men soundly defeated that army. They did that because they put their trust in God.
Furthermore, Abram refused to keep any of the spoils for himself, but he gave it all back to the people from whom it was taken; that is, except for the 10% he gave to Melchizedek, priest of God Most High, who met him upon his return with bread and wine.
Note carefully that Melchizedek met Abram, with foods of peace, foods that are not the products of human inflicted pain, suffering, or death; and they are also the same foods of our communion services.
Abram gave back to God a tenth of all that God had given him.
Abram's reward was with the Lord, and here we see that God is confirming it to him.
But to Abram, the greatest reward he could ever receive was to have an heir, the heir that God had previously promised; yet because of his and Sarai’s age, he could not understand how this would be accomplished. So he seeks an answer:
2. And Abram said, "O Lord God, what wilt Thou give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?"
3. And Abram said, "Since Thou hast given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir."
Is God upset with Abram's question?
Not at all; in fact, He seems to have been expecting it, even if Abram may not have been sure. Note God's answer:
4. Then behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, "This man will not be your heir; but one who shall come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir."
5. And He took him outside and said, "Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be."
See how lovingly God answers him.
Abram had enough faith to realize that God could win a battle for him, but in the area concerning his heir, he still had a problem. Therefore, our Father answered him in a way that would help his faith grow.
And Abram's faith did grow, for what follows is by far one of the most important statements in the Bible, as to our grace/faith relationship with God.
6. Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.
Abram wasn't righteous, just as we are not; but because he believed in the Lord, his unrighteousness was covered so as to make him appear as righteous before the Lord.
Our faith in Jesus Christ does the same thing for us. We are considered as righteous even though we are not, for our sins have been covered, that is, if we have a repentant spirit.
Thus God is telling all of us to question in a righteous manner, so that we may learn and grow spiritually.
Yet even with this added faith, we may still have some unanswered questions buzzing around in our heads, so our loving Father may prompt us to continue asking questions, as He does with Abram.
7. And He said to him, "I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it."
8. And he said, "O Lord God, how may I know that I shall possess it?"
9. So He said to him, "Bring Me a three year old heifer, and a three year old female goat, and a three year old ram, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon."
10. Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, and laid each half opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds.
11. And the birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, and Abram drove them away.
Remember that Abram is living in the corrupted world and was a man accustomed to sacrificing animals to God, or gods as the other people did, because animals were usually the most valuable things they had.
The reason for this particular answer and the method of the sacrifice can only be answered in the spiritual.
The three year old animals may speak of the consistency of God and His word. He was the same yesterday as He is today, and He will be the same tomorrow.
The splitting of the animals may be saying that "Those who break their covenant with Me will be split apart as these animals are."
And we know that this happened with the people of the land of promise, including Israel when they broke their covenant with God.
The splitting of the animals could also represent that we are to separate our flesh from our flesh, our sin nature from that which is holy to the Lord.
Note also that the birds were not split.
The Spirit of God is represented as a dove. We are not to separate our spirit from His Spirit, but we are to be as one with Him.
And, with almost all the answers that we get from God, doesn’t the enemy come and try to steal them away?
But we don't seem to get the answer to why God couldn't have asked Abram to offer bread and wine instead of animals, as Melchizedek did.
Does the answer lie in the fact the Abram would not have understood?
We just don't know.
However, if we seek Him, God will clothe us in righteousness and give us a glorified body.
But if we don't, Satan will pick our bones clean, just as is being depicted here in verse 11 with the birds of prey.
Read the remainder of Chapter 15 on your own, and see the rest of the story and God's answer.
What we have been talking about has many other examples in the Bible.
There is another very precious conversation between Abraham and the Lord that takes place before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
It is recorded in the latter part of Genesis 18, but I suggest you read the
whole chapter in order to get the full picture.
God was about to destroy the cities because of their iniquity, but He would not depart from Abraham without first telling him what He intended to do, for Lot and his family lived in Sodom.
Thus Abraham enters into a series of questions as to how many righteous people it would take within that city, so that God would not destroy it.
Abraham questioned God six times, each time lowering the number of righteous people; and each time God lovingly answered him and assured him that he would not destroy the righteous with the wicked.
Moses also questioned God.
When God appeared to him in the burning bush, Moses asked many questions and God answered him; but when it came to the personal fear of Moses concerning his speech, he lost his faith. Note this portion of the conversation, as recorded in Exodus 4:10-16.
10. Then Moses said to the Lord, "Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since Thou has spoken to Thy servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue."
11. And the Lord said to him, "Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes him dumb or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?
12. "Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say."
Moses believed that God was able to accomplish all that He said He would do; that is, except for eliminating his stuttering.
Here we come to the departure point of questioning for our growth, and questioning God's authority and ability to do all that he says He will do.
13. But he said, "Please, Lord, now send the message by whomever Thou wilt."
God was doing just that. He wanted to send Moses, but Moses would not accept that command.
14. Then the anger of the Lord burned against Moses, and He said, "Is there not your brother Aaron the Levite? I know that he speaks fluently. And moreover, behold, he is coming out to meet you; when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart.
15. "And you are to speak to him and put the words in his mouth; and I, even I, will be with your mouth and his mouth, and I will teach you what you are to do.
16. "Moreover, he shall speak for you to the people; and it shall come about that he shall be as a mouth for you, and you shall be as God to him.
What a message! Even though God was angry with Moses' lack of trust in Him, He is nevertheless using him for the appointed task, and in fact telling him that what he says for God will be heard as if God was speaking.
Doesn’t something very similar go on in this church?
Don’t you pray privately for the things that concern you and also praise Him for the good things?
Yet when it comes to praying out within the church that loves you, don’t you hold back?
By this, aren’t you questioning God’s ability to put the right words in your mouth?
Don’t you desire that I pray for you and for your concerns?
Hasn’t God given you mouths with which to speak, and feelings with which to feel, and minds that can understand what is needed?
Is God's power so slight that He cannot straighten out a misspoken word in
the ears of the hearers?
Don’t you know more about that for which you desire me to pray than I do?
Don’t you think that I also have to question God concerning the way I am to pray? Of course I do, and so can you!
Trust Him to use you in ways that you never dreamed were possible. Ask Him. He'll answer you.
Our New Testament lesson for this morning, Mark 4:2-20, ties all of this together.
2 And He was teaching them many things in parables, and was saying to them in His teaching,
3 "Listen to this! Behold, the sower went out to sow;
4 and it came about that as he was sowing, some seed fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate it up.
5 "And other seed fell on the rocky ground where it did not have much soil; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil.
6 "And after the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.
7 "And other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it yielded no crop.
8 "And other seeds fell into the good soil and as they grew up and increased, they yielded a crop and produced thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold."
9 And He was saying, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
10 And as soon as He was alone, His followers, along with the twelve, began asking Him about the parables.
11 And He was saying to them, "To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God; but those who are outside get everything in parables,
12 in order that while seeing, they may see and not perceive; and while hearing, they may hear and not understand lest they return and be forgiven."
13 And He said to them, "Do you not understand this parable? And how will you understand all the parables?
14 "The sower sows the word.
15 "And these are the ones who are beside the road where the word is sown; and when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them.
16 "And in a similar way these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy;
17 and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away.
18 "And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word,
19 and the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
20 "And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it, and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold."
We also have an advantage over the disciples who heard the parable of the sower the first time and questioned Jesus about its meaning, for we can see the explanation all at the same time.
We are not to just leave the Word of God lying around somewhere where it can be stolen away.
Nor are we to place God's Word somewhere in our minds where it is going to get so cluttered up with the trash we also let in, that it will be rendered unusable.
Nor are we to just flippantly throw God's Word around to show that we know something, when in fact, we are too weak to stand upon it ourselves.
We're not to do any of these things.
We're to take in all of God's Word that we can possibly get. We are to cherish it, study it, question God about it, in order to understand its true meaning so that we may grow stronger and stand upon it.
And as we do this, do you know what will happen?
We will begin to grow as a body of Christ, and others will join us.
Is God speaking to your heart?
Then seek what He has for you. Question Him about it. But please don't reject it.
God loves you very much and desires you to be part of that love.