March 27, 2011: Questioning the Answers III

Posted on : Mar 24th, 2011 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

What does the Bible say about questioning God?

We are now at week 3 of our sermon series entitled “Questioning the Answers.” This week we will ask the question: “What does the Bible say about questioning God?” Many of us growing up in the church have been taught that faith simply involves unthinking trust and a blind acceptance of God, the Bible, and the fundamental beliefs of the church. Don’t question, just accept – even if it doesn’t make sense. Only those who are weak in their faith question, or so we have been warned. But is such attitude really healthy for our faith?  I cannot help but wonder if the opposite isn’t true: that we are scared to ask tough questions of our faith because we are scared that our faith is not strong enough to withstand the questions.

Interestingly, when we look at Scripture we discover a different approach to faith. Rather than shying away from questions, wrestling with those nagging questions forms an integral part of the spiritual lives of so many Biblical figures. The picture of faith that is formed in Scripture is that an integral part of spiritual growth is asking questions.

In the words of Julie Clawson:

This perspective on questioning presents a different take on our relationship with God. Instead of presenting God as an impersonal master we must submit to and obey, God is presented more as a good teacher. The sort of teacher that not only allows but encourages discussion and debate in the classroom, knowing that the best sort of learning occurs when students are able to think through and discover things for themselves. (Read the full article here.)

In other words: Scripture gives us permission to question God – even audacious questions, such as the one Gideon asked. More about this on Sunday,


This Sunday’s Scripture

Judges 6: 1-21, 25-33, 36-40

Once more, Israel did what was evil in the sight of God, and so for seven years God gave the people into the hands of the Midians. They were so oppressive that the Israelites found refuge in the mountains, in caves and dens. Whenever the Israelites sowed crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern tribes would arrive to attack them, pitching tents opposite them and destroying their crops as far as the outskirts of Gaza. They would leave nothing living, not sheep, oxen, or donkeys.  They would come up with their livestock and their tents, swarming like locusts; they and their camels were beyond counting, invading the land and ravaging it. Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to God for help.

When the Israelites cried out to God because of the Midianites, God sent them a prophet, who told them, “These are the words of Yahweh, the God of Israel: ‘I led you from the land of Egypt, the land of slavery. I rescued you from the Egyptians and all your other oppressors, who I drove out before you to provide you with your land. I said to you I am Yahweh, your God. Do not worship the gods of the Amorites in whose country your are settling. But you failed to listen to me.’”

An angel from God arrived and sat under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite.  As Gideon, the son of Joash, thrashed the wheat in the wine press (he did this to keep out of sight of the Midianites), the angel appeared to him and said, “You are brave, and God is with you.”

Gideon replied, “Yes, but if God is really with us, why are we being treated like this? Where are the wonders our parents told us about when they said, ‘Did God not bring us out of Egypt?’ Why has God now abandoned us and delivered us into the hands of Midianites?’

Then Yahweh turned to Gideon and said, “Go use your strength to liberate Israel from the Midianites. It is I who send you.” But Gideon replied, “How can I free Israel? My family is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the most insignificant in my parents’ household.” God said, “I will be with you, and you will strike down every person in Midian.” Gideon replied, “If I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is indeed you who talk to me. Please don’t leave this place until I return and bring my offering and set it before you.” And God answered, “I will stay until you get back.”

Gideon hurried inside, prepared a young goat and formed an ephah of flour into unleavened bread. He put the meat in a basket, poured the broth into a pot, and brought it to the angel waiting under the oak. As Gideon came near, the angel instructed, “Place the meat and the bread here on the rock and pour out the broth.” When he did this, the angel of God extended a staff, touching the bread and the meat. Fire erupted from the rock and consumed the meat and the bread. Then the angel of God vanished into air.

That night God said to Gideon, “Pull down the altar to Ba’al that is on your parents’ property and cut down the Asherah pole next to it. Then replace it with a proper altar to Yahweh your God atop the mound.  So Gideon took household attendants and did what God had told him. But he did not know how his family and the people of the village might react, so he did it at night. In the morning the people of the village discovered that the altar to Baal has been demolished. Asking one another who had done this, they investigated and were told that Gideon, the son of Joash, was the culprit. They demanded that Joash bring Gideon to them; “He must die for what he has done.” But Joash defended Gideon, “Are you speaking on Ba’al’s behalf? If Ba’al is really a god, let him defend himself when someone tears down his altar.”

At this time the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern tribes joined forces, crossed the river, and encamped in the Valley of Jezreel. Gideon said to God, “Are you truly the one who is promising to save Israel through me? I will set this woolen fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece while all the ground around it is dry, then I will believe that you will deliver Israel through me, as you promised.” And that is what happened: When Gideon rose early next morning and wrung out the fleece, he squeezed enough dew from it to fill a bowl with water.

Then Gideon said to God, “Don’t be angry with me. Allow me to do one more test with the fleece.  This time, keep the fleece dry and cover the ground with dew.”  God did as Gideon requested. This time only the fleece was dry, and there was dew all around the ground.