Reading and studying the Bible brings up lots of questions for me. What’s going on in this passage? Who are these people with the strange sounding names? When is this taking place? How did this or that miracle take place?
Did you notice which basic question I left out? It’s the one I find myself asking the most during my time in the Bible and as I live in our world in this time. I rarely get any straight answers. I suspect that the Israelites, even many of the great prophets on occasion, asked, “Why?” Remember when the Israelites were in the desert after fleeing from Egypt? It didn’t take long for them to start complaining and asking why God took them away from the relative luxury of Egypt into the desert. I always think of the 1980 Keith Green song, “So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt.” One verse in this song actually has the Israelites asking, “Why?”
Oh we’re having so much trouble even now
Why’d he get so mad about that c-c-c-cow (that golden calf)
Moses seems rather idle
He just sits around, he just sits around and writes the Bible!
I found myself asking “Why?” as I studied and listened to commentary on 2 Kings 8:7-13. There are several situations where Elisha did some things that seem out of character. First in verse 7, Elisha goes to the capital of Syria, Damascus. Why did he do that when his mission was the northern nation of Israel? In verse 9, Syria’s King tells his servant (Hazael) to say to Elisha, “Your son Ben-Hadad king of Aram [Syria] has sent me to you;” Why would the king of a non-Israelite nation call himself a son of Elisha (basically saying I’m below you in status)? In verse 12, Hazael asks Elisha, “Why is my lord crying?” There are some answers to all these questions, but what impressed me is that in spite of Elisha knowing that Hazael would become king of Syria and a cruel tormentor of Israel, he did not ask, “Why?”
All through my life, I’ve asked why did some situation, or unearned punishment, or an illness happen to me. During this time of Covid-19, I find myself asking that question again. The truth is we do not know God’s purpose for much that He does or allows. Joseph didn’t know until much later in his life why he was taken captive to Egypt. Job never got his question of why answered by God. The disciples didn’t know why Jesus had to die. I know Joseph asked why. I know Job asked why. I know the disciples asked why. In each of these situations God gave them a purpose that only they could fulfill, but they had to endure quite a bit of hardship without any answers.
So, as tempted as I am to wallow in despair asking why God has me, and the world, in our current situation, that is probably the wrong question to be asking. The commentator said that it is an act of faith when we don’t ask, “Why?” He went on to say that the question we should be asking is, “Which God pattern, based on what God has done throughout the Old and New Testament, is being played out?” One basic pattern is that God disciplines His people to bring them into repentance. Is that what’s happening in our world today? I don’t pretend to know the answer(s) to the why questions, so I’m going to stop asking that of God. Usually, like the Israelites in the desert, my “Why?” is really just complaining to God anyway. As often as I remember, I’m going to ask which pattern and what is God doing? My intention is to be alert and ready for whatever comes our way.