There are times when God does not give an answer, but asks a question which causes an individual to reflect on the way they are living. Have you ever noticed that from reading the Scriptures? The very first question He poses is to Adam and Eve, “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9). Yet underneath that one question are others: What did you do that you hide from me? Why didn’t you listen and have faith in my care for you? God asks a question but He also searches for them; in spite of their sin of disobedience, God searches for the ones made in His image and likeness. The questions of God can make people uncomfortable since it causes someone to deeply look into his or her life. They may become aware not only of the darkness, sin, or weakness that every human being struggles with, but also of how quickly the Lord answers their cries for mercy and forgiveness.
Elijah heard a question from God. After the tremendous victory on Mt. Carmel where the pagan priests were utterly defeated, Queen Jezebel calls for his death. Elijah, overcome with fear, goes to the desert and prays for death. God sends an angel with food and drink. Elijah then journeys to Mt. Horeb where he hides in a cave, waiting for God to speak. When He speaks, He asks Elijah a question, “Why are you here?” It seems foolish. Was it not God who wanted Elijah to come to Horeb? But what if God is really asking, “Elijah, why are you here? You should be in Israel, calling the people to live my covenant.” Like our first parents, there are unspoken questions God poses to His prophet. Why are you hiding instead of standing in the open before the people proclaiming my word? Why are you giving the queen so much power over you when I have totally defeated her? Why do you give more importance to her words then my love and protection of you? The questions of God force Elijah to examine his life. There is a renewal as the prophet no longer seeks death. He continues the mission God had set before him and returns to Israel. Even prophets face the questions of God that lead to their ongoing conversion and need of forgiveness.
Jesus asked a question to the crowd, “What did you go out to the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? Then what did you go out to see?” (Matt. 11: 7-8) John was the first prophet in centuries. It would ne natural to want to see and hear him. But underneath the question of Christ there are others. Are there areas of life that John touched that you want changed? Are you restless with your life? Does John cause you to seek something better? Do you realize you have not taken God so seriously in such a way that would have allowed Him to disrupt your life so you would live His covenant with integrity?
The people of John’s time left their homes, businesses, friends, and everyday life to go to the wilderness. All the hiding places, the reasons to stay busy and distracted, are left behind and they become naked and vulnerable to God’s word spoken by John. After hearing him, perhaps they raise their own questions: “Why did we compromise ourselves with the passing world, instead of living the words of God spoken through the prophets?” “How did we allow false gods to creep into our lives instead of seeking the true God of Israel?” Eventually they ask John, “What are we to do?” It was a sincere question spoken by people who were sick of an old empty life and now yearning for God. That gives answer to the question raised by Jesus.
Advent is filled with the rich promises of God, especially the promise of His Son. But it is also a season that calls people to pause and examine life. The questions of God can lead to change and a deeper relationship with Him. It is a way of filling in the valleys, created by the emptiness of sin. It levels mountains that fear and worry can raise. During this second week of Advent take the time to pose questions to yourself. Is what you are doing right now making your life richer and more available to Christ? Is the grace-filled time of Advent solely being used to get ready for one day, or for a new direction in life that deepens our relationship with the Lord? Is time given to Him as an opportunity to hear His voice in the Scriptures, put down the burden of sin in confession, and be fed with His Body and Blood? Let the questions of God unsettle your life and cause you to examine everything in light of His words. Like Elijah and the people who heard John, you may end up radically different.