When Scripture asks the questions

Steve Kneale has written helpfully here about what to do when a Bible passage doesn’t seem to be answering your questions.  As Steve observes, it can often be the case that the passage simply isn’t intended to answer the question that you and me are asking. Indeed, it may well also be the case that it does answer our questions, just not in the way that we would like.  This is one way in which we allow God’s Word to disagree with us.

But we can go further.  It may not merely be the case that Scripture seeks to answer a different question. It may not be answering a question at all.  If part of the work of the Holy Spirit is to search our hearts and if the Holy Spirit works in our lives through God’s Word, then we shouldn’t be surprised if there are plenty of times when Scripture isn’t so much interested in answering our questions as it is in asking questions of us.  This is another way in which God’s Word disagrees with us.

To give an example, I’ve been recently writing about Song of Songs. Now, there’s been much debate about what questions the book seeks to answer.  Is it answering questions about Christ’s relationship to the church or about human relationships and marriage? Could it be dealing with both?  As we read Song of Songs, we find that whichever way we go, we stumble if we try to formulate neat answers from it to our questions whether about God and the church or courtship, marriage and sex.

What then, if instead of us asking the questions of Song of Songs, we allow it to ask us some questions. What happens as we allow it to use the story of Solomon and his lover as a mirror to hold up against our situation.  I want to suggest that both in terms of our relationship to Jesus and our relationships with spouses the text starts to ask some searching questions of us.  How do my relationships match up when compared to Solomon’s – for better and worse?

So, the kinds of questions that Song and Songs ask us include:

  1. Are your relationships characterised by faithfulness?
  2. Do you feel protected and provided for?
  3. Do you protect and provide?
  4. Have you experienced regret and hurt?
  5. Is there deep intimacy in your relationships?
  6. Do you find enjoyment in them?
  7. Are you able to articulate this intimacy and enjoyment?

You will note that I’ve left open there whether the questions primarily focus on our relationship to God or to each other.

Now, even if the passage is answering questions, it is worth considering that it is first asking them. That’s the nature of a healthy conversation.  So, whenever you open up your Bible to a passage and read it or listen to a sermon, why not start by considering the questions that are being asked of you. Only then can we move to think about the questions we want answers to.

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