In a weekly Bible study, we have been working through the Gospel of Matthew. We recently studied Matthew 26 and the Garden of Gethsemane. As I studied through, I noticed something I hadn’t put together before: it is perfectly within our rights to question God. In Matthew 26:36-39, we see Jesus question the Father’s plan. He asks, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me…”
This is not the first time we’ve seen humans question the plans of God. In Genesis 18:22-33, Abraham asks God to spare the city of Sodom so that his nephew Lot and Lot’s family would not be caught up in the city’s destruction. The conversation starts like this:
Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” And the LORD said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake. (vv. 23-26)
Most of us know the story. Abraham “bargains” with God until God agrees that if he finds even ten righteous people in the whole city, he will not destroy it.
One more. In Exodus, Moses returns from Mount Sinai after meeting with God to bring his people God’s commandments. He finds that the Israelites built a golden cow to worship. Both Moses and God are enraged at this, and God tells Moses that he will destroy the Israelite people and build a new covenant people through Moses (Exodus 32:11-14). Moses says:
Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’” And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people. (vv. 12-14)
“Can God change his mind?” This question has been asked for millennia. But the scriptures witness that God is perfect, and perfectly knows all things, including our hearts and the future (Job 37:16, 1 John 3:20, Matthew 6:8, etc.). I believe that in these Old Testament passages, God is inviting his people to participate with him in working out their lives and rule of the world. He knows what the humans will freely say and how he will respond, but that act of free participation and relationship is important for God and us.
So is it a sin to question God? No! Here we have three clear examples of “heroes of the faith” who questioned God. Two of them resulted in a different outcome than if they had not asked, and one (Jesus) resulted in a “no” from God. What is a sin is to reject God’s answer. If our perfectly good God chooses not to change course, his ways are better than ours. Question God and ask for change, but submit to his answer. After all, the entire prayer from Jesus was this: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” We must be prepared to make the same prayer.
Christianity Is True ✝️
Pastor Mike Winger works through a supposed contradiction on the anointing of Jesus at Bethany. Some say that either Luke has purposefully changed the story from Matthew and Mark, or that John vs. Matthew and Mark’s accounts are hopelessly contradictory. Some have tried to resolve this by having Jesus be anointed twice at Bethany during the week before his crucifixion.
I don’t think that’s necessary and neither does Mike. If this issue has bugged you before, or if you’re just interested in how these differences could be resolved, tune in.
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Explore the Scriptures 📖
In this article, Christopher Ash deals with a difficult subject: God and his anger. He draws on B.B. Warfield’s work The Person and Work of Christ to show us three times Jesus displays anger and therefore help us understand God’s anger. His primary point is this:
That is to say, if a being is to be moral, he must show anger at wrongdoing. Anger at evil is the necessary corollary of love for good. As [B.B.] Warfield puts it, “Jesus’ anger is not merely the seamy side of his pity; it is the righteous reaction of his moral sense in the presence of evil.” For “he who loves men must needs hate with a burning hatred all that does wrong to human beings.”
I’ve not read the book the article is based on, but if you’re interested in more, you can find it here.
Challenge Your Brain 🧠
This is one of the best discussions I’ve seen between a Christian and an atheist. Alex O’Connor (Cosmic Skeptic) is an atheist studying Theology and Philosophy at Oxford University. Dr. William Craig is a Christian scholar with degrees in Philosophy and Theology. This is a discussion the two have about one of Dr. Craig’s signature arguments for the existence of God: The Kalam Cosmological Argument.
Both sides are respectful and engaging, and Alex is willing to admit when he has misunderstood a point, which is certainly rare in these kinds of dialogues. In a later video, Alex admits where he believes he misunderstood and misrepresented the argument in the past. This dialogue can get pretty technical, but I think that the respectful exchange is worth watching even if you don’t follow every point being made.
Listen and Reflect 🎧
Although my church does not use any books of liturgy in its services, in the last few years I have come to appreciate the role of liturgy in our lives. This album based on the Book of Common Prayer is one of my absolute favorites.
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Have Some Fun 👾
This Tolkien-esque fiction book by Helena Sorenson is short but wonderful. I highly recommend it. It is a much quieter, more contemplative fantasy book than most; there are no bombastic battles here. If you are not used to reading fantasy, the first few chapters will be tough because Sorenson doesn’t explain her creation. Slowly you will come to understand the world and the people in it, and this foreign place of despair and blooming hope will open up to you.
Best with a Cup of Tea ☕️
Like liturgy, I’ve been discovering a new pleasure in poetry. I was directed to this poem by Langston Hughes, and I can’t quite get it out of my mind. It’s short and I’ve read it through numerous times, but I keep finding something new.
A Correction 🛑
A video shared in Issue #2 (Exodus Rediscovered: Documentary | Inspiring Philosophy) has been taken down by the author because he believes it contained incorrect information. He still believes the Exodus happened, but he received correction from Egyptologist Dr. David Falk that some of the data he used to support his theory was incorrect. He will put up a corrected video in the future. This is a link to the article where he explains what went wrong.
Keep Your Mind on Things Above
I will be praying for you this week.
Now to him who is able to strengthen you…to the only wise God…to him be the glory forever,