God is omniscient, which means, He knows all things. Psalm 147:5 says that "his understanding is beyond measure." God knows everything about all things; therefore, He also knows everything about us, even down to "the secrets of the heart" (Psalm 44:21; see also 1 John 3:20). So, why is it that we see God asking people questions all throughout the Bible? Why does He still ask us questions today? There are a few reasons why God asks questions, and they all point to something deeper than the question itself might indicate.
God's questions always have a purpose. Generally, He wants to reveal or teach something to us through the questions. Let's look at some of the purposes behind the questions God asks.
Giving us Insight into Ourselves
We can be blind, whether willingly or unwillingly, to our own true motives and inner workings. God asks us questions as a way to help us recognize and respond to what is going on internally. In the garden of Eden, God came to Adam after he had sinned and asked "Where are you?", "Who told you that you were naked?", and "Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" (Genesis 3:9, 11). He asked Eve "What is this that you have done?" (Genesis 3:13). Adam and Eve were in hiding from God, ashamed of their sin. God knew the answers to all of the questions He asked them, but His questions gave Adam and Eve the space for self-introspection and coaxed them out of hiding and back into relationship with Him. Even in the depths of sin, there was grace.
Revelation about Himself
God may choose to reveal an attribute about Himself to us through questions. He may ask us questions that will lead us to better understand a specific portion of His character. At the tail end of Job's many trials, God came to him with an onslaught of questions, such as, "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?" and "Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep? Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of deep darkness? Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare, if you know all this" (Job 38:4, 16–18; see Job 38—41). Of course, there was no way for Job to know all of this. Only an omniscient God could know these things. God used His questioning of Job to reveal to Job the attributes of His sovereignty and ultimate power.
Call to Action
It's far too easy for us to become distracted from our God-given purposes. We may be confident in what God has called us to, but eventually the cares of this world drag us away from God's direction. God may choose to ask us questions that function as a call to action that leads us back to His plan for us. In the Bible, this happened many times with the prophets of the Old Testament. In a vision, Isaiah heard God ask, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?"; this prompted Isaiah to volunteer by saying, "Here I am! Send me" (Isaiah 6:8).
God's questions as a call to action also serve as directives. Jonah's selfishness had taken precedence over his calling, and he was angry because of the grace God had shown the city of Nineveh. God asked Jonah, "Do you do well to be angry?" (Jonah 4:4). Jonah was stubborn, but God gave him a way out, by calling him to action through a question. When Elijah ran away from Jezebel, he went into a cave to hide. God came to him in the cave and asked, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" Starting with this question, God called Elijah out of his fear and compelled him to walk into his next mission of anointing new leaders (1 Kings 19:9–18).
Teach Spiritual Lessons
Questions from God may also serve to instruct and teach us in our spiritual walks. When Jesus was on the earth, He frequently asked strategic questions. Jesus's questions helped to reveal Himself as the Christ. For example, He asked, "'Who do people say that I am?' . . . 'But who do you say that I am?'". Peter responded, "You are the Christ" (Mark 8:27–29). Jesus's questions illuminated individuals' faith. For example, He asked, "Who was it that touched me?" after which He spoke to the woman with the issue of blood who had been healed by touching his garment (Luke 8:44–48). And finally, they revealed things that were to come—His eternal leadership. For example, Jesus asked, "What then is this that is written: 'The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone'?" (Luke 20:17) and after His resurrection He asked Mary, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" (John 20:15).
By asking questions that provide understanding of ourselves and of His character, questions that compel us to action or point us to the Scriptures, God is ultimately teaching us spiritual lessons that will aid us in our walk with Him. God's questions are never asked in vain. They serve the eternal purpose of strengthening our spiritual foundation and leading us to Him.
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