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Christian Biblical Studies
A Talk at the Monday Club
By Lee Bridges
All Scripture citations are to the NIV-UK unless otherwise indicated
‘DADDY, WHY is the sea blue?
‘Well Sophie, could it be because it’s reflecting the blue sky?’
A thoughtful silence.
‘But why is the sky blue, Daddy?’
‘Well, there are no clouds today, are there? If the sky is grey the sea looks grey as well.’
Another pause for thought, and Daddy waits.
‘Daddy, what if the sky was yellow?’
Sitting for half an hour on a coastal train behind a patient Dad and his three-year-old daughter was a highly entertaining experience. We all know how children are constantly asking questions, sometimes awkward ones, but curiosity is natural in happy, healthy children.
They want to know, and it’s often the granddads and grandmas like some of us that are in the firing line.
And as we don’t always have all the answers, we find ourselves echoing the puzzled protest: ‘but why?’
There may of course be less altruistic motives in a questioner’s mind, and curiosity may sometimes be seen as an over-inquisitive interest in others’ affairs, an appetite that satisfies the need of the gossip-monger. In others the persistent asking of questions may indicate a challenge, a sceptical attitude as to others’ views or motives.
Curious About Something?
Yet the newly-created couple would surely have learned to know and understand their environment by finding answers to their questions. They would befriend the other living creatures around them and become familiar with their habits. They would discover the great variety of textures and flavours in their diet, and by exploring their world within the boundaries of Eden they would gain some understanding of agriculture and horticulture, observing the changing times and seasons, and perhaps inventing some form of early calendar to record their experiences. And more than this they had a Divine commission (Genesis 1: 28):
Since that day when their disobedience incurred the divinely-prescribed penalty, man has been ‘subduing the earth’. Survival has been a basic instinct, a battle against the thorns and thistles, by the sweat of the brow and the aching of the joints.
By the way, how are your onions doing this year?
Satan’s question to Eve was not prompted by a need for information. It was a challenge, a clever nudge at the woman’s natural curiosity, as if to say, ‘You don’t believe everything you hear, do you?’ This was the first recorded enticement towards scepticism, and today, more than at any time in history, the authority of God, and even His very existence, is called into question and popularly dismissed.
Human authorities, even if elected by public sanction, are also targeted, often justifiably so. This is usually the nature of such BBC programme as ‘Question Time’ and ‘Any Questions?’ The sceptical attitude prevails.
The enlightenment of this modern age, and in particular the exposure of information that in our own youth was considered too delicate for young ears, has reduced the ‘age of innocence’ to the very young. After asking my Mammy where babies come from, I went searching under the gooseberry bushes in granddad’s garden, but soon let the matter drop, no doubt sensing a deception. Many of us were innocent in the sense of being ignorant of the facts of life until well after the onset of puberty, when curiosity sent us asking for answers. Today, an infant asking: ‘Mummy, where did I come from?’ usually gets a straight answer: ‘You came out of Mummy’s tummy.’
Yes you’ve guessed the next question: ‘But Mummy, where was I before that?’
The beautiful purity still seen in the very young is all too fleeting. The disillusion and crudity of a sinful world touches all of us, and what Satan had suggested to Eve would be a great advantage, became in reality a bitter burden, borne by all humanity. Eating the forbidden fruit, he said, would make them like God, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3: 1-6). We are more conscious of evil in our modern world than ever our forebears were, saturated as we are with instant news, predominantly of trouble, conflict, cruelty and disaster. But thank God that He permits us a vision of innocence, of purity, of goodness, in the face of a little child, an example, Jesus declared, to all who would enter His promised Kingdom.
What About Boredom?
Dorothy Parker, American poet and critic of the mid-20th century, is reputed to have said that the cure for boredom is curiosity, and that there is no cure for curiosity. Are you ever bored?
Now there’s a risky question to ask as I look around for yawns or drooping eyelids!
Sometimes we may find ourselves in company that is less than inspiring, where efforts to arouse interest are met with a grunt. We probably all know somebody who loves to be miserable, and gloominess has become almost a fashion. For a prime example of world-weariness read Ecclesiastes chapters 1 and 2. It will either send you into a temporary depression, or set you chuckling at the enormity of Solomon’s disillusionment with life, and in particular his fear of the grim reaper.
We have a welcome contrast in the confidence of another patriarch, even in his deepest affliction: ‘If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come’ (Job 14: 14, King James Version). Job answered his own question. He knew, as we do, that a Redeemer would in due time call him forth from the grave.
We don’t have all the answers, but are we still asking? Children naturally want to know what happens when somebody dies, and even the nonreligious have an inbuilt reluctance to accept that death ends everything. The Apostle Paul reminded the early Christians that ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’ (1 Corinthians 2: 9). The prospect of having our eyes and ears opened to God’s plans for our future surely takes some of the sting out of death. We awake in the morning to a new, exciting adventure into eternity.
No excuse then, for being bored, uninterested, pessimistic. Didn’t Jesus say ‘be of good cheer; I have overcome the world’?
Sophie’s Daddy delighted in his daughter’s curiosity and treasured her simple trust. How can we think that our loving Heavenly Father is less pleased at our own persistent asking for answers? Our own sketchy grasp of God’s plan we owe largely to the faithful prophets of the past: ‘Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets’ (Amos 3: 7). Had they questioned the Lord? Surely they had! And the answers they received are recorded in what we refer to as ‘the word of God’. The Bible is not merely a collection of moral instructions or words of comfort. It is the gift of a loving Father who delights to answer your questions and mine, and says ‘Come now, let us reason together’ (Isaiah 1: 18).
It isn’t enough to say: ‘God so loved the world; that’s all I need to know’, then sit and wait for the evidence of that love. The evidence has to be sought out, Scripture, reason and facts assembled and examined, and the ready appeal to the Lord must be made. So we ask our Daddy What? and Why? and When? and How?
Many who scorn the Bible nevertheless set us an example of diligence in their search for truth. Driven by some compulsive curiosity, they question everything and often come up with the answers. Where answers are illusive, they continue probing, and many in recent decades have been deeply engrossed in searching for evidence of life beyond the confines of planet Earth.
What do you think of that? As believers do we have an advantage here, knowing that there is life beyond the Earth? But where? Within this universe? Or is there perhaps a parallel universe invisible to human sight, where our Heavenly Father dwells along with all the angelic beings? Lord, where are you?
Questions, questions! We don‘t have all the answers, but we do have the assurance that whatever is good and profitable for us to know our Heavenly Father will show it to us, if only we will ask Him. Now I’ve just one more question to Martha on the end of the back row:
Is that cup of tea ready?
Copyright November 2009 ukbiblestudents.co.uk
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