If we must ask, ‘Why, Lord?’ here’s how

            [] It’s not a ‘Frequently Asked Question’ in Scripture

Only a few saints in the Bible narrative ever asked, ‘Why, Lord?’ and most of them did so only on one recorded occasion. Here are the stats (if my maths is accurate):

Rebekah asked it once (Genesis 25:22); Moses twice (Exodus 5:22; 32:11-12); Gideon (Judges 6:13), (Isaiah 63:17 ), (Jeremiah 14:19), Jesus’ disciples (Matthew 17:19 = Mark 9:28), and our Lord himself on the cross once each. Job, however, in six speeches posed the question thirteen times (Job 3:11,12,16,20,23; Job 7:20,20,21; Job 9:29; 10:18; 13:24; 21:7). And three psalmists (David, Asaph and ‘the sons of Korah’) raised this query fourteen times in a mere eight of the 150 psalms (Psalms 10:1,1; 22:1; 42:9,9; 43:2,2; 44:23,24; 74:1,11; 80:12; 88:14,14).

Job also voiced the related question, ‘How long, Lord?’ – doing so alongside one of his ‘Why, Lord?’ queries; while four psalmists (David, Asaph and Moses again, plus Ethan) sang out ‘How long, Lord?’ twelve times in just eight psalms (Psalms 6:3; 13:1,1,2,2; 35:17; 74:10; 79:5; 80:4; 89:46,46; 90:13) and, again, only once in conjunction with a ‘Why, Lord?’ query. So, we are told of twelve questioners who expressed these two puzzles to God a total of 48 times. 

            [] The questioners raised just a few crucial issues with the Lord

A couple of those questions were answered immediately. Rebekah actually asked about the peculiar foetal activities in her pregnant womb; her query really meant: ‘What’s going on? And what will be the outcome?’ She was told that twins were wrestling one another, as would their descendant nations. And when the disciples enquired about their powerlessness to exorcise a boy of his demon, Jesus told them that this particularly resistant kind is only expelled after preparatory praying. Then Moses, Gideon, Isaiah and Jeremiah knew full well the answer to their questions: Israel’s failure to defeat their foes was due to widespread ungodliness.

Most of the remaining questions are about why the godly suffer: they feel ignored, forgotten, indeed abandoned by their God; and, being undefended against assault are mocked and oppressed. Job especially expressed this category of problems and did so eloquently: he didn’t know that his life had been designated a battleground in which Satan was determined to prove that he only served God because of his lifetime of blessing in his health, family and business. But Job, as the writers of many psalms of lamentation, was committed to the Lord despite any undeserved setbacks.

            [] How did these puzzled saints triumph? Psalm 22:0 gives us insights:

Psalms 22:1-2 queries why the author was abandoned, alone, unanswered and restless;

Psalms 22:3-5 the psalmist confesses to the Lord that, though he feels shipwrecked, yet you are enthroned on the praises of Israel.’ He has reasons to praise – the historic deliverance of his forefathers; they were not ‘put to shame’;

Psalms 2:6-8but society mocks me because my cry goes unanswered’;

Psalms 22:9-18yet you did rescue me at birth, Lord’. So he prays, ‘Be not far from me’ for he feels threatened by metaphorical brute beasts;

Psalms 22:19-21a he repeats: ‘Be not far from me, deliver me from them’;

Psalms 22:21b-31 following his divine rescue he (i) testifies, and (ii) praises, and (iii) fulfils his vows, not only ‘in church’ (Psalms 22:27-29) but his witness bears widespread fruitfulness to outsiders who will be converted, and will bless the yet-to-be-born.

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