Good reading involves asking questions of the text. Any effort to understand must wrestle well with the words on the page, and the relationship between ideas. We must seek to understand the context and historical background of what is written. All readers, then, naturally ask questions of the text and that is true even of good students of the Bible. Yet, we must not forget that even as we ask questions of the Bible the more pressing issue is what the Bible asks of us. The Bible questions us.
Mot modern American readers approach the text of Scripture looking for specific answers to very personal questions. We want to know: What does this have to do with me? How does this apply to my life? What difference will these verses make in my day-to-day? It is not entirely wrong, of course, to wonder about such things. We believe that God has provided for us in His Word and His Son all things that are necessary for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). So, we wrestle with the text and its application to our own personal lives and personal godliness. But long before we get to those questions we must be prepared to assert that the Bible questions us. It poses serious challenges to us and evaluates us. It is penetrating, exposing, and judging (Heb. 4:12). The Scriptures question us long before we come to question it.
Throughout the Scriptures God often questions His people, and indirectly the reader. So, God questions Adam: Where are you(Gen. 3:9); Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat (Gen. 3:11)? God rebukes Job with a series of questions, beginning with this bold statement: Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me (Job. 38:3). Most pointedly Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do you say that I am” (Mark 8:29). Each question is not asked for God’s benefit. He, after all, knows all things (Ps. 139). Rather, the questions are asked to bring man in submission to God – to remind Him of the one to whom he must give an account (Heb. 4:13). God asks in order that in answering man may humble himself to God’s will and direction.
This same principle of submission is true in the study of Scripture as well. The Bible challenges us and asks hard questions of us in order that we might be more conformed to the image of God’s Son, that we might change and grow to pattern our lives after Jesus. The Bible indirectly asks questions of us like: Whom do you serve? Do you trust God? Are you prepared to die? Are you prepared to live? Are you worshipping God alone? Does your behavior point others towards the character of Christ? Are your priorities correct? The Bible questions us far more than we question it. As Flemming Rutledge has written:
There is a fundamental syntactical distinction between saying “we question the Bible” and “the Bible questions us.” It is common, in congregations, to hear of subjects like “Using the Bible in Small Groups.” But we do not “use” the Bible; if we attempt to do so, it will slip away from us, leaving something opaque and very much less dynamic in its place. Contrary to the story line in many “spiritual” journals, the biblical narrative does not tell of our journey toward God; it is the other way around. The right approach is not “What questions do I have to ask of the Bible?” but “What questions does the Bible have to ask of me?” (The Crucifixion, 21).
The Holy Scripture question us far more than we question it.
The way we approach the reading and interpreting of God’s Word matters. If we approach the Bible first and foremost with a bent towards “how is this relevant for me,” we will assume that the Bible must fit our agendas and our expectations (i.e. the Bible is only relevant if it answers the questions I am asking). If, however, we submit to God’s authority and wisdom we will approach the text wondering: what does the Bible ask of me. Then, we can rightly see its relevance. It is inviting me to change and grow, to submit. That is the proper order of things.
We must, of course, ask questions of the text if we are going to read the Bible well. Yet, we must first recognize that the Bible asks questions of us. Our questions are important, but God’s questions are supreme. So, what is the Bible asking of you today?