Saturday, December 09, 2006


"The only dumb question is one that isn't asked." I don't always live by this maxim--I've often wanted to ask a question, but haven't, for fear of looking dumb. I have a colleague who is not shy about asking clarifying questions in meetings and no one thinks any the less of her. In fact I think the rest of the group is always glad she asked.

A few days ago I was reading Numbers 12 and Luke 1 and got to thinking about questions.

In Numbers 12, verses 1-16, Miriam and Aaron, Moses' siblings, are gossiping behind his back and questioning Moses' special role as God's messenger to the people. "Hasn't the Lord also spoken through us?" they said. Miriam was struck with a skin disease by God. Moses pleaded for leniency for her and God allowed her disgrace to be a mere seven days outside the camp.

In Luke 1 in the account of the pre-Christmas story--the angel announced to a bemused and bewildered Zechariah, that he is to become a father in his old age--to a boy to be named John. Zechariah asks what seems on the surface like a reasonable question; "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years." Zechariah's ability to speak was taken away the moment he asked his question. It came back when his son was born as the angel predicted, and Zechariah wrote down that his name was to be John.

Finally, further on in Luke 1, I read of the young Israelite girl who also had a visit from an angel. He announced to her that she was to be highly honoured--she was to bear a very special child--he was to be called Jesus, the Son of the Most High. The young girl, Mary, asked, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?"

To Mary's question the result was the angel giving her the information she was seeking. Her response was that beautiful statement of submission to God, "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said."

What was the difference in the questions that led to such different results?

Miriam and Aaron were in essence questioning God from a place of pride and criticism. Their attitude was such a contrast to Moses' humility and concern for his sister that it isn't hard to see why Moses was the man through whom God chose to speak.

Zechariah was doubtful, as evidenced by the words, "How can I be sure?"

Mary, although she naturally was puzzled, only asked "How?" she didn't question, "If." And once Mary had the information, she surrendered herself to God.

Questions are neither good nor bad really. It's the heart from which they come that matters to God!

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