ODJ: A Better Question

November 19, 2016 

READ: Malachi 3:13-18 

What’s the use of serving God? (v.14).

When he was a child, Auschwitz survivor Elie Wiesel’s mother would greet him the same way each day after school. She never asked, “What did you learn today?” Rather, she always asked: “Did you have a good question today?”

Having a good question makes all the difference. The prophet Malachi believed that Israel’s questions, emerging from their despair, revealed misguided assumptions: God, why aren’t you giving those wicked people the punishment they deserve? God, why aren’t we receiving the prosperity we desire?

Israel bemoaned how “all who do evil are good in the Lord’s sight” and then, to make certain they’d made their point, the people leveled a despairing query: “Where is the God of justice?” (2:17). They also made the converse argument. Not only were the wicked getting a pass, but Israel wasn’t receiving the blessing they believed was due them. “What’s the use of serving God?” the people asked. “What have we gained by obeying his commands?” (3:14).

God graciously listened to Israel’s difficult questions. The Psalms reveal that He meets us in our confusion. Israel’s questions, however, revealed their disturbing commitment to retribution—the wicked must be punished and the righteous rewarded. Like them, we can also assume we’re the ones who should be blessed while everyone else should be reprimanded. But God isn’t concerned with retribution. He seeks renewal.

The better questions, Malachi suggested, would be to ask, Who will be faithful to God? and Who will have their life remade by God’s power? It’s foolish to ask whether or not we’re getting what we deserve. It would be far better to ask whether or not we’ll follow God into the good life He’s provided.

—Winn Collier

365-day plan: Acts 28:15-31

Read Job 38:1-7 and consider God’s questions for Job. 
What kinds of questions do you ask God most often? Are there better questions you could ask Him? What are they?