Do you know how many questions there are in the Bible? A lot! By one count, there are 2,506 questions asked in the Bible (the NRSV translation): 1,679 questions in the Old Testament, and 827 questions in the New Testament. The first question is asked in Genesis 3, the last in Revelation 18. The Bible is evidently a book of questions as much as it is a book of answers.
Questions are important, aren’t they? I have noticed over the years that asking the right question can be even more important than getting the right answer. In fact, I have come to believe that a life well-lived is found not by having all the answers, but by asking all the right questions.
Perhaps you are familiar with this famous passage from Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet,” in which he encourages us to love the questions themselves, rather than always seeking immediate answers:
I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.
(Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet)
Try to love the questions, and live the questions, but I would add: make sure that they are questions worthy of your life and love! So, what questions are you currently living with? Are they the right questions? The important questions? The questions worthy of your love?
I am beginning a new series of devotions, on scripture’s most compelling questions, with the hope that this will help us all to explore the right questions. And where better to turn than scripture? As I mentioned, there are 2,500+ questions in the Bible. I won’t be looking at them all! But I will be looking at those that I find most compelling.
So, here is my working list of these questions, forty of them, since that is a good biblical number. As I write these devotions, I will link them to these questions:
- Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’? – Genesis 3:1
- The Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” – Genesis 3:9
- Am I my brother’s keeper? – Genesis 4:9
- Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? – Job 38:4
- What do people gain from all the toil at which they toil under the sun? – Ecclesiastes 1:3
- When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? – Psalm 8:4
- My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? – Psalm 22:1
- I lift up my eyes to the hills – from where will my help come? – Psalm 121:1
- Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? – Isaiah 6:8
- Mortal, can these bones live? – Ezek. 37:3
- And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals? – Jonah 4:11
- Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? – Matthew 6:27
- Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? – Matthew 7:7
- Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another? – Matthew 11:3
- What will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? – Matthew 16:26
- Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? – Matthew 25:37
- How many loaves have you? – Mark 6:38
- Who do you say that I am? — Mark 8:29
- Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? – Mark 10:17
- How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years. – Luke 1:18
- How can this be, since I am a virgin? – Luke 1:34
- Where is your faith? – Luke 8:25
- Who is my neighbor? – Luke 10:29
- Why do you look for the living among the dead? – Luke 24:5
- Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us? – Luke 24:32
- What are you looking for? – John 1:38
- Do you want to be made well? – John 5:6
- How can we know the way? – John 14:5
- What is truth? – John 18:38
- Simon, son of John, do you love me? – John 21:17
- Brothers, what should we do? – Acts 2:37
- Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” – Acts 8:31-32
- Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? – Acts 9:4
- Who will rescue me from this body of death? – Romans 7:24
- If God is for us, who is against us? – Romans 8:31
- Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Romans 8:35
- Where, O death, is your victory? – 1 Cor. 15:55
- Can faith save you? – James 2:14
- Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals? – Revelation 5:2
- What city is like the great city? – Revelation 18:18
These are all questions that are compelling to me, and worth pondering. There are many more, of course, but this should keep me busy for a while. Did I miss one that is important to you?