God's Rhetorical Questions
"Why did Sarah laugh?”
Abraham, Sarah and the Angel
By Jan Provost
Whom do we think we are kidding, anyway?
I just love God’s great sense of humor. As I look forward to spending eternity with our beloved Heavenly Father, I think His brilliant personality is one of my greatest anticipations.
Sometimes I wonder if God chuckles a bit at some of our foibles.
Surely, the adoring Almighty would not laugh in a scornful or sarcastic manner at our struggles and failings. That would not be loving, as God is love (See 1 John 4:8). Still, I cannot help but think the Lord may be fondly amused at some of our silly antics. I imagine He may smile upon us, somewhat as a human mother or father might, while observing a young child trying to learn to talk, to walk, to read or to accomplish another developmental task.
“Aww,” He might say. “Isn’t that adorable? My child is learning, although perhaps the hard way this time.”
We may grow frustrated and even embarrassed, even as we try so hard to please the Lord. We may even try to conceal our shortcomings, as if He might not have noticed.
How quickly we forget the simple truth:
This is a test. It is always a test.
Because God loves us with a never-ending, everlasting, boundless and limitless love, even His tests are extended with grace and mercy.
"I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”
Of course, God knows everything. He knows the end from the beginning. Nothing surprises Him, and nothing may be hidden from Him.
“He determines the number of the stars
and calls them each by name.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
His understanding has no limit.”
“From Heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind;
from His dwelling place He watches all who live on earth –
He who forms the hearts of all,
who considers everything they do.”
So why does God bother to ask questions?
Consider the example of Adam and Eve.
“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’
“He answered, ‘I heard You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.’
“And He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?’"
Look how the Lord confronted Cain, after he murdered his own brother.
“Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’”
In today’s Bible reading, the Lord asked Abraham about Sarah.
“Then the Lord said, ‘I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.’
“Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind Him. Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, ‘After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?’
“Then the Lord said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh and say, “Will I really have a child, now that I am old?” Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.’
“Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, ‘I did not laugh.”
“But He said, "Yes, you did laugh.’"
Why does our all-knowing God ask the ultimate rhetorical questions? He already knows the answer to every query.
Clearly, when God asks a question, He is seeking not to obtain factual information, but to reveal the conditions of our hearts.
“For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”
“The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”
Of course, the Lord already knows the content of each human heart as well.
“O Lord Almighty,
You . . . examine the righteous
and probe the heart and mind.”
Perhaps He intends for His penetrating questions to reveal our intentions and attitudes to ourselves. Again, whom do we think we are kidding?
Will you pray with me?
You know the contents of our hearts.
You see clearly what we may refuse to face about ourselves:
Our attitudes, motives and intentions.
Plant in us the desire to honor You,
Even in the most hidden recesses of our human hearts.
Teach us honesty and authenticity,
Even where it may be revealed only to You.
We adore You.