Why leads many of the questions we love to pose and answer because from one advantageous view we obtain a license to opine, define, and undermine. Ask a lawyer a closed question and you are likely to get a five minute answer. It is a dreadful predicament that theologians and political leaders are in the same boat. If you have recently watched a parliamentary or legislative session in one of our democratic nations you probably have wondered if the person being questioned is hard of hearing. Let us consider “why” questions as doorways to finality.
Lamah (for what = why) appears 19 times, the most famous, I think, being our Lord’s query from the cross, “Why have you forsaken me?” Other forms of the same question appear as follows: al meh, from Balaam’s donkey (Numbers 22:32 + another 11 times) and maddua 70 times)
Isaiah records other why questions (three maddua formats and one al meh format)
- Isa 5:4 What more was there to do for my vineyard,that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? ESV2011
- Isa 50:2 Why, when I came, was there no man;why, when I called, was there no one to answer? Is my hand shortened, that it cannot redeem? Or have I no power to deliver? Behold, by my rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a desert; their fish stink for lack of water and die of thirst. ESV2011
- Isa 63:2 Why is your apparel red, and your garments like his who treads in the winepress? ESV2011
- Why will you still be struck down? Why will you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. Isa. 1:5
Here are Isaiah’s “why” lamah questions, laid out by category.
The answer comes immediately – I take no pleasure in the levitical system.
“What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. Isa. 1:11
God is asking “Why slander me?” The answer is understood in the question against the known facts of God’s attributes of knowing and seeing all things and never-failing justice for all.
Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God”? Isa. 40:27
O LORD, why do you make us wander from your ways and harden our heart, so that we fear you not? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage. Isa. 63:17
III. SELECTIONS (life choices)
The correct behaviour is for poor spending practices is declared, “eat good foods and delight yourselves in rich food”
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Isa. 55:2
IV. SHOWCASE (work and wages)
The people attached “show value” to fasting and not the natural benefits, while fasting with regard to the benefit of others’ might get God’s attention
Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’ Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. Isa. 58:3
I have learned that asking why can end up in some very surprising places. One of the saddest why questions is “Why me?” I includes questioning the connections to one’s mother, friends and all the potential contributions both seen and unseen. When God asks why we have to step up without spin, self-defence, or supposed secret compartments. Answering a “why” is weighted towards a “z”; final answer.