Things are not always as they seem. Sometimes there is a hidden meaning and you must persevere to tease it out. Riddles can be absorbing, time consuming and frustrating until you solve them – then they bring pleasure as you perceive the answer, taking care not to gloat when others do not see it yet! Newspapers and puzzle books earn income through their crosswords, sudoku, word wheels and many other intriguing puzzle formats. Here is a short one for you – what Bible character does this picture suggest and why? Try not to glance down for the answer yet! Here is another one – have you solved the riddle of life yet? If so, what is the answer and do you like to tell others?
Do you remember any of these simple riddles from school? They are a bit of fun for you to have with youngsters:
- Anthony and Cleopatra are found gasping for breath as they die together; the only evidence is broken glass and a pool of water – how did they die?
- What can travel around the world while staying in a corner?
- What has many keys but can't open a single lock?
- What tastes better than it smells?
- I am an odd number. Take away a letter and I become even. What number am I?
- What goes through cities and fields, but never moves?
- During which month do people sleep the least?*
(*Anthony and Cleopatra were fish and the wind knocked their bowl over, stamp, piano, tongue, seven, roads, February!)
The thing about riddles is that they make you think rather than just skating past the obvious. Puzzles also stimulate the brain and teachers use them as problems to solve. Do you recall the craze there was for the ‘magic pictures’ that had hidden ‘internal’ images which could be seen after looking for some while? It is quite a good metaphor for the mystery of life. No surprise perhaps then that God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit have ways to reveal spiritual truth to us. God the Father uses creation – the day and night, the caterpillar, the seasons, snowdrops. God the Son frequently chose to teach using parables, those ‘stories with hidden meaning’. God the Holy Spirit gives visions, dreams and sudden flashes of insight.
- ‘What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived – the things God has prepared for those who love him – these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit’ – 1 Corinthians 2:9-10
- ‘Who can fathom the mind of the Lord, or instruct the Lord as his counsellor?’ – Isaiah 40:13
- ‘...for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge’ – Proverbs 1:6-7
- ‘Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: ‘I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world’ – Matthew 13: 34-35
Daniel and Joseph were known for the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles and solve difficult problems. The prophets gave their messages with pictures and illustrations – the potter’s wheel, a plumb line, a whale, a basket of ripe fruit and even a wife of loose morals! Some of these were hard for the hearers to understand just as many today might struggle to grasp the message of the cross or Christians give up on the book of Revelation.
- ‘The secret things belong to the Lord our God’ – Deuteronomy 29:29
- ‘You have seen many things, but you pay no attention; your ears are open, but you do not listen’ – Isaiah 42:20
- ‘For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength’ – 1 Corinthians 1:25
In one of the psalms, the sons of Korah choose to sing a riddle about life. The question posed is about the purpose of life, the part riches play and why those who belong to God should not fear. We may not be sure of the tune but here are key insights from Psalm 49:
- ‘I will turn my ear to a proverb; with the harp I will expound my riddle’ – verse 4
- ‘People, despite their wealth, do not endure; they are like the beasts that perish. This is the fate of those who trust in themselves, and of their followers, who approve their sayings’ – verses 12-13
- ‘But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead; he will surely take me to himself’ – verse 15
Many films and books keep you guessing till the end when there’s a twist in the plot to surprise you. The Bible has one big plot with many threads and characters in sub plots to the Big Story. One of the sub plot characters links with the picture of bees. This person was very macho, had an eye for the ladies and liked a good riddle:
- ‘Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet’ – Judges 14:14
For three days, his riddle vexed the listeners until one of his ladies coaxed it out of him:
- ‘What is sweeter than honey: What is stronger than a lion?’ – Judges 14:18
It’s a fascinating riddle drawn from Samson watching bees make honey in a lion’s carcass! Not something anyone would be likely to work out. Then again, who was expecting God the Father to allow his son to die ... let alone raise him from the dead! The application of that riddle is that those who have eyes to see will realise that the Psalmist was right just as Job was when he declared:
- ‘I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth’ – Job 19:25
- 'The cross itself is a mystery, but it is also the solution to mystery; it is the riddle which resolves all other riddles; it is the key which unlocks the prison - from the inside!' - Peter Lewis
If you know this, you’ve understood The Riddle of Life. If not yet, keep searching, thinking and looking for you will find – now that’s a promise!
TAGS – mystery, answers, thinking, solutions, solve