Elementary school students are often asked to determine the appropriate ending punctuation for a given sentence. For example, “What color is this banana” should end with a question mark rather than a period. Why? If a sentence created by a speaker requests subsequent input from a listener, that sentence is a question. In writing, such a sentence requires a question mark at the end. By contrast, If a sentence requires no subsequent input from the listener (although the listener may choose to comment), the sentence probably could end with a period. That may seem basic, but you’d be surprised.
One may be asking at this point, “How could someone be THAT confused about which type of punctuation mark goes on which sentence?” Please consider another comparison between elementary school lessons and God’s life lessons.
When God speaks to us, sometimes He asks us questions….but not because He doesn’t already know the answers… He asks us questions for the same reason any teacher would. For instance:
Teacher: What are snowpants used for? (This is actually the sort of question I ask students…)
Teacher: Do you wear them on your head? (at this point, the teacher would preferably have a pair of snowpants on his/her head.)
Student: NO!! (dumb teacher…) You wear them on your legs when you play in the snow!!
Teacher: Ohhhhhh…… You’re right; you DO wear them on your legs.
See, the teacher asked a couple of questions there, but for what purpose? The teacher was requesting subsequent input from the student, but did the teacher NEED that input in order to obtain new information? Noooooo, the teacher already knew the proper use for snowpants (believe it or not, kiddo!). The purpose of the questions was to teach the child, to lead the child, until the child was able to arrive (with the teacher’s guidance) at the correct conclusion.
Certainly, God also often speaks in declarative statements (sentences that end with periods). Sometimes the declarative sentence comes after a series of questions (as in the above illustration), or it could come on its own. This is where punctuation confusion can come into play—when we try to place a question mark on a statement of GOD’S that is clearly meant to end with a period. PERIOD. This can be tricky, especially when God has recently given us a long series of questions…. In these PERIOD moments, God is not requesting input from us. Action, perhaps. Input, no. Yes, it is our prerogative to comment, whine, or voice our own opinion, but it won’t matter much. When God speaks with a PERIOD, none of that is going to do any good, and time will be wasted.
In conclusion, God speaks, and when He does, Listen carefully—What type of sentence is He voicing? A question to teach you? A period to direct you? (Or maybe an exclamation point for some reason??) Either way, you can bet that there is Purpose behind the message, and He wants to use it (and your response) for His glory.