Month: August 2012

Sticks and Stones

What do you do with the story of the guy who was stoned for picking up sticks on the Sabbath?  I taught on this in Sunday school this past week.

While the people of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation. They put him in custody, because it had not been made clear what should be done to him. And the LORD said to Moses, “The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.” And all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death with stones, as the LORD commanded Moses (Numbers 15:32-36).

The people know the guy has done something wrong.  That’s why they bring him to Moses and Aaron.  But they just aren’t sure how to punish him.  What will YHWH say?  There are at least four options:

1) Have him put the sticks back and tell him not to do it again.
2) Get him to repent then show him mercy.
3) Ostracize him.  Send him back to Egypt, or forward to Canaan.
4) Kill him.  By stoning.  With the entire community (get the whole family involved).

Why does YHWH pick option #4?  If someone asked you about this story what would you say?  In the next blog, I’ll discuss your answers as well as my own.  So, make some comments. 

No cheating, if you’ve read God Behaving Badly.  I’m not even going to tell you where I discuss this story.

Image from


“Check it out God!” (Psalm 119:40)

Behold, I long for your precepts;
in your righteousness give me
life! (Psalm 119:40).

Normal people don’t say “Behold” any more.  “Behold, I went to Famous Footware today and bought these cool Nike running shoes.  Behold them.”

That doesn’t sound right.  The Hebrew word henay, instead of “behold” might be better translated “look.”  We can excuse the King James Version for saying “behold”, because I’m pretty sure people actually said “behold” four hundred years ago.  However, this translation, the ESV, is only eleven years old.  I was alive in 2001, I’m pretty sure no one then said “behold” (unless they were talking about the furniture polish, see image).  Why is the Bible the only place we expect to find someone saying “behold”?

The NRSV has “See” which isn’t bad.  I’d prefer “Check it out!”  The psalmist is trying to get YHWH’s attention here.  “Check it out!  I long for your precepts.”  Do you ever say that to God?  “Check it out God! I’m longing for you and your word!”

In 119:20, the psalmist’s soul was consumed with longing at all times for God’s ordinances.  Here the psalmist simply longs for God’s precepts.  You don’t “long” for things unless you’re really into them.  It’s an all-consuming passion.  I long for the football season to start (and God’s precepts).

Four verses earlier, the psalmist asked God to “give me life” (119:37) and now he asks God for the same thing.  In verse 37, it was life “in your ways, now it is life “in your righteousness.”  For the psalmist, his life is completely wrapped up in God, God’s word and God’s laws.

Psalm 119:40 is the final verse in He section (33-40).

Check it out God!  We’re longing for you and your word!

What word or phrase do you use to get someone’s attention? (It’s got to be better than “behold.”)

“Let’s go visit Jesus” (Mom’s legacy, part 4)

The day before the memorial service for my mom (she passed away August 4) we meet with Dr. Robert Baker (the pastor of Calvary Baptist Church of Lexington, KY where the service was held).  Dr. Baker asked us to share stories and memories of mom, many of which he then included in his remarks at the service the next day.  My brother Wayne shared a story about mom that I had forgotten.

Back in Ames, Iowa where we grew up Wayne had a friend named Kurt.  They were close in grade school and junior high.  A few years after Kurt graduated from high school he got married.  One day, he came home to find his wife in bed with another man.  Kurt pulled out his gun, shot and killed the other man.

A few months later, I was home visiting my family in Ames.  Mom says, “We should go visit Kurt in prison.”  I wasn’t excited about the idea, “I didn’t really know Kurt.”  Mom said, “That’s OK.  I didn’t know him well either.  He won’t care.”

I still wasn’t convinced, “It will be awkward, mom.  I don’t think we should.”  She persisted, “Jesus said that when we visit prisoners in jail it’s like we’re visiting him.  Let’s go visit Jesus.”  (See Matt. 25:36-40.)

It’s hard to say no to an invitation to see Jesus. 

When we greeted Kurt it wasn’t awkward.  He was happy to see us and he shared stories of how God was at work in his life.  He was even leading a Bible study on the book of Matthew with his cellmates.  It was truly like visiting Jesus.

I really miss my mom, but am comforted to know that she’s gone to visit Jesus. 

Mom’s Legacy (part 3): Studying the Bible

My last two blogs have been about my mom who passed away two weeks ago.  There’s part of me that thinks I should move on to other topics, but I just can’t manage to do that.  And there’s so much good material.  And I suspect it’s going to help me in the grief process.  So if you’re tired of hearing about Jane Lamb, then perhaps you should check back on my blog in a few weeks.

My mom started a Bible study for women in Ames, Iowa (where we grew up) in the late 1960’s with her friend Win Stanford, whose husband John was a colleague of my dad’s in the Physics Department at Iowa State.  In these types of Bible studies, the leader would ask text-focused questions, encouraging the women to discover the meaning of the text for themselves.  (I’ve heard of “Bible studies” that watch videos, or read Christian books, both of which can be great, but I wouldn’t call either of those a “Bible study.”  This may be controversial, but in a “Bible study,” I think you should study the Bible.)  The leader was not the expert who enlightened others, but simply a question-asker who empowered others to encounter God in his word directly.

The initial Bible study became popular (part of the popularity may have been due to the fact that they provided child-care) and the group got big, so big that they had to split into two groups, and then those groups grew and also needed to split.  I think it’s supposed to be called “multiplying,” but I prefer “splitting” because it is painful.  Splitting was always hard relationally, but they knew that if more women were to be included, they would need to keep dividing.  They decided it was worth the cost relationally to be inclusive.

Over the course of the next twenty years, the initial group led by Mom and Win became twenty Bible study groups scattered around Ames, with hundreds of women involved.

In 1979, Mom wrote a history of the Bible studies in Ames, listing the benefits to herself (these are her words):

1) Friendship.  The women I know best are the ones I study the Bible with each week.  I express my needs, joys and the express theirs.  We get to know each other much better than casual friendships allow.

2) I am learning more about the Bible.  I am learning the stories, the chronology and the thread of Christ running from Genesis to Revelation.  But more importantly, I am learning that God speaks to me for my life, for my problems, for my successes today thru his word.  And it is life changing.

3) I am learning more about myself. I am not introspective (I’m like mom in this regard), and do not think thru all my actions and motives.  But as God speaks to me thru his word, I understand more clearly my motives behind these actions.

4) I get to know God better.  And I desire to serve Him more.  I want to see others come to know him.

These words of Mom were included in the program for her memorial service at Calvary Baptist Church of Lexington, Kentucky on August 11, 2012.  Her legacy continues.