Month: September 2012

The Silence of the Lamb (Part 2)

“In your case, Dad, it was definitely sin.”  “Thanks, son.”  He’s supposed to be an arrow in my quiver (Psa. 127:4)?

After my younger son, Noah read my blog entitled “The Silence of Lamb” he knew the answer to the question posed at the end (“Does sin cause illness?”).  Thanks for comments, encouragement and prayers Marcia, Gary, Tanya, Shanlamb, Joanne, Margie, Diane, Kenyon, Gotbygrace and Miley.

For the past few months I have had damage to my vocal cords (nodes) and since I saw my ENT in August, I have been trying to not speak unless absolutely necessary.  Last week I canceled 5 speaking engagements in October.  This has been brutal for me as an Extrovert.  I have been cycling through one of the most discouraging periods of my life.  Since I can’t speak, blogging helps me process it.

To address the question, there are examples of people in the Bible who were punished by God with illness (Kenyon listed these):

1) Zechariah (Luke 1).
2) Miriam (Num. 12).
3) Gehazi, Elisha’s servant (2 Kings 5).
4) The paralytic at the pool (John 5:14).

Other texts make it clear that God both wounds and heals (Exo. 4:11; Deut. 32:39).  God also brings a plague upon his people for their idolatry (Num. 25).

But then there are other text that make it clear that sometimes innocent people suffer (yes, all humans are generally sinful).  Jesus declares that the man born blind was innocent (John 9:3; image source here).  The most obvious of an innocent sufferer is Job (Job).  Job’s story is a bit confusing because the adversary (ha-satan in Hebrew) brings on the sickness, but God allowed it.  In any case, Job was righteous (Job 1:1, 8).

Frequently, innocent people suffer for the sin of others. In a contrast to the plague of Numbers 25, God sends a plague on Israel due to David’s sin of taking a census (2 Sam. 24–although this one is tricky because YHWH incited him to do it in the first place, hmm…).

So, it takes wisdom to decide, “Is this suffering brought on:

1) By my own sin?
2) By other’s sin?
3) By Satan?
4) To test me?

In her comments, Tanya wisely cautions us from making hasty decisions about the sins of others causing their sickness.  This attitude is what Jesus responded so strongly against with the man born blind (John 9:3).  We can ask this question for ourselves, but only rarely should we attempt to make judgments for others.

Honestly, I think Noah was right.  Part of my sickness is due to my sin.  And like Gary said, I need to repent, which I’ve done, and then bear fruits that befit repentance, which I’m trying to do.

The clearest thing we see from the Gospels is that Jesus wanted to heal sickness.  This is a major theme of the gospels that is unfortunately often ignored (outside of the charismatic movement).

But I also think God is trying to teach me something during this period of the Silence of Dave Lamb, and I’ll be focusing on those lessons in the next blog in this series.

What lessons does God teach us through sickness? 

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Eternal obedience? (Psalm 119:44)

I will keep your law
continually, forever and ever
(Psalm 119:44).

“I will keep your law forever”–what?  I didn’t think eternal obedience was possible for those of us who aren’t Jesus.  It doesn’t seem to be possible for me.

To make it clear, the verse repeats the idea of eternal obedience, “continually, forever and ever“- that sounds like a long time.  Isn’t the psalmist here a bit naive?  Perhaps too optimist?  Or just proud?  Does the psalmist think that a pledge of obedience to the law is going to earn God’s favor?

As we think about what the word “keep” means and then interpret it in light of how the psalmist is viewing himself, God and God’s word in the rest of the psalm, this phrase that sounds overly optimistic begins to make sense.

The word translated as “keep” (shamar) can also mean “watch” or “guard“, which fits the context of the rest of the psalm as  the psalmist is focused on God’s word.  Just looking at the rest of this Vav section of the psalm (119:41-48) the psalmist is trusting in God’s word (119:42), hoping in it (43), seeking it (45), speaking of it (46), delighting in it (47) and meditating on it (48).

For the psalmist, keeping is connected to trusting, hoping and delighting in God and God’s word.  This isn’t some sort of legalism, but simply a passion for God and his law.  The psalmist is watching, guarding, keeping God’s law, so in verse 44 he is declaring that this will be a life-long obsession.

If that’s what we mean by eternal obedience, I could make that a life-long goal.

At verse 44, we are now halfway through the 6th section of the psalm, the Vav section (see image, that’s Vav in yellow) and already one-quarter of the way through the entire psalm.

God, we will need help to keep your law forever.  Help us. 

Image from http://www.av1611.org/666/www_666.html

Fear, Hope and a Colonoscopy (Psalm 119:43)

And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth,
for my hope is in your rules
(Psalm 119:43).

Fear and hope (the colonoscopy comes up at the “end”).  Both emotions are future focused, but are polar opposites.  In its forecast, fear expects bad, while hope anticipate good.  We like to be hopeful, but struggle not to be fearful.

The psalmist is afraid that God is going to leave him totally wordless. (I feel wordless right now, with damaged vocal cords and a mandate to not talk.)  The word the psalmist doesn’t want to be deprived of is true, and from the context of the rest of this psalm it’s clearly God’s word, the source of truth.

But why would God remove his word from the psalmist?  Yes, that’s a good question.  I don’t have a good answer, except perhaps that the psalmist’s fear is irrational, which is often the case for fears.  My fear of permanent vocal cord damage may be irrational, but when one is struggling, it’s hard to think rationally.

How to combat fear?  Hope.  The antidote for fear.  The psalmist hopes in God’s rules.  I’m not sure what this means exactly, but the psalmist clearly sees a connection between these rules and God himself.  Otherwise, why would he keep praying to God?  The entire psalm is one long, 176 verse prayer about God’s word.

While I can’t speak, I am deprived of “the word of Dave”, but I still have easy access to the word of truth.  During my period of forced silence, God’s word has begun to give me hope.

This is the third verse of the sixth section of the psalm, the Vav section, where each verse begins with the Hebrew letter Vav.  The Hebrew conjunction is basically just the letter Vav attached to the beginning of a word, and it is usually translated “and“, but also sometimes “but“, or even “or“; it may be simply untranslated.  Every verse in the Vav section begins with the conjunction Vav, making it the easiest section of the entire psalm to write.

(Due to a colonoscopy on Monday, I fell “behind” on my Psalm 119 blogging this week.  I’ll post images on Facebook soon.)

What are you afraid of (a colonoscopy, perhaps)?  How does God’s word give us hope? 

Image from: http://www.tabletprep.com/colonoscopy/index.aspx

The Silence of the Lamb (Part 1)

And behold, you will be silent and unable to speakthe Angel Gabriel to Zechariah (Luke 1:20).

There are 28 Zechariah’s in the Bible (according to The New Bible Dictionary).  But I feel a deep bond with the one who was the Father of John the Baptist right now.  Because he doubted the word of the angel that his wife Elizabeth would give birth to a son, he was striken mute.  The mean God of the New Testament strikes again.  No one is struck mute in the Old Testament.  (I’m an OT guy.)

I have been struck mute.  Well, not quite, but that’s what it feels like.  My vocal cords have somehow become damaged.  My ENT told me I should not talk unless absolutely necessary until my vocal cords heal.  The Silence of the Lamb (our housemate, Dave suggested that we watch a certain film with a similar title, see 2nd image).  I need to talk when I teach (Mondays, Thursdays), but otherwise I’m trying to avoid speaking completely.

Possible causes of my vocal cord damage:
1) From yelling while coaching.  I’ve coached my sons’ soccer and basketball teams the past 6 years.
2) From teaching too much.  It’s my job.  I talk a lot.  I’m loud.  Ask the people who work with me.
3) From reflux.  Reflux is caused in part by stress.  This past summer my wife’s brother Randall passed away, my mom passed away, and my dad was hospitalized.  It’s been an extraordinarily stressful summer.

I was given an array of meds to help with the Reflux.  A few days after I starting taking these meds, my reflux became worse.  I don’t know why this happened, but my stress levels have rocketed up lately.  One of the meds gave me headaches and now I can’t talk about how I’m feeling.  There’s a lot going on, but I don’t have a good way to express it.

To be honest, this has been brutal for me personally.

To help me express myself, my wife Shannon downloaded Verbally, an app for my iPad that speaks what you type.  It works pretty well, and I shouldn’t complain because it was free, but it’s not very loud.  I’ve grown accustomed to being loud.  So people can’t hear me “speak” unless everything is quiet.  There are two voices in the free version, “Rosie” and “Dave,” but “Dave” does not sound at all like Dave.

So, now I’m wondering, is God punishing me for some sin?  God was clearly punishing Zechariah for his doubt.  There are certainly many sins of mine that God could be targeting.  (I don’t have time to list all of them here.)

What do you think, does sin cause illness?  What relevant biblical examples can you think of?

Images from http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/Advent/zechariah.html
http://natashabagley4.blogspot.com/2011/02/silence-of-lambs-poster-analysis.html