Evangelical theologian David Lamb tackles some of the Bible’s most troubling passages in his book, God Behaving Badly: Is the God of the Old Testament Angry, Sexist and Racist? His answer: yes and no.
The book has received mixed reviews in the Christian blogosphere, but Lamb was well-received when he recently spoke at a church here. Religion News Service sat down with Lamb, an Old Testament scholar at Biblical Seminary in Hatfield, Pa., to find out how believers’ long-held views of a wrathful Old Testament God might waver with his findings.
Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
In any city on this globe, a young man finds his way to an altar, committing his life to Christ. His genuine salvation develops into a deep heart desire to become a servant to both God and humanity.
After a season he feels divinely directed to a wonderful bible college, he later graduates and is on his way to answer the cry of a lost and dying world. Blessed with a beautiful wife, he works his way up the ministry ranks finding himself with his own pastorate.
Courageously, he takes on all of the challenges presented to him and soon, with no one to really talk to, he is encompassed by a nagging sense of isolation and insulation. As a leader, he can’t be totally candid with anyone. He loves serving others, but people begin to see him as super human.
Our adversary is ever so cunning.
“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me...” (2 Cor. 12:7)
A thorn in the flesh is not the same for every person. But if you are a Christian worth your salt, you probably have a thorn in the flesh.
What may be yours may not be mine. What may be mine may not be yours. For some it is a handicap or disability. For some it could be unhappy employment—or even lack of employment.
It could be an enemy. It could be coping with unhappy living conditions. It could be a sexual misgiving. The list is endless.
Be proactive and decisive as you declare God's Word over your life.
“‘For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope’” (Jer. 29:11, NKJV). God’s thoughts are of abundance and not lack. He wants you to live large and to bring you into a good life. Toward this end, He gives you divine inspirational thoughts and the ability to speak them into existence so that you will grow to fulfill His best plan for your life.
He wants you to mature in wisdom, authority and supernatural ability so that you can bear witness to the splendor of His kingdom. Your miracle is already in existence, but it is up to you to learn to see it and to call it out.
Deep within our hearts, where only heaven's eyes witness, we long to experience the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. We long to be lovers of God. This has been my dream and consuming desire for many years.
When I first heard God's promise to make me a fervent lover, it seemed too good ever to be fulfilled. Yet Jesus' words gave me hope: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind" (Matt. 22:37, NKJV, emphasis added).
He was saying that my heart could burn with love for Him. This is the supernatural power we long for that He has promised to give.
We often see ourselves as failures. But Jesus does not define us by our immaturity. He sees us as genuine lovers of God.
Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. — John 15:5
My family had a tree in our backyard that provided two things: shade and countless jars of pear preserves. One day, I asked my mother why she made so many jars every year. Her response was, "If I don't, they will start falling off the tree and go bad." With that, I went outside to take a look for myself. There were pears everywhere--so many, in fact, that the tree branches were beginning to sag and snap under the immense weight of their fruit. It looked to me like my mother's faithful picking was encouraging the tree to produce even more!
Jesus told his disciples that God acts as a gardener in the lives of those who claim him as Lord. He wants his followers to be abundant producers of good fruit, showing the world that they are children of God (see John 15:8). But this is not enough. Instead of simply harvesting the fruit that is produced, the Lord grabs a pair of pruning shears and begins to trim the branches. A little here, a little there, until he is satisfied with the end result.
This process of subtraction is a good thing. For it is in these times that God rids us of attitudes and actions that limit our effectiveness for the kingdom. In their place, he grants new opportunities to exhibit love, patience, kindness, and self-control (see Galatians 5:22-23). As these values are acted upon, what started out as subtraction becomes addition, and more fruit is produced than before the pruning.
If the branches are not pruned they may become weakened or stressed, and they will eventually snap. Once that occurs, the branches will wither and die because they are not attached to the tree, leaving wasted fruit behind. But the result of a life lived wholeheartedly for Christ will be an abundance of fruit--fruit that will last.