A Call to Be Holy

Isaiah 7-9

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Tuesday, February 7

I hope you all have enjoyed the first six chapters of Isaiah thus far.  Today, we get to continue with chapters 7 through 9, and we will get right to it.

Chapter 7 has an interesting phenomenon that some scholars within the Church of God call “agency”.  Pay special attention to who is talking when (this may seem complicated).  In 7:3, we see that God is talking to Isaiah, and God instructs Isaiah to relay a message to King Ahaz in 7:4.  7:4-9 is the message that Isaiah was to tell Ahaz.  Then in verse 10, it states, “Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz.”  God was not talking to Ahaz in the first place though; rather, God instructed Isaiah to speak to Ahaz.  Furthermore, in verse 13, the being who was talking to Ahaz says, “my God”.  Therefore, although it says “again the LORD spoke to Ahaz,” in verse 10, I believe that it was actually Isaiah speaking to Ahaz.  In summary, there are two reasons as to why I believe it was Isaiah speaking to Ahaz:

  1. God wasn’t talking to Ahaz in the first place, so the word “again” would not make sense in this context if it were indeed God talking. However, Isaiah was previously talking to Ahaz, so it would make sense to say “again” if it were Isaiah talking to him.
  2. In verse 13, this being talking to Ahaz (either God or Isaiah) says, “my God”. As we all know, the LORD does not have a god, so it wouldn’t make sense for the LORD to say this.  Also, in verse 14, it talks about the LORD in 3rd person.

This idea of “agency” is found in several passages throughout the Bible.  The idea of agency is important when at times Jesus is connected to the term “God”.  It is important to understand to defend the oneness of God.  If this interests you at all or if I made absolutely no sense (which is very well possible) but still want to learn more, then the following article can give some clarification.

http://www.21stcr.org/multimedia-2012/1-articles/re-shaliah-introduction_law_of_agency.html

Isaiah 7:14 is one of the most well-known Immanuel (God with us) prophecies.  The Immanuel, which is Jesus Christ, was prophesied to be born from a virgin.  As far as I know, there aren’t many people born from a virgin mother.  It totally contradicts what we all learned in health class.  However, Jesus himself was born from a virgin.  This alone was a miracle, and it was to be a sign for the people.

In chapter 8, there was one thing that stuck out to me found in verse 11.  It is a call to be holy.  To be holy is to be set apart or different from others, and this is exactly what the LORD told Isaiah to do.  He instructed Isaiah “not to walk in the way of this people,” meaning that he should act differently.  The people in Isaiah’s time were wicked people.  Isaiah 9:17 states, “for everyone is godless and an evildoer.”  We also know this from all the judgement in the previous chapters.  I think most of us would agree that we also live in a society that is very godless and full of evildoers.  We too then should be set apart from society.  We should not walk in the way of the people in our society.  There should be differences between you and the common person.  Are you living differently than others?

Isaiah 9:6 is a controversial verse within the Church of God that probably made many of you uneasy when reading it.  It is a verse that needs to be considered and given thought.  Similar to 7:14 it is prophecy about Jesus Christ.  However, in this prophecy, it states that the son shall be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  This verse, along with a few others throughout the Bible, has a Trinitarian feel to it.  I do not have all the answers myself, but this verse cannot just be ignored.  I urge you all to look more into this, and make some sense out of it rather than just ignoring it.

I hope you all have a great day!

-Kyle McClain

(Photo credit: https://amokarts.wordpress.com/2012/07/01/scripture-visualized-isaiah-79/)

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“Here I Am! Send Me!”

Isaiah 4-6

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Monday, February 6

Today, we continue on to Isaiah 4-6.   In this section, there is one of the most well-known passages in the whole Bible, Isaiah’s vision of the LORD in chapter 6.  Before we get there though, we will talk briefly about chapters 4 and 5.

There are essentially two main purposes to the book of Isaiah: “to assure Judah that God would surely judge them for their sins… [And] to assure God’s people of God’s wonderful plan for their future,” (The 5Ws and 1H of Genesis Through Malachi, Robert Jones).  In the first three chapters, we got a sense of the first purpose, to assure Judah/Israel that God does not leave the guilty unpunished.  However, starting in chapter 4, we get a sense of God’s wonderful plan for their future.  After ridding the place of evil, God will establish a place (The Kingdom of God) that shall be “beautiful and glorious.”

Chapter 5 deals with the wicked, once again.  Verse 24 and 25 sums it up fairly well: “for they have rejected the law of the LORD of hosts, and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.  Therefore, the anger of the LORD was kindled against his people.”  We have two things happening here.  One, the people are rejecting the LORD and despising Him.  On the other hand, we see that the anger of the LORD is put against his own chosen people.  The people sin, and God responds by getting angry.  However, we know that God is slow to anger as he describes himself in Exodus 34:6, 7.  God’s chosen people kept sinning with no signs of repentance.  What Isaiah is describing is not a sin here or there.  Rather, Isaiah is describing a people, whom God loves very much, living a life of sin.  God’s chosen people of Israel, the same people He has performed many miracles for, were forsaking the LORD.  God does not leave the guilty unpunished, also found in Exodus 34:6, 7.

The beginning of chapter 6 sets the scene of when this was going on.  Isaiah 6:1 states, “In the year that King Uzziah died.”  King Uzziah was one of the Kings of Judah after the split of Israel, and he died in the year 740 BC.  This is not long after the Golden Age of Israel when it was a unified nation under kings Saul, David, and Solomon.  It is also before the Israelites were exiled into the Babylonian land.  Therefore, the ministry and writing of Isaiah took place before books such as Ezra and Nehemiah.  Isaiah’s ministry is taking place at the same time many of the events in 1st and 2nd Kings and Chronicles are taking place.

As mentioned before, Isaiah 6 is one of the most well-known passages in the whole Bible.  It paints a beautiful picture as to what the Throne of God looks like. You can compare this picture to the description of God’s Throne in Revelation 4.  In Isaiah’s vision, as he approaches the throne of God, he humbles himself by basically saying he was not worthy to be seeing what he was seeing.  Then, God asks Isaiah whom He shall send.  Isaiah then wonderfully replied by stating, “Here I am! Send me.”  We can learn a lot from this simple statement.  The attitude that Isaiah displayed here should be the same attitude we express in our lives.  The harvest indeed is plenty and the workers few.  The LORD is seeing who he can send to do His work.  Are you willing to do his work?

-Kyle McClain

My name is Kyle McClain, and I am currently attending the Atlanta Bible College.  It is my second year at the Bible college and I will receive my bachelor’s degree in pastoral ministry next year.  I am excited to be able to go through the first third of the book of Isaiah with you all (or y’all as they say down here in Georgia).

 

Cease to do Evil – Learn to do Good

Isaiah 1-3

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Sunday, February 5

The Old Testament is split up into five major categories: (5) Law, (12) History, (5) Poetry, (5) Major Prophets, and (12) Minor Prophets. Isaiah is the first book of the Major Prophets.  The word “prophet” occurs 324 times in the Old Testament alone.  Therefore, it is no doubt that whatever a prophet is, it is important.  A prophet is simply someone who speaks on behalf of God.  Isaiah then is someone who spoke for God, so the word Isaiah spoke had authority.

Isaiah begins his writing by stating all the wickedness that is being done by the people of Israel, God’s chosen nation.  Verses 2-15 go into detail as to what they were doing.  However, I want to take note at verses 16 and 17 of the first chapter.  Verses 16 and 17 are Isaiah’s (really God’s) call to repentance.  There are two main steps to this call for repentance.  Step one found in verse 16: “cease to do evil.”  Step two found in verse 17: “learn to do good.”  These are the two fundamental steps to repentance that Isaiah pleads the Israelites pursue.  The Israelites need to rid themselves of all the wickedness they are doing as was stated in the first 15 verses.  However, this is just the first step to repentance.  After they rid themselves of evil, they must then learn to do good.  Once the evil is removed from one’s life, they must then fill it with something good.  If not, then they will fall into the same pattern of sin.  This is an oft neglected part of repentance.  This completely applies to us over 2,000 years later.  To repent, we must cease to do evil and learn to do good.  If we do this, then our sins, “shall be as white as snow,” (Isaiah 1:18).  What a beautiful reward.

Something that caught my eye in chapter two was the end of verse 9.  It clearly stated, “do not forgive them!”  What a bold statement that is from Isaiah (and again, really God), and a rather controversial one in modern Christianity.  Once again, Isaiah goes on about how the Israelites are sinning.  It appears as if they have not repented and continue in their wicked ways.  Isaiah then declares not to forgive them!  This is contrary to what many modern Christians think.  There is a nasty word floating around that is being connected to Christians nowadays with movements such as the LGBT.  That nasty word that people are throwing at Christians is “tolerate”.  Many believe that the duty of a Christian is to tolerate and “love”.  Nowhere in the Bible is this message of “toleration” found.  Rather, there are passages such as Isaiah 2:9 which state, “do not forgive them!”  These Israelites that Isaiah is describing are sinning without any signs of repentance.  Isaiah doesn’t go on to tell others to accept and tolerate them for who they are as idol worshippers.  Instead, he blatantly states to not forgive them.  It appears from this verse alone that we should not be tolerating other people who live a life of sin.  However, this is just one verse, and you should rely on the Bible as a whole to make decisions such as this.  Therefore, I encourage you to look more into this, and I just think you might be convinced that the message of “tolerate” is ridiculous.

I hope you all have a splendid week and I look forward to starting off the Major Prophets with you all!

-Kyle McClain

Smokin’ Hot Mama OR The End Of SOS – Which Title Do You Prefer?

Song of Solomon 5-8

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Saturday, February 4

As I mentioned yesterday, there is quite a discrepancy of opinions among Biblical scholars about SOS (Song of Solomon).  Commentators such as Matthew Henry and James Durham believed SOS was solely allegorical.  Whereas, in the “Passion Pursuit” class, the ladies referred to the Shulammite woman as a “Smokin’ Hot Mama”.   In his commentary, Ray Stedman states that the Bible, especially here in SOS, handles physical passion frankly and forthrightly.  In my research, I found an excellent commentary that blends both lines of thought (it was also mentioned several times on the Authentic Intimacy website). How to Love God With All Your Heart by Keith Simons and Mark Kirkpatrick analyzes each verse in both its literal and allegorical interpretations.

I really appreciate being able to pull from both interpretations when it comes to real life applications.  If you are single, the literal application may not apply.  If you only take the allegorical application, you will miss the beauty of physical love and permission from God to be a “smokin’ hot mama” or “dude” in the marital realm.

It makes a lot of sense that SOS follows the other poetic books of the Bible not only because of its poetic nature but also because it offers wisdom for living as do the other books.  Ray Stedman refers to the 5 books of poetry as each containing a “cry.”  Job is the cry of the spirit. Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes are the cry of the soul.  SOS is the cry of the body for love.  He goes on to say that because the devil pushed this beautiful gift to extreme evil, Victorianism pushed sex into prudishness, as if it were something to be ashamed of.  SOS represents “sex as God intended it to be, involving not just a physical activity, but the whole nature of man.”

When having “the talk” (one of many) with our son, we described the reproductive purpose of sex and the bonding purpose.  Husbands and wives need to “reenact SOS” to bond.  In fact, I learned in the “Passion Pursuit” class there are many studies that show that the same hormone that bonds a mother to her child, oxytocin, is released during sex and plays a role in bonding a man and woman together.  Of course, discussing the bonding purpose of sex with our son was a little harder than the reproductive purpose.  Both of our children were adopted so he knew that wasn’t an issue… was hoping he wasn’t going to put 2 and 2 together for the other purpose! But alas….

SOS is also a beautiful allegory for God’s love and want for intimacy with his people. The New Testament also compares Christ and the church as a groom and his bride. So clearly, God created marriage as an allegory for this relationship.  I cannot state all of this nearly as well as Simons and Kirkpatrick, so I really encourage you to read How To Love God With All Your Heart ( http://www.easyenglish.info ) or just Google it!

I didn’t recall signing up for writing a devotion on SOS at Family Camp.  I just wanted to do the devotions between school semesters.  But I’m really glad I did.  I got to use some of the stuff I learned in “Passion Pursuit” and I did research I probably wouldn’t have gotten around to doing if I didn’t have to write about it.  We all make jokes about King Solomon’s pick up lines, but in truth, SOS is a beautiful book to be read on several levels.  I think God included SOS in scriptures so that we know that “every good and perfect gift is from above.” (James 1:17)

God bless you and the reading of His Word!

Maria Knowlton

(Maria’s devotion shared this week were originally used as part of a year-long Bible reading plan following 2015 COG Family Camp at Camp Mack.  We thank her for permission to reprint them here).

 (photo credit: http://www.godswordimages.com/wallpaper/love/song-of-solomon-8-6/)

SOS

Song of Solomon 1-4

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Friday, February 3

I hadn’t gotten around to registering for the “mom’s” conference, Hearts at Home, until a few days before and couldn’t find the class descriptions so I had to sign up for classes just based on the names.  I saw one called, “Passion Pursuit,” taught by Dr. Juli Slattery and Linda Dillow.  I’ve heard Dr. Slattery on Focus on the Family and at previous Hearts at Home conferences and really enjoyed learning from her. I also figured I’d like to figure out what I have a passion for, so I signed up for this class.
Pursuing one’s occupational or spiritual passion was NOT what this class was about!  It was about that one book your pastor rarely, if ever, speaks on, the book I personally have never done a jr. church series of lessons on, and as of yet, the one book we’ve never had the kids memorize verses from. That’s right! I’m talking about The Song of Solomon (SOS)!  (Signal collective blush from everyone’s cheeks.)
Over the years, there has been debate about what this book is about and why it is in the Bible.  I did a little bit of research and almost everyone agrees that this book is about God’s great love for His people and the intimacy He wants to have with both the Israelites and those of us who have chosen to become adopted seeds of Abraham.  Where debate and controversy lies is that other meaning.  As Bob Jones stated in his book, “ The 5W’s and 1H of Genesis Through Malachi,”  Song of Songs is to be seen as, “literally describing the sanctity and beauty of human physical love…Maybe God wants us to read this book so that we return marriage and sexuality to the holy place He has always intended them to occupy.” p. 70  The ladies teaching “Passion Pursuit” agree with Bob.  SOS is a book celebrating God’s love for us but it is also celebrating the gift God gives a couple upon their marriage. Those of us who have taken those vows are to embrace this gift to the fullest.( Dr. Slattery and Mrs. Dillow created an online ministry to help people do this called “Authentic Intimacy.”  I highly recommend checking this out. They have scriptural advice and instruction for anyone looking to have greater, true intimacy with God and their spouse or in preparation for marriage.)
Yes, there are a few problems with the actual book.  If Solomon was the author, which most consider as fact, he wasn’t exactly a one woman man.  My study Bible states he probably had 140 wives and concubines at the time and more throughout his life.  Not exactly a fact that would make a woman feel special!
This is also a very hard book to follow. They’re in a garden, she’s having a dream, they’re married….What is going on???? They are also talking in metaphors and similes…they’re in an actual garden, He’s in her “garden.”  And if it weren’t for the headings in my Bible, I would have no idea who is talking.  The Shulammite woman is talking, a whole bunch of women are talking (where did they come from?!) And even God speaks once.  This is a book you’ll benefit from reading along with a commentary.
So how do you use SOS to make a difference in your life?  How do you make this a part of your devotion?  A friend of mine told me that her pastor recently preached a sermon on it and encouraged husbands to tell their wives they are beautiful.  So there you go husbands!  God wants you to complement your wives!  Use lots of flowery words! (Check out youtube for examples on how to use King Solomon’s words to make your woman swoon!)  Ok, that was a little facetious. Seriously, most woman do want to know her man desires her (but maybe not in the words of chapter 4) and God has provided an example of this along with His blessings.
My friend thought of another take on SOS.  She thought that since her husband was being encouraged to tell her she’s beautiful, she should make more of an effort to be beautiful.  She looked at verse 1:6 when the Shulammite woman tries to hide from Solomon.  So my friend decided that in addition to not wearing sweats all day, she would close the door while using the powder room and not burp or otherwise display gross behaviors in front of her husband.  We all laughed when she told us that he didn’t notice but her point was that we shouldn’t take our husbands for granted and we should make an effort to be beautiful for our husbands. We also need to keep in mind verse 2:15, “ Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.  The chorus talking here, saying not to allow anything to spoil the man and woman’s relationship.  Good advice for all of us in any relationship.
The world may have cheapened the physical relationship between a man and a woman,  likening it to something as casual as a game of ping pong.  SOS reminds us that it is truly a wedding gift from God that is to be treasured, embraced, and protected.
So if you are married, read today’s reading with your spouse and have a great night! ; )
– Maria Knowlton

 (photo credit: cartoon by Andrew Fraser – found at http://www.cartoonsidrew.com/2014_10_01_archive.html)

DO it ANYWAY

Ecclesiastes 9-12

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Thursday, February 2

So you’ve read today’s reading and are thinking, “Maria, you said King Solomon was going to give us uplifting counsel!”  On the face of it, these last four chapters do not seem very uplifting.  But I read a couple of things along with these scriptures that made me realize that what he is saying is in fact, very uplifting, practical, and real.

The first thing I read, you may have read before.  It is a version of a poem that was originally written by Dr. Kent M. Keith but was rewritten as a spiritual poem, presumably by Mother Teresa.

Do It Anyway
People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and genuine enemies.       Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you.
Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.
Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten.
Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.
Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.

This poem sums up exactly what King Solomon was saying! Verse 9:11 is a prime example of this idea that life isn’t fair.  You may work hard but not receive any rewards but verse 12: 13-14 says do it anyway!  God knows your works.
The second thing I read was the commentary in my study Bible, which I thought, wrapped up the book of Ecclesiastes quite well.

“God has not told man how to comprehend all the frustrating futilities of life, but He has instructed man to enjoy life as His gift (2:24), to make the most of every opportunity (9:10), and to live life with reverence toward God (12:13), accompanied by an awareness of future judgment (12:14), Solomon learned to live with life’s paradoxes by maintaining a proper attitude toward life and God.”

Solomon is saying life is rough and it doesn’t always go the way we think it should, but we need to do the best we can anyway and everything in this life is in God’s hands.
That sounds like pretty uplifting and practical counsel for all of us!
Tomorrow we will delve into Song of Songs, Song of Solomon, or Canticles. No matter what you call it, Solomon is clearly in a better mood in this book!
See you tomorrow!
Maria Knowlton

(Photo credit: http://www.slideshare.net/drrickgriffith/eccl-12v8-14-finishing-well62)

Wisdom from The Princess Bride – And Solomon, Of Course.

Ecclesiastes 5-8

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Wednesday, February 1

I promise, King Solomon is going to offer us wise, uplifting counsel.  It’s just not going to be in today’s reading. Today’s themes are the futility of work ( we’ve heard that before), the wisdom of solemn considerations, the overall unfairness of life.
Chapter 5 opens with a warning to not pretend to please God with foolish words or hasty vows.  Solomon then warns against hoarding riches.  In verse 10 basically Solomon is saying, Mo’ money, Mo’ problems.
He does end the chapter with the positive observation that finding joy in one’s work and activities is a gift from God. If we are occupied with gladness of heart from God, we don’t have time to reflect, sadly I suspect, on the days of our lives.
Chapter 6 restates what Solomon said in chapter 4. In fact, in both he states that it would have been better to never have been born (verse 3 in chapter 4 and verse 3 in chapter 6) than to live a futile life.
I love verse 7:1.  We always celebrate the birth of a baby, in part, for all the hope the baby represents.  We celebrate not the death at the end of a person’s life, but rather the fulfillment of that hope.  Solomon is saying this celebration is better than the one at birth. In addition to celebrating that person, it reminds us of our own mortality and the need to make our time matter.  The following verses add to this thought.
When I was at Ball State for a whole semester, I was terribly homesick.  I found verse 7: 8, “The end of the matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.”  I wrote it on a piece of paper and pinned it to the wall.  It reminded me to be patient, the semester would end soon and it would certainly be better than the beginning. I would learn something from this awful experience.  I don’t remember where I thought the pride  part fit in, but it made sense to me at the time! This verse meant a lot to me and got me through that semester.
Most of Chapter 8 seems to suggest that King Solomon believed that if you do good, you will be rewarded.  But some of the verses (10 and 14) point to the fact that sometimes the wicked are rewarded and the good are punished.  I have several friends who go to tanning beds.  I have several friends who do not.  Would you believe two of my friends and I, who have never seen the inside of a tanning bed, are the ones who got skin cancer!!!! Talk about not fair! I am not saying tanning is wicked or that I want my tanning friends to get skin cancer, but it is frustrating to do all the “right” things and still suffer.  I think King Solomon understands my frustration. : )
I suspect Solomon would agree with the grandfather in The Princess Bride.  “Who says life is fair, where is that written?”  It certainly isn’t written in this chapter (or any scripture for that matter)!  God has never promised His children an easy or “fair” life.  Solomon knew that.  But he also knew that serving God is the only way to give meaning to life.  He will reassure us of this in tomorrow’s reading.
Until then, Maria Knowlton

When asked to give a short bio of herself Maria said, “I have one great husband, two wonderful kiddos, and will be a nurse in 12 months!”.  Those who know Maria would also add that she brings joy and life to every project she attacks (be it heading up the school science fair, providing first aid at Family Camp, being a spokesman for Indiana Donor Network, attending nursing school, or teaching at church in northern Indiana).  She is a model of faithfulness as she points others to her faithful God. 
 
 

(Photo credit: https://dailyverses.net/ecclesiastes/5/10/esv)