“Here I Am! Send Me!”

Isaiah 4-6


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


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


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/)


Song of Solomon 1-4


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)


Ecclesiastes 9-12


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


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)

Nothing New Under the Sun

Chapters 1-4 of Ecclesiastes (eh/kle/see/as/tees; which might rhyme with “meh – see the nasties”)


Tuesday, January 31

Many Bible books were named from a key word near the start of the book, which often means they are named after the author. That is sort-of the case with Ecclesiastes, but the author’s name isn’t used in the book so it picks up a title the author took. In Hebrew that title could mean “lecturer”: it comes from the word for “gatherer” and the idea is that he gathered information and then passed it along. When the book got translated into Greek this lecture-teaching was described as preaching, so its title now is a word for “preacher.” You might wish that the name of the book was translated to English when the book was. (By the way, “ecclesia” is the Greek word that normally is translated as “church” in the New Testament). We read the book of Proverbs, a collection of wise statements that often gives advice. We read the book of Psalms, a collection of poems which often call on God. You could get the impression that our current book is a collection of downer thoughts about life. That is how a lot of people have read this book, and it is understandable if some of what we read in Ecclesiastes seems sad to us, but there is more going on here than that.

In over 20 places the book says a thing is “meaningless”, but that doesn’t mean “don’t do it”, it is more about looking at things from a long perspective and saying that the “meaningless” event or action doesn’t really change things. Certainly that is true if we look at things from the perspective of generations (1:3). The verses keep returning to the idea of our work, our labors. In the short term they can bring us satisfaction, and we are meant to accept that, it is a gift from God (3:13). But we also should be careful how we view things, never totally forgetting the big picture.

If you haven’t heard the song that Pete Seeger made out of the lines in 3:1-8, check it out (“To Everything There is a Season”). Part of the point of the verses is that we can never emphasize one thing as “the point” for our actions, what is pushed in one direction will also be pushed in another. Nothing we change stays that way forever.

An obvious example for this is eating. You can feel really hungry, say right before a church potluck that has been delayed, and then a few minutes after you eat you have no interest in food at all. But a few hours later you will be hungry again. You can’t eat enough to end the cycle, and we can ask how much importance there is in any one meal we ever eat – but we certainly cannot skip all of them.

So, that cupcake you ate the other week may have tasted good, but does it still please you? That binge-session on Netflix of sit-com episodes? Almost certainly meaningless. The test you are studying for may make a big difference to your grades – but for how many years will it matter what grades you received? It is possible to poke holes in every form of human labor and success, but “wisdom is better than folly, just as light is better than darkness” (2:13). The wise person may recognize, like the Preacher, that success is temporary in this world, but it is still better to be wise.

The Preacher / Teacher is described as a king of Jerusalem, and many people tag him as Solomon late in life. It may require being a powerful king to test all the things the Preacher tested, to see what would make him happy. He could do what he wanted, and none of it was enough. But some of the simplest things, the inexpensive things, can bring happiness to us – we just know that none of it lasts. “Happily ever after” doesn’t have much sense behind it, because people are not immortal, and the struggles of this world don’t just get skipped over for the people who want to serve God.

In a way this book is an extended piece of wise-talk, like Proverbs has, but directed to just one issue – what the point of this life is. If this world were the one God was aiming for in the first place we could expect the Preacher to give us a more positive answer, but this world is what resulted from sin. God is in the process of fixing things.

This is the book about “meaningless” (temporary) things where there is “nothing new under the sun” (in this world) and both wise and foolish people “chase after the wind” but can’t catch it, and get nothing from the chase. But along with all the comments about our work not changing things, or being undone or forgotten, we get comments about the endless importance of what God does (3:14). Maybe that is a hint at the future. What God does lasts forever, and God sent Jesus to die for us and God raised Jesus from death as the first-fruits of many who will come to immortality and live with him forever.

If you find yourself getting dragged down by anything this book says, you could question if that is because it is telling you truth you didn’t want to know about something that you have considered to be more important than it should be. But don’t ever let yourself get brought to despair by this scripture or by anything at all – always remember that the story is not over

-Daniel Smead

Daniel grew up in Missouri, then attended Oregon Bible College, Atlanta Bible College, and Columbia Theological Seminary. He has pastored in Eden Valley, Minnesota, and now attends the Pine Grove Bible Church in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. He has worked for many years editing adult Sunday School lessons, and also writes some (slowly). He is trying to create a card game about the first few centuries of Church history (very slowly). He also recognizes in himself a tendency to focus on a thing(s) more than he should, and the need to put things in God’s hands and leave them there – so if that describes you, you are not alone. God bless you.  : )

(photo credit: http://keywordsuggest.org/gallery/386871.html)

Even though Proverbs is Coming to a Close – Keep up with the Wisdom!

Proverbs 29-31


Monday, January 30

Today’s reading will wrap up the book of Proverbs.  This book is one of what we refer to as the five book section of poetry.  You’ve probably noticed that neither Proverbs, nor the rest of this section has a lot of rhyme and rhythm which is often associated with poetry.  Here’s a little poem I remember from my school days.  “Roses are red, Violets are blue.  God made me pretty, what happened to you?”  The rhyme and rhythm are obvious.  The Biblical books of poetry are classified as such, because of the rhyme and rhythm of thought and reason.  This is often called parallelism, putting similar or contrasting thoughts side by side.  These five books are also often called Wisdom Literature.  The reason is obvious.  They are full of wisdom, every one of them, but particularly the Proverbs.


I liken the book of Proverbs to the New Testament book of James.  Both are very practical, and contain much wisdom for day to day living.  The Proverbs can be seen not so much as hard and fast promises or guarantees, but rather as counsel, guidance, directives to follow, with consequential blessings.


Solomon wrote many of the proverbs contained in this book, though not all of them.  He actually did write many, many other proverbs not contained in this book.  His wisdom was a gift from God, and we would do well to follow his counsel.


Read Proverbs 29 slowly and observe the many and varied topics.  You might recall Biblical examples that fit right into some of the proverbs.  You may even think of real life experiences that relate to or prove some of the counsel shared.


Proverbs 30 begins, “The sayings of Agur son of Jakeh – an oracle.”  An oracle is either the counsel or message of a person of trust and authority, or the person him or herself.  Again, I would suggest you read slowly through Proverbs 30.  Ponder the various topics addressed.  Agur likes the organization of numbers, two things he asked of the LORD, four things that are never satisfied, four things that are amazing, four things under which the earth trembles, four things that are small, yet extremely wise, and more.


Proverbs 31 comes in two parts.  The first nine verses are an oracle (again), this time from the mother of King Lemuel.  I’ll just comment a bit on verses 4-7, where she addresses the use of alcohol.  The use of alcohol is very much accepted these days within the church as well as without.  Lemuel’s mother cautioned him about its use, because of the risk of it affecting the king’s ability to properly perform his responsibilities.  The contrast then is given in verses 6 and 7, “Give beer to those who are perishing, wine to those who are in anguish; let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more.”  Alcohol so easily impairs people to the point where it’s an effective escape from the realities of life.  I can’t tell you the Bible condemns the use of alcohol, but I would caution those who use it freely that it often impairs the user of both wisdom and judgment.  I’ve seen all too often how the abuse of alcohol has been behind the ruining of marriages, families, careers, relationships, integrity; people have been killed, etc.  Most of the examples and stories I could cite have been within the church, people who should have known better, people who never set out to destroy their marriage, family, career, etc.  They just got caught up.  It isn’t worth it to me, to use my freedom to use alcohol, when the abuse of it is so easy and so costly.  I have enough of a challenge to somewhat control my food intake, and am not willing to risk what could happen if I were to use, and go on to abuse alcohol.  I’m confident that those who never take their first drink will never be an alcoholic.  I’ve never heard of an alcoholic who set out to become one.


The rest of Proverbs 31 is a wonderful passage describing a beautiful wife and mother.  It’s actually an acrostic, with each verse beginning with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  Of course we lose all that in the translation into the English language.  It’s still a beautiful description.  This is as modern day as one could ask.  Read through it slowly.  If you’re in search of a wife, look for someone such as this.  If you are a wife, or may be some day, be one such as this.  If your wife or mother is one such as this, rise up and do as suggested in verses 28-31.


John A. Railton

-John Railton is a pastor in Northern Indiana at Family Bible Church.  He also uses his ministry talents working at a funeral home.  He would love to have a conversation with you about the Bible – and maybe play a round of ping-pong, too.

(photo credit: https://dailyverses.net/proverbs/30/5)


Proverbs 26-28


Sunday, January 29

My husband Jason and I have been in youth ministry for many years and one boy who was in the youth group about 20 years ago comes to mind every time I hear his very favorite Bible verse, “As a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” (Proverbs 26:11)  What middle school boy doesn’t love a great vomit verse!  But middle school boys are not the only ones to love this proverb.  Jesus’ disciple, Peter, the Rock Jesus would build his church on showed his wisdom (and knowledge and reliance on God’s Word) when he quoted this very proverb in 2 Peter 2:22.  Peter was referring to the foolishness, and danger, of false prophets who had once been worldly, then accepted Jesus, but then, “turned their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.” (2 Peter 2:21).  Just like a dog who returns to his vomit.  How disgustingly gross.  All of us have some gross vomit and worldly foolishness in our past.  What vomit in your life would you be wise to not return to?  How will you avoid turning back to your gross folly?

Another proverb that got my full attention was 28:9 – “If anyone turns a deaf ear to the law, even his prayers are detestable”.  Look at that – God’s detest list shows up again.  And this time PRAYERS are on the list??  I thought God loved to hear us come to him in prayer with our long list of wants and occasionally a praise or thank you thrown in – who wouldn’t love that?  When in the world would prayers be detestable to God?  I don’t think I learned this in Sunday School, or Facebook for that matter.  Thankfully, Solomon (or the writer of this proverb, who was inspired to write this by God) doesn’t leave us clueless.  He says prayers are detestable IF the “prayee” doesn’t listen to the law – doesn’t abide by God’s Word.  Perhaps you have seen someone quite content totally neglecting God’s law, hands over ears, living life their own way, returning to their vomit frequently, when all of a sudden – BAM – a crisis sends them to God in prayer.  They are ready for their miracle.  And some days, I am also guilty of not being fully tuned into listening to God’s law.  And then I could become quick to blame God for not hearing my prayers and giving me the answer requested, on my time schedule of course.

The good news is, there are many prayers God does NOT find detestable.  “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective”  (James 5:16).  Next time you are frustrated with a “silent” God who doesn’t seem to hear you at all, one possibility is to do a check-up on how well YOU have been listening to HIS law.  Perhaps, God is not the one with the hearing problem.

The lovely thing about the book of Proverbs is there are SO many topics and brief nuggets of truth.  Each time you read them you can see something different and new and exceedingly wise for you at whatever point you are in life (even a middle school boy) and at whatever stage you are in following God (even those not currently listening to Him.)   Dig in regularly to gain another morsel of truth and Godly wisdom.  So many pearls of wisdom in today’s chapters, with not enough time to touch on them all, but just a few more quick thoughts. . .

ON HUMILITY –      “Do you see someone wise in his own eyes?  There is more hope for a fool than for him” (26:12)     “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips” (27:2)    –  Don’t be the proud bragger.  No one likes the proud bragger.

ON CONFESSION –    “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)     –   God’s not looking for perfect people, just ones willing to ask for forgiveness and turn from their sins.

ON GREED & GIVING –   “A greedy man stirs up dissension, but he who trusts in the LORD will prosper.”  (28:25)     “He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses.” (28:27)     –   Greed does not bring about the prosperous life intended – but giving does.

God Bless You as you Listen to His Law,                                                                                              Marcia Railton

(Photo credit: cartoon by Elgin Bolling.  Maybe a little posted reminder would help you steer clear of revisiting your vomit/folly.  You can go to the ministry-to-children website to color your own black and white version of the dog cartoon above created by Elgin Bolling.  Just go to http://ministry-to-children.com/fool-and-his-folly-proverbs-26-cartoon/)

Golden Apples

Proverbs 23-25


Saturday, January 28

“Oh be careful little tongue what you say.  Oh be careful little tongue what you say.  For the Father up above is looking down in love.  So be careful little tongue what you say.”   “A word aptly (appropriately) spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver (both beautiful and valuable!).”  (25:11)  How did your tongue do yesterday?  How can wisdom, patience, self-control and listening keep your mouth from playing the part of a fool today?   What appropriate word can you find to share today that will be beautiful and valuable to your audience?

There are a lot of verses in Proverbs about the lazy sluggard who is headed towards poverty.  In today’s passage we read, “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest – and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.” (24:33,34).   Other verses also talk about too much sleep (6:9,10; 19:15; 20:13).  I am sure these verses still do apply to many.  But, it seems that most adults and youth I know don’t allow themselves to get enough sleep!  I wonder if the dawn of electricity and modern entertainment has changed a lot of sleep patterns.  In Solomon’s day perhaps the love of sleep was the biggest contributor to laziness, poor time management and poverty. What about today?  Perhaps…“A little video game, a little TV, a little Facebook and Pinterest into the wee hours of the morning – and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.”   Is it possible that sleep is no longer the number one contributor to laziness, poor time management and poverty?  Has it been replaced with our modern love of vegging out (def’n: to relax and spend time doing very little – often with a remote or device in hand – and sometimes stealing our much needed sleep).    Something to consider.  I know I can do a lot better with the use of the time that God has given me.

Another passage that struck me was from Proverbs 24:11-12

  “Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.  If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?  Does not he who guards your life know it?  Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?”

Time for some more heavenly heart weighing.  Do we remember daily that God is weighing our heart?  Would our actions and words look any different if we did? This passage immediately made me think of those who turned a blind eye in Hitler’s Germany or in Martin Luther King, Jr’s America.  But what about today?  Who is God asking you to stand with? Who is God asking you to help rescue?  The unborn?  The friend heading down the wrong road?  The refugee?  The family member denying Christ?  The sex-trafficking victim?

Our world is full of so much pain and sin it is indeed tempting to block it all out and close our eyes pretending we don’t know enough to be held accountable to help.  Re-read the passage above, and see who comes to mind.  Pray, become more informed, pray some more, make a plan of action, pray again and perform a rescue operation!  Perhaps you can’t save the whole world, but you CAN do something.  And remember, your heart will be weighed.

A Few More Little Lessons from Proverbs . . .

On Alcohol – – I touched on this yesterday, but hadn’t read ahead to see that another many verses today would be devoted to the problem of drinking.   It even says, “Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat.”  (23:20).   And further down . . . “Who has woe?  Who has sorrow?  Who has strife?  Who has complaints?  Who has needless bruises?  Who has bloodshot eyes?  Those who linger over wine ….”(23:29-35).  Who couldn’t use some more woe, sorrow, strife and complaints!   Be wise and steer clear of the dangers involved with drinking.  But, if you ever are looking for more woe, sorrow, strife and complaints, you’ll know you can find it all down the liquor aisle.  “In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper.” (23:32)

On Envy – three times today’s reading warned against being envious of the wicked (23:17, 24:1,19) – with the last verse even adding do not fret because of evil men.   This reminds me of a Psalm I noticed a few weeks ago – it would have fit well into Proverbs.  “Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases, for he will take nothing with him when he dies….a man who has riches without understanding is like the beasts that perish.”  (Psalm 49:16,17,20).  The wicked (rich or poor) are NOT deserving of our envy.  Rather than wishing we could be like them (even a little), perhaps we could even help turn them from death (Proverbs 24:11-12).  Be zealous for the Lord, content with what you have, focused on the goal, and keep seeking wisdom.

God bless your study of His words!
Marcia Railton
(useful apples of gold photo found at http://cubits.org/Strength/thread/view/20332/)