Saturday, December 7, 2019

Genesis 24:1-9 - "Married by Faith"

An audio recording of a sample family worship lesson in today's Hopewell @Home Passage. As Abraham comes to the end of his life, his top priority is to see his son in a marriage that is directed by God's Word, dependent upon God's providence, and devoted unto God's glory.

2019.12.07 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 24:1-9

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Genesis 24:1 tell us about Abraham, to introduce this incident? How does the second half of the verse summarize Abraham’s condition/ circumstance? To whom does Abraham speak in Genesis 24:2? What does Abraham tell him to do? By whom must he swear (Genesis 24:3)? What must he swear not to do? Where must he go (Genesis 24:4)? To whom must he go? What must he get from them? What hypothetical problem does the servant propose in Genesis 24:5? What does he ask that he should do in such a case? What does Abraham strictly forbid him to do in Genesis 24:6? What has Yahweh done to Abraham (Genesis 24:7)? What has Yahweh promised to Abraham? What is Abraham confident that Yahweh will do? But what does Abraham say to do, even if this does not happen (Genesis 24:8)? What does the servant do in Genesis 24:9?
Sarah is dead and buried. And Genesis 24:1 sounds like the kind of summary statement that is about to close out Abraham’s life story too. “Now Abraham was old, well advance in age, and Yahweh had blessed Abraham in all things.” In reality, it’s introducing a 67 verse (roughly three ordinary chapters) long description of how Isaac obtains a wife and is comforted in the loss of his mother. And it is at that point that the narrative will pick back up and close out the Abraham section.

So, the long interruption intensifies the focus on the search for Isaac’s wife.

We already know that it’s important that she come from the right family. When the line of the godly in Genesis 5 began intermarrying with the line of the ungodly from Genesis 4 at the beginning of Genesis 6, the result was that the godly line evaporated to the point that only Noah was preserved by grace, and God judged the world by the flood. We see that concern here. “you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites” (Genesis 24:3).

And we also know the importance of a Word-based commitment to the promised land. God had called Abraham out of his land (as Genesis 24:7 reminds us). The first attempt to leave the land, during the famine in Egypt, resulted in moral disaster. Then, in Genesis 15:13, the Lord had told Abraham that his offspring would be strangers in a land not theirs for 400 years. Would it be difficult? Yes, the Lord said that they would be “afflicted.” But it was the Word of the Lord, and He said that they wouldn’t be in their own land. So, what does Abraham say now? “Beware that you do not take my son back there” (Genesis 24:6) and “only do not take my son back there” (Genesis 24:8).

Abraham doesn’t know what God might do. He expresses confidence that Yahweh will send His angel ahead of the servant so that he may bring back a wife for Isaac (Genesis 24:7), but still gives instructions for if the mission is not successful (Genesis 24:8). But what he does know is that the Word of God is sure.

In an age when believers often display an unfounded confidence in how one or another situation will turn out, we would do well to walk with the Lord by the same faith as father Abraham.

Follow such Scriptural moral priorities as only marrying within the faith. Be willing to undergo affliction, as we are strengthened by a sturdy confidence that God’s promises are true. And not just short-term promises about the geographical locations of four generations. But eternal, infinitely blessed, promises that have been secured by Christ and are being applied by His Spirit. When we have promises that cannot fail, we never need to divert from living by the instruction of the One who made them.
What are you doing for the sake of your own, and other believers’, marriages?
Suggested songs: ARP45B “Daughter, Incline Your Ear” or TPH128B “Blest the Man that Fears Jehovah”

Friday, December 6, 2019

John 21:20-25 - "Follow Me"

An audio recording of a sample family worship lesson in today's Hopewell @Home Passage. In this last devotional in the Gospel of John, Jesus and Peter are walking along the beach and Peter gets distracted from following Christ by comparing his service and circumstances to someone else's. But John directs our attention back to Christ: the God-man who loved us and gave Himself for us.

2019.12.06 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 21:20-25

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Peter do, while Jesus is walking and talking with him (John 21:20)? Whom does he see? What does Peter ask Jesus in John 21:21? What does Jesus ask Peter in response (John 21:22)? What command does Jesus repeat to Peter? What saying went out among the brethren (John 21:23)? What correction is John making? Who is writing these things (John 21:24a)? What do “we” know? What were not written in this book (John 21:25)? How many of them were there? 
Peter makes so many of the same mistakes that the rest of us make. He’s not the vicar of Christ on earth, but he has certainly acted like the “patron saint” of millions of believers. Here, he makes the same mistake in John 21:21 as many others apparently had, according to John 21:23.

It’s an amazing moment between Peter and Jesus:

  • Christ restoring His fallen servant from his failures in his denials.
  • Christ commissioning His servant to a ministry of tending and feeding the flock.
  • Christ taking His servant on a private walk on the beach.

And what does Peter do? He wants to know, “but what about that guy?” That’s a problem with us. Our confidence in Christ and cherishing of His walking with us are so poor that instead of being satisfied in Him, we seem often to wonder how His providence to us measures up against His providence to others.

John notes in John 21:23 that the church as a whole had been taken with this idea, but then he turns us to his real significance. Not as the disciple that will never die, nor even the disciple who lives the longest (though he did). Rather, John tells us that his importance is a witness who gives true testimony of Jesus—God the Son who became a Man in order to be the crucified and risen Christ.

In the beginning of his gospel, John had told us that Jesus is the eternal Word, who is the full revelation of God. Now, in John 21:25, he closes the book by saying that Jesus is the glorious God of Psalm 40:5. “Many, O LORD my God, are Your wonderful works which You have done; and Your thoughts toward us cannot be recounted to You in order; if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.”
Who is Jesus? How have you been responding to His walking with you in life?
Suggested songs: ARP40A “I Waited for the Lord” or TPH375 “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name”

Thursday, December 5, 2019

2019.12.05 Hopewell @Home ▫ Galatians 4:21-31

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Paul call those whom he is correcting in Galatians 4:21? What does Galatians 4:22 call the mothers of Abraham’s two sons? According to what was one of them born (Galatians 4:23)? Through what was the other one born? With what does the apostle draw an analogy to these two sons (Galatians 4:24)? Which way of salvation does he compare to the son of the bondwoman? What two mountains are emblematic of trying to be right with God through this covenant (Galatians 4:26)? What mountain is emblematic of being right with God only through the promise (verse 26)? What promise is quoted in Galatians 4:27 (cf. Isaiah 54:1; Genesis 17:15-17)? Whom does the apostle say are children of promise like Isaac (Galatians 4:28)? What does he say they can expect from those who choose the way of fleshly effort instead of gracious promise (Galatians 4:29)? But what happens to those who choose the way of fleshly effort (Galatians 4:30)? In which group does the apostle place himself and his readers (Galatians 4:31)?
Many have misunderstood this passage, but Galatians 4:24-26 is the key. This passage isn’t about two sons (Ishmael and Isaac). Rather, it’s about two covenants—or, better put, about two Jerusalems.
How are the Jerusalems like the sons?

Well, one son was born as the result of human initiative—“according to the flesh” (Galatians 4:23). We recall how Sarai convinced Abram to take the initiative for producing a seed and try by way of Hagar.

The other son was born as the result of the divine initiative—“through the promise” (verse 23). We remember also how God announced the Isaac plan to Abraham in Genesis 17.

At the time that the apostle writes Galatians, there is a city called Jerusalem halfway between the north end of the Dead Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. There, there were people zealously trying to be the children of Abraham by the outward actions of the Mosaic administration. But this was like Hagar plan (Galatians 4:25)—based upon the initiative of the flesh.

However, the apostle is writing to the Galatians after Christ has taken His seat in glory. There was another barren woman who had been promised a Son—in the servant songs at the end of Isaiah, God had promised that the forever-King, the Redeemer, would come from Israel, atone for sin by His blood, and gather in a chosen people unto God from all the nations!

This is exactly what Christ has done, and there He is—seated in glory! There are not two ways to God, just as there could not be two ways to be Abraham’s heir (Galatians 4:30). The only way to be a child of God is to be born according to the Spirit, at God’s initiative, through the promised Christ, who sits enthroned among redeemed people from every nation.

Do you wish to be a child of Abraham? Believe in Christ like Abraham did! Do you wish to respond rightly to the law given at Sinai? Hope in the Christ whom that law demanded that God’s people look forward to! Do you wish to be a citizen of God’s chosen city? It cannot come by keeping the ceremonial code on earth, but only by the new administration of the enthroned King in heaven.
In whose performance do you hope? Where is He? What does He use to work in us?
Suggested songs: ARP87 “The Lord’s Foundation” or TPH425 “How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place”