Saturday, January 13, 2018

2018.01.13 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 7:1-10

Questions for Littles: What two titles did Melchizedek have (v1)? Whom did he meet? When? What did Abraham give him (v2)? What was the translation of his name? What does “king of Salem” mean? What things did he not have (v3)? What did it show about him that even the patriarch would give him a tenth (v4)? Who had a commandment to receive tithes from Israel (v5)? But who received tithes from Abraham and blessed him (v6)? But what did Abraham have (end of v6)? What does this mean about Melchizedek: which one is better, the one who blesses or the one who is blessed (v7)? What does v8 say Melchizedek is not? Who is the One now, of whom it is testified, “He lives”? Who else paid tithes to Melchizedek (v9-10)? What does this say about him?
In the Scripture for the sermon this week, we learn about someone who is better than Abraham.

That was shocking to a Jew to hear. The way they got Jesus sentenced to death was by accusing Him of preaching against Moses and the temple. The way they got Stephen executed was by accusing him of preaching against Moses and the temple.

And now Scripture is going to tell us about someone better than father (patriarch) Abraham who received the promises? Has it forgotten how great he was?! No, actually, it reminds us in the midst of the passage that he is the patriarch, the recipient of the promises!

How can Melchizedek be better? Well, there are some early clues. First, His name translates to “King of Righteousness.” Abraham had to have sacrifices for sin because he is unrighteous. Second, his title might not mean “King of the place called Jerusalem—city of peace” … rather, the place may have gotten its name because he is the “King of Peace.” After all, that hill was currently called Moriah, and the city up there was currently called Jebus.

King of peace? Abraham wasn’t king of anything. And he didn’t have much peace. In fact, he was a sojourner in the land. Then, there was the fact that Abraham paid a tithe to Melchizedek. v5 implies that this was somehow commanded by God, and v6-10 make very clear that this shows that God Himself considered Melchizedek better.

Finally, if we went back to Genesis 14, we would learn more about this blessing. Not only does Melchizedek bless Abraham, but Abraham learns how to think and speak (v22-23) by listening to Melchizedek (v18-19). It’s fair to say that, after Genesis 14, we spend the entire Bible looking for the reappearance of this eternal, infinitely great, King of righteousness and peace!
How does Jesus as ‘King’ inform our view of ourselves? How do we respond to this info?
Suggested Songs: ARP110B “The Lord Has Spoken to My Lord” or HB132 “All Hail the Power”

Friday, January 12, 2018

2018.01.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 8:11-21

Questions for Littles: What are the Pharisees seeking from Jesus as they dispute with Him and test Him (v11)? How does Jesus respond even before He talks (12a)? What does He say after He sighs like this (12b)? Where does He go now? What had the disciples forgotten (v14)? How many loaves did they have with them? If five loaves fed five thousand families, how many could Jesus feed with one loaf? What does Jesus warn them to watch out for in v15? Why do the disciples think He said this (v16)? What does this show Jesus about their understanding and their hearts (v17-18)? What questions does He ask them, and how do they answer, in v19-20? What question does He leave them with in v21? 
In the Gospel reading this week, everyone is disappointing Jesus.

First, the Pharisees exasperate Him by asking for a sign. When someone says, “I don’t believe you. Prove it,” the problem isn’t necessarily that the one who isn’t believing doesn’t have enough evidence. Jesus had shown plenty signs.

We want to distance ourselves from the Pharisees, and say, “See! They hated Him so much that they still refused to believe in Him!” But does Jesus say that it was specifically the Pharisees who were asking for a sign?

Jesus says that this problem was one that belonged to their generation as a whole! And if it was a problem that was limited to the Pharisees, how would the warning in v15 make sense?

That brings us to His disappointment with the disciples. A parallel passage tells us at the end that they later understood that He was warning them about the teaching of Pharisees. The Holy Spirit has Mark leave that part out so that their lack of understanding will be front and center.

It’s kind of humiliating actually: “Do you mean you guys still can’t count to 12 or count to 7?” “Do you mean that you guys can’t remember all the way back to like… yesterday?”

But that’s just the point. No sign is necessary for the Pharisees or for the disciples or for Herod, because Jesus has given more than ample demonstration of Himself!

And this is true not only in Scripture but even in your own life, isn’t it dear Christian? How can you not count and recognize and remember how He continually spares you from the consequences of your sin, continually treats you according to His own love, based upon what His own righteousness deserves?
What might our hearts be secretly insisting that Jesus “would really do” if He is our Savior?
Suggested songs: ARP2 “Why Do Nations Rage?” or HB369 “How Firm a Foundation”

Thursday, January 11, 2018

2018.01.11 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 8:15-27

Questions for Littles: What spirit did we not receive (15a)? To not do what? What Spirit did we receive (15b)? What does He make us cry out? Who bears witness with us (16)? What does He testify? What three things do we do jointly with Christ, according to v17? What do we have in the present time (18)? With what are they not worthy to be compared? Where will this glory be revealed? Who(what) is eagerly waiting for this revelation (v19)? What was it subjected to (20)? Who subjected it? In what did He subject it? When the children of God are revealed from what will creation be delivered (21)? Into what? What does the whole creation do (v22)? Who else groans (v23)? What does our groaning wait for? If we are still hoping for this, what do we not yet do (v24)? How do we wait for it (v25)? Who else groans (v26)? With what is He helping us as He groans in this way (26a)? According to whose will is this groaning intercession (v27)? And who listens to this groaning of the Spirit’s mind?
In this week’s Epistle reading, there is a whole lot of groaning going on. The whole creation is groaning. We are groaning. The Holy Spirit is groaning.

That might sound like a bad thing at first, until we realize that the Holy Spirit is doing it too. What is going on here? There is a sense in which we are already saved (v24). But there is a real sense in which our salvation is not yet complete (cf. 13:11).

We aren’t resurrected yet. Our bodies are not glorious yet. And these are reminders that we are still in the midst of that struggle from the second half of chapter 7. Remaining sin—now there’s a reason for some groaning!

But we’re not groaning in fear. We’re groaning in hope. The creation is groaning in hope. Its bondage to corruption is time-limited. When “the big reveal” that God has made us His children happens, the entire creation will be remade. Until then, God has subjected it to futility.

But at the day of resurrection, we won’t just be revealed to be physically indestructible. We’ll be revealed to have been made perfectly holy like our daddy. We will be revealed to be the sons, the children, of God.

This is why the Spirit does not make us to grown in anxiety or fear—as if the work of God in us might never make any progress… as if it wasn’t genuinely on its way to being completed at the last. No, He is a Spirit of adoption to us. He trains us to call God, “daddy”—not in the sense of taking God lightly, but rather in the sense of taking holiness seriously.

We already know that as joint-hears with Christ, we will be jointly-glorified with Christ. The glory that is coming is not merely a glory that will be revealed to us but a glory that will be revealed in us. And that’s the comparison in v18. That’s what the suffering is being used by God to produce.

The Holy Spirit is praying that we would be made like Jesus, so that we can enjoy bringing to Him that glory forever! He groans that we would not continue as we are. And we who have the firstfruits of the Spirit also groan. And the whole creation groans. And God will do it! He’ll finish the work!
How do your prayers groan toward holiness and resurrection? What trial is this passage sweetening?
Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or HB369 “How Firm a Foundation”

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

2018.01.10 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 11:10-32

Questions for Littles: With whom does the genealogy start in v10? Whom do you recognize in the family at the end of the genealogy in v26? What do you notice about the ages of the men as we go along? Comparing this genealogy of the line of the promise to the one in chapter 5, what point about each of the men is interestingly missing? What are we reminded about Abram’s origins in both v28 and v31? What point does v30 make about Sarai? Where had Terah planned to go (31b)? But what happened to him (32)?
In this week’s Old Testament reading, we move rather quickly from the flood to Abram. We know from the earlier part of the chapter that some pretty exciting things happened during this time. And, this happened pretty quickly.

In fact, doing the math, Abram was born only some 295 years, give or take (depending upon whether Nahor or Haran might have been born before him). That means that he may have already been alive at the time of Babel (depending upon when in Peleg’s 239 years Nimrod “began” his kingdom at Babel. It also means that Shem was alive for Abraham’s entire life and could well have known Jacob.

The effects of the fall weigh heavily upon this chapter. The lengths of the men’s lives are decreasing. The incident at Babel hangs in the background. Haran dies even before his own father. Sarai is not obeying the command “be fruitful and multiply” not by choice, but because she is barren. It is a hard, broken world.

We may find v31 in particular interesting. Was 12:1 not the first time, and Abram not the first person, whom God had called to Canaan? Why was Terah all of a sudden going there? The text is simply silent.

Things are not spiritually much better than they are physically. We might be able to draw conclusions—since Shem’s clan stuck around with Ham all they way down until v18 and Peleg. But Joshua 24:2-3 makes it explicit: Terah had not brought Abraham up in the Lord, but rather serving other gods.

Sometimes, even in the line of promise, even in the covenant line, a clean break has to be made if the generations of the family are going to go back to serving the Lord. The generations of Shem may have moved away from the Lord, but the Lord had not moved away. He was still faithfully bringing about His promises. He was still faithfully committed to that family—even when there were generations at a time that were not committed to Him!
What ancestors of yours were believers? For what descendants of yours are you concerned? How does God’s covenant faithfulness strengthen you to prayer and labor for their souls?
Suggested songs: ARP90A “Lord, You Have Been” or HB111 “O God, Our Help in Ages Past”

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

2018.01.09 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 72

Questions for Littles: Whose Psalm was this? What did he want God to give to the king (v1a)? To the king’s Son (1b)? Whom would the king judge with what (2a, 2b)? And what would respond by imitating Him (3a, 3b)? What kinds of people would He especially help and oppose (v4, 12-14)? How long would His kingdom have this impact (v5)? How great would be His effect upon the people (v6-7a,b)? And for how long (7c, 17)? How large would His kingdom be (v8)? Whom would it include (v9, 10, 11)?? What prophecy, in particular is fulfilled about Him (9b)? What will be done for Him (15)? And how will creation respond (16)? What is the ultimate result of the kingdom described in this Psalm (v18-19)? Of what is this Psalm a summary and climax (v20)?
This week’s Call to Worship, Invocation, and Confession of sin came from Psalm 72.

Although as the Psalms are arranged in our Bibles, this one comes fairly early on, it is worth recognizing that v20 causes us to consider it a great climax in the Psalter, and that v18-19 cause us to consider its subject matter to be the wondrous things that only Yahweh God can do, and that are the greatest cause of His being glorified forever and filling the earth with His glory.

So, pretty quickly, we’ve moved beyond the possibility that this is Solomon praying, “Dear Lord, help me to be a good king.” He’s not just praying for a kingly son of David. He’s praying for “The” Kingly Son of David…

Whose rule would be not just over Israel, but over the whole earth. And who would not just reign for a good long while, but forever and ever. And not only over men, but over all of creation in such a way that it actually undoes the Fall—for mountains and hills, but also for the interaction of people during His reign. He would ultimately raise up the poor and oppressed and needy, and bring down all oppressors.

Bringing down oppressors is a duty of all kings. Raising up all the poor and needy is an impossibility unless the fall itself is undone. Jesus Himself said, “the poor you will always have with you.”

But undoing the fall is exactly what this king would do. v9 tells us that this is the serpent’s-head-crusher that this Psalm is talking about. The One before whom the serpent would go on his belly. The One before whom the serpent would eat dust all his days.

This Psalm is about Jesus, our forever King whose salvation is God’s most wondrous work!
What result of this Psalm haven’t come yet? How are you praying, praising, and working for it?
Suggested songs: ARP72B “Nomads Will Bow” or HB496 “Jesus Shall Reign”

Monday, January 8, 2018

2018.01.08 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 6:19-20

Questions for Littles: How does this hope function for our souls? What kind of anchor is it? Where does our hope enter? Who has entered there for us? What has He become? For how long? 
The Scripture for the sermon this week began by taking up the idea of “the hope set before us.” This is the hope of which God Himself wants us to be more sure, as we learned in the previous passage. So, it’s pretty important to answer the question: what hope is it?

Is it the hope that I will feel better about myself? Have less trouble in this life? Stop having to worry about money? Do better at relationships? Those are some of the hopes that people have, and we too often hear preaching that present such things as the hope that is set before us.

Well, the hope that we have is described here as an anchor. Wait… what? I want to be free! I want to move! What do you mean an anchor? Anchors just drag me down!

Not this anchor. You see, it depends upon where the anchor is. This particular anchor drags us up. It refuses to let us aim too low, remaining stubbornly stuck where it is. And where is it? In the Presence behind the veil.

Now that’s inviting… you might even say enticing. A veil is meant to keep you out. A veil is meant to hide your view. And indeed, before Christ it was forbidden to enter the Holy of Holies or even to see it. Not because God isn’t generous, but because entering or viewing is dangerous for sinners. It’s a recipe for being killed, being incinerated by the fire of His holiness!

So, the High Priest would enter for you. The High Priest would enter instead of you. This enticing veil? Yes, it stirs up your curiosity, but there was another anchor before. The rope around his leg. He wasn’t there steadfast, immovable. He was in danger himself, ready to be dragged out if he died before the holiness.

Not so with our Lord Jesus Christ. He is High Priest forever. Death has no claim on Him, because He already defeated it. Holiness is not dangerous to Him, because He is the Holy One.

And He is not there instead of us. He is there ahead of us. He is there because He is bringing us there. He has won for us an indestructible life. He has earned for us not only that we be counted holy, but that we also then be made holy to prepare us to enter with Him!
How does the fact that our entrance depends entirely upon Christ make us sure that we will enter at last? How does this being our hope reprioritize your goals that you are hoping for?
Suggested Songs: ARP16B “I’ll Bless the LORD” or HB368 “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”