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Saturday, September 21, 2019

2019.09.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 18:20-33

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Yahweh say has been very great in Genesis 18:20? What does He say about their sin? Whom does He say will go down and see (Genesis 18:21)? Whom does Genesis 18:22 say turned away and went toward Sodom? Yet, before whom does Abraham continue to stand? What does Abraham ask in Genesis 18:23? What does he propose in Genesis 18:24? What reason does he argue in favor of his proposal (Genesis 18:25)? How does Yahweh respond in Genesis 18:26? What does Abraham call himself in Genesis 18:27? What modified proposal does he make in Genesis 18:28? What answer does he get? What proposal and answer in Genesis 18:29? What proposal and answer in Genesis 18:30? What does he acknowledge as remarkable in Genesis 18:31? What proposal and answer in verse 31? What does he ask at the beginning of Genesis 18:32? What does he say about this request? What proposal and answer in this verse? Who leaves in Genesis 18:33? Where does Abraham go? 
There is an important division of labor between Abraham and God. Between us and God. It is the Lord who works all things according to the counsel of His will. It is the Lord who is saving sinners. It is the Lord who will avenge every wrongdoing. It is the Lord who will bring every deed under judgment and repay. He is the Judge of all the earth. Abraham recognizes that role, and even reminds the Lord of it in prayer in Genesis 18:25.

But Abraham has a role too. He is the one through whom all the nations of the earth shall be blessed. Part of this role we have seen in the previous passage: how he leads his household. Through Abraham’s commanding of his children and of his household after him that the Lord has appointed to bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him. And though it does not belong to Abraham to bring about all that God plans for the nations, it does belong to Abraham to plead with them.

Notice that Abraham’s pleading is not only concerning Lot specifically, but rather concerning whatever righteous may be there generally. His focus is the entire church: all of those whom the Lord has brought to faith. And here is a pattern for us. Yes, we are to let our light shine before men. Yes, we are to be salt and light. We have a role of action in our own place, in our everyday life. But we have a role of intercession also. Pleading for all men everywhere to Him who has provided the Mediator between God and man, and who desires for all to come to a knowledge of the truth.

We hardly realize what a privilege we have in the appointment to call upon the name of God on behalf of others. Abraham realizes it: “I who am but dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord… let not the Lord be angry… I have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord… let not the Lord be angry…”

Even in the midst of praying, Abraham marvels at the wonder of prayer. The living God, the Creator, listens to the pleadings and heeds the arguments of a creature who is but dust and ashes. It’s not only that Abraham addresses the Lord. Behold! The Lord heeds him. And heeds him. And heeds him. God has considered us in Christ, and now heaven stoops down to take dust as its royal advisor!

Here is the division of labor. The Lord assigns to us an everyday, ordinary role—in which, even, it is He who sustains us. And the Lord takes upon Himself to work all things according to the counsel of His will. But the Lord also assigns unto us the role of calling upon His Name concerning whatever He causes us to know about. So work! And pray!
What everyday role has the Lord given you? What has He caused you to know about the needs of others? When are you taking the opportunity to call upon Him concerning them?
Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge” or TPH518 “Come, My Soul, with Every Care”

Friday, September 20, 2019

2019.09.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 17:20-26

Questions from the Scripture text: Who are not the only ones for whom Jesus is praying (John 17:20)? For whom also is He praying? Why is He praying for them (John 17:21)? How are believers made one? What is this unity in Christ used by God to do to the world? What has Jesus done with the glory His father gave Him (John 17:22)? What does this glory do for believers? Who is in believers (John 17:23)? Who is in Jesus? What impact does this have upon the world—what two things does the world learn about the Father from this? Where does Jesus desire His disciples to be in John 17:24? What does He want them to behold? For how long has the Father loved the Son? What does Jesus call God in John 17:25? Who has not known the Father? Who has known the Father? What else have Jesus’s disciples known? What has Jesus declared to His disciples (John 17:26)? What does this cause to be in the disciples? Whom does this cause to be in the disciples?
Jesus has been praying for us throughout John 17, but now He specifically lets us know it. Aren’t you one of those specifically named in John 17:20? Someone who has believed in Him through the words of the apostles?

Let us marvel at the astonishing—blasphemous, had it not been the Lord Himself who said them—things that Jesus prays specifically for us!

That we would be one in God, as God is One in Himself (!!!, John 17:21). This of course cannot be a oneness of substance. We cannot be God, and God cannot change. So what is it?

It is a oneness of glory. Jesus has given us His glory (John 17:22), even as HE prays that we would behold that glory (John 17:24). We have no glory of our own. The more He makes us to be like Himself, the more His glory is seen upon us. And, ultimately, what we come to know as glorious is to belong to Him, to be with Him, to behold Him.

It is a oneness of understanding. Jesus has given unto us to believe (John 17:20) in Him. Jesus has given us to know that He sent from the Father (John 17:25). That is to say: He has given us to know the Trinity and to know the eternal Son who is also now true man forever—not just theoretically (though at least that) but experientially (cf. John 17:3).

It is a oneness of love. We do not come to know (to understand and experience) only the love of God within Himself from before the world began (John 17:24). We come to understand and experience that God loves us with that very love that He has within Himself (John 17:23). In fact, that love comes not only to be upon us, but even within us (John 17:26, cf. Romans 5:5), because Christ is within us!

This is the greatest of the miracles of the gospel of John—a gospel that has been uniquely focused upon the “signs” that “manifest the glory” of Jesus. Sinners who are brought into a oneness of understanding with the Triune God. Sinners who are redeemed into a oneness of glory with the Triune God. Sinners who are redeemed into a oneness of love with the Triune God.

This redemption is the great sign through which the world (all those who are born not of blood or the will of the flesh or the will of man, but of God, cf. John 1:13) come to believe (John 17:21John 17:23). Truly, as Jesus said, He has given to the apostles—and even to contemporary believers—to do “greater works than these.”

And these are the things that we must pray for, even as He has modeled for us the praying for them—even as He is even now in glory interceding for us!
By what means are you seeking for yourself what Jesus, in heaven, is seeking for you?
Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH522 “Behold the Throne of Grace!”

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Narrowing Activity Focus, Broadening Prayer Focus - 2019.09.19 Hopewell Herald Pastoral Letter

I ended up sending out a much abbreviated version with the actual Herald in order to stave off too many TLDRs for recipients, but here's the original version of this week's pastoral letter.


Dear Congregation,

Abraham had a huge role to play in God’s plan of redemption. But we saw last week that the Lord had known him in order that he might command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord.

Now, we come to a passage in which the Lord provokes Abraham to pray for Sodom and for the righteous whom he hopes will be found there, because God is the judge of all the earth, who is bringing salvation to all the earth.

Abraham’s primary place of ministry activity was in his household. Did he have a ministry to the city-states in the green valley? Absolutely! He prayed. He wrestled with God for the sake of whatever righteous might be there.


I grew up being challenged (and hoping) to be a world-changing Christian, but as the Spirit has reformed my thinking to conform to Scripture, there has been a shift in focus to the means and directives of our world-changing God.

While I have been places and involved in ministry that some would consider “front lines” of building the kingdom, I realize now that I am no less involved by means of what takes place around our dining table, and on our knees in the living room, in pews in the chapel on the Lord’s Day, and at tables on Wednesday evenings in the Fellowship Hall.

Keeping the way of the Lord, doing righteousness and justice in my own life. Commanding my children to do so after me. Being an active joint and body-part in local body of Christ’s church (Eph 4:16). That is well-focused kingdom activity. And I think that, to a significant extent, we know this in a congregation in which we have regained a biblically high valuing of the family and of following Christ’s agenda for us as church members (which we also promise in our vows).

But I wonder if we are failing to match the Gen 18:19 focus in our activity with a ministry of prayer of much greater scope—one that is shaped by the activity of God Himself. The Lord makes just that point about our prayers in 1Timothy 2:1-8, which we will look at as we consider Genesis 18:20-33 on the Lord’s Day morning.


When we know the God who will accomplish all of His holy will, we don't need to accomplish it for Him. We rejoice that He has given us whatever part He has given us. But, when we see the scope of what He is doing and that part of what He assigns to us is to pray according to that scope, this will necessarily mean a life marked by intercessory prayer.


Do you find it difficult to set aside an hour of time for secret prayer? To spend time as a couple (or as a family) for just that purpose? To prioritize your thoughts for prayer in corporate worship, and your time for gathering for the prayer meeting? What if we started taking as a cue to prayer whatever God says in His Word or lets us learn about His world?

Perhaps the focus-narrowing adjustment to our activity that some of us received in last week’s text will be matched this week by a focus-broadening adjustment to our prayers in the next one.

Pastor

2019.09.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Galatians 3:1-5

Questions from the Scripture text: What does the apostle call his readers in Galatians 3:1? How does he refer to their falling into doctrinal error? What had been displayed before their eyes? But what did they not do with the truth? By what had they received the Spirit (Galatians 3:2)? But by what were they trying to be perfected (Galatians 3:3)? What does he suggest may be true about the many things they have suffered for Christ (Galatians 3:4)? What two things does Galatians 3:5 identify as being done by God for them? Who, then, chooses the way by which these things happen? And by what means does He choose to make them happen?
What enables a Christian to be holy? What ensures that a Christian will be holy? That’s the question in the book of Galatians. The problem is that the Galatians had come to answer “by the works of the law” and “by the effort of the flesh” (Galatians 3:2Galatians 3:3).

But these are “what” questions that have both a “who” answer and therefore a “what” answer.

First, the “who” answer. If we consider Galatians 3:5, we will see the point that the apostle is making about why believers must grow in holiness only by one power. It is because only God Himself can grow us in holiness. Only God Himself can work the miracles that have attested to the gospel among them. Only God Himself can supply the Spirit—and that Spirit came not when they had performed some great act of obedience, but when they had been brought to believe what they had heard about Jesus Christ crucified (Galatians 3:2).

It is precisely because they knew that God Himself was saving them that they had been willing to suffer so much for the sake of Christ and of the gospel (Galatians 3:4). Now, by sliding into thinking that they could grow in holiness by their flesh—their sincerity, their zeal, their effort—they were unwittingly saying that what God had provided in Jesus Christ crucified somehow need supplementation.

Did they really want to have suffered for something that would ultimately need their help to work? Because they’re not able to do anything to help, so the suffering would be for nothing!

Therefore, the “what” answer must be through faith. It is through faith that we are enabled to be holy. Why? Because of the who answer: God alone can make us holy, and it is through the hearing of faith that He has chosen to do so. God keep us from backsliding into reliance upon ourselves!
As you strive for holiness, by what method do you do so? Why that method?
Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH435 “Not What My Hands Have Done”

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

2019.09.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Judges 15

Read Judges 15
Questions from the Scripture text: What time was it in Judges 15:1? Whom did Samson visit with what? Who wouldn’t let him see her? What excuse does he give (Judges 15:2)? What compensation does he offer? What does Samson say in Judges 15:3? What does he catch and how many (Judges 15:4)? What does he do with them (Judges 15:4-5)? With what result? What question do the Philistines ask (Judges 15:6)? What do they do when they find out that it was Samson? Now, to this, how does Samson respond (Judges 15:7-8)? And how do the Philistines as a whole respond in Judges 15:9? What do the men of Judah ask in Judges 15:10? And what do the Philistines answer? How many men of Judah does it take to ask Samson a question (Judges 15:11)? How does Samson answer? But what had they come down to do (Judges 15:12)? What is Samson’s one request of them? What do they do in Judges 15:13? Who comes upon him in Judges 15:14? How easily do the ropes break? What does he use to kill how many men in Judges 15:15? How does he commemorate the slaughter in Judges 15:16 and in Judges 15:17? What turns him into a whiney grumbler against God in Judges 15:18? What does he say? What does God do for him in Judges 15:19? What does Samson do for 20 years (Judges 15:20)?
Everyone keeps trying to control Samson, and it keeps on backfiring on them. His father-in-law puts his foot down, and ends up not only with the obliteration of the Philistine crops but ultimately burned to ashes by his own people.

The Philistines who thought they were teaching Samson a lesson by exterminating the wife he seemed to love so much end up being slaughtered with a great slaughter.

The men of Judah send three thousand men to apprehend him and extradite him. The Lord spares them, but the outcome is exactly opposite their intentions. The Philistines who receive him, on the other hand, end up memorialized by the jawbone song that christened jawbone hill.

Truly, the Philistines are not in control, despite Judah’s view that it is so (Judges 15:11). But, in case we haven’t noticed it in his own actions, the “thirsty” incident reminds us that Samson is not in control either. To be sure, this is a hero story. It’s just that Samson is not the hero of the story. We find the heart of it on his own lips, “You [Yahweh] have given this great deliverance.”

For his part, Samson is the consummate Israelite—giving us an historical reenactment of the people in the wilderness, who have been the objects of a great salvation, crying out that the Lord has only done so in order to kill them by thirst.

But it is the Lord who is truly reenacting. Once again delivering a sinful people and a sinful man by great displays of power and greater displays of patience and mercy. For, He is bringing into the world a Man who will finally be the hero of the story. The man Jesus Christ. A man who will be thirsty. But a man who will never sin even once in heart and mind, and who will always be in complete control.

Judges 15 calls unto us: hope in the God who is in complete control! Hope in the man who is also that God—and who has given His life as a ransom for many!
In what situation do you need to remember that God, who is in complete control, is saving you?
Suggested Songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH256 “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

2019.09.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 1:3-14

Questions from the Scripture text: Of Whom is God the Father (Ephesians 1:3)? With what spiritual blessings has He blessed us? Where? In Whom? What else did God do to/for us in Christ (Ephesians 1:4)? When? For what end purpose/result? To what has He predestined us (Ephesians 1:5)? By what means? According to what reason? For what further/ultimate purpose (Ephesians 1:6)? What did He make us by that grace? What do we have through His blood (Ephesians 1:7)? According to the riches of what? What has He made known to us (Ephesians 1:9)? Where/in-Whom did He purpose His good pleasure? In whom did He plan to gather together all things (Ephesians 1:10)? For when did He plan this to happen? What did we obtain in Christ (Ephesians 1:11)? How many things does God work according to the counsel of His will? What was God’s purpose for the first believers’ trusting in Christ (Ephesians 1:12)? What brought about the Ephesians’ faith (Ephesians 1:13)? How were they sealed when they believed? What is the Holy Spirit to us (Ephesians 1:14)? Until when? Unto what ultimate purpose?
This week’s Call to Worship, Invocation, Confession of Sin, Song of Adoration, and Announcement of the Gospel came from Ephesians 1:3-14. This passage teaches us why God created the heavens and earth. The answer, of course, goes back into eternity. God had predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself.

But how could this come about? How could creatures come to be united to the God the Son, the Creator? Because God, who had chosen us to be holy and blameless before Him in love refused to allow us to perish in our sin.

This adoption in everlasting love has its own “why” purpose. To the praise of the glory of His grace (Ephesians 1:6).

His giving us the inheritance of being like Him and with Him forever has the same purpose. That believers would be to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:12).

When at last we are displayed as the blood-purchased possession of Christ, it will also be unto the same purpose. To the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:14).

This is the chief end of man: that the elect would glorify God by eternally enjoying Him as His own dear children as the glorified brethren of the Firstborn, our Lord Jesus Christ!

Whatever you are going through, this is what your trial is accomplishing! Whatever else God intends to do through the task in front of you, this is what the duty before you will ultimately accomplish!

There is no more comfort-assuring, joy-enlarging, purpose-giving doctrine than God’s eternal, adopting election to the praise of His glorious grace!
What are you going through? What tasks lie before you? What is God doing in them? 
Suggested songs: ARP128 “How Blessed Are All” or TPH425 “How Sweet and Awesome”

Monday, September 16, 2019

2019.09.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 18:16-19

Questions from the Scripture text: Who rise in Genesis 18:16? Where do they look? Who goes with them? To do what? Who speaks in Genesis 18:17? What question does He ask? What will Abraham become (Genesis 18:18)? Who will be blessed in him? What has Yahweh done to Abraham (Genesis 18:19)? So that Abraham might do what? To whom? What is Abraham to command them to do? What will Yahweh bring about through this? 
The text continues to remind us this is Yahweh (Genesis 18:17) appearing in the form of three men (Genesis 18:16—cf. the same thing again in Genesis 18:20/Genesis 18:22, etc.). And one of the main points of the passage is related: behold how near the Lord has come to Abraham!

We remember, in John 15, Jesus saying that the disciples were His friends because He told them what He was doing. Elsewhere, the Scriptures tell us that Abraham is called the friend of God, and here we hear God ask, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing? … For I have known him!”

Yes, there is a sense of “choosing” in this knowing. Of all the people in the world at this time, Abraham is the only one about whom the Lord speaks in that way. But let us not forget to see the knowing in this choosing. “I have known him.” I have intended, from before the world began (cf. Romans 8:29), that we would be in close fellowship with one another, and have set my affections upon him from that time.

Notice the result of this knowing: godliness. When God sets His affections upon a man, He does not leave that man unchanged.

Notice the content of that godliness: faith and obedience. First, faith. It is not Abraham who has planned the good that will come to him. Yahweh has spoken it to him. It is not Abraham who will bring about what has been spoken. Yahweh is bringing it to him. We mustn’t make the mistake of thinking that the obedience is what ensures the blessing. That belongs to God alone. Remember chapter 15. Abraham believed God, and it was counted for him as righteousness.

And then obedience. But notice especially the sphere of that obedience. Ordinary, everyday life. Leading his household to keep the way of Yahweh. Leading his household to do righteousness and justice. This is the necessary result of the Lord knowing us. And this is also the role which the Lord has given us, amongst all the other means that He has appointed for bringing to us what He has promised.

The Christian life is not easy—it requires the miracle of Yahweh bringing it about, Yahweh bringing it to us. But it is, in fact, rather simple. Trust in Him, and do what He commands in the role where He has placed you. He will bring about what He has promised.
What everyday role has the Lord given you? What are some things He has promised you?
Suggested Songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH128B “Blest the Man Who Fears Jehovah”

Saturday, September 14, 2019

2019.09.14 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 18:16-19

Questions from the Scripture text: Who rise in Genesis 18:16? Where do they look? Who goes with them? To do what? Who speaks in Genesis 18:17? What question does He ask? What will Abraham become (Genesis 18:18)? Who will be blessed in him? What has Yahweh done to Abraham (Genesis 18:19)? So that Abraham might do what? To whom? What is Abraham to command them to do? What will Yahweh bring about through this? 
It is an extraordinary blessing to have the Word of God.

Here, the Lord’s reasoning for revealing His plans to Abraham is that Abraham is the earthly representative of the covenant of grace at this time, and indeed has an unique place in the covenant of grace throughout history. He is the one through whom blessing shall come to all the nations of the earth. And he himself shall surely become a great and mighty nation.

Also, when the Lord highlights the great privileges of Israel, he lists first (“chiefly”) among them that they have the sayings of God (Romans 3:2, cf. Romans 9:4). And this blessing has come down, now, to the church.

For, it is the church that has received the fullness of God’s Word, given by God to Christ and given by Christ to the apostles, and completed for the apostles by the ministry of the Spirit (cf. John 16:12-15; John 17:6-8John 17:13-20).

Of course, with great privileges come great responsibility. Abraham’s unique relationship with the Lord (I have known Him) demands a response (that he may command his children and his household after him).

He is to lead his household—with a special focus upon his children—to “keep the way of Yahweh, to do righteousness and justice.” Of course, this must begin with faith—as we have seen since at least Genesis 15:6 and, really, ever since chapter 12. But using the double word (righteousness and justice) presses us to include not only righteous standing through faith in Christ, but also righteous living that is the fruit of that same faith in Christ.

In fact, the Scripture says that this was a means by which Yahweh would “bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.” The Lord has not only a specific Savior by whom we are saved; He has also a specific mechanism through which He carries out His plan to bring the Savior into a sinful world, and to bring sinners to the Savior. As He sustains us in following His ways, He uses that way to bring us, and our children, and as many as will join us, into a life of dependence upon Jesus and also devotion to Jesus.
What is the way by which the Lord has planned to bring you what He has spoken to you?
Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH234 “The God of Abraham Praise”

Friday, September 13, 2019

2019.09.13 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 17:11-19

Questions from the Scripture text: Where is Jesus not going to be when He goes to the Father (John 17:11)? Where are His disciples going to be? What does He call His Father here? What does He ask God to do to whom? Through what? With what result? Who has been doing this until now (John 17:12)? What does Jesus call them in verse 12? Who was lost? Why? Where does Jesus speak these words (John 17:13)? Why—so they can have what in themselves? What has Jesus given them (John 17:14)? What has the world done to them? Why? Who else is not of the world? What doesn’t Jesus pray according to John 17:15? What does He pray? What two things does He repeat in John 17:16? What does Jesus ask His Father to do in John 17:17? How? Who sent Whom into the world in John 17:18a? Who sent whom into the world in verse 18b? What does Jesus do to Himself in John 17:19? For whose sake? So that what would happen to them?
Jesus is speaking prospectively here about when He comes to the Father. In John 16:16-28, He had described this departure as the occasion which would enable them to see Him better than ever, and to have joy that no one can take from them, and to have it fully. O the joy of those who see Jesus by faith through His words as given by His Spirit in the Scriptures, and applied by His Spirit to our hearts!

But His followers must remain in the world in which they will have trouble. And just as Jesus says that they will be praying for that joy in the midst of that trouble (John 16:23-26John 16:33), so now in chapter 17, Jesus is giving us His own model of how He prays for us.

He prays for us based upon who His Father is: Holy Father.

He prays for us that which His Father alone can do: keep them through Your Name.

He prays for us based upon God’s choosing: those whom You have given Me.

He prays for us based upon His own power: I have kept, and none of them is lost.

He prays for us that we would hear His words: these things I speak in the world.

He prays for us that we would have His joy: that they may have My joy fulfilled.

He prays for us that we would have His word: I have given them Your word.

He prays that it would make us holy: Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.

He prays for us that we would be kept from the evil one.

He prays for us based upon His own consecrating Himself unto death: for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.

God grant that we would learn to pray just God-devoted, joy-desiring, Scripture-driven, holiness-developing, Christ-dependent prayers! And God grant that He would answer not only us, but our Lord Jesus who perfectly prays in this way for us!
How have you been growing in your praying? How will you grow in your praying?
Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH412 “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast”

Thursday, September 12, 2019

2019.09.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ Galatians 2:17-21

Questions from the Scripture text: By what (Whom!) do Christians seek to be justified (Galatians 2:17)? What are we still found to be? What did Paul’s opponents say that this would mean about Christ? How does the apostle answer that? What does Galatians 2:18 say it would do to ourselves if we go back to being justified by works? To what does a Christian die (Galatians 2:19)? To Whom does a Christian live? What has happened to a Christian with Christ (Galatians 2:20a)? Who no longer lives? Who does live? By what is such a life lived? What has the Son of God done? What would we be setting aside to say that righteousness comes through the law (Galatians 2:21)? What then would have been in vain?
The apostle’s opponents slanderously reported that he taught, “let us do evil that good may come” (cf. Romans 3:7-8). They claimed that if being right with God comes only through depending upon Jesus, then this makes Jesus somehow responsible for the sin that we continue to commit. It’s a common charge, even today: “Oh, I can’t really believe in Christ, because those who hold to that idea do bad things.”

But just as law-keeping can’t make us right with God, it also can’t make us able to obey God. Ability to obey can only come from Jesus Christ. If we say that only Jesus Christ can make us right with God, but that somehow law-keeping can make us able to keep God’s law, we “rebuild what we destroyed” in order to trust in Jesus in the first place. And if we do that, we pull the rug right out from under our ability to grow in holiness.

Growth in holiness only comes by living unto God (Galatians 2:19). Growth in holiness comes only by Christ living in us (Galatians 2:20). Growth in holiness comes only by living in dependence upon Jesus (verse 20). Growth in holiness can come in this way only because Jesus loved me first and gave Himself for me in every way—including that I might grow in holiness (verse 20).

If we are going to say that our law-keeping makes us able to keep the law, we might as well say that Jesus died for no reason. It’s just as irrational as saying that our law-keeping could make us right with God—you can’t start by grace and continue by works (Galatians 2:21).

The problem is that it’s not just Pharisees and Judaizers that say this. We might disagree with the doctrine, but still easily slide into feeling like “things are going to go better with my walk now, because of how determined I am, or because I understand better what the law requires in this or that situation, or because I’ve set up these boundaries to make sure that I keep that part of God’s law.”
Commitment, and understanding, and even good plans are good. But they are not what enables law-keeping. Only the life of Christ in us that we may live unto God can enable that law-keeping. What we need most of all, for holy living, is to joyously cling to the One who has loved us and has given Himself to BE our life!
By what habits do you rejoice in Jesus’s love for you and Jesus’s life in you?
Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH435 “Not What My Hands Have Done”

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

2019.09.11 Hopewell @Home ▫ Judges 14

Read Judges 14
Questions from the Scripture text: Where does Samson go in Judges 14:1? What does he see? Where does he go in Judges 14:2? To whom does he speak? What does he ask of them? What do his parents suggest instead (Judges 14:3)? What reason does Samson give? From Whom, ultimately, did this grief come (Judges 14:4)? What was Yahweh doing against the Philistines? Why? Where did Samson go in Judges 14:5? With whom? What comes against him? Who comes upon him in Judges 14:6? What does he do to the lion? Whom does he not tell?  To whom does he speak in Judges 14:7? What note is repeated from verse 3? Where does he go for what purpose, after some time (Judges 14:8)? What does he turn aside to see? What does he find in the lion’s carcass? What does he do with the honey in Judges 14:9? What does he not tell his parents? Who goes down to the woman in Judges 14:10? What does Samson do? Whom do the Philistines bring (Judges 14:11)? What challenge does Samson make in Judges 14:12-13? How do the Philistines do at first (Judges 14:14)? What strategy do they follow in Judges 14:15? What does the wife do—and keep doing—for how long in Judges 14:16-17? How does Samson respond to their guess (Judges 14:18)? Who comes upon Samson in Judges 14:19? What does he do? What happens with the wife (Judges 14:20)?
I wonder if you ever thought, perhaps with Samson himself, that the secret of his strength came from his hair. That’s certainly not the impression that we get from paying attention to his feats of strength.

It is not the hairy scalp but the Holy Spirit who is the key to Samson’s strength. Judges 13:25 had told us that the Spirit of Yahweh began to move upon Samson. Now, Judges 14:6 and Judges 14:19 give us two instances of the Spirit of Yahweh rushing upon him. In one case, he tears a roaring lion apart like he might could do to a baby goat, and in the other he takes on and kills thirty Philistines.

And we seem to be the only ones to know what is going on. The text implies what was surely a source of despair for Mr. and Mrs. Manoah. Their son is hung up on the Philistine girl from Timnah, but they don’t know that it is from Yahweh. No one knows about the lion or the honey (by both of which this “Nazirite” was defiled). Samson doesn’t know about his wife’s secret plot. The wife (whose name we don’t know) weeps for days over what she doesn’t know, because she wants to tell the Timnah-supplied groomsmen (whom Samson doesn’t really know) what they don’t know.

It’s like trying to sort out the significance (or even the reality) of what we heard or read in the news. Our heads begin spinning—who knows anything at all? Answer: Yahweh knows, because Yahweh is working a salvation that His people didn’t even ask for this time around; He just wasn’t willing to tolerate their oppression any longer (Judges 14:4).
What does the Lord know about your life? What is He doing about it for Jesus’s sake?
Suggested Songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH256 “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

2019.09.10 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 72

Read Psalm 72
Questions from the Scripture text: Whose Psalm was this? What did he want God to give to the king (Psalm 72:1a)? To the king’s Son (verse 1b)? Whom would the king judge with what (Psalm 72:2a and 2b)? And what would respond by imitating Him (Psalm 72:3a and 3b)? What kinds of people would He especially help and oppose (Psalm 72:4, Psalm 72:12-14)? How long would His kingdom have this impact (Psalm 72:5)? How great would be His effect upon the people (Psalm 72:6-7)? And for how long (verse 7c, Psalm 72:17)? How large would His kingdom be (Psalm 72:8)? Whom would it include (Psalm 72:9-11)? What prophecy, in particular is fulfilled about Him (verse 9b)? What will be done for Him (Psalm 72:15)? And how will creation respond (Psalm 72:16)? What is the ultimate result of the kingdom described in this Psalm (Psalm 72:18-19)? Of what is this Psalm a summary and climax (Psalm 72:20)?
This week’s Call to Worship, Invocation, Confession of Sin, and Song of Adoration came from Psalm 72. Although as the Psalms are arranged in our Bibles, this one comes fairly early on, it is worth recognizing that Psalm 72:20 causes us to consider it a great climax in the Psalter, and that Psalm 72:18-19 causes 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. Psalm 72:9 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 hasn’t come yet? How are you praying and working for it? 
Suggested songs: ARP180 “Christ Shall Have Dominion” or TPH417 “Jesus Shall Reign”

Monday, September 9, 2019

2019.09.14 Hopewell Harbinger

Hopewell This Week, September 9-14

Follow up on the past Lord's Day
Hopwell @Home is available as a pdf.
▫The recording is online of the morning sermon from Genesis 18:1-15, God's Strength Magnified by Sarah's Weakness Clarified
▫The recording is online of the afternoon exhortation from Galatians 2:17-21, Dying in Christ's Death, Living by Christ's Life, Loving by Christ's Love


Pray for and participate in what's going on this week
Prayer Meeting, Wednesday, 6:30p.m. 
Elders’ Meeting, Thursday, 6:00p.m.
▫Men’s Breakfast, Saturday, 6:30a.m.
Congregational work day this Saturday!


Prepare for next Lord's Day (Sep 15)
Children’s Catechism
Q. 139. Will He come again? A. Yes; at the last day Christ will come to judge the world.
Shorter Catechism (Poster PDF)
Q. 2. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him? A. The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him.

Songs for September 15: 
TPH238 "Lord, with Glowing Heart I’d Praise Thee" 
ARP91 "Who with God Most High Finds Shelter" 
TPH128B "Blest the Man that Fears Jehovah"

A.M. Sermon Text: Genesis 18:16-19
P.M. Exhortation Text: Galatians 3:1-5
Lord's Supper in morning worship. (Guide to taking it)

▫Memory Verse (Poster PDF)
(Genesis 18:19For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.

2019.09.09 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 18:1-15

Questions from the Scripture text: Who appeared to Abraham in Genesis 18:1? By where? What was Abraham doing? Where? What time of day was it? What did Abraham lift in Genesis 18:2? What did he see? What did he do when he saw them? What did he do when he met them? What does he call the three men in Genesis 18:3? What does he ask Him/Them not to do? What does Abraham call himself? What does he propose to bring in Genesis 18:4? So they can do what? What does Abraham propose to bring in Genesis 18:5? To do what? What does he call himself again? In what manner did Abraham go to Sarah in Genesis 18:6? In what manner does he tell her to make cakes? In what manner did Abraham go to the herd in Genesis 18:7? What does he take? In what manner does he prepare it? What else does Abraham take in Genesis 18:8? What does he do as they eat? Who is speaking to him in Genesis 18:9? What do they ask? What does he answer? Who is speaking in Genesis 18:10? What does He say He will do? What does He say Sarah will have, when He returns? What was Sarah doing and where? What does Genesis 18:11 comment about Abraham and Sarah’s age? What point does it make about Sarah’s physical condition? What does Sarah do in Genesis 18:12? Where does she laugh? What does she ask? Who is speaking in Genesis 18:13? What does He ask? What further question does He ask in Genesis 18:14? What does He then repeat? Who answers in Genesis 18:15? Against Whom does she now argue? What does He do/say?
After thirteen years between the previous two recorded appearances to Abraham, Yahweh appears to him again after just three months. Interestingly—at least until the issue of Sodom’s destruction arises—Sarah seems to be the focus of this visit. Half of our text is spent on Abraham’s earnestness to receive and serve the Lord.

But when the Lord Himself finally brings up His own subject of conversation, it is all about “Sarah your wife” (Genesis 18:9Genesis 18:10). And the comments in the narrative are primarily about Sarah—her activity (listening), her location ( tent door), her medical status (passed the age of childbearing), and even her inner attitude (laughed within herself) and thoughts (after I have grown old, etc.).

Of course, Sarah doesn’t do very well for herself. Her laughter does not occur on her face before the Lord, worshiping in the Romans-4-affirmed, non-wavering faith. It is a laughter to be ashamed of (for she was afraid), and comes from the same dysfunctional heart that proceeds to start an argument with Yahweh (I did not laugh)!

The effect of this is to answer the question that Genesis 18:14 puts before us (is anything too hard for Yahweh?) with a resounding, “No!” Not only is He strong enough to give Sarah’s dead body the ability to bear a child, but He is strong enough to give sinners’ dead hearts the ability to believe in THE child who would eventually come from her, Jesus Christ!
What difficult circumstance are you in? In it, how is your own heart a greater difficulty?
Suggested Songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH429 “Come Thou Fount”

Saturday, September 7, 2019

2019.09.07 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 18:1-15

Questions from the Scripture text: Who appeared to Abraham in Genesis 18:1? By where? What was Abraham doing? Where? What time of day was it? What did Abraham lift in Genesis 18:2? What did he see? What did he do when he saw them? What did he do when he met them? What does he call the three men in Genesis 18:3? What does he ask Him/Them not to do? What does Abraham call himself? What does he propose to bring in Genesis 18:4? So they can do what? What does Abraham propose to bring in Genesis 18:5? To do what? What does he call himself again? In what manner did Abraham go to Sarah in Genesis 18:6? In what manner does he tell her to make cakes? In what manner did Abraham go to the herd in Genesis 18:7? What does he take? In what manner does he prepare it? What else does Abraham take in Genesis 18:8? What does he do as they eat? Who is speaking to him in Genesis 18:9? What do they ask? What does he answer? Who is speaking in Genesis 18:10? What does He say He will do? What does He say Sarah will have, when He returns? What was Sarah doing and where? What does Genesis 18:11 comment about Abraham and Sarah’s age? What point does it make about Sarah’s physical condition? What does Sarah do in Genesis 18:12? Where does she laugh? What does she ask? Who is speaking in Genesis 18:13? What does He ask? What further question does He ask in Genesis 18:14? What does He then repeat? Who answers in Genesis 18:15? Against Whom does she now argue? What does He do/say? 
The appearing of Yahweh in this passage is marvelous. That’s how Genesis 18:1 identifies Him. People get caught up on how the appearance was that of three men, and later two of the “men” are identified as “angels” (but we will see in chapter 19 that these angels are also Yahweh).

Certainly, Abraham seems to have a sense of who He is. He begins by addressing them in the singular (Genesis 18:3), and then in the plural (Genesis 18:4-5). It’s possible that he is addressing just one of them at first and then all of them afterward. But it’s probable that the reason he begins sprinting all over the place is because he has some understanding of the Triune God. He runs in Genesis 18:2. He hurries in Genesis 18:6. He runs to the herd in Genesis 18:7. He hastens to prepare the calf.

 But we don’t always respond to the Lord in a way that is appropriate to who He is. Genesis 18:10-11 sets us up for Genesis 18:12-15. Sarah is right behind the tent flap, and she is physically too old to have babies. Her laughter is not the rejoicing faith of Abraham’s laughter from chapter 17. That’s poor response number 1. The second response is even more amazing: she denies that she laughed! It’s one thing to laugh within yourself. It’s another to start an argument with the Lord. But we often respond to Him poorly—and then follow it up by reasoning within ourselves how our response was not really so bad as it appeared.

Still, Sarah’s response doesn’t derail God’s plans to use her. He is not treating her according to what she deserves, but according to the worthiness of Christ, who will eventually come from her. Praise be to the God of grace!

What sin have you been ignoring, hiding, or excusing before God?

Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH234 “The God of Abraham Praise”

Friday, September 6, 2019

2019.09.06 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 17:6-10

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Jesus say He has manifested (John 17:6)? To whom? From where? Whose were they? To Whom did the Father give them? What have they done? What have they now known (John 17:7)? What has Jesus given (John 17:8)? To whom? What did they do with His words? What have they known about Jesus? What have they known about the Father? What else does Jesus do for them (John 17:9)? For whom does He not pray? What does He call those for whom He prays? Why does He pray for them? Which men are the Father’s (John 17:10)? Which men are Christ’s? Who is glorified in them?
In the first portion of our Lord’s prayer here, we learned that eternal life is to know the Father, and to know Jesus Christ whom the Father has sent. That is to say that eternal life is not the giving of everything that our flesh desires, but a re-setting of our purpose and pleasure back into God Himself, and finding that He is the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; finding that He has chosen to make the great display of His glory in His Son, Jesus Christ; and that the great act of displaying His glory has been to send that Son as the Savior of sinners.

This redemption mission is presented in John 17:6-10 especially by means of possessive pronouns. Those who are being saved belonged to the Father from eternity. They have belonged to the God-man for as long as He has been the God man. Not one was lost. All who were the Father’s are the Son’s.

And a sinner comes to be the Son’s by means of another important possessive. The words that Jesus speaks are the Father’s words. And those who come to faith in Jesus do so by recognizing that His words are the words of the Father.

By contrast, the word “world” here (John 17:6, John 17:9, John 17:11) is being used to indicate those who are not in Christ. It was out of the world that the Father gave specific people to the Son. It is the “world” that Jesus is very specifically not praying for. It is the world that Jesus is leaving behind, but among whom His people must continue to live.

The picture that emerges is that of a plan of redemption that has been focused upon a specific group of people from the eternal plan of God. What’s amazing about this plan is not so much that God has planned whom He is going to save, but rather what He plans to do with them. Jesus says “I am glorified in them” (John 17:10). Believers in Jesus Christ are at the heart of God’s plan to glorify His Son!
How have you been growing? How does this glorify God in glorifying Jesus?
Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH469 “Who Are These Like Stars”

Thursday, September 5, 2019

2019.09.05 Hopewell @Home ▫ Galatians 2:15-16

Questions from the Scripture text: What does the apostle say that he and his readers are by nature in Galatians 2:15? From what group were they not? How do these two groups compare? Even with their covenantal advantages by what could they not be justified (Galatians 2:16)? By what alone could they be justified? So what have they done in order to be justified by Him? What have they determined not to be justified by? Why not—who could be justified by the works of the law? 
It is a little bit jarring to read Galatians 2:15. I suppose that those of us who are at all familiar with the Bible—or at all honest about the human condition—are not so much surprised by the apostle referring to the nations as “sinners” (of the Greek words for ‘sin’ this is the one that means “to miss the mark”). What is jarring is to hear that it would make so much difference to be a Jew.

But it does! Or rather, it did at that time. To borrow a phrase from an old credit card advertisement, (covenant) membership has its privileges (cf. Romans 3:1 and Romans 9:4-5, where the apostle deals with this very issue). Those privileges include being part of a people who have been set apart unto God by His own provision of signs and sacrifices (or, in the case of the New Testament, the single sacrifice of Christ).

Now, we’re not talking in verse 15 about that aspect of Christ’s atonement in which He has endured wrath in sinners’ place to make them right with God. That’s what Galatians 2:16 is talking about! We must remember that Christ’s sacrifice replaces all of the Old Testament sacrifices—even those by which the worshiping community was set apart, and their worship was made acceptable. Perhaps you have noticed the Scriptures talking about the tabernacle being atoned for, or the holy things being atoned for.

The apostle’s point is that people who are part of the covenant community, and people who participate in the acceptable worship, STILL need to be made right with God ONLY through faith in Jesus Christ. If even we who have these privileges must be made right with God only through faith in Jesus Christ, then there are no works of the law at all (circumcision or anything else) that can make a man right with God!
Do you have membership, and its privileges? Even so, what must you still have?
Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH354 “Not All the Blood of Beasts”

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

2019.09.04 Hopewell @Home ▫ Judges 13

Read Judges 13
Questions from the Scripture text: What did Israel do in Judges 13:1? In Whose sight? What does Yahweh do? Whom does Judges 13:2 introduce? What city is he from? What tribe? What is noteworthy about his wife? To whom does the Angel of Yahweh appear in Judges 13:3? What obvious fact does He repeat? What promise does He make? What commands does He give her in Judges 13:4? What promise does He repeat in Judges 13:5? What additional commands does He give in verse 5? What will the child be? What will the child do? Whom did the woman tell about this (Judges 13:6)? How does she describe her visitor? What does she not know about him? How does she summarize his message (Judges 13:7)? Whom does Manoah address in Judges 13:8? Whom does he ask to have appear? What does he ask for the man of God to do? What does God do in Judges 13:9? To whom does the Angel of God appear this time? Who was not there? What does the woman do in Judges 13:10? What does Manoah do in Judges 13:11? What does he ask first? What does he ask in Judges 13:12? What does the Angel of Yahweh answer in Judges 13:13-14? What does Manoah ask to do in Judges 13:15? What does the Angel say He will not receive in Judges 13:16? What does He say that He would receive? What does Manoah ask in Judges 13:17? How does the Angel answer in Judges 13:18? What does Manoah offer to Whom in Judges 13:19? What does the Angel of Yahweh do in Judges 13:19-20? How did Manoah finally realize that He had been the Angel of Yahweh (Judges 13:21)? What does he say to Mrs. Manoah in Judges 13:22? How does Mrs. Manoah reason that Yahweh is overlooking their sins in Judges 13:23? What does Mrs. Manoah do in Judges 13:24? What four things does verse 24 tell us about the child? Who begins to act in Judges 13:25
Dan had a difficult time finding a portion of the land that they could both fit into and successfully take. They ended up in the far north. Mrs. Manoah was a woman—and a barren woman at that. And by not even giving us her name—so that we are even having to call her Mrs. Manoah—the passage highlights for us how lowly this makes her.

And yet, not only is it she that Yahweh selects to bear the next deliverer in Israel, but it is unto her alone that the Angel of Yahweh appears. It reminds us of Genesis 16, and how it is unto Hagar the Egyptian slavegirl-concubine that the Lord appears instead of unto Abram or Sarai.

It’s a good reminder that there are no “little people” when they are being powerfully employed by the Almighty God. I’m afraid that many of us think of the story of Samson as the story of a very mighty man. But isn’t that just about the opposite of the point? Our passage highlights how the unique thing about Samson is how (even from the womb!) he is to be set apart to God by way of all of these Nazirite irregularities of diet and grooming. It wasn’t the hair upon him, but rather the Holy Spirit with him.

How weak are Mr. and Mrs. Manoah? They’d come to the place where they never thought parenting would never be an issue for them—let alone parenting in such an unique situation as this. Manoah prays to Yahweh for a second visit for a divine child-rearing class. Wonderfully, his prayer is answered! Anticlimactically, the instructions for parenting are, “Just do the stuff I already told you” (not a bad take on all parenting—just do what the Bible says, and trust God to use it).

Things take a turn for the scary when Manoah finally gets it through his thick head that this has been Yahweh Himself with whom they have been interacting. But Mrs. Manoah reasons well that Yahweh is going to keep His promise to her, so she’s got to survive at least another 9 months—besides, there must be some atonement for their sin before the Lord or else the offering would have been offensive. Pretty good theological deduction for a lady whose name we still aren’t even told! After all, it’s not about us. It’s about the Lord’s promise to bring the Lord’s salvation, and the Lord’s worship made clean by the Lord’s atonement!
Why might you need humbling? Why might you need reminding that God uses the humble?
Suggested Songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH256 “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

2019.09.03 Hopewell @Home ▫ Isaiah 45:6-9

Questions from the Scripture text: Why does Yahweh say He chose such a strange way to deliver Israel as by the hand of Persian king Cyrus (Isaiah 45:6): When will they know what they know? What is it that they would know? What does Yahweh form (Isaiah 45:7a)? What does He create (verse 7b)? What does He make (verse 7c)? What does He create (verse 7d)? What does He call Himself? How much does He claim to do? What does He command to pour down from the heavens above in Isaiah 45:8a? What does He command the skies to pour down in verse 8b? What does He command the earth to open in order to bring forth together with the heaven (verse 8c-d)? Who has created this (verse 8e)? What is pronounced upon someone in Isaiah 45:9? Upon whom is this woe pronounced—with Whom does he strive? To what does He compare men? With whom does the clay argue? What does the last line of verse 9 call men? And what are the men who argue with God ironically saying?
This week’s Call to Worship, Invocation, Confession of Sin and Song of Adoration came from Isaiah 45:6-9. In these verses, Yahweh is explaining why He plans to use Cyrus the Persian to deliver Israel from their bondage to Babylon. It was NOT a popular plan with Israelites!

But that’s just the point, isn’t it? God isn’t under any obligation to follow our plans or to make His plans according to our preferences. By doing things in a way that no one else would have thought of, and that our flesh bristles against, God shows that He is Yahweh, and there is no other.

Does He make light? Then praise God! But He also creates the darkness, and it has a good purpose in His plan.

Does He make peace? Then praise God! But when calamity comes, He has created that too. He is never the One who sins, but the sin is always according to the good purpose for which He has ordained that others (who are free and wicked) commit it.

The purpose, of course, is that His righteousness and His salvation would always be coming from everywhere. From the heavens above. From within the earth beneath. From everywhere. Isaiah 45:8 is an Isaiah 45 edition of Romans 8:28. All things work together for good!

Sometimes, we see that “all things” as if it were a problem. There are some things that we would very much have preferred that He would NOT work together. But to think like that is to forget not only who He is, but also who we are. God grant to us to remember that we are but men!
What situation in your life might you be tempted to bristle at? Who is using it to do what?
Suggested songs: ARP131 “My Heart Is Not Exalted” or TPH231 “Whate’er My God Ordains”

Monday, September 2, 2019

2019.09.02 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 17:15-27

Questions from the Scripture text: Who gets a name change in Genesis 17:15? What does God promise to give to Abraham by her in Genesis 17:16? Of what does He promise to make her a mother? What is Abraham’s physical response in Genesis 17:17? What is his verbal response? What does Romans 4:19-21 tell us about his heart while he is doing this? What further request does Abraham make in Genesis 17:18? Whom does God insist upon making the son of promise, through whom the covenant will continue (Genesis 17:19)? What is Abraham to call the son of promise? How long will this covenant continue? Still, how does God respond in Genesis 17:20 to the request in verse 18? When will Sarah bear Isaac (Genesis 17:21)? What happens in Genesis 17:22? How does Abraham respond in Genesis 17:23? On what day? How old was Abraham (Genesis 17:24)? How old was Ishmael (Genesis 17:25)? What does Genesis 17:26 re-emphasize? Who else were circumcised on that day (Genesis 17:27)?
Some “scholars” think that this is the first time we learn that Sarai would be the mother of the promised Seed, but that was true as soon as the Seed was promised to Abram. The two had become one flesh. Just as Eve was the helper suitable to Adam, Sarai is the helper suitable to Abraham. One of God’s primary purposes for marriage was the bearing of godly seed (cf. Malachi 2:15).

So, a big part of this passage is the elevation of Sarai to be analogous to Abram. She too gets a name change—the only woman in the Bible to receive one. She too gets the promise of being one from whom nations come, and kings of peoples (cf. Genesis 17:5-6). Though under the headship of her husband and having a different role, she is presented as equal in value and significance (cf. 1 Timothy 2:11-15).

We need to recover a biblical understanding of the bearing of godly seed as an essential purpose of marriage, and the glory of the wife as covenant mother.

We also need to learn to rejoice like Abraham over God’s astonishing promises. Romans 4:9-22 makes it clear that Abraham’s laughter is not the laughter of unbelief, but the laughter of astonished praise.

And we would do well to imitate Abraham’s love for his son Ishmael. Abraham could easily have been taken up with the promise about Isaac. But Abraham asks that Ishmael, even though he is not the son of promise, would “walk before God”—the very language that the Lord had used for walking by faith at the beginning of the chapter. Would that all fathers would so love their children and urge God to save them!
Do you rejoice over God’s promises? For whose salvation are you praying?
Suggested Songs: ARP189 “Universal Praise” or TPH126A “When Zion’s Fortunes”

Saturday, August 31, 2019

2019.08.31 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 17:15-27

Questions for Littles: Who gets a name change in Genesis 17:15? What does God promise to give to Abraham by her in Genesis 17:16? Of what does He promise to make her a mother? What is Abraham’s physical response in Genesis 17:17? What is his verbal response? What does Romans 4:19-21 tell us about his heart while he is doing this? What further request does Abraham make in Genesis 17:18? Whom does God insist upon making the son of promise, through whom the covenant will continue (Genesis 17:19)? What is Abraham to call the son of promise? How long will this covenant continue? Still, how does God respond in Genesis 17:20 to the request in verse 18? When will Sarah bear Isaac (Genesis 17:21)? What happens in Genesis 17:22? How does Abraham respond in Genesis 17:23? On what day? How old was Abraham (Genesis 17:24)? How old was Ishmael (Genesis 17:25)? What does Genesis 17:26 re-emphasize? Who else were circumcised on that day (Genesis 17:27)?
Sarai is the only woman in the Bible to get a name change. Her name is changed from “my princess” to “princess.” No longer will she belong to Abraham alone, but she becomes mother of all the faithful.

How amazing a promise is this? Abraham laughs at it—even though he believes it! We might think (because of what happens with Sarah in the next chapter) that this is an unbelieving response from Abraham, but Romans 4:19-21 gives us the date for this conversation, and tells us that he did not doubt but grew strong in faith. This is not the laughter of unbelief. It is the laughter of one who is overwhelmed at the greatness of what the Lord has just promised to him!

We see not only great laughter but great love. Abraham loves his 13 year old son. He is concerned about what this new son might mean for Ishmael. It seems, from the Lord’s response, that Abraham even wants Ishmael to be the one through whom the covenant will come. This is a wonderful fruit of Abraham’s faith in Jesus—that he would have such affection for a son whom we know (by God’s prophecy) to be such a pain.

And it’s not only Abraham who has covenant love for his son. The Lord does, too. There are reasons to believe that Ishmael was converted. Abraham asked for the Genesis 17:1 status for his teenager—that he would “walk before God.” And God says in Genesis 17:20 that he “has heard” Abraham. In addition to being saved, Ishmael would also be given a certain amount of earthly greatness. Even though he was not to be the one through whom the covenant advanced, the Lord responds to a believing father’s prayers that his son would “walk before Him.”

Ultimately, he is heard for the sake of Isaac’s descendant, our Lord Jesus Christ!
How often are you amazed to the point of laughter for what God has done for you?
Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH234 “The God of Abraham Praise”

Friday, August 30, 2019

2019.08.30 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 17:1-5

Questions for Littles: To whom does Jesus now speak, after what He told the disciples in John 16:15-33 (John 17:1)? What does He say has come? Whom does He ask the Father to glorify? For whose glory is the Son’s glory? What has the Father given to the Son (John 17:2)? What does the Son give? To whom? What is this eternal life that the Son gives (John 17:3)? What does verse 3 call God? What does it call Jesus Christ? What has Jesus done unto the Father (John 17:4)? What has He finished? What request does He repeat in John 17:5? What does He specifically mention about the glory here? 
The doctrine of the Trinity is not some extra theology that gets added to Christianity later on. It is at the absolute heart of it.

We like to focus upon ourselves, so we tend to focus upon getting eternal life. Sometimes, people even get upset at the idea that the Lord only intends to give eternal life “to as many as [the Father] has given [the Son].” But there it is in black and white in John 17:2.

Even in His human nature, the Son has authority over all flesh. Where did He get this authority? The Father. For what purpose did the Father give Him this authority? So that He could give eternal life. To whom? Not to all flesh. But only to those whom the Father had given Him.

But what was the purpose of this giving of authority and people? And what is the purpose of giving them eternal life? You have to back up to John 17:1: that the Son might glorify the Father. This has been the entire purpose of Jesus’s mission of preaching and showing that He is the Redeemer-King who has come into the world (John 17:4). And as He goes to the cross, Jesus says that He has finished this work.

But, if no one gets saved. If no one gets sanctified. If no one makes it to heaven. Then the purpose will remain unfulfilled. So Jesus prays, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son.” It is all for the glory of Christ. And it is all by the glory of Christ.

As we see (John 17:5) that Jesus who died for us is the Son who is the glorious God from all eternity, He completes the work in us of applying to us true eternal life: to know the one true God, and to know Jesus Christ—who is the one true God, but who has been sent by the Father for our salvation.
What part does seeking to know the glory of Christ have in your private/family/corporate worship?
Suggested songs: ARP110B “The Lord Has Spoken” or TPH212 “Come, Thou Almighty King”

Thursday, August 29, 2019

2019.08.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ Galatians 2:11-14

Questions for Littles: Who came to Antioch in Galatians 2:11? What did Paul do to him? Why? What had Peter been doing before certain men came (Galatians 2:12)? What did he do when they came? Why the change? Who else was doing this (Galatians 2:13)? Even whom? Who saw this (Galatians 2:14)? What did he recognize was at stake? What did he do? What did he say? 
Holy boldness in confronting error and humility in receiving confrontation are two great rarities in the church today, but we see them in this brief passage.

One of the things that we need to remember is that in every deviation of practice, there is a theological truth at stake. Often, there is some direct connection to the “truth of the gospel” (Galatians 2:14).

In this case, it was that truth that it is not circumcision or uncircumcision that saves, but Christ Himself—in fact, that circumcision was not even a matter of fundamental morality but of ceremonial holiness, being set apart to God as those who looked to Christ. When Christ came, and replaced that sign with baptism, its spiritual usefulness had ended altogether.

What a horror for Paul, then, when those who had one baptism in common were being divided according to circumcision—as if to declare that what Christ had joined together, circumcision could separate!

But Peter was horrified by something else. He wasn’t recognizing the gospel truth that was at stake. He was giving too much weight to what people might think of him. And so when those whom he feared came up from Jerusalem, he broke off table fellowship with the Gentiles.

Paul withstood Peter to his face. That’s no small thing. But this was not some blustery display just for the sake of sticking it to the man. It was not some anti-authority or anti-celebrity stand. It was a stand for truth. The truth of the gospel.

And Peter received the correction well. Later, he would write affectionately about Paul. Paul himself has happily defended his ministry with confidence that Peter would back up that defense. Why would Peter do so? (1) The truth of the gospel was at stake. (2) The work of the Spirit in his heart.

Often, there is significant truth at stake in differences in the church. May the Lord give boldness to them whose duty it is to show and address this. And may the Lord give humility to them who need to be addressed.
Pray that the Lord would give boldness and humility as needed for current differences in the church!
Suggested songs: ARP119W “Lord, Let My Cry Before You Come” or TPH539 “Am I a Soldier…?”