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Saturday, October 26, 2019

2019.10.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 20

Questions from the Scripture text: Where does Abraham go in Genesis 20:1? What does he say about his wife (Genesis 20:2)? Who takes her? Whom does God visit in a dream in Genesis 20:3? What does He say to him? What does Abimelech ask him in Genesis 20:4? What do we learn that Sarah has done in Genesis 20:5? What claim does Abimelech make about himself? Who agrees with this claim (Genesis 20:6)? What has God done for Abimelech? What does God command Abimelech to do in Genesis 20:7? What does God call Abraham? What does Abimelech need Abraham to do for him? If Abimelech does not return Sarah, what will happen to whom? When does Abimelech rise (Genesis 20:8)? Whom does he tell about this? What is their response? Whom does Abimelech call in Genesis 20:9? In what manner does he speak to him (Genesis 20:9-10)? What specific question does he ask? What is Abraham’s (ironic) answer in Genesis 20:11? What excuse does he give in Genesis 20:12? Whom does he blame in Genesis 20:13a? How does he take some of the blame off of Sarah in verse 13b? In addition to returning Sarah, what else does Abimelech give to Abraham (Genesis 20:14)? What invitation does he make in Genesis 20:15? What value does Abimelech assign to what he has given Abraham to restore Sarah’s honor and set her right (Genesis 20:16)? What does Abraham do in Genesis 20:17? What does God do? What had God done (Genesis 20:18)? What does the Scripture call Sarah in Genesis 20:18?
Back in chapter 12, it must have been jarring to the Israelites who first received the book of Genesis to hear Pharaoh (the wicked Egyptian!) rebuking “good” father Abram. But now that we’re in chapter 20, and he’s a believer, and he’s grown in the faith, and his name is Abraham, he would do better in the same situation, right?

WRONG!

Here in chapter 20, it’s again jarring to hear Abimelech (the wicked Philistine!) rebuking God’s prophet (cf. Genesis 20:7) Abraham. Some readers think that perhaps the rebuke is not well-earned, and that Abraham has done nothing wrong. But the text itself emphasizes that Sarah is his wife (Genesis 20:2) despite what he said, and that she is his wife (Genesis 20:3), and that she is “the man’s wife” (Genesis 20:7), and that Abimelech restored his wife (Genesis 20:14)… and even concludes the account with “Sarah, Abraham’s wife” in Genesis 20:18.

Even Abraham’s sheepish explanation in Genesis 20:11-13 falls on its face. It is Abraham who did not fear God enough, and Abimelech whose fear of God (Genesis 20:3-5) features prominently in the passage and is confirmed even in Genesis 20:6. When Abimelech takes Abraham’s words at the end of Genesis 20:13 to refer to him as “your brother” in talking to Sarah in his public speech in Genesis 20:16, it settles accounts for her public name, but brings shame to Abraham’s weak excuse.

But the point of the passage isn’t so much Abraham’s continued failure. Believers who know ourselves are often shocked to find old habits of sin rearing their ugly heads once again. But, it isn’t great comfort merely to know that other saints have experienced this too. What is a great comfort is to observe God in this passage, relating by grace to His stumbling servant! He’s still defending Abraham’s interests (Genesis 20:3). He still considers him a prophet (Genesis 20:7). He still responds to his prayers as those of a righteous man (Genesis 20:7Genesis 20:17, cf. James 5:16).

It was not for the sake of Abraham’s obedience that the Lord was merciful to him, but for the sake of Christ’s obedience that became Abraham’s righteousness through faith (cf. Genesis 15:6). When we stumble into old patterns of sin, let us rejoice that our Redeemer is this same God of Abraham, and our righteousness is that same righteousness of Christ!
In what ways have you stumbled recently or in the past? What if you stumble again?
Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH433 “Amazing Grace”

Friday, October 25, 2019

2019.10.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 19:38-20:9

Questions from the Scripture text: What was Joseph of Arimathea (John 19:38)? Why was this a secret? What did he ask and receive from Pilate? Who else came in John 19:39? What did he bring? What did they do with Jesus’s body in John 19:40? Where was the garden in John 19:41? What was in it? Why did they lay Jesus there (John 19:42)? What day is it in John 20:1? Who goes to the tomb? When? What does she see there? Whom does she run to in John 20:2? What does she tell them? Where do they go in John 20:3? In what manner do they go (John 20:4)? Who gets there first? What does John see when he looks in, in John 20:5? What doesn’t he do? What does Peter do in John 20:6? What does he notice in John 20:7? What response does John have when he goes in and sees this too (John 20:8)? What had they not yet understood (John 20:9)? 
In John 19:38-42, we see the Holy Spirit emphasizing the historical truthfulness of Christ’s burial. This was important, because Jesus had prophesied that the Son of Man would be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights (cf. Matthew 12:40). Returning to the earth was part of Christ’s humiliation, as part of the penalty for Adam’s sin (cf. Genesis 3:19).

Even in facilitating Christ’s burial, we see the Lord using all sorts of imperfect people. Joseph of Arimathea was a member of the council (cf. Luke 23:30), and Niocdemus was a Pharisee on that council (cf. John 7:50), but they lacked courage—Joseph feared the Jews and it was by night that Nicodemus had come to Him in chapter 3. Mary Magdalene was about as low as you could get in society, the very opposite of those two men. Peter was slower (John 20:4), but John lacked boldness (John 20:5) and faith at first (John 20:8). They both had lacked understanding of the Scriptures (John 20:9) about the resurrection.

Here, as everywhere, Christ Himself is ultimately the only Hero. He had justified His people (cf. Romans 4:25). When the humiliated Christ of the grave became the exalted Christ of the resurrection, God made public display that His payment for sin had been accepted in full. He had been demonstrated to be the Son of God with power (cf. Romans 1:4). Just as Jesus had dismissed His Spirit by His own authority (cf. John 10:18), so by that authority as the Son of God, He had taken His life up again. He was being revealed as the One by Whom God would judge the world (cf. Acts 17:31). The great question for each descendant of the original Adam is whether we have responded to these resurrection-displayed facts about Jesus Christ!
What difference does it make to you that Christ’s payment has been accepted in full?
Suggested songs: ARP130 “Lord, from the Depths” or TPH22A “Sing, Choirs of New Jerusalem”

Thursday, October 24, 2019

2019.10.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ Galatians 3:15-22

Questions from the Scripture text: In what manner does the apostle speak (Galatians 3:15)? What cannot be done to a covenant once it is confirmed? Even to what kind of covenant? To Whom were the promises made (Galatians 3:16)? What point does this verse make about the word “Seed” in Genesis 22:18 as an explanation of Genesis 12:3 (along with several other promises)? Since the word ‘Seed’ is singular, Whom does Galatians 3:16 say that the word must mean? What came 430 years later (Galatians 3:17)? What couldn’t this later thing do to the covenant? What couldn’t it do to the promise? What is not of the law in Galatians 3:18? What question does Galatians 3:19 ask? Because of what was the law added? Until when did the law promise forgiveness of transgressions? In what way did the law come (as opposed to the way in which the promise came)? How many parties are involved with a mediator (Galatians 3:20)? So, what has to have been already in place for the law to come through a mediator? What does the law not change or undo, even at the time of Moses (Galatians 3:21)? What could it not do? What could it do (Galatians 3:22a)? To whom, alone, would the promise come both before and after Jesus Christ came (verse 22b-c)?
By attaching a date (430 years later) to “the law” in this section, the Holy Spirit shows that by “the law,” He is speaking of the Mosaic covenant. The argument in Galatians 3:15-18 is that the Mosaic covenant could not have been given as a way of inheriting, because this would have been to alter the terms of the Abrahamic covenant—an impossibility. So, inheritance was by the promise before, and inheritance is by the promise during the Mosaic administration, and inheritance is by the promise now.

Why, then, was there even a Mosaic covenant? That’s the question of Galatians 3:19. The answer is that it was a gift for restraining sin until Christ (verse 19). It came with the great display of God’s holiness at Sinai (angels, the ten thousand holy ones of Deuteronomy 33:2), through a mediator as great as Moses. Why the Mediator? Not for God, but for the people (Galatians 3:20). This covenant was never meant to give righteousness (Galatians 3:21), but rather to make sure that for righteousness, the people of God would only always believe in Jesus Christ, who was to come.

What the Lord did for His people in the long-term, historical sense, He also does in individuals’ lives. Romans 3:19-26 teaches that the law stops up every mouth so that righteousness that is witnessed by the Law and the Prophets comes apart from the law—only by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, whom God set forth as a propitiation.

Dear believer, your inheritance is not from how well you are doing as a Christian, but from the unchangeable, completely earned by Jesus, promise of God in Christ!
What good work have you been working on lately? What can’t it do for you? Who alone can do it?
Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH130A “Lord, from the Depths”

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

2019.10.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ Judges 21

Read Judges 21
Questions from the Scripture text: What had the rest of Israel sworn (Judges 21:1)? Where do they go in Judges 21:2? What do they do? What do they cry out (Judges 21:3)? What do they do in Judges 21:4? What loophole do they try to use in Judges 21:5-8? Who end up being the answer (Judges 21:8b-9)? What penalty does Jabesh-Gilead pay for having failed to participate in the judgment upon Benjamin (Judges 21:10-11)? But who end up being spared from this judgment (Judges 21:12)? For what purpose were they spared (Judges 21:13-14)? What problem did they still have (Judges 21:15-16)? Why is lack of wives such a problem (Judges 21:17)? What obstacle is restated in Judges 21:18? What loophole do they now make use of in Judges 21:19-23? What explanation do they give in Judges 21:22? What are they finally able to do in Judges 21:24? With what comment does Judges 21:25 summarize what has happened here? Whose approval is never given of these methods in the text?
In a culture where we are accustomed to marrying primarily for ourselves, not considering marriage as a vital way of serving the Lord and the Lord’s people, there is much that is shocking to us in this chapter.

There is much here that is sinful—there is very little theological comment in the text, and definitely no approval from the Lord. In fact, the summary statement is, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” So the right way of interpreting is not for us to approve and imitate. THAT would make for a bizarre approach to courtship!

And yet, though their solution was cringeworthy, their concern was commendable.

They grieve over tragedy in the church (Judges 21:2). Do we grieve over the spiritual barrenness of the churches? Over children that learn to be worldly in the home and church, and depart the church into the world when they leave that home? Over those who leave churches that operate on a principle of what God wants to a church that gives them a bit more of what they want?

They are concerned to keep what they have sworn by Yahweh (Judges 21:7Judges 21:18). Of course, it is possible to vow to something that is positively evil, in which case making the vow was wicked, and keeping the vow would further be wicked. That does not appear to be the case here; but even if it were, the concern to keep their vow is commendable. In a place and time when believers think nothing of throwing away what they have promised before the face of God, it is sobering to think that, in some ways, the church is in a worse place than the people of God were in Judges 21. How easily do you break vows made before God?

They are concerned for the remaining Benjamites to have fruitful marriages (Judges 21:16-17). It has been a theme in the book of Judges that the wicked have failed to come out to war against the enemies of God and His people. But, from the slaughter of Jabesh Gilead, eligible brides’ lives are spared for the Benjamites who also deserved death and whose lives have been spared. Much of the tribe of Benjamin, from Judges 21 on, is made up of those who were under the sentence of death but spared! This factor, of each having spared from death for the other, would at minimum give the new couple a common starting point for their decidedly uncommon marriages. Now, the application would look very differently—modest apparel, carefulness in types of interaction, setting an example in how we talk about our spouses, etc.—but, the question is: how much are we putting into promoting one another’s marriages? What they ended up doing may not have been commendable, but their thought and effort puts many of us to shame.

Ultimately, this passage leaves us thankful that Jesus Christ is King in Israel, so that we would not be left to our own wisdom, desires, and rules. May we not only rest entirely upon who He is and what He has done, but also diligently employ His means in our lives, lest we be well-meaning but kingless fools and scoundrels.
In what areas of life/church have you been learning that the Lord has given instruction, where you had previously operated according to your own ideas?
Suggested Songs: ARP119W “Lord, Let My Cry” or TPH174 “The Ten Commandments”

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

2019.10.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Corinthians 4:1-7

Questions from the Scripture: What have Paul and his companions received for their ministry (2 Corinthians 4:1)? What do they not lose? What does he call the things that they have renounced in 2 Corinthians 4:2? In what do they refuse to walk? How do they refuse to handle the word of God? Instead, what do they do with the truth? To what aspect, then, of every man, do they commend themselves? In whose sight? What may happen to their gospel (2 Corinthians 4:3a)? But to whom would it be veiled (verse 3b)? What does 2 Corinthians 4:4 call the devil? What has he done to those who are perishing? What do they not do? What does this veil keep them from seeing? Who is Christ, according to verse 4? What, then, do Paul and his companions not preach (2 Corinthians 4:5)? What do they preach? How do they consider themselves? Who does the work (2 Corinthians 4:6)? What else has He done about 4000 years prior? In whom else has He already done this spiritual counterpart to that work? Where does He shine? What light does He give? In whose face is the knowledge of this glory received? By what kind of vessel is this treasure conveyed (2 Corinthians 4:7)? What does this show?
Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, Song of Adoration, and Confession of Sin all come from 2 Corinthians 4:1-7. Here, the apostle explains why his ministry is not generally impressive to all. One might have (wrongly) expected that the ministry of an apostle would be impressive to anyone.

Paul’s ultimate response is that God alone is the impressiveness of the work, and those who are not impressed with Him are not going to find anything else to be impressed with in his ministry (2 Corinthians 4:7). This doesn’t bother him, because his ministry is not his idea or his pride. It as an assignment of God by the mercy of God. It may seem to be going poorly, but if it is of God, then there is no reason to lose heart!

Ironically, the apostle refers to superficially impressive ministry as “the hidden things of shame.” There is a way of handling the Word of God that looks impressive on the outside, but what you cannot see is that it is man-derived and man-dependent. But the apostles are not concerned with commending themselves to men’s admiration. They are concerned with commending themselves to men’s consciences. Oh, that we would learn to see our life as an assignment from God and deal earnestly with others as those who will have to stand before Him!! How this might help us to stop living for their applause!

Will such a ministry have a hundred percent conversion rate? No and yes. In one sense, no. There are those who are perishing. And if the Lord has not atoned for them, and is not going to regenerate them, then what exactly are we supposed to be able to do about that? It is not just that they are unable to see God’s glory. It is also that they are not permitted. 2 Corinthians 4:4 says that God has set things up this way because He refuses to shine the light of the gospel upon them.

But in another sense, yes. Such a ministry will have a hundred percent conversion rate. For, the Lord is all powerful. He spoke light itself into existence. And He can speak spiritual light into existence in the hearts. And He does, because in the case of His elect, He is determined to give them the light of the knowledge of His glory in the face of Jesus Christ!
What kind of ministry should we look for in the church? Whom should we be looking to make it effective? With whom should we aim at being impressed? What aims and approaches are incompatible with this?
Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH271 “Blessed Jesus, At Your Word”

Monday, October 21, 2019

2019.10.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 19:30-38

Questions from the Scripture text: Where does Lot go, and with whom in Genesis 19:30? Whom have we recently heard about drinking so much wine that he lost his awareness, and great sin was committed by his children (cf. Genesis 9:20-28)? To whom does that happen now (Genesis 19:31-36)? What results from this in Genesis 19:37-38?
Lot is a cautionary tale who presents us with a dilemma—earthly blessings are real blessings, and so ought to be enjoyed, and are yet dangerous to our souls!  How should we go about enjoying them, without falling into worldliness or abusing them?  Psalm 1:1-2 gives us a good start.  We are careful not to let the world tell us about how to enjoy things; we delight first in God’s law, and meditate on it day and night.

And there is a very helpful passage in 1 Corinthians 7:29-35, that basically tells us that in light of the soon-coming eternity, we should hold the duties and pleasures and pains of this life with a very loose grip.  Do every task with your eye on eternity.  Enjoy every pleasure with your eye on eternity.  Mourn every grief with your eye on eternity.  Go ahead and enjoy your wife, and mourn, and rejoice, and buy, and sell—but give them the weight in your heart that they comparatively have to eternity… so in your heart, as you do them, it is as if you are not doing them at all!

Lot, who lived by sight, is an intentional foil for Abraham in this section.  God means for us to see in them two opposite ways of living.  Abraham, though not perfect, is living by faith—we see this in his better moments at the end of chapter 14 and beginning of 16… trusting in God as his hope, finding in God his delight.

Lot is just the opposite.  By failing to live as a true pilgrim in this world, by failing to hope in God alone and treasure God far above all earthly things, Lot has never found the 1 Corinthians 7 balance of having wives as if you have none, and mourning as if you aren’t mourning, and rejoicing as if you’re not rejoicing, and buying goods as if you’re not really possessing them, and dealing with the world as if you have no dealings with it.

We find Lot in Genesis 19:30, not living in and interacting with Zoar, while his heart is in heaven.  Rather, his prior worldliness has left him completely confused.  Lot’s not afraid of worldliness, like he should be; now, he’s afraid of the world itself.  His worldliness wasn’t just unbelievably foolish; its effects were irretrievably harmful.
Where have you been similar to Lot? How has Christ been different? How does that relate to you being right with God? How does it relate to your growth in godliness?
Suggested Songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH446 “Be Thou My Vision”