Saturday, November 16, 2019

2019.11.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 21:22-34

Questions from the Scripture text: Who come and speak to Abraham (Genesis 21:22)? What have they noticed? What do they ask him to do in Genesis 21:23? How does Abraham answer at first (Genesis 21:24)? But what does Abraham want cleared up first (Genesis 21:25)? How does Abimelech answer (Genesis 21:26)? What does Abraham give to Abimelech as a sign of covenanting (Genesis 21:27)? From these, what does Abraham set apart (Genesis 21:28)? What does Abimelech ask (Genesis 21:29)? To what does Abraham say that the seven ewe lambs are a witness (Genesis 21:30)? What does he call the place (Genesis 21:31)? What had they done when all was said and done (Genesis 21:32)? Where do Abimelech and Phicol go? What does Abraham plant there (Genesis 21:33)? Then what does he do? Where does he stay and for how long (Genesis 21:34)?
Apparently, Abimelech’s last encounter with Abraham has left quite the impression upon him. Perhaps, it was not so much God appearing to him and announcing, “you are a dead man” as it was the effect for him and the people of Gerar, when Abraham prayed for them.

His opening line certainly accentuates this positive, “God is with you in all that you do.” Even those who want nothing to do with the God who blesses us yet desire to receive from the blessing of our God!

There’s just one problem with Abimelech’s request: he wants Abraham to deal with him according to the khessed that he has shown Abraham, but his men have actually taken by violence (indicated in the word “seized” in Genesis 21:25) a well that Abraham had dug (Genesis 21:30).

It is as if Abraham is saying, “No, what you need me to do is not to treat you according to your khessed to me, but according to God’s khessed to me.”

And it is important that Abraham proceeds to go the extra mile to be gracious. Abimelech had previously given Abraham “sheep and cattle and slaves” as a testimony that Sarah was rightfully Abraham’s. Now, even though the well is rightfully Abraham’s, it is Abraham who gives to Abimelech the sheep and cattle (he leaves off the slaves).

In fact, the well of swearing “Beersheba,” is also the well of seven “Beersheba” (the words for swearing and seven have the same root characters in Hebrew)—a reference to seven ewe lambs from the livestock that Abraham gives to Abimelech. These are perhaps the animals slaughtered in the “cutting” of the covenant at the beginning of Genesis 21:32.

Humanly speaking, even though Abraham keeps the well where he is (Abimelech has no need of it, since he is returning to Gerar), he is the generous benefactor in this covenant. The lesser (Abimelech) is being blessed by the greater (Abraham).

But, Abraham recognizes that the true Benefactor of all is “Yahweh, the Everlasting God.” That day, he plants a tree that will outlast all of them—a reminder that it is God who provides the well, and the water of it, and the sheep, and the cattle, and the seven ewe lambs, and the great Lamb who will atone for all of the sin of all who believe in Him! He is concerned not only to make that testimony to his own generation, but to leave behind that testimony about God for the generations that are yet to come.

When you deal with others, do they know you to be trusting a God who is all powerful, and perfectly righteous? Are you careful to be generous with them, and do you stir up faith in Him by worship? Do you consider not only the testimony that you are making to your current generation, but what you are leaving behind unto other generations?
What opportunities do you have in your life right now to be generous to others?
Suggested songs: ARP78B “O Come, My People” or TPH438 “I Love to Tell the Story”

Friday, November 15, 2019

2019.11.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 20:26-31

Questions from the Scripture text: For how many days had Christ been resurrected in John 20:26? Who was with the disciples this time? What was the condition of the doors? What does Jesus say to them, when He appears? To whom does He speak in John 20:27? What does He invite him to do with his hand? What does He command him to do with his heart? How does Thomas respond in John 20:28? What does Jesus identify as the instrumental cause of Thomas believing (John 20:29)? Whom does Jesus say are blessed? What else had Jesus done (John 20:30)? Why are the specific signs selected to be included in this gospel? (John 20:31)? What will be the result of their believing? 
It’s another Lord’s Day (the 8th day-seven days after the first), and another locked door, behind which there is another gathering of the disciples. The risen Lord Jesus teleports in, or walks through the wall, or whatever it is that His glorified body is able to do. And again, He greets them with that wonderful announcement, “Peace to you!”

We assume that the reason the door is still shut is for fear of the Jews (cf. John 20:19), but truly, what is there to fear if Christ, by His blood, has made peace with God for you?!

This time, Thomas is there. And Thomas is not at peace yet. He’s demanded more evidence. So, Jesus immediately turns to Thomas and invites him to do exactly what he has demanded. It’s at this point that Thomas realizes how wrong he was to make the demand, and offers worship instead, “my Lord, and my God!”

This is exactly what we are to believe about Christ. That the One who died and rose again is God Himself, who took on flesh in order to do so for us. Jesus says that Thomas came to this conclusion by encountering the risen Lord with his eyes. But, Christ also tells about others who overcome their demands, and humble themselves to worship Him as believers, without encountering Him through their eyes. “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

It’s at this point that the evangelist tells us why the Holy Spirit has carried him along to put this book of the Bible together just as he has done. These specific signs were selected and recorded, because it is through these Words of Jesus that we are to come to believe that He is the Christ (the perfect and ultimate human Prophet, Priest, and King), the Son of God (who is God from all eternity before He adds this humanity to Himself).

God intends to give us life, and His Word is the means by which He brings us to faith in Christ—in Whom alone there is life, and life to the full.

So, as you read these things about Christ, are you reading about the One whom you know to be your life? And what are you believing about Him?
What should you be asking God to do for you, as you read His Word?
Suggested songs: ARP19B “The Lord’s Most Perfect Law” or TPH170 “God, in the Gospel of His Son”

Thursday, November 14, 2019

2019.11.14 Hopewell @Home ▫ Galatians 4:1-7

Questions from the Scripture text: From what does the heir not differ, as long as he is a child (Galatians 4:1)? Under whose authority must he continue (Galatians 4:2)? What does Galatians 4:3 call the outward ceremonies of the Mosaic code? What does he say that his people (“we”) were, as long as they were under this code? What does Galatians 4:4 call the time that the Father had appointed (cf. verse 2)? Whom did God send forth? Of whom was the Son born? Under what did this place Him? Why did the Son have to be born under the law (Galatians 4:5)? Into what age did this bring the church? Whom has God sent forth in this age (Galatians 4:6)? Into where did God send Him? What does He do there? What is the status of someone who has the Spirit in this way (Galatians 4:7)? And if this is his status, what has he become through Christ? 
In next week’s epistle reading, the apostle is urging the Galatians not to go into slavery on account of the false teaching of the Judaizers. Paul himself is a Jew, and identifies with the Jewish nation. But, he does not have romantic notions about the specialness of the Mosaic system.

In this passage, the apostle presents the Mosaic system as a basic (elements) structure set up in earthly/outward (of the world) things, that God set up for a specific use during a specific time. During that time, Paul says, the Jews were receiving the “slave” treatment. This was not so bad a thing, if you had a perfect Master—better to be a slave in God’s household than a son in any other one!

But, the point was not to keep them slaves, but to prepare them to cry out “Abba,” once the adoption in Christ had gone through, and the Spirit had entered their hearts.

Yes, God had appointed the law, but He’s now given something so much better than the law. Look at the “sent forth” statements of Galatians 4:4 and Galatians 4:6. First, God sent forth His Son. To be One of us, under the law. God sent forth His Son to be One of us!! Then, God sent forth His Spirit. To be in our hearts and cry out from within our hearts. God sent forth His Son’s Spirit into our hearts!!

Yes, Old Testament believers had to be made alive by the Spirit to be saved by believing in Jesus prospectively, looking forward to His coming. But they did not have the experiential knowledge of being united to God the Son, or being indwelt by His Spirit who trains our hearts to cry, “Abba.”

So, when the false teachers were presenting the Galatians with the idea of having their identity wrapped up in keeping the ceremonies that had looked forward to Christ, what they were really doing was distracting them from the far superior realities that had been brought in by Christ Himself. To use the language of this passage: a return to a ceremonial-style church is a choice to live like a slave, even after you’ve come into your inheritance.

Why would anyone do that? There is no doubt that they do. Even where men are not returning to God’s own traditions from the Mosaic law, they are often amassing their own earthly traditions that make up the essence of their Christianity. The fact of the matter is that union with Christ and the indwelling of His Spirit are things that are only experienced by living faith that must be given and sustained supernaturally by God. Externals, being the elementary principles that they are, have a much broader appeal and are more under our control to maintain. There is no real waiting upon God necessary in them, and they allow us to make ourselves feel and look like things are well with us.

But they’re slavery. Far better to wait upon God Himself to give us the blessed experience of union with Christ and the work of His indwelling Spirit—employing His means alone, and waiting upon Him for when and to what extent we will enjoy their effectiveness. Let us no longer be slaves but sons—heirs of God through Christ!
What are some manmade traditions that have arisen in the churches? By what means has God commanded us instead to enjoy the realities of adoption in Christ?
Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH257 “Children of the Heavenly Father”

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

2019.11.13 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ruth 1:14-17

Questions from the Scripture text: What did the women do at the beginning of Ruth 1:14? What did Orpah do? What did Ruth do? To whom does Naomi tell Ruth that Orpah has returned (Ruth 1:15)? What does Naomi tell Ruth to do? What does Ruth tell Naomi not to do (Ruth 1:16)? Where does Ruth say that she will go? Where does Ruth say that she will lodge? Whom does Ruth say will be her people? Whom does Ruth say will be her God? Where does Ruth say she will die (Ruth 1:17)? What else does she say will be done to her there? Upon Whom does she call to enforce this promise? What does she insist will be the only thing that can separate them? 
Perhaps the most amazing part of Ruth’s famous declaration is at the end of Ruth 1:17, “Yahweh do so to me, and more also, if (even!) death parts you and me.”

There are many parts to what Ruth says. Certainly, she is rejecting the “Orpah option” that Naomi urged her to take. “Do not set upon me to forsake you,” Ruth responds in Ruth 1:16. Orpah had shown respect and affection to Naomi, but it was too much for her to give up her people and her gods.

For Ruth, however, everything is under the control of the one true God—even death, and the enforcing of oath promises.

So, yes, she is promising to share Naomi’s presence (wherever she goes), and Naomi’s plight (wherever she may end up spending a night), and her people (not just generally, but specifically—whatever indigent class she ends up in).

But, there’s much more than that. For Ruth, there’s God, and there’s eternity. Remember that their ages have been a big deal so far in this passage. Surely, the expectation is that Naomi will die first. And what will Ruth do then? She will continue trusting in the God whose blessing goes beyond death. She will rest in a grave alongside Naomi, who trusts in this God.

Not even death will separate them (note that the “anything but” is in italics in your English translation; the Hebrew reads, “So let Yahweh do to me, and so let Him do again, if death separates between me and between you”).

For the one who trusts that death is not the end—that for believers in Yahweh, the grave is a resting place until the resurrection—sticking to the Lord with His people is worth every possible earthly loss or hardship.

Ruth has come to believe that Yahweh hears what she says and carries out justice on earth. This Yahweh has appointed her to be a daughter unto Naomi, and the fifth commandment requires her to stick to her. This Yahweh has promised that a Seed of the woman will crush the serpent’s head, and death will not win.

If Jesus has taken away her condemnation, then even death can’t cause her separation from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. Or from others who have this same faith. Do you believe this?
What hardship might you have to suffer to stick to Christ and His people? Why is it worth it?
Suggested Songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge” or TPH405 “I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord”

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

2019.11.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 10:11-25

Questions from the Scripture text: What kind of sacrifices does every priest repeatedly offer (Hebrews 10:11)? What can they never do? How many sacrifices did this one offer (Hebrews 10:12)? For how long is it good? Where did He sit down? What is He waiting for (Hebrews 10:13)? What has He done forever to those who are being sanctified (Hebrews 10:14)? Who witnesses to us (Hebrews 10:15)? What did He say the Lord would make with us (Hebrews 10:16)? What would He put on our hearts? What would He write on our minds? What would He not remember anymore (Hebrews 10:17)? What does our forgiveness mean will no longer happen (Hebrews 10:18)? Where do we have boldness to enter (Hebrews 10:19)? By what do we have this boldness? What kind of way has Jesus consecrated for us to enter (Hebrews 10:20a)? What is the way through the veil (verse 20b)? What do we have over the house of God (Hebrews 10:21)? With what kind of heart may we draw near (Hebrews 10:22a)? From what were our hearts sprinkled, to be prepared for this (verse 22b)? What also was washed to show this reality (verse 22c)? What should we do with the confession of our hope (Hebrews 10:23)? Without what should we hold fast? Why should we hold fast without wavering (end of verse 23)? Whom should we consider (Hebrews 10:24)? In order to stir up what? What must we not forsake (Hebrews 10:25)? As we see the Day approaching how much should we exhort one another?  
Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, Song of Adoration, Confession of Sin, and Assurance of Pardon come from Hebrews 10:11-25. This passage connects Jesus’s work on earth to our worshiping in heaven.

How is it that we can enter heaven by faith, week by week, in the Lord’s Day assemblies, like we read about at the end of chapter 12? Because we can enter that true Holy of Holies through the blood of our High Priest who has passed through the heavens ( Hebrews 10:19).  Hebrews 10:20 calls this the “new and living way through the veil.”

On the one hand, this ought to make us treasure Christ’s work on earth. Those old sacrifices could never take away sins, no matter how much they were repeated. But, Christ’s one sacrifice has done what none of them could do!

On the other hand, this ought to make us treasure our worship in heaven. Considering what it is that Christ has secured for us, and the cost at which He has secured it, how could we allow ourselves to miss those assemblies of the church in which we enter heaven together? It should be a strong warning to us that some were already doing so ( Hebrews 10:25)!

But there is a day approaching of that final entry into heaven, and those who are willing to miss out on the assemblies of the church from earth expose the fact that their hearts do not really value that coming entering of the church into glory.

So, let us value the finished work of Christ, and rightly devote ourselves to that Sabbath-keeping (sabbatismos, Hebrews 4:9), by which He has appointed for us to finally and fully enter His rest (cf. Hebrews 3:7-4:16).
What did Christ do, so that our weekly worship could enter glory? What does it take for you to miss that worship?
Suggested songs: ARP184 “Adoration and Submission” or TPH425 “How Sweet and Awesome”

Monday, November 11, 2019

2019.11.11 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 21:8-21

Questions from the Scripture text: On what day did Abraham make a great feast in Genesis 21:8? What is Ishmael called in Genesis 21:9? What was he doing? What does Sarah tell Abraham to do in Genesis 21:10? What reason does she give? What did Abraham think of this (Genesis 21:11)? What does God tell Abraham not to do in Genesis 21:12? What does God tell him to do? What reason does God give at the end of verse 12—in whom will Abraham’s seed be called? Who is Abraham’s seed in Genesis 21:13? What will God do for him? When does Abraham arise in Genesis 21:14? What does he give Hagar? What does he do? What has happened in Genesis 21:15? What does she do? Where does she go in Genesis 21:16? Why? What does she do at the end of verse 16? Whose voice does God hear in Genesis 21:17? Who addresses Hagar? What does He say? What does He tell her to do (Genesis 21:18)? What does God do for her in Genesis 21:19? What was already there? What does she do? Who was with the lad (Genesis 21:20)? What effects does God’s presence produce for him? Where does he dwell (Genesis 21:21)? What does his mother do for him? From where does this wife come?
There’s more to maturity than advancing through physical stages. In Hebrews 5, the apostle uses the advancement from milk to solid food as a picture of theological and spiritual maturity. In our passage today, Isaac is moving on from milk to solid food, but we see that Ishmael is still immature in almost every way.

He’s a 16, maybe 17, year old who mocks a 3 year old at his weaning party. He’s incapable enough that if you’re going to send him away, you’d still have to send him away with mommy to take care of him. Between the physical conditions of him and his aging mother, she’s pretty sure that he would die first, so she puts him where she won’t have to see it happen.

But, by the very end of the passage—albeit now, sometime in the future—he grows, and is able not just to survive a few days in the wilderness but to dwell there, and to become an archer. A married man, who is becoming a nation.

What happened? “God was with the lad.” Why? When God commanded Abram, “walk before Me” (Genesis 17:1); and had given him circumcision for him and his children (Genesis 17:12); and had promised him Isaac, with whom He would have an everlasting covenant (Genesis 17:16Genesis 17:19); Abraham had made a special prayer: “Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!” (Genesis 17:18)

At that time, God had said, “As for Ishmael, I have heard you.” (Genesis 17:20)

It’s difficult for us sometimes, to hold onto God’s promises concerning our children. Those children are not yet what we had hoped that they would be. And certainly our parenting is not what it ought to be. But God and His promises are always as they should be. And it is in Christ that those promises have their “yes” and the “amen.”

And that’s where God directs Abraham’s attention in Genesis 21:12-13. Perhaps Abraham thought that if Ishmael is put out now, there’s no way that he will ever come to faith, no way that he would ever mature. But we must see the “because he is your seed” of verse 13 in light of the “in Isaac your seed shall be called” of verse 12. The One who is in Isaac—Christ!—is the One through whom all the nations will be blessed. And God will be with Ishmael not because of Ishmael, or even so much because of Isaac and Abraham, as because the One who is in Isaac and Abraham, even Jesus Christ.

And it is for Christ’s sake that God takes note of Ishmael’s sin, and Ishmael’s trouble. It is for Christ’s sake that God has given Ishmael a concerned father and a praying mother. It is for Christ’s sake that God hears Ishmael’s cries, and is with Ishmael, and makes Ishmael strong and prosperous even in the wilderness. After all, it is in Christ that God became a child to save children!
What are some ways that you still need to mature? What gives you hope that you will?
Suggested Songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH257 “Children of the Heavenly Father”