Saturday, November 23, 2019

2019.11.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 22:1-19

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Genesis 22:1 say that God was doing to Abraham? What three things does God say about Isaac to Abraham in Genesis 22:2? When did Abraham get going (Genesis 22:3)? What did he do, and whom did he take? How had he determined where to go? How long did it take him to get there (Genesis 22:4)? What instructions did he give the young men (Genesis 22:5)? Whom did he say would go? Whom did he say would come back? What did Abraham give Isaac to carry (Genesis 22:6)? What did Abraham carry? What do Abraham and Isaac call each other in Genesis 22:7? What does Isaac ask? What is Abraham’s answer in Genesis 22:8? What four things does Abraham do when they arrive at the spot in Genesis 22:9? What does Isaac do (and not do)? What does Abraham do in Genesis 22:10? Who calls out to him in Genesis 22:11? From where? What does He say at first? What does He tell Abraham not to do in Genesis 22:12? What does He say that Abraham has shown? What does Abraham see in Genesis 22:13? What does he do with it? What does Abraham call the place (Genesis 22:14)? Why? What happens after the burnt offering and the naming of the place in Genesis 22:15? By what does the angel of Yahweh swear in Genesis 22:16? To what action does He say that He is responding? What will He do to Abraham’s descendants (Genesis 22:17)? What will Abraham’s descendants possess? In whom will all the nations of the earth be blessed (Genesis 22:18)? Because of what? Where does this passage “end up” (Genesis 22:19)? 
God has already made promises to Abraham that include the things that are promised by the end of this passage. So, what does it mean that God was “testing” Abraham in Genesis 22:1, and “now I know that you fear God” in Genesis 22:12, and “because you have done this thing” in Genesis 22:15, and “because you have obeyed My voice” in Genesis 22:18? God is showing some things about how good works function in those who have been made right with God by faith.

First, good works show that God has not just done things for us, and promised things to us, but is also doing the corresponding work in us. Several times so far in Genesis, Abraham’s doubt and fear have led to sin. But God now “tests” him to give an opportunity for the faith that has grown to express itself. Didn’t God know before this event that Abraham feared God? Of course! But what Genesis 22:12 is saying is that when believers demonstrate Godly character,  God observes not merely the action but His work of grace in the heart that is producing that action.

Second, God has chosen to do much good in response to good works. There is an expression of His justice and His pleasure in what is good that God delights to reward them. We know that Abraham does not do well enough to be worthy of reward. Yet here, and many other places in Scripture, God is still pleased to reward those imperfect good works for the sake of Christ from Whom comes any and all goodness in us.

Third, God has chosen to do much good by means of believers’ good works. It is this son, whom Abraham was willing to devote to God by death, that God will devote to Himself by his life—God will bring the Christ through Isaac, and God will bless all the nations of the earth through Isaac, in part because Abraham has obeyed God’s voice.

Ultimately, however, we still deserve that death, represented in the knife. And we still deserve the wrath of Hell, represented in the fire. But God Himself will indeed provide the Lamb. Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world—even our Lord Jesus Christ! Abraham did not withhold his only son, whom he loved (Genesis 22:2Genesis 22:16), but God spared him. Yet, when it came to God’s beloved Son, with Whom He is well-pleased (Matthew 1:1Matthew 3:17Matthew 17:5), God did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all (Romans 8:32)!
What makes you righteous in God’s sight? What use, then, are your good works? 
Suggested songs: ARP78B “O Come, My People” or TPH234 “The God of Abraham Praise”

Friday, November 22, 2019

2019.11.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 21:1-14

Questions from the Scripture text: To whom did Jesus show Himself in John 21:1? Where? Which disciples, specifically, were together (John 21:2)? What did Peter say that he was going to do (John 21:3)? When did they fish, and what did they catch? How long had this gone at the beginning of John 21:4? Who was on the shore? What didn’t the disciples know? What does Jesus call them in John 21:5? What does He ask them? What is their answer? What does He tell them to do in John 21:6? How do they respond? What happens? Who is the first to recognize what this means in John 21:7? Whom does he tell? What does Peter do? What do the other disciples do in John 21:8? What are they dragging? What do they find when they arrive at shore (John 21:9)? What does Jesus tell them to do in John 21:10? Who gets the fish in John 21:11? How many were there and of what kind? What was remarkable about the condition of the net? What does Jesus now tell them to do in John 21:12? What don’t they ask Him? Why not? What does Jesus do for them in John 21:13? How does John 21:14 summarize this entire incident? 
This passage is all about Christ “showing Himself.” John 21:1 introduces the passage by saying, “in this way He showed [Himself].” And John 21:14 concludes the passage by saying, “This is now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead.”

One thing we learn here is that while the Lord primarily makes Himself known to us through His Word in the Lord’s Day assemblies, it is yet true that He also makes Himself known to us through His works in our ordinary lives. The previous two “showings” took place when all the disciples were together on the first day of the week. Here, there are only seven of them present, and it is a work day on which it is appropriate for them to be fishing.

Another thing we learn is the goodness of being much with other believers. If the other six had left Peter to fish by himself, John would not have been there to help Peter identify the Lord Jesus, the others would not have been available to attend to the boats and nets when Peter swam to shore in his excitement to see the Lord, and they would not have had together life-long fellowship in being witnesses together of the same experience. Furthermore, there are experiences that we have had of the Lord when together—such as they had with the abundance of the catch and the eating by the seaside of bread and fish that Jesus produced for them—that are enriched when we are together again, and He gives them to us again. We are much helped in recognizing Christ, responding to Christ, and receiving Christ, when we are with other Christians.

In the third place, we see several ways in which Christ makes Himself known to us in the events of our lives. The first is counter-intuitive. He permits us to fail. Some fault Peter for going fishing, but the Lord does not do so here. Yes, he was told three years prior that he should be a fisher of men, but Christ has not yet made it plain how they should go about this. In fact, when He does give them instruction, it is to “do nothing” until He Himself pours out the Spirit. So, let us be at least as fair with Peter as we would be with ourselves in considering the biblical evidence.

What Christ does do about the fishing, however, is take Peter and the other apostles back to that day when they were first called to be fishers of men. And their failure was a big part of that. For his part, Peter’s denial is still looming large for him (as we shall see in the conversation after breakfast). But, Christ brings him back to the same point: recognition of nothing but weakness in himself that he might find Christ alone as all his strength! If this is true for fishing of fish, how much more for fishing of men! Do not be dismayed, dear believer, when in God’s providence your weakness presents itself. Rather, take the lesson and whether in things earthly or spiritual, take Christ to be all your strength!

But Christ does sometimes make Himself known in our lives not only by the exposing of our weakness but also by the display of His wisdom and power and love. It is interesting that, although Peter bailed upon them at first, it was he who had the 153-large-fish reminder that Jesus knows what He is doing and can accomplish it with ease. Furthermore, such a haul would have gone a long way toward providing for the apostles’ needs until Pentecost. So, this is also a display of surprising and loving provision. Has not the Lord often done this in your life—caused things to fall out in such an unpredictable yet powerful and generous way that He freshly displayed Himself by His actions?!

Finally, the provision of the bread and fish by the sea takes us back to chapter six, where the Lord Jesus had identified Himself as the living bread come down from heaven, promising that He would give His flesh for the life of the world. Though John had seen it clearly from the moment the nets began to fill, it is following this flashback, as it were, to the feeding of the 5000 that immediately precedes John 21:12, telling us that they all now knew that it was the Lord. And the Lord does sometimes, when we need refreshment and reassurance, come to us in familiar ways to previous times of blessedness in Him. Oh, whether in the means of grace in the assembly, or in more ordinary circumstances, there is nothing that we need so much as to have Christ show Himself to us!
By what means of grace has Christ displayed Himself to you recently? And in what other circumstances?
Suggested songs: ARP98 “O Sing a New Song” or TPH282 “I Greet Thee, Who My Sure Redeemer Art”

Thursday, November 21, 2019

2019.11.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ Galatians 4:8-11

Questions from the Scripture text: How does Galatians 4:8 describe the Gentiles’ unconverted condition? Whom did they serve at that time? In what two ways does Galatians 4:9 describe their converted condition? To what have they turned again (cf. Galatians 4:3-4)? What does verse 9 say they are desiring to be in? What does the apostle call “weak and beggarly elements” from the Mosaic era (Galatians 4:10, cf. verses 3-4)? How does the apostle feel toward them (Galatians 4:11)? What is he concerned might be their actual condition?
Why would anyone who had been freed from slavery want to become a slave again? That’s the question of the second half of Galatians 4:9.

Firstly, they knew how bad slavery is. The apostle says, “you served those which by nature are not gods.” In 1 Corinthians 10:19-20 he writes, “What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God.” The point of Galatians 4:8 is that as former servants of demons, they know just how bad false religion can be.

Secondly, they know how good sonship is. What a beautiful summary Galatians 4:9 gives us of the converted state! Galatians 4:8 describes their life before conversion as “when you did not know God.” Verse 9 describes their life as believers as “knowing God [because they have been] known by God. God has set His love upon them from before the foundation of the world! And when God brings them to faith, He grants unto them to know Him in such a way that their very hearts cry out, Abba, Father (Galatians 4:6)! Here is the profound sweetness of true conversion: knowing the living God as our own dear Father who has bent His affection upon us from before the world began.

So, why would they trade that genuine spiritual reality for the outward earthly things that had belonged to the “slave” era of Israel waiting for Christ to come (cf. Galatians 4:3)? The coming of Jesus had left them with just one day, the Lord’s Day. Now they are going to start observing the entire Mosaic ceremonial calendar? God Himself had invented that calendar, and the Holy Spirit still calls observing it a return to bondage.

Observing the calendar denied that Christ is enough. Observing the calendar put man in the place of God. Observing the calendar implied that others who didn’t were doing less to please God than those who did. Observing the calendar denied the sufficiency of the means that Christ had given by which to walk with Him.

But this is what the Galatians were doing, and it made Paul wonder if they had actually ever been truly converted. “I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain”! 
What are some manmade rules or religious ceremonies or days that Christians might add to what Jesus gives us in the Bible? What does this passage call such practices? What does this passage say that being devoted to those practices calls into question?
Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH257 “Children of the Heavenly Father”

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

2019.11.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ruth 1:18-22

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Naomi see about Ruth in Ruth 1:18? What does she stop doing? What do the two of them do now (Ruth 1:19)? How far do they go? How much of the city was excited? Why? What do the women ask? What does Naomi tell them not to do in Ruth 1:20? What does she tell them to call her? Why? What is her memory of the condition in which they had left (Ruth 1:21)? What is her evaluation of her current condition? How many times does she name the One whom she sees behind her misery in Ruth 1:20-21? In the summary in Ruth 1:22, what additional data do we learn about the timing of their arrival?
Believers need to keep the certainty of the gospel of Christ front and center, so that we will see that the Lord is determined to do us good. Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to do her good, and so she went along with it. If only she was able to see the same with respect to the Lord!

Instead, she has opposite-vision. She says, “I went out full.” Did she really? Her family were fleeing starvation when she went out. Things were so bad that they were going to go live among the idolatrous Moabites! When we do not see God’s perfect and constant goodness through the lens of the gospel of Christ, how easily we can re-paint the past in beautiful colors by comparison to the present against which we grumble.

And she says, “Yahweh has brought me home again empty.” Does she not have that same Lord about whom Ruth has learned from her? Is He not more to her than all others, as Ruth has learned that He is unto her? And, she has this believing and devoted daughter who is not only a source of earthly help, but is that kind of believing companion who is a great help to the soul.

Sadly, this failure to be sure of the goodness of the Lord that has promised the Savior turns Naomi’s good theology to her spiritual disadvantage. The very fact that she knows that God has ordained her trials is now reason (in her eyes) to decide that God is against her. “The Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me […] Yahweh has brought me home again empty […] Yahweh has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me.”

She is correct about who has ordained her circumstances, but because she is not holding onto Him with the certainty that He is constantly and eternally good to her in the promised Christ, she is employing this theology backwards. She ought to have been judging her circumstances by the certainty of God’s purposes toward her, but she is instead judging God’s purposes toward her by what she thinks of her circumstances.

Now, before we think too harshly of Naomi, let us admit that we do the same ourselves, and it is much more inexcusable. For, we do not have a prospective promise of Christ (which did, genuinely, leave her without excuse). No, we have the finished work of Christ. We have the knowledge that it was the beloved Son who was given for us. We have the certainty that He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all is, together with Him, freely giving us all things (Romans 8:32). This certainty about God’s intentions to us in Christ must govern how we see our circumstances; let us never allow our perception of the circumstances shape what we think of God’s intentions toward us!
Is the cross of Christ your great peace and assurance? If so, What current/past difficult circumstances in your life does the cross assure you are for your good?
Suggested Songs: ARP183 “Under His Wings” or TPH256 “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

2019.11.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 7:20-8:2

Questions from the Scripture text: Who wasn’t Jesus made priest without (Hebrews 7:20)? What did the others become priest without (Hebrews 7:21a)? Who swore an oath to Jesus that He would be priest forever (verse 21b)? Who has become surety of our covenant (Hebrews 7:22)? Of what kind of covenant has He become surety for us? Why were there many priests in the previous covenant (Hebrews 7:23)? Who continues forever (Hebrews 7:24)? Why is Jesus’s priesthood unchangeable? Who is able to save those who come to God through Him (Hebrews 7:25a)? How completely is He able to save them (verse 25b)? Why is He able to save them to the uttermost? Who is the High Priest who was fitting for us (Hebrews 7:26a)? What five things in verse 26 describe how and why Jesus is fitting? What does Jesus not need to do daily (Hebrews 7:27a)? What did Jesus do once for all (verse 27b)? What kind of men did the law appoint as priests (Hebrews 7:28a)? What appointed a perfected Son forever (verse 28b)? Who has the kind of High Priest that Hebrews 8:1 describes? Where is He seated? In what sanctuary (holy place) and tabernacle does He serve (Hebrews 8:2)? Who erected it? 
Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, Song of Adoration, Confession of Sin, and Assurance of Pardon come from Hebrews 7:20-8:2.

Jesus has finished the work of atoning for us. The moment that one believes savingly in Christ, he is as justified as he will be in glory. But Jesus isn’t finished with His work as our Mediator, because He has given Himself to do more than just atone for us. He has also given Himself to intercede for us. In our passage, the focus is upon God’s having given Christ, from among men, to be our Priest forever.

With what great confidence we should come to “the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (Hebrews 8:1)!

We come through Him to Whom Yahweh has sworn that His priesthood continues forever (Hebrews 7:21, cf. Psalm 110:4).

  • We come through Him who has secured the blessings of a superior covenant (Hebrews 7:22). 
  • We come through Him who is able to save us to the uttermost (Hebrews 7:25a). 
  • We come through Him who lives forever (verse 25b). 
  • We come through Him who makes intercession for us (verse 25c). 
  • We come through Him who is holy (Hebrews 7:26). 
  • We come through Him who literally does no evil thing (“harmless” in NKJV). 
  • We come through Him who is unstained. 
  • We come through Him who is not corrupted by proximity to sinners. 
  • We come through Him whose sacrifice has put our sin away once for all (Hebrews 7:27). 
  • We come through Him who is the Beloved Son (Hebrews 7:28). 
  • We come through Him who has flawlessly and completely qualified forever to be our Priest.
  • We come to Him who is seated at the right hand of the throne (Hebrews 8:1).
  • We come to Him who is Priest not of an earthly tabernacle, but of that heavenly glory of which the earthly one was a copy (Hebrews 8:2)

One of the reasons that we don’t come to worship with enough wonder is because we give little attention to Him through Whom we come, and therefore we little appreciate what glorious access we have been given in Him. O that the Spirit would stir up our hearts to appreciate Him and the entrance He has given us into glory in New Testament worship!
About which of the characteristics of Christ’s priesthood did you most need to be reminded?
Suggested songs: ARP110B “The Lord Has Spoken to My Lord” or TPH275 “Arise, My Soul, Arise”

Monday, November 18, 2019

2019.11.18 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)? 
Those who are outside the church often have little or no access to God’s Word. This was not entirely the case with Abimelech. He had a very vivid experience with God’s Word, “You are a dead man!” (Genesis 20:3). And it was in the wake of this that God identified Abraham as His spokesperson, with whom He had a special relationship (Genesis 20:7).

It’s been a few years now. Isaac has been born and now weaned, and Abimelech has had opportunity to observe that “God is with you in all that you do” (Genesis 21:22). What had Abimelech seen? Well, perhaps he had seen God’s material blessing upon Abraham. But he has also certainly seen that Abraham fears God in such a way that he keeps all of his solemn promises (Genesis 21:23).

This, of course, is a bit of a change from Abimelech’s earlier experience of Abraham’s character—when Abraham’s lie had just about led them all into sin against God. But, there has been more time to observe, and this is the conclusion that he has drawn. “God is with you in all that you do.”

This brings up an important question about how you see your life: when it comes down to not only your earthly wellbeing, but also your spiritual being, is your first great hope that God will be with you in all that you do? And then, when He does grant you to grow in faith and hope and love that produces worship and obedience and service, is it your conclusion about yourself  that God is with you in all that you do? Because if that is not the dynamic of your own life, as considered in your own mind, how can you expect that to be true of unbelievers?

And we can see the fruit of such faith-founded godliness in Abraham’s interaction in this chapter. When he continues to use the disputed well, he wishes it to be known clearly that he is not going back on their covenant. Even at the cost of the sheep and oxen—including the seven ewe lambs—Abraham makes sure that his ownership of the well is clear.

Finally, when Abimelech and Phicol have gone in Genesis 21:32, we can see the place of faith from which comes Abraham’s willingness to deal with such integrity. He plants a long-lasting memorial tree in confidence in God’s Word to him, and offers worship to the everlasting God (Genesis 21:33). His integrity with others has sprung from this faith in the Lord. Is it so with you?
What unbelievers observe your faith and character? What are they learning about God?
Suggested Songs: ARP15 “Within Your Tent” or TPH475 “Who Trusts in God, a Strong Abode”