Saturday, November 30, 2019

2019.11.30 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 22:20-23:20

Questions from the Scripture text: Who else had children (Genesis 22:20)? Who were Nahor’s sons and grandsons (Genesis 22:21-22)? Who was Nahor’s great-granddaughter (Genesis 22:23)? Who else descended from Nahor (Genesis 22:24)? How old was Sarah at her death (Genesis 23:1)? How did Abraham respond (Genesis 23:2)? What did Abraham request in Genesis 23:3-4? How did the sons of Heth respond (Genesis 23:5-6)? More specifically, what property did Abraham want from whom (Genesis 23:7-9)? What did he offer for it? At first, how does Ephron respond (Genesis 23:10-11)? But what does Abraham insist upon doing (Genesis 23:12-13)? What price does Ephron pretend not to want to name (Genesis 23:14-15)? What does Abraham do in Genesis 23:16? Why is the summary of Genesis 23:17-18 important? What is mentioned in Genesis 23:4Genesis 23:6Genesis 23:9Genesis 23:11Genesis 23:13Genesis 23:15Genesis 23:19, and Genesis 23:20?
The end of chapter 22 reminds us that God keeps track of all people from all nations. They seem like random names to us, but we cannot know the multitude of people who may have come from them. Abraham’s brother has twelve sons—a significant number in the lineages in Genesis. But, as we learn in the following chapter, the Lord isn’t just tracing generations of those who live for a moment and then vanish. Every person from every family is an eternal soul, who will be resurrected. Death is the end of this life in this age, but it is not the end of a man or woman.

Sarah is the only woman in the Bible, whose age at death is given in the Scripture. She has been especially chosen by God to be the one through whom the Seed (Christ!) would come. Yet, she is just getting started.

It’s very impressive that Abraham wants to purchase part of the land now. Why? He’s lived here for some sixty years or so, and the whole thing is promised to him by God. He hasn’t needed to outright own anything so far. So, why now?

The answer appears at least eight times in this chapter: burial. He’s not purchasing something that he needs for his living body, but for his wife’s dead body—or, rather, for her glorified body on the day of resurrection! Some believers tie the land promise to the parcel of land that was reappropriated in 1948 and to the nation that currently controls it. But this is not only too small in Abrahamic terms (from the Euphrates to the Nile and the Mediterranean!), but it misses that the land promise has been expanded to include the whole earth.

More importantly, just as Sarah’s body needs to go through a transformative renovation now that it is dead, this bodily resurrection is precisely because the new earth that it inherits will also be transformatively renovated. There is an incorruptible world coming, for which we will need incorruptible bodies (1 Corinthians 15:35-58).

The whole interaction with the Hittites is intriguing—lots of being polite and etiquette, but on the whole, Ephron asks what is an exorbitant price. Abraham, of course, is willing to pay it, because his wife’s place in the world to come is of infinite worth by comparison to some silver that the Lord is literally about to burn up. Such are the values of one who hopes in Christ!
What is your body’s purpose now? In eternity? In the meantime between those?
Suggested songs: ARP16A “Keep Me, O God” or TPH471 “The Sands of Time Are Sinking”

Friday, November 29, 2019

2019.11.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 21:15-19

Questions from the Scripture text: When does this conversation begin (John 21:15)? What were they doing, when this conversation takes place? What does Jesus call Peter? What question does He ask him? How does Peter answer (using fileo instead of agapao)? And what does Jesus tell him to do? What does John 21:16 say about the question to begin? What does Jesus call him? What does Jesus ask him? How does Peter answer (again changing the verb)? What is the difference between Jesus’s command here and the one in verse 15? How does John 21:17 introduce the question? What does Jesus call him? What does Jesus ask (using Peter’s verb ‘fileo’ now)? How does Peter feel about this question? How does Peter answer Him this time? What command does Jesus give him this time? What information does Jesus add, in John 21:18, about the result that Peter should expect from his service to Christ and His flock? What did this signify (John 21:19)? 
Do you love Jesus? Ironically, if you do love Him, then I suspect that this means that you often feel pain over how poorly you love Him. And I suppose that few have felt this pain so much as Peter felt it, when he had denied his Lord those three times.

Even the restoration is painful. Perhaps the difference has been overstated between the unconditional love Jesus asked about the first two times, and the brotherly love that Peter affirms. But, when Jesus asks about this kind of love, and it’s the third of these questions, the text plainly says that Peter was grieved.

But the Lord Jesus was indeed restoring him—giving him instructions for how to express his love to Christ. Or, rather, upon whom to express that love: His people. We remember back to that fateful conversation in which Christ told Peter about his upcoming denial. It was then that Jesus had said that we are to love one another as He has loved us—that He was departing, but that we still might reciprocate His great love to us, but with one another as the object.

As an apostle—and therefore a minister of the gospel—Peter’s call is more specific: feeding (twice) and shepherding Jesus’s sheep (twice) and especially His little lambs. But this is how we are all called to express in our actions that love which Jesus can see in our hearts: by loving one another as He has loved us.

And He has loved us so greatly! Behold how He even gives Peter his wish from that last-supper conversation. Now that all delusions of his own strength have been obliterated, it is time for Peter’s desire to be affirmed: “I will die with you!” Now, Jesus tells him that he indeed will die by crucifixion. How will he get there? Jesus says, “follow Me.” Christ’s plan for each of us is customized for enjoying His love and expressing our love back to Him. And the instructions that He gives us for how to get there? “Follow Me.”
How have you been expressing love to Christ’s flock? How can you follow Him?
Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH496 “My Jesus, I Love Thee”

Thursday, November 28, 2019

2019.11.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ Galatians 4:12-20

Questions from the Scripture text: What does the apostle call them in Galatians 4:12? Like whom does he urge them to become? Like whom does the apostle say he had become? What does he assure them that they had not done? What had brought him to Galatia at first (Galatians 4:13)? How does he refer to that physical infirmity in Galatians 4:14? What did they not do, despite his physical infirmity? How did they receive him? What does the apostle ask them about their first encounter with his preaching in Galatians 4:15? What does he say they were willing to do for him after they had heard the gospel from him? How does he say they are treating him now (Galatians 4:16)? For what reason does he say they have begun treating him this way? What are others doing to the Galatians, that has resulted in their treating the apostle this way (Galatians 4:17)? What effect is this going to have on them? Why are these others doing this—how do they want the Galatians to think toward them? Is the zeal itself bad (Galatians 4:18)? How does the apostle feel toward them in Galatians 4:19? What is he aiming at having happen to them? Where would he like to be (Galatians 4:20)? What could he do, then, that he can’t do in a letter? 
One thing that is always missing among legalistic believers and congregations is the profound sweetness of Christian affection. Here the apostle is reminding them of how he came to feel so close to them.

He had come in the great weakness of his poor eyesight. He’s even going to remind them of this in a couple chapters, when he closes the letter with his own handwriting instead of employing a scribe. But they had not rejected him for his feebleness. Rather, as a messenger of God they had received him—with a respect for the preaching of God’s Word that flowed directly out of their respect for Christ Jesus Himself (Galatians 4:14)!

Of course, Paul had loved them dearly for Christ’s sake already, but you can hear how moved he was by their love in Galatians 4:16, “For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me.” This is a common experience among those pastors who have been on the receiving end of such affection by those who love him for the sake of that Word which he preaches.

It is this about which he speaks, when he says “I became like you.” Now, the apostle is pleading with them to come back to that first love that they had for him. These false teachers seem to have an affection for them (Galatians 4:17a), but it’s not real. They don’t actually care about the Galatians’ souls, which would end up perishing if they follow those teachers. Legalism is all about puffing up man—and they are only puffing up the Galatians so that the Galatians will puff them up too.

Here is a test by which we may examine whether our love is genuine: is it us that we love to see in others, or is it Christ that we love to see in them? If we only love those of our little sect, then we do not love the image of Christ, so much as we are infatuated with our own reflection in them.

But it was not so with the apostle. Why did he love them so tenderly as to call them, “my little children”? Why did he love them so intensely as to describe his ministry as like being in labor with child? Because the object of his affections was Christ Himself, and his love for them was a love of the image of Christ in them!

“If only I could be there, so you could hear it in my voice,” he says. Legalism misses out on affection for Christ: it obeys, but it does not adore. And legalism misses out on affection for one another: a sectarian love for one’s own reflection in others, rather than a tender, intense devotion to all those who have been joined to Christ!
How is your adoration of Christ doing? How is your affection for believers who aren’t from your circles?
Suggested songs: ARP133 “Behold How Very Good It Is” or TPH409 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

2019.11.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ruth 2:1-7

Questions from the Scripture text: Who had a relative (Ruth 2:1)? What did that man have? What was his name? What does Ruth 2:2 call Ruth? To whom does she speak? What does she ask? What does Naomi answer? Where did Ruth go to do what (Ruth 2:3)? To whose part of the field did she come? What does verse 3 tell us for the second time? Who arrived in Ruth 2:4? From where? How does he great his reapers? How do they greet him? To whom does Boaz speak in Ruth 2:5? What does he ask? How does the supervisor identify Ruth to Boaz in Ruth 2:6? What does he report Ruth to have asked (Ruth 2:7)? What does he report about Ruth’s activity that day?
Ruth 2:3 says, “She happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz.” The Hebrew literally says, “it happened by chance.” But the point of the text is actually the opposite! Although Ruth did not know or intend to go to Boaz’s field specifically, God has providentially directed her there.

But the sovereignty of God has been directing much more than field-gleaning locations. Here is a Moabitess who submits respectfully to her dead husband’s mother, who isn’t too proud to take the role the law assigned to the very poor, and who isn’t afraid of hard work. We know where her character came from, because in Ruth 1:17 we heard her say “Yahweh do so to me and more also.”

And here is a man who, even though he is an Israelite, lives in the time of the judges, when there was no king in Israel and everyone did what was right in his own eyes. And what’s the first thing we hear from his lips? “Yahweh be with you!”

He is a wealthy man, but has come to the field himself for reaping. And he is a godly man, who blesses in the covenant name of God. He has also hired godly men, who return to him also a blessing in the name of Yahweh.

Even if we had not read the book many times before, we might already be thinking, “this is a match made in heaven!” And so it is. “And it happened by chance” that she came to the part of the field belonging to Boaz.”

The chief reaper seems to think so too—or at least understand that his boss might be thinking so. Boaz only asks, “to whom does the young woman belong”? But the reaper not only identifies her as that amazing Moabitess who has the entire town astir with her kindness to her mother-in-law (cf. Ruth 1:19), but he is careful to note also her respectfulness and industriousness (Ruth 2:7).

God knows what He is doing, and it is when we don’t that it is especially important for us to remember this!
What is an example from your life, when you were clueless, but God was working perfectly?
Suggested Songs: ARP183 “Under His Wings” or TPH256 “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

2019.11.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ Revelation 5:8-14

Questions from the Scripture text: What had Jesus taken in Revelation 5:8? What do the four living creatures and twenty-four elders do when they see this? What does verse 8 call Jesus? What does a harp represent? What does the verse tell us the bowls of incense represent? What kind of song did they sing in Revelation 5:9? What did they say Jesus was worthy to do? Why do they say that He is worthy? What has Jesus made out of those whom He has redeemed (Revelation 5:10)? What does John see in Revelation 5:11? How many angels were there? What were they saying in Revelation 5:12? With what kind of voice? How many of the creatures in heaven were doing so (Revelation 5:13)? How many of those on the earth? How many of those under the earth? How many of those in the sea? To whom were they shouting this blessing and honor and glory and power? What did the four living creatures say in Revelation 5:14? What did the twenty-four elders do? What does verse 14 call Jesus?  
Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, Song of Adoration, and Confession of Sin come from Revelation 5:8-14 in order to sing God’s thoughts after Him with Jesus Paid It All.

That first word is a little one, but its meaning is a doozy. All. Every. Single. One. As in every knee shall bow and every tongue confess.

I wonder if you have ever considered the amplitude of the sound waves involved in Philippians 2:10.
Even before we get to Revelation 5:13, our eardrums have exploded. Hundreds of millions of angels—the great warriors of heaven… and each of them using a loud voice.

But then we get to verse 13, and it is as if the creatures of this creation are seeking to drown out the angels. Every last one is shouting in unison, “Blessing and honor and glory and power…” We cannot imagine what a cannon roar, what a tidal wave of sound, is involved in every word here!

What is the occasion for this super-sound of praise? Well, you can see it explicitly in Revelation 5:9, “You have redeemed us to God by Your blood.” And you can see it implicitly even just in the name by which the Lord Jesus is called.

The Lamb. The Lamb who was slain. Him who sits on the throne and the Lamb. How will we respond, when our remaining sin has been done away with, and we are glorified in righteousness? By shouting the praises of Jesus at the top of our lungs!
How exuberant will we praise in glory? Why isn’t it more so now? How can we grow it?
Suggested songs: ARP99 “Let the Nations Tremble” or TPH276 “Jesus Paid It All”

Monday, November 25, 2019

2019.11.25 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 says that He is testing Abraham. He tests whether Abraham is willing to give up his son, his only son, whom he loves. Are we willing to give up what we love the most—what we could least live without, what we would give everything else for—for the Lord?

The answer from Abraham was, “yes!” No child of Adam deserves to be able to answer yes. How perfect is the sacrifice of Christ, that He is worthy on our behalf that even sinners such as Abraham and we are would be the objects of such a work of grace! If you cannot say “yes,” then you can plead this before God: Christ is worthy that for His sake You would so work in me that I would give up anything for You!

And, when you do come to be willing, you will see that God has done a great work not only in offering Christ for you, but also a great work of His Spirit in bringing you to faith in Christ, and beginning to make you to be like He is.

The grace of our God is so great that He not only makes us to believe in Christ, but also uses us in His plan to bring others as well to faith in Christ. None of us are given the place of Abraham, through whom Isaac comes, and through whom Christ comes. But each of us is given a part in God’s great plan of redemption, as He brings to Himself all whom He has chosen in Christ in His eternal, electing love. This grace is especially great when He is pleased to respond to our good works—imperfect as they are—by doing good in response to His Son, whom He sees in us, because He has joined Him to us.

Of course—that is just the thing on display here. That it is only Christ who can atone for us. We deserve the knife. We deserve the fire. But even if Isaac had died, it was necessary that God raise him. Why? Because Christ had to come. Christ had to take the knife of death for us. Christ had to take the fire of wrath for us.

And of course He did. God would pass His own test. He would love us enough that He would not spare His own beloved Son. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and gave His son to be the propitiation for our sins.
What would be hardest for you to give up for the Lord? What has He given for you?
Suggested Songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly, I Am with You” or TPH431 “And, Can It Be”