Saturday, December 7, 2019

Genesis 24:1-9 - "Married by Faith"

An audio recording of a sample family worship lesson in today's Hopewell @Home Passage. As Abraham comes to the end of his life, his top priority is to see his son in a marriage that is directed by God's Word, dependent upon God's providence, and devoted unto God's glory.

2019.12.07 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 24:1-9

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Genesis 24:1 tell us about Abraham, to introduce this incident? How does the second half of the verse summarize Abraham’s condition/ circumstance? To whom does Abraham speak in Genesis 24:2? What does Abraham tell him to do? By whom must he swear (Genesis 24:3)? What must he swear not to do? Where must he go (Genesis 24:4)? To whom must he go? What must he get from them? What hypothetical problem does the servant propose in Genesis 24:5? What does he ask if he should do in such a case? What does Abraham strictly forbid him to do in Genesis 24:6? What has Yahweh done to Abraham (Genesis 24:7)? What has Yahweh promised to Abraham? What is Abraham confident that Yahweh will do? But what does Abraham say to do, even if this does not happen (Genesis 24:8)? What does the servant do in Genesis 24:9?
Sarah is dead and buried. And Genesis 24:1 sounds like the kind of summary statement that is about to close out Abraham’s life story too. “Now Abraham was old, well advance in age, and Yahweh had blessed Abraham in all things.” In reality, it’s introducing a 67 verse (roughly three ordinary chapters) long description of how Isaac obtains a wife and is comforted in the loss of his mother. And it is at that point that the narrative will pick back up and close out the Abraham section.

So, the long interruption intensifies the focus on the search for Isaac’s wife.

We already know that it’s important that she come from the right family. When the line of the godly in Genesis 5 began intermarrying with the line of the ungodly from Genesis 4 at the beginning of Genesis 6, the result was that the godly line evaporated to the point that only Noah was preserved by grace, and God judged the world by the flood. We see that concern here. “you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites” (Genesis 24:3).

And we also know the importance of a Word-based commitment to the promised land. God had called Abraham out of his land (as Genesis 24:7 reminds us). The first attempt to leave the land, during the famine in Egypt, resulted in moral disaster. Then, in Genesis 15:13, the Lord had told Abraham that his offspring would be strangers in a land not theirs for 400 years. Would it be difficult? Yes, the Lord said that they would be “afflicted.” But it was the Word of the Lord, and He said that they wouldn’t be in their own land. So, what does Abraham say now? “Beware that you do not take my son back there” (Genesis 24:6) and “only do not take my son back there” (Genesis 24:8).

Abraham doesn’t know what God might do. He expresses confidence that Yahweh will send His angel ahead of the servant so that he may bring back a wife for Isaac (Genesis 24:7), but still gives instructions for if the mission is not successful (Genesis 24:8). But what he does know is that the Word of God is sure.

In an age when believers often display an unfounded confidence in how one or another situation will turn out, we would do well to walk with the Lord by the same faith as father Abraham.

Follow such Scriptural moral priorities as only marrying within the faith. Be willing to undergo affliction, as we are strengthened by a sturdy confidence that God’s promises are true. And not just short-term promises about the geographical locations of four generations. But eternal, infinitely blessed, promises that have been secured by Christ and are being applied by His Spirit. When we have promises that cannot fail, we never need to divert from living by the instruction of the One who made them.
What are you doing for the sake of your own, and other believers’, marriages?
Suggested songs: ARP45B “Daughter, Incline Your Ear” or TPH128B “Blest the Man that Fears Jehovah”

Friday, December 6, 2019

John 21:20-25 - "Follow Me"

An audio recording of a sample family worship lesson in today's Hopewell @Home Passage. In this last devotional in the Gospel of John, Jesus and Peter are walking along the beach and Peter gets distracted from following Christ by comparing his service and circumstances to someone else's. But John directs our attention back to Christ: the God-man who loved us and gave Himself for us.

2019.12.06 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 21:20-25

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Peter do, while Jesus is walking and talking with him (John 21:20)? Whom does he see? What does Peter ask Jesus in John 21:21? What does Jesus ask Peter in response (John 21:22)? What command does Jesus repeat to Peter? What saying went out among the brethren (John 21:23)? What correction is John making? Who is writing these things (John 21:24a)? What do “we” know? What were not written in this book (John 21:25)? How many of them were there? 
Peter makes so many of the same mistakes that the rest of us make. He’s not the vicar of Christ on earth, but he has certainly acted like the “patron saint” of millions of believers. Here, he makes the same mistake in John 21:21 as many others apparently had, according to John 21:23.

It’s an amazing moment between Peter and Jesus:

  • Christ restoring His fallen servant from his failures in his denials.
  • Christ commissioning His servant to a ministry of tending and feeding the flock.
  • Christ taking His servant on a private walk on the beach.

And what does Peter do? He wants to know, “but what about that guy?” That’s a problem with us. Our confidence in Christ and cherishing of His walking with us are so poor that instead of being satisfied in Him, we seem often to wonder how His providence to us measures up against His providence to others.

John notes in John 21:23 that the church as a whole had been taken with this idea, but then he turns us to his real significance. Not as the disciple that will never die, nor even the disciple who lives the longest (though he did). Rather, John tells us that his importance is a witness who gives true testimony of Jesus—God the Son who became a Man in order to be the crucified and risen Christ.

In the beginning of his gospel, John had told us that Jesus is the eternal Word, who is the full revelation of God. Now, in John 21:25, he closes the book by saying that Jesus is the glorious God of Psalm 40:5. “Many, O LORD my God, are Your wonderful works which You have done; and Your thoughts toward us cannot be recounted to You in order; if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.”
Who is Jesus? How have you been responding to His walking with you in life?
Suggested songs: ARP40A “I Waited for the Lord” or TPH375 “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name”

Thursday, December 5, 2019

2019.12.05 Hopewell @Home ▫ Galatians 4:21-31

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Paul call those whom he is correcting in Galatians 4:21? What does Galatians 4:22 call the mothers of Abraham’s two sons? According to what was one of them born (Galatians 4:23)? Through what was the other one born? With what does the apostle draw an analogy to these two sons (Galatians 4:24)? Which way of salvation does he compare to the son of the bondwoman? What two mountains are emblematic of trying to be right with God through this covenant (Galatians 4:26)? What mountain is emblematic of being right with God only through the promise (verse 26)? What promise is quoted in Galatians 4:27 (cf. Isaiah 54:1; Genesis 17:15-17)? Whom does the apostle say are children of promise like Isaac (Galatians 4:28)? What does he say they can expect from those who choose the way of fleshly effort instead of gracious promise (Galatians 4:29)? But what happens to those who choose the way of fleshly effort (Galatians 4:30)? In which group does the apostle place himself and his readers (Galatians 4:31)?
Many have misunderstood this passage, but Galatians 4:24-26 is the key. This passage isn’t about two sons (Ishmael and Isaac). Rather, it’s about two covenants—or, better put, about two Jerusalems.
How are the Jerusalems like the sons?

Well, one son was born as the result of human initiative—“according to the flesh” (Galatians 4:23). We recall how Sarai convinced Abram to take the initiative for producing a seed and try by way of Hagar.

The other son was born as the result of the divine initiative—“through the promise” (verse 23). We remember also how God announced the Isaac plan to Abraham in Genesis 17.

At the time that the apostle writes Galatians, there is a city called Jerusalem halfway between the north end of the Dead Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. There, there were people zealously trying to be the children of Abraham by the outward actions of the Mosaic administration. But this was like Hagar plan (Galatians 4:25)—based upon the initiative of the flesh.

However, the apostle is writing to the Galatians after Christ has taken His seat in glory. There was another barren woman who had been promised a Son—in the servant songs at the end of Isaiah, God had promised that the forever-King, the Redeemer, would come from Israel, atone for sin by His blood, and gather in a chosen people unto God from all the nations!

This is exactly what Christ has done, and there He is—seated in glory! There are not two ways to God, just as there could not be two ways to be Abraham’s heir (Galatians 4:30). The only way to be a child of God is to be born according to the Spirit, at God’s initiative, through the promised Christ, who sits enthroned among redeemed people from every nation.

Do you wish to be a child of Abraham? Believe in Christ like Abraham did! Do you wish to respond rightly to the law given at Sinai? Hope in the Christ whom that law demanded that God’s people look forward to! Do you wish to be a citizen of God’s chosen city? It cannot come by keeping the ceremonial code on earth, but only by the new administration of the enthroned King in heaven.
In whose performance do you hope? Where is He? What does He use to work in us?
Suggested songs: ARP87 “The Lord’s Foundation” or TPH425 “How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place”

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

2019.12.04 Prayer Meeting Folder

If you're not able to make it to the Prayer Meeting this evening from 6:30p-8p, perhaps you will wish to "join" us from home using the folder. It's available at http://bit.ly/harpc191204pm

Why gather for prayer? Like most of these questions, the first and best answer is, "Because God says to in the Bible."

We might also answer that if we really believe that the life and work of the church depend entirely upon God's power and mercy, we will be seeking His face for those things. Conversely, if we do not prioritize prayer in the life of the congregation, the fact of the matter may be that we secretly (or even subconsciously) believe that our own ideas and initiative are really what produce fruit.

Finally, prayer is one of the great means by which we may fellowship with God and each other. Do we love God and one another? Let us prioritize corporate prayer!

2019.12.04 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ruth 2:8-17

Questions from the Scripture text: Who is speaking to whom in Ruth 2:8? What does he call her? What does he tell her not to do? Where does he tell her to stay? What does he tell her to watch (Ruth 2:9)? Where does he tell her to go? Why will she be safe? What provision will he make for her? How does she respond physically in Ruth 2:10? What does she ask? What reason does she suggest that he might not have taken notice of her? What does Boaz say has been reported about her (Ruth 2:11)? Whom does Boaz call upon to bless her (Ruth 2:12)? Under what does he say she has come for refuge? How does she respond to that in Ruth 2:13? What does he invite her to do in Ruth 2:14? What special instruction does Boaz give the reapers in Ruth 2:15-16? How long does she work (Ruth 2:17a)? How much beaten out barley does she end up with?
Boaz shows Ruth astonishing tenderness and generosity here. He does not treat her as one of the poor who could, by law, come and get the little scraps after the harvesters. He calls her “my daughter” (Ruth 2:8). He has her stay not with the poor but the young women of his own clan. When break time comes, he has her eat from his table. He is a great nobleman among Israel, and she is a foreigner, and in extreme poverty, and a woman. But he speaks to her with great courtesy  and affection.

In addition to this great tenderness, Boaz is abundantly generous with her. First, he makes sure that she is safe both from others (Ruth 2:9a), and from the elements (verse 9b). No one is permitted to bother her, and she is invited to stay hydrated.

Boaz also makes sure that she gets enough to eat during the break time that she will have some to take back home with her. He says for her to glean not just behind the young men who are harvesting, but right up among the standing sheaves. This way, she will have the opportunity to get the very first pickings.

Boaz even tells the young men to purposely drop grain so that she will have extra. By the time she is done threshing, she has netted 20 lb of barley grain, in addition to her supper leftovers. (Note that she harvests from early in the morning until evening, and then does the hard work of threshing even after that).

In Ruth 2:12, we have a reminder of what we are supposed to see in the character of Boaz: not the greatness of the man, so much as the greatness of his God. The fruit we see in how he lives is the product of what he believes. “Yahweh repay your work, and a full reward be given you by Yahweh God of Israel.” Faith in the Lord produces likeness to the Lord in kindness and generosity.

Indeed, by the time we come to the end of the book, we will have Boaz displayed as a redeemer—as a picture of the Redeemer to come. In his Christ-likeness, we are to see Christ. And though we come after Christ, rather than foreshadowing Him, we too are called to be a display of the character of the Redeemer—in Whom we believe, and by Whom we are changed. May He make us pictures of His tenderness and generosity!
To whom do you have the chance to show unexpected kindness and generosity?
Suggested Songs: ARP183 “Under His Wings” or TPH400 “Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me”

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

2019.12.03 Hopewell @Home ▫ Colossians 3:1-11

Questions from the Scripture text: What has happened to believers with Christ (Colossians 3:1)? What should they seek? Why—Who is there? What else are we to do with “things above” (Colossians 3:2)? Upon what are we not to set our minds? What has happened to believers in Colossians 3:3? With Whom is their life hidden? Where is their life hidden? Who will appear (Colossians 3:4)? Who also will appear with Him? In what condition? What are we to do with our worldly aspects—that part of us that will end with this world (Colossians 3:5)? Which specific, worldly (sinful) aspects of us (that we are to put to death) does he mention? What is happening because of these things (Colossians 3:6)? What two ways does Colossians 3:7 describe how they used to act upon their inward sin? What six other things do Colossians 3:8-9 identify as things that believers need to put off? What have believers put off (verse 9b)? What have they put on (Colossians 3:10)? In what is the new man renewed? According to whose image is the new man renewed? What factors/aspects are not part of the newness of the new man (Colossians 3:11)?
Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, Song of Adoration, and Confession of Sin come from Colossians 3:1-11 in order to sing God’s thoughts after Him with Before the Throne of God Above.  God has saved us by Christ, in Christ, and for Christ.

God has saved us by Christ. In our place, Jesus has lived the perfectly obedient life that we could not. In our place, Jesus has died under the wrath and curse of God that we deserve but could never satisfy.

But God has not only saved us by Christ. He has saved us in Christ. When we believe in Jesus, we are joined to Him. Colossians 3:3 tells us that we died in Christ’s death. But it also says that our life is hidden with Christ in God—so that if you trust in Jesus Christ, the way to read Colossians 3:1 is not so much “if then you were raised with Christ,” but rather, “because you have been raised with Christ. Christ didn’t just give His life for us, but as Colossians 3:4 says, Christ is our life.

And God has saved us for Christ. We live on earth, but the purpose of our earthly life is the glory of Christ by Whom and for Whom we have been saved. He is seated at the right hand of God, and His is all the glory. Colossians 3:11 tells us that Christ is all and in all. And what is part of the glory of Christ at His appearing? Our appearing with Him—also glorious.

Christ will take those who were full of the things in the lists of Colossians 3:5 and Colossians 3:8—we formerly walked in them (Colossians 3:6)! And, He will have made us entirely the opposite. He has “renewed us in knowledge according to the image of [Christ].” What will be the great distinguishing characteristic about us on that day? Not our ethnicity, or ceremonial markings, or culture, or socioeconomic status—but that we have been transformed from wickedness into the spitting moral images of Jesus Christ.

So, as we consider Him where He is right now, and how we have been saved to bring Him glory, that gives us marching orders for the rest of our lives. Christians often want to know about the particular future events of our lives. But Deuteronomy 29:29 calls those “secret things.” Whatever else we are called to, we are called to put to death the list in Colossians 3:5, to put off the list in Colossians 3:8, to follow Jesus in obedience to all the commands of His Word—what Deuteronomy 29:29 calls “the revealed things.”

Why? Because we have been saved not just by Christ and in Christ. We have been saved for Christ.
What sins are you currently putting to death or putting off? How do we do that?
Suggested songs: ARP110B “The Lord Has Spoken” or TPH277 “Before the Throne of God Above”

Wednesday, December 4, 2019 ▫ Read Ruth 2:8-17

Monday, December 2, 2019

2019.12.02 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?
Generations come, and generations go. The genealogy of Rebekah concludes chapter 22, but the burial of Sarah occupies Genesis 23.

It must have been curious to the Hittites—that this transplanted Chaldean who had been content to be a sojourner suddenly wanted to own just the cave at the end of the field (Genesis 23:9).

Ephron recognizes the business opportunity. His ears must perk up when Abraham says “full silver” in verse 9. Ephron escalates the transaction to include not just the cave, but the field as well (Genesis 23:11). When Abraham confirms that he insists on paying (Genesis 23:13, there must be no doubt that it belongs to him), Ephron goes in for the kill, “the land, four hundred shekels of silver—what is that between me and between you?” (Genesis 23:15). In fact, it is likely that “currency of the merchants” in Genesis 23:16 refers to the common practice (condemned by God) of having one set of weights for buying, and another for selling. Abraham would have been subject to the heavier set!

But for Abraham, this wasn’t a business opportunity. It was not a time to think about the financial cost. It was a time to look forward. Forward past the decay of Sarah’s body. Forward past his own death, when his own body would be laid in that cave at the end of that field and decay. Forward to a day of resurrection that must come.

In Genesis 15:2-5, God had promised Abraham that he would have a descendant who solves the death problem—and a multitude of descendants who would enjoy the fulfillment of that promise. Then Romans 4:17-21 tells us that in Genesis 17:17, part of Abraham’s reasoning as he believed the promise about Sarah was that God gives life to the dead. And Hebrews 11:17-19 tells us that in Genesis 22, the reason that Abraham is confident in Genesis 22:5 that he and Isaac would both return, and willing in Genesis 22:10 to slay Isaac, is that he was sure that God could and would raise the dead.

Abraham’s faith was a resurrection-expecting faith, and therefore it was a body-burying faith—even at exorbitant cost in the silver that he would not be taking with him.
What are some ways that the resurrection and eternity affect how you use money?
Suggested Songs: ARP16A-B “Keep Me, O God” or TPH234 “The God of Abraham Praise”