Saturday, December 28, 2019

2019.12.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 24:29-58

Questions from the Scripture text: Who comes to the well at what speed in Genesis 24:29? What does he see that makes him go to the man (Genesis 24:30)? What does he hear? So how does he greet Abraham’s servant in Genesis 24:31? When the servant has accepted the invitation, and food is set in front of him, why won’t he eat (Genesis 24:33)? How does he identify himself (Genesis 24:34)? How does he summarize Abraham’s life so far (Genesis 24:35)? What particular event does he especially highlight in Genesis 24:36? What has Isaac been given? What verses and event does the servant summarize in Genesis 24:37-41? What verses and event does the servant summarize in Genesis 24:42-48? What is the big question that he puts to them in Genesis 24:49? Who answer in Genesis 24:50? From where do they say that the thing comes? What do they say that they cannot do? What official answer do they give in Genesis 24:51? How AND TO WHOM does the servant respond in Genesis 24:52? What does the servant bring out now in Genesis 24:53? For whom? To whom does he also send gifts? What does he say in the morning (Genesis 24:54)? What request is made by whom in Genesis 24:55? How does the servant respond in Genesis 24:56? Whom do they propose asking in Genesis 24:57? How does she answer (Genesis 24:58)?
This is a match made in heaven. That’s the main point of Abraham’s servant’s message. That’s the main point of Rebekah’s family’s response. That’s the main point of the narrator: God is graciously, powerfully taking care of the covenant line out of which will come Jesus, the One in whom all the nations of the earth will be blessed. And to do that, God Himself has been at work for generations, in two families, to produce a marriage made in heaven.

We have seen from the beginning of Genesis that it’s in marriage and family that God especially glorifies His image in man. It’s in the context of marriage that Satan attacks for the fall. It’s through marriage and family that God plans to bring the Redeemer. And it has often been upon marriage and family that the wellbeing of the covenant line has risen and fallen.

This passage again highlights how important an issue this is.  In Genesis 24:33, we find that it’s more important than food.  There we find the servant saying that he will not eat, and indeed there’s no eating until Genesis 24:54!  It’s also more important than politeness, for this refusal to eat would have been terribly rude.  It’s actually very gracious that the response at the end of verse 33 is “speak on.”  What we would expect is “eat first, speak later,” just as we saw in Genesis 18.

And there is a lesson here for us.  We can be very concerned with earthly needs.  We can be very concerned with “fitting in” socially and culturally.  And it is possible to let those concerns be more important than such spiritual issues with such eternal implications as the spiritual wellbeing of our marriage and family. 
What is there, that Scripture says is God’s way of promoting your and your family’s spiritual health, that you should be giving a higher priority? Why aren’t you?
Suggested songs: ARP128 “How Blessed Are All Who Fear” or TPH128B “How Blest Are They That Fear the Lord”

Friday, December 27, 2019

2019.12.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 1:26-38

Questions from the Scripture text: What month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy was it in Luke 1:26? Whom does God send where? To whom (Luke 1:27)? How does Gabriel greet Mary in Luke 1:28? And how does she feel about this in Luke 1:29? How, then, does the angel respond to this (Luke 1:30)? What does the angel say that Mary will do (Luke 1:31)? What should she call her Son? What four things does Gabriel say about Jesus in Luke 1:32-33? Why doesn’t Mary think this is possible (Luke 1:34)? What does the angel say is the way in which she will conceive (Luke 1:35)? What will her Baby be called? What does the angel tell her about Elizabeth in Luke 1:36? What conclusion does he state in Luke 1:37? How does Mary respond in Luke 1:38?
There’s an irony in this passage—the main point of Gabriel’s message is that the 2 Samuel 7 promise of a forever-king from the house of David (Luke 1:27Luke 1:32-33) is coming true. But this is a problem for Mary. How can this promised “son” have David for his “father”—if there is no man on earth who could possibly have fathered a son with her?

It’s at this point that Gabriel tells her that there will be no earthly father at all. It will be the Holy Spirit who comes by the power of the Highest (Luke 1:35). This explains why He will be the Son of the Highest (Luke 1:32), and now He is more plainly called “the Son of God” in verse 35. The angel adds the news about Elizabeth as if to say, “for all practical purposes, that baby came from no mother, since she’s in her old age—God is not limited by what we happen to be missing.” “For with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37).

It’s important to see that Mary recognizes this. Yes, she is a “highly favored one” and “blessed among women,” as the angel said in Luke 1:28. But, she doesn’t see herself as anything special in herself. She says, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord!” Her specialness is only because God has chosen to make her a display of His power to save. And this is true of each one who is saved by Him! Jesus needed to have no earthly father, because each of us who do have completely lost any worthiness of our own, and deserve only to be spectacularly punished forever for our sin. The “glory” of Mary comes in the same way that true glory will come to every believer—only by the grace of God.
Why aren’t you a good candidate to be “savable”? How can you be saved anyway?
Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH425 “How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place”

Thursday, December 26, 2019

2019.12.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ Galatians 5:13-15

Questions from the Scripture text: What does the apostle call them in Galatians 5:13? To what does he say they have been called? What does he warn them against using their liberty as? For what should they use their liberty? Through what may we serve one another? Does Galatians 5:14 argue for disregarding the law? How does it say to fulfill the law? What does he warn them against doing to one another in Galatians 5:15? What does he warn them will happen if they do this?
One of the great treasures of the book of Galatians for us is how its teaching absolutely frees us from others’ (and our own!) additions to what God has commanded in His Word. What liberty!

But that’s the question—to what end have we been given this liberty? The answer of our passage is: we have been freed in order to love and serve. The apostle himself is an example of this. He is free from all of the inventions of the Judaizers, but what is he using his freedom to do? To serve, by writing, those whom he lovingly calls “brethren” in Galatians 5:13.

Christian freedom is not the throwing off of all outward restraint. It is a freedom from what comes from us (after all—our sin and death came from us too!), in order to be controlled by that life and love that comes from Christ. So, it does not result in the rejection of God’s law, but in finally keeping it well for the first time. Jesus summarized the “ten words” into “two words,” love of God and love of neighbor. And ultimately, that’s one word: love.

Love embraces the law in order to do good to its object. “Through love, serve one another.” “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Who can tell us what it looks like to love? What can define “doing good” to others? God’s law! So liberty is not lawlessness. It is not giving in to the hatefulness to which we had been enslaved, which the Judaizers ironically were doing. Liberty translates into law-keeping, because we have been freed to love!
What’s a situation in which your flesh feels like doing wrong, but you can do right if freed by love?
Suggested songs: ARP135 “Your Name, Lord, Endures Forever” or TPH16A “Preserve Me, O My God”

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

2019.12.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ruth 3:7-13

Questions from the Scripture text: What had Boaz one (Ruth 3:7)? How did his heart feel? Where did he lie down? What did Ruth do? What happened at midnight (Ruth 3:8)? What did he ask (Ruth 3:9)? What does Ruth call herself? For what does she ask? What does Boaz say about her in Ruth 3:10? What reason does he give? What promise does he make in Ruth 3:11? What does he note about her character? What obstacle does he mention in Ruth 3:12? What procedure will he follow (Ruth 3:13)? What does he tell her to do?
The heart of this account is Boaz’s declaration about Ruth in Ruth 3:11 that he has learned from experience what everyone already knew about Ruth by reputation—that she is a “worthy woman” (verse 11). This is the same adjective used of Boaz in Ruth 2:1 (where some English translations dumb it down to “wealth”) and of the Proverbs 31 woman in Proverbs 31:10.

It is a sad comment on our culture then, that we are have grown so obsessed with perversion that many commentators now read such things into this passage. Ruth comes at the only time that she would not corner Boaz embarrassingly, and places herself in the position least compromising to him, while making herself very vulnerable. Boaz acknowledges all of this when he encourages her not to fear in Ruth 3:11.

He recognizes that whereas she could have gone first for a rich and young (or even poor and young) man, she has chosen to go after the man that seems best before Yahweh (by Whom He calls her blessed in Ruth 3:10). The implication is also that she is doing what is best for Noami.

For his part, Boaz is willing to risk his own line to be a redeemer (the way that the other goel refuses to do on the next day). He also is willing to risk his own reputation (making modern commentators’ accusation all the more ironic) for her safety. The text is clear that their encounter is innocent. She lay at his feet until morning. But accusations from the wicked are not unique to our age, and it was a risk for Boaz to have her remain. Yet, with the gates of the city shut till morning, he finds it better to risk his name than to risk her safety.

We have here the way two different “worthy” (virtuous) people think—they think long-term and according to God’s priorities. How will we think, when it comes time to make job choices, school choices, and yes even marriage choices? God grant that by Christ’s grace, we would think “worthily.”
How do you make your little choices every day? What kind of big choices is this training you to make? What would it look like to be making your little choices in a better way?
Suggested Songs: ARP119A “How Blessed Are Those” or TPH119E “Teach Me, O Lord, Your Way of Truth”

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

2019.12.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 15:1-6

Questions from the Scripture text: What came to Abram and when (Genesis 15:1)? What did He tell Abram NOT to do? What two things did He promise to be unto Abram? What reason does Abram give in Genesis 15:2 for this not being as good news to him as it could be? What does Abram say that God has not given him (Genesis 15:3)? What is said (again!) to come to Abram in Genesis 15:4? What does Yahweh say about Eliezer? What does He say about the one who will be Abram’s heir? Where does the Lord bring Abram in Genesis 15:5? Where does He tell Abram to look? What does He tell Abram to try to do? What does He say to Abram about his ability to number the stars? How does Abram respond to Yahweh in Genesis 15:6? What is accounted to Abram through this believing? 
Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Song of Adoration come from Genesis 15:1-6 in order to sing God’s thoughts after Him with I Greet Thee Who My Sure Redeemer Art.

It seems almost blasphemous for Abram to ask God, “What can You give me?” Not only was God the One who had made the promise, but what He had promised was Himself.

You see, Abram has a problem. He is going to die. And when he does—at least at this point in his life—the man who would inherit all that he has is Eliezer of Damascus.

From the way Abram puts Genesis 15:3, it sounds as if he is saying “if You had given me offspring, then it would be a part of me that kept on enjoying that ‘exceedingly great reward’ that You’ve just promised.” Indeed, this is confirmed by the Word of Yahweh says, “one who will come from your own body” in Genesis 15:4.

But there’s a promise here about that One, and a separate promise about the many. The Word takes Abram outside and has him count the stars—how very many there would have been! And He says “so shall your descendants be.” But aren’t these going to die too?

Yes, but there is One who will not have the same problem. The bigger part of the promise is the part in verse 4. There is ONE who will be your heir. There is ONE in whom you (and, by the way, alllllll of these descendants) will inherit. There is ONE in whom you will have ME as your strength and your exceedingly great reward. There is ONE in whom even death itself will be unable to take this from you.

And Abram believed God about that one (Genesis 15:6, cf. Romans 4, Galatians 3:6, James 2:23). And he was made righteous before God, and received God Himself as his shield and reward.
When are you going to die? Do you have a shield that is stronger than death?
Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH282 “I Greet Thee Who My Sure Redeemer Art”

Monday, December 23, 2019

2019.12.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 24:18-28

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Rebekah say in Genesis 24:18? What does she do? What does she propose to do in Genesis 24:19? How many camels would this be? Until they have drunk how much? In what manner does she empty the pitcher in Genesis 24:20? At what pace does she return to the well? For how many camels does she draw? Who gazes at her (Genesis 24:21)? How does he remain? What is he learning? How much have the camels drunk in Genesis 24:22? What does he take out in this verse? What does he ask about her in Genesis 24:23? What does he ask about his caravan? What does she answer about herself in Genesis 24:24? What does she answer about his caravan in Genesis 24:25? To whom does the man respond in Genesis 24:26? How does he respond? What does he call Yahweh in Genesis 24:27? What does he say that Yahweh has not done? What does he say that Yahweh has done? What does the young woman run and do (Genesis 24:28)?
The servant asked for a sign, and the sign was fulfilled. Why isn’t he just carrying Rebekah off to Canaan already? Genesis 24:21 tells us that the servant, wondering (lit. gazing) at her remained silent so as to know whether Yahweh had prospered his journey or not.

We’re interested to watch, while he watches, to see what it is that the servant sees that leads to exuberant praise for the prospering of the journey. And we do see that Rebekah is from the right family, that she is respectful and kind, that the is diligent, that she is generous and strong and persevering, and that she is trustworthy.

But, it is perhaps good for us to spend a little time thinking about the liberty of making choices based upon God’s revealed instruction, while trusting His providential decree. People use the phrase “God’s will” to talk about both of those things, and end up confusing them into a superstition in which they are on a puzzle-search for “the one.” We do well to listen to Deuteronomy 29:29: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

So, believers are to trust Scriptures like Romans 8:28 and Romans 8:32 and Ephesians 1:11. This will help spare us from being hyper-romanticized about the search, or giving into anxiety over ending up alone. We can then, instead, proceed with joy, doing according to what God says is good for us to do, since we are sure that God will do whatever is good for us.

At the end of the day, a believer cannot miss out on the most important marriage of all—when Christ, by His Spirit, will have prepared us to be His own bride. In the end, no preparation to be a godly wife (or the kind of man who would suit well for a godly wife) is wasted—for even that marriage which we looked forward to, and may or may not ever have in this life, is ultimately most valuable as a preparation for the marriage of the Lamb!
What are some of the roles that God has you in right now? What does He say to do in them?
Suggested Songs: ARP45B “Daughter, Incline Your Ear” or TPH128B “Blest the Man That Fears Jehovah”