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Saturday, June 6, 2020

Public Worship that Redirects Any Honor We Might Receive to Our Gracious God (2020.06.06 Pastoral Letter and Hopewell Herald)


Hopewell Herald – June 6, 2020

Dear Congregation,

While many are tempted to proclaim their good sentiments to be seen by men, it is God’s good providence to bring us to a passage that reminds us that our blessedness depends entirely upon God who sees and knows what we are in secret (cf. Mat 6:1–18).

He is pleased to reward us for the good that He Himself has produced. For, He has punished in Christ the sin and guilt that belonged to us, and He produces by Christ whatever good comes from us.

One of the most subtly seductive of earthly treasures is to have others esteem us (cf. Mat 6:19–21). But, we should seek rather the esteem of God, and do it in a way that brings Him all the honor, if others happen to notice.

It is not Isaac that Abimelech esteems in Genesis 26:26–33. Rather, what even the Philistine king sees is that it is the Lord who has blessed Isaac.

Not only do Isaac’s circumstances show evidence of blessing, but he has conducted himself so very differently than the world does. And, his public conduct is complemented by his public worship. He is that odd Hebrew, with the odd altars, and the odd public worship, to his odd God.

When many are clamoring to be seen by the godless as virtuous, there could hardly be days in which we more need the reminder that our character and conduct are not supposed to be like that of the world, but rather distinct by their difference.

And, with the necessity of worship’s “publicness” under fire, there could hardly be days in which we more need the reminder that we should be so devoted to the public worship of the true Lord that, when others have observed our distinctiveness, they know to ascribe that difference to Him.

So, as our gracious Redeemer has so often done for us, He brings us tomorrow to just the portion of His Word that we need at just the time that we need it.

Truly, He is worthy of our worship. And truly, He is abundantly good to us to give us such a means by which to worship Him!

Looking forward to doing so with you,

Pastor
An audio lesson for today's Hopewell @Home to help you lead your own family in worship from Genesis 26:26–33. Abimelech seems to have everything and everyone, but it is Isaac who has everything, because Yahweh is with him, and he is the blessed of Yahweh. This is supremely true in Christ, in Whom alone is all true blessedness!

2020.06.06 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 26:26–33

Questions from the Scripture text: Who came to Isaac in Genesis 26:26? With whom? What does Isaac ask them in Genesis 26:27? What do they say they’ve seen (Genesis 26:28)? What do they want Isaac to do? What do they claim that they have done in Genesis 26:29? What does Isaac do for them in Genesis 26:30? What do they do, at what time, in Genesis 26:31? What do the Philistines do then? Who come in Genesis 26:32? When? What do they tell him? What does he call the well in Genesis 26:33? What was the city called?  
Through Isaac, all the nations of the earth will be blessed. Not by feasting and covenanting with a wandering herdsman in a land not his own, but by trusting in that herdsman’s descendant when He sits upon the throne of glory!

In the meantime, however, here in Genesis 26:26 is a king of one of the nations. His name means “my daddy is king.” His friend’s name is “owned” (possession). His army commander’s name is “all mouth.” And they come— crawling, as it were—to the man whom they sent away.

Isaac lets them and us know that they’re in no position to make their request. Genesis 26:29 rings hollow after the opening salvo of Genesis 26:27. But Genesis 26:30-31 still fulfill the request of Genesis 26:28. Isaac is not only the one with the strength; he is the one with the wealth. He provides the feast (Genesis 26:30). And he is the one with the grace. He provides the peace that they don’t deserve to claim (Genesis 26:31). 

Genesis 26:32 reminds us that Isaac does not need a covenant with Abimelech. Isaac has the living God. The God of Rehoboth is the God of Sheba (Genesis 26:33). Even where there is nothing, God can and does give Isaac everything, for the sake of His electing love and the promises that He swore to Abraham. Abimelech hit the name on the head, “You are now the blessed of Yahweh.”

Isaac had everything but needed nothing. Abimelech had nothing to give Isaac but needed everything. So, Isaac was not only the one through whom Christ would come. He is also a picture of Christ for us here.

Christ has everything in Himself, needed nothing, but gave everything anyway. We have nothing that we can give Christ, but we may receive everything in Christ. He spreads the feast for us, and the feast is ultimately and especially Himself. He swears the oath with us, and we proceed in a life that is at peace with Him. We get to live in the knowledge that Christ is ours, and all that is His is for us, in Him. And we must live by the principle that, though He needs nothing from us, we and all that we are truly belong to Him.
In what current situation do you need the confidence that Christ, and all that is His, belongs to you? And of what part of your life or property do you need the reminder that you, and all that you are, belong to Him? 
Suggested songs: ARP116B “I Still Believed” or TPH270 “At the Name of Jesus”

Friday, June 5, 2020

An audio lesson for today's Hopewell @Home to help you lead your own family in worship from Luke 6:1–5. Rather than defend the disciples' actions as lawful (which they were), Jesus draws attention instead to the reason for the disciples' eating the grain: they were with Him. He who is Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath! Sabbath is a day consecrated to Jesus!

2020.06.05 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 6:1–5

Questions from the Scripture text: What day of the week was it in Luke 6:1? Where was Jesus? Who was with Him, and what did they do? Who ask them what in Luke 6:2? Who answers them in Luke 6:3? About whom, and those who were with him, does Jesus ask in verse 3? What was their condition? Where had David gone (Luke 6:4)? What had he eaten? To whom did he give? Why was this a big deal? What does Jesus call Himself in Luke 6:5?  
Luke established that it was our righteous Lord’s habit to keep Sabbath in public worship, proclaiming Himself as the Lord’s salvation for sinners (Luke 3:23a, Luke 4:15, Luke 4:16, Luke 4:21, Luke 4:31, Luke 4:44). 

Then, the evangelist drew the line of demarcation between: on the one hand, those who rejoice over the Savior from sinners and, on the other hand, those who are too busy with their own “righteousness” to rejoice over the salvation of the Lord Jesus (Luke 5:29–39).

Now, the Lord Jesus announces that He is not only the salvation of the Lord, but the Lord of that salvation. He is not only the righteous Keeper of the Sabbath, but the Lord unto Whom that Sabbath is kept!

It is evident that as Jesus goes through the grainfields, it is not only the disciples who are with him. The Pharisees are also there. They are on their way to or from synagogue, but the main thing is that they are with Jesus. And, in the course of being with Jesus, they are hungry. Praise God, let them eat! Being with Christ is not to be a hardship.

Ironically, they are even wrong about Luke 6:2. Scripture makes a distinction between threshing and gleaning; the gleanings are charity and not work. In fact, Deuteronomy 23:24–25 makes plain that eating when you’re hungry in your neighbor’s standing grain is not stealing; Scripture draws a distinction between what the disciples did and what mustn’t be done in order to keep the Sabbath.

The Lord Jesus knew this, of course. He could have defended His disciples on that basis. But keeping the Sabbath is about more than what mustn’t be done in order to keep it. We are to remember the Sabbath to keep it holy , to consecrate it unto that particular fellowship with the Lord that is worship—whether private worship, or family worship, or especially public worship. The Sabbath is not so much about putting down the sickle as it is about picking up the Psalter. It is all about the Lord of the Sabbath.

This is why Jesus takes us not to Deuteronomy 23, but Genesis 2 by way of 1 Samuel 21:3. There, David was a type of Christ—under attack by the very kingdom that he had come to save. And those who were with him received special privileges for the sake of being with him. In David’s case, the showbread that came off display was for the Levites, but the anointed king had been reduced to a stranger within the house of the Levites, getting scraps from their table (Luke 6:4).

But God exalted David in due time, and so Christ will also be exalted. Every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess. And all will recognize that from Genesis 2 to Revelation 21, the weekly Sabbath has always, always been about gathering to the Lord Jesus. The Sabbath is not about resting from earthly things. This resting is necessary only as a means to the Sabbath’s chief and true end: giving our undivided attention to Jesus. He is the Lord of the Sabbath.
What are you tempted to make the Sabbath about NOT doing? What else are you tempted to make it about doing? What can you change to make your Sabbaths about giving undivided attention to Jesus? 
Suggested songs: ARP118D “Now Open Wide the Gates” or TPH151 “Lord of the Sabbath, Hear Us Pray”

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Prayer, Worship That Frees from Bondage to Earthly Desire (Jam 4:2–3, 2020.06.03 Prayer Meeting Devotional)

Being controlled by earthly desires disappoints us, debases us, and defiles us. But prayer as true worship satisfies us, strengthens us, and sanctifies us.
An audio lesson for today's Hopewell @Home to help you lead your own family in worship from Ephesians 2:19–22. In Christ, God makes us as close as fellow citizens in a strange land, closer as members of the same family, closest as a building that is fit together and grown together in Christ—a dwelling place for God Himself

2020.06.04 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 2:19–22

Questions from the Scripture text: What are they no longer (Ephesians 2:19)? What are they now with the saints? Of what are they now members? Upon what were they built (Ephesians 2:20)? Who is the chief cornerstone? What role does He have in the building (Ephesians 2:21)? Into what does the building grow, in Him? Who else is being built together in this building (Ephesians 2:22)? For what? For Whom? In Whom? 
This passage gives us three pictures of the nearness into which Christ has brought us toward each other and toward God.

First, we are fellow citizens with the saints. We identify with one another like two people who are living in a foreign land and discover that they are from the same hometown. We are living in one place, but we come from another, and our identity is there—in “Saintville.” Whenever we meet a fellow city-zen from Saintville, we should find that they are “our people.” We should speak the same dialect, fondly remember the same landmarks, and serve the interests of and defend the honor of our city.

Second, we are members of the house of God. Before getting into Ephesians 2:20-21, this is a way of saying that we are “family.” We are stuck with one another, so we need to overlook offenses and be more tolerant of quirks. These are the people with whom we can be ourselves. But it also means that we are to bear the family resemblance and live by the house rules. God Himself is Head of the household, so it’s not really “up to us” to decide what a “family” (this family) should be.

Third, we are parts of a building. This can get uncomfortable for us, because in order for the stones to be fit into a building, and especially a great building like a temple, they must be very precisely tooled into line with the foundation. Christ, the corner stone, establishes shape and size and direction for the rest of the foundation. And the apostles and prophets (the latter, the preachers of the NT church, including but not limited to the former) are extensions from Christ who determine everything about what will be built upon them.

Being built is not particularly enjoyable for “living stones.” Parts that don’t fit must be knocked off, rough edges made smooth, two stones that don’t complement each other well both shaved off until they come into alignment. But the process by which we are “fitted together” (Ephesians 2:21) and “built together” is called “growing” in verse 21. These painful alterations to our character and interaction come not so much by decisive blows but by an organic process. Some of the sharpest “growing pains” in the Christian life come not only because of our own sin, which must be done away with in order to build properly upon the foundation, but also because of the way that we interact with other sinners, with whom we must be fitted together.

Finally, this increasing closeness to one another (same town, same family, fitted together) comes with an astonishing closeness to God. Of the two common NT words for temple, this one refers to the inner, holy place. God’s glory had come down and filled first the tabernacle, and then the temple, but now He Himself has taken up residence in His church—the holiest of all holies on earth. That’s a massive privilege!

And it comes with a responsibility: the church is not ours to “have a vision for.” Not only is it to be built according to God’s exact specifications, but it is His Spirit who takes up residence there and directs all by His Word.

Into what amazing closeness our peace-making Savior has brought us with one another and with God!
In connection with whom do you need some of your rough edges worked out? How are you growing closer with your church? What is God’s plan for His church, and where can we learn more about it?
Suggested songs: ARP87 “The Lord’s Foundation” or TPH87A “Zion, Founded on the Mountains”

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

In 1Sam 9:1–24, the Lord tells Samuel in his ears and us in ours that even in the mundane moments, He is working His almighty redemption in Christ for those upon whom He has resolved to have surprising mercy.

2020.06.03 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Samuel 9:1–24

Questions from the Scripture text: Who is the primary subject of 1 Samuel 9:1? Of 1 Samuel 9:2? What two characteristics of Saul does verse 2 emphasize? What was Saul doing in 1 Samuel 9:3-4? Why is he ready to give up in 1 Samuel 9:5? What does the servant suggest trying first in 1 Samuel 9:6? What do they discuss in 1 Samuel 9:7-8? What does 1 Samuel 9:9 note about what they called the prophet? Whom do they ask about the prophet in 1 Samuel 9:11? What do they say about him in (1 Samuel 9:12-13)? Whom do they encounter in 1 Samuel 9:14? Who had spoken to Samuel when (1 Samuel 9:15)? What did Yahweh say that He would do (1 Samuel 9:16)?  What did Yahweh say that Samuel should do? What did Yahweh say that Saul would do? Why? What does Yahweh now say in 1 Samuel 9:17? What does Saul ask Samuel in 1 Samuel 9:18? What does Samuel tell him to do that day (1 Samuel 9:19)? What will Samuel do the next day? What does he tell him about the donkeys (1 Samuel 9:20)? What does Samuel point out about Saul? What is Saul’s objection to this (1 Samuel 9:21)? Where does Samuel set Saul and his servant at the feast (1 Samuel 9:22)? What has been prepared for them (1 Samuel 9:23-24)? 
We go through our lives blissfully ignorant of what the Lord is really doing. Saul is head and shoulders above the rest of Israel (1 Samuel 9:2), and his dad is a great and wealthy man (end of 1 Samuel 9:1, more literally translated), but he still has to do the chores and figure out with his servant when it’s time to give up the search for the donkeys. The young women at the well and the people at the feast are intentionally kept in the dark. Even the cook only knows that there has been a special portion set aside, but he isn’t in on what is actually happening.

Only Samuel knows, by the Word of the Lord—a word that came to him the day before, so that he could “watch Yahweh work.” Samuel is even in on the mundaneness of it all, delivering to Saul the message about the donkeys of 1 Samuel 9:20. And you and I. We are let in on all of this by the Word of the Holy Spirit, not just 1 Samuel 9:15-16 but the mundaneness that shines a bright light on those verses.

The real message is the unsurprising (humanly speaking) choice for king, and the surprising purpose for that king. Saul is a “king like the other nations have.” Powerful wealthy family, handsome, good stature. He would be the people’s pick for sure. Except that he has most definitely not been picked by the people. “Tomorrow about this time, I will send you a man.” And how does Yahweh do it? By a tame-donkey-chase. Vintage Yahweh!

We expected a selection like Saul, because the Lord had said to heed the people’s voice. What we didn’t expect is the merciful purpose in 1 Samuel 9:16, “that he may save My people from the hand of the Philistines; for I have looked upon My people, because their cry has come to Me.” Saul would end up being the kind of king that God had warned them about. But first, he would be God’s method of mercy and deliverance.

The Lord is just and holy, and Saul is a punishment for rejecting Him. But even in the midst of justice He remembers mercy. For the sake of His love, and the Son whom He would give in that love, He actually responds to the cries of the very people who are rejecting Him. How great is this extraordinary mercy! Indeed, this kingship that begins with Saul will fall next to David, to whom the promise will be made that the Christ will come from him.

It was not just Israel’s cries for mercy that Yahweh was answering in this chapter. It was ours. Cries of repentance that we had not even made yet. Cries that we would not even make, until He mercifully and powerfully enabled us to see our sin. And what would we see along with that sin?

His salvation. Through lost donkeys, and village girls drawing water, and a cook who sets apart the upper thigh of the sacrifice. Because the One who determined to give sinners an inheritance through His Son is the one who works all things according to the counsel of His will. Even the things in your mundane life and mine. Hallelujah!
What circumstances have you found unimpressive or even difficult? What is the Lord doing in them?
Suggested Songs: ARP72A “God, Give Your Judgments to the King” or TPH417 “Jesus Shall Reign Where'er Sun”

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Praying for Wisdom to Number Our Days (James 1:5–8, 2020.05.27 Prayer Devotional)

James 1:5–8 teaches us to pray for that heart of wisdom that numbers our days enables us to count trials joy, and to rejoice in exaltation when poor and humiliation when rich... a desire in which we should be steady and unwavering.

2020.06.02 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 1:17–2:7

Questions from the Scripture text: To Whom did the apostle pray, and what does he call Him in Ephesians 1:17? What did he pray God would give them—what does he call the Spirit here? What does he pray that the Spirit would do to their understanding? What two things would they come to know in Ephesians 1:18 if their understanding is thus enlightened? What additional thing would they come to know in Ephesians 1:19? In Whom did God’s mighty power work (Ephesians 1:20)? When? At what did He seat Him? In which places? Far above what for things (Ephesians 1:21)? And above which names? At what times? What has God put where (Ephesians 1:22a)? As what did He give Christ, and to whom (verse 22b)? What two things does Ephesians 1:23 call the church? What does verse 23 call Him? What was the original condition of the Ephesian Christians (Ephesians 2:1)? According to what two entities did they walk (Ephesians 2:2)? In whom does the prince of the power of the air continue to work? Who else once conducted themselves among them (Ephesians 2:3)? In what did they conduct themselves? What did they fulfill? What were they by nature? Like whom? In what is God rich (Ephesians 2:4)? What caused Him to act? Whom does Paul include among the dead in Ephesians 2:5? What did God do to them? In Whom? By what were they saved? What two things did they do with them in Ephesians 2:6? Together with Whom? What did God want to show (Ephesians 2:7)? In what? In Whom?
Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin come from Ephesians 1:17–2:7 in order that we will see that we are singing God’s thoughts after Him with The Head That Once Was Crowned with Thorns.

One of the most glorious things about our public worship is that we praise God through Christ, who sits on the throne of the highest heaven. But not only does He Himself sit there; believers also sit there with Him and in Him.

You can see that the apostle intends this direct connection by comparing Ephesians 1:20–21 and Ephesians 2:6–7.

“[He] seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.” (Ephesians 1:20b–21)

“[God] raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace” (Ephesians 2:6–7a)

We can never perceive the greatness of this glory by how worship “feels,” which is one reason why the way many people approach and assess worship is deeply flawed. They try to reach out to God with their feelings, and measure how good the worship was by how they felt in it.

But our feelings could never ascend to where Christ sits, and believers are already there in Christ, whether we feel it or not. This is why the apostle prays not for our feelings but for our knowledge and understanding (Ephesians 1:17–18). We perceive this reality by faith—by that certainty that the Holy Spirit gives us that what the Bible says is true.

If we have any spiritual life at all, we have been brought from death to life in Christ (2:5). And if we have been brought from death to life in Christ, then we have also been brought to heaven from earth in Christ (Ephesians 2:6), so that “in the ages to come [God] might show the exceeding riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7).

When we come to worship, we don’t come to get “the feels.” We come in the certainty that what God says is true, and the God and His grace and His Son are being glorified in heaven, as we do on earth those things that He says for us to do in His worship.
Do you perceive the glory of public worship? If not, how is the apostle an example of what to do about that? What part does “knowledge and understanding of Christ” have in your prayer requests?
Suggested songs: ARP24 “The Earth and the Riches” or TPH376 “The Head That Once Was Crowned with Thorns”

Monday, June 1, 2020

2020.06.01 Hopewell Harbinger


Hopewell This Week, June 1–6, 2020

▫Attached is a pdf of Lord’s Day’s Worship Booklet, complete with Hopewell @Home devotionals for this week, in addition to 8.5x11's of the memory verse and catechism questions that can be used as posters to help with memory work.

▫The link is now active for audio and pdf outline of the Lord’s Day morning sermon (Genesis 26:23–25 "God's Personal, Covenantal, Comprehensive Faithfulness"), and also for the audio and pdf outline of the Lord’s Day p.m. exhortation (Ephesians 2:14–18, "Jesus, Our Peace, the Killer of Enmity with Men and with God")

Prayer MeetingWednesday, June 4, at 6:30p.m. The prayer meeting folder is available at https://bit.ly/harpc200603pm (prayer meeting is also live-streamed at both fb.com/hopewellarp and bit.ly/harpclive)

Lord’s Day, June 7:

2020.05.31 P.M. Exhortation—Ephesians 2:14–18, "Jesus, Our Peace, the Killer of Enmity with Men and with God"

Jesus isn't just our Peacemaker. He Himself is our peace. In Him is the nearest nearness to God, which absolutely demands that we be "near" one another as well. [PDF] [MP3]

2020.05.31 Morning Sermon—Genesis 26:23–25 "God's Personal, Covenantal, Comprehensive Faithfulness"

God's faithfulness in every detail of each of His people's lives is the same great faithfulness that is on display in the whole of His work of redemption in Jesus Christ. [PDF] [MP3]

2020.06.01 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 26:23–25

Questions from the Scripture text: Where does Isaac go in Genesis 26:23? Who appears to him (Genesis 26:24)? When? What does He call Himself? What does He tell Isaac not to do? Why? What does He say that He will do? How does Isaac respond now (Genesis 26:25)? Upon what does he call? What else does he do there? 
It seems like a moment in which things are going well for Isaac. Presumably, he lived at Rehoboth until the famine ran its course, because Genesis 26:23 tells us that he has gone up to Beersheba. Just as when he had first moved to Gerar, Yahweh now appears to him.

Perhaps we would not expect an appearance of the Lord here—when things have already been going well and are now continuing to look up. But the Lord may be teaching us something by the timing, namely that we need Him no less when things appear to be going better with us.

And the Lord does choose when to make Himself known to us. We cannot conjure Him up on command. Sure, there are certain feelings that we might reliably be able to produce with right music and ambience, but this is not the genuine presence of the Lord. The bottom line for Isaac is that Yahweh sovereignly, freely chooses when to appear to him.

There is much packed into His introduction, “I am the God of your father Abraham.” For, God had been a God of mercy, grace, power, faithfulness, promises, provision, and more to Abraham. Isaac had been present for some of his father’s most vivid encounters with this God (cf. Genesis 22). God is emphasizing, “I am still the same God that I was in the days of Abraham.”

And one of the main things that God had shown Himself to be with Abraham was a covenantal God. He is God who binds Himself to particular individuals, and binds particular individuals to Himself. And He includes the descendants of those individuals in this binding covenant. So, God says here, “I am with you” and “I will bless you and multiply your seed” and “for My servant Abraham’s sake.” Not only is God emphasizing that He is still the same God; He is emphasizing that He is specifically dealing with Isaac according to the same gracious covenant.”

Hasn’t the Lord already communicated this content? He has. But we are a people who need reminding. Weekly. Daily. Continually. Isaac is still susceptible to live defensively out of other fears, instead of living dutifully out of the fear of the Lord. He needs the command to be repeated, “do not fear.” And so, he needs the repetition of the theological truth that will strengthen him to keep the command, “I am the God of your father Abraham… I am with you.”

God, of course, comes to us each Lord’s Day, every day in our personal and family worship, and continually in our life of prayer and meditation before God; and, He says something similar but even better. “I am the God and Father of your Lord Jesus Christ. I am Your Father in Him, and I am with You in Him, by My indwelling Spirit.”

We still need reminding, like Isaac. And what glorious truths they are, that God has given to us to remember!
When do you get reminders from God of who He is, and what He is for you/does for you?
Suggested songs: ARP44A “O God, We Have Heard of Your Works” or TPH243 “How Firm a Foundation”