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Saturday, June 27, 2020

2020.06.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 29:1–14

Questions from the Scripture text: To where does Jacob come in Genesis 29:1? What does he see in Genesis 29:2? What would happen there (Genesis 29:3)? What kinds of things is he asking about in Genesis 29:4-6? What does he tell them to do, once they have identified Rachel to him (Genesis 29:7)? Why do they say that they can’t (Genesis 29:8)? What happens in Genesis 29:9? What does Jacob do (all by himself?!), when he sees Rachel (Genesis 29:10)? How does he respond to her personally in Genesis 29:11? What does he tell her in Genesis 29:12? Whom does she tell? What does Laban do in Genesis 29:13? How does Jacob answer him? What, then, does Laban say to Jacob in Genesis 29:14
We are coming into a section of Genesis in which God is going to do His people much good, especially through events that are rife with their own sin. This emphasis will continue all the way into the last chapter, where we see Joseph say, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20).

By making His appearance to Jacob immediately before these events, God underscores that what brings about the blessing of Jacob in the coming chapters is not Jacob's ingenuity or ability, but God's faithfulness, wisdom, and power. 

And it is important for us to see the emphasis here upon the sovereign providence of God, so that in the next passage we neither excuse or imitate the sin that He overrules for good.

That sovereign providence is the theme of this passage.

God moves His servant's feet... the heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. Genesis 29:1 literally tells us that Jacob “lifted his feet.” It’s the only place the Hebrew Bible uses that language about going on a journey, and it underscores Jacob’s smallness and weakness. We are reminded by the name of the destination “the land of the people of the east,” and the interview in Genesis 29:4-6, that Jacob hasn’t been here before and isn’t exactly sure where he is going.

God strengthens His servant's hands... God strengthens him beyond expectation. The implication of Genesis 29:8 is that moving the stone is not a one-man job. But when Rachel arrives, Jacob matter-of-factly does it all by himself! Is the weakling of Isaac’s family as strong as multiple men of Haran? Did Jacob somehow employ cleverness to be able to do it? The text is silent on the “how” as far as Jacob himself goes. The intention is for us to see that God is with Jacob just as he had promised at Bethel.

God sustains His servant's heart... in the relief and gush of emotion, we see how great was the pressure upon Jacob through which God had carried him. Sometimes, in the moment, we put on a brave face. Or, perhaps, we are too preoccupied with the situation in front of us to reflect upon how it is affecting us psychologically and emotionally. For Jacob, this is really the first moment of relief since Mama slapped the goatskins on his arms, and it all comes gushing out in Genesis 29:11. In light of Genesis 28:10–22 and the other aspects of Genesis 29:1–12, we can see that the Holy Spirit is highlighting that it is the Lord who has sustained him and held him together.

God has worked similarly before (Isaac), and will work similarly again (Moses). It is useful to see parallels in God's other work, not because we should be always figuring out "what God is doing" in our situation, but because we should be remembering "what God Himself is like" in every situation, and that the God who was working then and is working now is doing it all as part of the same plan to glorify Himself in Christ through the gospel!

Believers go places in life where they are unfamiliar, and even where they end up in a different place than they intended. Believers come through situations in which they look forward and don’t know how they’re going to make it, then look back and don’t know how they could have. Believers are often under such pressure that only divine strength holds them together. Passages like this one encourage us on the front end by pointing us to the sovereign providence and grace of our Lord, and humble us on the back end, reminding us that to Him belongs all the praise.
In what current situation do you need to remember that the primary story in all of it is God’s wisdom and power, as He faithfully carries out His plan and promises in Christ?
Suggested songs: ARP181 “God Our Only Good” or TPH446 “Be Thou My Vision”

Friday, June 26, 2020

The Sovereign God Graciously Sustains His Saints (Family Worship in Genesis 29:1–12)

Pastor teaching his family tomorrow's Hopewell @Home lesson. In Genesis 29:1–12 the Lord piles on the evidence that Jacob is sustained by sovereign grace, so that we are prepared to see God's mercy in the passages that follow, without following His people's wicked examples.

True Blessedness and Warnings against False Blessedness (Family Worship lesson in Luke 6:20–26)

Pastor teaching his family tomorrow's Hopewell @Home Scripture. In Luke 6:20–26, Jesus addresses especially the gathering of His disciples, many of whom are genuinely converted and need to learn to rejoice in what God accomplishes for them in the sufferings of this life; but also, many of whom are unconverted, and must diagnose it by their dwelling much upon earthly comforts and pleasures, before they find themselves agonizing in Hell alongside the false prophets of old.

2020.06.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 6:20–26

Questions from the Scripture text: What did Jesus do with His eyes in Luke 6:20? Whom does He say are blessed in verse 20? Why? Who are blessed in Luke 6:21a? Why? Who are blessed in verse 21b? Why? Who are blessed in Luke 6:22-23? What kinds of things are done to them? Why? How should they respond? Why? Upon whom does Jesus pronounce woe in Luke 6:24? Why? Upon whom in Luke 6:25a? Why? Upon whom in verse 25b? Why? Upon whom in Luke 6:26? Why?
The objects of God’s blessing sound rather pitiable: poor, hungry, weeping, hated, excluded, cast out as evil. So much for “your best life now”!

But, it’s important to note that it is specifically disciples who are blessed in such a condition. Because it is specifically disciples who have the kingdom of God, who shall be filled forever, who shall laugh forever, to whom everything is done for the Son of Man’s sake, and who have a great reward in heaven.

But, there is a danger among the disciples. Even members of Christ’s church may be those who do not have these things, who do not ultimately find their blessedness in Christ. If we find our blessedness in wealth, fullness, entertainment, and praise, Jesus has a message for us: “Woe unto you!”

Are we willing to listen to that? Now, it is true that each of us finds too much love for those things in our hearts. But believers are bothered by this—and even bothered that we are not enough bothered by this!

But, if our idea of blessedness is in the current circumstances described in Luke 6:24-26, rather than the future circumstances (and current blessedness!) described in Luke 6:20-23, then let us heed the warning, and instead embrace Christ Himself as our blessedness…

… lest we discover to our horror that though among the disciples in this life (cf. verse 20a), we shall not find ourselves among them in the next.
What current troubles do you have? What does God use to remind us that He Himself is our current and eternal blessedness? What use are you making of His means to do so?
Suggested songs: ARP181 “God Our Only Good” or TPH464 “The Beatitudes”

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Pastor leading his family in Thursday's "Hopewell @Home." In Ephesians 3:10–13, the apostle doesn't want the Ephesians to be disheartened by his trouble, because he considers it a glorious assignment to be involved in the display of God's multicolored wisdom even to the holy angels! Such troubles are not cause for timidity but rather boldness before men and confidence in our access to God.

2020.06.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 3:10–13

Questions from the Scripture text: What is being made known (Ephesians 3:10)? By whom? To whom? Where? According to what (Ephesians 3:11)? How was this purpose accomplished? What do we have in Christ (Ephesians 3:12)? Through what? What, therefore, does the apostle ask (Ephesians 3:13)? For whom is he suffering these troubles? So that they may have what?
Ephesians 2:6–7 told us that one of the reasons for seating us in the heavenly places was so that in the ages to come God would display (in us) the exceeding riches of His grace in Christ Jesus.

Now the apostle marvels at his own ministry, which isn’t just announcing among the nations the unsearchable riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:8), but also making the church into a display unto the heavenly beings of the “multicolored” [literally translated] wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:10). Sometimes, we hear people talk about what a “watching world” sees, and we rightly desire to be light. But the darkness hates the light. Believers who worry too much about their image before men would do well to meditate upon how we are also God’s display of His own wisdom before the angels!

Hidden in God from all eternity (Ephesians 3:9a), and the reason for creating all things (verse 9b), the existence of the gospel church displays that the purpose of God in Christ Jesus our Lord has now been accomplished (Ephesians 3:10)!

It can be difficult to persist in serving the Lord under the ordinary ministry of the elders (Ephesians 4:11–16), in the battle of sanctification (Ephesians 4:17–24), and the complexities of relationships in the congregation (Ephesians 4:25–32) and to the world (Ephesians 5:1–14), especially when it gets down into the daily slog in marriage (Ephesians 5:22–33), parenting (Ephesians 6:1–4), and work (Ephesians 6:5–9).

So, the apostle sets before us the cosmic significance of our ordinary sanctification (both here in Ephesians 3:10 and later in Ephesians 6:10–20) to bring us back to Christ Himself, and the now-revealed mystery of God’s grace to us in Him. This—God’s plan from eternity to glorify Himself in Christ by being gracious to us—is what gives us not only boldness in life, but even confidence when we approach God Himself (Ephesians 3:12). It would do us good, in the midst of the daily grind, to reflect often upon the eternal plan that is being carried out in our serving God as beloved children.

This is why the apostle, rather than losing heart at his own trouble, has just rattled off 13 verses of amazement at the grace of God toward him in giving him this ministry. And this is why he doesn’t want them to be distracted by his troubles either. He knows their Christian affection for him, but what he wants them to see in his imprisonment is not  the light and momentary affliction but the eternal weight of glory that it is accomplishing (Ephesians 3:13, cf. Romans 8:18–232 Corinthians 4:15–18).

May the Lord bless our daily worship in our homes and weekly worship in the assembly, such that we may live our lives in this world with eyes and hearts that feast upon this glory of God in Christ that is the purpose of all things!
In what situation do you find it most difficult to remember that God has planned this for His glory in Christ? How will you go about reminding yourself of this from passages like this one?
Suggested songs: ARP98 “O Sing a New Song to the Lord” or TPH425 “How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place”

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Habitual Prayer Prepares Us to Pray at God's Command (2020.06.24 Prayer Meeting Lesson)

Since Scripture teaches us that suffering is a providential assignment to pray, we must be in a habit of true, biblical prayer in order to be ready for that duty when the time comes.
Pastor leading his family in Wednesday's "Hopewell @Home." 1Samuel 11 teaches us that even with an imperfect king, God's Spirit is what empowers him to lead God's people, whom that same Spirit gives the fear of the Lord, unto salvation. How much more, when our King is Christ!

2020.06.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ Read 1 Samuel 11

Questions from the Scripture text: Who encamps against whom in 1 Samuel 11:1? How do the men of Jabesh respond? What “condition” does Nahash propose (1 Samuel 11:2)? What do the elders of Jabesh request in 1 Samuel 11:3? What in particular are they looking for? To where do the people come in 1 Samuel 11:4? And how do those people respond? Who else hears in 1 Samuel 11:5? What does he ask? What happens to him in 1 Samuel 11:6? What effect does the Spirit have upon him? What does he send and say to Israel in 1 Samuel 11:7? With what result? What does he do to them in Bezek (1 Samuel 11:8)? How many are there? What word do they send to Jabesh (1 Samuel 11:9)? What do they, therefore, say to Nahash (1 Samuel 11:10)? How does the battle go in 1 Samuel 11:11? What do the people say to Samuel in 1 Samuel 11:12? What do they want to do? Why doesn’t Saul think this is a good idea (1 Samuel 11:13)? What does Samuel suggest instead? Where do they go, and what do they do to Saul before Whom (1 Samuel 11:15)? What else do they do before Yahweh?
This is a chapter of reversals. Yes, we see Nahash’s violence return upon his own head, but if we’ve been paying attention through Judges and 1 Samuel, we see the great difference that the Spirit of God (1 Samuel 11:6) makes. Saul becomes the anti-Saul. Gibeah becomes the anti-Gibeah. And a nation of those who, for generations, each did what was right in his own eyes, is invited back to Gilgal to roll away their reproach once more.

Saul becomes the anti-Saul. The man who was last seen emerging from his hiding spot among the baggage (cf. 1 Samuel 10:22) is now cutting two oxen into pieces and threatening all of Israel to do the same to theirs if they don’t show up to battle (1 Samuel 11:7). He’s taking charge, dividing the people into three companies in 1 Samuel 11:11 and overruling the united voice of the people in 1 Samuel 11:12-13.

Gibeah becomes the anti-Gibeah. What had been Sodom-in-Israel in Judges 19–21 is now called “Gibeah of Saul in 1 Samuel 11:4, a place from which righteousness and deliverance come, rather than wickedness and curse.

And a people who had been wandering spiritually and morally for generations, came back to the place where they had repented after the generation of wandering in the wilderness (cf. Joshua 5:1–12). Gilgal had gotten its name for the “rolling away” of the reproach of God’s people in circumcision, and now God’s prophet calls them back there to renew the kingdom (1 Samuel 11:14-15).

What filled the Israelites with the fear of Yahweh (1 Samuel 11:7), so that they might see the salvation of Yahweh (1 Samuel 11:13), and rejoice before Yahweh with His appointed sacrifices (1 Samuel 11:15)? What anti-Sauled Saul and anti-Gibeahed Gibeah? “The Spirit of God rushed [lit.] upon Saul” (1 Samuel 11:6).

And so it must be with us. Believers are no longer in Adam but in Christ, but we need to be conformed to the image of the new Man, the last Adam. How do we become anti-us, by comparison to what we were? The Spirit lusts against the flesh. It is the Holy Spirit of God, who accomplishes the work of God, giving us the fear of God, and the deliverance of God, and the joy of God! (cf. Galatians 5:16–25)
What work do we need the Spirit to do in us? By what means does the Spirit work?
Suggested songs: ARP51B “From My Sins, O Hide Your Face” or TPH400 “Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me”

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Race and Racism, Part 1 (2020.06.21 Sabbath School)

Scripture emphasizes the unity of the human race in the one blood of Adam and the one image of God. The idea of "race" that we have is an artificial, human construct—and not a very good one at that. Overemphasizing lines of demarcation along ethnic or cultural differences takes "boundaries and times" implemented by God for redemption and turns them into occasions for hate and pride instead.

"The Grace, Depth, and Eternal Goodness of the Ministry of the Mystery of the Gospel" (2020.06.21 p.m. Exhortation from Ephesians 3:7–9)

Ministry in the gospel is an assignment by grace to show bottomless depths of an eternal goodness.

"The God Who Meets Us, and Is with Us, in Christ" (2020.06.21 Morning Sermon from Genesis 28:10–22)

God reveals Himself to believers in Jesus and is with believers in Jesus
Pastor leading his family in Tuesday's "Hopewell @Home." Revelation 21:1–8 teaches us that God is cleansing us from sin, because He's preparing us for a perfect world. You can listen to the entire family worship session at his Facebook page.

2020.06.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ Revelation 21:1–8

Questions from the Scripture text: Of what did John see new ones in Revelation 21:1? What had happened to the first ones? What was no more? What did he see coming down in Revelation 21:2? How was this city prepared? What did John hear in Revelation 21:3? What did it say about God’s dwelling? What does it say about His relationship with them? What will God do for them in Revelation 21:4? What four things will no longer exist? Why? Who speaks in Revelation 21:5? What does He say—Who makes all things new? What does He tell John to do? Why? Of what does Revelation 21:6a remind you (John 19:30)? What does the Lord call Himself? What will He give to whom? What does He call believers in Revelation 21:7? What will they inherit? What will be their relationship with God? What is the first thing that He calls unbelievers in Revelation 21:8? What other categories of sinners are named in verse 8? In what do they have their part? What does He call it at the end of the verse? 
Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin come from Revelation 21:1–8 in order that we will see that we are singing God’s thoughts after Him with Lo, What a Glorious Sight Appeared.

There’s a good—and glorious!—reason that God is making His people holy. It’s because He intends that we would be His tabernacle, His dwelling place, the center of His display of Himself and His presence in all of the new creation (Revelation 21:3).

Heaven and earth are passing away, and there will be new ones that replace them (Revelation 21:1). The sea won’t be returning (verse 1b), and there won’t be any need for the sun or moon (cf. Revelation 21:23Revelation 21:25Revelation 22:5). But most of all, the Lord will not permit anything that grieves either us (Revelation 21:4) or Him (Revelation 21:8) in this new creation.

One of the things that trouble the church these days is those who suffer from false identity. They have remaining sin, so they identify themselves with that sin, like the folks in v8. But that is not the identity of a Christian. The identity of a Christian is that of a forgiven, adopted child of God (cf. 1 John 3:1); and, though he hasn’t grown fully into it yet, a Christian will be pursuing that end, which is sure to come (Revelation 21:7, cf. 1 John 3:2–3).

Believers are already super-conquerors (cf. Romans 8:37), who are guaranteed by the bloodsealed promises of God that they will one day be described as those who have overcome (Revelation 21:7).

Sanctification is difficult, but these are the marvelous and effective beauty treatments by which the Lord is adorning us for Himself as a bride for her wedding day (Revelation 21:2), and when what we shall be is revealed, all of the new creation will gasp at the glorious beauty of the bride!

Ultimately, however, the glory is not the bride’s but Christ’s. Our great contribution to this final beauty and glory? Need. Thirstiness (end of Revelation 21:6). It is Christ Who is the beginning and the end. It is Christ Who gives of the fountain of the water of life. And He gives it without cost, so that even in this last day, when His work is done, and our sinfulness is gone, all who behold that glory may know that it is entirely from Christ!

Believers who struggle with their sin (and those who really ought to be struggling harder!) would do well to join Asaph in considering our end (cf. Psalm 73:13–28).

The Holy Spirit gives us this glimpse in Revelation 21, so that we will not think “in vain I have kept my hands clean,” but will say, “for me, what is good is to be near to God”; and thus, we will look forward to being rid of sin, and to God wiping away every tear from our eyes, and finally banishing death/sorrow/crying/pain (Revelation 21:4).

But most of all, we will look forward to, “the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God […] He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God, and he shall be My son” (Revelation 21:3Revelation 21:7).
When do you get glimpses of “your end”? What does that teach you to value most of all? How does it help you in the pursuit of “purifying yourself even as He is pure”?
Suggested songs: ARP181 “God Our Only Good” or TPH384 “Lo, What a Glorious Sight Appeared”

Monday, June 22, 2020

2020.06.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 28:10–22

Questions from the Scripture text: From where did Jacob go toward where (Genesis 28:10)? What time of day was it in Genesis 28:11? And what did he do? What did he see set on earth and reaching to heaven in Genesis 28:12? Who stood above Jacob in Genesis 28:13? How did He identify Himself? What did He promise to give to Jacob? What would God do to Jacob’s descendants (Genesis 28:14a)? What will God do through Jacob’s Descendant (verse 14b)? What personal promise does God make, in conjunction with these other promises (Genesis 28:15)? How long does God say that He will be with him? How long will this end up actually taking? What does Jacob say when he wakes up (Genesis 28:16)? What impact does this have upon him (Genesis 28:17)? What does he now do with his “pillow stone” (Genesis 28:18)? And what does he call the place (Genesis 28:19)? What does he vow to do (Genesis 28:21b)? Based upon the certainty that God will do what (Genesis 28:20-21a)? What does he propose as the essential elements of his religion (Genesis 28:22)? 
The Lord is always working in His people’s lives, whether they can see it or not. Other than the words to Rebekah about Jacob while he was still in the womb, we haven’t heard much explicitly from God up to this point in the account of his life. And, considering the way that everyone have been conducting themselves, it seems that they were rather forgetful of God, too!

Finally, when God’s sovereign providence overwhelmed Isaac in chapter 27, he seemed to begin to remember God, as borne out by the words of his second shot at the blessing in Genesis 27:3-4. But we still hadn’t seen any indications of spiritual life from Jacob.

Now, he’s gone about 60 miles in a day, taking nothing but his staff with him—literally running for his life from Esau. And God gloriously appears and declares that He is with Jacob. We know—from the teaching of the whole Bible, and especially from what Jesus says in John 1:51that it is specifically in Jesus Christ Himself that God is with him (and with us!).

Based upon his responses to this appearance of God, Jacob has a long way to go in learning how to respond to the presence of God. Here, he is more impressed by how dangerous God is to him as a sinner, rather than by how gracious God is as his Savior. Jacob exclaims, “Surely Yahweh is in this place, and I did not know!” The implication is that if he had known, he wouldn’t have profaned the place by doing something so mundane as sleeping.

Genesis 28:17 goes on to tell us that he was afraid. It’s entirely appropriate to tremble before God and to worship. But outside of stones of witness such as at Mizpah (Genesis 31:45–54) and Shechem (Joshua 24:27), there’s not much reason in Scripture to think that God approves of Jacob’s response. There’s no indication that God ever accepted the stone as His “house” (Genesis 28:22), and God forbids His people to worship Him by sacred pillars.

It’s safe to say that Jacob wasn’t impressed enough by the grace in God’s promise to him. We see this show up in his vow, “If God will be with me, etc…” These are the very things that Yahweh has just promised to him (Genesis 28:20-21, cf. Genesis 28:15)!

In truth, much of the Christian life is being appropriately impressed by the great holiness and glory of God—while being that much more impressed by the fact that He is gracious to us, and having confidence that He indeed is with us and keeping us wherever we go.
What evidence is there in your life that you are duly impressed with the dangerous holiness of God? And what evidence is there that you are just as impressed by, and confident in, God’s grace to you? What means has He given us to grow in each of these? 
Suggested songs: ARP181 “God Our Only Good” or TPH164 “God Himself Is with Us”