Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Severe Mercy, Subduing Mercy, Superlative Mercy [Family Worship lesson in Isaiah 30]

How does the Lord show mercy to those who prefer human wisdom to God’s authoritative Word? Isaiah 30 prepares us for the first serial reading in public worship on the Lord’s Day. In these thirty-three verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that if men prefer their own wisdom to God’s Word, it is a mercy when God visits their plans with devastating failure.
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2023.11.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ Isaiah 30

Read Isaiah 30

Questions from the Scripture text: Upon whom is the fourth woe pronounced (Isaiah 30:1a)? What do they do in verse 1b–c? What is wrong with this consulting and planning (cf. Isaiah 30:2b)? Why does this happen (Isaiah 30:1d)? In whom do they trust instead (Isaiah 30:2)? How will this turn out for them (Isaiah 30:3)? What can’t be found even from the northernmost to southernmost parts of Egypt (Isaiah 30:4-5)? What will be found instead (Isaiah 30:5d)? What weight will fall upon whom in Isaiah 30:6? But what will they have to show for their poor beasts’ efforts (Isaiah 30:7)? What will Egypt’s new nickname be (verse 7c)? What word does YHWH now send to those who failed to ask for one (Isaiah 30:8-9)? In fact, what have they actually done to the Lord’s Word (Isaiah 30:10-11)? What are they actually trusting in, instead, when they do this (Isaiah 30:12)? What will the Lord do to their efforts (Isaiah 30:13-14)? What had the Lord YHWH offered them (Isaiah 30:15)? And what had they said that they would do instead (Isaiah 30:16)? So, what is He making the outcome of their plan to be (Isaiah 30:17)? To what end is He bringing this disaster upon them (Isaiah 30:18)? To Whom will He force them to turn? What will He do for them when this happens (Isaiah 30:19)? And what will He restore to them (Isaiah 30:20)? How close will the words of the true prophets be (Isaiah 30:21a)? How practical the application (verse 21b)? How continually (verse 21c–d)? What will they do with their former hope and delight (Isaiah 30:22)? What will the Lord do for them at that point (Isaiah 30:23)? And what else will enjoy the difference (Isaiah 30:24, cf. Isaiah 30:6)? What will He provide (Isaiah 30:25)? How does Isaiah 30:26 communicate the supernatural/new-creation nature of this provision? But what approaches in Isaiah 30:27a? And what will this be like for the nations (Isaiah 30:27-28)? What will YHWH give to His people in that day (Isaiah 30:29)? What comes near/is heard in Isaiah 30:30a? But what will this music and singing be like for those who are the Lord’s enemies (Isaiah 30:30-33)? When was this role for Tophet/Hell purposed (Isaiah 30:33a)? What is it like (verse 33)?

How does the Lord show mercy to those who prefer human wisdom to God’s authoritative Word? Isaiah 30 prepares us for the first serial reading in public worship on the Lord’s Day. In these thirty-three verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that if men prefer their own wisdom to God’s Word, it is a mercy when God visits their plans with devastating failure

Rebellious children. The fourth woe addresses those who take counsel (Isaiah 30:1b), devise plans (verse 1c), and take advice. The problem is that it isn’t God’s counsel, God’s plan, or God’s advice (Isaiah 30:2b). Thus they are called “rebellious children” (Isaiah 30:1a, Isaiah 30:9). Since they refuse God’s Word *to* them, they will hear God’s Word *about* them (Isaiah 30:8). 

Rejecting God’s authoritative Word (Isaiah 30:10a–b) is the hallmark of the rebellious (Isaiah 30:9a). It’s not that they don’t want preaching at all. Rather, they refuse to hear YHWH’s law (verse 9c); they accumulate for themselves preachers of smooth things (Isaiah 30:10c; cf. 2 Timothy 4:3–4). 

But to despise God’s Word is not merely to have a flaw in our preferences; it is to despise God Himself (Isaiah 30:11). It is to give oneself to perversity (Isaiah 30:12)! God offers them rest, quietness, and confidence in turning to Him (Isaiah 30:15a–c), but they reject Him Himself in rejecting His Word.

Merciful devastation. In this case, the smooth and deceitful words told them that the Assyrian threat could be turned away by the help of Egypt (Isaiah 30:2). But God is going to turn their hope into their shame (Isaiah 30:3). From Zoan in the north to Hanes in the south (Isaiah 30:4), not only would there be no benefit (Isaiah 30:5a–b), but there would be positive failure and humiliation (verse 5c). 

The poor beasts in Isaiah 30:6 would bear the treasure of Israel back to Egypt through the wilderness (same word as “South”), obtaining nothing in return. They unwittingly reverse the sudoxE, and their hope (Egypt) gets a new nickname. Rahab has been a nickname for Egypt, but now it gets expanded to “Rahab the Do-Nothing” (Isaiah 30:7). 

How completely will the Lord shatter them (Isaiah 30:13)? Such that there won’t be a peace left large enough to carry any water (Isaiah 30:14). Since they have rejected having God Himself as their help (Isaiah 30:15) in favor of a plan that depends on their initiative, the Lord’s judgment will match and exceed their vigor (Isaiah 30:16), until they are utterly devastated (Isaiah 30:17)

Why would the Lord do this? He is patiently (Isaiah 30:18a) bringing them to the point where they have nothing but the Lord’s glory and mercy (verse 18b). Let the believer remember that the kindness of God often comes in the painful, afflicting stroke (cf. Hebrews 12:6–11).

Subduing mercy. As the Lord wipes the tears from their eyes (Isaiah 30:19), they are glad. More than that, it was precisely through affliction (Isaiah 30:20a–b) that they are glad, now, to hear His Word (verse 20c–d). And the Word that they now receive is given to them abundantly. The Word comes near them (Isaiah 30:21a). The Word addresses, practically, the very part of their life in which they find themselves (verse 21b). The Word persists with them at all times and places (verse 21c–d). 

Not only do they receive the Word, but the Lord gives them to respond to it. They reject their old idols (Isaiah 30:22). The mercy of God does not leave His people unchanged. Rather than giving them what they want, His mercy transforms them into those who hate what they used to love and love what they used to hate.

Ultimate mercy. The blessing that their own ideas utterly failed to give them, the Lord Himself will now give (Isaiah 30:23a–d). Even beasts, that had fared so poorly in Isaiah 30:6, are now blessed richly in Isaiah 30:23-24. We’ve already seen this as an indication of ultimate mercy (cf. Isaiah 11:6–9). This becomes clear in Isaiah 30:25-26, especially with the brightness of the place. This wiping away of tears, and supernatural provision of water, and brightness that far exceeds the sun is hearkened to in Revelation 21:3–6, Revelation 22:1–5. The same mercy that brings us to repentance has its ultimate end as the mercy that we will enjoy in perfect blessedness forever.

Ultimate judgment. Finally, Assyria (Isaiah 30:31) will come under the very judgment of Hell (Isaiah 30:27-33). The song of Israel’s blessing (Isaiah 30:29) will correspond to the song of YHWH’s punishing Assyria (Isaiah 30:32). Whereas Egypt was not so great as to be the help they had imagined, Assyria is not so great a threat as they had imagined. They should not fear them who can only kill the body. The Lord, after killing the body, righteously casts the wicked soul into Hell (cf. Matthew 10:28; Luke 12:5): the indignation of His anger, the flame of devouring fire (Isaiah 30:30). Tophet’s (the fire in the valley of Hinnom/Gehenna) pyre is fire with much wood (Isaiah 30:33a–c)—the breath of YHWH kindling it like a stream of brimstone (verse 33d–f). God’s people and God’s enemies both get the same thing in the end: God Himself. For His people, God is their blessed delight. For His enemies, God is their burning destruction.

From where does the desire to hear only smooth/easy preaching come? What devastating failure or painful affliction have you had in your life? IF you are a believer, what was it accomplishing? How has mercy subdued your resistance to God’s Word? What else does such mercy give you, beside repentance? If God is not your blessed delight forever, then what will you experience forever?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You for Your authoritative Word. Forgive us for how we have sometimes rejected it, even prefering our own plans to Your perfect precepts. We have been blind to how rejecting Your authoritative Word is really a rejection of You. Save us from our sin, bring us through affliction, wipe the tears from our eyes, and make Yourself our hope and our joy in Christ, we ask in His Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH51C “God, Be Merciful to Me”

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

The Chief End of Redemption [Family Worship lesson in Psalm 105]

Why does God redeem sinners? Psalm 105 prepares us for the opening portion of public worship on the Lord’s Day. In these forty-five verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that God redeems sinners to display His glory in faithfulness, power, mercy, generosity, and wisdom.
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2023.11.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 105

Read Psalm 105

Questions from the Scripture text: How does the Psalm begin (Psalm 105:1a)? How does it end (Psalm 105:45c, cf. Psalm 105:2a, Psalm 105:3a)? What is to be added to this thanksgiving and praise (Psalm 105:1b, cf. Psalm 105:3-4)? What else (Psalm 105:1c, cf. Psalm 105:2b, Psalm 105:5)? Among whom? What does Psalm 105:6 call these peoples? Who is He (Psalm 105:7a)? And to them? Where does He operate (verse 7b)? What does He remember (Psalm 105:8)? For how long? With whom did He make it (Psalm 105:9-10)? What did He promise them (Psalm 105:11)? At what time (Psalm 105:12-13)? What did He do for them then (Psalm 105:14)? What did He call them (Psalm 105:15)? What was one way He brought His covenant to pass (Psalm 105:16-22)? What was another (Psalm 105:23-25)? How was this resolved (Psalm 105:26-38)? What was it like when He brought them out (Psalm 105:39-41)? Why did He do this for a grumbling people (Psalm 105:42)? What did He give them in their hearts (Psalm 105:43)? Why—what does this verse call them? What else did He give them (Psalm 105:44)? So that they would do what (Psalm 105:45a–b)?

Why does God redeem sinners? Psalm 105 prepares us for the opening portion of public worship on the Lord’s Day. In these forty-five verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that God redeems sinners to display His glory in faithfulness, power, mercy, generosity, and wisdom. 

God redeems sinners to display His glory, Psalm 105:1–5Psalm 105:45c. There is nothing better for the creature than to enjoy the great glory of the Creator, which God has especially given His people to do by praising (Psalm 105:1a, Psalm 105:2a, Psalm 105:3a, Psalm 105:45c), praying (Psalm 105:1b, Psalm 105:3-4), and preaching (Psalm 105:1c, Psalm 105:2b, Psalm 105:5). God is His own pleasure from all eternity, and there is no greater gift than for Him to bring us into His pleasure in His own glory (Psalm 105:43, cf. John 15:11, John 17:13, John 17:22, John 17:24). 

God redeems sinners to display His faithfulness, Psalm 105:6-12Psalm 105:42. He makes them promises so that they are brought into fellowship with Him by His Word. This binding-promise, Psalm 105:8-10 calls a covenant. He spoke it (Psalm 105:11), when it appeared impossible (Psalm 105:12), showing that His Word will always be kept, simply because it is His (Psalm 105:42). His redemption, coming according to covenant, is a great display of His faithfulness.

God redeems sinners to display His power, Psalm 105:13-38. Whether Canaanites (Psalm 105:13-15), famine and slavery for Joseph (Psalm 105:16-22), or bondage under a hostile Pharaoh (Psalm 105:23-38), the Lord brought His people through hardship after hardship. He displayed His power in protecting them from ultimate harm, in carrying them in the midst of the hardship, and in delivering them out of the hardship. This was especially on display in the plagues. God’s redemption is a great display of His power. 

God redeems sinners to display His mercy, Psalm 105:39-41. The amazing thing about this part of the Psalm is that, despite God making a display of Himself to them, they grumbled! The grumbling about food and water literally occurred before the pillar of cloud and fire. Yet, God showed them mercy with quail, manna, and even water from the rock. He redeems sinners precisely to display the riches of His glory in mercy toward them who don’t deserve it.

God redeems sinners to display His generosity, Psalm 105:43-44. As we noted in thinking about the display of His glory, this is the greatest generosity. Protection, provision, inheritance… these are all well and good. But the great generosity is the joy and gladness of knowing Him and being known by Him, of loving Him and being loved by Him. It is the joy of God Himself, and He redeems us to bring us into it. When the Lord Jesus is praying for us according to the eternal covenant within the Godhead, this is precisely what He prays for (Psalm 105:43, cf. John 15:11; John 17:13, John 17:22, John 17:24). 

God redeems sinners to display His wisdom, Psalm 105:45a–b. In redeeming sinners, God makes sinners new so that they receive His Word, and as He sustains them in following that Word, they discover the goodness and fruitfulness of His wisdom in their lives. He saves them by grace through faith. And not only does He give them statutes and laws, but He works in them to make them to walk in those good works that He has prepared beforehand for them (Psalm 105:44, cf. Ephesians 2:8–10). 

God redeems sinners for His own glory in their good. What a marvelous God He is! Praise the LORD!

What is your chief end? Has God redeemed you? How ought you respond? How have you been responding this way? For each attribute of His in this Psalm, what is one way that He has done this with you? 

Sample prayer:  Lord, we praise You for Your great glory. You have been faithful to make Your covenant and keep it. You have protected us from every evil, sustained us through every trial, and will save us out of every adversity. We praise You for the mercy in which You repay our sin with forgiveness in Christ and kindness that is according to His merity. Thus You gave your people meat, and manna, and water. And thus You have given us every blessing in our lives. Even more than that, You have made Yourself our reward and joy, bringing us into Your own glory and joy. Grant that we would observe Your statutes and keep Your laws, and glorify and enjoy You now and forever, through Jesus Christ, AMEN!

 Suggested songs: ARP105A “O Thank the LORD (Call on His Name)” or TPH105C “O Praise the LORD, His Deeds Make Known”

Monday, November 27, 2023

Holy Blood for Atonement and Life [2023.11.26 Evening Sermon in Leviticus 17]

Blood was holy to Israel because God used it to point to the atonement of Christ for us and the life of Christ in us.

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Happy Mourning (and Happier Comfort!) [2023.11.26 Morning Sermon in Matthew 5:4–5]

Longing for Christ and His kingdom includes profound grief for a time, but they to whom the Spirit gives this longing are blessed already in the sure hope of perfect, eternal blessedness

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God's Battle Plan for the Mind 4: Occasional Meditation [2023.11.26 Sabbath School]

Scripture teaches us to interact personally with God, by means of His Word, throughout our life—taking occasions from His providence to meditate upon Scripture that is illustrated by that providence or applies to that providence.
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How All Things Happen [Theology Simply Explained: Westminster Shorter Catechism 8]

Pastor walks his children through Westminster Shorter Catechism question 8—especially explaining how God sovereignly carries out His own purposes, because He is a (the) true and living God.

Q8. How doth God execute His decrees? God executeth His decrees in the works of creation and providence.
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Riches of Glory in Mercy! [Family Worship lesson in Romans 9:19–24]

Why does God still find fault? Romans 9:19–24 prepares us for the sermon in the midweek prayer meeting. In these six verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the real question is not why God finds fault, but why hasn’t He yet destroyed those who are at fault?
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2023.11.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 9:19–24

Read Romans 9:19–24

Questions from the Scripture text: How does the beginning of Romans 9:19 suggest that these are things the apostle has heard before, in response to preaching the gospel? What have these people asked? What is the implied answer to the next, rhetorical, question? What does this hypothetical respondent say that God is wrong to do and why? Who now asks four questions  in Romans 9:20-24? What is the point of the first rhetorical question in Romans 9:20? What is the implied answer to the second rhetorical question? What is the implied answer to the third rhetorical question (Romans 9:21)? How long is the next rhetorical question (Romans 9:22-24)? What does God want to do (Romans 9:22)? But what does He endure? In what way? What are these vessels full of? For what have they been prepared? Why would He endure them for so long—what does He especially desire to make known (Romans 9:23)? Upon what sorts of vessels are these riches made known? For what has He prepared them? When? Whom, specifically, has He prepared for this (Romans 9:24a)? How did this happen? From what peoples has He prepared such vessels (verse 24b)?

Why does God still find fault? Romans 9:19–24 prepares us for the sermon in the midweek prayer meeting. In these six verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the real question is not why God finds fault, but why hasn’t He yet destroyed those who are at fault? 

You don’t get to ask the questions, Romans 9:19-20. The apostle had evidently heard this response before, “Why does He still find fault?” This is not someone who thinks he has done rightly. This is someone who knows that he has done wrongly. He just wants to blame God for his own wrongdoing: “For who has resisted His will?” The one who is blaming God’s sovereignty for his own sin is forgetting that the very One that he is blaming—by His own admission—is the sovereign God! So the apostle answers one set of questions with another set. And the first point is that you don’t get a say, because you are not God. Will you, a mere man—a wicked man—reply against God, the sovereign God? You are creation, and He is Creator. You don’t get to ask the questions (cf. Job 38:3, Job 40:7). 

God has a right to find fault, Romans 9:21-22. God has as much right and power to determine our destiny as a potter has over what sort of vessel to make out of a lump of clay (Romans 9:21).  If He makes a vessel of wrath, prepared for destruction, that vessel will freely choose sin and be deserving of His wrath and destruction. God remains righteous; the vessel is wicked, and it would actually be wrong of God if He did not find fault! When we, who are sinful, challenge God’s right to find fault, we not only have forgotten our place (Romans 9:19-20), but we have done something much worse. When we challenge God’s right to find fault, we have forgotten God’s place. God is right to want to glorify His justice and power. His wrath is an expression of His perfections.

The real question is: why hasn’t God destroyed us yet? (Romans 9:22). The question that was asked in Romans 9:19 isn’t just illegitimate because it forgets our place and forgets God’s place. It is illegitimate because it is actually responding to patience and goodness. A wrath-deserving sinner is only able to ask such a question because he has not yet suffered the destruction that he deserves! God is “enduring him with much longsuffering” (Romans 9:22). God is long-suffering, even with the reprobate! If you do not respond to this goodness and forbearance by turning from your sin, you have only yourself to blame that you are reprobate (Romans 2:4–5). Even knowing that you will receive destruction for that, you continue to store up wrath for yourself against the day of wrath—and you want to blame God? The real question is not why does God find fault with you. It is why is God being patient with you?!

The answer: to make known, by mercy, the riches of His glory, Romans 9:23-24. Notice the difference in emphasis between Romans 9:22 and Romans 9:23. This difference is especially notable in the word “riches.” It is by His mercy that He makes the riches of His glory known. And He prepares vessels for mercy. They contribute their sin. This is what we contribute to our salvation! The sin from which we need to be saved. Vessels of mercy were no better than vessels of wrath, but mercy came and made the difference (cf. Romans 9:15). Romans 9:24 brings us back to the issue that began this discussion (Romans 9:6). If it were not for God’s desire to make the riches of His glory known on vessels of mercy, no Jews at all would have been saved. And no Gentiles either. But He has been pleased to make these riches known in the way that He has chosen. And whether talking about ourselves, or about the relative numbers of Jews or Gentiles saved, the amazing thing is that there is mercy at all—and all the more amazing for the abundance of it.

From where, in our hearts, come questions that challenge the goodness of God? If you perish, who will be to blame for it? If you are saved, what did you contribute to it? What should we see, when we consider the question of who are saved and how many? If you aren’t seeing mercy in these things, where can you get this ability?

Sample prayer:  Lord, forgive us for when our hearts or minds challenge the goodness of Your election or Your work. Grant that we would honor You as the good Potter, Whose mercy is glorified both in the vessels prepared for mercy and in the longsuffering with which You endure vessels prepared for wrath. Make us not only humble to submit to Your right and rule, but also amazed at the greatness of Your mercy that we might worship You rightly, we ask through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP130 “LORD, From the Depths to You I Cried” or TPH425 “How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place”