Each week we webcast Lord's Day Sabbath School at 10a, morning public worship at 11a, and p.m. singing and sermon at 2:30p (sermon at 3:30); and the Weds. Prayer Meeting at 6:30p

Saturday, June 19, 2021

2021.06.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Joel 2:18–27

Read Joel 2:18–27

Questions from the Scripture text: What two things will Yahweh do (Joel 2:18), when His people have repented as instructed in Joel 2:12-17? What will He say (Joel 2:19)? What will He do? What will He stop doing? What will He do to the invader (Joel 2:20)? With what effect? Why—what effect has the invader had? What should the land stop doing (Joel 2:21? What should the land start doing? Why—Who else has had the same effect in verse 21 as the invader has in Joel 2:20? Who else is not to fear (Joel 2:22)? Why? Who are to do what in Joel 2:23a? In what (Whom!), especially, are they to rejoice (verse 23b)? How will the drought conclude (verse 23c–d)? With what results (Joel 2:23-24)? How will the restoration occur (Joel 2:25a)? With what effects (Joel 2:25b–Joel 2:26a)? How will the people then respond (verse 26b)? Why (verse 26c)? With what effects (verse 26d)? What will they then know about God’s active presence (Joel 2:27a)? And about His relationship with them (verse 27b)? And about Him (verse 27c)? With what (again) effect (verse 27d)? 

In these ten verses, we have the response of the Lord to the repentance that He has commanded, and that they have evidently followed: reaction (Joel 2:18), refreshment (Joel 2:19a–c), restoration (Joel 2:19d–Joel 2:20), rejoicing (Joel 2:21-23b), redemption (Joel 2:23c–Joel 2:25), reverence (Joel 2:26), and reconciliation (Joel 2:27).

Reaction (Joel 2:18). The Lord has commanded His people to repent with their hearts, and He responds to our repentance with zeal and pity. There is in God that perfect disposition toward His repenting people of which the most intense human zeal and the warmest human compassion are just a copy. What a marvelous “reaction” from our God!

Refreshment (Joel 2:19a–c). Whereas the Lord had used His creation to make His people feel their neediness of Him, He now uses it to make them feel His abundance for that need. The covenant relationship is restored, the covenant blessings begin to flow again, and not just in the renewed supply (verse 19b) but in a renewed satisfaction (verse 19c). Of course, the first provision isn’t actually grain and new wine and oil, but the Word (verse 19a, “Yahweh will answer and say to His people). Now the resurrected Redeemer refreshes His people in Word and sacrament, giving them not merely sounds in their ears and snacks in their mouths, but giving Himself to their souls.

Restoration (Joel 2:19d–Joel 2:20). With the covenant relation restored, the Lord takes away their shame (Joel 2:19d, cf. Joel 2:26d, Joel 2:27d); they no longer appear as a people under judgment. Instead, those by whose mandibles He had judged them now themselves come under judgment. There will always be vindication and vengeance for you, dear believer, even if you deserved and needed what the enemy has done to you. 

Rejoicing (Joel 2:21-23b). We had seen in chapter 1 that the land mourned (Joel 1:10), and the beasts groaned (Joel 1:18), in order to help the farmers, the priests, and indeed all of the people to mourn for the lack of their joy in the Lord. In a real sense, the earth and its creatures had been cursed for their sake. And now that it’s time for the people to rejoice, He once again uses the land and its creatures to lead the way. The greatness of the restoration (Joel 2:21c) has exceeded the greatness of the chastening (Joel 2:20g). The time for fear has passed, the time for gladness and rejoicing has come! 

Redemption (Joel 2:23c–Joel 2:25). The children of Zion are brought to rejoice in Yahweh their God not only by circumstances, but again by words, and indeed by a great Preacher. There’s a play on words in Joel 2:23c that is obscured by our version. It uses a homonym so that the same form for “former rain” in verse 23e should probably be “teacher” in verse 23c, and that line should read “For He has given you the Righteous Teacher.” 

The Lord uses His Word to bring His people back and to announce to them their blessedness. Though this surely included Joel himself, and those priests who fulfilled his prophecy’s call upon them, it is ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ, our great Prophet and Righteous Teacher.

Not only does God’s Righteous Teacher bring us back, but the years that we spent in error or under discipline are not ultimately lost. As the blessing of God starts to pour back down (Joel 2:23d–e), there is enough both for the moment and for filling/overflowing the storage (Joel 2:24), until the effects of the locust army are entirely reversed (Joel 2:25). 

It is the opposite of Pharaoh’s dream that Joseph interprets in Genesis 41; this is fullness so great that it wipes out the effects of the famine. This is God’s way with His repenting people; He takes away their grief by bringing them to a better place than they would have been in if they had been steady from the start.

Reverence (Joel 2:26). The ultimate blessing, however, is satisfaction with God and adoring of God. It’s one thing to eat plenty, but many people do so without contentment; it is a separate and greater gift to be satisfied (verse 26a). And it is one thing to be satisfied with God’s gifts, but it is a separate and greater gift to be satisfied with the God of the gifts Himself (verse 26b). Being restored to a God-delighted worshiper is the greatest blessing of all. God brings us into the true riches when He brings us into reverence! This is God’s great work on earth (verse 26c), and those who are made worshipers in this way will find their joy to be full and forever (verse 26d, cf. Romans 10:11). 

Reconciliation (Joel 2:27). Indeed, for the one who has been brought to treasure God above all else, there is one blessing higher than the privilege of adoring God; and, that is the communicated presence of the God he adores. Yahweh Himself in their midst (verse 27a), Yahweh Himself as their own (verse 27b–c)—that is the ultimate, full-and-forever blessedness of the people of God (verse 27d).

Of what do you need to repent? How does desire for these blessings encourage and begin this repentance?

Suggested songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly, I Am with You” or TPH73C “In Sweet Communion, Lord with Thee”

 

Friday, June 18, 2021

Our King's Joy (2021.06.16 Prayer Meeting Lesson)

God's blessing in Christ: more than we can ask or think, bound up in Christ's glory and gladness, and demanding of frightful curse upon all who remain His enemies. The strength of the Lord is our joy, and the joy of the Lord is our strength!

2021.06.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Philippians 3:15–17

Read Philippians 3:15–17

Questions from the Scripture text: Whom does the apostle now address (Philippians 3:15)? Whom does he include in this group? What are they to have? Who will do what if they think otherwise? What are they to do with whatever they have already attained (Philippians 3:16)? By what should they walk? What should they be? Now whom does the apostle address in Philippians 3:17? What does he tell them to do? And at whom else to look? For what purpose has God given the apostle and such other men?

The apostle has just described himself as not satisfied with himself but rather straining forward and eager to have more and more satisfaction in the infinitely satisfying God in Christ Jesus. 

How every mature believer thinks, Philippians 3:15a.

Now in v15, the apostle defines mature believers as those who have that mindset and urges every last one of them to maintain that mindset. That is to say that they continually pursue Christ Himself for His mindset to be in them (cf. Philippians 2:1–11).

So that it can be verified that they are mature, Philippians 3:15b.

How deep are the effects upon our minds and hearts of remaining sin! The apostle says in verse 15b that it’s possible to think that you are satisfied with Christ rather than self, and to think that you are straining forward eagerly for more of Him, and to be wrong! Our hearts are deceitful above all things. But God is all-wise to know them. And He is gracious. There is a marvelous promise here. We can look to God to help us see where we are self-deceived. Let us always be seeking for the Lord to reveal to us if we are actually self-satisfied rather than Christ-satisfied.

So that we can live it out, Philippians 3:16.

Whatever point we are at in our maturity, and whatever level of self-awareness God has given us, it must not remain only a way of thinking. It must be a way of walking, a way of living. Don’t just think that you depend entirely upon Christ and need more of Christ. Live dependently and desperately for Christ! Live in the way the apostle has described himself in Philippians 3:12-14.

So that other believers have as many good examples as possible to follow, Philippians 3:17.

In Philippians 3:15, the apostle had addressed “as many as are mature.” Now, he broadens that target-audience with the word “brethren.” 

All believers (Philippians 3:17) are to join the mature believers (Philippians 3:15) in following the apostle’s example of running hard after Christ (Philippians 3:12-14). And now that the apostle has given the instruction in Philippians 3:15-16, he can include a multitude of other examples for the brethren: “Note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.”

If you are mature, you are not mature for yourself. You are mature for Christ. You are mature for the church’s sake. “You have us for a pattern,” the apostle says. Maturity in Christ is maturity that comes from Christ for the purposes of Christ. And a big part of that purpose is to give the rest of His flock a pattern.

How are you walking in dependence upon, satisfaction with, and devotion to Christ? What examples do you have in your household, or in your congregation, of others who are doing so already?

Suggested songs: ARP119W “Lord, Let My Cry before You Come” or TPH429 “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”


Thursday, June 17, 2021

2021.06.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 19:28–40

Read Luke 19:28–40

Questions from the Scripture text: Where was Jesus going (Luke 19:28)? To where did He draw near (Luke 19:29)? Where was he? Whom did He send? Where did He send them (Luke 19:30)? What would they find? What does He command them to do? What might someone ask (Luke 19:31)? What should they answer? Who went (Luke 19:32)? What did they find? What happened (Luke 19:33)? How did they respond (Luke 19:34)? Where did they bring the colt (Luke 19:35)? What did they do to it? What did they do to Jesus? What did others do (Luke 19:36)? To where was He nearing in Luke 19:37? Who began to do what? Why? What did they call Jesus (Luke 19:38)? What did they pronounce upon Him? What did they say He was doing? What other blessings did they pronounce where? Who else spoke in Luke 19:39? To Whom? What did they tell Him to do? What did Jesus do (Luke 19:40)? What did He say would happen on what condition? 

Many of us probably have the same impression: that the triumphal entry crowd spontaneously burst into praise. As the Holy Spirit carries Luke along, however, He is making the exact opposite point: this is a setup. 

Jesus has had His face set to Jerusalem for ten chapters (Luke 19:28, cf. Luke 9:51). Now, Jesus brings the protracted journey to a halt two miles out in Luke 19:29, so that he can set up the entry. He Who is like us in every way, except without sin, in dependence upon the Spirit Whom He has in full measure, knows what is going to happen. 

Jesus has set up the colt (Luke 19:30). Jesus has set up its never having been sat upon. Jesus has set up its submissiveness to its Creator when sat upon. Jesus has set up its being tied. Jesus has set up its watchers’ response when it starts to be untied (Luke 19:31). Jesus has set up their recognition of His lordship. Jesus has set up their accommodation of His transportation needs. 

Luke summarizes this, “[they] found it just as He had said to them” (Luke 19:32). Then he goes on to give us two more verses of things continuing just as we have just read that Jesus said.

So, it’s a setup. Yes, it’s marvelous that the “whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice” (Luke 19:37). But, it’s not spontaneous. Jesus intentionally provokes this outburst of praise. Jesus has come to Jerusalem to be the stone that the builders rejected, and He’s going to use His praise prophesied in Psalm 118:38) to provoke the rejection prophesied in Psalm 118:22

This is why He’s come to Jerusalem. In fact, this is why He’s come to earth at all, as Luke 19:38 quotes from Luke 2:14. In fact, Jesus provokes the crowd to praise in Luke 19:29-38 in part because it is so necessary that this be what the “builders” (Pharisees, Luke 19:39) reject that the stones themselves would cry out (Luke 19:40).

Living stones or mineralized stones, one way or another, there will be crying out! And indeed, when the Jews join the nations, they will silence Him (cf. Psalm 118:10–11; Psalm 2:1–2; Acts 4:25–28), but He will be declared the Son of God with power, when He comes out of the grave, and the stone rolls away (cf. Psalm 2:7, Romans 1:4, Acts 2:22–32). The stones cried out on the resurrection day. But now we are living stones, who keep crying out, and can never be silenced! (cf. 1 Peter 2:4–7, Psalm 118:22–24).

So, when you think of this passage, think of how your Redeemer King was provoking necessary praise in order to provoke His atoning death, so that we might increasingly echo that praise of a resurrected Redeemer today, for the rest of our lives, and through all eternity!

What/Who is in control? What has He done? Where is He now? How are you responding to Him?

Suggested Songs: ARP16A “Keep Me, O God” or TPH508 “Jesus, Priceless Treasure”


Wednesday, June 16, 2021

2021.06.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Samuel 15:1–12

Read 2 Samuel 15:1–12

Questions from the Scripture text: With what does Absalom provide himself in 2 Samuel 15:1? Like what status of person is he acting? What would he do (2 Samuel 15:2)? Where would he go? Whom would he intercept? What were they looking for? What would he ask them? What would he tell them, regardless of the merits of the case (2 Samuel 15:3)? What would he tell them they could not do/have on that day? Then whom would he moan would be a better judge/king (2 Samuel 15:4)? What would some people come near to do (2 Samuel 15:5)? What would Absalom do instead? To how many did Absalom act this way (2 Samuel 15:6)? How vigorous and vocal would such people likely be? What was Absalom doing by all this? To what age (if the number is 40; or, for how long, if the number is 4) did Absalom do this (2 Samuel 15:7)? What does he now ask the king? How does he ask it (2 Samuel 15:7-8)? Whom is he implicitly complimenting for a good decision? What is he implying about his spiritual life? Whom is he suggesting is in favor of all this? How does the king respond in 2 Samuel 15:9? Where does Absalom go? From there, whom does he send where (2 Samuel 15:10)? What signal had they chosen? What were they to do when they heard it? From where did Absalom invite men in 2 Samuel 15:11? How many? What does this verse make sure to say about them? For whom especially did Absalom send (2 Samuel 15:12)? What job had he held? Where was David? How does verse 12 summarize this entire event?

God’s promised judgment against David, in 2 Samuel 12:10–12, keeps building toward its climax… not with spear and sword but with smile and sneer.

Absalom has added throwing kingly parades (2 Samuel 15:1) to the machinery increasing his celebrity stock (cf. 2 Samuel 14:25–27). 

Next, he stands outside the gate, which functions as the courthouse, and intercepts anyone on their way in to let them know that they have a new friend (2 Samuel 15:2). He adds that their case is of course right (2 Samuel 15:3a, apparently, Absalom never heard a weak case; he’s in favor of all of them!), but as a strange occurrence of providence there’s no one in today who would listen to them (verse 3b, with Absalom apparently turning every case away, there must have been some pretty frustrated people, and some pretty underworked judges).

There’s an easy solution ready-to-hand, however, and (surprise, surprise) that solution is Absalom (2 Samuel 15:4)! After all, he’s not so high on himself to accept groveling (2 Samuel 15:5a), but rather a real man of the people (verse 5b). It’s a pretty cheesy snow job, but turns out highly effective (2 Samuel 15:6).

There’s a manuscript issue, but even if it’s just four years (as likely) in 2 Samuel 15:7, that’s still a pretty patient long-game for Absalom to play. He may be wicked as the devil, but no one can accuse him of being lazy! 

Or stupid. He dresses the whole thing up in integrity (vow keeping) and piety… this was a vow to Yahweh (2 Samuel 15:7), gives credit to Yahweh for His good providence (2 Samuel 15:8a), and promises devotion to Yahweh as a response (verse 8b). Here’s a wicked man, about to do something for which he will pay with his life and soul, but he can talk all godly-and-reformed with the best of them. Sometimes a politician’s biblical-sounding speech isn’t blessing but great judgment. And let us not presume our own biblical-sounding speech is spotless either.

By the time we get to 2 Samuel 15:10-12, the long, slow buildup has now accelerated to imminent impact. Trumpets are ready (2 Samuel 15:10a). Coup supporters have been planted and spread throughout the kingdom (verse 10b), key supporters of the crown have been taken out of the picture (2 Samuel 15:11), and David’s top man is now Absalom’s top man (2 Samuel 15:12).

It’s all about to fall. What will happen? We find ourselves in such days from time to time. As touches his nation and many of the churches in it, the author of this devotional finds himself in such days at the time of writing. 

What will happen? Exactly what our good and merciful God has determined to happen. The shadow of 2 Samuel 12:10–12 over this passage reminds us that it comes from Him. But this is always true! And His purposes in it are always for the building of His church unto His great glory in Christ! Christ is the King that never needs punished, and can never be dethroned!

What slick religious words have you heard or used to mask other intentions? When smooth operators have been wreaking havoc in home, church, or state, Who has been superintending all of it? Who is your King, and how does that stabilize you in tumultuous times?

Suggested songs: ARP72A “God, Give Your Judgments to the King” or TPH281 “Rejoice, the Lord is King”