Wednesday, February 28, 2018

2018.02.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 16

Questions for Littles: What hadn’t Sarai, Abram’s wife, done (v1)? What did she have? Whom did Sarai say had kept her from bearing children (v2)? By whom did she suggest that Abram produce a child? What did Abram listen to? What did Sarai do with Hagar in v3? How long had Abram lived in Canaan at this point? What happened to Sarai, in Hagar’s eyes, when Hagar became pregnant with a baby (v4)? What did Sarai say to Abram, when Hagar looked down on her (v5)? What did Abram do to Hagar in v6? What did Sarai do? How did Hagar respond? Who finds her in the wilderness (v7)? What does He call her? What does He ask her? How does Hagar answer? What does the Angel of Yahweh command in v9? What does He promise her that He will do in v10? What is she to call her child (v11)? Why? What does Yahweh say about the child in v12? What does Hagar call Yahweh in v13? What else came to be known by that name (v14)? How old was Abram when Ishmael was born (v15-16)?
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, the Lord displayed Himself as the God who hears and the God who sees… and is still gracious!

It’s that last part that is so amazing. We don’t have a very flattering picture of our father in the faith in this chapter. He lets his wife take the lead and accepts her sinful plan. He commits adultery. When the results aren’t what she had hoped, he doesn’t protect the vulnerable woman in his home, but hands her over to harsh treatment.

And all of this, while we are being reminded that Yahweh is the God who hears and the God who sees. Surely, the Lord’s choosing and calling are entirely by grace!!

Such a merciful, forgiving God is surely worthy of our patience. It had been ten years since Abram entered the land. That is true. But, Abram had also received that glorious covenant ceremony in chapter 15! And, if they were really recognizing that it was the Lord who was closing Sarai’s womb, would it make any sense to try and fulfill God’s promises themselves by sinning?

I’m afraid that all of our sin is like that. The Lord has already promised us every blessing in heaven and on earth in Christ Jesus. So, whenever we sin in order to try to get something (or get out of something), aren’t we basically saying, “I don’t trust you to bless me; so, I’m taking matters into my own hands”?!

Our sin sure is ugly, when we consider it. But, the whole point of this passage is that God was bringing Christ into the world—even through such a family as this. He is always truly the One who has matters in His hands.

Sometimes, He commands us to do right but difficult things, like “Go back to the person who is in authority over you, even though they recently haven’t been treating you well.” But He always does so in the midst of abundant promises that find their “Yes” and “Amen” in Christ. Ought we not patiently obey such a gracious God?!
In what situation right now, do you most need the reminder to patiently obey? Then how will you remind yourself of God’s promises in Christ?
Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or HB144 “I Greet Thee Who My Sure Redeemer Art”

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

2018.02.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 99

Questions for Littles: Who reigns (v1)? Who should tremble? Where does the Lord dwell? What should be shaken/moved? Where, especially, is the Lord seen to be great (v2)? High above whom is the Lord (v2b)? What great and awesome thing should the peoples praise (v3)? What loves justice (v4a)? What has He established and executed? Where? Whose God does v5 command to exalt? Where should we worship Him (v5b)? Why (v5c)? What three men have been among the Lord’s priests (v6)? What did they do? How did the Lord respond? How has God spoken to Jacob (v7)? Who was God to them (v8)? What should we do with the Lord our God (v9)? Where? Why? 
This week’s Call to Worship and Invocation came from Psalm 99, in order to sing God’s thoughts after Him with Rejoice, the Lord Is King!

There are many reasons in this Psalm to rejoice that it is indeed Yahweh who is King. The repeated refrain is that He is holy. Yahweh alone is God, there is no other. He alone is Creator. Everyone and everything else is just a creature.

But what are some of the ways that God displays this earth-shaking (v1) holiness?

One is by choosing a particular people for Himself. The Lord calls is people Zion in v2, and there is something very precious about being able to call Him “our” God… it shouts out our covenant relationship wherein He is our God, and we are His specially chosen people.

Why did He choose us? Certainly not for any good in us! v4 is really quite astonishing. The Lord has established and executed equity, justice, and righteousness in Jacob. Jacob? Really? His name had been changed to “Israel,” but the Lord keeps using the name that means “Heel [grabber]”—i.e. supplanter, deceiver, con artist, shyster. The Lord certainly has not chosen us because of any good in us!!

Why, then, has He chosen us? The answer is in another name, this time in v8. The Lord answers Moses, Aaron, Samuel, indeed any or all of His people, in order to make Himself known as “God-Who-Forgives.” What a blessed name!

When you see the filthiness of your sin, and groan under the weight of the fact that you continue to commit it, let this be a healing balm to your soul: the Lord knew this is what it would be like; He chose to love you, because He loves to love you; He loves to announce and display that He is “God-Who-Forgives.”

This is the great subject of the worship “between the cherubim” (v1), “in Zion (v2), “at His footstool” (v5), and “at His holy hill” (v9). Each of these is a reference to corporate worship.

When we understand His love for His people, and His display of Himself in relationship with His people, we are no longer satisfied merely with individual worship. Each week, we are eager for the Lord’s Day gatherings, and our whole lives long we are eager to join that great congregation in glory!
When have you most needed to call upon “God-Who-Forgives”?
Suggested songs: ARP99A “Let the Nations Tremble” or HB11 “Holy, Holy, Holy!”

Monday, February 26, 2018

2018.02.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 10:1-4

Questions for Littles: What did the law have a shadow of (v1)? What did the law not have? What were offered the same, year after year? What could these sacrifices not do for those who drew near through them? If the Old Testament sacrifices could perfect the worshipers, what would have ceased (v2)? So, what did the sacrifices remind them of, year after year (v3)? What does v4 say is impossible? 
In the sermon this week, we heard about the same sacrifices being offered, year after year. We could almost hear the child asking the questions, “Why do we have to go back? Aren’t our sins already forgiven? If they’re not, then aren’t they still going to not be forgiven this time too?”

Those are all excellent questions. The fact is that, according to our Scripture passage today, those sacrifices could not take away sins.

As for the answer to why continue to do them, that one’s easy: because God said so! Now, here’s a little harder question: why did God say so?

We can see the biggest answer in v10: so that Jesus Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice would be displayed to be infinitely glorious and infinitely better than any other sacrifice, and than every other sacrifice!

But, in our passage today, we can see another answer in v3: so that they would be reminded of their sins every year. Every year, they would keep the feasts. Every year, there would be the day of atonement. Every year, there would be a reminder that sin had not yet been dealt with.

But it wasn’t just their sacrifices, then, that they were being reminded could not cleanse them from sin. Nothing else that they did could cleanse them from sin!

Dear reader, that is a most important lesson for you as well! There is absolutely nothing that you or I can do to be cleansed from sin. We want to think there is. Maybe if we are serious enough about repenting. Maybe if we are sorry enough about our sin. Maybe if… NO! Stop! Whatever it is, it cannot do it!

One of the main points of the Old Testament sacrificial system was to announce both to them and to us that only Jesus’s sacrifice could pay for sins. Are we listening?
What kinds of things do you feel like trying to do when you feel guilty? Can those things ever make up for your sin? Upon what hope must you rest instead?
Suggested Songs: ARP32A “What Blessedness” or HB271 “Rock of Ages”

Saturday, February 24, 2018

2018.02.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 9:23-28

Questions for Littles: What were purified with calf-blood, goat-blood, scarlet wool, and hyssop (v23)? With what were the heavenly things cleansed? Who did not enter holy places made with hands (v24)? Of what were those places copies? Into where itself has Christ entered? Where does Christ now appear? What isn’t Christ doing often in Heaven (v25)? Who did enter the Holy of Holies every year with the blood of another? If Christ needed to repeat His sacrifice, since when would He have had to offer Himself often (v26)? When did Christ appear to put away sin? How did Christ put away sin? What is appointed for men to do once (v27)? What comes next after a man dies? Who was offered once (v28)? What was Christ offered once to do? To whom will Christ appear a second time? Will it be to bear sin? What will it be for?
In this week’s sermon text, we heard about several things that Christ doesn’t do.
Christ did not enter the holy places made with hands. Those were just copies.

Christ did not offer Himself repeatedly for every generation that needed it. If He had done that, He would have had to do so continually since the foundation of the world.

Christ will not appear the second time to bear sins. That was a once-only appointment.

Often, the Lord highlights things for us by contrast. In this case, all of these things that Christ doesn’t do serve to highlight the glories of what Christ does do.

If Christ does not enter the holy places made with hands, where does He enter? The true heaven itself of which these were copies. Where does He appear there? In the presence of God! Why is He in there in the presence of God? For us.

Now that’s a show-stopping, breath-taking, two-word sentence. For us. He is there for the glory of the Father, who sent Him in love. He is there for His own glory, as the only One who could ever have a right to be there. He is there for the glory of the Spirit, who has perfectly carried out history and especially the sustaining of Christ in His humanity.

But Christ is also in heaven for us. He is our Priest.

And why didn’t Christ offer Himself repeatedly since the foundation of the world? Because His once-for-all death would usher in the last age, the age of the gospel, the age of Christ’s Priesthood, the age of His Supper, the age of eagerly awaiting His second-coming.

We live in that glorious age. We believe that glorious gospel. We worship through that glorious Priest. We celebrate that glorious Supper. We await that glorious coming.

And why is Christ’s second appearing not for the bearing of the sins of many? Because that part of our salvation is done. Guilt is gone. And soon, sinning itself will be gone. And sorrow. And pain. And the curse. And all the works of the devil.

It is all of these other parts of His salvation that He is appearing with.

There is much that we can do to serve and glorify Christ in this life. But, there are ultimate glories that come only with Christ’s return. Are we so involved in what service the Lord give us the privilege of doing now, that we are not eagerly awaiting His appearing?
When and how do you exult in what the Lord has done? And in what He is still going to do?
Suggested Songs: ARP98 “O Sing a New Song to the Lord” or HB276 “There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood”

Friday, February 23, 2018

2018.02.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 10:1-16

Questions for Littles: Where does Jesus go (v1)? Who gathered to Him? What was He accustomed to do with them? What question do the Pharisees ask in v2? With what question does Jesus answer in v3? What is their answer (v4)? What does Jesus say was the reason that Moses permitted this (v5)? What does Jesus remind them that God did at the beginning of creation (v6)? How had God created man? Of what else does Jesus remind them in v7? How many does Jesus say become one flesh in v8? Whom does Jesus say is the One who joins a man and his wife together (v9)? Who ask Jesus about the same thing in v10? What does Jesus say a man does, if he divorces his wife and then remarries (v11, cf. Matt 5:32)? What does Jesus say a woman does, if she does the same (v12)? To whom do they then bring little children (v13)? What do they want Jesus to do with the children? What do the disciples do to those who brought the children? When Jesus sees it, what does He think (v14)? To whom does Jesus say that the kingdom belongs? And to whom are the children an example (v15)? What does Jesus then do with the children (v16)?
In the Gospel reading this week, we heard about two incidents in which the Lord Jesus affirms God’s valuing of marriage and children.

First, on the question of divorce, there are a couple interesting things about Christ’s answer.

There is a truth about the Mosaic civil code here that we could easily miss. God gave unto Israel laws that took into account the hardness of their hearts. If you look at the parallel in Matthew 5:32, you can see part of the “hardness of heart” Jesus is talking about. Divorce wouldn’t be necessary, but there are husbands and wives who commit adultery.

Even more interesting is the theological foundation of Jesus’s teaching on divorce. He doesn’t take us to Genesis 2 first. Jesus takes us to the creation in Genesis 1. He takes us to God creating male and female. The implication is that marriage is about man being in the image of God, man being a covenanting creature.

Only after establishing this first does Jesus take us to Genesis 2, where He twice repeats the math: 2 become 1. This math wasn’t explicit in the text of Genesis 2, but it was obviously implied. Now, Jesus gives His authoritative explanation and application of the passage. Marriage is one man, and one woman, covenanted for life.

But there’s more! Who forms this covenant? Not just the man and the woman. The Lord is the One who joins them together. Marriage is the “covenant of our God” (cf. Prov 2:17). No wonder God hates divorce! The Scripture that tells us that also tells us one of God’s great purposes for marriage: to produce a godly seed, covenant children (cf. Malachi 2:14-16).

Now, the Holy Spirit ties the two subjects together again in Mark 10. Look at how serious our Redeemer is about covenant children! He is greatly displeased with the disciples for hindering the little children of these believing parents from coming to Him.

Our Lord doesn’t just love our children because they are ours. He loves our children because they are His. Jesus points out, in v15, that children are often better examples of believers than adults. But this isn’t even His strongest statement about them.

In v14, Jesus says of such is the kingdom. These little children are kingdom citizens in their own right. They have a right of access to the King! In the end, Jesus doesn’t just touch the children as was requested. He takes them up into His arms, and lays His hands upon them, and blesses them. How much our Lord loves marriage and children!
How does your daily and weekly schedule reflect Jesus’s priority upon marriage and children?
Suggested songs: ARP128 “How Blessed Are All Who Fear the Lord” or HB455 “O Happy Home, Where Thou Art Loved”

Thursday, February 22, 2018

2018.02.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 11:1-32

Questions for Littles: Whom does Paul give as an example of an Israelite that God has not cast away (v1)? Which of the Israelites has God not cast away (v2)? What determines which Israelites will be saved (v5)? So, if the nation as a whole does not obtain salvation, who do obtain it (v7) What happened to the rest (end of v7)? Who has given them over to their blindness like that (v8-10)? What is one reason that the Lord has done this (v11)? What is one way that the Lord will bring these elect Israelites to salvation (v13-15)? What does Paul warn Gentile believers against doing in v18? What will happen to branches that do not continue in God’s goodness (v19-24)? How many of these elect Israelites will be saved (v25-29)? How does everyone whom God saves in mercy start out (v30-32)? 
In this week’s Epistle reading, we come to the conclusion of Paul’s explanation of what is happening to the Israelites.

And his explanation is that—with respect to the elect Israelites—what is happening is that they are being saved!

As we heard toward the end of chapter 9, God had determined not to leave Israel like Sodom and Gomorrah. God had determined to save a remnant. God had elected some, and He is determined that not a single elected one will perish.

What is necessary, however, is that this salvation would come not merely by being Israelite, but only by trusting in Jesus. That was the whole point of chapter 10. Salvation is by faith through hearing, not by works.

Now, in chapter 11, the Holy Spirit ties these two items together. If God has elected some Israelites, but for now they have not been saved, it is so that He might bring them to faith as a result of what He is currently doing in saving Gentiles.

It’s really a marvelous plan. It announces to us about God that He is gloriously merciful in His electing, saving love. And it announces to us about ourselves that the only way that we can be saved is through faith in Jesus Christ as a result of sovereign, electing love.

Do we know that about ourselves? We deserve to be given over to our own blindness as was justly done with those many Israelites who were not elect! But the Lord is gloriously merciful, and astonishingly wise in His plan for whom and how He saves!

God grant to us the rejoicing humility of those who are saved entirely and only by sovereign, merciful, electing grace.
When are you tempted to spiritual boastfulness? What has God given us to help against it?
Suggested songs: ARP51A “God, Be Merciful to Me” or HB402 “I Sought the Lord, and Afterward I Knew”

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

2018.02.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 15:2-21

Questions for Littles: What reason does Abram give God for why having a great reward doesn’t help him (v2-3)? From where does God say Abram’s heir will come (v4)? What does God give as a picture of how many descendants Abram will have (v5)? How was Abram accounted as righteous (v6)? After Abram already believes the Lord, what does the Lord declare in v7? What does Abram ask in v8? What does God tell Abram to bring Him (v9)? What does God tell him to do with the animals (v10)? What three things fall upon Abram in v12? What things does God promise Abram in vv13-16? Why will this not happen immediately? What happens when the sun goes down (v17)? What is God making with Abram in this ceremony (v18)? What does God promise to give him? Whose land is it currently (v19-20)? 
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, we are reminded once again that God wants us to be sure of what He has promised us.

At first, Abram has a problem with the promise of God as his shield and great reward. The big problem is death. It wouldn’t matter what Abram got, if Abram would just disappear, and he doesn’t even have any descendants.

Of course, the Lord makes the fantastic promises about his descendants here. But, there is also a glorious (though subtly delivered) promise in v15. God promises something beyond death.

On one hand, Abram’s body will be buried. Not burned, but buried. When it goes into the grave, he won’t be done with it yet. Abram learns this lesson well—when his wife dies, he buys his first piece of his inheritance to bury her in it.

But the promise about his soul is even better than the one about his body. His soul will not merely disappear at death. He will go to his fathers in peace. That Hebrew word doesn’t just mean the absence of conflict. It means wholeness and wellbeing.

Abram just wanted to know about descendants. But when Abram had believed in the promise of his offspring—when Abram believed in Christ (however incomplete his understanding of Christ was at the time)—the Lord promised him eternal life!

The meat of the chapter, however, isn’t the promise. It’s the covenant ceremony that the Lord performs in order to make Abram sure of that promise. The Lord appears in enough of His glory to make great terror fall upon Abram even in a deep sleep.

But then, the covenantal passing between the cut-up animals isn’t between the Lord and Abraham. Instead, the Lord makes that covenant with Himself. It was a common ceremony: the covenanting parties walk between the animals, signifying that they are committed to this bond unto the death.

Not unto Abram’s death, however. Unto the Lord’s! By the time God is done keeping this promise, He will have to have become a man in order to be able to die.

It’s a marvelous ceremony—a marvelous display of God’s commitment to delivering upon His promises.

Dear believer, the Lord doesn’t just want you to believe Him. He wants strengthen your confidence in His promises until it has grown up into a full assurance of faith.
What use are we making of the things that the Lord gave us to stir up our assurance?
Suggested songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly I Am with You” or HB303 “Be Thou My Vision”

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

2018.02.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 15:22-41

Questions for Littles: Whom did they bring to Golgotha (v22)? What did Jesus do, when they offered Him the wine that would decrease the pain (v23)? What did they do with His clothing (v24)? What did the inscription of the accusation say (v26)? Whom did they crucify with Him (v27)? What did the Scripture that this fulfilled say (v28)? What did people mock Him and tempt Him to do in v29-30? Who else mocked Him with the same temptation (v31-32)? Who else even reviled Him (end of v32)? How long was there darkness (v33)? What does Jesus cry out at that point (v34)? What do people think Jesus is doing (v35-36)? What does Jesus do in v37? What happens in the temple in v38? What does the centurion say when He sees Jesus’s dying cry and breath (v39)? Who were looking on from afar (v40)? What had they done (v41)?
This week’s Invocation and Confession of Sin came from Mark 15:22-41.

In this particular picture of the crucifixion, the Holy Spirit focuses upon Christ’s insistence upon suffering for His people. He is King, and He is going to the cross like a King.

He refuses to take the wine with myrrh that would dull the pain. His purpose for coming was to endure that pain in our place.

He refuses the temptation of those who throw His words back in His face. It is a temptation from Satan, very much like Satan’s quotes of Scripture during the temptation in the wilderness.

He refuses the temptation from the priests and scribes. Behold our King on the cross, in the midst of His greatest trial and agony, He is refusing temptation with Kingly dignity!

Even His endurance of the darkness is kingly. God literally turns the Aaronic blessing inside out against Christ: Yahweh curse You and destroy You! Yahweh hide His face from You in darkness and pour out wrath upon You. Yahweh frown upon You and give You Hell.

The Lord Jesus endures this darkness, from noon until three p.m. Three hours, He bore up under God’s wrath with Kingly resolve. And only after three, long hours does He cry out at the pain of being forsaken for our sin.

Considering what we’ve been learning from the book of Hebrews, isn’t it wonderful that the moment Jesus breathes His last, the temple curtain is torn in two from top to bottom?

Before the Centurion cries out in v39 that Jesus was the Son of God, God announced via that curtain that this One upon Whom He had frowned is actually His beloved Son with whom He is well-pleased.

So, how will we respond? The indifference of the soldiers gambling over the clothes just will not do.

Is that all that this crucified King means to us? An opportunity to get something from Him? God forbid!

Though, like the women, we are still afar off, let us look on with same following care as those who are committed to serving Him with our lives!
How often do you consider the cross? When you do, what are some of your responses?
Suggested songs: ARP22A “My God, My God” or HB199 “Alas! and Did My Saviour Bleed”

Monday, February 19, 2018

2018.02.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 9:16-22

Questions for Littles: When there is a testament, what does it require (v16)? What is a death required for (v17)? With what was the first covenant started (v18)? What does v19 say Moses spoke to the people? What did He sprinkle to show that the book of the covenant was now in effect? What did Moses say while He was sprinkling the book (v21)? What can’t we have forgiveness without?
In the sermon this week, we learned the background behind Matthew 26:28, “This is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

This is vitally important to us for the cleansing of our consciences. If we were just filthy, it would be enough for us to be washed clean. But our consciences don’t just accuse us of being unclean or unworthy. Our consciences accuse us of being guilty.

It would not be enough for us to be enabled to worship for a little while, knowing that we are about to die and be punished for our sin. We need more than just cleansing and acceptance. We need forgiveness—the remitting of our sins, the canceling of our debts against the justice of God.

There were different substances that God had given for cleansing. Water was sufficient for that at some point. But water isn’t enough for starting a covenant, and water isn’t enough for the forgiveness of sins.

We needed blood: the blood not of bulls and goats but Jesus’ blood, shed for many, for the forgiveness of sins!

Jesus’s blood has taken away our sins! But it has also done one more amazing thing: it has made absolutely sure, forever and ever, every blessing of God to us, as He has promised.

A covenant had to be established with a death. It required the display of the penalty for breaking a life-and-death bond between two people. The word “testament” in v16-17 is exactly the word “covenant”—and it’s useful to us that that we still use the word when we say “Last Will and Testament.”

The provisions of such a document do not go into effect until the death has occurred.
So also the book of the covenant of Moses. So also all the promises of God that are “yes and Amen” in Christ.

He had to die, not only so that we could receive the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus also had to die so that we could receive the blessed rewards for His obedience. And that was the greatest obedience: to drink the cup that established the covenant… the cup of the wrath of God and the death of cross.

Precious blood! Precious death! It has secured everything for us! How precious is it to you?
Where do we savor the preciousness of what Christ has done for us? Do you do that there?
Suggested Songs: ARP191 “I Love the Lord” or HB448 “’Twas on That Night”

Saturday, February 17, 2018

2018.02.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 9:11-15

Questions for Littles: Who came as High Priest of the good things to come (v11)? What kind of tabernacle does He minister in? What as not used to make it? Indeed, what is it not a part of at all? With what did He enter the Most Holy Place (v12)? How often has He entered there? What kind of redemption has He obtained? What blood used to be splattered (v13)? To what ashes did this blood witness? What did all of this cleanse? By whose blood are we cleansed (v14)? Through what (Whom!) did Christ offer Himself to God? What does His blood cleanse? From what does His blood cleanse our consciences? Of what does this make Him Mediator (v15)? By what means? For the transgressions under which covenant does v15 specifically say Christ made redemption? Who from that covenant received the promised eternal inheritance?
In this week’s sermon text, we were reminded again that Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come. The sacrifices and purification rituals of the Old Testament looked forward to Him and the “good things” that He would accomplish for us.

This explains why v14 refers to them (among other things) as “dead works.” Were they sinful in and of themselves? Of course not; God had commanded them! But they were dead on two counts.

The first is that until we are enabled to believe in Christ, and receive life through union with Him, we ourselves are dead (cf. Eph 2:1). Even now, we do nothing without sin.

The second is that the works of the former time had no value in themselves, but only as they looked forward to Christ and His works, which alone have the true value (cf. Rom 3:25)

We heard in 6:1 that a foundation of Christianity is that we must turn away from these dead works as a way of being made right with God; and, we must turn instead to God’s own righteousness, provided in Christ alone, as our only way of being made right with God.

Now, we hear about having our consciences cleansed from these dead works. The question is: how can we come near to God? The old purifications were good enough for “coming near” in the earthly tabernacle. They “sanctified for the purification of the flesh.” 

But one day, we are going to have to draw near to the glorious, heavenly presence of the Living God Himself. We must not do so holding onto anything less than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

So, that presses this question: what right do I have to hold onto Christ? How do I know that He will acknowledge me and save me? And the answer is: my baptism! I was sprinkled with the water of baptism at the command of Jesus whose blood shed on Calvary washes my conscience clean. In Christ and His blood, I can stand confidently, with a clear conscience, before the Living God!!

This was even the means of “redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant.” And it is our guarantee that He who has called us will surely give us our eternal inheritance—Himself!
What is your plan/habit for using your baptism to develop your sure confidence in Christ alone for your forgiveness and eternal inheritance?
Suggested Songs: ARP78B “O Come, My People” or HB198 “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”

Friday, February 16, 2018

2018.02.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 9:43-50

Questions for Littles: What should you do with even a hand that “caused” you to sin (v43)? Where is it better to go without a hand, rather than to go into hell? What never happens to the fire in hell? What never happens to their worm in hell (v44)? What should you do with even a foot that “caused” you to sin (v45)? Where is it better to go without a foot, rather than to go into hell? What never happens to the fire in hell? What never happens to their worm in hell (v46)? Where is it better to go with just one eye, rather than to be cast into hell fire (v47)? What never happens to their worm in hell (v48)? What never happens to the fire in hell? What must happen to everyone with fire (v49a)? What will happen to every sacrifice (v49b)? What must we have in ourselves (v50)? What must we have with one another?
In the Gospel reading this week, there’s a lot of warning about hell. Remember from last week, in talking about the value of Christ’s name, the Holy Spirit emphasized the value of little ones upon whom He has placed His name.

In this week’s passage, Jesus continues that theme, but turning us to consider its application to ourselves. What might cause us to stumble into sin, and by that sin to stumble into hell?

There is a popular PCA preacher who said recently that “being homosexual doesn’t send you to hell; failing to believe in Jesus does.” But we must be careful not to be wiser than the Lord (cf. 1Cor 6:9-11). Refusing to trust in Christ is certainly a sin, and those who do so will go to hell for that sin, but they will also be going to hell for all of their other sins as well.

Hell is nothing to trifle with. It is internal (worm) and external (fire), continual, retributive punishment from God. It is not simply “getting what we want, by being far from God.” No, God is everywhere (cf. Psalm 139), and the punishment in hell comes from the glory of his presence (2Thess 1:9). He compares that to being eaten alive from the inside out, and burned alive from the outside in—forever.

Yes, the righteousness and sacrifice of Christ are bigger than all of our sin. But consider this: one sin is as bad as an eternity of hell, for hell is the proper punishment of that sin. How much, then, should we do to avoid sin—we who have been saved by Christ and love Him?!

Now, the real question in this passage is: what are you willing to cut out of your life in order to stop sinning? Obviously, we are responsible for our own sin. “My hand made me do it” (or foot, or eye) is not a good excuse. And thank God for that, or else we would need to open up a triage unit for those who obeyed this passage! We cannot blame God, like Adam, “this woman that You gave me; she made me do it!”

But there are certainly situations that we choose to be in, and relationships that we choose to enter or continue that become occasions for stirring up all manner of sin within our hearts, into which situations also we commit wicked behavior.

So, we have two options for fire: purifying fire upon a life lived as a living sacrifice, or punitive fire in condemnation of a life lived for oneself. This dual use of the image of fire appears also in Matthew 3:11-12. We may not find it pleasant to endure suffering and discipline in this life, as the Lord fits us for heaven by making us holy.

But, of the two fires, that is the one that is far to be preferred. And those whose lives are living sacrifices should not be surprised when it comes. Did our Lord not suffer far more than we ever will? And has He not been comparing His suffering to ours these last several passages of this gospel?
What situational/relationship choices are you making, despite the knowledge that they lead to sin? What fire is the Lord putting you through to prepare you for glory?
Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or HB369 “How Firm a Foundation”

Thursday, February 15, 2018

2018.02.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 10:14-21

Questions for Littles: What do people need to do with Christ before they can call on Him (v14)? But what must happen first if they are going to believe in Him? And what can’t they hear Him without? What needs to happen for a preacher to preach (v15)? What do the beautiful-footed people of v15 preach? What do they bring? But what have not all done (v16)? By what does faith come (v17)? By what does hearing come? Who have heard (v18)? How did Moses say God would provoke Israel to jealousy (v19)? How would God move Israel to anger? By whom did Isaiah say that God would be found (v20)? To whom did he say that God would be made manifest? What had God stretched out to Israel all day long (v21a)? What does He call them in v21b?
In this week’s Epistle reading, we get another answer to why Israel hasn’t believed: because they can’t. They are a disobedient and contrary people.

The chapter 9 answer had been that not all who are descended from Israel are Israel, but only specifically those whom God has chosen. Fair enough. He’s the Potter; we are the clay.

But now we see why this election was so necessary: because if God doesn’t supernaturally give us hearing hearts by His Word, we cannot actually hear, believe, or call upon His Name to be saved. And God has to send the preacher with that hearing-giving Word in the first place.

So, there are two absolutely necessary gifts there—as evidenced by what Isaiah had prophesied about God holding His hands out all day to this people. The fact was that, unless God made them able to respond, the gospel could be continuously offered, and they would never believe.

That’s deeply sobering, and it ought to make us cry out to God for grace to change our hearts. And, for us who have believed, it also makes us cry out to Him in thankfulness.

God specifically chose to make Himself seen and found by people who were not looking for Him. He did it to show that His salvation is 100% of grace. There is no such thing as a seeker, whom God has not first supernaturally made to seek.

So, dear Christian, what did you have to do with your salvation? You were responsible for the sin of which you needed to be forgiven, and the weakness—indeed death—from which you needed to be resurrected!
How does this passage exclude spiritual pride? How will you use it to do so?
Suggested songs: ARP51A “God, Be Merciful to Me” or HB402 “I Sought the Lord, and Afterward I Knew”

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

2018.02.14 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 14:17-15:1

Questions for Littles: Who went out to meet Abram in v17? Where did he meet him? Whom had Abram just defeated? What other king came out (v18)? Of what/where was He king? What did He bring out? Of whom was He priest? What did Melchizedek do to Abram in v19? By whom did He declare Abram to be blessed? What did He call God? Of what did He say that God is the Possessor? Whom else did He bless in v20? What did He say that God had done? How does Abram respond to the blessing (end of v20)? What other king now talks to Abram in v21? What does he propose to take from Abram? What does he propose to give Abram? What does Abram call God in v22? Of what does Abram say that God is the Possessor? By whom alone is Abram willing to say that he has been blessed (v23)? What does Abram refuse to take? Whom else does Abram point out that they have a right to a portion (v24)? Finally, what King speaks to Abram in 15:1? What does He tell Abram not to do? Whom does He say will be Abram’s shield? Whom does He say will be Abram’s reward?
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, we find what is something of a familiar text because of our time in Hebrews 5-8. Melchizedek appears (with no beginning or end, and no genealogy!) as the Priest of God Most High.

He’s also the King of Salem. He’s also the prophet who teaches Abram to call God, “God Most High,” to identify God as the “Possessor of the heavens and the earth,” and to acknowledge God alone as the One who has blessed him.

Prophet, Priest, and King—it is clear that Melchizedek is a foreshadowing of Christ. But there is something more here. For, these were roles that Abram enjoyed to one extent or another on the earth, as God’s chosen covenant mediator, the one in whom all the families of the earth would be blessed.

But, as Hebrews teaches us, Melchizedek is obviously greater than Abram, being the One who blesses him and receives a tithe from him.

At any rate, Abram learns well from Melchizedek, and it is a very important lesson. For, Abram has just defeated one multi-king alliance in the world war, and he is about to offend the other multi-king alliance from that world war. And, to top it all off, he is going to decline any revenue from what was a very expensive campaign for himself.

But, he follows Melchizedek’s lead and puts his trust in the Lord. What a marvelous affirmation it is, then, when in the very next verse, “After these things, the word of Yahweh came to Abram…”

Who will protect Abram, having offended every major king in the known world? Yahweh says, “I will be your shield.” If God is for us, who can be against us?

What reward will Abram have, having given up his share of the spoil, even though he had expended such cost? Yahweh says, “I will be your exceedingly great reward.” He is the pearl of great price!
In what current situation do you need to remember that God is your shield and reward?
Suggested songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly I Am with You” or HB303 “Be Thou My Vision”

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

2018.02.13 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 124

Questions for Littles: Who had been on their side (v1)? What was Israel commanded to do about this? When had the Lord been on their side (v2)? What would have happened if the Lord hadn’t been on their side (v3-5)? Over what, specifically, would the stream and the swollen waters have gone (v4-5)? Whom are believers to bless for their survival (v6)? In what do believers sometimes find themselves (v7)? And yet, even when they find themselves in such circumstances, in what is their help (v8a)? Why is that such a great help—what powerful thing has He done (v8b)? 
This week’s Call to Worship and Invocation came from Psalm 124, verse 8 of which has been used weekly for the Call to Worship in some Reformed churches for almost 500 years.

This Psalm gives us a heads up on what to be preparing for whenever we come into a trial that is so severe that we might describe it as having had our soul caught in a snare(v7!). Sometimes, in the Christian life, it feels like our soul is trapped in a rushing stream as the water slowly rises and is about to go over our heads (v4-5!).

What’s God’s plan? Could He possibly have a plan in such a situation?! Well, His plan is for us to worship Him. “Let Israel now say” (v1) … “Blessed be Yahweh” (v6).

He is the faithful Lord who, for His own sake, even though we deserve the opposite, saves us out of every trouble, in order to put His heaven-and-earth-creating power on display.

It seems silly to us, during our sane moments before the Lord in His Word and in prayer, that we fret so much in the midst of the trial—as if something strange or surprising were happening!

But we do. And, it’s for times like those that the Lord has given us Psalms like this one.

Even if it’s wicked men who have intentionally risen up against us, their actions are not outside the sovereign control of God, our Savior.

He’s just getting us ready to go to church, and sing together, “Our help is in the name of the Lord, Who made the heavens and the earth.”
From what troubles has the Lord saved You? What trouble are you in now?
Suggested songs: ARP124 “Unless the Lord Had Been There” or HB357 “Now Israel May Say”

Monday, February 12, 2018

2018.02.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Peter 3:18-22

Questions for Littles: Who suffered for sins (v18)? How many times? Who was just, and who was unjust? Why did He suffer? What happened to Him in the flesh? By Whom was He made alive? To whom had He previously preached (v19)? In what days had He preached (v20)? What was being prepared at that time? How many were saved? Through what? What is the antitype to the salvation of the ark (v21)? How does baptism not save us? What part of us does it make good by enabling it to give an answer to God? Through whose resurrection does Baptism do this for us? Where has He gone now (v22)? At whose right hand is He? Who is subject to Him? 
In the sermon this week, we made reference to the parallel passage in 1Peter 3:18-22. There, to suffering believers who need comfort and assurance, Peter points to the resurrected High Priest, who offered Himself once for all for sins, and sat down at the right hand of God.

Just as in our Hebrews passage, Peter talks about the cleansing of the conscience before God. That is, of course, the most necessary assurance and comfort that we all need.

Sometimes, we get short-sighted and think that what I really need is assurance and comfort about my current situation. But the greatest assurance and comfort that I need is that God’s justice and wrath have been satisfied concerning my sin.

And we have this, because the resurrected Christ has both poured out His Spirit upon us and commanded that the waters of baptism also be poured out upon us.

How were Noah and his family sure that God was saving them? They had the ark. Now, it certainly would have been foolish of them to put their hope in the ark! No, the ark was just one part of the means that God was using to save them.

So now, we have the real mccoy to which the ark pointed forward: union with Jesus Christ, as He announces to us in our baptisms. It would be ridiculous for us to trust in our baptism, when that baptism is directing us to trust only in Christ, who has given that baptism to us!

How do we know that He has finished atoning for sin? He was resurrected! How do we know that He has the authority to rule and overrule all things for our good? Even in His human nature, He sits upon the throne, at God’s right hand.

Angels, authorities, and powers are worshiping subjects at the feet of a Man in heaven. How much more, then, shall we trust in and worship Him!
In what current situation do you need to respond to your baptism for comfort and assurance? How often do you contemplate your baptism?
Suggested Songs: ARP24 “The Earth and the Riches” or HB368 “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”

Saturday, February 10, 2018

2018.02.10 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 9:11-15

Questions for Littles: Who came as High Priest of the good things to come (v11)? What kind of tabernacle does He minister in? What as not used to make it? Indeed, what is it not a part of at all? With what did He enter the Most Holy Place (v12)? How often has He entered there? What kind of redemption has He obtained? What blood used to be splattered (v13)? To what ashes did this blood witness? What did all of this cleanse? By whose blood are we cleansed (v14)? Through what (Whom!) did Christ offer Himself to God? What does His blood cleanse? From what does His blood cleanse our consciences? Of what does this make Him Mediator (v15)? By what means? For the transgressions under which covenant does v15 specifically say Christ made redemption? Who from that covenant received the promised eternal inheritance?
In the Scripture for the sermon this week, the Lord said something amazing about the tabernacle and sacrificial system of the Old Testament. He called them dead works!

Why were they dead? Because they couldn’t accomplish the cleansing of sin. It required Jesus’s death as the Mediator of the new covenant, just to provide redemption for the transgressions under the first covenant.

By this definition, all of our works are dead. Nothing we do can ever atone for sin. Nothing we do can ever provide redemption. This is why when God was talking about how our being made right with Him is all about Jesus, in 6:1 He called the first part of the foundation of the faith, “repentance from dead works and faith toward God.”

That is to say: the very first foundation of our faith is giving up the idea that we can ever do anything to make up for our sin, and holding on to Jesus (as the only One) and His death (as the only thing) that could ever take away the guilt and uncleanness of our sin.

And every time the Lord adds a person to His church, He holds up a giant sign of this fact: “This is how I promise to save you!” What is that sign?

Well, it’s not the sprinkling of goat’s blood. That was an Old Covenant sign that reminded the people that the same goat’s blood was on the altar the inner room of the tent—that they were represented by blood sacrifice before God.

And, it’s not the cutting away of flesh in a bloody ceremony that reminds us that we need the deadness of our hearts removed, because the human man who fathered us deserved for us to be dead sinners.

Now, when the Lord adds someone to His church, He declares “This is how I promise to save you!” by the splattering of water, not blood. The blood has been spilled once, and the Lamb who was slain is our Mercy Seat to this day, sitting upon the throne in glory!

But the water is splattered down here on earth to remind us that He gives us an interest in His sacrifice, a participation in His sacrifice, not by a priest on earth splattering us with blood, but by our Great High Priest in heaven pouring out His Spirit upon us!

Now, nothing would make less sense than trusting in a sign that says “Trust in Christ!!” But to those who trust in Him, nothing is more comforting than a sign that shouts, “This is how I promise to save you!” Let us refuse to hope in anything else!
What are some things that we slide into treating as if they keep us right with God? How does remembering your baptism help steer you away from that?
Suggested Songs: ARP78B “O Come, My People” or HB198 “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”

Friday, February 09, 2018

2018.02.09 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 9:30-42

Questions for Littles: Through where did they pass in v30? Whom did Jesus want to know it? What three things that would happen to Him was Jesus teaching His disciples (v31)? Did they understand (v32)? Why didn’t they ask about it? Where did He come in v33? What did He ask them in the house? Why did they keep silent (v34)? Whom did Jesus call to Himself in v35? What did HE tell them in that verse? Whom did Jesus set in their midst in v36? What did He do with that child? When He had done this, what does He say in v37? What does John say they had seen in v38? What does John say that they had done? But what does Jesus say not to do (v39)? Why not—what couldn’t those who do actual miracles in Christ’s name do? What does their giving praise to Christ’s name, and God’s permitting them to do miracles in Christ’s name, show about them (v40)? What is another way that all believers show that they have a reward that they cannot lose (v41)? But what if, instead of doing good to someone because he belongs to Christ, they cause one of Christ’s little ones to stumble (v42)?
In the Gospel reading this week, the Lord Jesus is patiently teaching His disciples that following a crucified Christ is all about glorifying that Christ through self-denying service to others.

Jesus was teaching them that it was all about His death and resurrection (v31), while they were preoccupied with just how much it would be about them (v33-34).

What a picture Jesus gave them—taking up a little child in His arms. When He talks about receiving one of the little children in His name, He is holding that child. Service to other Christians is for the sake of Him who treasures them and cares for them.

And this isn’t only true for those who have few years. The same principle applied to the disciples themselves (v41). How great are they? No more than that little child. The greatness all belongs to Christ and His Name.

That’s also the point about the miracles, isn’t it? If someone really did a miracle in Jesus’s name, it was only because Jesus had granted to him to be able to do it.

Today, there are sometimes very vocal “unity” people who might come to a passage like this and say, “See? We shouldn’t exclude anybody, and we should try to make everybody feel good about themselves like Jesus did for that child.”

How ironic it would be to abuse the passage this way, in light of v31! Anyone who denies the truth about Jesus is definitely on the outside here, and in need of correction. And there is a whole lot of “not feeling good” that comes along with realizing how bad our sin is and what had to be done about it.

But we are also in danger of allowing a proper concern for precision to turn into personal hostility and even isolation. This can happen when we focus primarily upon whether someone is in error on something, or even worse, whether that person is with us. As we have learned multiple times recently, our weakness of understanding has led to a situation in which faithful believers cannot all take our vows together.

But we can surely still value one another and serve one another! Indeed we must! So, how will we steer clear of the dangers in this passage? The answer is in the main theme of the passage: by keeping our focus upon the glory of Christ, treasuring and serving whom He does!
Whom have you been treasuring and serving for the sake of Christ? Whom should you be?
Suggested songs: ARP22C “I’ll Praise You in the Gathering” or HB435 “I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord”

Thursday, February 08, 2018

2018.02.08 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 9:30—10:13

Questions for Littles: Who did not pursue righteousness (v30)? To what have they attained? What kind of righteousness? Who were pursuing a law of righteousness (v31)? To what have they not attained? Why not—how did they not seek it (v32a)? How did they seek it (v32b)? Over what did they stumble (v32c)? Who was the stone they stumbled over (v33)? What would they have to do with Him in order not to be put to shame? What was Paul’s heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel (10:1)? What did they have for God (v2)? But what was this zeal not according to? Of what were they ignorant (v3a)? So what did they seek to establish? To what, then, were they not submitting? Who is the end of the law for righteousness (v4a)? For whom (v4b)? What does Moses write about righteousness from the law (v5)? What does the righteousness of faith tell us not to say in v6? What would that be to do? What does it tell us not to say in v7? What would that be to do? What does it say in v8? How does this word of faith come to be near us (v8b)? What do we do with this Word (v9)? What do we do with the heart (10a)? What do we do with the mouth (10b)? Who will not be put to shame (v11)? Between whom is there no distinction on this truth (v12)? Who will be saved (v13)?
In this week’s Epistle reading, we have a diagnosis of how it came to be that so few Jews were being saved—which turns out to be an important warning about how it could come to be that some among us would not be saved.

Long-story short: the Jews wanted to help their own right standing before God. They were running hard after that law of righteousness. But that was a problem, because what they needed to do was stop and stand entirely upon the Rock of salvation that God was providing—Jesus Christ and His righteousness.

What happens, though, if you’re running hard and there’s an unexpected rock in the middle of the path? You trip hard and fall on your face. So what do these Jews do? They get up and just keep on running!

Now, we should run hard after the law to honor God, to please God, to express our love for God. But we must never ever think that we may do so to be right with God. Just what would we think we could ever add to what Jesus has done?

Did He need our help to become incarnated as a Man? Did we ascend into heaven to bring Christ down? Did He need our help to be resurrected from the grave? Did we descend into the depths do bring Christ up from the dead?

You and I can no more make ourselves right with God than we can help Jesus with His incarnation or resurrection. What are we to do then? Believe in our hearts the truth about Christ that we hear preached—a belief that expresses it in worship and witness, confessing with our mouth those very truths:
Incarnation: Jesus Christ is not just a man, but the Lord God Himself who has become man. 
Resurrection: God raised Him from the dead. He truly died a sacrificial death and was raised on account of our justification.
We don’t help Jesus make us righteous. We believe and confess that Jesus alone—in opposition to any idea of anything adding to Him—makes us righteous. Let us never try toad a single thing to this, or else we will be put to shame. Not the shame of embarrassment before men, but the shame of horror at the judgment when we would be condemned!

But whoever believes on Jesus Christ, the resurrected Lord, will not be put to shame but saved!
What are you tempted to think helps you stay right with God? Why mustn’t you add to Christ?
Suggested songs: ARP51A “God, Be Merciful to Me” or HB271 “Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me”

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

2018.02.07 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 14:1-16

Questions for Littles: In the days of which kings does this take place (v1)? Upon which kings did they make war (v2)? What had those kings joined together to do after 12 years (v3-4)? Which other kings had Chedorlaomer’s alliance attacked (v5-6)? Whom else had they attacked (v7)? Then who came out against them (v8)? Whom did Chedorlaomer have with him (v9)? Who won the war (v10)? What did they take (v11)? What special plunder of war does v12 mention? Whom did an escapee tell about all this (v13)? How many trained servants did Abram have (v14)? What did he do to them? Where did he take them? What did he do with his forces (V15a)? At what time of day? Who won that war? What did he bring back (v16)? 
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, we read quite an amazing military tale.
Chedorlaomer and company had been cleaning up on the battlefield. He won one world war. Then, he plundered a bunch of countries. Then he won another world war.

In this last one, however, he carried away one piece of plunder that was just a little too costly for him.


Abram still had a sense of obligation to Lot, and as soon as he hears that Lot has been taken, he does something about it. He has 318 armed men. That’s good enough for two troops of 160 each.

They immediately start marching north, and after at least two days’ solid marching, they split up at night and attack the seasoned veterans of the Chedorlaomer alliance.

So, there is the sense of duty on Abram’s part. And, just as Melchizedek will lead Abram in understanding and praying, there is the fact that God gives Abram the victory.

But neither of these things eliminate the usefulness of preparedness, planning, wisdom, daring, courage. Abram had arms for his men. He had trained them. He uses strategy. And his household servants win a world war!

The Lord has appointed means. Trusting in Him, therefore, does not mean ignoring them, but using them!
What big task do you have in front of you? What means has God appointed for it?
Suggested songs: ARP128 “How Blessed Are All Who Fear the Lord” or HB353 “Am I a Soldier of the Cross”

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

2018.02.06 Hopewell @Home ▫ Exodus 33:12—34:9

Questions for Littles: What had the Lord told Moses to do (33:12)? But what hadn’t the Lord let Moses know? What did Moses ask the Lord to show him in v13? Whom did the Lord promise would go with them in v14? In v15, what did Moses ask God not to do, if God was not going to go with them? What did Moses say (in v16) that it would show if God’s Presence did go with them? What would God’s presence do between the Israelites and every other people on the face of the earth (v16)? What does the Lord say He will do in v17? Then what new request does Moses make (v18)? What does God promise to pass before Moses (v19)? What does He promise to proclaim? What does He refuse to show Moses (v20)? How does the Lord plan to protect Moses in v21-23? What does the Lord tell Moses to do before this happens (34:1)? Where is Moses to bring the tablets (v2)? Who else is to come (v3)? When Moses goes up the mountain, what does the Lord do (v5)? What does the Lord proclaim (v5)? How, specifically, does the Lord proclaim His Name (v6-7)? What are the first seven things that the Lord says about Himself? What does He say after that (the part about not clearing the guilty, etc.)? How does Moses respond in v8? What request does he now repeat in v9? What addition request (about their iniquity and sin) does he now add? 
This week’s Call to Worship, Invocation, and Confession of sin came from Exodus 33:12—34:9. In chapter 32, the Lord had threatened to destroy Israel for the idolatry of the golden calf, but Moses had interceded for them, and rather than destroying them, the Lord plagued them.

But the most difficult consequence came at the beginning of chapter 33, when God said that He would give them everything else that He had promised—except Himself.

To their credit, this caused the people to grieve and mourn. Though they had just recently wondered if God existed or if they would ever see Moses again, the Lord’s fury and plaguing them had reminded them of His greatness and glory.

Suddenly, the promised land seemed small and empty if it did not also have with it the presence of God. As Moses met with God in chapter 33 far outside the camp, the people longed after the presence of the Lord.

We give the Israelites a difficult time, and rightly so, when we consider their conduct in the Exodus, and truly throughout their entire history. However, I wonder if we have considered that they sometimes surprise us by acting in a way that puts us to shame.

This was one of those times. Moses brings the people’s request to God—pleading that the Lord would go with them. The Lord Himself, after all, is His own greatest gift. When the Lord grants the request, Moses asks one better and bigger one: that the Lord would show to Moses His glory.

Even just of the back of the passing demonstration of glory, and covered by God for his own protection, Moses sees a spectacular display. But the primary display was to the ears, not the eyes.

The Lord proclaimed His own name, with a seven-fold description of stunning grace and mercy—without sacrificing His justice even a particle.

Right at the heart of that description is God’s steadfast love and faithfulness (“goodness and truth” in NKJV, v6. Some fourteen hundred years later, John would declare that though no one had seen God at any time, Jesus Christ had fully revealed Him.

Indeed, as John says, “the Word became flesh… and we beheld His glory… full of goodness and truth.”

In Jesus, the same continues to be displayed to us—to our ears rather than our eyes, just as with Moses. By the plain speaking of the truth (2Cor 4:2), the light of the knowledge of the glory of God shines into our hearts in the face of Jesus Christ (2Cor 4:6). Whatever else we may desire from Him, let us never forget that He Himself is His own greatest gift!
What does it look like in our lives, if we truly believe that God is His own greatest gift?
Suggested songs: ARP16A “Keep Me, O God” or HB414 “Jesus, Priceless Treasure”

Monday, February 05, 2018

2018.02.05 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 9:1-10

Questions for Littles: What did even the first covenant have (v1)? What was prepared (v2)? What was in the first part? What was it called? What was the part behind the second veil called (v3)? What was in that part (v4)? With what metal were those things covered? What was in the ark? What was above the ark (v5)? Into which part did the priests always go (v6)? Who went into the second part (v7)? How often did he go? What did he bring with him? For whom did he offer this blood? Who was teaching all of this (v8)? Which way was still not revealed while the first tent was still standing? Who could not be cleansed (“perfected”) by these gifts and sacrifices (v9)? What part of him, in particular, could not be cleansed? For what purposes could he be cleansed (v10)? Until what time?
In the Scripture for the sermon this week, we heard much about the first tabernacle. It existed in two parts, both of which were holy, and sacrifices were required to cleanse a priest in order to go into either part.

The first part was set up kind of like a receiving room, with the lamp stand, the table, and the show bread. Here, properly consecrated priests could come and go as necessary to keep this outer room properly maintained.

But the whole point was to keep a way open to the Holy of Holies. That outer room had to be maintained properly all year long in anticipation of the one day each year the High Priest would pass through it to apply the blood of the atonement to the mercy seat—the lid of the ark—in the Holy of Holies.

But there were several shortcomings here. First, there was the need for the atoning blood and the incense to make a cloud of sweet smoke that would fill the inner room and hide the High Priest from Him who sat enthroned upon the cherubim.

And even the atoning blood could not cleanse the conscience. It was appointed by God to permit the priest to perform all of the rituals described in the Law, but could it make a man right with God? God required perfect obedience, and how could a baby sheep take the penalty of a sinful man who deserves to be punished in his eternal soul?

By commanding this design, the Holy Spirit was saying that as long as the first tabernacle stood, the way to the true Holy of Holies was closed. God could still be worshiped, and Christ could still be hoped in. But it was absolutely clear that only Christ Himself truly opens the way to being right with God and at peace with Him.

Dear Christian, though our worship is simpler and with less visible glory, we too will be greatly mistaken if we think that it is our actions that bring us to God. Our actions have value only as given by Christ, who alone brings us to God in Himself.
Why do we do what we do in worship? How are we made acceptable to God?
Suggested Songs: ARP24 “The Earth and the Riches” or HB368 “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”

Saturday, February 03, 2018

2018.02.03 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 8:7-13

Questions for Littles: What does the need for a second covenant show wasn’t true about the first one (v7)? With whom does v8 say He found fault? What had the Lord taken Israel by the hand to do (v9)? But in what did they not continue (v9b)? In the new covenant, what does God put in His people’s mind (v10)? And what does He write upon their hearts? What does He promise that He will be to them? What does He promise that they will be to Him? What won’t they have to tell each other to do (v11)? Which of His covenant people will know Him (v11)? Toward what will the Lord be merciful (v12a)? What will He remember no more (v12b)? What has God made obsolete (v13a)? What was about to happen to it when the book of Hebrews was written (v13b)?
In the Scripture for the sermon this week, we heard about the faultiness of the Old Covenant administration of the covenant of grace. We know, of course that it was a covenant of grace, because the redemption of the people was front-loaded. God “led them by the hand out of Egypt.”

But, as we read our Old Testaments, we find ourselves in complete agreement with v9: they did not continue in God’s covenant. Precious few seemed to love the Lord. Precious few obeyed Him. Precious few came to know Him. Precious few acknowledged Him.

Now, the book of Hebrews begins to open up for us some of the reason for that: so that when God gave His own Son to be the Mediator of the New Covenant administration, God would glorify His Son by establishing that New Covenant with far better promises. What were they? Our passage gives us three:

  1. The pouring out of God’s Spirit for His transforming work in mind and heart (v10, cf. 2Cor 3). Jesus pours out His Spirit as promised (Acts 2:17-35).
  2. The establishing of personal, direct fellowship with God, in which He communicates Himself to us, and we willingly acknowledge Him with mouth and life! (v11)
  3. The mercy toward our iniquities (v12, Christ, our mercy seat, cf. Rom 3:25). This is the climax of the passage—we don’t just have cow blood on the lid of a box in a tent… we have the very blood of God the Son on the throne of glory!!

Why would we ever want to go back? Christ Himself is the glory of the church!
What are we celebrating when we gather to God as His New Covenant people? How does love to Christ factor into desiring to see Him glorified?
Suggested Songs: ARP45A “My Heart Is Greatly Stirred” or HB132 “All Hail the Power of Jesus’s Name”

Friday, February 02, 2018

2018.02.02 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 9:14-29

Questions for Littles: What did Jesus see, when He came to His disciples (v14)? How did the people respond when they saw Jesus (v15)? What did Jesus ask the scribes (v16)? Who answers, and how (v17-18)? What does Jesus call that entire generation in response (v19)? What did the spirit do when they brought the boy to Jesus (v20)? What did Jesus ask (v21a)? What did the father answer (v21b-22)? What did he not seem sure that Jesus could do? What does Jesus tell the father in v23? How does the father respond in v24? Whom did Jesus rebuke in v25? What happened in v26? How do the people respond? But how does Jesus respond in v27? What do the disciples ask in v28? And what does Jesus say in v29? 
In the Gospel reading this week, we run into a problem that is not so rare, even today. There are people failing to believe in Jesus because His followers don’t seem to have special powers of their own.

While it is true that Jesus would later give them particular “signs of an apostle” by His Holy Spirit, apparently the people thought that the disciples’ inability to cast out the demon meant that Jesus was somehow gone. Notice that they are “greatly amazed” to see Him in v15. And notice in v18 that the man had come with full expectation that the disciples could help. Even the disciples thought they should have been able to do it (v28).

Sometimes, we are tempted to think this way too. We look around the church, and maybe we see a bunch of unimpressive people. Sometimes, in fact, they leave exactly the wrong impression upon us. There are people still today who see that and say, “well, Jesus must not really exist; or, at least, He must not be a Savior worth having.”

But by this time in Mark’s gospel, we’re noticing a theme. Jesus saves by going to the cross. Jesus tells us that we have to take up our own cross. Even when He says, “all things are possible to Him who believes” in v23, He makes it plain that this all-things-possible is not some kind of power that He gives us, but something that goes along with a life that is trusting Him.

“This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” Depending upon Jesus and denying ourselves. That’s the Christian life! Notice that Jesus didn’t pray and fast; He just commanded.
In the end, there were two people in that family who were deaf and mute. The father needed Jesus’s help as much as the son did. He needed Jesus’s help to open his ears with the understanding of faith, and to open his mouth with expressions of faith.

We need that too, if we’re going to live a life of depending upon Jesus and denying ourselves. Let us learn to cry out to Him, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!”
In what situation in your life, do you need Jesus to give you the faith to trust that the Lord is doing and will do something wonderful for your good and His glory?
Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or HB379 “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”

Thursday, February 01, 2018

2018.02.01 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 9:14-29

Questions for Littles: What had Paul heard some people say about God if election and predestination are true (v14)? But what two things does v15 highlight the Lord as being determined to have? What does salvation depend upon (v16)? But how does He glorify Himself in Pharaoh (v17-18)? How does Scripture respond to a sinner who complains about being hardened in his sin (v19-21)? What does v22 say God wanted to show and make known? What does v23 say that God wanted to make known? What kinds of people does He save, despite their not deserving it (v24)? Where had He taught this truth before (v25-26)? How many of the Israelite people had Isaiah said would be saved (v27-29)?
In this week’s Epistle reading, we come to one of the hardest passages of Scripture. It’s actually not that hard to understand—mostly just hard to accept.

We deserve Hell. Not one of us deserves to be saved. In fact, apart from God’s mercy and compassion (v15), there is not one of us who even wishes to be saved, let alone is able to put forth effort to be saved (v16).

One thing that is important to see here is that it is part of the glory of our holy God that He has wrath against wickedness. His wrath is part of His perfection!

But notice how He prioritizes the displays of His perfection. He wills to show His wrath and make known His power (v22), so that He may also show His mercy (v23).

This is the same priority demonstrated in Exodus 34:5-7. Of all His perfections, the Lord seems to like to display His mercy the best!

The same is true for both Jews and Gentiles. No one is saved because of who they are. All who receive salvation do so because of who God is. He gives to us opposite what we deserve!

In fact, the Lord makes this abundantly clear because the people who had the greatest advantages (Israel) are saved in such a manner that it is just a little remainder of them (v27-28), or else they would have been wiped out like Sodom and Gomorrah (v29).
What have you learned today about predestination and election? 
Suggested songs: ARP51A “God, Be Merciful to Me” or HB282 “God, Be Merciful to Me”