Saturday, August 31, 2019

2019.08.31 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 17:15-27

Questions for Littles: Who gets a name change in Genesis 17:15? What does God promise to give to Abraham by her in Genesis 17:16? Of what does He promise to make her a mother? What is Abraham’s physical response in Genesis 17:17? What is his verbal response? What does Romans 4:19-21 tell us about his heart while he is doing this? What further request does Abraham make in Genesis 17:18? Whom does God insist upon making the son of promise, through whom the covenant will continue (Genesis 17:19)? What is Abraham to call the son of promise? How long will this covenant continue? Still, how does God respond in Genesis 17:20 to the request in verse 18? When will Sarah bear Isaac (Genesis 17:21)? What happens in Genesis 17:22? How does Abraham respond in Genesis 17:23? On what day? How old was Abraham (Genesis 17:24)? How old was Ishmael (Genesis 17:25)? What does Genesis 17:26 re-emphasize? Who else were circumcised on that day (Genesis 17:27)?
Sarai is the only woman in the Bible to get a name change. Her name is changed from “my princess” to “princess.” No longer will she belong to Abraham alone, but she becomes mother of all the faithful.

How amazing a promise is this? Abraham laughs at it—even though he believes it! We might think (because of what happens with Sarah in the next chapter) that this is an unbelieving response from Abraham, but Romans 4:19-21 gives us the date for this conversation, and tells us that he did not doubt but grew strong in faith. This is not the laughter of unbelief. It is the laughter of one who is overwhelmed at the greatness of what the Lord has just promised to him!

We see not only great laughter but great love. Abraham loves his 13 year old son. He is concerned about what this new son might mean for Ishmael. It seems, from the Lord’s response, that Abraham even wants Ishmael to be the one through whom the covenant will come. This is a wonderful fruit of Abraham’s faith in Jesus—that he would have such affection for a son whom we know (by God’s prophecy) to be such a pain.

And it’s not only Abraham who has covenant love for his son. The Lord does, too. There are reasons to believe that Ishmael was converted. Abraham asked for the Genesis 17:1 status for his teenager—that he would “walk before God.” And God says in Genesis 17:20 that he “has heard” Abraham. In addition to being saved, Ishmael would also be given a certain amount of earthly greatness. Even though he was not to be the one through whom the covenant advanced, the Lord responds to a believing father’s prayers that his son would “walk before Him.”

Ultimately, he is heard for the sake of Isaac’s descendant, our Lord Jesus Christ!
How often are you amazed to the point of laughter for what God has done for you?
Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH234 “The God of Abraham Praise”

Friday, August 30, 2019

2019.08.30 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 17:1-5

Questions for Littles: To whom does Jesus now speak, after what He told the disciples in John 16:15-33 (John 17:1)? What does He say has come? Whom does He ask the Father to glorify? For whose glory is the Son’s glory? What has the Father given to the Son (John 17:2)? What does the Son give? To whom? What is this eternal life that the Son gives (John 17:3)? What does verse 3 call God? What does it call Jesus Christ? What has Jesus done unto the Father (John 17:4)? What has He finished? What request does He repeat in John 17:5? What does He specifically mention about the glory here? 
The doctrine of the Trinity is not some extra theology that gets added to Christianity later on. It is at the absolute heart of it.

We like to focus upon ourselves, so we tend to focus upon getting eternal life. Sometimes, people even get upset at the idea that the Lord only intends to give eternal life “to as many as [the Father] has given [the Son].” But there it is in black and white in John 17:2.

Even in His human nature, the Son has authority over all flesh. Where did He get this authority? The Father. For what purpose did the Father give Him this authority? So that He could give eternal life. To whom? Not to all flesh. But only to those whom the Father had given Him.

But what was the purpose of this giving of authority and people? And what is the purpose of giving them eternal life? You have to back up to John 17:1: that the Son might glorify the Father. This has been the entire purpose of Jesus’s mission of preaching and showing that He is the Redeemer-King who has come into the world (John 17:4). And as He goes to the cross, Jesus says that He has finished this work.

But, if no one gets saved. If no one gets sanctified. If no one makes it to heaven. Then the purpose will remain unfulfilled. So Jesus prays, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son.” It is all for the glory of Christ. And it is all by the glory of Christ.

As we see (John 17:5) that Jesus who died for us is the Son who is the glorious God from all eternity, He completes the work in us of applying to us true eternal life: to know the one true God, and to know Jesus Christ—who is the one true God, but who has been sent by the Father for our salvation.
What part does seeking to know the glory of Christ have in your private/family/corporate worship?
Suggested songs: ARP110B “The Lord Has Spoken” or TPH212 “Come, Thou Almighty King”

Thursday, August 29, 2019

2019.08.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ Galatians 2:11-14

Questions for Littles: Who came to Antioch in Galatians 2:11? What did Paul do to him? Why? What had Peter been doing before certain men came (Galatians 2:12)? What did he do when they came? Why the change? Who else was doing this (Galatians 2:13)? Even whom? Who saw this (Galatians 2:14)? What did he recognize was at stake? What did he do? What did he say? 
Holy boldness in confronting error and humility in receiving confrontation are two great rarities in the church today, but we see them in this brief passage.

One of the things that we need to remember is that in every deviation of practice, there is a theological truth at stake. Often, there is some direct connection to the “truth of the gospel” (Galatians 2:14).

In this case, it was that truth that it is not circumcision or uncircumcision that saves, but Christ Himself—in fact, that circumcision was not even a matter of fundamental morality but of ceremonial holiness, being set apart to God as those who looked to Christ. When Christ came, and replaced that sign with baptism, its spiritual usefulness had ended altogether.

What a horror for Paul, then, when those who had one baptism in common were being divided according to circumcision—as if to declare that what Christ had joined together, circumcision could separate!

But Peter was horrified by something else. He wasn’t recognizing the gospel truth that was at stake. He was giving too much weight to what people might think of him. And so when those whom he feared came up from Jerusalem, he broke off table fellowship with the Gentiles.

Paul withstood Peter to his face. That’s no small thing. But this was not some blustery display just for the sake of sticking it to the man. It was not some anti-authority or anti-celebrity stand. It was a stand for truth. The truth of the gospel.

And Peter received the correction well. Later, he would write affectionately about Paul. Paul himself has happily defended his ministry with confidence that Peter would back up that defense. Why would Peter do so? (1) The truth of the gospel was at stake. (2) The work of the Spirit in his heart.

Often, there is significant truth at stake in differences in the church. May the Lord give boldness to them whose duty it is to show and address this. And may the Lord give humility to them who need to be addressed.
Pray that the Lord would give boldness and humility as needed for current differences in the church!
Suggested songs: ARP119W “Lord, Let My Cry Before You Come” or TPH539 “Am I a Soldier…?”

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

2019.08.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ Judges 12:8-15

Questions for Littles: Who judged Israel in Judges 12:8? From where did he come? How many sons did he have (Judges 12:9)? How many daughters? How many of his children married? How does this compare to Jephthah? For how long did he judge Israel? But what happened to him eventually (Judges 12:10)? What did they do with the body? Where did they bury him? Who judged Israel in Judges 12:11? From what tribe was he? For how long did he judge Israel? But what happened to him in the end (Judges 12:12)? And what did they do with the body? Where was it buried? Who judged Israel in Judges 12:13? From where was he? How many sons and grandsons did he have (Judges 12:14)? Upon what did they ride? Where have we heard about donkey-riding like this before (cf. Judges 5:10, Judges 10:4)? For how long did he judge Israel? But what happened to him (Judges 12:15)? And what did they do with the body? Where was he buried? Whose mountains does it say these were?
Jair had thirty sons (Judges 10:3-5). Ibzah had sixty, all who married. Abdon had seventy descendants. This is all we are really told about them. They get a couple verses each. Jephthah has one daughter whose marriage he vows away—unlike Samuel who is a male and would be the head of his wife and children (which doesn’t go so well, since his children are wicked), when Jephtah’s daughter is devoted unto the service of Yahweh, she cannot take a second head.

The elimination of Jephthah’s line highlights the strangeness of the Lord’s ways. We might want to jump to the conclusion that these other men did well, or that Israel was at peace, but the text gives us no comment on that. In fact, whereas with other judges, the Scripture specifically told us that the land had enjoyed rest, with these men it does not. The only hint that we have either way is that in “the land of Ephraim” there are still “mountains of the Amalekites.” Let us be careful drawing conclusions from the Lord’s differing providence to us and others. It may not mean anything more than that the Lord is free to do as He pleases, and that His wisdom is often unintelligible to our finite minds.

What do we know? Their lines multiplied. That’s all the text tells us. Oh, and that they died. And that they were buried. Their leadership couldn’t continue, because they couldn’t defeat death. Their hope and ours would have to be in someone who could in fact defeat death. And that’s what the burial was about (what it is ordinarily about, in Scripture): the hope of resurrection. Ultimately, the goal of this text—and all of God’s providence in our lives—is to make us ache for Jesus!
What unusual providence in your life have you wondered about? In Whom is your hope?
Suggested Songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH256 “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

2019.08.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ Isaiah 6:1-7

Questions for Littles: In what year did Isaiah see this (Isaiah 6:1)? Whom did he see? Where? What filled the temple? Who stood above the throne (Isaiah 6:2)? How many wings did each have? What did each do with those wings? What did they cry to one another (Isaiah 6:3)? By what were the door posts shaken (Isaiah 6:4)? With what was the temple filled? What did Isaiah say about himself (Isaiah 6:5)? What were his lips like? What had his eyes done? What did one of the seraphim do in Isaiah 6:6? What did he have to use to take the coal from the altar? To what did he touch it (Isaiah 6:7)? What did he say had been done when the coal touched Isaiah’s lips? 
This week’s Call to Worship, Invocation, Confession of Sin, Song of Adoration, and Announcement of the Gospel came from Isaiah 6:1-7. This is a familiar passage about the great glory of God. Uzziah had been king for more than fifty years, but he was not the great king. The Lord is not only high, but higher than high: high and lifted up. So great is His glory, that the temple is not even standing-room-only. It is no-room-for-anyone-to-stand. You mayn’t step upon the King’s robe, and the train of His robe fills the temple!

The attendants of this King are “burning ones” (what “seraphim” literally means)—these are literally creatures of flame. Still, they are dwarfed and awed by the Holy-Holy-Holy One. They mayn’t stand, so they hover. They mayn’t look, so they cover their faces. Their feet are unworthy to be seen.

They cry to one another with such force that this heavenly temple of this glorious vision is shaken by their voices. This is no earthly shack, but still the praise of God makes it tremble as in an earthquake. Such is the crying out about the holiness of God that it causes a heaven-quake!!

It’s no wonder, then that Isaiah was concerned about how he had used his lips up to this point. As he hears the flame creatures, he realizes the one great purpose for which lips exist, and he realizes further that his own use of his lips has fallen so far short of this purpose that his very existence is self-destructive. “Man’s chief end is to glorify God… but all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God… so, woe is me, for I am undone!”

It is a conclusion that we must all reach now, from God’s Word, by God’s Spirit, lest we arrive at the throne ourselves on that Great Day, and hear that judgment pronounced by Him who sits upon it! Of course, the glory of the holiness that is on display is matched by an equally glorious display of mercy. A hovering seraph, who has been waiting for the King to will him into motion, flies into action. He takes a coal so hot that a flame-being must use tongs to handle it, and touches it to Isaiah’s lips.

That might sound like a recipe for lip-annihilation, but that is not the result. Rather, it is lip-atonement. The reason is truly astonishing: He who sits upon the throne was the sacrifice upon whom the fire of the wrath of the altar of God had been spent.

There is a very important passage in John 12:40, which quotes Isaiah 6:10, and then says about Jesus in John 12:41, “These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him.” Who is the Him? Yahweh of hosts (Isaiah 6:3). Here’s yet another declaration by Scripture that Jesus is Jehovah, the Christ is Yahweh Himself!

And He is Yahweh upon whom was poured all of God’s hatred and holy wrath against sin, for everyone who believes in Him. Oh, dear reader, I certainly hope that is you. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved!
Have you believed upon the Lord Jesus Christ as the true and Living God who gave Himself for you? 
Suggested songs: ARP51A “God, Be Merciful to Me” or TPH341 “Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed”

Monday, August 26, 2019

2019.08.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 17:9-14

Questions for Littles: Who speaks to whom in Genesis 17:9? What does God tell Abraham to keep? Whom else does God say must keep His covenant? What obligation does God call “My covenant” in Genesis 17:10? Who must be circumcised? Who else gets included in the command in Genesis 17:12? When must a child be circumcised (Genesis 17:12)? What two groups are specified in verse 12, then reaffirmed in Genesis 17:13, as being required to have the sign applied to them? How long does the covenant with Abraham last? What if someone does not receive the sign—what shall happen to him (Genesis 17:14)? Why?
It might slip our notice, as we look at the rest of this passage, that Abraham spends the entire passage on his face. We would do well to come with the same posture of heart toward God, as He says MY covenant, MY covenant, MY covenant.

God is the One who initiates this covenant. Abraham does not have a choice in the matter. He did not make a decision or a commitment to bring himself into this binding relationship. Of course, he must decide and commit, but these were not optional for him.

God is the One who makes all of the promises. Promise to forgive. Promise to make holy. Promise to defeat death. Promise to give land. Promise of everlasting relationship. Yes, there are demands of Abraham, explicit and implicit. Faith. Obedience. Service. Worship. Even the application of the sign itself—which implies his obligation to yield to all of these things. But this is God’s covenant, and it has at its core God’s promises.

God is the One who will sustain both sides of the covenant. We saw this with the smoking pot and flaming torch in chapter 15. We heard it earlier in this chapter with the glorious statement that God Almighty would exercise that power in sustaining Abraham’s walk. In between, in chapter 16, all we had was Abraham’s failure.

Ultimately, this is a picture of Christ Himself. It is in Christ that God keeps all of these promises in your life and mine! The sign has changed but the substance is the same.
When were you baptized? How often do you reflect upon it and look to Christ?
Suggested Songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH265 “In Christ Alone”

Saturday, August 24, 2019

2019.08.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 17:9-14

Questions for Littles: Who speaks to whom in Genesis 17:9? What does God tell Abraham to keep? Whom else does God say must keep His covenant? What obligation does God call “My covenant” in Genesis 17:10? Who must be circumcised? Who else gets included in the command in Genesis 17:11? When must a child be circumcised (Genesis 17:12)? What two groups are specified in verse 12, then reaffirmed in Genesis 17:13, as being required to have the sign applied to them? How long does the covenant with Abraham last? What if someone does not receive the sign—what shall happen to him (Genesis 17:14)? Why? 
God has already covenanted Himself to be and do many wonderful things for Abraham. So, when God says “this is My covenant” and gives Abraham a responsibility, we must not think that the emphasis is upon what Abraham does.

In fact, Genesis 17:11 further explains Genesis 17:10 by saying, “it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.” Of course the sign is an obligation—so important that God threatens to cut off whomever rejects it (cf. Genesis 17:14)! But it is an obligation to be reminded that this covenant is from the grace of God and depends upon the grace of God.

First there is the sign itself—coming as it does only upon males, and specifically in their flesh in a way that reminds them of how their children also come from their flesh. A man’s children are already federally guilty and genuinely fallen in him. They already have a father on earth. They need a Father in Heaven through Christ! They need a new representative to deal with the guilt of sin and a new nature to deal with the power of sin. Then, notice that God keeps saying MY covenant, MY covenant, MY covenant. The sign demonstrates this in at least three ways.

First, there is the substance represented by the sign. The sign is of a promise that belongs to Him. The sign is of a power that comes from Him. Second, there is the type of action assigned in the sign. The sign itself is presented as passive—something that is done to the males in Genesis 17:10-14… not something that they themselves do. It is an obligation, but it is one that is ultimately kept on their behalf by those already in the covenant. Third, there is the ordinary timing of the sign. Yes, there are some who come into the covenant less naturally—purchased with money, joining the household of God from the outside. But for those whom the Lord brings into the covenant from the start, the sign is applied to them before they could do or decide anything for themselves.

The sign is GOD’s sign. But the fact that it points us away from ourselves and unto Him is exactly why it’s also so vital. To reject the sign would be to reject the thing signified—essentially to miss that God is declaring to us that salvation depends upon (and is most certainly secured by) the Lord!
What aspects of circumcision are the same in baptism, as this covenant continues? 
Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH234 “The God of Abraham Praise”

Friday, August 23, 2019

2019.08.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 16:16-33

Questions for Littles: What will happen after a little while (John 16:16)? What will happen after another little while? Why? Who have a hard time understanding this (John 16:17-19)? What will they be doing when they don’t see Him (John 16:20)? What will the world be doing? But what will happen to their sorrow? What illustration does Jesus give, in John 16:21, of sorrow being turned into joy? When will the disciples’ hearts rejoice (John 16:22)? For how long? Whom does He say they will ask to have their joy full (John 16:23-24)? What will happen when they ask? How has Jesus spoken to them just now about the cross and resurrection (John 16:25, cf. John 16:21)? When He speaks to them more plainly, about Whom will He speak? What will they do in that day (John 16:25-26)? Who loves them directly (John 16:27)? How can they know that? From where did Jesus come (John 16:28)? Where is Jesus going? What do the disciples say in John 16:29? What have they concluded (John 16:30)? What is the implied answer to Jesus’s question in John 16:31? What does He say that they will do (John 16:32)? Who will still be with Him? In Whom does Jesus want them to have peace (John 16:33)? What will He have done to give them this peace?
The greatest trouble and sorrow a disciple of Jesus could have would be to be cut off from Christ. And indeed this is the sorrow of that “little while” during which the disciples would not see Christ. But Christ tells them in advance that He has overcome, and that it would only be a little while, and that they would see Him, and that they would have everlasting joy.

This is a seeing more of faith than of the eyes, because the implication of John 16:22 is that they will keep seeing Him, even when He has returned to the Father. This note of the joy of seeing Jesus by faith helps us understand what John 16:24 is talking about them asking and receiving. They joy that will be full at the end of verse 24 is the same joy described in verse 22. It is ever the prayer of a Christian to have increased faith to see Jesus more clearly and rejoice in Jesus more fully. “We believe—help our unbelief!”

And as we ask, we will know how much the Father loves us (John 16:27). Only the Father’s love could produce our loving Jesus. Only the Father’s love could produce faith that the Man Jesus is God the Son from all eternity. Wonderfully, the disciples (who are not getting that Jesus is talking about His crucifixion and resurrection) immediately show this proof of the Father having loved them: they confess that Jesus is God.

Certainly, it is proof not of their wisdom or goodness, but of the Father’s love. For, they still do not understand or believe all that Jesus is talking about (John 16:31). And when the time for crucifixion comes, they will indeed abandon Him (John 16:32). This is why it must be in Jesus alone that we have peace (John 16:33)—He is the One who must overcome. And so it always is with our lives: in the world we have trouble, and in ourselves we have trouble, but in Jesus we have peace, because He has overcome.

At what cost? At the cost of losing the one constant and remaining comfort to which He refers in John 16:32: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Answer: for our peace!
When do you pray to know Jesus better? How do you look to Him for peace?
Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge” or TPH476 “It Is Well with My Soul”

Thursday, August 22, 2019

2019.08.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Galatians 2:1-10

Questions for Littles: How long was it between Galatians 1:24 and  Galatians 2:1? Where did Paul go? With whom? Whom did they take? What had caused them to go up (Galatians 2:2)? What did Paul communicate to them? In what setting? What was he proving not to have been the case? What did those of reputation (cf. Galatians 2:9) not do to Titus (Galatians 2:3)? What were his enemies called in Galatians 2:4? What kind of strategy had they employed? What were they trying to do? What did Paul not do for even an hour (Galatians 2:5)? Why? What does Paul call the apostles in Galatians 2:6? What did they add to him? What did they see (Galatians 2:7)? To how many gospels does Galatians 2:7-9 refer? How many destinations? What did they desire? Why wasn’t even this adding anything?
There is only, only, only one gospel. And those who mess it up bring themselves and their followers into slavery. Paul had received some kind of revelation (Galatians 2:2) that this needed to be demonstrated and defended, so he goes up to Jerusalem. This was not a necessary “check-up” for him—after all, he’d already been ministering this gospel for 14 years at this point! Rather, it was a necessary defense against the enemies of the gospel.

Notice these enemies. Notice that they came from within the church. These are always the most dangerous men. The ones who are called brothers, and appear to be brothers, but as Galatians 2:4 says, this name and appearance is false. Notice that their strategies are ruthless. They are brought in secretly. They come in by stealth. They have no problem lying, acting, and manipulating situations.

Sometimes, we hear that those with sound theology need to develop equivalent tactics to the enemies of the gospel. God forbid! Notice that the enemies desire to force others into submission. What Paul refuses in strategy, he more than makes up for in backbone. May the Lord sustain His faithful never to yield even for an hour!

Notice what is at stake. The truth of the gospel. The good of the church. These are the same thing. It’s not like the apostle is navigating the doctrinal controversy in order to get back to the good of the church. “that the truth of the gospel might continue with you” IS the good of the church!

Ultimately, the point of Galatians 2:6-10 is that there cannot be more than one gospel, because there is only one God. It is His gospel, and His mission. The difference is not in doctrine, but in destination. Here is the ultimate biblical opportunity to emphasis contextualizing the message, but the Holy Spirit does exactly the opposite. The message doesn’t change for its context; it changes people from every context. Christ is what circumcision looks forward to. And when He gets hold of a Gentile, He does not demand that Jewish shadows be inflicted upon him. Rather, He transforms him into a brother of sacrificial love toward every believer, Jew or Gentile!
If getting theology correct is so important, what choices do you need to be making about how you spend time, and to what efforts you devote yourself?
Suggested songs: ARP117B “O, All You Nations” or TPH461 “Blessed Are the Sons of God”

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

2019.08.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ Judges 10:17-12:7

Questions for Littles: What people are giving Gilead problems (Judges 10:17-18)? What was the problem with Jephthah’s origin (Judges 11:1-2)? What was the problem with Jephthah’s occupation (Judges 11:3)? But to whom do the elders feel like they have to turn when things are going badly against Ammon (Judges 11:4-8)? What do they have to agree to, in order for him to deliver them (Judges 11:9-11)? What argument does Jephthah have with the king of Ammon in Judges 11:12-23? Whose land does Jephthah point out they have actually taken, and by Whose power? What land does Jephthah “encourage” (mockingly) them to possess in Judges 11:24? Whom else had Israel not fought (Judges 11:25, cf. Judges 11:15)? How long has Israel possessed the contested land (Judges 11:26)? Whom does Jephthah call to judge the case (Judges 11:27-28)? Who comes upon Jephthah in Judges 11:29? What is the result in Judges 11:29-31? What is the result of the battle (Judges 11:32-33)? What is the result of the vow (Judges 11:34)? What additional information makes her being offered up more tragic? How does Jephthah respond in Judges 11:35? And how does she respond in Judges 11:36? What do she and her friends bewail in Judges 11:37-38? What is the result of him carrying out the vow in Judges 11:39? What does Jephthah get from her instead of descendants (Judges 11:40)? What is Ephraim upset about in Judges 12:1? What point does Jephthah make in Judges 12:2-3? What did Jephthah do in Judges 12:4? Why—who had forced the issue? What did the Gileadites do to keep the Ephraimites who had attacked them from escaping back west across the Jordan (Judges 12:5)? How did they sort out who the ‘foreign’ invaders were (Judges 12:6)? How long did Jephthah judge Israel (Judges 12:7)?
Things are getting darker in the book of Judges, and they will get extremely dark indeed by the time we are done. From Judges to 2 Kings, the theme that builds is that no deliverer or king will do for God’s people but Jesus.

Jephthah has the wrong pedigree (his mother was a prostitute) and the wrong profession (basically a land-pirate). And yet the Lord chooses to save Israel from the Ammonites through this thug. At least he is a Yahweh worshiper (Judges 11:29), who gives Yahweh credit for Israel’s past successes (Judges 11:23), and trusts that Yahweh will judge in the end (Judges 11:27). He has even taught his daughter to trust in Yahweh (Judges 11:36) and that vows to Yahweh cannot be broken (Judges 11:35-36).

We are shocked, then, that the text tells us about his vow; but let us be careful even before calling it a rash vow. The passage does seem to connect the Spirit’s coming upon him in Judges 11:29 to the vow in Judges 11:30. And although he vows to offer her as “an offering that goes up” (the literal meaning of the word translated “burnt offering”), it is her virginity that she and her friends bewail, and her knowing no man that is the summary statement of the carrying out of the vow in Judges 11:39. This produces a tragic symmetry with the account of his mother. She had “known” all sorts of men in her wickedness; but just as Jephthah had no ancestry to trace backward, he would have no descendants forward either, for his daughter was an only child.

The text presents the ironic irritation of Ephraim, and Jephthah’s response of extermination, without comment. Rather than have us pass judgment on any of his actions, the Scripture here is just pressing into us how ugly and tragic it is when the Lord bears with a sinful people and saves them by the hand of sinful men. It leaves us crying out for a Deliverer and King who is not only sinless Himself, but who can do something about His people’s sin!
In what merely human sinners are you tempted to trust? How do you resist that?
Suggested Songs: ARP146 “Praise the Lord” or TPH146 “Praise the Lord! My Soul, O Praise Him!”

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

2019.08.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ Revelation 4:1-11

Questions for Littles: What did John see open in heaven in Revelation 4:1? What did the voice he heard sound like? What did the voice say? In what did he immediately find himself in Revelation 4:2? What did he see in heaven? With what words does he try to describe what he saw in Revelation 4:3? How many thrones were there altogether (cf. Revelation 4:4)? Who sat on the other 24? With what were they clothed? What did they have on their heads? What was the great/main throne like in Revelation 4:5? What was in front of the throne’s platform (Revelation 4:6a)? What was on the throne’s platform (verse 6b)? How does verse 6 communicate that one purpose of the living creatures was to behold the throne? How does Revelation 4:7 communicate that the living creatures represent all living creatures? How does Revelation 4:8 communicate that the living creatures have the same ultimate purpose as the burning ones (seraphim) of Isaiah 6:1-10 (cf. John 12:40-41)? How often do they take a rest? What are they doing all this time without rest? What, specifically, do they say about God three times? And then what do they say about God? And then what? How does Revelation 4:9 begin? So, how often is Revelation 4:10 happening? Who falls down before Him who sits on the throne (verse 10)? What else do they do? What do they do with their crowns? Of what do they say the Lord is worthy (Revelation 4:11)? Why?
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, Song of Adoration, and Confession of Sin all came from Revelation 4:1-11. Here, we have a window into the praise of heaven, and what we find is the most amazing creatures (Revelation 4:8-9), and the most honored among glorified humanity (Revelation 4:10-11) praise God for things that are only true of God, and not even the most glorified creature.

First, God is holy. He alone has holiness inherent to Himself. The only way anything else becomes holy is by association with Him, by being set apart unto Him or near Him. We should be amazed at His holiness. These amazing creatures do not rest, day or night, in amazement at His holiness. They never tire of the holiness of God. They never begin to find it boring.

Similarly, only God is Almighty. Everything and everyone else is limited in power, and dependent upon God for their very existence from one moment to the next.

And only God is eternal—without any beginning. He just was. It seems to be to this that the elders are responding when they answer, with praise of their own, the praise of the four living creatures. When they hear that God is the only eternally existent being—that He had no beginning at all—they are reminded that He alone is the Creator of all things. Everything literally owes its existence to Him.

And that, of course, includes us. There is no honor or recognition or authority that we have, except that which ultimately belongs to Him, and we must lay it at His feet! So, let us learn not only to be impressed with Him, but also (importantly) to be unimpressed with ourselves!

Wonderfully, when we look at Isaiah 6:1-10 with John 12:40-41, we realize that this glory that belongs to God alone is actually the glory of Jesus Christ—God Himself who became man to save us!
Of what are you tempted to be proud? What is the danger of missing out on who Jesus is and how glorious Jesus is? What activities does He use to humble you about yourself and show you His glory instead? What use will you make of these activities for your own soul?
Suggested songs: ARP110B “The Lord Has Spoken” or TPH229 “Holy God, We Praise”

Monday, August 19, 2019

2019.08.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 17:1-8

Questions for Littles: How old was Abram in Genesis 17:1? How much time has passed since chapter 16? Who appears to Abram? What does He call Himself? What does He command Abram to do? What will Yahweh make between Himself and Abram (Genesis 17:2)? What will He do in that covenant? How does Abram respond in Genesis 17:3? How does God respond to that? What does God proceed to say about Himself in Genesis 17:4? What outcome will this have for Abram? What else is God changing for Abram in Genesis 17:5? What are some of the details in Genesis 17:6 about what God will do for Abram? With whom is this covenant established (Genesis 17:7)? How is this covenant relationship described? What else does God give them in this covenant (Genesis 17:8)?
What do believers who have been stumbling along in their own strength need? This is the question we see presented in Abram, who has been dealing with the consequences of the Hagar choice for thirteen years, as this passage opens.

Such believers need the power of God Almighty at work in them. We might think that “I am God Almighty” is the prelude to destroying a sinner, since that is what Abram is. But it is instead the prelude to sustaining a saint, since that is also what Abram is: “I am God Almighty, [so] walk before Me and be blameless”!

Such believers need the presence of God Almighty pressed into them. The knowledge that we are before His face is a help against all fear of men, and even against service of self.

Such believers need the purity of God’s standard applied to them. Be blameless. Not the run-of-the-mill blamelessness in the eyes of men, either. Blameless in the eyes of God! Only one who has been shown God’s grace in Christ can have this as a standard, because only Christ’s sacrifice and righteousness can be the sure fulfillment of such a standard on our behalf, and only Christ’s life in us can be a sure hope that we will one day be conformed to such a standard.

Such believers need the promise of God’s covenant. We who are so deserving of wrath need God’s glorious swearing of Himself to us as an encouragement to our faith (cf. Hebrews 6:13-20). It was not for His sake that God entered into such a commitment, but for ours.

Such believers need the propriety of God in us. One way that God reaffirms that He has special ownership of Abram is by changing his name. “You are Mine, so you will be called what I call you.” And so He calls us saint, brother, believer, sons of God, etc. in the Scripture.

Such believers need the prosperous fruits of God’s commitments held out unto us. What sad consequences we endure daily from our fall in Adam. But God’s salvation in Christ is even more effective. Genesis 17:6 and Genesis 17:8 present the opposite of Abraham’s current experience. And as God tells us throughout Scripture of the effects of His gospel, we expect this opposite-fruit to continue.

Such believers need to be reminded of the persistence of God’s covenant. Persistent across generations: just as the fall comes upon our children simply because they are ours, all of these covenant benefits are held out to them by God, also simply because they are ours. And persistent across time. This is still the same covenant that we are in when we believe in Jesus. It is an everlasting covenant that belongs to all who have the same faith in Christ as Abraham (cf. Romans 4:11-18, Galatians 3:7, and Galatians 3:29).
When you slide into stumbling along in your own strength, how will you remind yourself of these things?
Suggested Songs: ARP87 “The Lord’s Foundation” or TPH461 “Blessed Are the Sons of God”

Saturday, August 17, 2019

2019.08.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 17:1-8

Questions for Littles: How old was Abram in Genesis 17:1? How much time has passed since chapter 16? Who appears to Abram? What does He call Himself? What does He command Abram to do? What will Yahweh make between Himself and Abram (Genesis 17:2)? What will He do in that covenant? How does Abram respond in Genesis 17:3? How does God respond to that? What does God proceed to say about Himself in Genesis 17:4? What outcome will this have for Abram? What else is God changing for Abram in Genesis 17:5? What are some of the details in Genesis 17:6 about what God will do for Abram? With whom is this covenant established (Genesis 17:7)? How is this covenant relationship described? What else does God give them in this covenant (Genesis 17:8)?  
It has now been another 14 years that the Lord has not spoken to Abram—14 years of Abram living with the consequences of his sin. Yahweh shows up and announces, “I am God Almighty!”

Abram has every reason to expect to be destroyed, but instead this announcement of God’s power is the prelude to sustaining him. Not “be banished from before Me and suffer” but “walk before Me and be blameless.”

What follows is statement after statement of God’s commitment of Himself to Abram—and God also committing Abram to Himself.

This mutual commitment is called a “covenant,” and establishes that wonderful relationship: He will be “God to you and your descendants after you.”

This is so powerful that it even changes Abram’s identity—changes his name: Abraham.

And the Holy Spirit comes to us in the New Testament and tells us that when we trust in Christ as Abraham did, then we too are objects of this almighty power, objects of this unswerving commitment, this identity-changing relationship with the Lord.
What are some things God has committed Himself to do by His power for you? What are some things that He has brought you into a commitment to do toward Him?
Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH234 “The God of Abraham Praise”

Friday, August 16, 2019

2019.08.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 15:26-16:15

Questions for Littles: Who is coming (John 15:26)? Who will send Him? From Whom? What other Name does this verse give to the Helper? From whom will He proceed? What will He do? Who else will bear witness (John 15:27)? Why? What reason does Jesus give, in John 16:1, for telling them certain things in advance? What kinds of things will be done to them (John 16:2)? What will their persecutors think that they are doing? How does John 16:3 say it is that persecutors come to be like this? But why is Jesus telling them this now (John 16:4)? Where is Jesus going now (John 16:5)? What aren’t the disciples asking? What effect has His saying this had upon them (John 16:6)? What does Jesus say is to their advantage (John 16:7)? What advantage do they get from Jesus going away? Of what three things will the Spirit convict the world when He comes (John 16:8)? Why of sin (John 16:9)? Why of righteousness (John 16:10)? Why of judgment (John 16:11)? What does Jesus still have to say to whom (John 16:12)? Why doesn’t He do so now? Who will speak them to the things to come (John 16:13)? When? Whom will He glorify (John 16:14)? What will He take? To whom will He give it? What things belong to Jesus (John 16:15)? 
In this passage, the Lord Jesus warns them about the difficulties that will come upon them, so that when the difficulties come they will not be discouraged by the pain of it but rather encouraged by the fact of Christ’s word being fulfilled. Jesus also equips them to resist the idea that they have been put in such positions of difficulty because He is gone. No, actually, His leaving puts them in a position of greater strength.

His going away brings Him closer than He has ever been. For, He and the Spirit and the Father are One. It is He who will send the Spirit from the Father. It is what is His, and also what is the Fathers, that the Spirit will be giving to them. This has been a theme for two chapters now: the Triune God gives Himself to them in the Person of His Spirit.

And so He gives Himself to us! This is one reason why an obsession with displays of power is such a mistake when thinking about the Spirit. For the Spirit is given by Christ from the Father as the communication of a Person. And in what way does God communicate Himself to us? Words. In this case those “many things that [Jesus] has yet to say”—yes, those “things that remain.” Gloriously, you have the fulfillment of that in your very hands: a Bible with a completed New Testament.
How should you respond to having the Bible and the Spirit who gives Himself to you?
Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH396 “Gracious Spirit, Dove Divine”

Thursday, August 15, 2019

2019.08.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Galatians 1:18-24

Questions for Littles: How long after his conversion did Paul go up to Jerusalem (Galatians 1:18)? Whom did he see there? How long did he spend with him? Whom else did he see (Galatians 1:19)? How does he reinforce the seriousness of this testimony in Galatians 1:20? Where did he then go in Galatians 1:21? Who still did not know him (Galatians 1:22)? What were they hearing about his preaching (Galatians 1:23)? How did they respond to this fact about his preaching (Galatians 1:24)?
In this week’s Epistle reading, the apostle proves the divine origin of His gospel by two important facts concerning the apostles and church in Jerusalem.

The first fact is that His gospel did not come from them, but directly from the Lord Jesus Christ. We can put the apostle’s statements here together with the account in Acts and arrive at a complete, composite account.

After his conversion, Paul preached in synagogues on his own for three years, before going up to Jerusalem. There, over the course of 15 days exclusively with Peter, it was discovered that the gospel that he had been preaching was identical (can you imagine someone getting as far as 15 minutes with either Paul or Peter if they were preaching a different gospel, let alone 15 days?!). At this point, Paul returns to Damascus and begins his new ministry there.

The second fact is that His gospel was attested to the churches of Judea, even though they did not know him personally. Theological discussions in Judea started taking a new turn: “Even Paul, who used to persecute us for saying this, is now saying the exact same thing by the instruction of the Lord Jesus Himself!”

It became one of the primary things for which they were glorifying God.

“But they were hearing only, ‘He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy.’ And they glorified God in me.”

We too ought to be able to make both of these points: “I get my doctrine directly from the Scriptures” (and then be able to back up our doctrine from the Bible) at the same time as saying, “And it is exactly the same doctrine that these other faithful ones preach” (and then be able to show how it is identical to what is in our confessional documents).
In order to grow your understanding of theology from the Scriptures, what are some gifts Jesus has given you? What are some good ways to make sure that your theology agrees with the faithful ones who have gone before you?
Suggested songs: ARP117B “O, All You Nations” or TPH461 “Blessed Are the Sons of God”

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

2019.08.14 Hopewell @Home ▫ Judges 10:6-16

Questions for Littles: What did the children of Israel do in the sight of Yahweh (Judges 10:6)? What did they do with the Baals? What did they do with the Ashtoreths? What did they do with the gods of Syria? What did they do with the gods of Sidon? What did they do with the gods of Moab? What did they do with the gods of the Ammonites? What did they do with the gods of the Philistines? What did they do with Yahweh? What did they not do with Yahweh? What was hot in Judges 10:7? Against whom? Into whose hands did He sell them? For how long did these nations harass and oppress the children of Israel (Judges 10:8)? Which regions of Israelites suffered (Judges 10:8-9)? How distressed was Israel? To Whom did the children of Israel cry in Judges 10:10? What did they say? How did they say they had sinned? How does Yahweh respond (Judges 10:11-14)? From whom has He delivered them in the past? And what has Israel done every time that He saved them (Judges 10:13)? What does Yahweh say He will do now? To Whom does He tell Israel to go ahead and cry out now (Judges 10:14)? How does Israel respond in word (Judges 10:15-16)? What is it that Yahweh cannot bear?
The Lord piles up words to show how Israel has piled up unfaithfulness. What is their repentance worth to Him? It is never sincere and always falls apart.

If we pay careful attention to His answer to them in Judges 10:11-14, it will help us pay careful attention to the statement in Judges 10:16.

Ultimately, Yahweh is not moved by the repentance that is in them, but by the compassion that is in Him.

In fact, we learn from the rest of Scripture that a true repentance that sticks is only a gift of God’s mercy, in which we receive the influence and effect of God’s power.

Ultimately, we are saved only and entirely by that which is in God, and not at all by anything that is in us.

And the portrait of it here at the end of this passage is wonderful: what is in God is an inexplicable, marvelous compassion toward those whom He has taken to be His own: He cannot bear their suffering.
What difficult situation(s) are you in? What attitude does the compassionate God have toward you in that situation? Where does your hope lie?
Suggested Songs: ARP181 “God Our Only Good” or TPH478 “Jesus Loves Me”

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

2019.08.13 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Timothy 6:11-16

Questions for Littles: What does the apostle call Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:11? What does he tell him to do with “these things” (envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings, desire to be rich, foolish and harmful lusts, greediness)? What six things does the apostle tell him to pursue? What does he command him to “fight” (1 Timothy 6:12)? Of what does he command him to lay hold? What has he confessed? Before whom? Now, before whom does the apostle urge Timothy (1 Timothy 6:13)? What is this commandment aiming at for Timothy’s life (1 Timothy 6:14)? When will Jesus appear (1 Timothy 6:15)? What titles does this verse give him? What does He alone possess (1 Timothy 6:16)? Where does He dwell? What can no man do? What rightly belong to Him?
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin came largely from 1 Timothy 6:11-16.

The Christian life involves fleeing from some things and hotly pursuing other things.

If we trust in Christ to save us from envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings, desire to be rich, foolish and harmful lusts, and greediness, then we are not to be passive about them. We are to run from them.

But there is no neutrality. We don’t run from these by returning to some kind of zero position. We run from them by pursuing righteousness. Chasing hot after godliness. Striving for an ever-strengthening faith. Fostering an ever-increasing love. Actively building patience. Exercising gentleness more and more.

The Christian life is a fight, says 1 Timothy 6:12. Faith is a fight. Not some form of inactivity. In fact, it is often a fight against trusting in our own activity—but that is a fight all the same.

Those who live this way are living out their confession, just as Jesus died out His confession. We confess that Christ is the Lord who died to save us. And we live this way because He is the Lord who died to save us. Jesus confessed before Pilate that He is the Lord who came to die, and He lived out His confession by dying that death.

But He did not remain dead! He is the great and living God-Man, seated on a throne so glorious that we cannot even see Him! And our flight and chase and fight must end in glorious victory, sustained by such a Savior as this.
What part of fleeing remaining sin and chasing hot after godliness feels most like a fight for you right now? How (‘whom answer’!) can you be sure of a good outcome in this fight?
Suggested Songs: ARP130 “Lord, from the Depths” or TPH433 “Amazing Grace!”

Monday, August 12, 2019

2019.08.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 16

Questions for Littles: Who is the primary subject of  Genesis 16:1? Whose wife is she? What has she not done? What does she possess? To whom does Sarai speak in Genesis 16:2? What explanation does she give for not having borne children? What solution does she come up with? What does verse 2 say that Abram did? Who is, again, the main subject in Genesis 16:3? How long had Abram dwelt in Canaan? What happened when he followed Sarai’s advice (Genesis 16:4)? When she had conceived, what happened to Sarai in her eyes? Whom does Sarai blame for her becoming despised (Genesis 16:5)? What does she call for to happen? What does Abram say in Genesis 16:6? What does he permit Sarai to do? How does Sarai treat Hagar? What does Hagar do, when she is treated badly? Who intervenes in Genesis 16:7? Where does He find her? What does He call her in Genesis 16:8? What does He ask her? What answer does she give? What two things does the Angel of Yahweh command her in Genesis 16:9? What does He promise her in Genesis 16:10? What does He tell her about her baby in Genesis 16:11? What does He command her to do to her baby? Why? What does He tell her about her baby in Genesis 16:12? What does Hagar call Him in Genesis 16:13? What was the well called (Genesis 16:14)? Where is it? What does Hagar do in Genesis 16:15? What does Abram do? From where would he have learned to name the boy this? How old was Abram when Ishmael was born (Genesis 16:16)?
God’s ordinary way just doesn’t seem to be  working, and unbelief displays itself in multiple ways. Sarai’s unbelief displays itself by her taking charge. For her, waiting and trusting have their limits, and now it’s time to jump into action and get creative. Abram’s unbelief displays itself by giving in, getting lazy, failing to lead. Even Hagar’s unbelief is on display—in this case by rebelling against authority and by running away from her situation.

The Lord addresses the weakest of the three—Hagar—and makes yet another great promise. He is not discouraged by the passage of time, and He is not even limited by their unbelief, which He announces that He will overcome!

And we who have the cross to hold onto have the best evidence of all that the Lord will most certainly overcome all obstacles to do His good will toward us.
In what areas of life do God’s ordinary ways not seem to be working for you? Which of the patterns of unbelief in this passage seem to be your particular temptation in this area? How can you know that the Lord will fulfill His good will toward you?
Suggested Songs: ARP23 “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH256 “God Moves in a Mysterious”

Saturday, August 10, 2019

2019.08.10 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 16

Questions for Littles: Who is the primary subject of Genesis 16:1? Whose wife is she? What has she not done? What does she possess? To whom does Sarai speak in Genesis 16:2? What explanation does she give for not having borne children? What solution does she come up with? What does verse 2 say that Abram did? Who is, again, the main subject in Genesis 16:3? How long had Abram dwelt in Canaan? What happened when he followed Sarai’s advice (Genesis 16:4)? When she had conceived, what happened to Sarai in her eyes? Whom does Sarai blame for her becoming despised (Genesis 16:5)? What does she call for to happen? What does Abram say in Genesis 16:6? What does he permit Sarai to do? How does Sarai treat Hagar? What does Hagar do, when she is treated badly? Who intervenes in Genesis 16:7? Where does He find her? What does He call her in Genesis 16:8? What does He ask her? What answer does she give? What two things does the Angel of Yahweh command her in Genesis 16:9? What does He promise her in Genesis 16:10? What does He tell her about her baby in Genesis 16:11? What does He command her to do to her baby? Why? What does He tell her about her baby in Genesis 16:12? What does Hagar call Him in Genesis 16:13? What was the well called (Genesis 16:14)? Where is it? What does Hagar do in Genesis 16:15? What does Abram do? From where would he have learned to name the boy this? How old was Abram when Ishmael was born (Genesis 16:16)?
What a difficult thing patience is—even for those who have the certainty of God’s Word! But let us beware of our impatience. Ten years in the promised land, and Sarai was ready to improvise to force the issue with God’s plan and promises. Individuals, couples, families, and churches often come to a point where they say, “we’ve been trying it God’s normal way, and that isn’t working; so we need to try something new.” Impatience and unbelief can lead to “creative” disobedience.

And there’s all sorts of disorder in this passage. Abram failing to lead his house, as Sarai runs the show. Sarai mistreating her maid. Hagar failing to be faithful and submit to her anyway.

But there is One who is faithful and merciful. Yahweh, who doesn’t owe any of them anything, listens to the affliction of a maid—even though that affliction has come about as the direct result of sin. He is God who listens (Ishmael). He is God who sees (El-roi). He is God who cares for sinners—not because they are worthy of it, but because He is merciful to the unworthy for the sake of His love, and His Christ whom He has promised in that love!
In what area do you feel that you have been faithful with little fruit to show for it? How does it help you to remember that the Lord is always being faithful to you, whether you see results yet or not?
Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH256 “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”

Friday, August 09, 2019

2019.08.09 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 11:27-12:12

Questions for Littles: To where did they come again in Mark 11:27? Where was Jesus walking? Who came to Him? What did they ask Him (Mark 11:28)? What did Jesus tell them they would have to do if they wanted Him to answer them (Mark 11:29)? What does He ask them (Mark 11:30)? Why didn’t they want to say “from heaven” (Mark 11:31)? Why didn’t they want to say “from men” (Mark 11:32)? So, what do they answer (Mark 11:33)? And what does Jesus say? In what did Jesus then begin to speak to them (Mark 12:1)? What is this parable about? Where does the owner of the vineyard go? What does he do at vintage-time, when there should be grapes ready (Mark 12:2)? What do they do to the servant (Mark 12:3)? What do they do with the second servant (Mark 12:4)? And the third (Mark 12:5)? How many sons did the owner have (Mark 12:6)? What did the vinedressers say among themselves in Mark 12:7? What do they do to the son (Mark 12:8)? What does Jesus say that the owner will do in Mark 12:9? What Scripture quote does He say in Mark 12:10-11? About whom did the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders know that Jesus had spoken this parable (Mark 12:12)
In the Gospel reading this week, we feel the buildup of pressure that leads to the cross. The chief priests, the scribes, and the elders have all joined forces now. The scribes and the elders were very hostile to Rome, while the chief priests were very friendly to Rome, who had permitted them to continue operating the temple. The others saw the priests as sellouts.

But, these groups can finally agree on something. They hate Jesus and want to destroy Him. When they come and ask the question about authority, it is a catch-22 for Jesus. If He claims a divine authority to act against the temple order, as currently overseen by Rome, it would be a crime of rebellion against Rome, and punishable by death.

If He somehow claimed Roman authority to do it, then the scribe/elder party would consider his sellout on the level of blasphemy for desecrating the temple, and they would execute Jesus for that. In the end, this was, indeed, the charge that they were trying to line up (false!) testimony to prove--that Jesus had spoken against the temple and Moses. But Jesus confessed Himself to be the Son of God, and so they based the blasphemy charges upon that instead.

In the parable, Jesus exposes just how bad this really is. They know that He is from God. The very thing that they are trying to get Him to admit is that God has invested Him with His own authority to give God the fruit that He has always sought from Israel.

They know, and they want to destroy Him anyway. But notice who is afraid, and who is in control here. They come to trap Jesus with a question, and He traps them with one instead. They are out to destroy Jesus, but Jesus is not the One who is afraid. Rather, twice it says that they are afraid of the people/multitude.

Jesus is in control, and that’s super-important.

It means that the cross was not some tragic miscalculation or accident. It was not the Jews or the Romans or even the Devil overpowering Jesus. It was Jesus, intentionally, in control, laying down His life for His people. It is so important, dear reader, that you see how powerful and in control Jesus is, as He goes to the cross. Behold Him who laid down His life for sinners!
When have you felt out of control? Who is really in control of that? What else has He done for you, of which He was in complete control? What does this mean He is doing now? 
Suggested songs: ARP118D “Now Open Wide” or TPH404 “The Church’s One Foundation”

Thursday, August 08, 2019

2019.08.08 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 9:30-10:13

Questions for Littles: Who did not pursue righteousness (Romans 9:30)? To what have they attained? What kind of righteousness? Who were pursuing a law of righteousness (Romans 9:31)? To what have they not attained? Why not—how did they not seek it (Romans 9:32a)? How did they seek it (verse 32b)? Over what did they stumble (verse 32c)? Who was the stone they stumbled over (Romans 9:33)? 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 (Romans 10:1)? What did they have for God (Romans 10:2)? But what was this zeal not according to? Of what were they ignorant (Romans 10:3a)? So what did they seek to establish? To what, then, were they not submitting? Who is the end of the law for righteousness (Romans 10:4a)? For whom (verse 4b)? What does Moses write about righteousness from the law (Romans 10:5)? What does the righteousness of faith tell us not to say in Romans 10:6? What would that be to do? What does it tell us not to say in Romans 10:7? What would that be to do? What does it say in Romans 10:8? How does this word of faith come to be near us (verse 8b)? What do we do with this Word (Romans 10:9)? What do we do with the heart (Romans 10:10a)? What do we do with the mouth (verse 10b)? Who will not be put to shame (Romans 10:11)? Between whom is there no distinction on this truth (Romans 10:12)? Who will be saved (Romans 10:13)? 
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 to add 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 TPH265 “In Christ Alone”

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

2019.08.07 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 12:1-3

Questions for Littles: Who is speaking to whom in Genesis 12:1? From where does He tell Abram to leave? Whom does He tell him to leave? What does He tell him to leave? To where does He tell him to go? Into what does Yahweh promise to make him (Genesis 12:2)? What does He promise to do to him? What does He promise to do to Abram’s name? What does He promise to do through Abram? Whom does Yahweh promise to bless (Genesis 12:3)? Whom does He promise to curse? Which families of the earth will find their blessing in him?    
Yahweh tells Abram to lose everything. Humanity had been divided, and each had his identity in his country, family, and father’s household—a term that described a community structure rather than a physical building structure. And the Lord says, “Get out from all of these.”

Where is Abram to go? The Lord doesn’t even say. He only says, “A land that I will show you.” The Lord has selected it. The Lord will be there. The Lord will be the One to show it to him. That’s all Abram needs to know. There’s no destination address for him to put into his GPS. There’s only the knowledge that the mind and the voice that lead him there are those of the Lord Himself, and the destination is more person than place. The Lord Himself is the only true blessedness.

Of course, if the Lord is all of Abram’s blessedness, then the Lord’s means are the only means of blessedness. After all, God alone can give Himself. There is nothing the creature can do to manipulate or control the Creator. We cannot give God to ourselves or to anyone else. God alone can give Himself. And so we can only receive Him in the way that He chooses to give Himself. Faith—dependence upon God—is the only way to receive Him.

Therefore, obedience must be how faith is expressed. Doing what we please, or what we think will work, is the very opposite of dependence upon the Lord. If something else is our blessedness—a particular feeling, state of mind, “success” in life, possession, status, etc.—then our own ideas about God and spiritual life and admirable living may get us there. But if the Lord Himself is our blessedness, then only the Lord can determine how we get there.

This is why the first act of obedience is actually not an act at all. It is passive. It is to rely upon Christ and what He has done instead of upon anything that we do. We can see that in our text too. God doesn’t just promise to bless Abram. He makes Abram himself a blessing, the one means by whom all the families of the earth will be blessed. Abram—by being the one through whom the Christ comes—is the only true means of blessedness.

How wonderful is the mercy of God! Every family on earth deserves the flood treatment. But now, through Abram, every family on earth will be receiving the ark treatment instead. No family will be excluded. Yet, it is precisely the fact that the blessing will come through Abram that means that not everyone will be saved.

Those that embraced the ark were blessed in the flood. Those that rejected the ark were cursed in the flood. Those that bless Abram as father in the faith are blessed. Those that reject him are cursed. Those that rejoice over the day of Abram’s seed, Jesus, just as Abram rejoiced, are blessed; those who reject Christ are cursed (cf. John 8:54-58, John 3:36). Through Abram, in Jesus, there is blessing for all families of the earth without discrimination, but not without exception. All who fail to embrace Christ will perish.

All of this to a surprising end. Man had desired to make a name for himself (Genesis 11:4), even though only the name of God is worthy of all glory and honor and praise! God had demonstrated this spectacularly at Babel. But now God turns around and proposes to do for Abram that of which Abram is totally unworthy. That which would be the height of wickedness for Abram to seek for himself. God Himself promises to make Abram’s name great. And God includes all who bless Abram in this promise. By the time Jesus has done what is required to obtain blessing for those who deserve only curse, He will have secured for Himself that Name that is above every name. That Name at which every knee in heaven and earth bows. That Name at which every tongue in heaven and earth confesses that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. And, gloriously, that Name which He has put upon us. The greatest name anyone can have, from any family of the earth, is “Christian.” God gives the greatest possible Name to those who deserve to have no good name at all!
What does this passage hold before you as the true blessedness? What else seems to compete with this in your heart—what do you find yourself seeking as your great blessing?
Suggested Songs: ARP181 “God Our Only Good” or TPH73C “In Sweet Communion”

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

2019.08.06 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 89:1-10

Questions for Littles: Of what will the psalmist sing (Psalm 89:1)? What would he make known with his mouth? How big are God’s mercy and faithfulness (Psalm 89:2)? With and to whom is this mercy found (Psalm 89:3-4)? What two assemblies, in which two places, especially praise Him (Psalm 89:5-7)? Whom does God scatter, as a part of His faithfulness (Psalm 89:8-10)? 
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin came from Psalm 89:1-10.

This Psalm begins by presenting us with something similar to what we have seen in Hebrews 2 and Hebrews 12… two worship assemblies in harmonious agreement with one another—one in heaven and one on earth.

What do the most glorious angels all agree upon? That none of them are even to be compared to the Lord.

Marvelously, those who surround the throne hold Him in reverence for His steadfast love (mercy) and faithfulness. That is to say that, even from the perspective of the holy angels, God’s redemption of His people on earth is at the center of all His glorious works.

And a big part of this is the Lord scattering His enemies. Yes, the Lord is full of love and mercy, and He is perfectly faithful. But that means that He is also full of hate: hatred of sin!

If we have known that God, who by right could have destroyed us, has instead given Himself to save us, then this psalm gives us instruction about what should be one of the main ways that we respond to His redeeming love and faithfulness: go to church. Participate in the assembly of the saints. Gather with the congregation on earth that joins the worship assembly in Heaven.
When you’re amazed at God’s mercy and faithfulness to save you by Christ’s cross, do you think, “I can’t wait to go to church!”? 
Suggested Songs: ARP189 “Universal Praise” or TPH89B “My Song Forever Shall Record”

Monday, August 05, 2019

2019.08.05 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 20:16-19

Questions for Littles: What will the owner of the vineyard do to the vinedressers (Luke 20:16)? What will He do with the vineyard? What did Jesus’s hearers say to this? What is the first thing that Luke 20:17 says Jesus did to them? What did He then ask them about? What had the builders in the OT quote rejected? What did the rejected stone become? What will some do to that stone (Luke 20:18a)? What will happen to them? What will the stone do to some people (verse 18b)? What will happen to them? Whose desire does Luke 20:19 describe? What did they desire to do? When? Why did they desire to do this? Why didn’t they carry out their desire?
What if the way the Lord decides to do things in His church is not the way that we would like? This was the problem for the chief priests and scribes, and I dare say that it is sometimes a problem for us. But they were just the tenants, while the vineyard belongs to God. They were just the builders, while the building belongs to God. We are members, but the body belongs to God.

Of course, the bigger problem is when we decide to go ahead and try to do things as we prefer instead. Ultimately, this led to the rejection (and even abuse and murder) of many of God’s prophets—climaxing in the murder of Christ Himself.

But rejecting God’s way never works. All of the abuse that Jeremiah took couldn’t keep the exile from coming. And all of the abuse and murder that the prophets (and ultimately Christ) took only resulted in God’s taking His church away from national Israel and giving it to the nations instead. They could reject Christ; but they would only succeed in their own rejection, because Christ would be the Chief Cornerstone whether they desired it or not.

There’s far too much power struggle in churches—as if any man made agenda at all can ever succeed. But if we attempt to get our own way, rather than gladly pursuing and submitting to what Scripture instructs, Luke 20:18 warns us that we are waging a double-losing battle. First of all, as we attack Christ’s way, we ourselves will end up being the ones broken, regardless of any appearance of ministry success or congregational success. Second, Christ doesn’t just take these things lying down. He will come again, this time in vengeance, and fall upon all who have opposed Him and harmed His church. And His vengeance will be frightful!

Luke 20:19 gives us two characteristics that may indicate to us whether we are giving into this mindset of the chief priests and scribes. First, if hearing the Scripture applied to us produces not repentance from our self-seeking but wrath against the scriptural admonishment, we are indulging the kind of heart that is capable of murdering Christ! Second, if we “fear the people,” then perhaps it is because we are following a human agenda rather than God’s.

What shall we do? We who hope only in Christ for our salvation must yield to His authority in His church. He may injure our pride by preaching a gospel that says that it is not our works that save us but only His. He may offend us by flipping over the tables of our traditions. But this is His prerogative, His authority. He is the Chief Cornerstone. And all proper spiritual building is built only in accordance with Him.
In what ways can you submit to Jesus’s authority in His church? How have you done this?
Suggested Songs: ARP118D “Now Open Wide the Gates” or TPH118B “The Glorious Gates”

Saturday, August 03, 2019

2019.08.03 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 15:1-8

Questions for Littles: How does Jesus describe Himself in John 15:1? How does Jesus describe His Father? What does the Father do to branches that do not bear fruit (John 15:2)? What does the Father do to the branches that do bear fruit? Why? What does Jesus say that they already are in John 15:3? How did they come to be this way? What does He command them to do in John 15:4? What does He promise to do in response? What cannot happen unless they follow this command? What description of Himself does Jesus now repeat in John 15:5? How does He go on to describe His disciples? How much fruit will they bear if they abide in Him, and He abides in them? What can they do without Him? What happens to the one who does not abide in Jesus (John 15:6)? What does Jesus say will abide in those who abide in Him (John 15:7)? If His words are abiding in them, what will be done for them? Whom are they to glorify (John 15:8)? How does this happen? What does this make them?
As Christ and His apostles leave the upper room (John 14:31), the Lord Jesus continues explaining the work of the Holy Spirit as He will teach them (John 14:26) and produce in them love for Jesus and the keeping of Jesus’s words (John 14:23-24).

As the Spirit’s ministry to them constitutes the Father and Son making Their home in the believer (John 14:23), so also it constitutes the believer abiding in Christ. Jesus says this three times in our passage.

First, in John 15:4, Jesus commands that we abide in Him. There are branches that look like they are on the vine, but there is no vital, internal connection. The life of the vine is not entering the branch, so they bear no fruit. The Father, whose love and fellowship toward us is only ever in Christ, casts out such “branches” from His Son and those connected to Him (John 15:2).

However, for those who are bearing fruit, the work in them is not yet done. The Father continues to minister to them—in His Son, by His Spirit. John 15:3 calls us back to John 13:10-11. Now, Jesus tells us the mechanism by which He joins us to Himself so that we would be clean: the Word which He speaks (verse 3). To this day, we still hear and believe Him through preachers whom He sends (cf. Romans 10:14-17).

But even after we believe in Jesus and belong to Jesus, there is still Word-work to do. The Father, who is with us by His Spirit, has an ongoing ministry to fruit-bearing branches. He prunes them. He cleans them further. Like Jesus washing their feet in chapter 13, the Father addresses the areas that still need improvement. This is how we come to bear more fruit (John 15:2), or as John 15:5 puts it, “much fruit”—the second verse in which our abiding in Jesus is mentioned. So this pruning and this abiding in Jesus are one and the same. The Father increases our fruit bearing by making us more and more to abide in the Son.

But what does that pruning look like? What does our abiding in Jesus look like? That brings us to the third mention, where the wording is changed ever so slightly. “If you abide in Me, and My Words abide in you…” Here is the mechanism by which we are pruned—the way of abiding in Jesus: having His Words abide in us.

Sermon hearing, and Bible reading, and mulling over Scripture should be personal. It is not just an exercise in learning. It is an abiding in the Son by the ministry of the Spirit. It is yielding oneself up to the Father, by the Spirit, that He might prune us cleansing us more to make us more fruitful.

As He uses His Word, by His Spirit, to grow us up into His Son, we become closer copies of His Son—disciples (John 15:8), bringing glory to the Father who does this. The Christian life is a Word-saturated, progressive work of the Triune God to produce in us the fruits of fellowship with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
When do you read/hear/meditate upon God’s Word? What should you be seeking out of such times? What are you hoping God will do in you in these times of fellowship with Him?
Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH1B “How Blest the Man”

Friday, August 02, 2019

2019.08.02 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 15:18-25

Questions for Littles: What attitude toward followers of Christ does John 15:18 anticipate the world having? Against whom else has the world had this attitude? How could His followers have been loved by the world (John 15:19)? Why aren’t His followers still of the world? With what command does John 15:20 begin? What did the world do to Christ? What will they do to His followers? Why will they do “all these things” to Christ’s disciples—Whom do they not know (John 15:21)? What particular sin do they have because of Christ’s coming and speaking (John 15:22)? What does Jesus call it to reject what He says (John 15:23)? Whom else does someone hate, if they reject Jesus? What particular sin do they have because of Christ’s working miraculous sign-works among them (John 15:24)? Why did these things happen (John 15:25)?
As the churches have lost the knowledge of the depth of man’s sinfulness, they have also fallen for the idea that there is a way to be loving enough that unbelievers will find us likeable. This passage is a startling reminder that this idea represents the expectation or suspicion that we can be more loving than Jesus!

No, the problem with unbelievers is not that they just haven’t happened upon likeable-enough Christians. It is that they hate the Christ.

The motivation to love them as ourselves must be to reciprocate to the Lord Jesus obedience to His commandments that comes from wholehearted love to Him because He first loved us. We must not be motivated by the idea that we will be “likeable” enough.

Jesus came as the revelation of His Father (John 1:18—and really the whole book of John). He actually expected to be hated without a cause—both because the Scripture said so (John 15:25) and because He was speaking words and doing works that were from the One whom the world already hates (John 10:25-39; John 14:10-11).

Now, we should expect to be hated. If we are speaking gospel words and still being “liked,” we may begin in love to press the issue of guilt and grace. For, it may well be that when we have striven not to be world-liked but Christ-like, and we are not hated and persecuted for it, that the cause is a work in the heart that God the Spirit has begun in them.

But let us not fear or shrink from being persecuted and hated! This they did to our Master, and this passage reminds us that it is wickedly arrogant to expect that we would receive differently.
Whom have you been telling about Christ to whom you might speak more plainly?
Suggested songs: ARP2 “Why Do Gentile Nations” or TPH2B “Why Do Heathen Nations Rage”

Thursday, August 01, 2019

2019.08.01 Hopewell @Home ▫ Galatians 1:11-17

Questions for Littles: What point is the apostle making about the gospel that he preached in Galatians 1:11? From whom did he not receive it (Galatians 1:12)? How else did he not receive it? How did it come? What does he assume they have heard of in Galatians 1:13? What had the apostle done? How much had he persecuted the church? What had he tried to do? In what had he advanced (Galatians 1:14)? Farther than whom? How did he do this? How was the timing of his conversion determined (Galatians 1:15)? When had the apostle been separated? Through what did God call the apostle? What was the apostle called to reveal (Galatians 1:16)? How would this revelation occur? What did the apostle not immediately do? Where did he not go (Galatians 1:17)? Where did he go?
We know that Paul had received information about Christ from Stephen in Acts 7, but the apostle here is pressing upon us the fact that the Gospel itself—the significance of who Christ is, the reason for and significance of what Christ did, the means by which a sinner comes to be saved… this was something that came from no man but directly from Jesus Christ Himself, because ultimately what is received in the gospel is not information but a Person.

What we see in our Galatians passage this week is that the communication of the gospel is not so much the communication of information but the display of an individual.

How did Paul get the gospel that he preached? “Through the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:12). For what purpose did God call Paul through His grace? “To reveal His Son in me” (Galatians 1:16a). What was it that Paul preached among the nations (Gentiles)? It’s a what question with a Whom answer: “that I might preach Him.”

This reminds us again of the seriousness of holding purely to the mechanism of salvation in the gospel. If we turn away from it, by adding anything at all alongside it, we are turning away from a Person (Galatians 1:6).

Ultimately, each of us must receive the gospel in the same way—even though the Lord uses others. He used the apostles, prophets, and evangelists to give us the Bible. But it is still His very breathed out words (2 Timothy 3:16). He uses preachers to announce the gospel to us, but it is still Him whom we hear and believe (Romans 10:14-17, literally translated). He uses preachers in the Sabbath assembly to announce His will and shepherd us unto glory, but it is He who speaks from heaven (Hebrews 3:7-4:10Hebrews 12:22-29).

What Jesus made clear by using no man at all to deliver the true, pure Gospel to the apostle Paul is still true even when He does use men: His Word comes to us as personally from Him, and we are to be receiving Him Himself in them and responding to Him Himself.
When are you taught the Bible by others? Who is really addressing you then?
Suggested songs: ARP119W “Lord, Let My Cry before You Come” or TPH172 “Speak, O Lord”