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

Saturday, December 21, 2019

2019.12.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 24:18-28

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Rebekah say in Genesis 24:18? What does she do? What does she propose to do in Genesis 24:19? How many camels would this be? Until they have drunk how much? In what manner does she empty the pitcher in Genesis 24:20? At what pace does she return to the well? For how many camels does she draw? Who gazes at her (Genesis 24:21)? How does he remain? What is he learning? How much have the camels drunk in Genesis 24:22? What does he take out in this verse? What does he ask about her in Genesis 24:23? What does he ask about his caravan? What does she answer about herself in Genesis 24:24? What does she answer about his caravan in Genesis 24:25? To whom does the man respond in Genesis 24:26? How does he respond? What does he call Yahweh in Genesis 24:27? What does he say that Yahweh has not done? What does he say that Yahweh has done? What does the young woman run and do (Genesis 24:28)?
There’s an explosion of praise to Yahweh in Genesis 24:26-27. In Genesis 24:21, he had been watching Rebekah closely to see if Yahweh had made his journey successful. And what he has seen has answered that question with a resounding, “yes!” So, what had he seen? He could see immediately that she was pretty (Genesis 24:16)—but what was he closely watching? What does a godly wife for one of Abraham’s children look like?

A godly wife is respectful. She address this stranger as “lord”—often the equivalent of “sir”—in Genesis 24:18.

A godly wife is prompt and diligent—note the word “quickly” in verse 18 and “quickly” and “ran” in Genesis 24:20 (and again in Genesis 24:28).

A godly wife is generous. He had asked for just a little water. She offers to draw not just for him, but for his camels. All ten of his camels. Not just a little for each, but until they have finished drinking.

A godly wife aims to support this generosity with strength. The 3-gallon pitcher, including the vessel, would have weighed around 25 pounds full.

A godly wife aims to support this generosity with endurance. Each of these camels would drink around 25 gallons of water after a journey like this—that’s 80 (!) trips up out of the well with the 25-pound pitcher.

A godly wife is from the right family. We already know that this is one of the main concerns of this narrative, but we see it again in Genesis 24:23-24, and all of the other characteristics belong to this conclusion in Genesis 24:27, “Yahweh led me to the house of my master’s brethren.”

A godly wife is trustworthy. Rebekah is sure of Bethuel and Laban’s confidence in her judgment. She is able to invite a ten camel caravan to stay without checking. She is aware of the house operations and stores, such that she knows that they are capable of accommodating them.

It is no surprise that these characteristics are so consistent with the fruit of the Spirit (cf. Galatians 5:22-26). For this is how Christ is outfitting His own eternal, glorious bride!

These are all characteristics that we should be seeking to instill in our daughters, reinforce in our sisters in Christ, and especially attend to the means of grace together—by which means we trust that God will do that inward work that is necessary to produce such characteristics. And, when we consider prospects for our sons or our brothers in Christ, these should be among the primary characteristics that we seek.
In which of these do you most need to grow? What are the means by which the Lord produces it in the heart? What are the providential means by which it is exercised?
Suggested songs: ARP128 “How Blessed Are All Who Fear” or TPH400 “Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me”

Friday, December 20, 2019

2019.12.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 1:5-25

Questions from the Scripture text: What time period is it in Luke 1:5? To whom does Luke 1:5-7 introduce us? What are they like? What is their difficulty? What does he get the opportunity to do in Luke 1:8-10? Who appears to Zacharias, and how does he respond (Luke 1:11-12)? What does the angel tell him (Luke 1:13-14)? What will be some unusual things about this son (Luke 1:15)? What will the Lord use John to do (Luke 1:16)? Before whom will John go (Luke 1:16b-Luke 1:17a)? What effect will John’s ministry have (Luke 1:17)? What does Zacharias ask in Luke 1:18? What does the angel’s response in Luke 1:19-20 reveal about the spirit of Zacharias’s question? What did the people outside find unusual about Zacharias’s time in the temple (Luke 1:21-22)? What happens after this (Luke 1:23-24)? What does Elizabeth do (Luke 1:24-25)?
The Lord has given to the barren. This was true of Abraham and Sarah. This is true of Zacharias and Elizabeth. This is true of all who are redeemed in Christ (cf. Isaiah 54:1). In Luke 1:24, Gabriel draws an analogy between what God is doing for the elderly couple specifically and what God is doing for “many” more generally. How will this happen? Because the Holy Spirit will be using John to “turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God” (Luke 1:16).

It’s at this point that Gabriel drops a huge hint about who Jesus is: this John is going to go before Him—in context, the “Him” is the Lord, the God of Israel! Jesus is Yahweh!

So, what exactly is baby John going to grow up to do? John’s ministry is going to be one of preparing the way for Jesus, and the angel tells Zacharias that this happens by “making ready a people prepared for the Lord.” We know that John preached repentance of all sorts (cf. 3:10-14), but here the focus is especially on that repentance that Malachi had predicted (cf. Malachi 3:1Malachi 4:5-6).

Lack of love between fathers and their children is an especially grievous sin before God, who created this relationship to show something about His own relationships both within the Godhead (the Father and the Son) and toward His people (whom He adopts in Christ). One of the key parts of the repentance that John will preach will be the reformation and revival of this relationship (Luke 1:17).

How desperately we need this work of the Holy Spirit to change our hearts about everything! We’re so much like Zacharias—hearts so hard with doubt that we can go from being terrified of the angel to arguing against his words.

But this is our reproach. That we are so spiritually barren. So wicked before God. So unbelieving of His gracious Word. So God sends that Word out in front of the Lord Jesus, preparing our hearts by the Holy Spirit’s powerfully using the preaching of His Word. And He grants unto us a repentance that prepares the way for Jesus—that we might recognize and rest upon the Lord Himself who became a man to save us!
From what sins in your life is the Holy Spirit turning you, to trust in Jesus to save you?
Suggested songs: ARP51B “From My Sins, O Hide Your Face” or TPH180 “Kind and Merciful God”

Thursday, December 19, 2019

2019.12.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Galatians 5:7-12

Questions from the Scripture text: How does the apostle describe their former Christian walk in Galatians 5:7? What question does he now ask? From whom does the apostle say that their new ideas have not come (Galatians 5:8)? What does Galatians 5:9 call additions to the Christian religion that do not come from God? What do such additions do to the rest of one’s Christianity? What does the apostle have confidence will be their response to his letter (Galatians 5:10a)? But what does the apostle say will happen to the one who holds to these additions? What have some, apparently, been saying that Paul still teaches (Galatians 5:11a)? But what is he suffering for preaching as sufficient without circumcision? To what does the apostle equate the idea that circumcision has spiritual value (Galatians 5:12)? 
Paul had heard that the Galatian church had begun observing days and months and seasons and years (Galatians 4:10) and hoping that circumcision would grow them in their Christianity (5:6). So he puts the question to them: who hindered you from obeying the truth (Galatians 5:7)? That is to say, “from whom did these ideas come?”

That’s a question that we should ask ourselves about everything that we think belongs to the Christian religion. And there’s only one good answer. In fact, Galatians 5:8 suggests another way that we could ask this question, “Does this idea come from Him who called me?” For us even to make a beginning in Christianity, God had to effectually call us; He had to give us life by His Word. So, as we go forward in our Christian walk, only that which God has commanded can have spiritual value to grow us. You can’t have a religion that is wholly dependent upon God’s grace and also includes manmade ideas of how to get grace—“a little leaven leavens the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9). That is to say: a little manmade religion turns the whole thing into manmade religion.

As in other places (Hebrews 6:4-9; Hebrews 10:26-39) where believers had fallen into something potentially spiritually fatal, the apostle expresses confidence (not in them but in the Lord!) that the Galatians will end up rejecting the manmade teaching (Galatians 5:10a)—noting that those who brought it to Galatia are coming under a judgment in which they do not want to share (verse 10b)! So, we do see that it is possible for true believers to stumble into manmade additions to Christianity. Let us, therefore, be all the more watchful of ourselves, knowing that we are susceptible to it. But, let this watchfulness be with a clinging to Christ, and asking Him that if we stumble, He would turn us back to His mind in the Scripture.

Of course, there was a proper understanding of circumcision—that it had been something that looked forward to Christ. So, Paul’s opponents claimed that he too was preaching circumcision as they were. But the apostle points to the fact that he was being persecuted for refusing to add anything to Christ and His cross. When he preached that their manmade ideas would diminish the cross of Christ, they were offended (Galatians 5:11).

The apostle then uses a vivid comparison to show the folly of their misuse of circumcision: it was as bad as making themselves eunuchs (a part of pagan religions, but never commanded by God, and would have disqualified them from the assembly of God’s people in the time of circumcision, cf. Deuteronomy 23:1). Manmade additions to Christianity can seem innocent, but this is not the Holy Spirit’s view of it!
What are some things about which you might need to ask about from whom they came?
Suggested songs: ARP135 “Your Name, Lord, Endures Forever” or TPH16A “Preserve Me, O My God”

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

2019.12.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ruth 3:1-6

Questions from the Scripture text: Who is speaking to Ruth (Ruth 3:1)? For whom does she say that she will seek rest (“security” in NKJV)? What does she ask about Boaz in Ruth 3:2? What does she tell Ruth about him? What does she tell Ruth to do to herself in Ruth 3:3? Where does she say to go? For what does she say to wait? For what else does Ruth 3:4 say to wait? Where should she go then? What should she do? What will Boaz do? How does Ruth respond to all of this advice from Naomi (Ruth 3:5)? What does she do in Ruth 3:6?
Back in Ruth 1:9, Naomi had urged Ruth and Orpah to go find rest in the house of a new husband, but Ruth had chosen instead to stay with Naomi. Now, Naomi uses the same word to tell Ruth that she will seek rest (security) for her. It’s pretty plain that these instructions are an effort to secure for Ruth a husband.

They’ve been back some three months. Harvesting and threshing are done. Boaz is now onto winnowing, the removal of the chaff that remains after threshing. Ruth has not been approached yet, perhaps as a result of Naomi’s instruction in Ruth 2:22. In fact, she has continued up to this point to behave according to the practice of mourners: not washing or anointing, and wearing mourning clothing.

Now, Naomi tells her to change all of these things. It is very important that we read this passage in light of the custom at the time, and especially in light of what Boaz says in Ruth 2:11 and Ruth 2:14—recognizing that she has conducted herself in a godly manner, and acting to preserve this accurate reputation of hers. The change in behavior is a declaration that she has completed her mourning. Perhaps Naomi suspects that Boaz has not approached Ruth because he was respecting her grief.

It’s also important to note where Naomi tells Ruth to lay down—not next to him, which would have been an inappropriate invitation, but at his feet. There is a statement of availability, which she will make explicit in Ruth 3:9 (asking him to be a goel/redeemer). But, it comes not as an act of seduction but as an act of submission. The passage emphasizes her submission and obedience to Naomi, and presents her as offering the same to Boaz, if he is willing to take her as a wife.

Such situations are difficult to navigate. In a similar one in Genesis 38 (which is brought to mind by Ruth 4:12), Tamar conducted herself immorally (but was still more righteous than Judah). Here, however, Ruth is protected both by her own grace-sustained character, and by having the good counsel of her mother-in-law.

How often, in the church and the Christian life, people have ended up making sinful choices in desperate situations, or out of sincere and good intentions! Let us learn to be committed first and foremost to living rightly before the face of God, and let us avail ourselves of the help of the godly in doing so.
How do you maintain and grow a godly character? Whom has He given to help you?
Suggested Songs: ARP119A “How Blessed Are Those” or TPH119E “Teach Me, O Lord, Your Way of Truth”

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

2019.12.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ Philippians 2:3-11

Questions from the Scripture text: How should nothing be done (Philippians 2:3)? How should each view others? If we esteem others better than ourselves, for whose interests should we look out (Philippians 2:4)? Whose mindset was like that (Philippians 2:5)? Who is in the form of God (Philippians 2:6)? What was not robbery for Christ Jesus? What form did He take (Philippians 2:7)? What likeness? How low did Jesus humble Himself (Philippians 2:8)? Who exalted Him (Philippians 2:9)? What name did He give Him? Which knees will bow at the name of Jesus (Philippians 2:10)? What will every tongue confess (Philippians 2:11)? To whose glory? 
Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Song of Adoration come from Philippians 2:3-11 in order to sing God’s thoughts after Him with Rejoice, the Lord Is King.  Here, we learn about Christ’s humiliating Himself for our sakes. Becoming a man. Enduring weakness. Suffering trials. And, of course, the greatest was submitting Himself to death… particularly death on a cross.

Our passage from Philippians points out something shocking about His doing this. When Jesus gave Himself for us, He was treating us as if we are as important as He is. He was attending not only to His own interests but also to ours.

We have two required responses.

The first way to respond to how Christ humbled Himself for us is to humble ourselves. Not just a little, but completely. Overlooking offenses, backing out of rivalries, treating everyone as better and more important than ourselves.

Of course, there are some people with whom that is easier than with others. If we’re imitating Christ, and examining ourselves, it’s the hardest people that we have to focus upon. With whom are we having difficulty? Nursing an offense? In a rivalry? Those who are sinning against us (as we have done to Him!) are the ones with whom we must most imitate Christ.

The second way to respond, the eternal way, is to worship. Every mention of His Name should be precious to us. We shouldn’t be able to tolerate any misuse of His Name. It is the Name that should always make our knees to bend, always make our tongue confess that He who gave Himself for us is Lord.

Finally, let us consider that it is not only the Son who has given all. God the Father, for our poor sakes, has given the humiliation and death of His beloved Son, with whom He is pleased!
With whom do you most need to humble yourself? How are you honoring Jesus?
Suggested songs: ARP110B “The Lord Has Spoken” or TPH281 “Rejoice, the Lord Is King”

Monday, December 16, 2019

2019.12.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 24:10-21

Questions from the Scripture text: What did the servant take (Genesis 24:10)? How many? Why was he able to take so much? To what region did he go? To what city? Where did he make the camels kneel (Genesis 24:11)? When? Who did what at that time? To Whom does he speak in Genesis 24:12? What does he call Him? What does he ask for himself? Unto whom does he ask God to show steadfast love? What does he tell God in Genesis 24:13? What does he assume that God has appointed (Genesis 24:14)? How does he ask to be able to identify her? When does he see Rebekah (Genesis 24:15)? From whose family is she? What is she carrying? What does she look like (Genesis 24:16)? What else do we learn about her? What does she do? What does the servant do at the beginning of Genesis 24:17? What does he ask? What does she say in Genesis 24:18? What does she do? What does she propose to do in Genesis 24:19? How many camels would this be? Until they have drunk how much? In what manner does she empty the pitcher in Genesis 24:20? At what pace does she return to the well? For how many camels does she draw? Who gazes at her (Genesis 24:21)? How does he remain? What is he learning?
In Genesis 24:45, we learn that much of this takes place in the servant’s heart, as he prays. The Holy Spirit is allowing us to eavesdrop on the prayers of a man whose faith has been formed by grace in Abraham’s house. What do we learn here about the prayer of faith?

First, faith prays with action. The servant is certainly intentional, careful, and vigorous in his actions seeking the very things for which he is asking God. God has given us means, and prayer is one of the most important of them; but if we are really trusting Him, let us employ all of the means that He has placed at our disposal.

Second, faith prays as an act of worship. The servant acknowledges who God is, and that God has made a special relationship with Abraham. As he asks God to do what is needed to keep those promises, he is honoring God by treating Him according to who He is, what He has done, and what He has promised. The servant’s prayer is an act of worship.

Finally, faith prays with trust. The servant trusts that God cares to hear about his circumstances and requests. The servant trusts that God has already been doing all of the things that are necessary—creating Rebekah, working in her life, and even that she is already on the way to the well! The servant trusts that God’s wisdom is best—he doesn’t just assume that because his sign was fulfilled, that Rebekah must be the one. Instead, he uses God-given and God-instructed wisdom as he observes her. Maybe God has planned some other way of providing a wife than the one for which the servant has asked. The only way to know is to watch her to see what kind of woman she is—whether Yahweh has made his journey successful or not.
In which of these aspects of praying with faith do you most need to grow? How will you?
Suggested Songs: ARP5 “Listen to My Words, O Lord” or TPH518 “Come, My Soul, with Every Care”