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)

Thursday, December 31, 2020

2020.12.31 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 11:14–28

Read Luke 11:14–28

Questions from the Scripture text: What did Jesus do in Luke 11:14? What did some say about it (Luke 11:15)? What did others seek (Luke 11:16)? What did Jesus know (Luke 11:17a)? What point did He make in Luke 11:17b-18? What point in Luke 11:19? What point does He make about the danger of their reasoning in Luke 11:20? What does a strong man do, and with what results (Luke 11:21)? But what can change this, and with what results (Luke 11:22)? Whom is Jesus implying Himself to be, and what binary choice do the people have (Luke 11:23)? About whom/what does Jesus speak in Luke 11:24, and what has happened to it? Where does it go, and what does it find there (Luke 11:25)? Whom does it bring along, and with what result (Luke 11:26)? Who cries out what in Luke 11:27? About whom is she talking? But how does Jesus say people may come into the blessing that He brings (Luke 11:28)?

There was no denying the power of Jesus (Luke 11:14). Those who refused to believe in Him only had the option of trying to explain it away (Luke 11:15). Those who were still resisting asked for a sign (Luke 11:16), but Jesus confronted them with the fact that the evidence that they already had was enough to put them in a place where they had to choose (Luke 11:17-18). Not only had He come, casting out demons, but He had twice sent out (the 12 and the 70) otherwise ordinary men whom He had empowered to do the same (Luke 11:19). This was an event of critical and permanent spiritual moment (Luke 11:20).

But it wasn’t blessing for everyone. Suppose this One, Jesus, stronger than the devil himself came, and Israel did not receive Him? Lost in people’s attempt to understand what Luke 11:24-26 might mean about the mechanics of demon possession is that, as a whole, this saying was an illustration of what was about to happen to the Jews as a spiritual household. 

The Messiah came, astonishingly as God in the flesh, and dislodged the kingdom of the devil (Luke 11:20-21), but His own did not receive Him (Luke 11:25, cf. John 1:11–13). When we read the history of the Jews from Moses to the Messiah, it is deeply sobering to think that Jesus said that their state after His coming is worse than their state before!

Oh, dear reader, there is such a danger in coming face to face with Jesus Christ, the God-Man and Deliverer. You must come away with Him firmly installed upon the throne of your life. He is the Stronger One of Luke 11:22. And you have a binary option: either you are with Him and gathering with Him; or, you are against Him and scattering (Luke 11:23).

The question of Mary’s blessedness was not a question of Whom she had birthed or Whom she had nursed. It was a question of whether or not she trusted in Him as her King and served His kingdom. Have you bowed the knee to Him as your King? Are you gathering with Him?—Serving His kingdom in all that you do? This is the great question of your life, and there is no neutral ground. The only alternative is profound bondage to a defeated less-strong (but stronger than you!) one, and to share in his coming destruction.

In the context, Jesus is identifying Himself as the One stronger than the devil, and Whose arrival and ministry have brought the kingdom of God. Some said that He was doing so by a competitive demonic force. This woman apparently accepts His teaching about His identity but mistakes the manner in which one comes into His blessedness. 

Mary was blessed not so much by her biological bearing and nurturing of her Son, as she was by hearing His divine words about Himself and appropriating them to herself. She heard His Word and kept it. She believed in Him as God Who came to liberate her from the devil and take up residence upon the throne of her life, preserving her as His own forever, by His almighty strength. And this proclamation of blessedness He extends to you, dear reader, who may even now in response to what you are reading, do the same as Mary and be just as blessed as she.

What have you done with the claims of Christ? What place does serving Him have in your moment-to-moment thoughts? How are you making sure to be hearing His Word? How are you seeking to keep it?

Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH374 “All Hail the Power of Jesus’s Name”


Wednesday, December 30, 2020

2020.12.30 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Samuel 30

Read 1 Samuel 30

Questions from the Scripture text: To where did David and his men return, how long had they been gone, and what had happened (1 Samuel 30:11 Samuel 30:31 Samuel 30:5, cf. 1 Samuel 27:5–6)? What had the Amalekites not done (1 Samuel 30:2)? How did David and his men respond (1 Samuel 30:4)? Of what did the men speak and why (1 Samuel 30:6)? In Whom does the text mention David strengthening himself (for the first time in a while, end of verse 6!)? For what does David ask (for the first time in a while, 1 Samuel 30:7, cf. 1 Samuel 23:1–13!)? Of Whom does David inquire (for the first time in a while, 1 Samuel 30:8, cf. 1 Samuel 23:1–13!)? What does Yahweh say? How many go with David in 1 Samuel 30:9? How many were left behind and why (1 Samuel 30:10)? Whom do the four hundred find (1 Samuel 30:11)? What do they give him and why (1 Samuel 30:12)? What does David ask, and whose servant does he turn out to be (1 Samuel 30:13)? What does he confirm (1 Samuel 30:14)? For what does he ask in order to help David (1 Samuel 30:15)? In what condition do they find the Amalekites (1 Samuel 30:16)? What does David do, and with what success in 1 Samuel 30:17-19? What additional spoil do they take (1 Samuel 30:20)? To whom do they return in 1 Samuel 30:21? What kind of men were among David’s men (1 Samuel 30:22)? What did they want to do? What reasoning does David give for opposing them (1 Samuel 30:23)? What rule does he establish in Israel, upon the basis of this reasoning (1 Samuel 30:24-25)? What does David do with some of his portion (1 Samuel 30:26-31, cf. 1 Samuel 27:10)?

Sometimes, the Lord brings us to the extremity of desperation to snap us back to our senses and grow us in grace. We had noted in chapters 27 and 29—when discerning the Spirit’s opinions on David’s actions as a backdrop for God’s unmerited grace—that during this stint of his life it seemed like everyone but David seemed to be inquiring of Yahweh. 

But the Lord now brings him back to asking the priest for the ephod (1 Samuel 30:7), back to inquiring of Yahweh (1 Samuel 30:8), back to obeying Yahweh (1 Samuel 30:8-9), back to crediting Yahweh for his protection (1 Samuel 30:23) and crediting Yahweh for his prosperity (1 Samuel 30:26). He has gone from “now I shall perish someday by the hand of Saul” and simply trying to escape (1 Samuel 27:1) to providing for God’s people and galvanizing support for his coming kingdom (1 Samuel 30:26-31). He was hindered from doing this before by his unbelieving strategy of trying not to let word get out of his helping the people of God!

There is instruction here for what to aim at in terms of maintaining a life of calling upon the Lord (prayer) and seeking His instruction (hearing Bible preaching, reading the Bible, etc.). There is instruction here for living by the wisdom that seeks to serve God and His people as well as possible, more than the mere shrewdness that is involved in trying to protect ourselves and provide for ourselves.

But the thrust of the text seems to be about the extremity to which the Lord brought His servant in order to set him back into these paths. David and his men hadn’t been permitted to participate in the war (1 Samuel 29:10-11), so the exhaustion of 200 warriors in 1 Samuel 30:10 was that of the weeping in 1 Samuel 30:4. Apparently the only thing the men still had energy for at that point was for executing their leader (1 Samuel 30:6). In many other difficulties David had his men, and the comfort of the good and wise women who loved him dearly, but now these last supports had been taken away!

We see what God is sometimes after in the difficulties of our lives. Not trial for trial’s sake, or even just for growth’s sake, but sometimes for repentance’s sake. David was under fire from Saul, but he responded in unbelief (chapter 27). Perhaps he thought he was responding in wisdom (many commentators on 1 Samuel seem to think so!). Then David was under fire from the Philistines, before a king of Gath (1 Samuel 28:1–2, 1 Samuel 29:1-5), and didn’t respond with the former holy boldness with which he had faced a champion from Gath (1 Samuel 17:45–47, as called to mind by 1 Samuel 29:5).

But, until David repented, the Lord kept bringing him even lower. Providence pulled the Amalekite hammer out of the bag and brought it down on God’s wayward servant until he was wifeless, friendless, and under threat from even the men whom he had found dependable in many hard circumstances until now.

We may think, after a sustained streak of hard trials, that the suffering is complete. But, if we belong to God by faith in Christ, He has purposes in all of our trials—including and especially our repentance (cf. Hebrews 12:3–14). So until we arrive at that holiness in which we will see the Lord, let us not be surprised if, however low the Lord has brought us, His wisdom and love deem it necessary to bring us even lower. And, let us always be ready to ruthlessly consider what repentance might yet be necessary in the current state of our heart and behavior.

What great trial have you faced/been facing? Why might it get harder? What is one thing you should be doing in light of it? To Whom should you look for wisdom to do this? At what is He always aiming for you?

Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH231 “Whate'er My God Ordains Is Right”

 

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

2020.12.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 2:4–10

Read Ephesians 2:4–10

Questions from the Scripture text: In what is God rich (Ephesians 2:4)? What caused Him to act? Whom does Paul include among the dead in Ephesians 2:5? What did God do to them? In Whom? By what were they saved? What two things did they do with them in Ephesians 2:6? Together with Whom? What did God want to show (Ephesians 2:7)? In what? In Whom? By what have we been saved (Ephesians 2:8)? Through what? And not of whom? Of whom is it a gift? If it is a gift of God, what is it not of (Ephesians 2:9)? What does this prevent anyone from doing? What are we, according to Ephesians 2:10? What has been done to us in Christ Jesus? For what were we created? From where did these good works come? For what purpose did God prepare these good works beforehand? 

Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, Song of Adoration, and Prayer of Confession all come from Ephesians 2:4–10, so that we will see that we are singing God’s thoughts after Him with Amazing Grace.

We sometimes read of people saying that what is “not of ourselves” in Ephesians 2:8 is the grace and salvation, but that somehow the faith does come from ourselves. This kind of thinking completely misses the first “by grace” in Ephesians 2:5. Those who are dead and need resurrecting cannot believe. They must be “made alive” first.

And praise God that He gives this faith according to His rich mercy and great love (Ephesians 2:4)!

And this passage teaches not only the resurrection of the believer in Christ before faith, but the ascension and session of the believer in Christ by that faith. And He “raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6).

This is how faith works unto justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification. It doesn’t just give us credit for merit that belongs to Christ or access to power that belongs to Christ; it is the means by which we are joined to Christ Himself. We are crucified in union with Him. We are resurrected in union with Him. We ascend in union with Him. We sit in union with Him.

Again (cf. Ephesians 1:23), the Holy Spirit says something here that would be a terrible blasphemy if we had come up with the idea. But this is the richness of God’s mercy and the greatness of His love (Ephesians 2:4)—to give us such honors and privileges by means of our union with Christ!

And ultimately, that is the purpose of seating us with Him, and in Him, “far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.” The purpose is, “that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

The church is like a trophy unto the exceeding riches of God’s grace in His kindness toward us. And Christ Himself, as we have been united to Him, is the great display of that grace. And God has taken His trophy and set it upon the highest pedestal of the highest heaven. Praise be to His grace!

In Ephesians 2:1-7, the apostle wrote about our utter deadness in sin as the black velvet backdrop against which shine so brightly the diamonds of God’s rich mercy, great love, and exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness. Ephesians 2:6 took us back to Christ’s seat, from Ephesians 1:20–23—to the highest height of heaven, whereupon God has placed this dazzling trophy of His grace.

But that is not the only place where it is displayed. God displays the glory of His grace down in the nitty gritty of our lives on earth as well, both in our justification and in our sanctification.

In our justification, God is pleased to display His glory in what we do not do. We do not save ourselves; we are saved by grace. Grace supplies righteousness, because we have only guiltiness to offer. Grace absorbs wrath for us, because we have nothing worthful with which to atone. Grace supplies life for us, because we have only death in us. All of this is supplied in Christ, but we are unable even to produce from ourselves the faith that makes us Christ’s and Christ ours. So grace supplies the faith too; even that is not of ourselves.

In our sanctification, God is pleased to display the glory of what He has done through what we do. Having invalidated all boasting by saving us only through union with Christ, the Lord begins to turn that black velvet into a mirror in which the dazzling glory of Christ’s goodness is reflected. 

Those who began dead in sin actually begin to do good works! Not meritorious, to be sure, but genuinely good. God begins demonstrating His workmanship (us, Ephesians 2:10) by the good works that we do. A Christian is a good-works-doing creature that did not previously exist, created in the same Christ through Whom the original creation was made. 

God is displaying His workmanship when believers submit and learn under their shepherd-teachers (Ephesians 4:7–12). God is displaying His workmanship when believers study doctrine to get it right instead of “celebrating diversity of thought” (Ephesians 4:13–14). God is displaying His workmanship when no church member is dispensable, but the God-assigned role of each is understood to be used by Christ in building up all the others (Ephesians 4:15–16). God is displaying His workmanship when believers refuse to be controlled by desires and feelings, but rather control them with truth (Ephesians 4:17–24). God is displaying His workmanship when believers do good to one another and take care not to offend one another, not to be quick to be offended, and to be quick to forgive offenses (Ephesians 4:17–5:2). God is displaying His workmanship when believers refuse to live in the fleshly or careless way of this dark world, but as the children of light whom they have been re-created to be (Ephesians 5:3–21). God is displaying His workmanship when believing wives submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22–24). God is displaying His workmanship when husbands give themselves for their wives’ sanctification (Ephesians 5:25–33). God is displaying His workmanship when children honor and obey their parents in the Lord (Ephesians 6:1–3). God is displaying His workmanship when fathers take the lead in their children’s discipline and instruction as something that belongs to the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). God is displaying His workmanship when employers and employees serve Christ first and foremost in all workplace interactions (Ephesians 6:5–9). And that is why all of these works must be supernaturally sustained by God through spiritual means that He has appointed (Ephesians 6:10–20).

Where is this great glory of God displayed? In the most mundane, everyday lives of those who began as darkness but whom He has created anew as children of light. Good works are essential, even before our needing to be holy for admittance into glory, because God has given them such a central place in displaying His glory in our sanctification. God prepared them beforehand for this!

What happened to you, in Jesus? Where “are” you, in Jesus? What difference does it make? 

What specific good works has God prepared beforehand for you to display the glory of His grace?

Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH433 “Amazing Grace!”


Monday, December 28, 2020

2020.12.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 5:18–21

Read Ephesians 5:18–21

Questions from the Scripture text: What must we not be (Ephesians 5:18)? With what? What does verse 18 call drunkenness? With what are we to be filled instead? Unto this end, what are we to do with one another (Ephesians 5:19)? In what three things are we to speak to one another? In what action are we to do this speaking? Doing what in our heart? To Whom? As we sing to one another, what else are we doing (Ephesians 5:20)? To Whom? In What? As we speak to one another in this way, and we are being spoken to, what are we to be doing to one another (Ephesians 5:21)? In What? 

Almost every reader of these devotionals would immediately join in the command not to be drunk with wine. This is the “put off” portion of command. Drunkenness leads to dissipation, which is the exact opposite of self-control—a recklessness that falls easily into any and every sort of sin.

But the “putting on” is every bit as much as a command. Being filled with the Spirit is not a higher state to which some believers finally attain. Rather, it is a command that is set in parallel cooperation with “do not be drunk with wine.” Our Lord commands every single believer to be filled with the Spirit.

Now, let us not get the wrong idea. Being filled with the Spirit is not something that we can “accomplish.” This is a commandment, but it is a passive commandment. “Be filled.” In other words, we are commanded to something that only the Spirit Himself can do. We might paraphrase it, “let the Holy Spirit fill you.”

Thankfully, in the next three verses, there are several participial verbs by which the Spirit Himself tells us the means by which He fills us, before going on in the next twenty-one verses to describe what that Spirit-filled life will look like.

“Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19a). Earlier in the letter, the apostle said that the risen, victorious Lord gives gifts to equip every joint to supply something and every member to do its share. What is a great part of that share? Public worship. Singing in public worship. Singing various kinds of Scripture (each of these terms comes from superscripts of different types of Psalms in the Greek translation of the Old Testament that they were using in Ephesus). Since the Spirit Himself fills us through our speaking to one another in the singing in public worship, you are commanded to attend. You are commanded to sing. And the Spirit Himself honors His means by filling you through that singing—not necessarily by making you feel very spiritual, but rather by making His Word to dwell in you more richly (cf. Colossians 3:16).

“Singing and making melody in your heart” (Ephesians 5:19b). Ordinarily, musical tunes energize the singing. We have all felt that. But that is not the accompaniment to the singing in Christian public worship. The accompaniment is the heart of the Christian, more specifically the grace of Christ in the heart (cf. Colossians 3:16). We understand this even better when we realize that it is Christ Himself Who sings through our brethren, and Who speaks through us to our brethren (cf. Hebrews 2:12). When this passage commands us to be filled with the Spirit, part of what it commands us to do is to realize that Jesus has not only given to us what to sing, but that He Himself is powerfully working to make those words of His to dwell richly in us while we sing. The command “Be filled with the Spirit” is a command to have a particular view of congregational singing.

“Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). The Spirit wars against the flesh, and as He wars against “fornication, uncleanness, covetousness, […] filthiness, foolish talking, and coarse jesting” (Ephesians 5:3-4a), with what does He displace these things that are put off? The Spirit displaces them with the putting on of “giving of thanks” (verse 4b). So, what is the Spirit’s own incubator for this thanksgiving that is to saturate out conversations with one another and to saturate our view of our lives under God? The Spirit incubates this thankfulness in the singing of the congregation, as the Lord Jesus Christ Himself expresses His own perfect thankfulness and joy through our mouths and in our hearts (Ephesians 5:20). 

“Submitting to one another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:21). Who leads worship at your church? In one sense, the correct answer to that question is “the risen, ascended Lord Jesus leads worship from the throne.” Hallelujah! In a subordinate sense, the answer to that question is “the shepherd-teachers whom that Jesus has given for leading and teaching His church” (cf. Ephesians 4:11). But, in a very real and true sense, under Christ and His governance through those elders, the entire congregation is called to lead within the context of the singing. This is one reason that some current trends in public worship music, in addition to profaning the worship of God by offering what is according to the design of men instead of the command of God… these trends harm the congregation’s discipleship by removing this dynamic of each of us leading all the others, and each of us being led by all the others, during congregational song. 

And how dreadful for us to diverge from the Spirit’s directives for congregational song! Here, the Holy Spirit tells us that our submission to one another in this corporate singing is part of how He fills us—part of how we obey the command to be filled with the Holy Spirit. So, if we decide instead to sing (or have musical performance) that is according to what feels most spiritual to us, we tragically give up the actual filling of the almighty Holy Spirit for a powerless and worthless feeling of spirituality. In our singing, we can only “submit to one another in the fear of God” if it is that God’s word being sung in that God’s way.

What a marvelous thing is congregational song in public worship! In it, we obey that wonderful command, “Be filled with the Spirit”!

What is happening when your church sings in public worship on the Lord’s Day? 

What are some things that you should be doing during that singing?

Suggested songs: ARP98 “O Sing a New Song to the Lord” or TPH400 “Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me”


Saturday, December 26, 2020

2020.12.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 5:15–17

Read Ephesians 5:15–17

Questions from the Scripture text: How does the apostle say to walk in Ephesians 5:15? Not as what? But as what? What are they to be doing (Ephesians 5:16)? Why? What does he say not to be (Ephesians 5:17)? What does he tell them to understand?

Sometimes someone has a distinctive walk. That’s what’s behind the biblical use of this word, ‘walk’, for one’s life before the Lord. Throughout the Old Testament, then in Jesus’s description of the narrow v.s. the broad way, and then finally here (Ephesians 4:1Ephesians 4:17Ephesians 5:1Ephesians 5:8Ephesians 5:15).

Here, the Christian’s distinctive gait, distinctive walk, is that of wisdom. “Circumspectly” means “looking around carefully.” It has become popular to talk about “living intentionally.” No one should be more intentional than a Christian, who should be putting in the effort to discover what pleases God (Ephesians 5:17, cf. Ephesians 5:10) and always evaluating our direction and progress as we look around (Ephesians 5:15). 

This effort is a costly investment. These are not days in which people prize wisdom, in which people live for the Lord and for eternity. “Redeeming” (Ephesians 5:16) describes purchase. The Bible uses the word to talk about Jesus purchasing us from the curse of the law. If you don’t want to lose the time that you have for pleasing the Lord, you are going to need to be purchasing that time by finding out what pleases the Lord and walking circumspectly.

Just as in Ephesians 5:10, there is emphasis here upon our minds. In verse 10, we were told to scrutinize and seek out whatever pleases God. Here in Ephesians 5:17, the command is to perceive or have insight.

Part of understanding God’s will is understanding that He wants our minds, our understandings. Do not be conformed to the pattern of this (foolish, evil, unfitting, unfruitful) world, but be transformed. How? By the renewing of your minds! Romans 12:2

What should your walk look like? It should look like purchasing time by finding out from the Bible what are things that please God, and then being aware of how your walking compares to what the Bible says, so that you can purchase that time by doing it.

How do you use work time? Down time? Worship/Lord’s-Day time? What effort do you put into evaluating those choices? By what standard do you evaluate them?

Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH400 “Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me”


Friday, December 25, 2020

2020.12.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 5:8–14

Read Ephesians 5:8-14 

Questions from the Scripture text: What were the Ephesians before (Ephesians 5:8)? What are they now? How should they walk? In what three things is the fruit of the Spirit (Ephesians 5:9)? What are they to find out (Ephesians 5:10)? With what are they not to have fellowship (Ephesians 5:11a)? What should their conduct do instead (verse 11b)? What is shameful even to speak of (Ephesians 5:12)? What does the light do to those things (Ephesians 5:13)? What two things are we commanded to do by the light of Christ in Ephesians 5:14? 

The apostle has been teaching us that Christ’s salvation is a life-transforming salvation. Believers are a new creation (Ephesians 2:10), with a new calling (Ephesians 4:1), and a new character (Ephesians 5:1). 

The contrast between the old and the new is put quite starkly in Ephesians 5:8—not just that we were once in darkness, but that we ourselves were darkness. Not just that we have come into the light, but that we ourselves are now light. 

When he tells us to walk as children of light, He is picking up on the fact that the God of Whom we are beloved children (Ephesians 5:1) is the God Who is light, and in Whom there is no darkness at all (cf. 1 John 1:5). “Now that you are light,” says the apostle, “keep making step by step in your forward progress as lightlings.”

So, what does a lightling look like as it walks? It’s fruitful. The Spirit of God, the Spirit Who is producing light in us, bears fruit in us: all goodness, righteousness, and truth. The fruit of consistency with God’s character, God’s standards, and God’s Word. The kinds of things that we should determinedly discover, constantly finding out whatever pleases the Lord (Ephesians 5:10).

Lightlings do works (Ephesians 2:10) that are fruit of the Spirit’s light in them. But those who are still darkness do works that have none of this fruit in them at all—unfruitful works of darkness (Ephesians 5:11). Everything that we do is either a fruit of light, or else it is an unfruitful work of darkness. So, when lightlings and darklings come across one another, the fruitlessness of the darkness is exposed by the fruitfulness of the light. 

This is an uncomfortable thing for those who are darkness. It’s hard to be someone in whom the miracle of new creation has not taken place, when everyone around you is popping out light-fruit. The temptation for those who are lightlings is to “tone it down” to make it easier for the darkness to be around them. 

But to tone it down is to stifle the fruit, to hide the light, and even to have some share in the darkness continuing to be unfruitful. Are we really willing to have a share in the kind of thing that it is even shameful to speak about (Ephesians 5:12)? 

Or, would you rather have a share in that exposing of darkness that Jesus uses to actually turn darkness into light (Ephesians 5:13)? 

Christ is that awakening, resurrecting, shining light described in Isaiah 51:17, Isaiah 52:1, Isaiah 60:1–3. And when He saves us, He turns us into lightlings that expose others as darkness Whom He may save and transform into light. 

So, don’t shrink back from bearing that light-fruit and the discomfort that can come to the darkness when it is exposed. Instead, since He has transformed you into light, SHINE!

Around whom are you embarrassed to shine by walking in goodness and righteousness and truth? Whom should you seek to please when around those people? How is this actually good for those people?

Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH400 “Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me”



Thursday, December 24, 2020

2020.12.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 5:3–7

Read Ephesians 5:3–7

Questions from the Scripture text: What three kinds of sin does Ephesians 5:3 mention? What should they not even do with such sins? Why? What other three things are not fitting (Ephesians 5:4)? What is, then, fitting? Who knows the truth in Ephesians 5:5? What four types of people does verse 5 mention? What do none of these types have none of? What does he command them not to let happen in Ephesians 5:6? What will people speak in order to defend the idea that Christians can be these types of people? Why shouldn’t the Ephesians listen to these empty words, according to the second half of verse 6? What should the Ephesian believers do with such people (Ephesians 5:7)? 

Perhaps you have heard (or even spoken) such speech among believers as might hint at the enjoyability of sin, or the kind of talking that might cause one’s ears to perk up in curiosity about sin. Love doesn’t do that, says Ephesians 5:3. Rather, love speaks in a way that is fitting for saints.

Yes, our conversations should be different enough from unbelievers’ conversations that upon hearing us they would say (whether out of irritation, admiration, or otherwise), “they’re so holy.” That’s what it means to not even let those things in Ephesians 5:3-4 be named. That’s not “fitting for saints.”

When was the last time you heard a conversation in which each was encouraging the other to speak thankfully toward God? Well, that’s exactly what saintly speech sounds like according to the end of Ephesians 5:4.

Why? Because that’s what heaven’s speech sounds like! You can see some samples in Revelation chapters 4–5. Those are the people (from every tribe, tongue, and nation) with whom believers are to be “partakers” (Ephesians 5:7) in the “inheritance of the kingdom of Christ and God” (Ephesians 5:5). 

Still, the pull of the flesh is strong, and it makes us vulnerable to being “deceived with empty words” (Ephesians 5:6). When preachers realize that churchgoers still love their sin—or that the world hates to be told about its sin—they are tempted to speak empty words that soften the blow for “fornicators, unclean persons, or the covetous.” 

Don’t get sucked into such talk! Those are empty words that deceive even believers. Rather, think about the world with whom you are partakers: not the fleshly world of foolishness and filthiness, but the heavenly world of wisdom and delighting in God and His holiness!

Whenever we gather with one another in the church, our conversations should be like a visit to that heavenly world—mutual reinforcement in holiness, confidently hoping in our sure inheritance, and stirring one another up to give thanks to God in a virtuous cycle of building one another up in Him!

What are some things that you are thankful for? With whom do you plan to give that thanksgiving today? This Lord’s Day? What are some foolish and unhelpful conversations that you sometimes slide into at home or at church? How will you go about reversing them or avoiding them? Whom do you know who talks in a way that softens the blow for the wicked? Avoid them!

Suggested songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or TPH400 “Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me”

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Hopewell Liturgy Reform, pt 2 — Q&A (2020.12.20 Sabbath School)

Q and A session. For clarity, again, at its last meeting the Session was insistent to the instructor to make sure to communicate that this was NOT for feedback or input, since that is not how public worship decisions are made. Rather, it was an opportunity for the congregation to acclimate to what is changing and to ask questions.

Christ Strengthens Us by Arming Us Together as One in Public Worship (2020.12.20 Evening Sermon in Ephesians 6:13–16)

What the apostle describes here as "taking up the armor of God" is the use of that corporate worship that He has been describing throughout the epistle. This does not surprise us, because throughout the letter, the apostle has been teaching us that this is how Christ imparts His own strength to us.

Affliction Useful for Forgetfulness, Fruitfulness, and Faith (2020.12.20 Morning Sermon in Genesis 41:46–42:9)

When God brings us through affliction to fulfillment, He is increasing our holy forgetfulness, hearty fruitfulness, and hope-full faith.

2020.12.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 4:31–5:2

Read Ephesians 4:31–5:2

Questions from the Scripture text: What six things does Ephesians 4:31 command us to put away from us? How are we to be toward one another (Ephesians 4:32)? Out of what kind of heart? What will we need to do to one another if this is to be the case? Who has done it to us first and how? So, when we forgive one another, Whom are we imitating (Ephesians 5:1)? What are we enjoying and showing about ourselves as we imitate Him? In what are we to walk (Ephesians 5:2)? Whom are we imitating in that? What did Christ do in that love? How did His giving Himself for us function toward God? 

The walking that is worthy of our calling (Ephesians 4:1) is a walking in love toward God and men (Ephesians 5:2). So, the Spirit of adoption from the Father, Who is the Spirit of the Son, occupies our hearts (Ephesians 4:30), and we are not to grieve Him by allowing bitterness/wrath/anger to be roommates with Him in our hearts, or to overflow through our mouths (cf. Luke 6:45) in quarreling or gossiping (Ephesians 4:31b), all of which evidence hatred and ill will (Ephesians 4:31c). 

He is in us as a seal unto the day of redemption, and He is a seal “of authenticity,” because He is making us authentically like our Father and the only-begotten Son. By the Spirit, we put to death the deeds of the body (who we were in Adam, cf. Romans 8:13). Instead, He leads us to live like children of God (cf. Romans 8:14)—showing that we are truly God’s children (cf. Romans 8:15–16).

Here we have another “putting off the old man” (cf. Ephesians 4:22) and “putting on the new man which was created according to God” (cf. Ephesians 4:24). That last part—the “according to God”—is very clear in these four verses. In Ephesians 4:32, the forgiving is “even as God in Christ” has done. In Ephesians 5:1, the apostles says, “be imitators of God.” In Ephesians 5:2, walking in love is “as Christ also has loved.” 

If we are dear children of God, we are to bear the family resemblance to Father. And we know what this looks like, especially by observing the Son in His own humanity. What would Jesus do? He loved God (as “an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma”) and men (as He “has loved us and given Himself for us”), Ephesians 5:2.

Specifically, God has forgiven us; we are to forgive others. And it is an especially challenging definition of forgiveness: being kind and tenderhearted toward that “one another” who have sinned against us. Praise God that it is His almighty Spirit Who is doing the work in us, and that He began this work by creating us anew in Christ Jesus!

Who has sinned against you in the church? How does this make him or her an especially good candidate with whom to obey 4:32? How can you do this?

Suggested songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or TPH400 “Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me”


Tuesday, December 22, 2020

2020.12.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Corinthians 2:1–5

Read 1 Corinthians 2:1–5

Questions from the Scripture text: How did Paul not come to them (1 Corinthians 2:1)? What did he come declaring instead? What was he determined not know (1 Corinthians 2:2)? What, alone, was he determined to know? What about Christ did he emphasize? How did Paul present himself before them in 1 Corinthians 2:3? What did his preaching appear to be missing, to some (1 Corinthians 2:4)? But with what did that preaching come? What did this keep them from putting their faith in (1 Corinthians 2:5a)? What did it ensure that they would put their faith in (verse 5b)? 

Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin come from 1 Corinthians 2:1–5 in order that we will see that we are singing God’s thoughts after Him with All Hail the Power of Jesus’s Name.

In this passage, we are challenged about what we put our faith in, and what we lead others to put our faith in. Praise God for faithful churches, and praise God for faithful ministers. But, our passage leaves us with the clear message that if people come away from us thinking, “what a great church!” or “what a great minister!” then we have not truly achieved our aim. Rather, we should desire that they come away thinking, “What a great God!” and “What a great Savior!” and “What a great salvation!”

Paul is still encouraging them to embrace their ordinariness—to embrace their unimpressiveness. Not only does this ensure that all the glory goes to God (as we learned in last week’s passage), but it also redirects people’s faith.

If the Lord takes us from people, would they say, “Oh no! What shall we do?” Or, have we been determined to know nothing among them except Jesus Christ and Him crucified, so that they can receive a message similar to Joshua chapter 1: “Moses, My servant, is dead. Now, be strong and courageous for [God] is with you.”

How we present ourselves to those to whom we minister is, in the economy of God’s providence, a significant factor in determining upon what they come to depend. Will they end up with faith in the wisdom (or, perhaps thoughtfulness or goodness or togetherness, or ?) of men? Or will they end up with faith in the power of God?

Paul didn’t preach cleverly assembled sermons full of catchy turns of phrase. He preached plain doctrine about how God became man to save, and did so not by being impressive but rather by being executed.

In fact, he preached such sermons that one would say, “Come on Paul… it would take a miracle from God for that sermon to bring someone to faith!”

And that is exactly the point, isn’t it? Paul came and preached plainly about Jesus so that when the people believed, all would know for sure, “This can be a demonstration only of the Spirit and power of God!”

Isn’t this what we want most, when we witness, or when we have others preach and teach to us: not that there would be a great presentation that gives us a memorable encounter with men, but instead that there would be a plain gospel presentation, that Christ would be clearly seen, and that there would be a glorious encounter with God.

Let us so act and so speak as to have this as our great aim!

How can you be presenting Jesus more plainly and yourself less impressively to others?

Suggested songs: ARP189 “Universal Praise” or TPH375 “All Hail the Power of Jesus’s Name”


Monday, December 21, 2020

2020.12.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 41:46–42:9

Read Genesis 41:46–42:9

Questions from the Scripture text: How old is Joseph now, and how long has he been in Egypt (Genesis 41:46, cf. Genesis 37:2)? How many years pass in Genesis 41:47-53? What does the land do during this time (Genesis 41:47)? What does Joseph do, where, during this time (Genesis 41:48)? How much does he gather (Genesis 41:49)? What/who else is fruitful at this time (Genesis 41:50)? What does Joseph call the firstborn (Genesis 41:51)? Why? What does he call the second (Genesis 41:52)? Why? What begin to come in Genesis 41:54? Where was there famine? Where was there bread? What happened to all the land of Egypt in Genesis 41:55? To whom did they cry out? What did he tell them to do? Where, again, does Genesis 41:56 repeat that the famine was? What did Joseph open? To whom did he sell? How bad was the famine? Who came to Joseph in Genesis 41:57? Where else was the famine this bad? What did Jacob “see” in Genesis 42:1? What were his sons “seeing”? What does he tell them to do in Genesis 42:2? For what purpose? Who go to Egypt to do what in Genesis 42:3? Who doesn’t go (Genesis 42:4)? Why not? With whom do the sons of Israel go (Genesis 42:5)? Who was personally overseeing the selling in Genesis 42:6? Who come? What do they do before him? In what manner (cf. end of Genesis 37:10)? What does Joseph do when he recognizes them (Genesis 42:7)? What does Genesis 42:8 tell us about this recognition? What does Joseph remember (Genesis 42:9)? How does he speak to them, and what does he say? What do they call Joseph in Genesis 42:10? What do they call themselves? What do they claim shows they are not spies in Genesis 42:11? What accusation does Joseph repeat (Genesis 42:12)? What extra data do they add in Genesis 42:13 about the claim they had made in Genesis 42:11? What accusation does Joseph repeat in Genesis 42:14? How does the demand of Genesis 42:15 relate to the claims they have made? How many does he say may go, and how many must stay, to prove it? For how long does he put them where, under this stated arrangement (Genesis 42:17)?

God has made Joseph fruitful! His wisdom pays off for Egypt, and ultimately for Canaan. When Jacob asks his sons (Genesis 42:1), “Why do you look at one another,” part of the answer is that they had sold into slavery the one whose wisdom would have had them preparing for this famine for the prior seven years!

Back in Egypt, although the grain storage was a “big government” program, Joseph emphasized local administration (Genesis 41:48). Genesis 41:54 may imply a little lag before Genesis 41:55, possibly due to each city’s residents storing their own, in addition to the local/city-wide effort. Regardless, Pharaoh has bread (verse 55) because Pharaoh has Joseph (Genesis 41:56), whom Canaan also needs (Genesis 41:57).

Of course, Joseph was fruitful in more than one way. Sure, he had an uncountable ocean of grain (Genesis 41:49Genesis 41:47-48). But he also had a very countable, but much more significant, pair of boys (Genesis 41:50-52). In fact, he names boy #2 “double fruitful,” acknowledging what the Lord has done. Yes, Joseph had been afflicted in Egypt, but affliction was a tree that had borne double fruit.

In addition to making Joseph fruitful, the Lord had made Joseph forgetful—not just of his toil in Egypt, but especially of his father’s house (Genesis 41:51). Not so much a structure or collection of tents, but a clan that had tried to murder him. In his new position, Joseph could probably have made a trip up to Canaan to see his family, but he goes instead throughout all the land of Egypt (Genesis 41:46). He was on a mission quite literally from God, and commissioned by Pharaoh. A mission that would save that household, whom he hadn’t seen in 13 years. The knowledge of God’s grace enables Joseph to a holy forgetfulness in which he set aside what came before in order to serve God fully in his present circumstances.

By the time we get to Genesis 42:3-9, those 13 years have become 20. It is at this point that God adds fulfilled faith to the fruitfulness and forgetfulness that He has given Joseph. The brothers bowing with their faces to the earth in Genesis 42:6 fulfill the prophetical dream of Genesis 37:7. Joseph recognizes (Genesis 37:7Genesis 37:8) and remembers (Genesis 37:9). God has displayed His faithfulness and strengthened His servant’s faith.

How necessary for us is this grace of God that makes affliction into the soil where our fruit grows, the dark velvet which we forget for the sparkling jewels of His blessing set against them, the season of clinging by faith until that faith becomes sight! It is worth observing that Genesis 37:5 notes for us that Jacob has now joined both father Isaac and grandfather Abraham in experiencing famine in the land of promise. Let all of God’s saints anticipate this affliction, resting upon the God Whose grace will use it to give us fruitfulness, holy forgetfulness, and fulfilled faith.

Through what affliction has God brought you? What fruit/forgetfulness/fulfilled faith did it bring?

Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH257 “Children of the Heavenly Father”


Saturday, December 19, 2020

2020.12.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 41:46–42:9

Read Genesis 41:46–42:9

Questions from the Scripture text: How old is Joseph now, and how long has he been in Egypt (Genesis 41:46, cf. Genesis 37:2)? How many years pass in Genesis 41:47-53? What does the land do during this time (Genesis 41:47)? What does Joseph do, where, during this time (Genesis 41:48)? How much does he gather (Genesis 41:49)? What/who else is fruitful at this time (Genesis 41:50)? What does Joseph call the firstborn (Genesis 41:51)? Why? What does he call the second (Genesis 41:52)? Why? What begin to come in Genesis 41:54? Where was there famine? Where was there bread? What happened to all the land of Egypt in Genesis 41:55? To whom did they cry out? What did he tell them to do? Where, again, does Genesis 41:56 repeat that the famine was? What did Joseph open? To whom did he sell? How bad was the famine? Who came to Joseph in Genesis 41:57? Where else was the famine this bad? What did Jacob “see” in Genesis 42:1? What were his sons “seeing”? What does he tell them to do in Genesis 42:2? For what purpose? Who go to Egypt to do what in Genesis 42:3? Who doesn’t go (Genesis 42:4)? Why not? With whom do the sons of Israel go (Genesis 42:5)? Who was personally overseeing the selling in Genesis 42:6? Who come? What do they do before him? In what manner (cf. end of Genesis 37:10)? What does Joseph do when he recognizes them (Genesis 42:7)? What does Genesis 42:8 tell us about this recognition? What does Joseph remember (Genesis 42:9)? How does he speak to them, and what does he say? What do they call Joseph in Genesis 42:10? What do they call themselves? What do they claim shows they are not spies in Genesis 42:11? What accusation does Joseph repeat (Genesis 42:12)? What extra data do they add in Genesis 42:13 about the claim they had made in Genesis 42:11? What accusation does Joseph repeat in Genesis 42:14? How does the demand of Genesis 42:15 relate to the claims they have made? How many does he say may go, and how many must stay, to prove it? For how long does he put them where, under this stated arrangement (Genesis 42:17)?

Dreams come true, if they’re prophetical dreams. Joseph has been very insistent that these particular dreams (Butler, Baker, Pharaoh, chapters 40–41) are from God. And they have come true. But what about his? Yes, God has lifted him out of the pit. The previous passage especially emphasized God humbling the proud (Pharaoh/Egypt) and lifting up the lowly (Joseph), but what about his brothers bowing down before him?

The Holy Spirit gives us a clue in Genesis 41:46 that what we are to see here is fulfillment of God’s Word: “Joseph was 30 years old.”  The dreams were to take effect immediately (Genesis 41:32). Then we add the seven years of Genesis 41:53. So Joseph is 37 years old and married with two children (Genesis 41:50) whom he has named out of faith in the Lord and praise to Him for the way His goodness has swallowed up the affliction of his years growing up (Genesis 41:51) and in Egypt (Genesis 41:52).

All of this calls our attention back to Genesis 37:2, which was some 20 years ago now—more than half his lifetime. And that establishes the background for Genesis 42:6, “Now Joseph was governor over the land; and it was he who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed down before him with their faces to the earth.” Joseph sees them (mentioned twice, actually, Genesis 42:7Genesis 42:8) and remembers that this was prophesied by God (Genesis 42:9).

In all of this, the Lord has brought Joseph to a holy forgetfulness, fruitfulness, and faith.

Forgetfulness. Manasseh. “God has made me forget all my toil and all my father’s house” (Genesis 41:51). Just as the years of famine were going to swallow up the years of plenty in Egypt, the reverse is true with God’s providence to believers: “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18. “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17). The certainty of God’s Word means that we may embrace already the certainty that the exceeding and eternal blessedness that is coming will make us “forget” the toil and affliction of the past and present.

Fruitfulness. Ephraim. “For God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction” (Genesis 41:52). The certainty of God’s Word coming true means not only that these afflictions will be forgotten in the future, but also that they are fruitful in the present. He has planned them for His good purposes. It is precisely through them that He is doing good. We are not only to trust Him, but to serve Him, seeing that He works graciously now in us, and is glorified by the fruit of that grace, as it is displayed in our lives.

Faith. “Then Joseph remembered the dreams which he had dreamed about them” (Genesis 42:9). We’ll consider the rest of the verse, and what Joseph is doing, when we come to consider Genesis 42:9–38 and the priming of the rest of the family for a leap of repentance and faith. But, for now, we see how God uses affliction to strengthen our faith. To make us that much more sure of Him, and everything He has said in His Word. Joseph is a man who has believed God up until now. And what a payoff of confirmed faith he now enjoys. 

What is God doing in the afflictions of believers? He is bringing them to a holy forgetfulness, fruitfulness, and faith! He may be doing so in a way that feels painfully slow to us, but it is actually in His perfect time.

What is the hardest thing you’ve gone through? What fruit did it produce? How does your future compare?

Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH257 “Children of the Heavenly Father”

 

Friday, December 18, 2020

2020.12.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 11:1–13

Read Luke 11:1–13

Questions from the Scripture text: What was Jesus doing (Luke 11:1)? What did the disciples ask when He finished? How does Jesus respond to whom (Luke 11:2)? How are they to address God? What is the first petition? The second? The third? For what manner of the doing of God’s will should they pray? What is the fourth petition (Luke 11:3)? What is the fifth (Luke 11:4)? What are the two parts of the sixth petition? About what hypothetical situation does He ask them in Luke 11:5-6? What does He challenge them that they would not do (Luke 11:7)? Why does He say that they would give the friend “as many as he needs” (Luke 11:8)? Which actions of the friend in the question does He use to describe praying in Luke 11:9? What will the Father do in response to each of these? What is the relationship of Luke 11:10 to Luke 11:9? What effect does this have, as Jesus urges them to be persistent in prayer? What new hypothetical questions does Jesus propose in Luke 11:11-12? What does He say about their character in Luke 11:13? But what does He say they know how to do? To Whom does He compare them? What good Gift will He much more surely give?

If the Lord Jesus’s praying in Luke 11:1 is reflected in the petitions that He teaches them in Luke 11:2-4, then that gives us the content of the kind of prayer to which He is directing us in Luke 11:5-13. The teaching here is presented as a whole, bookended by “Our Father in heaven” in Luke 11:2 and “your heavenly Father” in Luke 11:13.

For what had John taught his disciples (Luke 11:1)? He was proclaiming the need for repentance (Luke 3:1–14) in light of the coming of the Christ who would pour out upon them not water but the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:15–16). And it is reasonable to conclude that he taught them to pray along similar lines.

Now Christ the King upgrades all of these things as He teaches us to pray. 

Not merely for the coming of the Christ, but for the consummation of His kingdom (Luke 11:2). 

Not merely for the requisite repentance but for sure and free forgiveness (Luke 11:4). 

Not merely for One who would pour out the Spirit, but for the instant, delighted, abundant giving of that Spirit by Him Whom we now know as Father (Luke 11:11-13).

The Lord Jesus teaches us to be ambitious and confident as we pray for spiritual things! And oh how comforting this is to us who need constant reaffirmation of God’s forgiveness, of God’s Spirit carrying us along in our repentance and service, and of the powerful and unstoppable progress of His kingdom, despite all that we might think we see in the world!

His instruction on praying for earthly things is, by comparison, modest. Daily bread in Luke 11:3. Sometimes requiring persistence in asking for bread, or whatever it is that we need (Luke 11:5-8). Still, even these prayers are to be offered in confidence that whatever is good our wise and good Father will give us (Luke 11:9-15, cf. Matthew 7:7–10). 

And of course, one of those good things He will give us is that ministry if His Spirit that stirs up our heart more and more toward spiritual things, as we serve our heavenly Father and King in every spiritual circumstance.

God grant that our praying would not be like John’s so much, but rather reflect that Christ has come, the Spirit has been given, and the kingdom is unstoppably coming! (cf. Acts 19:1–10)

What spiritual things are major items of prayer for you? What earthly things? In what manner do you pray?

Suggested songs: ARP4 “Answer When I Call” or TPH518 “Come, My Soul, with Every Care”


Thursday, December 17, 2020

Armed Together in Christ's Strength through Corporate Worship (Family Worship in Ephesians 6:13–16)

How does Christ, our Strength, Strengthen Us? Pastor leads his family in today’s “Hopewell @Home” passage. In these four verses, we learn that what the apostle describes here as taking up the armor of God is the use of that corporate worship that He has been describing throughout the epistle.

Praising His Work to Provoke His Work (2020.12.09 Prayer Lesson in Rev 15:1–5)

In His greatest works, God often ordains to do them as responses to the prayers of His people, and indeed to delay them until those praises. What an encouragement unto praise and prayer this is—and especially the two, combined! Yes, on the one hand, we are commanded unto them. So, it is our duty. But, in considering what great place God has assigned to them, we see that it is also our great privilege!

2020.12.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 6:13–16

Read Ephesians 6:13–16

Questions from the Scripture text: What, again, were they to take up (Ephesians 6:13)? How much of it? That they might be able to do what? When (cf. Ephesians 5:16? And then what? And then what? What command does Ephesians 6:14 repeat? With what are they to gird their loins (waist)? What is to be as a breastplate to them? What footwear should they put on (Ephesians 6:15)? How does Ephesians 6:16 begin by telling us the importance of this item? What is it? With it, what will they be able to do, to what, from whom? 

Having been briefed on the enemy and given our orders, these verses begin to describe our equipment.

We notice that, although it is in the Lord Himself and His powerful might that we are to stand, there is a duty placed upon us to put on this armor. We are told to gird with the belt and put on the breastplate. We are told to put on the shoes and take the shield. 

Yes, it occurs only by God’s grace, only by God’s power. But that does not remove from us either responsibility or activity. Rather, it emphasizes that responsibility because the God in Whom we are told to be strong has told us to do this, and it narrows the central focus of our activity to those particular things that this God has told us to do.

A second thing to notice, even before getting to the pieces of the armor themselves, is that these are corporate commands. We are not surprised, since this fits perfectly with what the apostles spent much of chapter four drilling into us about how believers grow up into Christ our head. But, in our fleshly individualism we are forgetful both of the needs and the needfulness of others. So, it bears pointing out that these are pieces of armor that we put on together, as part of the body of Christ.

This corporate aspect is especially noticeable in the shoes and the shield. The shoes of the gospel of peace almost certainly refers us back to the beautiful feet of the one who announces good news of peace in Isaiah 52:7, and in this book we have learned that we all address one another with this glorious truth (Ephesians 4:12–16), especially in that corporate worship where we address one another with the Word in songs by which the Lord fills us with His Spirit (Ephesians 5:18–21). If you’re missing corporate worship, you are not the beautiful-footed gospelist of Isaiah 52:7 whom we now see as the sure-footed soldier of Ephesians 6:15.

The shield of faith is also one that must be corporately wielded. Of the Roman shields, this was the large one that was used together with the rest of your unit to make an impregnable enclosure. This is confirmed by the fact of its primary use being against fiery darts. Under a hailstorm of pitch-coated fiery arrows, these shields need to be used together in unison. How many a believer has found it nearly impossible to resist doubt and temptation by himself, and then he has gone into the assembly where we all lift together the shield of faith, and the Lord has guarded and delivered him there!

And it is precisely that shield of faith in which we cling to the truth of God, His Word as the belt by which all the pieces are held together. And also to the righteousness of Christ, through which no attack can wound us. It is by the exercise of faith that His perfect truth also makes us wiser in the truth and ourselves more faithful and true. It is by the exercise of faith that Christ’s perfect righteousness that has been counted to us begins to be reflected in the righteous way that we live. It is no longer we who live, but Christ Who lives in us. The life that we live, we live by faith in the Son of God Who loved us and gave Himself for us!

So, while it is ultimately true that what we are really being told here is “put on Christ,” it is helpful to see that Christ has given us specific actions by which He will graciously make that an experienced reality in our lives. And first and foremost, those actions are the clinging together to His Word and His righteousness, as He has given to us to do in His corporate worship. It is this that will be the means by which we come to live as children of light in our everyday lives.

Therefore, take up the whole armor of God!

How does singing thoughtfully and heartily in public worship help you cling to God’s truth? How does it help you cling to Christ’s righteousness? When we hear, pray, sup, and ‘amen’ together, what are we taking up?

Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or TPH406 “Jesus, with Thy Church Abide”

 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

God's Grace Our Only Hope to Save Us from Our Remaining Sin (Family Worship in 1Samuel 27–29)

What are we to think about what David is doing in this passage, and why does the passage about Saul interrupt it? Pastor leads his family in today’s “Hopewell @Home” passage. In these forty-eight verses, we learn that David still has within him the capacity for great sin within him, and that the only thing that keeps him (or us!) from becoming Saul 2.0 is God’s saving grace.

2020.12.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Samuel 27–29

Read 1 Samuel 27–29

Questions from the Scripture text: What does David surprisingly (cf. 1 Samuel 16:10) say in 1 Samuel 27:1? Where does he go with whom, and whom do they bring (1 Samuel 27:2-3)? What did this accomplish (1 Samuel 27:4)? For what does he ask (1 Samuel 27:5), and what does he receive (1 Samuel 27:6)? For how long (1 Samuel 27:7) was David doing what, where (1 Samuel 27:8-9)? But where did he tell Achish he was doing this (1 Samuel 27:10)? So what did Achish believe (1 Samuel 27:12), and why (1 Samuel 27:11)? What was Achish going to do in 1 Samuel 28:1, and whom did he tell to come as what (1 Samuel 28:2)? What does the Holy Spirit tell us about (1 Samuel 28:3-25), while letting the suspense and drama of this situation hang in the balance? How does God get David out of it (1 Samuel 29:1–11)? What does Achish still believe at the end of all this (1 Samuel 29:3b1 Samuel 29:6)? How does David act at the news (1 Samuel 29:7-8)? Meanwhile, who is on the other side of this Philistine lead-up to war (1 Samuel 28:4)? What did he desperately seek and how at first (1 Samuel 28:5-6), and then later (1 Samuel 28:7)? Why was this challenging (1 Samuel 28:8-10)? What happens, and what does the woman conclude (1 Samuel 28:11-14)? What does Saul do and ask (1 Samuel 28:14-15)? What does Samuel explain as the reason (1 Samuel 28:16-18) for what is about to happen (1 Samuel 28:19)? How does Saul respond to the news (1 Samuel 28:20)? How does Saul end up having what for his last supper (1 Samuel 28:21-25)?

Was David right or wrong? Well… yes. Things are often more complex than that. But the introduction to the episode, the contrast to his former actions, and the parallel with Saul that so rudely interrupts the passage all point to significant error—even sin, as we should call it when it appears—on David’s part. 

But Yahweh saves Him and does Him good! Yes, and that is a great part of the teaching of the text. The Lord Who is saving us does so not based upon how well we are doing, but upon His gracious intentions. Almost certainly, David doesn’t feel that everything is going swimmingly. 

When Samuel’s death—and Saul’s attempted undeading of his services—so rudely interrupts us in 1 Samuel 28:3 (cf. 1 Samuel 25:1), David is between a Ziklag and war-place. How will he squirm out of this one? The text actually leaves us under that pressure until 1 Samuel 29:1–4, reminding us in the meantime of how bad things have gotten with Saul. That all leaves us wondering if David’s faithless feeling/thinking in 1 Samuel 27:1, and the fact that he is no longer consulting Yahweh as in 1 Samuel 23:1–13, means that we may be on the verge of Saul 2.0.

So, yes, Yahweh saves him, but the flow and force of the text seem to be saying that it is not so much by cleverness and shrewdness with God’s enemies, but by the sheer grace of what God does in the hearts of the princes of the Philistines in 1 Samuel 29:4.

But how about the eliminating the threat of raiding bands (Geshurites, Girzites, and Amalekites, 1 Samuel 27:8) in the Judean hill country? Isn’t that a good thing for a king to do? Well, yes, to an extent (God hadn’t commanded him to do so, and 1 Samuel 27:11 makes it plain that David wasn’t carrying out conquest-judgments but rather closing lip-holes in his Achisch-pacification plan. And it’s telling that the brutal completeness of his modus operandi in 1 Samuel 27:91 Samuel 27:11 draws a contrast to the comparative (self-interested, and wickedly intended, to be sure) mercy of the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 30:2.

So, God does good to those upon whom He has set His grace, even when they are not doing particularly well. And God does good through many who are not doing particularly well spiritually. I’m sure the Israelites “south of the Jerahmeelites or south of the Kenites” (1 Samuel 27:10) were happy for God’s reprieve from the wicked raiders.

But God takes our sin extremely seriously, and that’s the point of the Saul narrative that the Holy Spirit uses to build pressure while we and David are cliff-hanging. Saul has done much by now that is rather wicked; but it is ironic that while David does not seem to be seeking Yahweh at all, Saul wants the (earthly, to be sure, rather than spiritual) help of the Lord of Whom he had made an enemy (1 Samuel 28:16) by half-obedience and neglect of His honor (1 Samuel 28:18). 

It’s amazing that it’s this incident—“you did not obey the voice of Yahweh nor execute His fierce wrath upon Amalek”—that is still the primary cause of Saul’s demise. How easily Samuel could have added the sin of consulting a medium! But there are no small sins. And that’s a big part of the point.

Which brings us back (literally, 1 Samuel 29:1) to David and sharpens the focus of chapters 27–29 upon the grace of God. He is not inviting us to be sympathetic with David’s actions, but rather to hope in David’s God, and that God’s great grace. For, in that grace, God would be bringing great David’s greater Son, Who would speak and do only as He saw from His Father in heaven, and yet would suffer a punishment far worse than Saul in order to bring a deliverance infinitely better than David’s.

When we read this passage, but especially when we consider what our King had to offer in His perfect obedience and suffer in His fully-atoning sacrifice, we realize that none of our sins are small. But, we also realize that the grace of this God is infinitely bigger. So, we see His love and respond to Him with repentance that seeks to be holy even to the level that He is holy. And, rather than being dismayed when we keep committing these very not-small sins, our loving and grateful repentance comes also with the confidence that He has been doing good to us and through us, throughout it all!

When has God worked in or through you, while you were sinning? Why isn’t this an encouragement to sin?

Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH433 “Amazing Grace”


Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Amazing, Assuring, Abounding Salvation-Love of God (Family Worship in Romans 5:6–21)

What special benefits come from knowing Whom it was who died for us and what we were like when He did so? Pastor leads his family in today's "Hopewell @Home" passage. In these sixteen verses, we learn that these facts amaze us at God's salvation-love, assure us of the completion of salvation, and make to abound to us a limitless trove of Christ's life, righteousness, and strength for all that we need in the meantime.

2020.12.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 5:6–21

Read Romans 5:6–21

Questions from the Scripture text: What condition were we in, when Christ died for us (Romans 5:6)? For whom does verse 6 specifically say that Christ died? For what kind of man would people ordinarily still be unwilling to die (Romans 5:7)? Who is giving the demonstration in Romans 5:8? What is He demonstrating? For Whom? In what condition were we when Christ died? For whom did Christ die? Is Romans 5:9 presenting something that is more certain, or less certain, than sinners, such as we are, being justified (declared righteous) through Christ’s blood? What is more certain—from what will we be saved? Through Whom? What were we, when we were reconciled to God (Romans 5:10)? Through what were we reconciled? What condition are we now in? By what shall we be saved (end of verse 10)? In addition to this certainty, what are we already doing (Romans 5:11)? In Whom are we rejoicing? Through Whom are we rejoicing? Why—what have we received through Him? How did sin enter the world (Romans 5:12)? What entered through sin? What had all men done (verse 12)? What was already in the world before it was given on Sinai (Romans 5:13)? What happened to men from Adam to Moses, to show that the law was already in effect (Romans 5:14)? When Adam’s offense and Jesus’ grace are in competition, which does Romans 5:15 say “abounded”? How many offenses of Adam did it take to condemn us (Romans 5:17a)? From how many of our offenses did Jesus justify us (verse 17b)? What kind of gift did Romans 5:18 call this? How were many made sinners (Romans 5:19a)? How were many made righteous (verse 19b)? When the law came to be written on stone and scroll, instead of only on hearts, what abounded (Romans 5:20)? But when Jesus came and was obedient in our place, what abounded even more than the offense of those sins? Whose kingly reigns are in competition in Romans 5:21? What do each of these produce? Whom does verse 21 identify as having made this glorious difference? 

Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, Song of Adoration, and Prayer of Confession all come from Romans 5:6–21, so that we will see that we are singing God’s thoughts after Him with And Can It Be That I Should Gain.

This is a passage about those whom God has declared righteous through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). But there are two transitions that have taken place. Legally, they have gone from “sinners” (Romans 5:8) to “justified” (Romans 5:9). Relationally, they have gone from “enemies” (Romans 5:10) to “reconciled” (Romans 5:10,Romans 5:11). Is this you, dear reader? Have you recognized the debt of sin, and come to the cross and had it canceled in the permanent ink of the blood of Jesus Christ? If so, then you are reconciled with God!

And the point that our passage is making is that if God’s particular interest in you was such that while you were still ungodly and a sinner and an enemy, Christ died for you… how can it even be possible that God’s interest in you has become any less now? Less interest in one who is declared righteous by the throne of heaven? Less interest in one whose righteousness and reconciliation are the result of being IN CHRIST? Less interest now that you have gone from His enemy to His friend? Of course not! God’s redeeming love and saving interest in you cannot be lost by anything in time, because it is from eternity. It can have no end, because it had no beginning!

Further, Romans 5:11 considers the new reflex of our hearts toward God—to be exulting in Him, to be full of His praise—and says that this new life of rejoicing is an evidence and seal of our reconciliation. So, may I ask you, dear reader—do you rejoice over God’s great redeeming love and saving acts? 

Here, also, we have one of Scripture’s great comparisons between the first Adam and the last Adam, our Lord Jesus Christ. Some dislike the idea of Adam’s sin being counted against us. But the fact of the matter is that if we cannot be considered in our federal head, then this takes Jesus away from us. We are sinning and dying plenty for ourselves. How we ought to rejoice that there is a free gift of righteousness and eternal life for us in the obedience of Jesus Christ!

Some dislike the idea of Jesus being punished for the sins of others. But let them see that He willingly went. It is grace! It is a free gift! It is not some horror of injustice, but a mind-boggling quest of love and power! And let all remember that apart from Jesus and His grace we are perishing. God’s law has always been on our hearts. There is no escape. One great purpose of His proceeding to give that law also in plain words was to intensify this urgency. How great is our offense against God!

And yet, it is precisely the gospel that enables us to say, “How great is my offense!” As we go through life, realizing this over and over again, we are not terrified to death, but rather more and more amazed at our eternal life. Every time we say, “How great is my offense!” The Lord Jesus comes along in the gospel and says, “How greater is my grace!” There is no extent of the believer’s realization of his sin and death that Christ has not already answered with forgiveness and eternal life. For the believer, wherever sin abounds, grace has already abounded all the more!

Why are your offenses great? How is God’s grace greater? How are you responding to this great grace?

Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH431 “And Can It Be That I Should Gain”


Monday, December 14, 2020

Our Battlefield, Enemy, and Resources in the Spiritual War (2020.12.13 Evening Sermon in Ephesians 6:10–13)

Christians are former darkness, transformed now into light that exposes the darkness in the evil day. Their battlefield is especially their own marriages, parent-child relationships, and everyday work. Their enemy is the devil himself whose vast forces are organized, powerful, and evil. But they have the high ground, being united to Christ and seated in heaven with Him Who Himself is their infinite and glorious Resource for this battle, as the Spirit applies Him to us by means of the armor.

The God Who Humbles the Proud and Exalts the Lowly (2020.12.13 Morning Sermon in Genesis 41:1–45)

God, who brings down the proud and lifts up the lowly throughout the course of His providence, is eternally and exceedingly bringing down the proud who do not yield to Christ and lifting up the lowly who abandon all self-trust and self-glory to trust in Christ and glory in Christ.

Hopewell Liturgy Reform, part 1 — Overview of What's Changing, Why, and How We Got Here (2020.12.13 Sabbath School, Part 1)

Pastor Hakim introduced the liturgy change info sheet, recapping some of how the Lord brought us to this point, and our confessed doctrine of worship that requires some of these changes and makes the others wise.

God Who Humbles the Proud and Exalts the Lowly (Family Worship in Genesis 41:1–45)

What are we to learn from Joseph’s meteoric rise from prison to palace? Pastor leads his family in today’s “Hopewell @Home” passage. In these forty-five verses, we learn that the Lord lifts Joseph up in such a way that he and we will know that our God is One who lifts up the lowly like Joseph while simultaneously bringing down the proud like Pharaoh and Egypt. This is His pattern in history, and even more so in redemption, in an ultimate way.

2020.12.14 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 41:1–45

Read Genesis 41:1–45

Questions from the Scripture text: How long is it since the end of chapter 40 (Genesis 41:1)? Who did what? Where was he in his dream? What came up out of the river (Genesis 41:2)? What were they like? What did they do? What else came up (Genesis 41:3)? What were they like? What did they do (Genesis 41:4)? What did Pharaoh do? What did Pharaoh do again in Genesis 41:5? What did he see this time? What else did he see (Genesis 41:6)? What did the seven thin heads do (Genesis 41:7)? What did Pharaoh do? What happened in the morning (Genesis 41:8)? For whom did Pharaoh call? What did he tell them? What couldn’t they do? Who speaks in Genesis 41:9? What does he remember? What had Pharaoh done (Genesis 41:10)? What had the butler and baker done (Genesis 41:11)? Who interpreted for them (Genesis 41:12)? And what came of it (Genesis 41:13)? Whom did Pharaoh call in Genesis 41:14? What did they do to him? What does Pharaoh say about Joseph in Genesis 41:15? To Whom does Joseph redirect the attention in Genesis 41:16? What details does Pharaoh add in recounting his dreams (Genesis 41:17-24, cf. Genesis 41:1-7)? What does Joseph tell Pharaoh that God is showing him (Genesis 41:16)? What are the good cows/heads (Genesis 41:26)? How do the dreams relate to one another? What are the ugly cows/empty heads (Genesis 41:27)? What is going to happen first (Genesis 41:29)? For how long? Then what will happen (Genesis 41:30)? For how long? What will happen to the plenty (Genesis 41:30-31)? Why was the dream repeated twice (Genesis 41:32)? What does Joseph make bold to do, in Genesis 41:33-36, that was beyond his original task? Whom does he say Pharaoh should recruit (Genesis 41:33a)? To do what to him (verse 33b)? Who should appoint the rest of the officers (Genesis 41:34a)? To do what (verse 34b)? What does Joseph say to do with the surplus (Genesis 41:35)? Why (Genesis 41:36)? Who thinks that this is good advice (Genesis 41:37a)? Who else (verse 37b)? What does Pharaoh ask in Genesis 41:38? What does Pharaoh declare about Joseph in Genesis 41:39? Over what and whom does Pharaoh set Joseph (Genesis 41:40-41)? What three things does Pharaoh put onto Joseph in Genesis 41:42? Onto what does he put Joseph in Genesis 41:43? What do the people cry out before him? What does Pharaoh say about himself in Genesis 41:44? What does he say about Joseph? What does he rename him (Genesis 41:45a)? What else does he give to him (verse 45b)? 

It is the Lord who remembers, cares about, and lifts up the lowly. This was certainly true of Joseph. The cupbearer/butler did not lift Joseph up. Three days turned into two years of days (literal translation in Genesis 41:1), and what the butler ends up remembering is his sins (Genesis 41:9). And by God’s grace, Joseph recognizes that his own integrity, faithfulness, and skill have not done this for him. 

In Genesis 41:15, Joseph was only “halfway” up from point A (Genesis 41:1) to point B (Genesis 41:44). This would seem to be the time to puff out his chest and sell Pharaoh on the indispensability of Joseph. But he emphatically answers, “Not me!” in Genesis 41:16. Joseph diverts all the efficacy and glory to God Himself. Just as it would be God who must give Pharaoh the perfect/complete answer, so Joseph recognized that it must be God who kept Joseph out of the dungeon or raised him any higher. Here he was, finally clean, shaven, nicely attired, from prison to palace. God had done that. The God who lifts up the lowly.

This, of course, is something that God does on a macro/massive scale in redemption: taking hell-deserving and thoroughly corrupt sinners, and making them righteous in Christ to Whose image He also conforms them. Redemption is Him taking the lowest of the low and raising them to the highest of the high. And He displays this aspect of Who He is throughout history in incidents like this one.

But let us not miss that he also humbles Pharaoh. Pharaoh starts out pretty high and mighty. 

He thinks his birthday is pretty special (“two years of days” in Genesis 41:1 is a way of naming exact time). But this adds to the troublesomeness of the dreams that he has had. He thinks the Nile is pretty powerful and fruitful, but this adds to the troublesomeness of the second set of cows. In Egyptian company in Genesis 41:3, everyone knows that this just isn’t something the great Egyptians see in their great land that is sustained by their great river! When he retells it to Joseph in Genesis 41:19, he adds for the uninitiated Hebrew’s sake that this is Egypt; that sort of creature just doesn’t exist here.

Who knows what the great Pharaoh, incarnation of the great sun god Ra, of the great Egypt, sustained by the great river had planned for his very special birthday? We don’t. Because  a couple of prophetical dreams brought it all to a screeching halt. How easily brought down to earth is a man whose pride is in the heavens!

But God graciously grants to him not only to know how much Egypt will be humbled for seven years, but even to have a humble heart. By the time Joseph is done speaking, Pharaoh isn’t interested in the help of the pantheon of the Egyptians. He wants the man in whom is the Spirit of this God (Genesis 41:38Genesis 41:39) that Joseph has continually mentioned (Genesis 41:16Genesis 41:25Genesis 41:28Genesis 41:32 x2) to be the one by whose work mighty Egypt barely survives (Genesis 41:36b).

The position into which he puts Joseph, known to Egyptologists as the Vizier, is well known in their history. But Pharaoh does not keep his favorite or most important half of the duties for himself, as with other Vizier arrangements. He takes his hands off the reigns completely. He puts Joseph over his house (Genesis 41:40a), all the people are to be ruled by his word (verse 40b), and in fact “without your consent no man may lift his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt (Genesis 41:44)!

Truly, earthly power only exists so long as it is useful for the plans and praise of God. The highest kings are in the slipperiest places and will have the greatest falls. 

Beware all pride, lest you have some measure of participation with them. And beware that greatest pride of hardening your heart against resting in Christ and receiving Him as your King—lest the catastrophe of your own fall be complete and everlasting. 

But also remember that anyone in any high position—whether in church or family or nation—will either cast his crown down before Christ or be brought down as soon as the time is up for His usefulness for Christ’s glory and the church’s good. Do not put your trust in them, or be tempted to unfaithfulness to Christ in order to curry favor with them. And do not fear or envy them who will be shockingly and scornfully humiliated soon enough.

How are you privileged and prosperous? How are you afflicted and lowly? Which will increase for you? Why?

Suggested songs: ARP138 “With Grateful Heart, My Thanks I’ll Bring” or TPH138A “With Grateful Heart, My Thanks I Bring”


Saturday, December 12, 2020

Public Worship as Spiritual Warfare (2020.12.12 Pastoral Letter and Hopewell Herald)

Hopewell Herald – December 12, 2020

Dear Congregation,

One of the things that we have noted as we move through the “prayer passages” in the book of Revelation is how almost every time the Lord is about to do something marvelous, it begins with the prayers of His people—especially and specifically the praises of His people. They proclaim His glory and greatness, and then He demonstrates that glory and greatness in action.

Those who are following the M’Cheyne calendar will find a similarity here with something that occurred in the reigns of both Hezekiah and Jehoshaphat. God’s people called upon His Name and basically had a worship service, and the Lord acted decisively and majestically to deliver them and to devastate their enemies.

When we come to consider Ephesians 6:13–16 in the evening sermon next week (and on Thursday, for those making good use of the Hopewell @Home), we will find that corporate worship is of the essence of the armor of God and the imbuing of His people with His strength for His battle.

Even (especially) our babies get to participate in this. God has ordained strength to come out of their mouths as they prattle along in the public worship of God, “O Yahweh, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth, Who have set Your glory above the heavens! Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength, because of Your enemies, that You may silence the enemy and the avenger” (Ps 8:1–2). The Lord Jesus’s own paraphrase of this is “Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise” (Matt 21:16).

Certainly, God has assigned unto us many duties in the home and in the nation where He has placed us, during these particular and trying times in which He has placed us. And, He has assigned unto us many other duties in the church.

But tomorrow, on His holy day, in His holy assembly, He calls us to a duty that has sometimes been a precursor to the glorious breaking out of His mighty power in behalf of His church!

Looking forward to praising His great glory with you, as out of the mouths of babes and nursing infants He brings that strength which He has ordained,

Pastor

2020.12.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 41:1–45

Read Genesis 41:1–45

Questions from the Scripture text: How long is it since the end of chapter 40 (Genesis 41:1)? Who did what? Where was he in his dream? What came up out of the river (Genesis 41:2)? What were they like? What did they do? What else came up (Genesis 41:3)? What were they like? What did they do (Genesis 41:4)? What did Pharaoh do? What did Pharaoh do again in Genesis 41:5? What did he see this time? What else did he see (Genesis 41:6)? What did the seven thin heads do (Genesis 41:7)? What did Pharaoh do? What happened in the morning (Genesis 41:8)? For whom did Pharaoh call? What did he tell them? What couldn’t they do? Who speaks in Genesis 41:9? What does he remember? What had Pharaoh done (Genesis 41:10)? What had the butler and baker done (Genesis 41:11)? Who interpreted for them (Genesis 41:12)? And what came of it (Genesis 41:13)? Whom did Pharaoh call in Genesis 41:14? What did they do to him? What does Pharaoh say about Joseph in Genesis 41:15? To Whom does Joseph redirect the attention in Genesis 41:16? What details does Pharaoh add in recounting his dreams (Genesis 41:17-24, cf. Genesis 41:1-7)? What does Joseph tell Pharaoh that God is showing him (Genesis 41:25Genesis 41:28)? What are the good cows/heads (Genesis 41:26)? How do the dreams relate to one another? What are the ugly cows/empty heads (Genesis 41:27)? What is going to happen first (Genesis 41:29)? For how long? Then what will happen (Genesis 41:30)? For how long? What will happen to the plenty (Genesis 41:30-31)? Why was the dream repeated twice (Genesis 41:32)? What does Joseph make bold to do, in Genesis 41:33-36, that was beyond his original task? Whom does he say Pharaoh should recruit (verse 33a)? To do what to him (verse 33b)? Who should appoint the rest of the officers (Genesis 41:34a)? To do what (verse 34b)? What does Joseph say to do with the surplus (Genesis 41:35)? Why (Genesis 41:36)? Who thinks that this is good advice (Genesis 41:37a)? Who else (verse 37b)? What does Pharaoh ask in Genesis 41:38? What does Pharaoh declare about Joseph in Genesis 41:39? Over what and whom does Pharaoh set Joseph (Genesis 41:40-41)? What three things does Pharaoh put onto Joseph in Genesis 41:42? Onto what does he put Joseph in Genesis 41:43? What do the people cry out before him? What does Pharaoh say about himself in Genesis 41:44? What does he say about Joseph? What does he rename him (Genesis 41:45a)? What else does he give to him (verse 45b)?

The primary thrust of this chapter is the Lord’s lifting up Joseph. Joseph had hoped that this might come by the cupbearer’s remembering him (cf. Genesis 40:23), but he did not. By stating that this chapter occurs “at the end of two full years” (Genesis 41:1), the Holy Spirit draws our attention to the fact that this timing and method was rather different than Joseph had anticipated.

The Lord lifted His servant at the time and in the way that was best. He may keep us low and lowly for an extended period of time. But, it was to be conformed to the image of His Son that His love predestined us (cf. Romans 8:29). 

In the ordinary workings of His providence, the Lord often gives these small displays of Himself as the God who lifts up the lowly, because this is ultimately one of the great things that He displays about Himself in His redemption. He takes those who had descended to being by nature children of wrath, and so justifies and adopts them that at last they are both declared and displayed as children of God!

But let us not miss the companion truth about Pharaoh. Here he was, the greatest man known on earth, reduced to a psycho-emotional mess by dreams about skinny cows and bud-less plants! This, too, is a foreshadowing of the great work that the Lord does on a massive scale in His plan of redemption. Demons and men that seem to be something, the Lord reduces to nothing in an instant. 

Pharaoh even tries to compliment Joseph at first (Genesis 41:15), but Joseph makes sure to give God all credit and glory (Genesis 41:16). Joseph makes it plain that man can do nothing to undo or delay what God has determined (Genesis 41:32). Our God is One who lifts up the lowly and brings down the proud!

In what ways/circumstances are you low or lowly? What is God going to do to you? Why? How are you in danger of being proud? Or of envying or fearing the proud? What is God going to do to them? Why?

Suggested songs: ARP138 “With All My Heart, My Thanks I’ll Bring” or TPH138A “With All My Heart, My Thanks I Bring”