Saturday, February 29, 2020

2020.02.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ Colossians 3:16

Questions from the Scripture text: What are we to have dwell in us (Colossians 3:16)? In what manner? To that end—what are we to do to one another? In what three things are we to teach and admonish one another? What are we to do with these psalms and hymns and spiritual songs? What are we to have in our hearts (cf. Colossians 3:19)? To whom are we to sing?
What an amazing thing is congregational song! Toward ourselves, others, and the Lord.

Toward ourselves, congregational singing is an appointed means by which Christ’s word dwells in us richly. Not just in a way that gives us knowledge, but in a way that makes us wise to use and respond to that knowledge.

Toward one another, congregational singing is a privilege that the Lord Jesus has given to us—that we might be used by Him in this building up of one another in wisdom. When the congregation sings, even little children are teachers and admonishers in the unity of the whole. We learn from Hebrews 2:12 (and the fact that Colossians 3:16 calls it “the word of Christ”) that it is the Lord Jesus Himself who does the work through us, and this is a great privilege!

Toward the Lord, we sing. He has chosen to glorify Himself through our worship. And this is the highest privilege of all.

Now, there are two things that this verse presents as necessary for us to participate in this amazing privilege: Scriptural content and Spiritual life. Scriptural content—if Jesus is the true Singer in our worship, and it is the word of Christ that we sing, then we must sing that which comes from Him—the Bible.

And what is one way that we know that He wants us to sing Bible? Well, He has put songs right into His Bible! “Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” translates three words that are used in the titles of many Psalms in the Greek translation of the Old Testament that the Colossians would have used. Psalms (3-9, 11-15, 19-25, 29-31, 38-41, 43-44, 46-51, 62-68, 73, 75-77, 79-85, 87-88, 92, 94, 98-101, 108-110, 139-141, 143), Hymns (6, 54-55, 61, 67, 76), and Songs (4, 18, 30, 39, 45, 48, 65-68, 75-76, 83, 87-88, 91-93, 95-96, 108, 120-134).

The question arises whether this list is exclusive (we must sing only these), or inclusive (these are examples, because the Lord wants us to sing from all Scripture).

There are two reasons to believe that it is inclusive. One is that if it is exclusive, then we couldn’t sing Psalms that the Greek OT labeled “Instructional” (32, 42, 44-45, 52-55, 74, 78, 88-89, 142), or that had no category in their superscript, or in some cases any superscript, at all (1-2, 10, 156-17, 26-28, 33-37, 56-60, 69-72, 86, 89-90, 97, 102–107, 111–119, 135–138, 142, 144–150).

The other reason is that the primary command is to let the word (singular!) of Christ dwell in us richly. We ought to sing from all parts of the Bible, for it is all His Word.

That is the Scriptural content of congregational song. But this verse also teaches us that we must sing with true Spiritual life: “grace in your hearts.” There’s no amount of mere outward form that can do what congregational singing is designed to do: only the power of almighty God at work within us.

How, then, should we sing in congregational worship? As those who are participating in a great work of God. Making His word to dwell richly in ourselves. Teaching and admonishing others. And glorifying the Lord in song. We must sing with grace in the heart—grace to adore the Designer of such glorious worship, grace to trust the truths of His Word, grace to obey the commands of His Word, grace to stir up our feelings toward Him, and form our choices and desires as we sing.
What should you aim at for yourself in congregational song? For others? For the Lord?
Suggested songs: ARP22C “I’ll Praise You in the Gathering” or TPH22C “Amid the Thronging Worshipers”

Friday, February 28, 2020

2020.02.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 2:36-38

Questions from the Scripture text: Whom does Luke 2:36 introduce? What tribe was she from? How old was she? How long had she been married? How long had she been a widow (Luke 2:37)? Where did she stay? To do what? When? When does she run into Joseph and Mary (Luke 2:38)?  
Ana is an example to us of someone who is great in the kingdom—precisely because she is little in the world’s eyes, and especially because she is little in her own eyes.

In the world’s eyes, she is elderly, helpless, and useless. Even if she married at 14, that would make her 21 at the beginning of her widowhood and 105 at the time of our passage (some modern translations find it so unbelievable that they make 84 her age instead of the years of her widowhood). And there is no one more helpless than a widow. Ana is little in the eyes of the world.

She is also little in her own eyes. At her age, one might understand if she took what comfort and pleasure she could. But she is constantly at the temple. Denying herself food (fastings, Luke 2:37). Denying herself sleep (prayers night and day). Indeed, even on a horizontal (person-to-person) level, she has made it her business to know who in Jerusalem is “looking for redemption” (Luke 2:38). And now, having come in the instant that Simeon was prophesying about Jesus (verse 38a), she seeks to gladden all who have been hoping for Him. She places others—and especially God—above herself.

And yet the Lord honors her. By granting to her to announce His redemption as a prophetess. By granting to her to live to a great age. By granting to her to hear Simeon’s proclamation. By granting to her to meet the baby Jesus. By placing her in the Scripture account of the gospel of our Lord!

Such is the gospel grace of our Lord Jesus—He has a special interest in the poor and despised– something that is a special emphasis throughout Luke’s gospel. And something that is a special encouragement to us, if God will give us the humility to know that we are nothing!
Why is grace for the weak and unimpressive such good news for you, personally?
Suggested songs: ARP131 “My Heart Is Not Exalted” or TPH146 “Praise the Lord! My Soul, O Praise Him”

Thursday, February 27, 2020

2020.02.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ Galatians 6:16-18

Questions from the Scripture text: Upon which people does Galatians 6:16 pronounce a blessing? What blessing does it pronounce? What does verse 16 call them? What does he say for no one to do in Galatians 6:17? Why? What does he call them in Galatians 6:18? What blessing does he give them now?  
Our Lord is everything to us—we are nothing in ourselves, but HE has everything in Him. This has been the apostle’s point about justification in this book—we are right with God only by His righteousness, through faith in Him.

This has been the apostle’s point about sanctification in this book—it is not our ideas or effort that produces it, but only the new-creation-life of Christ, applied by His Spirit, who leads us in the battle and gives us the victory.

And now this is the apostle’s point about the identity and blessedness of God’s people. It is not children of the flesh whom he calls “brethren” (Galatians 6:18), but those who are believers. Even more forcefully, he calls those who walk according to the rule of Christ in this book “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16). Even the apostle feels no need to defend himself against the Judaizers—his certificate of authenticity has literally been inscribed in his flesh by what he has suffered for the Lord Jesus and in union with the Lord Jesus (Galatians 6:17). God’s people have that identity only in Jesus Christ.

And their blessing is only in Jesus Christ. This is seen by the three words that describe this blessing: peace, mercy, and grace. Peace: having God as our ally—God bringing to bear all that He is for our good in every way. Mercy: the good comes to us not because we are good, but because God is good—He has compassion upon us in our sin and misery. Grace: strength, blessing, and goodness for those who have none of their own—and from where does this strength, blessing, and goodness come? From our Lord Jesus Christ.

He is Lord. The sovereign God. He is Jesus. The Savior. He is Christ. The anointed Prophet, Priest, and King. It’s no wonder, then, that the apostle loves Him so much, and desires so much for His people that no one would distract them from having the Lord Jesus as their everything. May He be our everything, and may we desire that He be one another’s as well!
How can you be right with God? How can you be made holy? Who are God’s people?
Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH265 “In Christ Alone”

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

2020.02.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Samuel 2:11-18

Questions from the Scripture text: Where did Elkanah go (1 Samuel 2:11)? Who stayed behind to do what? What was the moral condition of Eli’s sons (1 Samuel 2:12a)? Why (verse 12b)? What did the sons do to get more meat, of their choice, before they were supposed to (1 Samuel 2:13-14)? What, in specific, did they take, that was supposed to belong entirely to God (1 Samuel 2:15)? What would they do if someone wanted to offer the sacrifice the right way (1 Samuel 2:16)? What does 1 Samuel 2:17 say about their sin? Besides greediness for meat, what were they doing? Who else was ministering before the Lord (1 Samuel 2:18)? What priestly garment was he already wearing?
This passage sets us up to expect Samuel to replace the sons of Eli. The “not knowing the LORD” (1 Samuel 2:12) and “very great sin before the LORD” (1 Samuel 2:17) of the sons of Eli are very carefully sandwiched between Samuel “serving the LORD” in 1 Samuel 2:11 and 1 Samuel 2:18.

And this is clinched by the final detail that Samuel is wearing a linen ephod—a priestly garment, even though he is a child (not yet eligible for service—Levites couldn’t even enter until age 25, according to Numbers 8:24, or carry anything until age 30, according to Numbers 4:3Numbers 4:23Numbers 4:30). Furthermore, he is not a Levite at all, but an Ephraimite.

But there is a qualification for priests that is much greater than right age or right family. Holiness. The godliness of his parents, and the care that Hannah has put into training him, has been used of God to produce holiness in Samuel. We’ll learn in the next chapter that Eli did not rebuke his sons (1 Samuel 3:13).

How unholy were the sons of Eli? They despised the holiness of God, taking for themselves the consecrated parts of the sacrifices that were only for God (1 Samuel 2:15). They despised the holiest of the people, threatening those who wanted to keep God’s Word (1 Samuel 2:16).

How very different is our Lord Jesus Christ! So great is His regard for God’s holiness and God’s people, that He gave Himself a sacrifice to vindicate the holiness of God while redeeming them from their sin! His priesthood is forever and ever, and it has the most essential characteristic of all—His own perfect holiness.

God always works in history consistently with His character, and especially unto the praise of Jesus as the perfect display of His character! Praise God for Jesus Christ, our great High Priest.
How holy is Jesus? How does that help those who are His? Does that include you?
Suggested Songs: ARP110B “The Lord Has Spoken” or TPH277 “Before the Throne of God Above”

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

2020.02.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 24

Read Psalm 24
Questions from the Scripture text: To whom does the earth belong (Psalm 24:1)? How much of the fullness of what it contains belongs to Him? What else belongs to Him? Who else belong to Him? Why—what has the Lord done to the earth (Psalm 24:2)? What questions does Psalm 24:3 ask? How does Psalm 24:4 answer? What two things does Psalm 24:5 say He receives? From whom does He receive them? What does Psalm 24:6 call the generation of those who seek God? What commands do Psalm 24:7 and Psalm 24:9 give? To whom? What questions do Psalm 24:8 and Psalm 24:10 ask? What answer do they give? 
Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Song of Adoration come from Psalm 24 in order to sing God’s thoughts after Him with Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates.

In these verses, we hear the worthiness of God, and the worthiness required of those who would come near to Him.

First, the Lord is worthy of everything because He made everything. Every single thing belongs to Him. Every single person belongs to Him.

So, He is worthy of worship that is absolutely perfect. But are we worthy to give Him that worship? If we look at the criteria in Psalm 24:4, we have to answer that we are not!

The clean hands in verse 4 are not our hands. The pure heart is not our heart. The faithfully devoted soul and reliably true lips are not ours either. We know this to be true because of our Scriptural theology and personal experience, but we can also see it in the fanfare in Psalm 24:7-10.

The One who is ascending the hill of Yahweh to stand in His holy place is Yahweh of hosts, the King of glory Himself! For Him, the gates are to lift up their heads. For Him, the everlasting doors are to be lifted up. He is the Champion, returning from battle!

On this side of the cross, it is not so difficult to know how this can be. The LORD Himself became a man, our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ. His hands have always been perfectly clear. His heart pure. His soul faithful. His lips true.

We are His and belong to Him by faith—by seeking Christ, and in Christ seeking the very face of God. And Christ has received for us blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of our salvation.

Christ alone is worthy, and we must cling to Him alone as our worthiness!
What kind of worship does God deserve? How are you going to give it to Him?
Suggested songs: ARP24 “The Earth and the Riches” or TPH297 “Lift Up, Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates!”

Monday, February 24, 2020

2020.02.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:18-29

Questions from the Scripture text: To what mountain do we come in corporate worship (Hebrews 12:22)? To whose city have we come? What else is that city called? Of whom are there an innumerable company there? What is the church there called (Hebrews 12:23)? Where are they registered? Who is the Judge of all? What verdict has He declared about the spirits in the church of the firstborn? What else has been done to these just men? To whom else does Hebrews 12:24 tell us we have come? Of what is Jesus the Mediator? What speaks better than the blood of Abel? Who is the Priest who leads that worship (verse 24)? Who is the Preacher who preaches in it (Hebrews 12:25)? What is He using that worship to prepare us to receive (Hebrews 12:25-27)? 
It is a wonderful thing that we get to hear the voice that is shaking heaven (Hebrews 12:22-26)!

And it is amazing that this wonderful hearing comes in something rather earthly and unimpressive—the plain speaking of God’s Word. This is why, as the apostle said of his own preaching in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 and 2 Corinthians 4:2–7, we ought to seek for plain preaching rather than that which is eloquent or clever. Because the heavenly power of preaching comes through most clearly when there is no earthly impressiveness in the way.

God’s speech at Sinai was impressive in an earthly way (Hebrews 12:18–21). But it only shook earth. Jesus’s preaching to us from heaven is unimpressive on earth—but it is not only shaking earth and heaven but also removing them (Hebrews 12:27). It is His way of preparing us for the unshakeable kingdom that we are receiving (Hebrews 12:28)!

But let us take the focus off what this does for us. In keeping with the spirit of the text, shouldn’t we rather focus upon Christ Himself? When we do so, we realize what a true act of worship it is to listen to, give ourselves to, and appreciate this kind of preaching (Hebrews 12:25a).

When we don’t demand the cleverness, or eloquence, or attention-grabbing stories or factoids or humor; but, we simply give ourselves to the explanation of Christ’s Word, because it is CHRIST’s Word, we are acknowledging His invisible but very real glory in heaven—AND in biblical worship on earth.

When we value unadorned preaching of Bible truths, we are saying, “we believe what Jesus says about His speaking right now, and we count Him and His worship more valuable and desirable than anything that would appeal even to unbelievers.” Of course, that’s also part of the glory of it. Genuinely receiving such preaching as the Word of God is something that comes by faith as a work of the Spirit (cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:13).
What happens during preaching in corporate worship? How will you glorify Jesus in it?
Suggested songs: ARP29 “You Sons of God” or TPH172 “Speak, O Lord”

Saturday, February 22, 2020

2020.02.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:22-27

Questions from the Scripture text: To what mountain have do we come in corporate worship (Hebrews 12:22)? To whose city have we come? What else is that city called? Of whom are there an innumerable company there? What is the church there called (Hebrews 12:23)? Where are they registered? Who is the Judge of all? What verdict has He declared about the spirits in the church of the firstborn? What else has been done to these just men? To whom else does Hebrews 12:24 tell us we have come? Of what is Jesus the Mediator? What speaks better than the blood of Abel? Who is the Priest who leads that worship (verse 24)? Who is the Preacher who preaches in it (Hebrews 12:25)? What is He using that worship to prepare us to receive (Hebrews 12:25-27)?
As we begin to hear about and think about each of the various parts of the worship that Jesus leads from heaven, we will be starting with the preaching of the Word.

We’re going to be picking Hebrews 12 up from Hebrews 12:22—and not just because it describes that glorious scene in heaven, but because the speaking of Jesus does not begin in the main “preaching” section of our passage—Hebrews 12:25-27. There is a speaking that Jesus does in heaven before He ever opens His mouth—the speaking of His blood.

This is the first thing that we must hear from Christ as we come to hear preaching. We are coming through His blood. He has justified us. He has opened the way into heaven. He has washed us with His blood and sprinkled our consciences clean. He continually intercedes for us on the basis of His sacrifice. As with Abel’s condemning blood, God Himself is the first audience of Jesus’s redeeming blood. It announces before the court of God that our sins are paid for.

But we also are to hear Him announce salvation to us by His blood—the very blood by which we come.

God has always spoken by Christ. He is the eternal Word. When He shook Sinai with His voice, it was the Son whom they heard. It was a great wonder to hear the Son who breaks into earth in His divine nature. It is, if possible, a greater wonder to hear the Son who has ascended into heaven in His human nature.

The fact that He is there. The fact that He is reigning. The fact that He is sanctifying His people through preaching. This all announces that He is bringing all of creation and history to its glorious conclusion—that the Son would be the Firstborn among many brethren who have been conformed to His image. That those whom He justified, He will have glorified. And that He will be glorified in them forever and ever.

Now—THAT is what Jesus is doing in the preaching of the Word in corporate worship on the Lord’s Day. Who can add any manmade thing alongside this for the worship of God? Who can acknowledge this reality and not respond by giving themselves entirely to the hearing (and the preaching!) in the worship?

From this passage, let the preacher learn the absolute necessity of being faithful to the words on the pages of Scripture. How far we descend when we move from the preaching of Christ in heaven to the opinion or stories or jokes of man on earth!

And from this passage, let the hearer learn to offer ear and mind and feelings and will unto Jesus as he sits under Bible preaching. Let him look to heaven not only for the source of his preaching but also the destination—knowing that his glorified Redeemer is using that very word to fit his redeemed ones for glory!
What is Jesus doing during the preaching in Lord’s Day worship? What should you be doing? What makes the preaching and the hearing glorious?
Suggested songs: ARP29 “You Sons of the God” or TPH172 “Speak, O Lord”

Friday, February 21, 2020

2020.02.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 2:25–35

Questions from the Scripture text: Who was in Jerusalem when Joseph and Mary took Jesus for His firstborn-sacrifice (Luke 2:25)? What kind of man was he? For what was he waiting? Who was upon him? What had the Spirit revealed to him (Luke 2:26)? Who told him to go to the temple (Luke 2:27)? Whom did Simeon meet there (Luke 2:27-28)? What did he do with the baby? What does he call God in Luke 2:29? What does he call himself? What does he know is about to happen to him? Why (Luke 2:30)? For whom is this salvation (Luke 2:31-32)? Who are amazed at Simeon’s words (Luke 2:33)? Whom does Simeon bless now (Luke 2:34)? What does he say will happen to many in Israel? What kind of sign will Jesus be? What will happen to Mary’s soul (Luke 2:35)? Why?
Those who are righteous and devoted to God and looking for Him to show compassion to sinners by His salvation… should expect that others will despise them for Christ’s sake and that belonging to Him will bring us pain.

But, we rejoice to cling to Christ. God is our Sovereign Master (“Lord” in Luke 2:29 is not the usual word, but the one from which we get the word ‘despot’), and we are His slaves (“bondslave,” not “servant” as translated in verse 29). We’re not so much looking for our comfort as we are looking for His glory—and it gladdens us to see Him saving sinners from among ALL peoples, and sending His gospel for to the NATIONS. And, yes, we rejoice in the history of Israel and their greatest glory—being the nation from whom Christ came!

What it must have been like for Joseph and Mary—hearing about the glory of their almost-six-week-old son! It is no wonder that they wondered (“marveled,” Luke 2:33) at these things.

But let us learn with them to be willing to endure anything—and everything that is required of us—for the sake of Jesus. If it was Mary’s “blessing” to have a sword pierce through her heart for the glory of Christ (Luke 2:35), then let us too learn to “rejoice and leap for joy” when they hate us and exclude us and curse us and cast out our name as evil for His sake (cf. Luke 6:22-23).
When have you suffered for the sake of Christ?
From this passage, how can you prepare to rejoice when it happens?
Suggested songs: ARP45A “My Heart Is Greatly Stirred” or TPH270 “At the Name of Jesus”

Thursday, February 20, 2020

2020.02.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ Galatians 6:11–15

Questions from the Scripture text: By whose hand is Galatians 6:11 written? What difference is there in the handwriting? How does the apostle identify the person he’s talking about in Galatians 6:12? What are they trying to do to the Galatians? What do they get out of it? What don’t the circumcised do (Galatians 6:13)? Why do they want the Galatians circumcised—what do they want to boast in? What is the only thing in which the apostle is willing to boast (Galatians 6:14)? What has the cross done to the apostle’s desires for the world’s approval? What does the apostle have (Galatians 6:15)? What doesn’t do anything for him now? What does (cf. Galatians 5:6)? 
Whether we are rejoicing over our Christianity, or over someone else’s Christianity, the only truly Christian boasting is to be full to bursting with who Christ is and what Christ has done.

Not so the Judaizers, who were working so hard to see the Galatians circumcised. They were not spiritual men who were careful to depend upon the Spirit for their own crucifying of the flesh (Galatians 6:13, cf. Galatians 6:1-5). And their goal for the Galatians wasn’t their spiritual good either—just as long as they had some tradition they could be proud of getting the Galatians to conform to. And this particular religious tradition had the added benefit for them that they wouldn’t have to suffer so much from the Jews for the sake of Christ (Galatians 6:12). Let us beware of this temptation to follow religious practices that will make us more palatable to those who care little for the genuine miraculous work of Christ in us or others!

But for Paul, Christ Himself (and especially His cross) is just too glorious. How could he boast in something that came from himself? Or in something that came from the Galatians? Or, actually, in anything at all except the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ?! The apostle doesn’t mind if the world considers him dead to them—as many Christians often find their former families and friends treating them for Christ’s sake. He doesn’t need their approval, because the world is dead to him. He himself is a new creation that Jesus has made, and he is looking forward to the new creation that Jesus has earned for him and promised to him.

True Christianity is impossible. It absolutely cannot be done in the flesh. But it is also wonderful, because it is a miraculous work done by a crucified and risen Savior, who works in us by His Spirit. And, since it is something that Jesus does, it is sure to succeed. Why would we aim at anything less for ourselves or others?
What should you be giving Christ credit for in your life and in others’ lives, and what would that look like?
Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH338 “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

2020.02.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Samuel 2:1–10

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Hannah do at Shiloh, when giving Samuel to the Lord (1 Samuel 2:1)? What does her heart do? What is she able to do to her enemies? Why? What two things does she identify as unique about God (1 Samuel 2:2)? What does she caution against (1 Samuel 2:3)? Why should we watch carefully against arrogance? What happens to the strongest (1 Samuel 2:4-5)? What often happens to the weakest? Who does this (1 Samuel 2:6-7)? To whom does He pay special attention (1 Samuel 2:8-9)? What will happen to God’s enemies (1 Samuel 2:10)? Upon Whom does the conclusion of the prayer focus)? Who would later pray in a similar way in a similar situation (cf. Luke 1:51-55)?
The Holy Spirit gives us here, on Hannah’s lips, a model for responding to merciful providence in our life.

The first thing that she does is rejoice in the Lord Himself in His specific mercies to her (1 Samuel 2:1-3). He shows His character in every single thing in our lives. So, let us learn to reason from what He does in my life to who He is from all eternity to all eternity. And let us glory not so much in the details as in Him Himself.

Next, she highlights the fact that, just as the Lord has displayed His character in the details of His life, so also He has done this in His great acts throughout history (1 Samuel 2:4-8). Scripture often urges us to remember God’s wonderful works, so that we may praise Him repeatedly for these displays of His character.

Finally, she focuses especially upon the Lord’s eternally saving goodness to His church (1 Samuel 2:9), through His anointed King—the Lord Jesus (1 Samuel 2:10). This is the ultimate and eternal display of His goodness. The good that the Lord does in our lives and the good that He does in history all points to—and is part of—His saving work for the glory of Christ.

Ultimately, that’s where all of God’s goodness should take us—His eternal goodness in Christ. Let our prayers of thanksgiving and joy start with His goodness to us, and survey many of His great works of goodness in history. But, let our prayers and songs run quickly to the eternal goodness of God to His elect in Christ!
What is one recent example of God’s goodness to you?
What would it look like to pray this about that?
Suggested Songs: ARP146 “Praise the Lord” or TPH245 “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

2020.02.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:18–25

Questions from the Scripture text: How does Hebrews 12:18–20 describe the mountain that we have not come to? When the people heard the sound of the trumpet and the voice of the words, for what did they beg (Hebrews 12:19)? What had been commanded to do to a beast if it touched the mountain (Hebrews 12:20)? Who else said that he was exceedingly afraid and trembling (Hebrews 12:21)? To what mountain have we come (Hebrews 12:22)? To whose city have we come? What else is that city called? Of whom are there an innumerable company there? What is the church there called (Hebrews 12:23)? Where are they registered? Who is the Judge of all? What verdict has He declared about the spirits in the church of the firstborn? What else has been done to these just men? To whom else does Hebrews 12:24 tell us we have come? Of what is Jesus the Mediator? What speaks better than the blood of Abel?
Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Song of Adoration come from Hebrews 12:18–25 in order to sing God’s thoughts after Him with O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

In these verses, we hear not only about the mountain to which we haven’t come (Sinai, apart from Christ), but also about the mountain to which we have come.

The flow of the chapter has been: “we’re surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses… and our Father is doing everything necessary to get us ready for glory… so we too should be making every effort toward holiness… since we have come not to Sinai but to Zion.” God uses the greatness of these glorious worship services on the Lord’s Day to stir us up in the pursuit of holiness.

“Immanuel”—God with us—is the same One who was present at Sinai, but He comes now not only in the great glory in which He announced the law, but in the greater glory in which He has triumphed in grace! “Heavenly Zion” is not a mountain with smoke and fire at the top. It is not a touchable mountain that we are to stay away from, but a spiritual mountain upon which the Lord Jesus is taking us all the way to the top. And what we find there is a city where we belong. It’s our Father’s city. And it’s full of angels, which this book already taught us are servants who minister to those who are inheriting salvation (Hebrews 1:14). And these angels are not assembled for war, but for a great celebration.

With whom else do we worship, when the Lord carries us by faith to heaven in the Lord’s Day Assemblies? The church of the firstborn. What we can’t see in English is that the word “firstborn” is plural. Here is something strange: everyone in Christ’s church has the status of a firstborn! This is a place of glory and honor for us!

Zion is also a place of security. The rights of the firstborn have been legally recorded in heaven. And God, the judge of all, has declared the members of this assembly to be just—officially “not guilty” in the court of God. In fact, the souls in glory have not just been forgiven, they have already been perfected. God’s salvation is sure, and it works, because it has been accomplished by the glorious One, the Lord Jesus Himself!

This is the main message that we hear in Christian worship. To be sure, it is not the only message. As we are reminded once again in Hebrews 12:25, we are not to refuse Him who speaks—and there is much that He speaks.

But, before we hear anything else, we are to hear His blood. Abel’s blood was terrible news. God observed it. God responded to it. His justice refused to ignore it. These all indicated that God is a God of wrath against sin.

Jesus’s blood, however, tells good news. And it does a better job of talking than Abel’s does. Whatever sin testifies against us, Jesus’s blood talks louder, testifying of our redemption. How much more ought we, who have been saved by that blood, to listen to everything else that He says!
What is the first thing to “hear” in Lord’s Day worship?
What else should we hear in Lord’s Day worship?
Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH293 “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”

Monday, February 17, 2020

2020.02.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ Deuteronomy 5:8-10

Questions from the Scripture text: What shall we not make (Deuteronomy 5:8)? For whom? What shall we not do toward them? What shall we not do to them? What does the Lord say about Himself (Deuteronomy 5:9)? What will He do to those who worship this way? What does He say that those who worship this way are doing to Him? What does God to thousands? What does He call those who keep His commandments in worship (Deuteronomy 5:10)? 
When Moses is about to re-state the ten commandments in Deuteronomy 5, the Holy Spirit leads up to it in Deuteronomy 4:1–40 with an extended section that explains especially the second commandment.

“Do not add or take away from these words,” he says in Deuteronomy 4:2. In Deuteronomy 4:3-4, he reminds them how dangerous God’s holiness can be, especially since (as he says in Deuteronomy 4:7), God is so very near to them.

We probably still remember the Lord saying, “By those who draw near to me…” when talking about worshiping only as God says in Leviticus 10:3. Then, in Deuteronomy 4:8-11, he reminds them how terrifying Yahweh’s glory was at Sinai, when they only heard His voice (Deuteronomy 4:12-14).

It is at this point that he underlines to them that the foundation of prohibiting them from worshiping by way of a carved image is that Yahweh simply did not make Himself known to them by that means.

By beginning Deuteronomy 4:15-18 with “Take careful heed to yourselves, for you saw no form,” he makes it clear that the second commandment (much of which is here, word for word, and expanded upon) is about wrong ways of worshiping the true God, that result in worshiping according to that which fascinates all people (Deuteronomy 4:19) rather than in the special way that the Lord has commanded for His special people (Deuteronomy 4:20).

How serious an offense would this be? Moses reminds them that even he doesn’t get a pass with God in Deuteronomy 4:21-22. Then, he immediately ties the prohibition of making carved images to their covenant relationship with God in Deuteronomy 4:23. This is why worshiping God’s way only is tied to the statement in Deuteronomy 4:24, “For Yahweh your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” We are familiar with the consuming fire language from Hebrews 12:29; and, of course, the “jealous God” language takes us directly to the second commandment.

God. Considers. It. Unfaithfulness. To. Our. Covenant. With. Him. To. Worship. Our. Way. Instead. Of. His.

Like adultery, but instead of against our wife or husband—against the Living God! That’s the point that is made in the wonderful section in Deuteronomy 4:25-40 about how even after judging them for whoredom against Himself, He would grant them repentance out of the same Husband-love in which He had chosen them in the first place!!
How has God betrothed you to Himself?
How does He expect You to respond to that in Lord’s Day worship?
Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH130A “LORD, from the Depths”

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Do We *Really* Want God to Treat Us As His Friends? (Pastoral letter from the 2020-02-14 Hopewell Herald)

Dear Congregation,

If you’re using Pastor M’Cheyne’s reading plan this year, then hopefully you’re on or around Job 13 today.

Job is defending himself against his “friends’” accusations that all of this has come upon him because he’s covering up some sins from which he’s refusing to repent—a good caution against jumping to conclusions about what someone else’s secret sins are, since their guesses are exactly opposite God's own testimony about Job.

For Job’s part, he just wants these so-called friends to stop talking (Job 13:5) and for God to speak up—whether God wants to go first, or have Job go first, either is fine as long as God will speak (Job 13:22).

What amazed me, while meditating upon this today, was what it is that Job wants to hear about: his iniquities, and transgressions and sins (Job 13:23)!

We know from chapter one that repentance is very important to Job, and even forgiveness from sins that we have committed only in our hearts (Job 1:5). Now in chapter thirteen, we see him recognizing that bringing our sins to our attention is something that God does for those whom He is not treating as an enemy (Job 13:24).

It made me wonder where I’m at in this aspect of maturing in grace. Do I really want God to treat me as His friend? Can I really sing and pray Psalm 19:12 and Psalm 139:23-24 with all my heart?

Having God treat us as His friends is one of the great blessings of His gathering us to Himself in worship, and bringing us under the knife of His Word. 
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” Hebrews 4:12–13.

Thankfully, when we come, we are able to endure this Scripture-surgery—even to embrace it—because we are coming through Christ, our Mediator Who intercedes for us and our Sacrifice Whose blood speaks better than Abel’s. Hallelujah!

May our Lord grant unto us hearts that desire to be treated as His friends, and may He treat us so!


2020.02.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Deuteronomy 5:8-10

Questions from the Scripture text: What shall we not make (Deuteronomy 5:8)? For whom? What shall we not do toward them? What shall we not do to them? What does the Lord say about Himself (Deuteronomy 5:9)? What will He do to those who worship this way? What does He say that those who worship this way are doing to Him? What does God do to thousands? What does He call those who keep His commandments in worship (Deuteronomy 5:10)?
God calls worshiping Him our way “hating” Him and worshiping Him His way “loving” Him.
When the Lord is about to repeat the Ten Commandments for the Israelites in Deuteronomy 5, He prepares them in Deuteronomy 4:1-5:5, urging them that God who has prepared the land for them has made a covenant with them.  And He spends the bulk of that portion teaching them about the second commandment.

He reminds them of His personal interest in them and nearness to them (Deuteronomy 4:7-10Deuteronomy 4:19-20Deuteronomy 4:33-36)—how He has chosen them in love. And He reminds them that He has shown them no form of Himself, but only given them His words (Deuteronomy 4:12-15). He uses the language of the second commandment in Deuteronomy 4:16Deuteronomy 4:23, and Deuteronomy 4:25—all three places forbidding the making of a “carved image.”

In this way, we know that the second commandment is not so much about the worship of other gods—except insofar as worshiping Him our way is to reject Him altogether. This God, who has loved them, has given them His own way of loving Him back in worship.

Aaron had said in Exodus 32:5 about the celebration of the golden calf, “Tomorrow is a feast to Yahweh!” And the Lord had responded by saying, “let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them, and I may consume them.” Now, in warning them not to commit the same sin, Deuteronomy 4:24 says, “For Yahweh your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.”

So, when we hear Him say in Deuteronomy 5:9-10, “For I, Yahweh your God, am a jealous God […] those who hate Me […] those who love Me,” we are to realize something huge. In the second commandment, God presents the right way of worshiping Him as a question of hating Him or loving Him.

He attaches the threat that worshiping Him our way will lead to following generations to reject Him and endure the consequences of that.

And, He attaches the promise that when we love Him by keeping His commandments—by being glad that He is our God, and He makes the rules (especially THIS rule!)—He will continue in that covenant love (hesed, translated “mercy” in Deuteronomy 4:10) in which He makes Himself and His love known, and stirs up our love toward Him… in a way that never runs out—to thousands of generations.

This is what He means by His jealousy. That He insists upon being known truly. That He insists upon His love being known truly. That He insists upon being worshiped truly. That He insists on being loved truly. And that this means not our way of doing it, but His way of doing it.

That jealousy from Deuteronomy 5:9 and Deuteronomy 4:24, tied as it is to the “consuming fire” language pulls us forward to the ultimate way in which He is known, the ultimate way in which His love is known, the ultimate way in which we love Him and worship Him: Jesus Christ Himself (cf. Hebrews 12:29 in light of the entire book of Hebrews to that point). This is what God says is at stake in worshiping the right way.

Now, most of us think that we are doing a pretty good job by not bringing in our eagle statue, setting it up front in the worship room, and bowing down. But we know that our hearts are factories of wrong-headed worship continually running afoul of Deuteronomy 4:2 by adding to the word that the Lord has commanded for His worship. Whatever we introduce from our thoughts and imaginations (Romans 1:21b) inevitably pushes out of view the true glory of God (Romans 1:21a, Romans 1:23a) and pushes down on the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). May God spare us from worship that is shaped by our own wills!!
Who decides what it is to love God? From this passage, what is a big part of truly loving Him?
Suggested songs: ARP22C “I’ll Praise You in the Gathering” or TPH174 “The Ten Commandments”

Friday, February 14, 2020

2020.02.14 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 2:21-24

Questions from the Scripture text: How many days has it been since Jesus was born (Luke 2:21)? What needs to be done now? What do they name Him? Why? How many days has it been now in Luke 2:22, according to what (cf. Leviticus 12:2-8)? Where do they go now? To do what? Why (Luke 2:23)? What did they offer (Luke 2:24)? According to what? 
It’s amazing that Christ is circumcised, because circumcision was a sign of the removal of the flesh. It was a sign that we need a death sacrifice for forgiveness in order that God may justly take from us that wicked nature with which we came into the world (Colossians 2:11). It was a sign that we need God to give to us the new nature that believes in Christ, belongs to Christ, and behaves more and more like Christ (cf. Deuteronomy 30:6; Romans 2:28-29).

But Christ Himself did not need any of the things that circumcision signifies. He had no sinful nature to be cut off. He came into the world with a sinless human nature. What Christ did have to do for us was to keep the law in our place, and the law demanded signs and sacrifices. Even sacrifices that reminded us that what happened to the firstborn in Egypt is what each of us deserves to happen to us (Luke 2:23).

How important a thing it is, then, to have godly parents. And how necessary that our incarnate Lord would have them! For, in this passage are two parts of the law that needed kept for our sakes, but for which God the Son was reduced by His humanity to dependence upon Joseph and Mary.

Of course, it is also part of the wonder of the incarnation that in His divine nature, He is upholding them as they obey, by both His general providence (cf. Hebrews 1:3) and by the special grace of His Spirit’s work in them. But here is part of the means that He used to save us. A mother, and earthly adoptive father, who obey Genesis 17 when the Baby is eight days old and Leviticus 12 when the Baby is two weeks old. Who also obey the Lord’s messenger about what to name Him.

Jesus. The Lord saves. For He would save His people from their sins. And He did!
In what parts of His earthly life did Jesus keep the law on believers’ behalf? What did He need in order to do so? Who else, these days, need other believers’ help to obey God?
Suggested songs: ARP45A “My Heart Is Greatly Stirred” or TPH438 “I Love to Tell the Story”

Thursday, February 13, 2020

2020.02.13 Hopewell @Home ▫ Galatians 6:6-10

Questions from the Scripture text: Who is doing the sharing in Galatians 6:6? With whom is he sharing? What does Galatians 6:7 command us not to do? What truth does it tell us about God? What fact does it tell us about man and his life? To what can a man sow (Galatians 6:8a)? And what will such a man reap? To what else may a man sow (verse 8b)? And what will such a man reap? How? What will happen, as believers keep sowing to the Spirit (Galatians 6:9)? What phrase does this verse use for that sowing to the Spirit? When will we reap? What must we not do? When should we do good (Galatians 6:10a)? To whom should we do good? Especially to whom? 
When we are trusting not in ourselves but in God the Spirit to do for us not according to our own priorities but according to the priorities of the Spirit, it reshapes everything for us. And, one of the plainest ways that we see this is in how we use money.

Is our first priority with our money to sustain the ministry of the gospel under which we sit (Galatians 6:6)? Is our second priority the care of our brothers and sisters (Galatians 6:10b), with whom we are walking in the love that the last chapter or so has been setting before us? Is our third priority to do good to as many as possible—following this pattern of spiritual nearness (congregation, presbytery, synod, evangelical churches near and far, etc.)?

You notice that we haven’t yet gotten to that thing that seems to keep coming up in your heart and mind that you don’t really need but would very much enjoy and has caught your eye. One sobering way to assess whether the flesh or the Spirit is setting the priorities for your life is to follow where you are spending money beyond your most absolutely basic needs.

Of course, Galatians 6:6 and Galatians 6:10 are giving us an example of an important general principle. In all our desires and all our decisions, we are sowing either to the flesh or to the Spirit (Galatians 6:8). Every choice takes a side in that great battle that we were told about in Galatians 5:17. The Lord Jesus makes a real change in those whom He redeems, so that He can raise a red flag to us if we aren’t in the Christian battle: “God is not mocked!” Yes, we are justified by grace alone, and our sanctification is also powered by grace alone (even though we are to be battling!), but a grace that doesn’t make any difference is the most dangerous of counterfeits.

But as we think about the fruit we have seen, let us take to heart the pastoral caution in Galatians 6:9. Fruit will often take longer to reap than we had expected. And the waiting will be wearying. So, don’t conclude from your frustration or weariness that you are not in the battle. Rather, if your pursuit of spiritual fruit is difficult and tiring, heed the encouragement “do not grow weary!” Let us not lose heart!
What spending choices have you been making? Time? Emotional/relational investment?
Suggested songs: ARP116B “I Still Believed” or TPH538 “Take My Life, and Let It Be”

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

2020.02.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Samuel 1:19-28

Questions from the Scripture text: What did they do when (1 Samuel 1:19)? To where did they return? Who remembered Hannah? What did she do in the course of time (1 Samuel 1:20)? What did she call him? Why? What did Elkanah do in 1 Samuel 1:21? Who didn’t go and why (1 Samuel 1:22)? How long did Hannah and Samuel refrain from going up to Shiloh (1 Samuel 1:23)? What did she bring with her, where, when she had weaned Samuel (1 Samuel 1:24)? What does the verse point out about the boy? What do they do when they have slaughtered one of the bulls (1 Samuel 1:255)? How does Hannah identify herself (1 Samuel 1:26)? What does she tell Eli about her request those years ago (1 Samuel 1:27)? What does she tell him that she is doing with Samuel (1 Samuel 1:28)? What do they continue to do after giving Samuel at the tabernacle?
Our covenant Lord remembers us, for Jesus’s sake, and calls us to remember Him.

That was the point of the three annual feasts at which all men went up to the tabernacle. Perhaps at one of these—or perhaps at a fourth time—Elkanah went up every year with his whole family (cf. 1 Samuel 1:3, ff). Despite the blindspot of the two wives (something that never goes well in Scripture, and which Jesus interprets Genesis 2 to explicitly forbid), Elkanah was a devout man—a rarity in the days of the Judges, and a stark contrast to Hophni and Phinehas. And Hannah was a devout woman, who had the confidence of her husband (1 Samuel 1:23, “Do what seems best to you”), and she too is remembering the Lord.

For (probably three) years, as she nurses and teaches and trains her son, she is preparing him to serve Yahweh in the tabernacle. From what we later learn about Eli’s parenting approach, it seems probable that Samuel is being better trained than the Aaronic priests had been.

Even when God sends His Son into the world, it is as a baby of common but godly folks who live their lives mindfully of the Lord. Who remember Him. And Samuel—who will be brought up in the High Priest’s care, and serve as a prophet and judge in Israel—points us forward to Christ in this way as well.

Just as Jesus, brought by His parents, Samuel is the first to open the womb of Hannah; and, his godly parents (who are of greater means than Joseph and Mary would be) bring a great sacrifice in His place—even though they are handing Samuel over for the service of the Lord.

An entire bull is sacrificed for him (it is almost certain that it is three bulls, not a three-year-old, as some translations say; not only does it make sense under the circumstances, but they bring a full ephah of flour, when a bull required only three tenths’ of an ephah). And, Hannah is eager not only to fulfill her vow, but to give praise to the Lord: “Yahweh has granted me my petition.”

The passage concludes with, “So they worshiped Yahweh there.” Just as the Lord remembers us, so we too are to remember Him—keeping all our obligations before Him as a life of worship, in addition to those formal, consecrated times and actions of worship.
What are some ways the Lord has remembered you? In what ways must you remember Him?
Suggested Songs: ARP146 “Praise the Lord” or TPH245 “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

2020.02.11 Hopewell @Home ▫ Revelation 4:8-11

Questions from the Scripture text: How does Revelation 4:8 communicate that the living creatures have the same ultimate purpose as the burning ones (seraphim) of Isaiah 6:1-10 (cf. John 12:40-41)? How often do they take a rest? What are they doing all this time without rest? What, specifically, do they say about God three times? And then what do they say about God? And then what? How does Revelation 4:9 begin? So, how often is Revelation 4:10 happening? Who falls down before Him who sits on the throne (verse 10)? What else do they do? What do they do with their crowns? Of what do they say the Lord is worthy (Revelation 4:11)? Why? 
Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Song of Adoration come from Revelation 4:8-11 in order to sing God’s thoughts after Him with Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence.

This Lord’s Supper hymn brings the awe and reverence of glory down to earth. In the worship in glory of Revelation 4, the immortal beings take the lead—and do so with such profound reverence for the majesty and holiness of God that the crowned elders of the church in glory fall on their faces and cast down their crowns.

This is a glory and majesty that man cannot (and must not) reproduce on earth—but one that Scripture explicitly tells us that we enter into by the simple worship activities of preaching, singing, praying, and the sacraments (cf. Hebrews 12:18-29, in the context of that book).

Therefore, it is a glory that requires faith to perceive. Faith to see Christ Himself summoning us to the worship. Faith to hear Christ Himself as the great preacher and singer—even through the human preaching and singing in worship. If we say whatever comes from us—like Peter proposing tent-camping on the mountain!—we need to hear the voice from Heaven say of Christ, “This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased; hear Him!”

And when we have that faith, we will know on the testimony of Scripture that we are joining that glorious assembly that says, “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.”

Let us therefore come with joy, but not with lightness, to this glorious worship of this glorious One!
What is wrong with lightness in worship? How will you guard your heart against it?
Suggested songs: ARP24 “The Earth and the Riches” or TPH292 “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence”

Monday, February 10, 2020

2020.02.10 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 103

Read Psalm 103
Questions from the Scripture text: What or whom is the Psalmist commanding to bless the Lord (Psalm 103:1)? With how much of what is within him is he to obey this command? How many times does he give himself this command (Psalm 103:2a)? What is he not to forget (verse 2b)? What is the first benefit not to forgive (Psalm 103:3a)? What is the second (verse 3b)? The third (Psalm 103:4a)? The fourth (verse 4b)? What is one of the tender mercies of God (Psalm 103:5a)? What effect does it have (verse 5b)? What does the Lord do for the oppressed (Psalm 103:6)? What has He done for His people (Psalm 103:7)? What four aspects of His character does He highlight in Psalm 103:8? Of what does this make the Psalmist confident, with respect to the Lord’s anger (Psalm 103:9)? With respect to our sins and punishment (Psalm 103:10)? What point is Psalm 103:11 making about the greatness of God’s mercy? What point is Psalm 103:12 making about the completeness of His forgiveness? How does the Lord pity those who fear Him (Psalm 103:13)? What does He remember about us (Psalm 103:14)? What is the length and effect of a man’s life like (Psalm 103:15-16)? What two things in Psalm 103:17 have exactly the opposite length and effect? What are three characteristics of those who are recipients of this mercy and righteousness (Psalm 103:17-18)? Where is the Lord’s throne (Psalm 103:19), and how does this relate to man’s composition (cf. Psalm 103:14)? Upon whom does Psalm 103:20 call to praise Him? What does Psalm 103:21 call them? What do they have in common with the people from Psalm 103:17-18? Upon whom does Psalm 103:22 (a-b) call to praise Him? Upon whom does the last line of the psalm call to praise Him? 
What is it to love the Lord our God? It is to give all of every aspect of our being to Him, as detailed in His commandments (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; cf. Jesus’s authoritative interpretation in Mark 12:29-30 and Matthew 22:37-40).

Now, there is a special way in which we are to love the Lord our God. And that is by worshiping Him according to His commandments. This is what He says in the second commandment, when He refers to those who reject manmade worship and instead fear Him and keep His commandments as “those who love Me.”

So, by the Lord’s own definitions, when we are preaching to our own souls, with Psalm 103:1, “Bless Yahweh’s holy name with all that is in you!”—what we are saying is, in effect, “O, my soul, LOVE Yahweh as He defines loving Him!!”

So, it is not surprising to us that Psalm 103 focuses so much on His mercy and forgiveness and redemption. We love Him because He loved us (1 John 4:19), and in this is love, that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10) and that He laid down His life for us (1 John 3:16).

So Psalm 103 strikes this note repeatedly and richly, even turning to the angels and living creatures and elders of Revelation 5:9-12 as they join the chorus and praise God for His redemption of sinful men.

This is the great subject of the praise of all Yahweh’s works in all places of His dominion: that He has redeemed sinners. And therefore, if I am one whose iniquities have all been forgiven (Psalm 103:2-3), this is the great charge unto my soul: “Bless Yahweh, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name!!”
What special act of love does the Lord want from you? What should you put into it?
Suggested songs: ARP103B “Bless the Lord, My Soul” or TPH103E “O Come, My Soul”

Saturday, February 08, 2020

2020.02.08 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 103:13-22

Questions from the Scripture text: How does the Lord pity those who fear Him (Psalm 103:13)? What does He remember about us (Psalm 103:14)? What is the length and effect of a man’s life like (Psalm 103:15-16)? What two things in Psalm 103:17 have exactly the opposite length and effect? What are three characteristics of those who are recipients of this mercy and righteousness (Psalm 103:17-18)? Where is the Lord’s throne (Psalm 103:19), and how does this relate to man’s composition (cf. Psalm 103:14)? Upon whom does Psalm 103:20 call to praise Him? What does Psalm 103:21 call them? What do they have in common with the people from Psalm 103:17-18? Upon whom does Psalm 103:22 (a-b) call to praise Him? Upon whom does the last line of the Psalm call to praise Him?
God is God, and we are not.

And unbelievers are just about the only creatures who fail to acknowledge it.

God acknowledges it (Psalm 103:14-16), and so He is patient, long-suffering, merciful, and compassionate (Psalm 103:13).

Despite their comparative strength to us (Psalm 103:20a), the angels acknowledge that God is God and they are not, for they do His Word (verse 20b), heed His Word (verse 20c), comprise armies of servants (Psalm 103:21) (a-b), and do His pleasure (verse 21b).

Indeed, all His works, everywhere, know that God is God, that it is His dominion, and so they praise Him (Psalm 103:22) (a-b).

So, it is the height of arrogance and wickedness that man, who is but dust—and who must return to that dust for his sin!—thinks that he is something.

But our merciful God is a Forgiver of sinners (Psalm 103:8-12), even to the extent that when He forgives us, He transforms us—His mercy and righteousness produce in us our fear of Him (Psalm 103:17b), our living as those who are bound to Him by covenant (Psalm 103:18a), and our focus upon both understanding and doing whatever He commands (verse 18b).

Praise be to God, Who exercises almighty power and bottomless mercy into bringing us back to the place where we live in hearty acknowledgement of the fact that He is God and we are not! And when He has done—and is doing—that work in us, we join the chorus of all creation from the mightiest angel to the lowliest creature.

Do I have an eternal soul that He has redeemed? Then let me bless Him with it!
What evidences of God’s forgiving, transforming work do you see in your life? Under what circumstances, and how often, are you admonishing your own soul to give Him His due praise? When/how do you do so?
Suggested songs: ARP103B “Bless the Lord, My Soul” or TPH239 “Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven”

Friday, February 07, 2020

2020.02.07 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 2:15-20

Questions from the Scripture text: Where did the angels go (Luke 2:15)? What did the shepherds say to one another? Whom did they say had made it known to them? In what manner did they go (Luke 2:16)? Whom did they find? Where was the Baby lying? What was this lying place significant (cf. Luke 2:12)? What did they do when they had seen Him in His lying place (Luke 2:17, cf. Luke 2:11)? What response did they get (Luke 2:18)? What did Mary do (Luke 2:19)? What were the shepherds doing as they returned (Luke 2:20)? For what? According to what? 
It was granted to these shepherds to recognize the significance of God being a speaking God. At the end of Luke 2:15 they say, “which the Lord has made known to us.”

The sign that is given to confirm the identity of the Child is fulfilled. And, “when they had seen,” what is it that they make known? “The saying which was told them concerning this child” (Luke 2:17).

Others hear (Luke 2:18). All marvel at what was told. The shepherds praise for what they heard (and the sign they had seen that confirmed what the heard). As it was told them (Luke 2:20).

“As it was told them” (verse 20). There are many times that the Scripture says something along these lines—"just as some prophet (or angel, or the Lord) had said,” or “according to the word of such and such,” or “to fulfill what was written by so-and-so,” or many other such statements.

Scripture is insistent that we know our God as a speaking God. That we read—and especially hear—His intentions toward us. So that when His power and love to save sinners is fulfilled, we will also see His planning (that we might praise and ponder His purposes), and His communication (that we might praise and ponder His stooping down to interact with us), and the perfect reliability of His Word (that we might praise and ponder His truthfulness and faithfulness).

The Word of God is His means of communicating to us not merely information, but indeed Him Himself in His many and marvelous attributes. And so Christianity has always been and must always be a Word religion, and a mind religion, if there is ever to be any real relationship or transformation. As Psalm 138:2d says, God has exalted His Word above all His name—it is His favorite way to communicate Himself and particularly His steadfast love and faithfulness (Psalm 138:2c).

This steadfast love and faithfulness are translated into the Greek by that same pair of words as “grace and truth” in John 1:14. It is what we see when we see Jesus, to whom that verse refers as the Word who was made flesh. And how has God granted unto us to see Him? Through His Word!

So, when we come to read our Bibles, or have our dad or husband open the Word with us, or hear the Scriptures taught and preached in the congregation, we need to have the attitude of the shepherds. It is not just angels have said something. But the Lord is making something known to us through these words. And most of all, He is making Himself—His power and love and wisdom and mercy and faithfulness and all of His glorious attributes—known to us… and especially in His Son and salvation through Him.

These are the things to ponder up in our hearts like Mary and for which to glorify and praise God like the shepherds!
When you hear and read the Bible, how will you think about it and respond to it?
Suggested songs: ARP45A “My Heart Is Greatly Stirred” or TPH438 “I Love to Tell the Story”

Thursday, February 06, 2020

2020.02.06 Hopewell @Home ▫ Galatians 6:1-5

Questions from the Scripture text: What does the apostle call them in Galatians 6:1? What brothers need restoration? What brothers should do it? Why would only a specifically “spiritual” (cf. Galatians 5:23) brother be able to do it in the spirit commanded in verse 1? Considering the lists in Galatians 5:19-21 and Galatians 5:22-23, to what might the “spiritual” brother in verse 1 be “tempted,” and what is he supposed to be doing about it, while he restores his brother? How does the first half of Galatians 6:2 describe this effort of helping a brother out of the violation in which he has been caught up? What does this fulfill (cf. Galatians 5:14) in opposition to the temptation at the end of verse 1 (cf. Galatians 5:13-17)? What shouldn’t anyone think about himself (Galatians 6:3)? To whom should we be comparing whatever maturing in grace we have experienced (Galatians 6:4)? And, when each maturing believer considers himself before God, what does he still find (Galatians 6:5)?
There’s something that happens, when the Holy Spirit is maturing in us His multi-faceted fruit from Galatians 5:22-23. We become more and more supportive of our brothers, who believe in the same Christ, and walk by the same Spirit, and are engaged in the same battle.

This is why, when a brother is caught up in a violation (“overtaken in any trespass”), it really needs a brother who is marked by a spirit of gentleness to come alongside and help.

First, he must be a “spiritual” brother—that is that the helper himself is someone who walks with the Holy Spirit. How would someone who is not already in an alliance with the Holy Spirit against his own flesh enter rightly into an alliance with his brother, and that same Holy Spirit, against his brother’s flesh?

And, since both are sinners, it is especially the “gentleness” aspect of the Spirit’s fruit that is necessary for the process. This is needed for the sinner who is receiving the help, since when we are caught up in a sin, we are already primed for hostility and resistance to help. But it is also needed for the sinner who is giving the help, “considering yourself lest you also be tempted.”

If we can’t enter into the process with the idea that we are alongside a weakened and wounded dear one, helping him bear up under the challenges of his battle, then we are not following that second great commandment—as Christ summarized it and was quoted in Galatians 5:14—“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” How self-deceiving—and, indeed, self-defeating—it would be if we were convinced that we were helping a brother with his flesh, in the very act of indulging our own (cf. Galatians 5:13-21)?!

The great red flag for us is if we think that we are something. The fact of the matter is that we are nothing. In Galatians 6:3, the apostle (and the Spirit who carried him!) was misaligned with the religious self-esteem gurus of our time. He bluntly tells us that we are nothing, and that any other conclusion or feeling is merely self-deception.

And the self-deception of feeling ourselves to be something is especially dangerous when trying to help a brother with his sin. If we do that, we will run afoul of Galatians 6:4, and rather than thanking God for His mercy as He grows us—who are nothing—in grace, we will end up feeling and praying like the Pharisee, “I thank you, God, that I am not like this other man.” Truly, if we are honest before the face of God, rather than self-deceivingly comparing ourselves to others, each of us will see our own load (Galatians 6:5), and not fall into that self-deception that we are qualified to bear our brother’s burden because our own burden is less.

God grant unto us to be continually engaged in battling our own flesh, so that our own weakness and dependence would be continuously before us! Thus continuously humiliated, the Spirit-fruit of gentleness will be ripening so that we may be useful to our brothers rather than harmful to both ourselves and to them.
What fleshly aspects have you been battling? How has this been emphasizing to you that you are nothing? In light of what this passage teaches: if you do start to feel that you are superior to a brother, what would be a good way to cultivate renewed humility and gentleness?
Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH51C “God, Be Merciful to Me”

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

2020.02.05 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Samuel 1:9-18

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Hannah do in 1 Samuel 1:9? After what? Where? What kind of meal would this have been? Who was there? Where was he sitting? How did she feel (1 Samuel 1:10)? What did she do unto the Lord? What was she doing while she prayed? What kind of prayer does 1 Samuel 1:11 describe? What does she ask for the Lord to do? If He answers, what does she promise to the Lord that she will do? What was Eli watching (1 Samuel 1:12)? But where was Hannah speaking (1 Samuel 1:13)? What couldn’t Eli hear? What did he think? What did Eli ask in 1 Samuel 1:14? What did he command! How does Hannah answer with respect to her own spirit (1 Samuel 1:15)? What had she not done? What had she done? What does she call a woman who would let herself be drunk (1 Samuel 1:16)? What is her explanation in verse 16 for the manner of her speech? Now what does Eli tell her to do (1 Samuel 1:17)? And what blessing does he pronounce on her? What is Hannah willing to do now (1 Samuel 1:18, cf. end of 1 Samuel 1:7)? What can no longer be seen on her face?
The Lord Jesus’s sacrifice was on display in the sacrifices at the tabernacle in Shiloh. And the Lord Jesus’s priesthood was on display in the high priesthood of Eli in Shiloh.

Now, Eli couldn’t hear Hannah pray, but we both watch and listen, and find that she is an example unto us of how faith clings to Christ. She is not satisfied for mere outward formalities of worship. The animals are slaughtered, sacrifices offered, and ceremonial meal is going. Everyone else eats and drinks, but Hannah doesn’t eat until 1 Samuel 1:18.

Why? She must have heart-dealings with the Lord first. Her soul is bitter (1 Samuel 1:10), so she speaks in her heart (1 Samuel 1:13), and she pours out her soul (1 Samuel 1:15). There is no hint here of the idea that New Testament religion is all inward and spiritual (the Lord wants our actions and manner too!), while Old Testament religion was all outward and formal (the Lord stirred up believers hearts and inner being toward Himself then, too!).

Consider that at the end of 1 Samuel 1:18, Hannah is eating, and all is well with her heart-revealing face. What has changed? Has she conceived? Has the Lord remembered her? No, those things don’t happen until back in Ramah. But she has had opportunity to pour herself out to Him, and His appointed mediator has taken up her case to God and pronounced God’s blessing to her. Her circumstances haven’t changed, but the reality of God’s covenant grace literally transforms the face of the very same set of circumstances.

Now, if Hannah can lay hold of God this way, and go from grief to gladness by vigorously engaging Him to whom she came through the blood of bulls and the mediation of Eli, how much more ought we to freely and vigorously pour ourselves out to God? We come through the shed blood of Jesus, and the personal high-priestly ministry of our risen Redeemer! Shall we not take any bitterness of soul that we have, and pour our souls out to God through Him, and be relieved of our anguish even before the circumstance resolves?!
When did you last pour out your soul unto the Lord? When might you do so?
Suggested Songs: ARP102A “To This My Prayer” or TPH520 “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

2020.02.04 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 103:1-12

Questions from the Scripture text: What or whom is the Psalmist commanding to bless the Lord (Psalm 103:1)? With how much of what is within him is he to obey this command? How many times does he give himself this command (Psalm 103:2a)? What is he not to forget (verse 2b)? What is the first benefit not to forgive (Psalm 103:3a)? What is the second (verse 3b)? The third (Psalm 103:4a)? The fourth (verse 4b)? What is one of the tender mercies of God (Psalm 103:5a)? What effect does it have (verse 5b)? What does the Lord do for the oppressed (Psalm 103:6)? What has He done for His people (Psalm 103:7)? What four aspects of His character does He highlight in Psalm 103:8? Of what does this make the Psalmist confident, with respect to the Lord’s anger (Psalm 103:9)? With respect to our sins and punishment (Psalm 103:10)? What point is Psalm 103:11 making about the greatness of God’s mercy? What point is Psalm 103:12 making about the completeness of His forgiveness? 
Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Song of Adoration come from Psalm 103:1-12 in order to sing God’s thoughts after Him with O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing. The Psalm commands us, at its beginning and end, to bless the Lord with our soul. And, to that purpose, it calls upon us to remember all of His benefits.

These benefits include the healing of all of our diseases, the redeeming of our lives from destruction, crowning us with steadfast love and compassion, satisfying our mouths with good things, and renewing our youth.

Ultimately, however, every single other blessing must come by way of the forgiveness of our sins. We are unworthy of the least benefit, but the Lord loves to display the greatness of His compassion, His grace, His patience, and His mercy (Psalm 103:9). This makes believers prime candidates for the display of these characteristics.

Sinners such as we are have need of higher-than-heavens unthwartable love (Psalm 103:11) and geographically immeasurable guilt removal (Psalm 103:12).

Every single blessing we receive shouts that God has not dealt with us according to our sins but according to His salvation—not according to our character but according to His. And so, let us not fail to praise and thank Him for even the least blessing. Unto people such as we are, the least blessing is an extension of the greatest grace!
What ‘small’ blessings of yours could be frequent reminders of infinite grace? 
Suggested songs: ARP103B “Bless the Lord, My Soul” or TPH103E “O Come, My Soul”

Monday, February 03, 2020

2020.02.03 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 1:1-4

Questions from the Scripture text: When had God spoken (Hebrews 1:1)? In what ways had God spoken? By whom? When has God spoken in Hebrews 1:2? By Whom? What has He appointed Him to be? What did He do through Him? Of what is the Son the brightness (Hebrews 1:3)? Of what is He the express image? What does the Son uphold? By what? When did He sit down? Where? What had He become (Hebrews 1:4)? What had He obtained? How? 
God seeks worshipers by Christ, because He seeks a specific kind of worship—that which comes to Him in a way that is consistent with His nature (John 4:16-26).

God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and in truth. And those who draw near to God must regard Him as holy by coming to Him only through Christ, and those specific means by which the Lord has given to us to come through Him (Leviticus 9:18-10:3).

In fact, the Lord says that in order to draw near to God with the heart, and to offer Him worship that is not vain, we must not mix the traditions of men in with the commandments of God, as if our ideas could come through Christ in the same way as God’s commands do (Matthew 15:1-20).

Not surprisingly, we have found that Christ is at the center of all of these big Scripture truths about God’s people’s holy assemblies of worship. So, the Holy Spirit begins with the glory of Christ as He inspires the writer of this entire Bible book urging us not to forsake the assembly; but, to come with confidence, boldness, assurance, reverence, and awe.

As He takes us to that conclusion, He presents the Lord Jesus to us as the One who preaches in the assembly, as the One who sings in the assembly, as the One who leads the assembly, as the One who has qualified us to assemble, as the One who mediates our prayers in the assembly, and as the One who presents to us His own flesh and blood in the assembly.

The more we learn about what God has commanded in worship, the more He turns our attention to the incomparable glory of Christ, and the incorruptible value of His priestly sacrifice that undergirds His priestly work in leading our worship. The more we see the glory of Christ, the more we will value this worship that the Lord has designed! And the more we participate in this kind of worship, the more we will see the glory of Christ!

This is the purpose of all creation, all providence, and all redemption. And this is the true and increasing desire of every genuine believer: the displaying and delighting-in of the glory of Christ! Praise be to God for thus designing the holy assemblies of His church.
What should you be focusing upon during corporate worship? What should you believe to be happening during corporate worship? What should you want from it?
Suggested Songs: ARP22C “I’ll Praise You in the Gathering” or TPH281 “Rejoice the Lord Is King”

Saturday, February 01, 2020

2020.02.01 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 1:1-4

Questions from the Scripture text: When had God spoken (Hebrews 1:1)? In what ways had God spoken? By whom? When has God spoken in Hebrews 1:2? By Whom? What has He appointed Him to be? What did He do through Him? Of what is the Son the brightness (Hebrews 1:3)? Of what is He the express image? What does the Son uphold? By what? When did He sit down? Where? What had He become (Hebrews 1:4)? What had He obtained? How? 
In tomorrow’s sermon, we will briefly trace how each particular action commanded by the New Testament for public worship ties directly to Christ’s person and work, and His leading that worship action from heaven. The force and weight of this reality is carried by the greatness of the glory of Him who is both the Apostle and the High Priest of this worship.

This is one reason that Hebrews leads off with the greatness of Christ’s glory. This is one of many reasons why we need to feast our hearts upon the greatness of Christ’s glory.

He is God the Son. The eternal, living, glorious, almighty God.

He is the heir of all things. Everything exists for Him and belongs to Him. We belong to Him. Being His by faith means that He joins you to Himself in this inheritance.

Through Christ, God made the worlds. The glory of Christ is the power by which and the point for which God has made every single thing that has been made.

He is the brightness of God’s glory. Christ’s glory is not only that which is displayed in the creation, but God Himself is pleased that Christ would be the great display of the intensity of His own glory as well!

He is the express image of God’s person. Christ is a display not only of the intensity of God’s glory, but He so completely and comprehensively demonstrates the character of God that He is the exact imprint of His nature.

He upholds all things by the Word of His power. The point of all of history is the power and glory of Jesus Christ! This is the point not only of everything that is but of everything that happens!

Here, in our Lord Jesus, we have God’s own infinitely intense, perfectly accurate, completely comprehensive display of Himself and His glory. This is the foundation and essence of the holy Lord’s Day assembly of the Christian church.
What do your feelings tell you is what makes worship glorious? Are they in agreement with this Scripture? Whenever they are not, which one needs to correct which?
Suggested songs: ARP24 “The Earth and the Riches” or TPH274 “Jesus, My Great High Priest”