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

Saturday, May 30, 2020

2020.05.30 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 26:23–25

Questions from the Scripture text: Where does Isaac go in Genesis 26:23? Who appears to him (Genesis 26:24)? When? What does He call Himself? What does He tell Isaac not to do? Why? What does He say that He will do? How does Isaac respond now (Genesis 26:25)? Upon what does he call? What else does he do there? 
This is an interesting appearance of the Lord. It’s really the last bit of the narrative about digging of wells, as we can see by the conclusion of Genesis 26:25. This turns out to be the only well named in this chapter that keeps its name from Abraham.

Yahweh last appeared to Isaac in Genesis 26:2, and made promises to him (Genesis 26:3-5). Things did not go so well with Isaac spiritually after that, at first (Genesis 26:6-11). But then, the Lord grew him beyond all human expectation (Genesis 26:12-22). Now, the promise in Genesis 26:24 seems to be a good summary of the previous promise, with a little more emphasis on Abraham.

Isaac has been doing well now, and we might think that the Lord would appear with some commendation to him like what was given to Abraham after his test in Genesis 22:16–18, while Abraham was living in this exact same spot. But the Lord continues to turn Isaac’s attention away from himself and back to the Lord.

Here, God actually calls Himself, “the God of your father Abraham.” And, His covenant to bless future generations comes from this identity: “I will bless you and multiply your descendants for My servant Abraham’s sake.”

God reminds Isaac that His covenant relationship with him begins from before Isaac and continues to after Isaac. Sometimes, we want God’s relationship with us to emphasize our moment, our life, our walking with Him. But, there is actually something wonderfully enduring to know that we are in a covenantal line that begins from long before us and belongs “to a thousand generations.” Regular doses of humility are like vitamins that maintain spiritual health.

It is this God of enduring grace across generations, this God of faithfulness to His promises, this God who has successfully preserved other sinners (Abraham) through faith… it is this God who meets Isaac in the moment of his life: “I will be with you.” And it is this same God who is with us.

Isaac has had experience now of disobeying the instruction not to fear (Genesis 26:6-11), and also of responding in faith (Genesis 26:12-22). But Yahweh is appearing to him again. The new appearance reminds us that our growth in Christ is not continually and linearly upward. Isaac still needs to be reminded. He has other things ahead of him, in which he must heed the instruction, “Do not fear; only believe.”

Last time, we have no reference to Isaac responding with worship. This time, the response in Genesis 26:25 reminds us much of his father, whom we frequently saw building altars to call upon the name of the Lord who had appeared to him. We even remember him calling upon “the name of Yahweh, the Everlasting God” right here, at Beersheba (Genesis 21:33).

This worship is not only a most appropriate response to God, as Abraham himself previously had done; it is also a faith-building exercise. Here is a man who has been growing, but is not done yet. Here is a man who must continue not in fear but in faith. And, here he is strengthening that faith through worship. Let us, to whom promises have also been made, and who similarly have more of our life in this world before us, respond with worship to our God and His promises. And may God use that worship to strengthen our faith!
What promises has God made to you? How will you respond in a way that honors Him and builds faith?
Suggested songs: ARP44A “O God, We Have Heard of Your Works” or TPH243 “How Firm a Foundation”

Friday, May 29, 2020

2020.05.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 5:33–39

Questions from the Scripture text: About whose disciples do they ask (Luke 5:33)? What activities do they ask about? What are Jesus’s disciples doing instead? What does Jesus ask in Luke 5:34? What days does Jesus say are coming (Luke 5:35)? What does Jesus say no one does in Luke 5:36? What does He say that no one does in Luke 5:37? Where must new wine be put (Luke 5:38)? How does Jesus explain their dislike for the New Covenant discipleship of Him (Luke 5:39)? 
The scribes and Pharisees apparently did not even realize that Jesus was telling them that they were the unwell sinners who need healing and repentance, because they figured that they were doing pretty well “fasting often and making prayers” (Luke 5:33).

Because true interaction with the Lord involves particular actions, it is easy for people to focus upon the actions/habits/rituals of Christianity rather than how we are to interact with the Lord Himself in them. A similar thing happens in the next passage, when they think that they are keeping Sabbath properly, but they are missing the Lord Himself on His Sabbath, when He is standing right in front of them (Luke 6:1–5).

Luke (and Jesus) redirect our focus to Him Himself. The main issue is: are you relating correctly to the Bridegroom, and His current relative position to you?

We ought to be seeking after fellowship with Christ, grieving when He is distant, rejoicing when He makes Himself known to us and near to us in His ordinances, and always longing for His return and the full enjoying of all that He has earned.

Fasting and praying are not just mourning over our own condition (though we certainly ought to do so in our fasting and praying). They are also acts of worship and means of fellowship that our Lord has given us with Himself. We do them, not because they earn us anything, and not even only because they are right, but especially because they are one way in which the Lord Jesus gives us to draw near to Him and find that He draws near to us.

It really is an amazing thing to have direct interaction with Christ, and it is no wonder that Levi and his friends were rejoicing in their fellowship with the Redeemer. But people who are accustomed to their religion being all about the external forms and actions themselves may not respond well to this idea of direct interaction with the Lord Jesus.

Jesus is our Immanuel. In Him, God Himself has come near. We are now all as priests unto God. It’s a glorious change! But it’s not one that those who are accustomed to externalism and formalism are necessarily comfortable with. It stretches them too far (Luke 5:36-38), or just tastes too differently from what they’re used to (Luke 5:39). And they are suspicious of anyone whose practices are regulated by Christ rather than tradition (Luke 5:33).

But it is essential that we make this stretch, and it is essential that we come to love this taste. Biblical Christianity is full of habits and practices—Jesus said as much in Luke 5:35. But the point of Sabbath-keeping. Or fasting and praying. Or Bible reading. Or Scripture-regulated worship. Or family worship. Or any of the other habits and practices of biblical Christianity… is to have our life in belonging to Christ Himself and fellowshipping with Christ Himself directly in each of these habits and practices.

May the Lord grant unto us that we would find it most comfortable and enjoyable to have union and communion with Jesus at the heart of all of the religious practices that He has commanded!
What Christ-commanded religious practices do you do? How does your soul interact with Him in them?
Suggested songs: ARP63 “O God, You Are My God” or TPH425 “How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place”

Thursday, May 28, 2020

2020.05.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 2:14–18

Questions from the Scripture text: What is the peace between the Jews and Gentiles (Ephesians 2:14)? What has Jesus done to them? What has He broken down? What did He do to the enmity (Ephesians 2:15)? How? What had sealed this enmity? What has Christ done to it? What has He created in Himself? To Whom has He reconciled them (Ephesians 2:16)? How? What did this put to death? What did He come and preach (Ephesians 2:17)? To whom? What do we both have (Ephesians 2:18)? Through Whom? By Whom? To Whom?
When we are reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, He is honored as the only way that guilty and helpless sinners could be reconciled to a holy God. When we refuse to be reconciled to God, or try to be reconciled in some other way, Christ is dishonored.

What then, if believers refuse to be reconciled to one another? Ephesians 2:14 tells us that He Himself is our peace. When Christ died on the cross, He fulfilled and obsoleted the ceremonial code, including the holiness code that emphasized the alienation and enmity between Jew and Gentile. By giving us access to the Father in one Spirit, Christ brings us near to one another.

So, if we refuse to be reconciled, or try to be reconciled in some other way, we dishonor Christ. What personal bitterness or prejudice could be worth that?

On the other hand, when we are reconciled to God through Christ, we rejoice in Him who has killed the enmity between us and God. And when we are reconciled to one another through Christ, we rejoice in Him who has killed the enmity between us.

It makes one wonder why we don’t delight in reconciliation more. Something that brings honor to Christ. Something that increases our joy in Christ. Something that takes bitterness and misery out of our lives.
With whom do you have the opportunity to be reconciled for the honor and enjoyment of Christ?
Suggested songs: ARP87 “The Lord’s Foundation” or TPH87A “Zion, Founded on the Mountains”

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

2020.05.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Samuel 8:9–22

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Yahweh tell Samuel to heed (1 Samuel 8:9)? How must Samuel forewarn them about their request? What did Samuel tell the people who had asked him for a king (1 Samuel 8:10)? What is the first thing that he says the king will take (1 Samuel 8:11)? For what kinds of things (1 Samuel 8:11-12)? What is the second thing that he says the king will take (1 Samuel 8:13)? For what? Which fields, vineyards, and olive groves will he take (1 Samuel 8:14)? For what? What else will he take (1 Samuel 8:15)? For whom? What else will he take (1 Samuel 8:16)? For what? What else will he take (1 Samuel 8:17)? What will he make Israel into? How will Israel end up responding (1 Samuel 8:18)? How will Yahweh respond then? What do the people not do (1 Samuel 8:19)? What do they say? What is the first reason they want a king (1 Samuel 8:20)? What else do they want a king to do? What did Samuel do with all these words of the people (1 Samuel 8:21)? What did Yahweh tell him to do? And what did Samuel say to the men of Israel (1 Samuel 8:22)?
What a terrible thing it is to have any king but Christ! But still, we clamor to be ruled by sinners because of our delusions about what they can do for us.

The Lord had already told Samuel that they were rejecting Him because they didn’t want to be ruled by Him (1 Samuel 8:7). We know the good and gracious God whom they are rejecting as King, but the Lord also wants them to know what kind of kings sinners make: self-interested men, who take the people’s children and things.

This, of course, is not the purpose of civil government. It is in fact to do things like judge (reward good and punish evil) and oversee civil defense (cf. 1 Samuel 8:20, Romans 13). It is a mercy of God that nations have civil government as a method of mitigating evil in this world. And, the more that people in government serve God and fulfill His design for their role according to His law, the more that civil government will be a blessing.

Israel had a perfect King already. The living God. Earthly government cannot “fight our battles”—it can only use us to fight battles, that may or may not be in our own best interest. But the Lord Himself can most certainly fight for us. Indeed, through Christ, we have full confidence that He does so, whether through means, above them, or even without them.

Thankfully, we are looking forward to a perfect King—the King prophesied in places like 2 Samuel 7 and Psalm 72. Our Lord Jesus Christ. He is God, who has given His Son instead of taking ours, who gives us all things instead of taking them. And He will be King forever and ever over an entire New Heavens and New Earth. Indeed, He is already King of kings.

This ought to make us rejoice that Christ is King now, and long for the day when all lesser authority joyfully obeys Him. But, if we love Christ and submit to Him, and if we love our neighbor and what’s good for him, we will also pray and work toward government that submits to Christ.
How are you praying for Christ’s kingship in your own country? How are you working toward it?
Suggested Songs: ARP72A “God, Give Your Judgments to the King” or TPH417 “Jesus Shall Reign Where'er the Sun”

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

2020.05.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ 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, May 25, 2020

2020.05.24 P.M. Exhortation—Ephesians 2:11–13, "Equipped by Remembering (New)Creation, Commonwealth, Covenant, & (Union w/)Christ"

We are equipped to walk in good works by remembering that we are new creatures in Christ, that we have been brought into the common wealth of God's people, that God has bound us to Himself by covenant, and that all this has been done for us by union with Christ.

2020.05.24 Morning Sermon—Genesis 26:12–22 "Fruitful Grace: God's Powerful and Merciful Material and Spiritual Provision"

We must look to God to provide for us all that is necessary materially and spiritually, in His unlimited power and unmerited favor, which He offers in Christ. [PDF] [MP3]

2020.05.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 26:12–22

Questions from the Scripture text: What did Isaac do in Genesis 26:12? How much did he reap? How did this happen? Of what was this the beginning (Genesis 26:13)? To what extent did it continue? What did he have (Genesis 26:14)? How did the Philistines feel about this? What did they do in Genesis 26:15? What did Abimelech say and do to Isaac in Genesis 26:16? Where did Isaac go in Genesis 26:17? What did he do in Genesis 26:18? What else in Genesis 26:19? Who quarreled over these wells (Genesis 26:20)? What does he call the well in response (verse 20)? What does he do in Genesis 26:21? What do they do? What does he call the well in response? What does he do in Genesis 26:22? What does he call this new well? Why? Whom does he recognize as doing what for him?  
What astonishing material fruitfulness! Everything is stacked against Isaac. He’s a livestock farmer, not a crop farmer. He’s used to the hill country, not the lowlands. It’s the middle of a famine. But he reaps one-hundred-fold in the first year! That’s more than enough for himself, and the brisk grain market enables him to purchase flocks, herds, and servants. 

Genesis 26:13 emphasizes the increase of Isaac, literally: “And the man became great, and continuing he continued and became great until he became exceedingly great.” 

But this fruitfulness was not just material; it was also spiritual. Just as there is no other explanation for Isaac’s grain crop, there is also no other explanation for the shift in Isaac’s character.

In the previous passage, the man through whom all the nations of the earth were to be blessed had almost brought guilt upon Gerar. In this passage, he departs peaceably from the city, and interacts exceedingly peaceably with the herdsmen in the countryside.

Isaac now has a huge logistical task on his hands. In Genesis 26:16, Abimelech had complained that Isaac was too numerous. The city and its area couldn’t support both him and the Philistines. So, now he moves into the countryside and finds the old wells stopped up. He’s giving them the old names, but they’re about to get new ones related to the herdsmen claiming one after another of them. 

Isaac needs the water! And, he’s mighty. He could easily take it by force. If he is too great for Gerar city, he is also too great for its herdsmen. But he doesn’t. He is trusting Yahweh (finally!). He keeps digging them and digging them until finally the herdsmen have enough water for themselves (that Isaac has now provided), and one for himself. Rehoboth. “Wide.” 

No longer is Isaac acting out of self-interest, putting his own skin ahead of everyone like he had earlier (even ahead of Rebekah). He acts in great selflessness, great patience, great persistence, great diligence… all out of great faith in the Lord to take care of him. Praise God!

And that’s exactly the point. Praise God. Only He can make land fruitful like Isaac’s crops had been. Only He can make a sinner’s heart and life fruitful like Isaac. Can’t He (and doesn’t He!) do the same for His people today? Whatever your material needs; your Father knows and is abundantly able. Whatever the difficulty of your spiritual challenges; your Father is more than able by His Spirit, and the life and character of His Son, to form and sustain in you great spiritual fruitfulness!
What material needs do you have right now? What spiritually challenging circumstances are you in? 
Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH534 “Fill Thou My Life, O Lord My God”