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, October 31, 2020

Being Fruitful and Multiplying (2020.10.31 Pastoral Letter and Hopewell Herald)

Hopewell Herald – October 31, 2020

Dear Congregation,

In this past week’s sermon passage, we got the answer to the question: after struggling and stumbling so much with remaining sin, could Jacob still enjoy blessing? Could Jacob still be useful?

The text reoriented us by changing the subject of the sentence. God still can and still will bless Jacob. God still can and still will use Jacob. He is God Almighty.

The persistence of God’s blessing and purpose is not just a guarantee but a calling. In this case, “Be fruitful and multiply.” We noted that this was the original command to Adam (and all humanity), and has now been repeated to Noah, Abraham, and Jacob.

And it still stands as our chief command. Our chief calling.

But what if you are past child-bearing age? Or if it is not in God’s ordaining for your life that you be married or have children?

Yes, dear Christian, it is still your chief calling. And perhaps you would recognize this more easily if we modify slightly our vocabulary: it is your chief commission.

We hear the echo of “I am God Almighty” in our Redeemer’s “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to Me.”

“Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” with [renewed] image-bearers is the same as to say, “Going into all the earth, make disciples of all nations by baptizing them and by teaching them to keep all that I have commanded you.”

Every Christian has a serving, encouraging, edifying duty to the rest of his or her congregation. As we learn in this week’s Ephesians text, public worship is central to this duty. When we prepare for it, and whatever else we can do to help others be ready for it, is part of the fulfillment of “be fruitful and multiply” and “make disciples.”

And, as you encourage and accommodate the covenant children of the congregation, you participate in the growth of the church. To this, we must add always praying for our unbelieving neighbor, always being ready to give an answer for our hope, always living as unashamed light and hoping that those who are darkness will not only be exposed but transformed into light themselves by the life of Christ.

Further, Hopewell is not called merely to church growth but church multiplication. It is a blessing to have a worship room that maxes out around 150 worshipers. As the Lord blesses His means not only to our spiritual growth but unto the converting and bringing in of those whom He is saving, we should be identifying where those whom He is bringing in live, so that we can be planning where to plant our daughter church. After 200 years of God’s faithfulness, let us be responding to how the Lord presented Himself in the passage last Lord’s Day. He is God almighty. He is carrying out His plan of redemption by that almighty power. And He commands that we, in dependence upon Him, would be fruitful and multiply.

Looking forward to worshiping Him with you in those means which He promises to bless unto that end,


2020.10.31 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 35:16–36:43

Read Genesis 35:16–36:43

Questions from the Scripture text: Where do they go in Genesis 35:16? Where are they about to arrive? But what happens to whom? What does the midwife say in Genesis 35:17? What was departing (Genesis 35:18)? Why? What did she call his name? What did his father call him? What happened to Rachel (Genesis 35:19)? By where? Who does what in Genesis 35:20? What does Genesis 35:21-22 call him? Where does he go? What happens in verse 22? Whom does Genesis 35:22-26 describe? To whom does Jacob come, where, in Genesis 35:27? How old was Isaac (Genesis 35:28)? What four things happen to Isaac in Genesis 35:29? Who buried him? Whose genealogy does chapter 36 give us? Whom does Genesis 36:2-3 describe? Who bore whom where, in Genesis 36:4-5? Then where did Esau go, with whom, in Genesis 36:6-8? Whom does Genesis 36:9-14 list? In what way is this list organized? What are they now called in Genesis 36:15-19? What nation inhabited Seir before the Edomites (Genesis 36:20)? What are their sons called in the list in Genesis 36:20-30? What kings begin to be listed from Genesis 36:31? What time period does this list of kings cover (Genesis 36:31b)? What are the names in Genesis 36:40-43 called (cf. 1 Chronicles 1:51–54)? How is the land described in Genesis 36:43? Who is the last person mentioned in the chapter?

The unifying theme of this extended section of transition is death. Deborah has just died (Genesis 35:8), and now Rachel dies. Isaac dies. And the kings of Edom from now until the time of 1 Samuel die.

Parents are dying people, and their children are dying people. There is an appropriate symmetry to Rachel dying as she gives birth to Benjamin. Even his two names (son of my affliction, son of my right hand) remind us of how desperately the children of Adam need Christ, because in him we all sinned and died. 

So, her soul is departing (Genesis 35:18), which reminds us that much more important than how Benjamin comes into the world will be his condition when he has departed from it. Our first self-care must be the care of our souls. Our first care of our children must be the care of their souls. How sad that it isn’t until he is departing (cf. Genesis 49:4) that Jacob takes any action concerning the soul-threatening sin of his son Reuben (Genesis 35:22). Parents and their children die; so let them live with a care for eternal souls.

For, believers die, but Christ takes away the sting of it. Genesis 35:29 tells us that “Isaac breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people, old and full of days, and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.” It’s very important to see what happens with his soul. In between his death and his burial, “he was gathered to his people.” 

Your soul will be gathered to your people when you die, but which of the two peoples will that be? The seed of the serpent or the seed of the woman? Are you in Christ? Are His people your people in this life? When you die, you will be gathered to your people. Relationships with believers in this life can be tough, because we are still sinners. But there is a sinless fellowship with one another—and, especially, a sinless fellowship and enjoyment of our God and our Redeemer—that comes at death for believers.

Unbelievers die. The line of Edom are, generally speaking, unbelievers. It is sobering to read a list of names where each represents a clan of people who have died in their sin. Since Scripture focuses so much upon the covenant people, we can be forgetful that there are nations perishing in their sin. What missionary zeal should arise in our hearts, when the Lord brings them to remembrance! Hearing about Edom ought to make us long for the gospel age, in which reconciliation and salvation goes out to the nations. But here we are in that age. Are we living like we are in that age?

Finally, kings die. Of the line of Edom, it is especially the kings (Genesis 35:31–38) whose deaths are mentioned. This ought to be comforting to Israelites who were often in conflict with, or persecuted by, Edomites. Do not fear them. They can only kill the body. And they themselves die. “In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 56:10).

On the other hand, this is a good caution against putting our hope in kings. Or presidents. Or supreme court justices. Suppose we were to get all of the men whom we would like in every one of these positions. What then? “Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help. His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day his plans perish. Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in Yahweh his God” (Psalm 146:3–5). Even if we were to get every man we wanted in every position, the Lord could immediately remove them. 

Kings die. Neither be afraid of them, nor put your hope in them.

What does prioritizing eternal souls look like in our thought life? In our everyday life? Of what men are you tempted to be overly afraid? In what men are you tempted to place too much of your hope?

Suggested songs: ARP146 “Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah” or TPH159 “Abide with Me”

Friday, October 30, 2020

2020.10.30 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 9:27–36

Read Luke 9:27–36

Questions from the Scripture text: About whom does Jesus speak in Luke 9:27? What does he say some of them will not do before what? How long after verse 27 does Luke 9:28 take place? Whom does He take? Where? To do what? What two things change in Luke 9:29? What happens to His robe? Who appear in Luke 9:30? What do they do with Him? How do they appear (Luke 9:31)? What do they speak about? How does it describe His departure happening? Where? What had been the condition of Peter and those with him (Luke 9:32)? When this changes, what do they see about Him? Whom else do they say? What were they about to do in Luke 9:33? Who speaks to Whom? What does he say about being there? What does he suggest they make? For whom? Why is he speaking this way? What is Peter still doing in Luke 9:34? What comes? What does it do? How do they feel? What comes out of the cloud (Luke 9:35)? Whom does the voice say Jesus is? What does the voice tell them to do to Jesus? When the voice ceases, who is there (Luke 9:36)? What do the disciples do now? Whom do they tell, when, about what?

Often we think of the Transfiguration as a glorious vision. But the point of the event isn’t so much Jesus’s appearance as it is Jesus’s words.

In Luke 9:26, He had warned of being ashamed of His words. Now, He says that there are some standing there who will not taste death until they see the kingdom (Luke 9:27), eight days after which statement, He takes Peter, John, and James up the mountain to pray (Luke 9:28).

But the message that they ultimately receive when they “see the kingdom of God” is actually, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” The very words of Christ in Scripture are more sure, more glorious than even His transfigured appearance on the mountain (cf. 2 Peter 1:18–19, which literally say that the prophetic word is “more sure”).

Peter, as he often does, plays the part of our representative saint. With Jesus, Moses, and Elijah there, for some reason he thinks it’s his place to speak up in order to keep them from parting (Luke 9:33). The text even notes that he didn’t know what he was doing.

We’re like Peter—not humble enough about ourselves and our well-intended but misguided ideas, and nowhere nearly enough impressed by our Lord Jesus. Moses was a great prophet. Elijah was a great prophet. But Jesus is infinitely above both. Of Him God says, “This is My beloved Son.” 

To us, as to Peter, God says, “hear Him!” Though we ought to be grateful for God’s servants, let us be sure that it is the Lord Jesus Himself Whom we hear and revere. And let none of us ever be preoccupied that “our voice” would be heard but rather earnest that Christ’s voice would be heard. Let us not desire that others would be impressed with us, or fall into being overly impressed with others, but let us all desire the glory of Christ and be impressed with Him!

With whom are you too impressed? What activities need to take a back seat to private reading of Scripture, family reading/teaching of Scripture, and the hearing of Scripture preached in public worship?

Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH172 “Speak, O Lord”

Thursday, October 29, 2020

2020.10.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 5:18–21

Read Ephesians 5:18–21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is happening when your church sings in public worship on the Lord’s Day? What are some things that you should be doing during that singing? 

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

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

God's Powerful, Wise, and Merciful Providence (Family Worship in 1Sam 21:10–22:5)

What hope do believers have, when they are foolish or overmatched? Pastor leads his family in today's "Hopewell @Home" passage. In these ten verses, we learn that God powerfully, wisely, and mercifully works all things for believers' good.

2020.10.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Samuel 21:10–22:5

Read 1 Samuel 21:10–22:5

Questions from the Scripture text: From whom did David flee in 1 Samuel 21:10? To whom? Of what do Achish’s servants remind him in 1 Samuel 21:11? Who heard them (1 Samuel 21:12)? How did he respond? What did he start doing (1 Samuel 21:13)? What does Achish say in 1 Samuel 21:14? What three things does he ask in 1 Samuel 21:14-15? Then where did David go in 1 Samuel 22:1? Who heard about it? What did they do? What three kinds of people does 1 Samuel 22:2 say also gathered to David? What did David become toward them? How many of them were there? To where does David go in 1 Samuel 22:3? To whom? What did David ask the king of Moab to do for whom? Until when? What did David do in 1 Samuel 22:4? How long did they stay with the king? Who spoke to David in 1 Samuel 22:5? What did he tell him not to do? Where did he tell him to go? Where did he go?

From an earthly perspective, this seems to be a passage about how hotly Saul’s enmity pursues David, but from a biblical perspective it is really a passage about how hotly the Lord’s covenant love pursues David (cf. Psalm 23:6).

We can see how much David feels the pressure from Saul. 

He shows up in Goliath’s hometown (1 Samuel 21:10, cf. 1 Samuel 17:4), carrying the sword that could not be mistaken for any other (1 Samuel 21:9). The situation quickly escalates, because even the Philistines remember the recent hit song in 1 Samuel 21:11 (cf. 1 Samuel 18:6–8), but with much less fondness than the ladies of Israel. Not only is David “very much afraid” (1 Samuel 21:12), but by the time he is working on his award for best actor in Gath, 1 Samuel 21:13 tells us that he is “in their hands” (implying that he has been arrested/detained).

So, how does David get out of there? A little graffiti on the doors and spit in the beard (verse 13), and Achish is wondering why they’re straining the budget by bringing another social services case into state custody (1 Samuel 21:14-15).

We might be tempted to see it as some combination of desperate tactics and regal gullibility. But David himself attributes it to Yahweh hearing his cries in compassion (cf. Psalm 34, superscript) and exercising divine power to protect him (cf. Psalm 56). His response is not to write a manual for hostages but to lead the worship of God’s people.

Next stop is the cave of Adullam. It doesn’t seem to be very secret. His brothers and all his father’s house hear of it (1 Samuel 22:1). But they are also joined by about four hundred of every sort of societal outcast (1 Samuel 22:2). So, again, this is not exactly a smashing success for David the tactician. Rather, it is the strong God of Psalm 142 (cf. superscript) who is helping the servant whose persecutors are too strong for him.

But caves aren’t great for David’s parents, who are already advanced in age (1 Samuel 22:3, cf. 1 Samuel 17:12), so David seeks out other arrangements. It is not as odd as we might think that David takes his parents, Jesse and Mrs. Jesse, to Moab for help. Other kingdoms (Israel and Philistia) have proved rather dangerous, and Jesse grew up upon the knees of grandma Ruth—a Moabitess. 

In hindsight, we can see the marvelous wisdom and love of God in the providence of the famine in the days of Elimelech, and in providing this Moabitess ancestress, so that an elderly couple has a place of refuge in hard times (1 Samuel 22:4).

Finally, the prophet Gad comes out of nowhere (1 Samuel 22:5). It is actually a pretty frequent occurrence in Scripture for a prophet to come out of nowhere. But that’s kind of the point. They don’t come out of nowhere. They come from God, Whose Word is one of His great provisions to His people. Several times now, David’s expectations have not been realized. So, it is a mercy that God sends His prophet to encourage His servant that He is still with him, and to give him guidance that he can be sure of.

On the whole, each of these four episodes contributes to one overall theme: God’s covenant love is hotly pursuing His servant. Ultimately, this is true of all who are found in great David’s greater Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. If you are His, then His covenant love is hotly pursuing you!

In what difficult situations are you finding yourself? How can you know that God’s covenant love is hotly pursuing you in them? How does this affect how you think of those situations or act in them?

Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH23A “The Lord’s My Shepherd”

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Have You Missed God's Best?: the Persistence of His Promises (2020.10.25 Morning Sermon in Genesis 35:9–15)

God's forgiveness in Christ means that the repenting believer can be sure not only of that forgiveness, but also of ongoing blessing and purpose in his earthly life, and perfect blessing and service in his eternal life.

Purchasing Time for Jesus by Self-Awareness and Scripture-Awareness (2020.10.25 Evening Sermon in Eph 5:15–17)

The apostle commands us to purchase time for our good Lord during the present evil age. The purchase price is the effort that it takes to be aware of ourselves and aware of God's Word.

Day of Worship 5, Worldliness (2020.10.25 Sabbath School)

Sabbath School lesson in Ryan McGraw's "The Day of Worship." In Chapter 5, we consider how our worldliness shapes what we view as restful and joyous.

2020.10.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 32

Read Psalm 32

Questions from the Scripture text: What three things has the blessed one contributed to his blessedness (Psalm 32:1–2)? What has he finally stopped doing about his transgression/sin/iniquity (verse 2b)? What had he attempted to do about it before (Psalm 32:3)? But what had the Lord caused him to feel? What was upon David and when (Psalm 32:4a)? What did it feel like was happening to his life within him (verse 4b)? What did David do then (Psalm 32:5)? To Whom? What will who do when (Psalm 32:6a-6b)? What can the godly know will not come near him to destroy him (verse 6c–d)? Why can’t anything ultimately harm David (Psalm 32:7a-7b)? With what will God surround him—how is he to respond to being delivered (verse 7)? What will God do to David in Psalm 32:8a? Why is the guidance in verse 8b so good/sure? What does He tell us not to be like in Psalm 32:9a? What don’t they have (verse 9b)? What must be done to them (verse 9c) to get them to do what (verse 9d)? What will come to the wicked (Psalm 32:10a)? Who is the opposite of the wicked (verse 10b)? What surrounds him? What is this believer called in Psalm 32:11a? What two things is he commanded to do? In Whom? And what is the believer called in verse 11b? What is he commanded to do in that verse? 

Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, Song of Adoration, and Prayer of Confession all come from Psalm 32:4–11, so that we will see that we are singing God’s thoughts after Him with We Gather Together.

Blessed is the man who is forgiven! That’s easy for us to say. We love to be forgiven. But there are some things involved in that forgiveness that we don’t ordinarily like so much.

Blessed is the man whom the Lord chastens! We need that chastening, because the reflex of the flesh is to lie (Psalm 32:2bPsalm 32:3a) to ourselves and God about the greatness of our guilt and offense. Perhaps we are well-enough instructed to say, “blessed is the man whom the Lord chastens!” But can we say, “the Lord is lovingly bringing me to blessing” if we fill in the particular details of Psalm 32:3–4?

Blessed is the man whom the Lord makes to feel like his bones are rotting away inside him (Psalm 32:3a). Blessed is the man who is made to groan all day long (verse 3b). Blessed is the man upon whom the Lord makes his hand heavy (Psalm 32:4a). Blessed is the man who feels as if his body has been sucked dry of all moisture, all life (verse 4b). It just doesn’t have that ring to it.

And yet, it is precisely the intensity with which the Lord makes us to feel our sin that makes the intensity of our joy at the forgiveness that is given in Psalm 32:5. Further, when we realize the greatness of the wrath from which we have been saved (Psalm 32:6c), we become sure that the God who has saved us from that will surely save us from everything (verse 6). 

Indeed, not only will He provide a shelter, but He Himself will be our shelter (Psalm 32:7). We can be like Paul and Silas in the Philippian jail—surrounded by the songs of God’s deliverance while still in the midst of the danger. Blessed is the believer who is in trouble!

How slow we are to see the blessing of God in our chastening and our troubles. And, horses and mules that we can be (Psalm 32:9), we are even slow to see His blessing in His instruction (Psalm 32:8a). To have His instruction is to be guided by His perfectly seeing eye, rather than our own limited and inaccurate perspective (verse 8b). But, living by God’s instruction is not merely to live correctly; it is even to draw near to God Himself (verse 9d)!

Indeed, consider the command with which the Spirit concludes this Psalm: “Be glad in Yahweh and rejoice, you righteous; and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” What a happy command. When the Lord overcomes our resistance to Him, He frees us to see the blessedness of every part of belonging to Him!

When have you been blessed as a result of feeling the Lord’s hand heavy upon you for your sin? What commands of the Lord do you most need help to see as a blessing not a burden?

Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH415 “We Gather together”

Monday, October 26, 2020

2020.10.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 35:9–15

Read Genesis 35:9–15

Questions from the Scripture text: Who appears to Jacob in Genesis 35:9? How does verse 9 describe the timing of the appearance? What else did He do to Jacob? What did God say his name is (Genesis 35:10)? How long would it be his name? What would his name be now? What did God say about Himself in Genesis 35:11? What does He command Jacob to do? What will proceed from him? Who will come from his body? What does God give him in Genesis 35:12? To whom else did He give it? What did God do then in Genesis 35:13? What does Jacob set up in Genesis 35:14? What two things does he pour on it? What did Jacob call the name of the place (Genesis 35:15)? Why?

Jacob and his family sinned grievously in chapter 34. In Genesis 35:1–7, the Lord brought Jacob near by sacrifice to show that the guilt of his sin would be put on a substitute—Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, hallelujah!

So, the penalty has been paid, but what damage has been done to the promises of God? None at all! He is God Almighty, El Shaddai, and He will overcome Jacob’s Jacob-ness to bring about the complete fullness of everything that He has promised.

Here, God really reiterates two sets of promises. The first is the blessing made at the river Jabbok in chapter 32. The second is the promise that God had made to Abraham at the beginning of chapter 17. Praise God that He is strong to overcome both the guilt and the consequences of our sin. His promises are not dependent upon us at all. 

What were these promises?

When Jacob crossed the Jabbok and the Lord met him and wrestled him (Genesis 32:22–27), the Lord had blessed him by saying, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men and have prevailed […] and He blessed him there” (Genesis 32:28Genesis 32:29). 

Now, with a fair amount of backsliding and sin under Jacob’s belt since then, the question arises: what of the promise implied in that name change and that blessing by the river Jabbok? “Then God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Padan Aram, and blessed him. And God said to him, ‘your name is Jacob; your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name.’ So He called his name Israel” (Genesis 35:9–10). In other words, the blessing relies upon the character and purpose of God in a way that will overcome even such great and consequential sin as Jacob’s and his family’s!

This has been a problem before. Abraham had failed spectacularly in the Hagar/Ishmael experiment in chapter 16. Thirteen years had passed. Had Abraham’s failure inhibited God’s declared intent to use him? When Scripture gives us the first recorded words of God in 13 years, He comes and says, “I am God Almighty […] I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you […] also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger…” (Genesis 17:1Genesis 17:6Genesis 17:8). Now, in chapter 35, God comes to Jacob with the same introduction and makes the same promises, “I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall proceed from you, and kings shall come from your body. The land which I gave Abraham and Isaac I give to you; and to your descendants after you I give this land” (Genesis 35:11–12). 

In other words, the promise that God made in the wake of Abraham’s failings is undiminished in the wake of Jacob’s failings. Why? Because now in Genesis 35, as then in Genesis 17, Jacob’s (as Abraham’s) walking before God depended upon the power of that God before Whom he was to walk. 

When weak Noah gets off the boat, when weak Abraham has just stumbled, and when weak Jacob has just stumbled, God is able to say, “be fruitful and multiply”—not merely to make more people, but to fill the earth with a new humanity, in the image of God through their re-creation in Jesus Christ. God’s people, and God’s promises, depend upon God’s Almighty power. It does not absolve us of duty: this is a command that God gives Jacob in Genesis 35:11. But it does present to us the means by which we are to work, and the grounds upon which we are assured: God’s Almighty power.

What are you commanded to do in your roles in life right now? How will you be able to walk in that role in a way that honors the Lord? Upon what can your hope for fruitfulness be assured?

Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or TPH413 “Revive Thy Work, O Lord”