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, September 18, 2021

2021.09.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 23:1–12

Read Luke 23:1–12

Questions from the Scripture text: Who arose and led Jesus to whom (Luke 23:1)? Before the Roman governor, what three accusations did they try out (Luke 23:2)? With which one does Pilate cross-examine (Luke 23:3a)? How does Jesus answer (verse 3b)? What does Pilate conclude from this (Luke 23:4)? Which other accusation do they retry now (Luke 23:5)? What part of this catches Pilate’s attention (Luke 23:6)? Why—what is he able to do now (Luke 23:7)? How did Herod feel about this at first (Luke 23:8)? Why, what did he hope for? But what results did he get (Luke 23:9)? What made a sharp contrast with Jesus’s silence (Luke 23:10)? When his hope is disappointed, and he sees the conduct of the crowd, what does Herod do (Luke 23:11)? And what is the result of this (Luke 23:12)? 

The Innocent will be condemned. The Judge will be judged. The Son of God has come to be executed in place of sinners.

Jesus’s death is the obvious design of the whole multitude of the council (Luke 23:1a). In His religious trial, they had condemned Him for blasphemy (cf. Luke 22:71), but when they come to Pilate (Luke 23:1b), they charge Him with things they think can get Him murdered by Rome: inciting rebellion (Luke 23:2a), inciting refusal to pay taxes (verse 2b), and inciting rivalry with Caesar (verse 2c). There’s nothing Rome loved more than order, money, and authority. They throw their three biggest charges against Him and hope something sticks.

The one that seems to stick is the “King” claim (Luke 23:3). Apparently, Pilate takes that one as the foundation of the other two. Luke doesn’t tell us about the rest of Jesus’s answer, about the spiritual nature of His kingdom. He gives us the short version, in which Jesus is basically saying that Pilate’s words, which he got from them, are the only identifiable substance of the church. There’s simply no case against Him, which Pilate immediately recognizes and declares (Luke 23:4).

That should have been it. Jesus should have been released. Pilate has authority over this innocent Citizen, so now his duty shifts from prosecution to vindication and protection. But these murderers will make use of this weak magistrate to turn him into a murderer with them. Their guilt is by no means reduced by the fact that it is God’s saving plan that the Innocent would die for the guilty (cf. Acts 2:23; Acts 4:27–28). 

The chief priests think that they are losing their mark, so they now appeal to Pilate’s personal prejudice. They know that he hates the Jews, and especially Galileans (Luke 23:5, cf. Luke 13:1). Probably they think they have struck the right cord by his response in Luke 23:6, but this has brought up the issue of jurisdictions, and Pilate has discovered his way out of the situation (Luke 23:7). Not only is Jesus’s hometown technically in Galilee, but the tetrarch is in town and available.

Herod is glad to have Jesus captive, because he hopes to see some sign (Luke 23:8). But Jesus isn’t here to satisfy Herod’s fleshly curiosity; He’s here to die. He shows no sign; He answers no question (Luke 23:9). Yet, the wicked will not give up on self-indulgence, and if Herod cannot indulge his curiosity, he will indulge his cruelty. He hears the vehement accusations (Luke 23:10) and exercises his authority by mocking the idea of Christ’s authority (Luke 23:11).

The wicked are not incapable of unity. Their raging and plotting can agree well, when the agreement is to oppose God and His Christ (cf. Psalm 2:1–2; Acts 4:24–28). But they have not heeded the warning (cf. Psalm 2:10–12). All of their little jurisdictions are in this One’s jurisdiction. For our sakes, the Judge was being judged.

Of what was Jesus guilty? Of what have you been guilty? What was happening to Jesus? Why?

Sample prayer:  Lord, You are God, Who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them. And, these men did to Jesus what You had determined before, so that we could be atoned for by His holy blood. Grant unto us humble adoration of our Redeemer, so that we might love Him because He first loved us, which we ask in His Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP110B “The LORD Has Spoken to My Lord” or TPH270 “At the Name of Jesus”


Friday, September 17, 2021

2021.09.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Samuel 22:21–28

Read 2 Samuel 22:21–28

Questions from the Scripture text: According to what has Yahweh rewarded David (2 Samuel 22:21a)? According to what has He recompensed him (verse 21b–c, 2 Samuel 22:25)? What has David done (2 Samuel 22:22a, 2 Samuel 22:24a)? What hasn’t David done (2 Samuel 22:22b, 2 Samuel 22:23b, 2 Samuel 22:24b)? How has he done this (2 Samuel 22:23a)? With whom does God show Himself merciful (2 Samuel 22:26a)? Blameless (verse 26b)? Pure (2 Samuel 22:27a)? Shrewd (verse 27b)? Whom does He save (2 Samuel 22:28a)? Whom does He bring down (verse 28b)? 

Believers can be sure of God’s response to our prayers because He is rewarding us according to our righteousness (2 Samuel 22:21). How can that be true? In three ways. 

First, we can say this in union with Christ, for His obedient actions become our obedient actions. His hands are perfectly clean (2 Samuel 22:21b–c, 2 Samuel 22:25b); He has perfectly kept Yahweh’s ways (2 Samuel 22:22); He always kept God’s judgments before Him (2 Samuel 22:23). By the one Man’s obedience the many are made righteous.

Second, Christ Himself as a Person is our righteousness. The gospel reveals the righteousness of God from faith to faith (cf. Romans 1:17), and in Jesus we become the righteousness of God (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21). With God Himself as our righteousness, we may rejoice that He rewards us according to our righteousness.

Finally, as the Spirit conforms us to Christ’s image, we become more and more like unto Him. The reality of our union is seen in increasingly godly behavior, and the justness of God is displayed as He matches our lives and our reward to Christ, Who is our righteousness. 

Now, it is the justness of God that guarantees our deliverance, rather than our condemnation. The point of 2 Samuel 22:26-28 is that God’s justness is exact. So what does that mean if He has given you Christ to be your righteousness? It means that all things must be yours together with Him, for He is the rightful heir to it all (cf. Romans 8:32). 

If God deals with you according to your righteousness, what would happen to you? What righteousness do you have? How does your actual living reflect your standing before God?

Sample prayer:  Lord, how perfect is Your righteousness and justness! And this would be a horror to us, but Your love is perfect too, and You have given Christ to be our righteousness. Stir up our hope in Him, and make us to be more and more like He is, so that we may glorify You for blessing us according to the righteousness that You have given us in Christ, through Whom we ask it, AMEN! 

Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH457 “Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness”


Thursday, September 16, 2021

The Way of Prosperity and Protection is Obsession with God not Stuff or Self (Family Worship lesson in Proverbs 16:16–20)

Pastor leads his family in a verse from “the Proverb of the day.” In this Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that God Himself, by means of His Word, is our greatest prosperity and protection.
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Considering, Resting upon, and Praising God in Our Troubles (2021.09.15 Prayer Meeting lesson in Psalm 31:1–8)

When you have such a Redeemer and God as we do, troubles are cause for considering Him, entrusting ourselves to Him, and exalting Him!
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How God Uses Theology to Fit Us for Glory (Family Worship lesson in Colossians 1:9–12)

Why does the apostle pray so earnestly for the Colossians’ theological development? Pastor leads his family in today’s “Hopewell @Home” passage. Colossians 1:9–12 prepares us for the first serial reading in Evening Public Worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these four verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that God, Who has qualified us in Jesus for a holy and brilliant inheritance, gets us ready to partake of that inheritance by making us holy. He does this by increasing our knowledge of a gospel so good that it enables us to rejoice and give thanks in the midst of troubles that require patience and longsuffering. And this joy frees us to focus upon loving Him with our works.
(click audio title within player for a page where you can download mp3/pdf files of this lesson)

2021.09.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Colossians 1:9–12

Read Colossians 1:9–12

Questions from the Scripture text: What has the apostle been doing since he heard about the Colossians’ faith, love, and hope (Colossians 1:9)? With what has he been praying that they would be filled? What is the purpose of this knowledge, and wisdom, and Spiritual understanding (Colossians 1:10)? How pleasing to the Lord is this worthy walking? What fruit do such people bear? In what must they increase in order to bear this fruit? How else must they be enabled (Colossians 1:11)? Strengthened by what? According to what? For what two things must they have such strength? With what do they exercise this patience and longsuffering? As they wait joyously, what are they to give to Whom (Colossians 1:12)? Of what has the Father qualified the apostle and his readers to partake? 

We’re disqualified for the inheritance of saints, but the Father (Colossians 1:12a, cf. Colossians 1:3) has brought the Colossian believers into the faith, love, and hope for which the apostle has just been expressing thanksgiving in Colossians 1:3-8. This has triggered something for the apostle: not just thanksgiving for what God has done, but also prayer for what remains to be done—to be actually prepared and actually brought into that inheritance into which they have been adopted.

The Father has qualified them, now the apostle prays that He would fit them. In short, Paul prays that they would be made holy. The way Colossians 1:10 puts it is that they would walk worthy of the Lord. But let us not think that obedience is easy, for Colossians 1:11 tells us that in order to walk rightly, we need to be strengthened with almighty strength. And Colossians 1:11-12 tells us the surprising (?) source of this strength: joy and thanksgiving. That brings us back to the “main” request in Colossians 1:9: that they would be filled with knowledge, wisdom, and spiritual understanding.

The more they understand, the more joyous and grateful they will be, which will strengthen them unto a life of good works in this knowledge of God. Putting this together, as the apostle prays for them to be filled with knowledge, he’s giving us the content of theology, the fruit of theology, the usefulness of theology, and the result of theology.

The content of theology is “His will.” This is the knowledge that is gained in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. More specifically, however, His will has been to adopt us as holy heirs (Colossians 1:12b–c). Such glad knowledge produces the fruit of theology: among other things, joy and thanksgiving. What gladness and gratitude belong to those whom the Father has adopted in contradiction to their unworthiness!

That brings us to the usefulness of the theology. Because this joy and thanksgiving are about what God has unstoppably determined, and because they come as the fruit of God’s work, they are the means by which believers are empowered with God’s own power: “strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power.” We mightn’t feel all-powerful, but the joy that we have is empowered by this limitless source. With unlimited power beneath us, and an unlosable inheritance in front of us, we can be patient and longsuffering through anything! Now that’s useful theology.

Finally, the outcome of the theology. One false thing that I sometimes hear is that there are wicked people who have good theology. What they think or say may have some accurate features, but theology that is not lived can never be good. The knowledge that Paul prays for is not an end in itself, because it is ultimately knowledge of a Person, from a Person, for a purpose: “that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work.”

By the Lord’s answering this prayer, the saints in Colossae would be made fit for glory, and would indeed come to partake in the inheritance for which Christ was their qualification from the Father. Theology that produces such an outcome: that’s good theology. It’s theology to pray for yourself to have, for all believers to have.

What place does learning theology have in your life? How much of the content is the Father’s plan to bring you into the inheritance of the saints? What patience-strengthening joy do you get from it? What kind of life is it producing?

Sample prayer: Our Father, we adore Your glory. There can be nothing better than to know You and belong to You. And though we had sinned against this glory, You gave Your Son for us to qualify us to be Your adopted children. Forgive us for when we lose sight of how certain our salvation is—for when we become joyless, impatient, anxious, and lose our strength for serving You. Restore to us the joy of our salvation, and renew in us a right Spirit we ask, through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH433 “Amazing Grace”


Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Why God Shows Mercy: to Glorify Himself in Covenant Faithfulness (Family Worship lesson in Exodus 5:20–6:8)

How can God be so patient and forgiving with the wicked complaining of the Israelites and especially Moses? Pastor leads his family in today's "Hopewell @Home" passage. Exodus 5:20–6:8 prepares us for the first serial reading in Morning Public Worship on the coming Lord's Day. In these twelve verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that God shows mercy to some sinners, because He has freely and graciously committed Himself to them, binding Himself to them and them to Himself in everlastingly covenanted love.
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2021.09.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Exodus 5:20–6:8

Read Exodus 5:20–6:8

Questions from the Scripture text: From where did the Israelite officers come in Exodus 5:20? Who met them? What did they want Yahweh to do now (Exodus 5:21)? Why? To Whom does Moses turn (Exodus 5:22)? What two things does he ask? What does he say has happened (Exodus 5:23)? What does he say hasn’t happened? Of what does Yahweh remind Moses in Exodus 6:1 (cf. Exodus 3:19–22; Exodus 4:21–23)? And of what in Exodus 6:2 (cf. Exodus 3:13–16)? With whom had Yahweh not used this Name (Exodus 6:3)? But what had He done with them (Exodus 6:4)? And to what circumstances is He responding by acting upon this covenant (Exodus 6:5, cf. Exodus 2:23–25; Exodus 3:6–9; Exodus 4:5, Exodus 4:31)? What will be the manner of Yahweh rescuing and redeeming Israel (Exodus 6:6)? By this plan, what relationship will God uphold (Exodus 6:7)? And what promise will He thus complete (Exodus 6:8)? What bookends Yahweh’s speech from Exodus 6:2-8?

The Lord certainly isn’t saving the Israelites because of their godliness, or using Moses to save them because of his godliness. The Israelites attack the one that God sent (Exodus 5:21), and then Moses turns to Yahweh, accuses Him (Exodus 5:22) and complains that He hasn’t delivered the people yet (Exodus 5:23). Remember: this is after Yahweh has told him, multiple times, that Pharaoh would refuse to let the people go and harden his heart until compelled by great wonders.

Dear Christian, do not be surprised when you find your heart to be as unbelieving as Moses. Repent of such wickedness; it is offensive in the mirror as it is in the text. But, do not dismay. Behold the mercy and patience of your God, Who continues to save anyway, for the glory of His Name (Exodus 6:2), for the keeping of His Word (Exodus 6:3-4), and for compassion to His people (Exodus 6:5). 

How does God respond to the faithlessness of His people? By reaffirming that He has joined them to Himself by covenant (Exodus 6:6-7) and reaffirming the promise He has made to them as their God (Exodus 6:8). Careful observers of the Scriptures note from Exodus 20:2 that God’s relationship with Israel is an administration of the covenant of grace, and that truth stands out quite clearly here. God actually responds to the wickedness of His people by committing Himself to their deliverance. What glorious grace!

We know that there are those in the church who perish in their sin for lack of faith, and that this entire Israelite generation would end up suffering the same consequence (cf. Hebrews 3:16–4:2), and that the Lord Jesus solemnly warns unrepenting churches in the seven letters at the beginning of the book of John. So, we can never take such mercy as an excuse for being lax about our sin.

BUT, when we are repenting of our sin and tempted to despair over it, let us turn to Him, rejoicing at His marvelous patience and free grace, rejoicing over the love that gave us Christ and the fullness of the atonement that Christ has made for us.

What difficulties have challenged whether you will keep clinging to the promises of God in Christ? What repeated sin in your life has you tempted to think that God will run out of patience with you, and how does this passage encourage you to keep turning back to Him?

Sample prayer:  Lord, forgive us for our impatience with You. We are like Moses, complaining after one try that “You have not saved Your people at all.” But how marvelous is Your patience with us! For the sake of Your Name, Your promise, and Your love, persist with us, forgive us, and cleanse us from this unrighteousness. For, we ask this in  Him in Whom You have revealed Your Name, kept Your promise, and displayed Your love, even Jesus Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP30 “O LORD, I Will Exalt You” or TPH433 “Amazing Grace”


Tuesday, September 14, 2021

2021.09.14 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 1:1–18

Read John 1:1–18

Questions from the Scripture text: When was the Word already there (John 1:1)? With whom was the Word at that time? Who was He at that time? Who was with (literally, “toward,” or “facing”) God in the beginning (John 1:2)? What was  made through Him (John 1:3)? What wasn’t made through Him? What was in Him (John 1:4)? What did men receive from this light? What does the light do now (John 1:5)? What has the former light of men become? What can’t the darkness grasp? What was the name of the man sent from God in John 1:6? What did this man come to do (John 1:7)? Why did he bear witness of the Light? Was that man the Light (John 1:8)? Then what was he sent to do? To whom does the true Light give light (John 1:9)? Where was the true Light coming? Where was He, in John 1:10? What was made through Him? What (Whom!) did the world not know, when He was in the world? To what things does John 1:11 say that He came? But what people did not receive Him? What right did the Light give to those who received Him (John 1:12)? What did “receiving Him” mean they had believed in? From where did this birth to believe in Him NOT come (John 1:13a, b, c, d)? From where DID this birth to believe in Him come (verse 13e)? What did the Word become (John 1:14)? What does this mean the Word had been before? When the Word became flesh, what did He do? What did the evangelist (John) behold? What kind of glory did they behold in the enfleshed Word? What did this glory mean that He was full of? Who bore witness of Him? Why did John the Evangelist say that Jesus was preferred to him (John 1:15)? From what have received (John 1:16)? What did we receive from His fullness? What was given through Moses (John 1:17)? Through Whom did grace and truth come? Who has seen God (John 1:18)? When has someone seen God? Who has declared (exegeted) God? Where is this Son that declares God? 

Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Song of Adoration all come from John 1:1–18, so that we will see that we are singing God’s thoughts after Him with O Jesus, Joy of Loving Hearts

It’s not surprising that a hymn that has been beloved in the church for a thousand years would be full of truths from this passage in John. One of the most essential beliefs of Christianity is that Jesus is the uncreated Creator (John 1:3), who has life as inherent in Himself and not derivative from another (John 1:4a), and that He is the One Who first gave light to Adam’s eyes and continues to do so for every man (verse 4b, John 1:9, cf. Genesis 2:7).  

When God’s glory was famously displayed to (and hidden from, cf. Exodus 33:20–23) Moses in Exodus 34:5–6, He famously declared Himself, “Yahweh, Yahweh God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth.” “Goodness and truth”—or steadfast love and faithfulness—are commonly translated from Hebrew by the same Greek words as what NKJV translates “grace and truth” in John 1:14

That is to say that the evangelist is making a direct claim that Jesus Christ is the Yahweh Whose glory could not be seen by men (John 1:18a), but that when He became flesh, men could finally behold that glory (John 1:14). Indeed, men have now beheld God completely in Christ, for the only begotten Son has made Him fully known (the literal meaning of the word translated “declared” in John 1:18b, which is an ancestor of our word “exegete,” cf. John 14:9). 

And what is it that we see, when we behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:6)? We see love. We see Yahweh God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in covenant-love and faithfulness. We see Him Who became flesh not only that we might behold Him, but that He might die for us. This is the love that gives everlasting life (cf. John 3:16; John 6:51), and that produces in us the love for Him—and joy in Him—Who first loved us.

What is the only way for you to see/know God? What especially, about God, do you see when you see Jesus? What should your response be? What does that feel like? What does that look like?

Sample prayer: O Lord, Who are full of steadfast love and faithfulness, we adore You. Grant Your Spirit’s ministry, by which the light of the knowledge of Your glory would shine in our hearts in the face of Jesus Christ. Forgive us for when our love has grown cold and joy has grown dim, for this exposes that we have failed to consider and respond to Christ as Your display of Yourself. So help us, for the sake of Your glory, and for the love in which You gave Him, we ask in His Name, AMEN! 

Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH494 “O Jesus, Joy of Loving Hearts”

 

Monday, September 13, 2021

Tasting God's Greatness by Our Prayers Great in Trouble and His Greater Response (2021.09.12 Evening Sermon in 2Samuel 22:1–20)

For those in whom the Lord delights in Christ, the greatness of our troubles is meant to provoke us to cry out to our greater God, so that His greater response will result in His everlasting praise
(click title within players for a page where you can download mp3/pdf files of this sermon)

Jesus's Identity Reveal: the Christ, the Son of God, the I AM (2021.09.12 Morning Sermon in Luke 22:66–71)


In seeking charges upon which to execute Jesus, His murdering accusers become the occasion for displaying a glorious portrait of our Redeemer.


(click title within players for a page where you can download video/mp3/pdf files of this sermon)

2021.09.13 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 22:66–71

Read Luke 22:66–71

Questions from the Scripture text: For what were they waiting to start the trial (Luke 22:66)? Who are gathered together? What is the first question about the identity of Jesus (Luke 22:67)? How does Jesus answer? What explanation does He give for not cross-examining with His own questions (Luke 22:68)? What does He declare about His identity and His future instead (Luke 22:69)? Now what do they ask about His identity (Luke 22:70a)? What is His answer in verse 70b? What question do they ask in Luke 22:71? What point are they making?

Jesus is the Christ (Luke 22:67a). This, all will be sure of, when they see Him sitting at the right hand of the power of God (Luke 22:69). But why don’t they believe now? It is not for lack of information—those who pretend so would not believe if they were told (Luke 22:67b). Nor is it for lack of persuasion—the Lord Jesus makes plain that they would not be responsive if He took the lead to persuade them (Luke 22:68).

This reminds us how utterly necessary the New Birth is. Christianity is perfectly reasonable. In fact, Christianity is the only reasonable way to understand all of reality: God, ourselves, salvation, everything. But no one can be merely reasoned into the kingdom. In fact, the Lord Jesus testified that He spoke in parables not so that all could understand but so that seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. When you or someone else does not believe that Jesus is the Christ, the problem in the head has its roots in the heart, and it is the root that must ultimately be dealt with.

Yes, the Lord Jesus is the Great Prophet like Moses, who was to arise. Yes, the Lord Jesus is the Great High Priest to Whom even Aaron pointed forward, and in Whom all believers are to be united (cf. Psalm 133). Yes, the Lord Jesus is the Son of David, that great Forever-King to Whom all the Davidic kings pointed forward. 

But there is something even more at issue than Jesus being the Christ. What’s at issue is that the Christ turns out to be God Himself. That’s the point that Jesus makes by referring to Himself as the Son of Man. In Ezekiel, the Son of Man is a human figure. But in Daniel, the Son of Man is clearly divine—a theophany of God Himself, for it is He Who comes on the clouds in glory. When Jesus identifies Himself as the Son of Man in these terms, the Jewish religious elite all know what He is claiming: He is the Son of God. 

Truly, in order to be our Savior, Jesus had to be both. If He is merely man, He cannot save at all. If He is merely God, He cannot die in order to save. But it is this latter part of His claim for which He is condemned to die. The religious leaders believe themselves to have come into very good fortune, for they perceive Him to have made a blasphemously false claim to divinity: “What further testimony do we need?” (Luke 22:71).

How will you respond to the claims of Christ? You may tell yourself that He has not sufficiently proved Himself to be the Christ Who is God. But, if that’s what you think, the problem is actually in you and not the evidence. And you will not be able to make such a claim when you stand before Him. 

But the good news is that He to Whom all worship properly belongs gave Himself to be executed for making that claim, because He went to die not merely as a victim of injustice but as a willing substitute to bear what His sinful people justly deserved. If you find that you can’t bring yourself to believe in Him, you are correct. But He can bring you to that faith. Cry out for His Spirit to give you that certainty that Jesus is God, Who died for you. Look to Him, and be saved!

Whom do you know that is having difficulty with these claims of Christ? What can be done for them? How does the validity of Christ’s claims give the possibility of hope, even for many who do not currently recognize them?

Sample prayer:  Lord Jesus, You are our Lord and our God. Forgive us for how much our resistant hearts keep our minds from recognizing glorious truth about You. Grant Your Spirit’s powerful, merciful work to convince us—which we can ask, because You our God have been executed as an atonement for our sin, so we ask it in Your Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP110B “The LORD Has Spoken to My Lord” or TPH270 “At the Name of Jesus”


Sunday, September 12, 2021

“Of Repentance unto Life” part 14, WCF 15.6.4, The Duty of Reconciliation (2021.09.12 Sabbath School in 2Corinthians 2:3–11)

The duty of encouraging one another, reconciling, and reaffirming affection is as much of an apostolic command as church discipline.
(click audio title within player for a page where you can download mp3/pdf files of this lesson)

Saturday, September 11, 2021

2021.09.11 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 22:66–71

Read Luke 22:66–71

Questions from the Scripture text: For what were they waiting to start the trial (Luke 22:66)? Who are gathered together? What is the first question about the identity of Jesus (Luke 22:67)? How does Jesus answer? What explanation does He give for not cross-examining with His own questions (Luke 22:68)? What does He declare about His identity and His future instead (Luke 22:69)? Now what do they ask about His identity (Luke 22:70a)? What is His answer in Luke 22:70b? What question do they ask in Luke 22:71? What point are they making?

Jesus is the Christ (Luke 22:67a). This, all will be sure of, when they see Him sitting at the right hand of the power of God (Luke 22:69). But why don’t they believe now? It is not for lack of information—those who pretend so would not believe if they were told (Luke 22:67b). Nor is it for lack of persuasion—the Lord Jesus makes plain that they would not be responsive if He took the lead to persuade them (Luke 22:68).

This reminds us how utterly necessary the New Birth is. Christianity is perfectly reasonable. In fact, Christianity is the only reasonable way to understand all of reality: God, ourselves, salvation, everything. But no one can be merely reasoned into the kingdom. In fact, the Lord Jesus testified that He spoke in parables not so that all could understand but so that seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. When you or someone else does not believe that Jesus is the Christ, the problem in the head has its roots in the heart, and it is the root that must ultimately be dealt with.

Yes, the Lord Jesus is the Great Prophet like Moses, who was to arise. Yes, the Lord Jesus is the Great High Priest to Whom even Aaron pointed forward, and in Whom all believers are to be united (cf. Psalm 133). Yes, the Lord Jesus is the Son of David, that great Forever-King to Whom all the Davidic kings pointed forward. 

But there is something even more at issue than Jesus being the Christ. What’s at issue is that the Christ turns out to be God Himself. That’s the point that Jesus makes by referring to Himself as the Son of Man. In Ezekiel, the Son of Man is a human figure. But in Daniel, the Son of Man is clearly divine—a theophany of God Himself, for it is He Who comes on the clouds in glory. When Jesus identifies Himself as the Son of Man in these terms, the Jewish religious elite all know what He is claiming: He is the Son of God. 

Truly, in order to be our Savior, Jesus had to be both. If He is merely man, He cannot save at all. If He is merely God, He cannot die in order to save. But it is this latter part of His claim for which He is condemned to die. The religious leaders believe themselves to have come into very good fortune, for they perceive Him to have made a blasphemously false claim to divinity: “What further testimony do we need?” (Luke 22:71).

How will you respond to the claims of Christ? You may tell yourself that He has not sufficiently proved Himself to be the Christ Who is God. But, if that’s what you think, the problem is actually in you and not the evidence. And you will not be able to make such a claim when you stand before Him. 

But the good news is that He to Whom all worship properly belongs gave Himself to be executed for making that claim, because He went to die not merely as a victim of injustice but as a willing substitute to bear what His sinful people justly deserved. If you find that you can’t bring yourself to believe in Him, you are correct. But He can bring you to that faith. Cry out for His Spirit to give you that certainty that Jesus is God, Who died for you. Look to Him, and be saved!

Whom do you know that is having difficulty with these claims of Christ? What can be done for them? How does the validity of Christ’s claims give the possibility of hope, even for many who do not currently recognize them?

Sample prayer:  Lord Jesus, You are our Lord and our God. Forgive us for how much our resistant hearts keep our minds from recognizing glorious truth about You. Grant Your Spirit’s powerful, merciful work to convince us—which we can ask, because You our God have been executed as an atonement for our sin, so we ask it in Your Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP110B “The LORD Has Spoken to My Lord” or TPH270 “At the Name of Jesus”


Friday, September 10, 2021

The Greatness of Our God, Our Troubles, and His Response (Family Worship lesson in 2Samuel 22:1–20)

Why am I in such big trouble, and what am I to do? Pastor leads his family in today’s “Hopewell @Home” passage. 2Samuel 22:1–20 prepares us for the evening sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these twenty verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that as those in whom the Lord delights in Christ, the greatness of our troubles is meant to provoke us to cry out to our greater God, so that His greater response will result in His everlasting praise.
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2021.09.10 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Samuel 22:1–20

Read 2 Samuel 22:1–20

Questions from the Scripture text: To Whom is David speaking (2 Samuel 22:1a)? In response to what (verse 1b)? What nine things does he call Yahweh in 2 Samuel 22:2-3? What has Yahweh done (verse 3b)? To what will Yahweh respond by doing this again (2 Samuel 22:3-4)? What had been David’s circumstances in 2 Samuel 22:5-6? What did he do (2 Samuel 22:7a–b)? How does verse 7c–d communicate the personal nature of God’s response? How does 2 Samuel 22:8a–b indicate the intensity of God’s response? How does 2 Samuel 22:8-9 indicate the attitude of God’s response? How do 2 Samuel 22:10-13 communicate the power of God’s response? What specific action do 2 Samuel 22:142 Samuel 22:16c describe Yahweh as taking? With what results, (2 Samuel 22:15-16)? But what is the nature of His interaction with His servant (2 Samuel 22:172 Samuel 22:19b)? From whom does He deliver him (2 Samuel 22:18-19a)? Why (2 Samuel 22:20)? 

This chapter is found, almost verse for verse, in Psalm 18. Coming at the end of the Samuel material, it seems that this was a Psalm that David originally wrote upon deliverance from Saul, but had much more opportunity to sing over the rest of his life. 

In this first third of the Psalm, the focus is upon how good the Lord has been to David. In the next section he sings especially of the Lord’s graciously sanctifying him, and then in the last section of the Lord’s graciously strengthening him. But in this section, it is especially the Lord being good in almighty strength. 2 Samuel 22:2-4 overflows with gushing praise to God.

The heart of this section is how David finds himself on earth in very dramatic trouble (2 Samuel 22:5-6), but when he cries out to God (2 Samuel 22:7), God’s response in heaven is described in terms that are even more dramatic (2 Samuel 22:8-16).

David is in very dramatic trouble. When we consider prayers and songs like this that God has given us, we mustn’t be surprised when we find ourselves in intense trouble. Death and the grave are closing in on David like a noose (2 Samuel 22:5a, 2 Samuel 22:5a). It comes in waves (2 Samuel 22:5a), while the tide of ungodliness arise to swallow him like a flood (verse 5b), and death latches onto his legs like a snare to pull him down (2 Samuel 22:6b). Dear believer, don’t expect life in this world to be easy or painless! 

But one thing the most dramatic trouble can’t do is cut off the believer’s access to the Lord. Romans 8 famously embraces how nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, or the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. But here in 2 Samuel 22:7 we see that neither can death or Sheol separate the believer from the ears of God that are ours in Christ Jesus. However low the believer may find himself, when he calls upon Yahweh (2 Samuel 22:7a) and cries out to God (verse 7b), He hears us from His temple. There is no trouble so deep that the saint’s cry can be stopped from ascending all the way to the ears of his God!

And that spells great trouble for the trouble! It is difficult to convey the intensity of God’s response in 2 Samuel 22:8-18 to the crying out of this individual human in 2 Samuel 22:7. The images conveyed by the poetry are great in their own right. Just read them in a voice that attempts to reflect the image, and “see”! But behind them is a much greater amplification than poetry: theology. 

The images here are mixed in from the creation, from the flood, from Sodom and Gomorrah, from the Red Sea crossing, from Sinai, and from the Tabernacle. Lightness upon dark waters. Brightness before Him. Waters separated to expose the land. Quaking and fire and smoking and thunder. Brightness and cloud. It’s like the Holy Spirit was wadding up into one all of the greatest displays of the power of God thus far, and reminding us that it is this very God Who is pleased to move to action by means of our prayers. 

In our pride and unbelief we sometimes think to ourselves as if things might be different if God would only take notice how intense our circumstances are on earth. But how very different would our hearts be, if we would only take into account by faith the infinitely greater intensity of our God and His response in heaven! And so, in this Psalm, the Holy Spirit pulls back the curtain to rub our noses in this glorious reality!

Dear believer, how great is your God! And how great is His power and His work as He responds to your Christ-borne prayers! Yahweh Himself is your support (2 Samuel 22:19), because having chosen you in Christ, He delights in you with His delight in Christ (2 Samuel 22:20)!

What troubles have surprised you with their intensity? What intense troubles have you perhaps downplayed? How does this portion of the Psalm free you to own how great your troubles are, without despairing over their greatness? What are you able to do, no matter how great the trouble is? How does the greatness of God’s response compare, no matter how great the trouble is?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we praise You, our Rock, our Fortress, our Deliverer, our God, our Trust, our Shield, our Horn of salvation, our Stronghold, our Refuge, our Savior! Whenever Your people have cried out to You from great trouble, they have found You and Your response to be infinitely greater than the trouble. Yet, in our unbelief, we often feel and act as if we have somehow discovered the first difficulty that is simply too great. Forgive us! And grant that when we need it, Your Spirit would bring this Word readily to mind, so that we might call upon Your Name in Jesus Christ, through Whom we ask it, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP18A “I Love You, Lord” or TPH520 “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”


Thursday, September 09, 2021

Delivered from All Evil to Give God All Praise (2021.09.08 Prayer Meeting lesson in Psalm 30)

The saints of the Lord are delivered only by the grace of the Lord from all evils—even from the pride of overconfidence in their own strength. And the purpose of this deliverance is the praise of the Deliverer.
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Christ-Sized Thanksgiving for Christ-Sized Grace (Family Worship lesson in Colossians 1:3–8)

What should prayers of thanksgiving for other believers look like? Pastor leads his family in today’s “Hopewell @Home” passage. Colossians 1:3–8 prepares us for the second serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these six verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that biblical thanksgiving for other believers is Christ-sized thankfulness that rejoices over the measure of God’s grace, the means of God’s grace, and the ministers of God’s grace.
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2021.09.09 Hopewell @Home ▫ Colossians 1:3–8

Read Colossians 1:3–8

Questions from the Scripture text: What does the apostle give to Whom (Colossians 1:3a)? When doing what (verse 3b)? For what two things is he thankful and toward whom, respectively (Colossians 1:4)? What has been the foundation of this faith and love (Colossians 1:5)? Where did they hear of this hope? Where did this gospel come, and to where has it now gone (Colossians 1:6)? What is it bringing forth? What did they hear and know, that produced this fruit? From whom, also, had they learned this grace (Colossians 1:7)? What two things does the apostle call Epaphras? What else has Epaphras declared, to whom (Colossians 1:8)?

Just as he testifies that he always does when he prays for them, so the apostle here also does as he writes to them: he gives thanksgiving to God. Let us learn to be full of thankfulness to God, so that it comes out in everything that we do!  Especially when we are going to be rebuking or warning of danger, as the apostle will be against Jewish legalisms and Greek philosophizing, we can have and communicate a right attitude if we begin with whatever thanksgiving we can give for whatever true evidences of grace we can see. By offering thanksgiving not only in his prayers but also here in the letter, the apostle models for us three great subjects of thankfulness in our prayers: the measure of God’s grace, the means of God’s grace, and the ministers of God’s grace.

First, we are to be thankful for the measure of God’s grace. Indeed, to measure this is to measure God Himself. As not only our Father in Christ, but Christ’s everlasting Father within the Godhead (Colossians 1:3), we see that in His Son, God has given Himself to us and for us. So when we praise God for giving them faith (Colossians 1:4a), and love (verse 4b), and hope (Colossians 1:5), we do so knowing the great cost at which these have all been purchased: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son!” Jesus is “our” Lord because His Father gave Him to be so.

Second, we are to be thankful for the means by which God’s grace is given us. This great gift of God Himself, with its great fruit in their lives of faith and love and hope, has come to them in a very simple fashion. True words entered their ears (Colossians 1:5b). What a marvelous gift God gives us, when He gives us to hear the words of the truth of the gospel! What extraordinary blessing He bestows on us and wonders He works in us through such an ordinary means as preaching! And it was like this not only in Colossae but in the whole world; it was the preaching of the gospel that bore this fruit (Colossians 1:6). How important, then, to stick to this preaching and reject the false self-advancement either of moralism like the Judaizers or humanistic philosophy like the Greeks.

Finally, we are to be thankful for the ministers by whom God’s grace came to us. Paul had not planted the church at Colossae; Epaphras had. Still, the apostle piles up the affectionate (“beloved fellow-slave”) and commendatory (“faithful servant of Christ”) language. There is no spirit of rivalry here—only joy over another’s labor and a desire that those who have benefited would also be grateful to God for him. He gladly affirms to the Colossians Epaphras’s Christ-wrought service. For his part, Epaphras had done quite similarly, telling Paul of the Colossians’ Spirit-wrought love. Let us learn to incubate thankfulness for believers’ graces when speaking to God, so that our speech to one another may be filled with mature thanksgiving for one another.

What gives God’s gifts to you their true measure? How does your thankfulness reflect the greatness of God’s gift of Christ? What place does this give preaching, prayer, and the sacraments in those things for which you are thankful? How do you practice fostering and expressing your thankfulness for other Christians?

Sample prayer: Our gracious God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—how glorious is Your goodness to the children of men that for us You have given God the Son! Every one of your good gifts to Your adopted children in Him come in that love—but especially that Christian faith, love, and hope that we have in heaven with Him. We bemoan before You how small our thankfulness has been—both for Your grace and for those means by which You give it to us. Help us to treasure  Your means of grace, and those believers with whom You have united us in grace, especially in the Son of Your grace, Jesus Christ, in Whose Name we ask it, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP22C “I’ll Praise You in the Gathering” or TPH433 “Amazing Grace”


Wednesday, September 08, 2021

Encouraged by Our Planned and Prophesied Troubles (Family Worship lesson in Exodus 4:27–5:19)

What is the Lord doing in Pharaoh's refusal to let Israel go? Pastor leads his family in today's "Hopewell @Home" passage. Exodus 4:27–5:19 prepares us for the first serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord's Day. In these twenty-four verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that God has planned even (and especially) our troubles for His glory and our good, and He has told us about it in advance so that the troubles themselves would encourage us about the reliability of His Word.
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2021.09.08 Hopewell @Home ▫ Exodus 4:27–5:19

Read Exodus 4:27–5:19

Questions from the Scripture text: To whom had Yahweh spoken (Exodus 4:27)? What did He tell him to do? What did Aaron do (cf. Exodus 4:14)? What two things did Moses tell him (Exodus 4:28)? Then what did they do (Exodus 4:29)? And what two things did Aaron do (Exodus 4:30)? What do the people think of what they hear (Exodus 4:31a, cf. Exodus 3:18a)? And how do they respond to Yahweh (Exodus 4:31b)? Then to whom do Moses and Aaron go (Exodus 5:1)? What do they say to him? How does Pharaoh respond—what question does he ask and answer (Exodus 5:2, cf. Exodus 3:19)? What do they add to the request in Exodus 5:3? What is Pharaoh upset about in Exodus 5:4-5? What new command does he give (Exodus 5:6-8)? What rationale does he give? What does he hope to accomplish by this (Exodus 5:9)? Who do what in Exodus 5:10? What do they say (Exodus 5:10-11)? What do the people have to do now (Exodus 5:12)? What is the outcome of this new policy (Exodus 5:13-14)? Who go to whom in Exodus 5:15? What do they say (Exodus 5:15-16)? How does Pharaoh answer (Exodus 5:17-18)? What do the Israelite officers now see (Exodus 5:19)? 

Believers often miss how encouraged we ought to be by our troubles! If such a sentence sounds strange to us, then it’s because we’ve strayed from the faith of the apostle in Acts 14:22. In order to give us peace(!) Jesus told us that in this world we would have trouble (cf. John 16:33). When we actually have trouble, isn’t it an encouragement that our Lord’s Word holds perfectly true? We often fail to see that, but this passage in Exodus can help.

The Hebrew stem of the verb translated “said” in Exodus 4:27 (most?) often communicates past-perfect tense. “Now, Yahweh had said to Aaron…” This is likely, because of what the Lord had said in Exodus 5:14 and because Aaron “met him on the mountain of God.” This shows not only that the Lord’s Word is true, but also that He had already provided the response to Moses’s wickedness and weakness before Moses even made his complaints. Our Lord is not surprised by our failings but has already prepared His perfect response to them.

Secondly, just as Yahweh had prophesied, Aaron is glad to see Moses, as evidenced by the kiss at the end of Exodus 4:27. One might have expected otherwise. Moses not only enjoyed the benefits of ruling-class upbringing, but for these last forty years while Aaron had suffered in bondage, Moses had lived in comparatively great liberty and comfort. How easily the sentiment could have been resentment rather than fondness! But again, the Lord’s Word holds true.

Next, Moses briefs Aaron on what to say and do (Exodus 4:28), and they come and tell the elders of the children of Israel (Exodus 4:29-30). Based upon the way the people later act, and how Moses has already been treated by them (cf. Exodus 2:14),  Moses’s concern about their reception of him does not seem unfounded. Indeed, by the time we get to know this people well, we might consider the positive reception here to be almost miraculous. But the Lord had told Moses that the people would heed his voice (cf. Exodus 3:18). So it is; in Exodus 4:31, they believe, and they worship. Again, the Word of the Lord has held true. How perfectly reliable is the Word of the Lord!

Now, we come to the part that is instructive for when we run into those troubles about which the Lord Jesus has forewarned us. For, that is exactly what the Lord had done for Moses. He had told him in Exodus 3:19, “But knowing, I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go.” In fact, He had even told Moses some of the reasons behind this refusal: so that the Lord’s wonders would be displayed (cf. Exodus 3:20) and so that the people would not be sent away emptyhanded but rather plunder the Egyptians (cf. Exodus 3:21–22).

So here we are in Exodus 5:1–19, and things are just as Yahweh had told Moses. Pharaoh doesn’t just refuse to let the people go; he positively states it as a refusal to acknowledge Yahweh (Exodus 5:2), which sets up the display of Yahweh’s wonders against him. And the increased squeeze by Pharaoh, trying to get as much as he possibly can out of the Israelites (Exodus 5:6-19) sets up the reverse situation about which the Lord had told Moses: that this was the means by which Yahweh would enable the Israelites to squeeze as much as possible out of the Egyptians.

Knowing how this story ends, we can see that the Lord is indeed doing exactly as He has said. Shouldn’t the Israelites be encouraged that Pharaoh responds exactly as predicted? When we get to next week’s passage, we’ll find that neither they nor Moses respond well. 

But don’t we also know how our own story ends? And don’t we know many of the saint-sanctifying, Christ’s-victory-glorifying reasons for our own troubles? Shouldn’t we be encouraged that our lives are so much like the Lord told us they would be? But even if we often fall short of this, we can yet be encouraged not only that His Word does in fact hold true, but that it does so even in the lives of those who are discouraged because they fail to see that this is what is happening. What a faithful, merciful Lord we have in the midst of our troubles.

In what troubles do you find yourself? What has the Lord said about them? How does this encourage you? Where can you find mercy if you have failed to be encouraged?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we praise You for Your perfectly true Word and marvelously patient mercy. For, we are often forgetting how our troubles themselves show You to be true, and we look to You for patient mercy as we confess our unbelieving discouragement. Glorify Yourself by growing us in faith and peace and joy, we pray, through Jesus Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH243 “How Firm a Foundation”

 

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

How Sweet (and Strong) the Name of Jesus Sounds (Family Worship lesson in Psalm 23)

What do we learn about Jesus when we recognize Him as our Good Shepherd? Pastor leads his family in today’s “Hopewell @Home” passage. Psalm 23 prepares us for the opening portion of morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these six verses, the Holy Spirit teaches us that Jesus is our God, Who became a Man to lay down His life for the purchase of the inexhaustibly abundant blessedness of belonging to Him.
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2021.09.07 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 23

Read Psalm 23

Questions from the Scripture text: Who is our Shepherd (Psalm 23:1)? What shall we not do? In what does He make us to lie down (Psalm 23:2)? Beside what does the Lord lead us? What does He restore (Psalm 23:3)? In what paths does the Lord lead us? For what reason? Through what valley will we walk (Psalm 23:4)? What will we not fear? Why—who is with us? What two things of His comfort us in verse 4? What does the Lord prepare for us (Psalm 23:5)? Where? What does He do to our head? What happens to our portion of the cup of blessing? What shall goodness and steadfast love surely do (Psalm 23:6)? How many of the days of our lives will they do this? Where will we dwell/return forever?

Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Song of Adoration all come from Psalm 23, so that we will see that we are singing God’s thoughts after Him with How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds

Yahweh is the believer’s Shepherd, the good Shepherd. Because there is so much in this Psalm that our Good Shepherd does for us, we can confidently declare that, with Him as our Shepherd, it is impossible for us to lack anything needful. In Him, we have abundant rest (Psalm 23:2), abundant restoration (Psalm 23:3), abundant reinforcement (Psalm 23:4, even in the face of death), and abundant refreshment (Psalm 23:5, even in the face of enemies).

Psalm 23:6 lets us in on the energizing forth of all of this provision: Yahweh’s goodness and steadfast love “follow” the believer all the days of his life. The word for “follow” is actually a word that means to hunt down, or even persecute. God’s goodness and God’s covenanted-love relentlessly pursue the believer every moment of every day, his whole life long.

When the Messiah comes in the fullness of time, we find out why this must be true as a theological certainty: Yahweh Himself is the Christ. Psalm 23 has told us that Yahweh is the believer’s Shepherd, and Ezekiel 34 clearly distinguishes between all human shepherds and Yahweh Himself as the Good Shepherd. So, it is rather stunning to have a Man in John 10 declare Himself to be the Good Shepherd. But we quickly find out why it was necessary that Yahweh become a man: the Good Shepherd must lay down His life for His sheep (cf. John 10:11, John 10:16).

Jesus gives God a literal human face. It is in the wake of referring to Himself as the Good Shepherd and to His people as His sheep that Jesus answers a question about whether He is Messiah with some pretty clear statements that He is every bit as much God as the Father is (cf. John 10:28–30). When the Jews try to execute Him for this, Jesus’s answer is that not only is the kind of language of Sonship to God permissible (cf. John 10:34–36), but that His deity and the Father’s are reciprocally equal (cf. John 10:37–38). So, it’s not surprising when later in that book, Jesus uses the same language to tell Phillip that He is so completely Yahweh Himself that if you have seen Jesus, there is nothing more of God to be seen (cf. John 14:8–11). So, Jesus gives God a literal human face.

This is why the Name of Jesus is so precious to us. All of the provision of Yahweh as our Shepherd from Psalm 23 we know to be the personal provision of Jesus Himself. Goodness and covenant-love relentlessly pursue us, entirely by grace unto us. But it is a grace that came at the cost of this Shepherd laying down His life for us sheep. Jesus has atoned for our sin. Jesus is the worthiness of our blessing. Jesus is God, Who has committed Himself to us. And in Jesus, we know that God is as committed to our good as He is to being good!

Jesus’s Name, literally “Yahweh, saving,” brings all of this precious truth immediately to mind. When wounded, or fearful, or troubled, or hungry, or weary, or in danger, or in need of supply, or seeking purpose, how sweet then the Name of Jesus sounds! He is everything to us as our Creator and Redeemer, and it is our life’s work—our eternity’s work!—to praise and proclaim His Name and His love.

In what circumstances or ways do you most feel your need of the Lord as your Shepherd right now? How can you be certain that He is abundantly supplying that need? How does the Name “Jesus” communicate that to you? How sweet is it to you?

Sample prayer: Our Lord and our God, we adore You as our Creator and Redeemer. How marvelous it is that You have laid down Your life for us, Your sheep! Forgive us for our wicked forgetfulness of You that causes us so much anxiety, and grant that Your Spirit would minister the sweetness of Your Name unto us that we might rest upon You as our Shepherd, in Whom we see the Father, and in Whose  Name we ask it, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH492 “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds”


Monday, September 06, 2021

Great Is God's Faithfulness to Us, through Us, for Us, and Especially in Christ (2021.09.05 Evening Sermon in 2Samuel 21:15–22)

God is faithful to us when we are weak, in His chosen One, through servants 'great' and small, and for the sake of His Name.
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Jesus Our Perfect Prophet, Priest, and Substitute. A Help for Stumbling Saints (2021.09.05 Morning Sermon in Luke 22:54–65)


The Lord Jesus shows Himself to have predicted exactly Peter's denial, for which our Lord's intervention was the perfect solution, because our Lord Himself is our perfect Substitute.


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"Of Repentance unto Life" part 13, WCF 15.6.3, The Duty of Confession to One Another

Those who are righteous by faith in Jesus Christ have the duty of glorifying His forgiveness by confessing sin to one another, and praying for one another upon that reconciliation.
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2021.09.06 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 22:54–65

Read Luke 22:54–65

Questions from the Scripture text: Where did they bring Jesus in Luke 22:54? Who followed at a distance? What had the mob done in Luke 22:55? Who sat down among them? Who saw him (Luke 22:56)? What did she do and say? What did Peter do and say in Luke 22:57? Who does what when in Luke 22:58a? What does Peter say (verse 58b)? About how long passes in Luke 22:59? Who does what with what words? What does Peter say in Luke 22:60? Then, what happens when? Who does what in Luke 22:61a? What does Peter remember (verse 61b)? What does Peter do in Luke 22:62? What four things do  the men do to Jesus in Luke 22:63-64? What do they say to Him to do? What does Luke 22:65 add?

The Lord Jesus is our perfect Prophet. In Luke 22:34, He had told Peter that this would happen, and it was exactly as He had said. The wicked guards cry “Prophesy!” in Luke 22:64, but the irony is that it comes in the context of one of His very specific prophecies coming exactly true. 

His Word is perfectly reliable! Never is this more important than in telling us about His own identity as the God-Man, His work in giving His life for us, and the certainty of the completion of our salvation in Him. Every proof of the reliability of His Word should stir up our confidence in these things.

The Lord Jesus is our perfect Intercessor. When the Lord looked at Peter (Luke 22:61a), you would think that look of love would send him running in, retracting his denials, eager to die with Christ. But, it was not time yet for Peter to be restored, and he instead goes outside and cries (Luke 22:62). Still, we know that this isn’t the end of Peter’s story, and that he will both return and then strengthen his brethren. How do we know? Christ has prayed for him (cf. Luke 22:32). Indeed, we can almost be certain that He is praying for him even with that look. We can even be certain, when we are failing Him, that He is at that moment praying for us (cf. Hebrews 7:25). 

The Lord Jesus is our perfect Substitute. It seems unfair that Peter isn’t the one in there getting mocked and beaten in Luke 22:63-65. He deserves all that and worse! But isn’t that just the point? Jesus, the One Who is remaining faithful (cf. 1 Timothy 6:13, 1 Peter 2:22–24), is the One receiving the just desserts of wickedness. He saves a sinful people first and foremost by receiving what they deserve as their Substitute. The next day, being our Substitute will require that He endure the assault of God Himself. Amazing love, amazing grace, amazing salvation!

In what situation do you most need to remember a particular promise of Christ? What promise of His is most relevant to it? How does the timing of a rooster’s crow help you here? When you are in the midst of failing Jesus, what is He doing for you? What do you deserve? Who has received it? What won’t you receive if you are His? What will you receive instead?

Sample prayer:  Our perfect Lord and Savior, You are worthy of all glory and honor and praise! Indeed, You deserve all blessing and blessedness. We deserve only wrath, and have often failed You and even mistreated You. But You have taken upon Yourself the wrath that we deserve, and You are praying for us on the basis of Your own worthiness for us. So, grant unto us to rest in You and rejoice over You, and finish that work of making us like Yourself so that we will then perfectly glorify You and fully enjoy You forever, which we ask in Your Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP22A “My God, My God” or TPH274 “Jesus, My Great High Priest”


Saturday, September 04, 2021

2021.09.04 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 22:54–65

Read Luke 22:54–65

Questions from the Scripture text: Where did they bring Jesus in Luke 22:54? Who followed at a distance? What had the mob done in Luke 22:55? Who sat down among them? Who saw him (Luke 22:56)? What did she do and say? What did Peter do and say in Luke 22:57? Who does what when in Luke 22:58a? What does Peter say (verse 58b)? About how long passes in Luke 22:59? Who does what with what words? What does Peter say in Luke 22:60? Then, what happens when? Who does what in Luke 22:61a? What does Peter remember (verse 61b)? What does Peter do in Luke 22:62? What four things do  the men do to Jesus in Luke 22:63-64? What do they say to Him to do? What does Luke 22:65 add?

The Lord Jesus is our perfect Prophet. In Luke 22:34, He had told Peter that this would happen, and it was exactly as He had said. The wicked guards cry “Prophesy!” in Luke 22:64, but the irony is that it comes in the context of one of His very specific prophecies coming exactly true. 

His Word is perfectly reliable! Never is this more important than in telling us about His own identity as the God-Man, His work in giving His life for us, and the certainty of the completion of our salvation in Him. Every proof of the reliability of His Word should stir up our confidence in these things.

The Lord Jesus is our perfect Intercessor. When the Lord looked at Peter (Luke 22:61a), you would think that look of love would send him running in, retracting his denials, eager to die with Christ. But, it was not time yet for Peter to be restored, and he instead goes outside and cries (Luke 22:62). Still, we know that this isn’t the end of Peter’s story, and that he will both return and then strengthen his brethren. How do we know? Christ has prayed for him (cf. Luke 22:32). Indeed, we can almost be certain that He is praying for him even with that look. We can even be certain, when we are failing Him, that He is at that moment praying for us (cf. Hebrews 7:25). 

The Lord Jesus is our perfect Substitute. It seems unfair that Peter isn’t the one in there getting mocked and beaten in Luke 22:63-65. He deserves all that and worse! But isn’t that just the point? Jesus, the One Who is remaining faithful (cf. 1 Timothy 6:13, 1 Peter 2:22–24), is the One receiving the just desserts of wickedness. He saves a sinful people first and foremost by receiving what they deserve as their Substitute. The next day, being our Substitute will require that He endure the assault of God Himself. Amazing love, amazing grace, amazing salvation!

In what situation do you most need to remember a particular promise of Christ? What promise of His is most relevant to it? How does the timing of a rooster’s crow help you here? When you are in the midst of failing Jesus, what is He doing for you? What do you deserve? Who has received it? What won’t you receive if you are His? What will you receive instead?

Sample prayer:  Our perfect Lord and Savior, You are worthy of all glory and honor and praise! Indeed, You deserve all blessing and blessedness. We deserve only wrath, and have often failed You and even mistreated You. But You have taken upon Yourself the wrath that we deserve, and You are praying for us on the basis of Your own worthiness for us. So, grant unto us to rest in You and rejoice over You, and finish that work of making us like Yourself so that we will then perfectly glorify You and fully enjoy You forever, which we ask in Your Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP22A “My God, My God” or TPH274 “Jesus, My Great High Priest”


Friday, September 03, 2021

2021.09.03 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Samuel 21:15–22

Read 2 Samuel 21:15–22

Questions from the Scripture text: Who were at war with Israel (2 Samuel 21:15)? Who went and fought against them? What happened to David at this point? Who thought he could do what (2 Samuel 21:16)? What details does this verse emphasize about him? Who comes to David’s aid (2 Samuel 21:17)? What do David’s men say now? Why? What had happened again in 2 Samuel 21:18? Who killed whom? And what had happened in 2 Samuel 21:19? And who killed whom then? What do they note about him? And what had happened in 2 Samuel 21:20? What description is given of the man in this verse? What happens to him in 2 Samuel 21:21? How does 2 Samuel 21:22 summarize all of this?

The Lord had promised to save His people from the Philistines by the hand of David (cf. 2 Samuel 3:18), and the summary of this passage in 2 Samuel 21:22 tells us that’s exactly what He did. The Lord is faithful to His promises!

The Lord is faithful to His promises even when His servants aren’t up to it. 2 Samuel 21:15 tells us that David was out of gas, and 2 Samuel 21:16 tells us that the best-equipped Philistine giant noticed and was about to take advantage. Even David wasn’t up to it. You aren’t either. But the Lord is still faithful. A big part of that is those other servants of His, with whom He has surrounded you: Abishai in this case, but the others as summarized at the end of 2 Samuel 21:22, and of course whomever He has placed you among (cf. Ephesians 4:11–16; 1 Corinthians 12:15–21).

The Lord is faithful to His promises through His chosen one. In the second half of 2 Samuel 21:17, David’s men saw how vital (relatively speaking) God had made him to His work in Israel. Now, this is true sometimes of those whom God uses in a very unique way in various seasons of His church’s life. But, it is true in an ultimate sense of Christ. Ultimately, all hangs upon Him alone. Unlike David, He has no need of us at all. Rather, in union with Him, we receive all of the privileges of His unique righteousness, victory, life, inheritance, etc.

The Lord is faithful to His promises, but also recognizes His servants. It’s ultimately the Lord Who is faithful, and to Whom all glory belongs. But He names Abishai, Sibbechai, Elhanan, and Jonathan in this passage. Sure, you may think that this is only for giant-killers. But the Lord also names Zeruiah, Hushath, Jaare-Oregim, and Shimea. In our God’s estimation, fathering or bearing children and bringing them up is also worthy of recognition. Again, it’s His faithful work by His grace, but He models for us that it’s entirely appropriate to recognize the servants whom He uses. We have all benefited from many of them, and it’s biblical to acknowledge it about them and to them.

The Lord is faithful to vindicate His people. The nameless 24-digit giant in 2 Samuel 21:20 made the mistake of defying Israel in 2 Samuel 21:21. Our Lord will not allow attacks upon His people to go unanswered. In fact, whatever retribution there is in this life, there will be eternal vengeance in the next (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:6–10). 

Was this the end of the giants? God had promised to displace the Rephaiim (cf. Genesis 15:20), and these are the children of Rapha (2 Samuel 21:22a). This is the last we hear of them, but whether or not this was their actual end, we can clearly see one of the purposes they served: to show us and remind us that our Lord is faithful.

What role has the Lord currently given you in your home and in His church? How is it dependent upon Christ? How does it serve Him? Whom else has He used for your good? How have you recognized this before God or before men? What currently dangerous or impossible situation is an opportunity for your Lord’s displaying Himself faithful?

Sample prayer:  Lord, indeed You are perfectly faithful. All hinged upon Your Son, and He became a man to be our own perfect faithfulness in our behalf. Forgive us for when we doubt You, or exalt ourselves, or don’t recognize Your servants. Truly, our sin is a greater enemy than anything or anyone we face. But You are faithful! And we commit ourselves to Your perfect care in Christ, through Whom we ask it, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH245 “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”


Thursday, September 02, 2021

2021.09.02 Hopewell @Home ▫ Colossians 1:1–2

Read Colossians 1:1–2

Questions from the Scripture text: Who wrote this book (Colossians 1:1)? What is his title/office? How did he become this? Who is with him? Whose brother is he? To whom is this book addressed—what two things does he call them (Colossians 1:2, cf. Colossians 3:20)? Where are they? What two things does he pronounce upon them in blessing? From Whom?

The opening, like the rest of the letter, is saturated with Christ. Paul identifies himself with reference to Christ, identifies his readers with reference to Christ, and even gives a greeting that is a blessing from Christ. 

First, Paul identifies himself with reference to Christ. He is not writing in his own behalf. He is writing as an apostle. An apostle is more than a representative. When he writes as an apostle, every word is as completely from Christ’s personal authority and relationship to them as if He Himself held the pen. And Paul reminds them that this apostleship was God’s idea and God’s action.

Even when Paul refers to Timothy, there is a reference to Christ. Timothy may be his brother in the ministry, but how is he the Colossian Christians’ brother? By their being in the same family of the same God by union with the only-begotten Son. 

Second, Paul identifies his readers with reference to Christ. They are saints, holy ones. In Christ, they are set-apart and precious to Paul for his Lord’s sake. And they are faithful brethren. In Christ, they are family, and Christ has made them faithful. This letter is of vital importance not only because it is from Christ, but because it is for those precious ones who are Christ’s.

Finally, Paul gives a greeting that is a blessing from Christ. We have no righteousness or strength of our own, so there is nothing we need more than grace. And we are wholly deserving for God to be our enemy, so there is nothing we need more than peace. But this letter’s opening greeting is to pronounce both of these from God. He is not only almighty and therefore able to give grace and peace, but also our Father and eagerly willing to give grace and peace. 

Marvelously, even with grace and peace from God our Father, these are also pronounced from our Lord Jesus Christ. He is not only the One Who became man to save us, but the One Who is very God of very God, so that grace and peace come from Him every bit as much as from the Father.

Are you Christ’s? Then this letter is from your Lord, for you because you are your Lord’s, by the grace of your Lord!

What is your most fundamental identity? What is the ultimate guide for embracing and enjoying it? What is your greatest need for enjoying and fulfilling your identity?

Sample prayer: Our Triune God, we bless Your Name, for You alone are worthy of all worship. How marvelous is Your grace that You have not only created us in Your image but also redeemed us into Your family. Grant that Your Spirit would make us to know You as Father, even as we are conformed to the Son. Forgive us for how easily we become thoughtless of Christ, and write upon our hearts this portion of Your Word, so that we may be ever-mindful of Him, in Whose Name we ask it, AMEN! 

Suggested songs: ARP45A “My Heart Is Greatly Stirred” or TPH374 “All Hail the Power of Jesus’s Name”


Wednesday, September 01, 2021

God's Glorious Strength and Holiness for His Holy People (2021.09.01 Prayer Meeting lesson in Psalm 29)

When believers praise their glorious God, they praise Him and the power of His Word, by which they themselves also are strengthened and blessed!
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God's Deadly Seriousness about Our Giving His Sign and His Means to His Covenant Children (Family Worship lesson in Exodus 4:18–26)

Why is God about to kill Moses (or Gershom)? Pastor leads his family in today’s “Hopewell @Home” passage. Exodus 4:18–26 prepares us for the first serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these six verses, the Holy Spirit teaches us that God is deadly earnest that those upon whom He has laid a special, covenantal claim must receive His mark and the means of His grace. Christians must have their children baptized, hoping in God for the realities which that baptism displays, and employing the means (including baptism!) by which He produces that reality.
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2021.09.01 Hopewell @Home ▫ Exodus 4:18–26

Read Exodus 4:18–26

Questions from the Scripture text: To whom did Moses go in Exodus 4:18? What did he ask to do? What does Jethro say? What does Yahweh say to Moses in Exodus 4:19 (cf. Matthew 2:20)? Whom does Moses take, how (Exodus 4:20)? Where do they go? What does Moses take in his hand? What does Yahweh remind him to do in Exodus 4:21? What does He remind Moses that Pharaoh will do? What is Moses to say then (Exodus 4:22)? What does He claim about Israel? What does He threaten against Pharaoh if he withholds the Yahweh’s son (Exodus 4:23)? But what does Yahweh do in Exodus 4:24? Who saves the day in Exodus 4:25? How? What does she now call Moses (Exodus 4:25-26)?

Moses takes his leave from his father-in-law and takes his wife and his sons with him. The Spirit reminds us at the end of Exodus 4:20 not only of God’s power, but of what occurred with the rod earlier in the chapter.

It’s not until now that the Lord adds the message of Exodus 4:22-23 to His earlier instructions, summarized in Exodus 4:21. It seems that the Lord waits until now to call Israel, “My son, My firstborn” to highlight how serious of an offense it was for Moses to “withhold” his own son from the Lord by failing to put the covenant sign upon him. The penalty for Pharaoh doing this with respect to Israel is the death of his firstborn son (end of Exodus 4:23), and it may well be that the same is imminent for Moses in Exodus 4:24.

There is some uncertainty in the text about who the “him” is that Yahweh sought to kill. Despite some translations’ insertions, Moses’s name does not actually appear in our passage after Exodus 4:21, and the word translated “husband” in Exodus 4:25-26 refers to any covenant relation. After the threat against Pharaoh’s firstborn son, it may well be that it is Gershom, Moses’s firstborn, who is nearly executed at this point, who is circumcised, and who has the bloody foreskin touched to his feet.

If it is Moses who nearly dies, this would heighten the seriousness of the action taken, since the Lord has made such an emphatic point of specifically requiring Moses to be the one who confronts Pharaoh.

What is very clear is that the Lord takes the sign of circumcision very seriously. He was about to publicly own every member of Israel as “His firstborn son.” And He was about to demand that Pharaoh recognize this fact. But Moses and Zipporah had not properly recognized this fact about their own child. And God is deadly serious about His requirement that His sign be put upon the children of His people (cf. also Genesis 17:14). 

Now, this has an obvious application for those who recognize that baptism is a covenant sign—with water now, not blood, since the blood of Christ has been shed once for all. The Lord takes His signs seriously not only because they are indicators that point to Christ and His now-finished work, but also because they are seals by which His covenantal ownership of us is acknowledged. Our children are not merely biological relations or legal relations to us. They are covenantal relations to us.

When Zipporah yields to the Lord’s mechanism for acknowledging this—that the blood of the covenant is a stronger bond even than her own blood—the Lord lets him go. Gershom is not thus eternally saved; he still must come to faith in the promised Savior. But, his circumcision is a necessary means by which God’s special propriety in him is acknowledged and responded to.

Now, if we understand that the same is required of us with God, that we receive His sign upon ourselves and upon our children, it must not stop with the sign. For, those who are His owe Him worship, obedience, and service. And we must submit to His means and His ways for all of these, and for the spiritual life and holiness required to walk with Him in it. Our own baptism, or our child’s baptism, is not the end of our covenant responsibility but its beginning. And we look to Him to make all of it effectual by His grace from start to finish.

How does the covenant ownership of God shown in your baptism also show up in your daily and weekly activities? How can it comfort you, when you’re about to face the opposition of the world?

Sample prayer:  Lord, for whatever You send us to do, You Yourself are our only hope. You are all our strength, and Your covenant faithfulness is perfect. Thank You for setting us apart to Yourself in Christ and for giving us a sign and seal of that in baptism. By the grace that You have promised, give us the love and obedience and service that we owe to You, which we ask through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP50A “God, Most Supreme in Might” or TPH190 “Thus Saith the Mercy of the Lord”

 

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Knowing Trinitarian Love in Christ: the Hardest, Surest Thing (Family Worship lesson in Ephesians 3:14–19)

For what does the apostle pray for such almighty working? Pastor leads his family in today's "Hopewell @Home" passage. Ephesians 3:14–19 prepares us for the opening portion of the morning public worship on the coming Lord's Day. In these six verses, the Holy Spirit teaches us that God's eternal purpose to bring us into His own Triune fellowship is accomplished by almighty, Triune collaboration to make us know the love of Christ.
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2021.08.31 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 3:14–19

Read Ephesians 3:14–19

Questions from the Scripture text: What (Ephesians 3:14, cf. Ephesians 2:14–22) does the apostle now pick up from Ephesians 3:1 as the reason for this prayer? What posture does he take for this prayer? What does He call God, Whom he addresses (Ephesians 3:14-15)? According to what does he pray that this request will be granted (Ephesians 3:16)? With what does he pray that they will be strengthened? Through Whom does he pray that they will be strengthened? In what does he pray that they will be strengthened? What does he pray that the Spirit will do in their inner man (Ephesians 3:17a)? In what will this root them and ground them (verse 17b)? What would this enable them to do, with whom (Ephesians 3:18)? What is the thing that he prays that they will begin to know the measure (or, rather, immeasurability!) of (Ephesians 3:19)? With what will such knowledge fill them?

Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Song of Adoration all come from Ephesians 3:14–19, so that we will see that we are singing God’s thoughts after Him with Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee

Heaven has been reconciled to earth, with God making redeemed sinners the trophy in which He displays His grace even in glory to the angels (Ephesians 2:6–7; Ephesians 3:10–11). Paul began to say “for this reason” in Ephesians 3:1, and now he picks the train of thought back up in Ephesians 3:14, having uncovered and displayed several more facets of this glorious, multicolored diamond of the wisdom and the grace of God. 

It is the glory of this mystery that we can call God Father—not only are all of the ethnicities of believers being brought together into one family on earth, but in heaven they actually appear in glory, the same glory that was being accomplished even through Paul’s imprisonment (end of Ephesians 3:13). 

Of course, a part of the blessedness of our glorious adoption is access to the family estate, the riches of God’s glory. And it is in realizing that God is building this family that the apostle now bows his knees and requests access to the family treasure. The fatherhood of the Father. The strengthening of the Spirit. The indwelling of the Son.

It must be a great request indeed! And what is all of this being requested to do? To enable the Ephesians to comprehend (to take hold of) by experiential knowledge something that our brains can’t wrap around.

He has been reflecting upon the fact that the love of Christ goes widely through all the earth to all of its families, that the length of the love of Christ began before all things hidden in God Himself and continues for all eternity, that the love of Christ reaches down all the way to those who are dead in trespasses and sins, and that the love of Christ takes us up onto even the highest throne of the highest heaven.

How could we come to take hold of such a thing? How could we come to take hold of something that will fill us, continually, abundantly, forever? Filled with all the fullness of God! It would be blasphemy if the Holy Spirit had not been the One to say it. What a glorious way to say continual, abundant, and forever fullness. It is not the fullness of that which is finite but the fullness of God.

No wonder, then, that the apostle makes this great Trinitarian prayer when coming with such a request. And, how much we need to consider the great necessity and glory of the church that such knowledge must come together “with all the saints.” Shall we not bow our own knees for this?

How do we grow in the love of Christ? Who must make those activities effective? Ask Him! 

Sample prayer: Father, according to the riches of Your glory, grant unto us by Your almighty Spirit to know the love of Christ. We have no fullness of our own, so fill us with all of Your own fullness in Christ, which we ask in His Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP45A “My Heart Is Greatly Stirred” or TPH491 “Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee”


Monday, August 30, 2021

How Seriously God Takes the Honoring of Parents (Family Worship lesson in Proverbs 30:17)

Pastor leads his family in a verse from "the Proverb of the day." In this Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that failure to honor parents from the heart deserves an accursed death.
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2021.08.30 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 22:35-53

Read Luke 22:35-53

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Jesus ask the disciples in Luke 22:35? How do they answer? What does He tell them to take now (Luke 22:36)? And to buy? What reason does He give in Luke 22:37? What do they produce in Luke 22:38? How does He answer? Where does He go in Luke 22:39? How does Luke tell us that this was predictable? Where do they arrive in Luke 22:40? What does He say to them? Where does He go (Luke 22:41)? What does He do? What does He say in this prayer (Luke 22:42)? What response does He receive in Luke 22:43? For what does He use this heaven-sent strength (Luke 22:44)? What does He do in Luke 22:45? What does He find? What does He ask them (Luke 22:46)? What does He tell them to do instead? But what appears and when (Luke 22:47)? Who went before them? What did he do? What does Jesus ask him (Luke 22:48)? About what do His disciples now ask (Luke 22:49, cf. Luke 22:38)? But what does one of them do (Luke 22:50)? What does Jesus say in Luke 22:51? What does He do? Now to what four groups does He speak in Luke 22:52? What does He ask them? What does He point out in Luke 22:53? What does He call that moment?

That which must be fulfilled. The evangelist shows us the connections between Luke 22:35-38 and Luke 22:47-53. The reason for the speech in Luke 22:35-36 is so that it might be fulfilled that He is numbered with the transgressors (Luke 22:37). Then the Lord Jesus points out in Luke 22:52 that they have “come out, as against a robber.” 

This also solves the curious question of what the two swords of Luke 22:38 are enough for. He teaches us to make good use of God’s means: moneybags, knapsacks, etc (Luke 22:36a). And the idea of a sword for every man implies that the equipment to defend oneself or participate in just war are part of the means that God provides, and which we ought to make use of (verse 36b). But for what are two swords enough?

We only have to wait eleven verses to find out. We know from the other gospels that there are three apostles with Him by Luke 22:49. James and John apparently have one sword, and they ask Jesus if this is the time to use it. Peter isn’t named in Luke 22:50, but again from the other gospels we know that it’s he who doesn’t bother asking. But while there is an appropriate time for using the sword, Jesus quickly corrects its use in this case, in Luke 22:51. After all, this is exactly what He had said (Luke 22:37) must be accomplished: their “hour and the power of darkness” (Luke 22:53).

The strength in which it was fulfilled. The Holy Spirit has Luke place the account of our Lord’s prayer between the two sections referenced above. Luke 22:39-45 are sandwiched between Luke 22:35-38 and Luke 22:47-53. This section itself is bookended by Jesus’s two admonitions to the disciples to pray, lest they enter temptation (Luke 22:39-40 and Luke 22:45-46). This places Luke 22:41-44 at the heart of the section as a whole.

Jesus doesn’t just tell the disciples that they need to be praying; He knows this fact from His own experience. Even as He knows what must be accomplished (Luke 22:37) and what hour this is (Luke 22:53), He Himself needs prayer to be strengthened unto submission. He Himself prays in Luke 22:41, and when the response is for an angel to strengthen Him (Luke 22:43), He uses the strength to pray even more earnestly (Luke 22:44).

What is He praying? That if it is God’s will/possible (Luke 22:42a, cf. Matthew 26:39, Mark 14:36), the cup of the cross would be taken from Him. But He knows that it is not actually possible. Still, expressing His horror and agony at the prospect in prayer is a means by which He submits Himself to His Father’s will. And this submission is the strength in which He now greets Judas, corrects Peter, and heals Malchus. 

What a marvelous thing is the temptation-thwarting, submission-enabling power of prayer! And if our Lord Himself needed it, how much more do we! But if we believe in Him, not only is His submission counted for us, but it is also what we are being conformed to. Dear Christian, watch and pray so that you would not enter into temptation. And as you do so, rejoice that even in your watching and praying you are being conformed to Christ!

What times do you have set apart each day and week for watching and praying against temptation? Where in your life have you found it to be a battle to submit to the Lord’s providence and commands?

Sample prayer:  Our merciful God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—You have alll power and goodness in Yourself. But we are weak and sinful in ourselves. We thank You that You have made Your righteousness ours in Jesus Christ. We marvel at Your love Lord Jesus, that You humbled Yourself to become a Man so fully that even Your dependence is a model for our own dependence. Grant unto us the ministry of Your Spirit, by Whom we would be watchful and prayerful as a right use of the greatest means that You have given us: Yourself. Which we ask in Your Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP191 “I Love the Lord” or TPH435 “Not What My Hands Have Done”