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

Saturday, May 22, 2021

When the Gospel Is Bad News; Session Meeting Digest, Lord's Day Prep, etc. (2021.05.21 Pastoral Letter and Hopewell 'Harbingerald')

Hopewell “Harbingerald” – May 21, 2021

It was an unusually busy week, in many ways, for me. Thank you for understanding. Some items that are usually included in the early week “Harbinger” appear here for the first time this week. I’m sorry that your use of them for Lord’s Day preparation is a few days shorter this time around. Note also the attachment of the Session Meeting Digest from Monday night’s meeting.

This week, I also received a pdf of our packet for the General Synod meeting June 8–10. There are a number of important items, especially a memorial from 1st Presbytery to bring ARP diaconates back toward their original biblical parameters, and the ongoing work of the Restructuring Committee to decentralize and decommercialize ministry from being a function of Synod and agencies to being a function of Presbyteries/Sessions, centered upon the ministry of Word, Sacrament, and Prayer.

Please continue in prayer for our Session, Presbytery, and Synod!


Dear Congregation,

In Luke 2:34–35 this week, I noticed two important things.

34 Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against 35 (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

The first is that the gospel is good news that isn’t good for everyone. There are many for whom the redemption and kingship of Christ is very bad news. “This Child is destined for the fall of many.” Many do not bow the knee, kiss the Son, and trust in Him. So, they will indeed perish when His wrath is kindled but a little (cf. Psalm 2:11–12).

The second thing is that those who love Jesus the most are hurt the deepest, when He is rejected by the many. In addition to atoning for believers’ sins, the cross was the great instance in which our Lord was “a sign which was spoken against.” In addition to atoning for believers’ sins, the cross was a great instance of “the thoughts of many hearts revealed.”

Yet, it was not only at the cross that our Lord Jesus is God’s great sign which reveals the thoughts of the hearts of those who speak against Him. This happens whenever Christ is preached, and to a large extent in churches and cultures that resist His kingship. What does our level of grief and indignation at this tell us about the level of our love for Jesus?

Surely, we do not love Him as we ought. But He has loved us perfectly! And He is perfecting believers’ love. This He does most of all in the public administration of the ordinary means of grace, of which He has composed His worship. He sets Himself before us as the especial display of the glory of God, even as He uses the means by which He does so to conform our own love to His perfect love.

Looking forward to beholding His glory and having our love increased by His grace together,


2021.05.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Joel 1:4–12

Read Joel 1:4–12

Questions from the Scripture text: What four types of locust are mentioned in Joel 1:4? What are they doing?  Whom does He command to awake in Joel 1:5? To do what? Whom does He command to wail? Why? What has happened? How does He refer to the locusts in Joel 1:6? What does He say about their quality and quantity in verse 6b? To what does He compare them in verse 6b–c? What is the point about the threat being posed? What has the enemy done in Joel 1:7? Whose vine? Whose fig tree? How is the destruction to the fig tree described? What does He command them to do in Joel 1:8? Like whom? What has been cut off (Joel 1:9)? From where? Who mourns in verse 9? Who serve Whom? What five things combined to produce this complete judgment (Joel 1:10)? Whom does Joel 1:11 tell to be ashamed? Whom to wail? For what two things that have perished (verse 11c–d)? What has dried up (Joel 1:12)? What has withered (verse 12b)? What other kinds of trees? What has this resulted in withering away from whom?

The disaster being declared here is one that the Lord has brought upon His own people, His own possession, His own worship. 

It’s as if the historians took their cues from the Israelites, who have to be commanded to awake (Joel 1:5a), commanded to wail (verse 5b), commanded to lament (Joel 1:8a), and commanded to be ashamed (Joel 1:11a). We have great difficulty placing the book historically, because as far as we know there is no historical record of this locust plague outside the book of Joel.

Often, we are dull to what is happening and need to be commanded to take it more seriously, to lament. And nothing is more lamentable than the cutting off of the worship of God. “Grain offering and drink offering” cut off from the house of Yahweh is a huge deal (Joel 1:9a–b), but apparently the only ones with the spiritual sensitivity to care were the priests who served actively in the offerings (verse 9c). 

It is Yahweh’s house and Yahweh’s worship. He emphasizes this by pointing out that the land is not Israel’s land so much as Yahweh’s land (Joel 1:6a). It’s not just that Israel has lost vines, but Israel itself is Yahweh’s vine (Joel 1:7a, cf. Isaiah 5). It’s not just that Israel has lost fig trees, but Israel itself is Yahweh’s fig tree (verse 7b, cf. Hosea 9:10).

But we are so dull of heart toward God that damage to the things of God does not properly affect us. So, the Lord is “bringing home the hurt” to all the people. By using locusts to eliminate the drink offerings, it wipes out the pleasure of the drunks and the self-indulgent (Joel 1:5), as well as the livelihood of the vinedressers (Joel 1:11b). By using locusts to eliminate the grain offerings, He wipes out the livelihood of the farmers (verse 11), including not only this basic sustenance for man and beast, but also all cash/trade crops (Joel 1:12), so that God Himself has robbed them of all earthly joy. The Lord is making them to feel that they have not had the spiritual joy needed to care when it is lost.

Do we lament for lost worship like a young bride, whose betrothed is snatched from her just before the wedding (Joel 1:8)? If not, may God the Spirit bless to us this passage so that His heart-sensitizing purposes toward the first recipients in their locust plague would come home to our own hearts as well.

When have you missed worship, and especially public worship? How deeply does it affect you to do so?

Suggested songs: ARP42A “As Pants the Deer” or TPH42C “As Thirsts the Hart for Water Brooks”

Friday, May 21, 2021

2021.05.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ Philippians 3:1–3

Read Philippians 3:1–3

Questions from the Scripture text: How does the apostle introduce Philippians 3:1? What does he call them? What does he command them? What things is he writing? How doesn’t he feel about this repetition? What advantage does this have for them? Of what three things does he command them to beware (Philippians 3:2)? What does he say that he and the Philippian believers are in Philippians 3:3? What three things make them “the circumcision”? Whom do they worship in Whom? What do they do in Christ Jesus? In what don’t they have confidence?

Many of us who grew up singing Philippians 4:4 “as a round” probably did not understand the context well enough to reach back into the first three verses of the previous chapter, which we have before us now. Rejoicing in the Lord is set over against rejoicing in status, rejoicing in self, and rejoicing in signs.

One good way of summing up the gospel is, “In yourself, you have only guilt and misery and weakness; but, in Christ there is perfect righteousness, blessedness, and strength!” So, one might succinctly make the gospel offer, the gospel call, in these terms: “rejoice in the Lord!”

But the Christian life isn’t something that begins with rejoicing in the Lord and moves on to rejoicing in our covenant status, or our self-righteousness, or our access to the signs. As we’ve been hearing throughout the book, Christ is all of our Christian life, and in each of these (status, works, signs) our rejoicing ought to be in Him. 

So the apostle says he’s energized, rather than weighed down, to tell the same thing that he has always said: “rejoice in the Lord!” And it is well that he enjoys telling them to do so, because there are dangerous people out there trying to get them to have confidence in the flesh (end of Philippians 3:4). So, the apostle here is acting as Christ-sent safety officer saying, “rejoice in the Lord”!

As he warns them against those who might lure them into self-confidence instead of Christ-confidence, he goes on the offensive with the three names he uses for them in Philippians 3:2. Each of these identify an area of the Christian life in which we are in danger of rejoicing in something that Christ gives us instead of in Christ Himself.

Beware of dogs: covenant status. It is a marvelous thing to be set apart to the Lord as His saints, to have membership in the holy assembly that is His church. For centuries, Jews had been exulting in this status, apart from vital faith in the promised Christ. And such habits of heart are hard to break. They viewed Gentiles as “dogs,” which came to mean those outside the covenant. Ironically, someone who is proud of His status instead of rejoicing in the Christ Who gave him that status, shows that he is not genuinely holy. 

The vital, spiritual status of the man’s soul is opposite the status of his earthly church membership. He is a dog. “Watch out!” says the apostle. “There are people in the church who think about membership in Christ’s church in a way that shows that they lack the far more important membership: membership through faith in Christ Himself. Don’t follow them; rather, rejoice in the Lord!”

Beware of evil workers: good works. Good works are good. They come from faith in Christ, and are the fruit of His life as the vine flowing through you as a branch. But works that you trust in, or works for which you feel like getting praise instead of giving it, are not works that proceed from faith. These are dead works, from which we must repent. They have at their heart a violation of the first commandment and the first great commandment. Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

So, when there were those who were tempting Philippian believers to do works for the purpose of showing off themselves instead of showing off the gospel (cf. Philippians 1:27), the apostle chose a name for them that shows how opposite this kind of thinking really is. “Beware of evil workers.” The way they work is evil, so regardless of any outward conformity to Scripture, their works are evil.

Beware of the mutilation: covenant signs. Circumcision wasn’t even a sign of the covenant anymore. To a church that is largely gentile, the apostle says, “we are the circumcision” in Philippians 3:3. The sign of admission into the covenant is no longer the cutting away of flesh, but the pouring out of the Spirit (which we see signified in the pouring out of the water of baptism). So he says, “we are the circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God.”

Even God’s former sign was meant to show something that God would do to their hearts (cf. Deuteronomy 30:6). Without this hope in the spiritual work of God, and without God actually doing that spiritual work, the cutting away of flesh was never ultimately a blessing to begin with. So the apostle refers to flesh circumcision without heart circumcision in shocking words that expose this truth. “Beware of the mutilation!”

We too are in danger of rejoicing in the mercies that accessorize belonging to Christ, rather than rejoicing in Christ Himself in His mercies. Ironically, someone who recognizes this danger can rejoice in watching out. So, to all of us, the apostle announces again that first gospel call, which is still the continual call of the Christian life: “rejoice in the Lord!”

How are you developing the heart-habit of rejoicing in the Lord? How are you reminding yourself to do so especially when we think about your membership? How especially when thinking about doing good works? How especially when thinking about baptism and the Lord’s Supper?

Suggested songs: ARP98 “O Sing a New Song” or TPH281 “Rejoice, the Lord Is King”

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Unassailable Confidence from the Justness of the God Who Justifies Us in Christ (2021.05.19 Prayer Meeting Lesson from Psalm 18:20–30)

God assures us of our justness in Christ by setting before us in v20–24 how He can pray—and therefore how we, in Him, can pray. And the justness of God in vv25–30 strengthens us with great confidence that He Who is perfectly just will reward with perfect blessing the perfect righteousness that He has given us in Christ.

2021.05.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 18:18–34

Read Luke 18:18–34

Questions from the Scripture text: Who speaks to Jesus in Luke 18:18? What does he call Him? What does he ask Him? What does Jesus ask him in response (Luke 18:19)? What does Jesus say about this? What does He say the man knows (Luke 18:20)? What commandments does Jesus specifically mention? What does the man say about these commandments (Luke 18:21)? How much does Jesus say this man lacks (Luke 18:22)? What does Jesus tell him to do? Where does Jesus say he will have what? What is the ultimate command in verse 22? How does the man respond in Luke 18:23? Why? What did Jesus see in Luke 18:24? What does He say? What two things does Jesus compare in Luke 18:25? Which does He say is easier? What do those who hear ask (Luke 18:26)? What does Jesus say about possibilities in Luke 18:27? Who speaks in Luke 18:28? With what command does he begin? What is it that he wants Jesus to see? What does Jesus acknowledge people might leave—for the sake of what (Luke 18:29)? What will such a person receive (Luke 18:30)? When? And what else, when else? Whom does Jesus now take aside in Luke 18:31? Where does He tell them that they are going? What will be accomplished there? What six things will happen to Him (Luke 18:32-33)? Then what will He do (verse 33)? How much of this do they understand (Luke 18:34)? How many ways does verse 34 tell us about this?

Whether it was his net worth, or his net-worthiness, the ruler in this passage was sure that he could bankroll whatever it took to obtain eternal life. He was calling Jesus “Good” (Luke 18:18-19) not because he thought Jesus to be perfectly morally righteous, but because he thought Jesus to be a whole lot like himself. 

The ruler’s problem isn’t that he didn’t know the words of the standard (Luke 18:20); it’s that he thought he was doing a good job of keeping it (Luke 18:21). But the one thing he lacked (Luke 18:22a) was actually everything: Christ Himself (end of verse 22). 

What do you get for the man who has everything? The eye-opening reality that without Jesus, that man has nothing. Thinking that we have moral riches is even harder to overcome than having hearts that cling to earthly riches (Luke 18:23-25).

And this way of thinking even infects disciples. Peter has understood that Jesus is what you need (Luke 18:28). But by Christ’s response in Luke 18:29-30, we see that Peter thinks that they are being rewarded for coming out on the losing end. But, giving up a giant pile of worthlessness in order to have Christ instead doesn’t just get you treasure in heaven (Luke 18:22) in the age to come, but treasure in heaven and earth, both now and forever (Luke 18:30).

It’s just hard for our sin-clouded hearts to appreciate what Scripture says must be done to save us, and how we’re totally unable to accomplish the slightest particle of it. So, when Jesus tells them what He has to do in the clearest possible words (Luke 18:31-33), they still can’t understand what He is talking about (Luke 18:34). Even disciples like Peter can have fits of the same self-righteous thinking as the unconverted young ruler—the kind of thinking that makes us unable to comprehend what true riches are in this life and the next. True wealthiness is to count everything else loss for the gain of having Christ! And then realizing that since we have Christ, literally everything is ours in that it is being employed by God for us, who are joint-heirs-with-Christ of all things.

In what situations do you tend to feel like God should really pay you back for how well you’ve done? In what situations have you felt that you’ve lost something valuable in order to belong to Christ or follow Him? In that situation, how have you really lost nothing and gained everything?

Suggested Songs: ARP16A “Keep Me, O God” or TPH508 “Jesus, Priceless Treasure”

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

2021.05.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Samuel 13:1–22

Read 2 Samuel 13:1–22

Questions from the Scripture text: Whom does 2 Samuel 13:1 first mention? Whose son is he? What does he have? What was her name? Who was Amnon? How did he feel toward her? How did he respond to this purported “love” (2 Samuel 13:2)? To what extent? What was improper? What else did Amnon have (2 Samuel 13:3)? What was his name? What was his relation? What was Jonadab like? What does he ask Amnon in 2 Samuel 13:4? How does Amnon answer? What does Jonadab tell him to fake (2 Samuel 13:5)? Whom does he tell Amnon to ask for what? How carefully does Amnon follow this advice (2 Samuel 13:6)? What does David tell whom to do in 2 Samuel 13:7? What does Tamar do, where, in 2 Samuel 13:8? What is Amnon doing? What suspicious command does Amnon give in 2 Samuel 13:9? Then what does he command in 2 Samuel 13:10? But what does he do when she comes near in 2 Samuel 13:11? How does she answer in 2 Samuel 13:12? What does she ask about herself in 2 Samuel 13:13? What does she point out would happen to him? What counsel does she give instead? What does Amnon do with her counsel (2 Samuel 13:14)? What “advantage” does he have? What does he do to her? What does he now feel toward her in 2 Samuel 13:15? How does this compare to his prior feeling? What does he command? What does she call this command in 2 Samuel 13:16? What does she say about the greatness of this evil? What won’t he do to her in verse 2 Samuel 13:16? Whom does he call in 2 Samuel 13:17? What does he command? What does he do? What was she wearing (2 Samuel 13:18)? What was done to her? What does she put on her head (2 Samuel 13:19)? What does she do to her princess robe? What posture does she take? What does she do? Who speaks to her in 2 Samuel 13:20? What does he apparently know to ask directly? What does he tell her to do? What does he call Amnon? Where does she stay? In what condition? Who hears of it in 2 Samuel 13:21? How does he feel? What does he do? What does Absalom say about it to Amnon (2 Samuel 13:22)? How did he feel toward Amnon? Why? 

It is a judgment from God, when He gives fleshly men over to what they deludedly think is love. The Lord had declared to David that the sword would never depart from his house (cf. 2 Samuel 12:10) and that He would raise up adversity against David from his own house (cf. 2 Samuel 12:11), and now we see the chastening coming to pass. When we consider that this wickedness comes as a judgment from God, and when we see the evil that comes from it, we ought to be very careful with the self-delusion and self-satisfying desire that so many of us tell ourselves is “love.” There were many clues to know that this was not love as he thought (end of 2 Samuel 13:4). There were many clues or indications that could have helped him recognize that it wasn’t love:

  • The distress was in large part because he knew it was wrong to act upon,  2 Samuel 13:2. Lust is actually strengthened, rather than weakened, by its wrongness.
  • He was unwilling to listen to her ( 2 Samuel 13:14, end of  2 Samuel 13:16), though he was willing to listen to Jonadab about how to get her ( 2 Samuel 13:5, ff.). Lust lacks any compassion or sympathy and doesn’t care about the ideas or interests of its object.
  • It depended upon pretense ( 2 Samuel 13:6). Lust parades as something else, both in our hearts and in our presentation of it to others.
  • It hid behind secrecy ( 2 Samuel 13:9). Lust embraces its own shamefulness, getting rid of the people who might see, rather than getting rid of the shameful action that they would have seen.
  • It didn’t care what happened to God’s people ( 2 Samuel 13:12). Lust doesn’t care about God’s glory and its display in God’s people.
  • It didn’t care what happened to her ( 2 Samuel 13:13). Lust doesn’t care about the wellbeing of its object.
  • It took what it wanted by death-deserving force ( 2 Samuel 13:14). Lust enthrones its own gratification instead of the Lord.
  • It easily turned to a hatred that was even more intense ( 2 Samuel 13:15). Let us learn that self-focused emotions may very easily be completely reversed.

It is a judgment from God, when He gives leadership over to cowardice or laziness in punishing wrong. “But when King David heard of all these things, he was very angry” ( 2 Samuel 13:21). Was he, now? Was not God infinitely angrier than David?! And was David not only head of this clan but king over the nation?! How could a father not seek proper avenging for the forcing of his daughter?! How could a king permit such wickedness in the highest levels of the kingdom?!

The punishing of evil had been assigned to him by God (cf. Romans 13:1–4; 1 Peter 2:14). Yet, here he is doing the same thing as Amnon: caring only about what he thinks he feels, but not taking the action that God requires. His merely human anger was nothing without righteous indignation that leads to righteous action in fulfillment of the role that God has assigned to him.

It is a judgment from God, when we seethe and nurse bitterness, rather than taking it both to the Lord and to the proper authority ( 2 Samuel 13:22). Amnon’s and David’s sins in this passage are extremely wicked. But it is ultimately Absalom’s sin that will be the primary fulfillment of God’s pronounced curse from 2 Samuel 12:10–12. And here we see the beginning of it. He doesn’t confront Amnon. He doesn’t confront or appeal to the king. Instead, he nurses the hatred of bitterness and bides his time until he can act against both Amnon, and later the king himself.

O, dear believer, what a dreadful curse sin is! There is no worse chastening than to be given over to sin. Whether lust, or laziness, or bitter hatred, let us seek that the Lord by His grace would keep us from these. And deliver us from others who are being given over to it.

In which of these directions do your thoughts most often run?: intense longing desire for another who is not your spouse, avoidance of duties that belong to your station in life, or seething bitterness and enmity? How can you employ the means of grace as you depend upon the Lord to deliver you from these evils?

Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH540 “Soldiers of Christ, Arise”

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

The Christian Life Involves Hard Work, Intense Feeling, and Willing Sacrifice (2021.05.16 Evening Sermon in Philippians 2:25–30)

After telling them to have the mind of Christ in them, the apostle has commanded them to work out their own salvation, and then held out both himself and Timothy as examples. Now in the final example, Epaphroditus, he holds out to them a Christian life that is hard work in the face of both obstacles and opposition; intense emotion toward the Lord and His people; and, self-sacrifice that is more willing that self would suffer than that the name of Christ or the good of His church would suffer.

The Lord Demands Your Attention to His Word, Working, and Worship (2021.05.16 Morning Sermon in Joel 1:1–3)

There is a great day coming in which we will all be judged by Christ Jesus. That you might be prepared for that day, the Lord demands your attention to His Word, His working, and His worship. Give it to Him!

WCF 14.3.2 How Satan Attacks Faith, and How We Stand (2021.05.16 Sabbath School class)

Saving faith may be often and many ways assailed, and weakened, but gets the victory

2021.05.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Matthew 5:1–12

Read Matthew 5:1–12

Questions from the Scripture text: What did Jesus see (Matthew 5:1)? Where did He go? What did He do there? Who came to Him? What did He open (Matthew 5:2)? To speak what kind of speech? Who are blessed in Matthew 5:3? In what are they poor? What is theirs? Who are blessed in Matthew 5:4? What will be done to them? Who are blessed in Matthew 5:5? How? Who are blessed in Matthew 5:6? For what do they hunger? What else do they do for righteousness? What will be done for them? Who are blessed in Matthew 5:7? What will be done for them? Who will be blessed in Matthew 5:8? Why—what (Whom!) will they see? Who are blessed in Matthew 5:9? What will they be called, of Whom? What is happening to the ones in Matthew 5:10? For what are they being persecuted? Why are they blessed—what do they have? Who are blessed—pay attention to the pronouns—in Matthew 5:11? What three things will be done to them? What has to be true about the veracity of the denouncing, for this blessing to apply? For Whose sake must this be done to them? With what two commands does Matthew 5:12 begin? What do they have, in what measure, and where? Who else has received both this hardship and this blessing?

Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, Song of Adoration, and Prayer of Confession all come from Matthew 5:1–12, so that we will see that we are singing God’s thoughts after Him with The Beatitudes

It’s important to note that Jesus is moving away from the multitudes and isolating Himself with His disciples (Matthew 5:1). Multitudes generally prefer wealth, levity, pride, feasting, self-seeking, licentiousness, resentment, and ease (basically the opposite of each of Matthew 5:3a, Matthew 5:4a, Matthew 5:5a, Matthew 5:6a, Matthew 5:7a, Matthew 5:8a, Matthew 5:9a, Matthew 5:10a, Matthew 5:11). But believers have something better: Christ Himself and all that comes in Him. So Jesus pulls His disciples aside from the multitudes. He sets before them their blessedness in direct opposition to that of the world.

But notice how all of these are things that are ours in Christ. Every believer is someone who has realized that, without Christ, we have nothing but poverty (Matthew 5:3a). But with Christ, we have the entire kingdom in Him (verse 3b). 

If we mourn over our sin and misery and all ongoing effects of the fall, as those who hate everything that is against Christ (Matthew 5:4a), then we must surely be comforted in the completion of the working out of the effects of His victory (verse 4b).

If we do not advance our own reputation or our own interests but meekly know our place as unprofitable servants at best (Matthew 5:5a), we find that resting in Christ elevates us to the status of joint-heirs with Him (verse 5b)—even if, for a time, we suffer as we wait for the inheritance (cf. Romans 8:17).

If our hunger and thirst is for righteousness, we will be constantly hungry and thirsty (Matthew 5:6a)! Christ Himself will be satisfying, and we can praise God that He is completely satisfied with us in Him. But, He is not satisfied to leave us as we are, and we are not satisfied to remain as we are. Trying to live that way is a common mistake of our antinomian age.

However, here is a marvelous guarantee: we in whom the Spirit has created this hunger shall ultimately be filled. The work that He has begun in us WILL be completed (cf. Philippians 1:6). We WILL be conformed to Christ’s image (cf. Romans 8:29–30). And even as we purify ourselves as He is pure, we are doing this precisely because we have that assured hope that we will be like Him (cf. 1 John 3:2–3). 

There is a marvelous freedom that comes from being resting upon Christ. We are free to show mercy (Matthew 5:7a), to have a single-minded pursuit of God (Matthew 5:8a), and to release bitterness by forgiving (Matthew 5:9a). In particular, the singlemindedness toward God called “purity of heart” in Matthew 5:8 will find its mark. “Seeing God” is that ultimate glory, that beatific vision, that we will enjoy in the day that our hunger and thirst for righteousness are satisfied (cf. 1 John 3:2–3 again). We will be shown mercy (Matthew 5:8b), even the mercy of being adopted as children (Matthew 5:10b), but the greatest part of our blessing as children will be to see our Father (Matthew 5:9b).

So, Jesus has set before us the world-dwarfing blessedness that belongs to those who have Him. And now, we are brought back to “the world” who are the “they” in Matthew 5:11. The disciples can see over their shoulders the multitude down the mountain. This is no small group that is reviling and persecuting and falsely speaking all kinds of evil. 

But, if this is coming to them for the sake of Jesus, these attacks have the exact opposite of the world’s intent. For the attack themselves are reminders and verifications that they have Christ! So, the Lord commands us not only to be comforted, but a double and intensified command of celebration. Rejoice! Be glad! Indeed, be exceedingly glad! The prophets before them suffered much for the hope of Christ; now the disciples (and we!) have a clear view of Christ Himself. So, let them (and we!) rejoice exceedingly over Him!

What are some specific situations in which you are treasuring Christ instead of things or circumstances that an unbeliever would treasure? Who is attacking you for His sake, and verifying to you your identification with Him? How are you doing with the command to rejoice over this?

Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or TPH464 “The Beatitudes”

Monday, May 17, 2021

2021.05.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ Joel 1:1–3

Read Joel 1:1–3

Questions from the Scripture text: Whose Word is this (Joel 1:1)? To whom did it come? How is he identified? What is the primary command in Joel 1:2a? To whom is it first addressed? How is the command restated in verse 2b? To whom is it now addressed? What question does he now ask? What is the implied answer? What is the primary command of Joel 1:3a? To whom at first? And then to whom does verse 3b apply the command? And then whom in verse 3c? 

Hear! Listening, listen! That’s the command of Joel 1:2. The prophet wastes little time on himself. He’s the son of Pethuel, but we can’t nail down either one’s identity any nearer than a space of about 600 (!) years. We’re too prone to pay attention to other things as it is. It’s not Joel who is demanding our attention, but the Living God!

The Lord wants our attention to His Word, Joel 1:1. It’s the Word of Yahweh. Even if He hadn’t sent a locust plague, it would demand our submissive hearing. It would demand that we believe what it teaches. It would demand that we obey what it commands. 

Our thoughts are so full of other things as we go about our lives. But the Lord Himself has spoken! Ought our thoughts not be full of His words? We think relentlessly about what we desire. But the Lord Himself has spoken!  Ought we not relentlessly pursue what He desires? We are often consumed with many worries or anxieties. But the Lord Himself has spoken! Ought not failure to heed Him be the thing we most diligently avoid?

The Lord wants our attention to His work, Joel 1:2. In the context of Joel, the Lord has brought a locust plague on a scale that they had never seen before. But He is constantly working all things according to the counsel of His will (cf. Ephesians 1:11). And we know that He is working all things together for our good (cf. Romans 8:28) and giving us all things (cf. Romans 8:32), even as He does whatever is necessary for producing in us the requisite holiness for eternal happiness (cf. Hebrews 12:1–17).

Pay attention! Providence is personal. Calling us to thanksgiving (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:18). Calling us to repentance (cf. Luke 13:1–9). Calling us to serve (cf. Romans 12:1). Calling us to worship (cf. Psalm 104). Calling us to obey (cf. Psalm 119:96; 2 John, verse 6). Calling us to dependence (cf. John 15:5). Calling us to groaning (cf. Romans 8:22–26). And we could go on, but everything through which His providence brings us has an appropriate response to it in His Word.

The problem is that we are quite unresponsive! And so the Lord often does things in a more spectacular fashion to demand our attention. And, how grievous it is then, if we still don’t pay attention.

The Lord wants our attention to His worship, Joel 1:3. One of the reasons that the Lord is bringing the entire nation to its knees in mourning is that they have not properly lamented over the public worship of God (Joel 1:13). And He is going to call these same “elders and all inhabitants” (Joel 1:2) to “a holy assembly in the house of Yahweh” (Joel 1:14). 

It is in such an assembly that everyone, from the eldest down to the nursing babies, is called to gather (cf. Joel 2:16). While this four-generation repetition of God’s Word and God’s works from Joel 1:3 surely takes place in family conversation and family worship, the holy assembly is the preeminent place where it happens. Neglect of the public worship, or an approach to public worship that neglects this multi-generational dynamic, is to be grossly negligent with the care of God’s holy seed (cf. Malachi 2:15)—a negligence that the coming great and dreadful day of the Lord was to remedy (cf. Malachi 4:5–6).

The Lord has spoken—and has climactically spoken in Christ. The Lord is continually acting—and has climactically acted, in Christ. The Lord has created and redeemed us for worship—a creation in Christ, and a redemption in Christ, unto a sacred assembly led by Christ!

How are you paying attention to God’s Word? How are you developing the habit of continually responding to Providence as the Lord’s personal work? How are you prioritizing the Lord’s holy assembly, and especially the multi-generational instruction and reminding in that assembly?

Suggested songs: ARP119W “Lord, Let My Cry before You Come” or TPH550 “Let Children Hear the Mighty Deeds”