Each week we LIVESTREAM the Lord's Day Sabbath School at 10a, Lord's Day morning public worship at 11a, and Lord's Day p.m. singing (3p) and sermon (3:45), and the Midweek Sermon and Prayer Meeting at 6:30p on Wednesday

Friday, September 30, 2022

Yahweh Teaches Israel—and Us!—to Walk with Jesus [Family Worship lesson in Exodus 23:20–33]

What will the covenant relationship between Yahweh and this new church-nation be like? Exodus 23:20–33 looks forward to the evening sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these fourteen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that God Himself will lead them, God Himself well bless them, and God Himself will establish them.
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Shutting Our Mouths to Drive Us to Christ Alone: the Law's Role in Our Justification [2022.09.28 Midweek sermon in Romans 3:19–20]


The law's role in our justification is to close our mouths, judge us before God, and convince us of sin.

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2022.09.30 Hopewell @Home ▫ Exodus 23:20–33

Read Exodus 23:20–33

Questions from the Scripture text: Whom would God send where (Exodus 23:20)? To do what two things? What two things were they to do with Him (Exodus 23:21)? What were they not to do? Why, what wouldn’t He do? What would be in Him? In what things were they to obey His voice (Exodus 23:22)? If Israel did, what would God do to whom? What six enemies does He specifically mention doing this to in Exodus 23:23? What will He do (end of verse 23)? What three things mustn’t Israel do like them (Exodus 23:24)? What two things must they do to them? What must they do to Yahweh (Exodus 23:25)? Who is Yahweh to them? What five things will He do for them as their God (Exodus 23:25-26)? What else will God send before them (Exodus 23:27)? What two things will this do to their enemies? What else will He send (Exodus 23:28)? What three peoples does He say they will drive out? How long will this take, and why (Exodus 23:29-30)? Where will their borders be (Exodus 23:31)? What aren’t they do with whom (Exodus 23:32)? What aren’t they to let them do (Exodus 23:33)? Why not? If they are permitted to remain, what will the result be?

What will the covenant relationship between Yahweh and this new church-nation be like? Exodus 23:20–33 looks forward to the evening sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these fourteen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that God Himself will lead them, God Himself will bless them, and God Himself will establish them.

God Himself will lead themExodus 23:20-24. The Angel that goes before them is not something new. We have already read about Yahweh going before them in Exodus 13:21, specifically as this Angel in Exodus 14:19, as Whom Yahweh first appeared as flame in Exodus 3:2. On this side of the incarnation, it is much easier for us to understand that this Angel (Messenger/Herald) is a Christophany, a theophany of the second person of the Trinity. 

But even here, we see that He has all authority and power, and even the identity of God Himself in Him (Exodus 23:21). This of course is bad news for their enemies, but if they do not obey Him it will be equally bad news for them. Our God is still a consuming fire, and it is not safe to rebel against Him or take Him lightly.

God Himself will bless themExodus 23:25-26. In their covenant with Yahweh, the Creator and Sustainer of all things, every detail of life will come not as chance but as covenant blessing. Every detail will be personal, covenantal benefit. Bread. Water. Health. Fertility. Length of life. These will be tokens of His favor. Similarly for believers, every little blessing in life comes in the love that gave us Christ and is to be received that way (cf. Romans 8:32). Every good gift and every perfect gift comes from a Father Whose light smiles upon us with unrelenting intensity (cf. James 1:17).

God Himself will establish themExodus 23:27-32. God is in complete control here. Although they are expected to express their fidelity by destroying and shattering all vestiges of the religions of the people of the land (Exodus 23:24), the Lord Himself will do much of the dispossessing of the land. He is sovereign over men’s hearts (Exodus 23:27) and many hornets (Exodus 23:28)—even to the point of controlling the pace at which they are driven out (Exodus 23:29-30). 

The fidelity to Yahweh commanded in the shattering of all idol paraphernalia in Exodus 23:24 is paralleled by the duty to drive them out completely in Exodus 23:31-33. The difficulty will be willingness, not ability; Yahweh says, “I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand.” As God establishes their strength, they are to guard against their own tendency to unfaithfulness. This remains true for God’s people today. As He works in us to will and to work according to His good pleasure, we are to be working out our own salvation with fear and trembling (cf. Philippians 2:12–13).

How are you taking confidence and comfort from being led by God? How are you navigating the risks and dangers of negligence or resistance to His direction? How are you recognizing and responding to every blessing in life as a covenant blessing from Him? What are you doing to cut out of your life influences that tempt your heart to dependence upon, devotion to, or delight in something apart from the Lord?

Sample prayer: Lord, You are our Shepherd. You have laid down Your life for us, and You lead us through our lives. Grant to us to walk by faith in You, believing all that You say, obeying all that You command, and taking all of our delight in You. Guard us from all that would hinder this we ask through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH78 “O My People, Hear My Teaching” 

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Three Great Motivations for Every Christian to the Ministry of Prayer [Family Worship lesson in 1Timothy 2:3–7]

What are we participating in when we pray? 1Timothy 2:3–7 looks forward to the second serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these five verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that when we pray, we join a work in which God Himself has become Mediator and ransom for men, and appointed preachers teach us what to believe in and believe.
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this lesson)

2022.09.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Timothy 2:3–7

Read 1 Timothy 2:3–7

Questions from the Scripture text: What two things does 1 Timothy 2:3 say about this praying for all men? In whose sight is it good and acceptable? Who is God to us? Whom does He desire to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4)? How does this salvation happen? How many other gods are there (1 Timothy 2:5)? How many other saviors? What role, between God and men, did God Himself have take in order to save us? What did He have to become? Who is the Man that He became? What did He do as a man (1 Timothy 2:6)? What is done about this ransom, when? Who was appointed to do it (1 Timothy 2:7)? By what action? In what role/office? What other truth does he proclaim as an apostle of Christ? Whom, especially, is he sent to teach? In what two “subjects” is he their teacher?

What are we participating in when we pray? 1 Timothy 2:3–7 looks forward to the second serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these five verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that when we pray, we join a work in which God Himself has become Mediator and ransom for men, and appointed preachers teach us what to believe in and believe.

Our praying for all men (1 Timothy 2:1) and aiming at a godly life (1 Timothy 2:2) is a blessed endeavor for several reasons.

It pleases God1 Timothy 2:3. It is good and acceptable in the sight of God. For the believer, that’s all the rationale and incentive that we need for doing something.

It participates in the saving work of God1 Timothy 2:3-6a. Now, we must not get the idea that there is any saving merit or power in our praying. The participation of prayer is a privilege from God, not a help to Him. God is our Savior (1 Timothy 2:3b). He alone is God (1 Timothy 2:4), for which He had to become Mediator. 

The astonishing thing is what was necessary for Him to be Mediator. First, He had to bridge the gap between God and men. This must obviously be done from God’s side; man could not bridge that gap. So, God became a Man: the Man Christ Jesus. Second, a ransom as big as the glory of God had to be paid. So not only did Jesus have to become a man, He Himself had to be offered up as a ransom. 

And the God Who has become this and done this to save us… He welcomes us into His working by calling us and commanding us to prayer?! What an unfathomable privilege this praying is!

It is the particular ministry calling of all Christians1 Timothy 2:6-7. God had a planned time for the incarnation. God had a planned time for the paying of the ransom. And God had a planned time for the testifying of the Mediator and His ransom (end of 1 Timothy 2:6). The preaching through which the gospel is applied is something whose every detail is planned and appointed by God. Christ appointed Paul to be a preacher (1 Timothy 2:7). 

Today, men like Timothy are appointed preachers by Christ in the office of elder, but Paul was appointed preacher in the office of apostle. In fact, as he says in 1 Timothy 2:7, even his words about his appointment are truth that are spoken in Christ. Part of the preaching of the gospel is the preaching that it is Christ Himself Who superintends gospel proclamation. Specifically, Paul has been assigned to the Gentiles as their teacher of things pertaining to faith and truth.

We see what an encouragement this is to organize and order the church the way that we read it in this letter. These aren’t suggestions; they’re commands. And they are commands that carry the honor and dignity of privileged participation in the saving plan of God. If in the role of an “ordinary” believer, we are called to participate by prayer, then we should do it with all the relish with which Paul fulfilled his calling as apostle and Timothy and others were expected to fulfill their calling as elders.

What roles do you have in the church? In your home? What are some spiritual tasks that you are called to in this role? What effort should you put forth in this role? With what emotions/affections?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for being our Savior. Thank You for being the Mediator that You alone could be. Thank You for reconciling us through Your incarnation and Your sacrifice on the cross. Forgive us because our appreciation for Christ and His cross is weak. Thank You for giving us the privilege of participating in Your saving plan, even by our prayers for all men. Forgive us for not taking this privilege seriously or carrying it out with diligence and joy. Grow us, we pray, by the grace of our Mediator, Jesus Christ, AMEN!

 Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH520 “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Grace that Works Impartially, Invisibly, Spiritually, and Abundantly [Family Worship lesson in 2Kings 4:1–7]

For whom does God exercise His mighty power? 2Kings 4:1–7 looks forward to the first serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these seven verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the great God is pleased to exercise His almighty power for “the least of these.”
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2022.09.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Kings 4:1–7

Read 2 Kings 4:1–7

Questions from the Scripture text: Who cries out to Elisha in 2 Kings 4:1? What does she call her late husband? What does she say Elisha knows about him? But now who was coming? And what was he going to take? What two things does Elisha ask her (2 Kings 4:2)? What does she have in the house? What does he tell her to borrow (2 Kings 4:3)? From where? From whom? What kind of vessels? What does he warn her not to do? What does he tell her to do when she gets back (2 Kings 4:4)? And what will she do with all those vessels? What does 2 Kings 4:5 summarize? What happens in 2 Kings 4:6? What does she say to her son? How does he answer? What happens to the oil at that time? Now what does she do in 2 Kings 4:7? What does he tell her to do with the oil? With the first part of the money? With the rest of it? 

For whom does God exercise His mighty power? 2 Kings 4:1–7 looks forward to the first serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these seven verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the great God is pleased to exercise His almighty power for “the least of these.” 

Elisha had asked for a double portion of the spirit of Elijah (cf. 2 Kings 2:9), and the Scriptures record twice as many signs/miracles from Elisha as from Elijah. With this passage begins an extended section recounting those miracles. With whom do the signs begin?

Grace for the Nameless. That’s part of the point. We don’t get the name of the husband. The widow is left helpless; she’s poor enough that the only thing that can pay her debts is the enslavement of her sons. She’s about to be bereft of all three of them at one fell swoop. Do you see, dear reader, the care of the grace and power of God for this bankrupt widow of a nameless man? It is she with whom the Lord chooses to begin this string of the signs and miracles of the prophet.

Grace for the Invisible. Sometimes people like this woman seem, or perhaps even feel, invisible. We live in an age in which this is thought to be an injustice. But the Lord often works invisibly among the invisible. There’s a fore-echo here in 2 Kings 4:4 of Matthew 6:6. Our Father sees in secret. He works in secret. He rewards in secret. His glory is displayed in all the creation and especially in the gospel of Jesus Christ. He does not perform charity for the PR, however much we may be tempted to.  There is a special deliciousness in this woman, behind closed doors with her sons, getting to participate by having collected jars and now pouring the oil, and finding each new jar as a private, personal miracle from the Lord. The text doesn’t mention the vessel-collecting. 2 Kings 4:5 takes us straight from the prophet to the closed door.

Grace for the Soul as well as for the circumstances. We could easily miss the happy simplicity of the transition from 2 Kings 4:4 to 2 Kings 4:5. Not only does the brevity emphasize the closed door as we saw above, but it rests upon a wonderful assumption. Whatever Elisha said to her, she did (cf. John 2:5). He still hadn’t given her the instruction in 2 Kings 4:7. But she didn’t need to know how things would work in order to obey. She simply didn’t doubt God’s goodness. Truly, this is the conduct of a wife whose husband had feared Yahweh, and whose leadership had been blessed to her and the increase of her faith. She looked for help to the Word of God. She didn’t doubt. She obeyed as she was instructed. All of this adds up to a much greater gift from the Lord than the financial means that would get her through to her sons’ majority.

Grace beyond what we ask. In the end, the Lord gives her so much that not only is she able to pay off the debt, but she has enough to live. He commands her not just to “sell” and to “pay” in 2 Kings 4:7 but finally to “live.” He Who has given us Christ will give us all things together with Him (cf. Romans 8:32). There isn’t a single good or perfect thing that He ever withholds from His children (cf. James 1:17). He supplies our needs not according to our understanding but according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus (cf. Philippians 4:19). 

For whom does God exercise almighty power? What are His best gifts to you? What else does He give?

Sample prayer: Lord, thank You for caring for the least of Your people and delighting in mercy. Forgive us for when we doubt that You are caring for us, or for doing our own charity to be seen by men. Make us confident in Your great generosity toward us and abundantly grateful for it. And, make us to reflect Your generosity toward others we ask, in the Name of Your indescribable gift, our Lord Jesus Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP109D “I Am Very Poor and Needy” or TPH551 “We Plow the Fields”

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Sinai's Sabbaths in Relation to the Sabbath: a shadow of the Lord's Day to Come [2022.09.25 Evening Sermon in Exodus 23:10–19]


God's perpetual and moral Sabbath finds special expression in each administration of His church on earth.

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Theology Simply Explained — WSC54 What the Third Commandment Requires

Pastor walks his children through Westminster Shorter Catechism question 54: What is required in the third commandment? The third commandment requireth the holy and reverent use of God's names, titles, attributes, ordinances, word and works. [n.b. a little longer this time, due to more time spent on application]
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Praising and Trusting Jesus, the Saving God and King of Israelites—and Egyptians and Ethiopians! [Family Worship lesson in Psalm 68:19–35]

Who must and will bless the Lord for what? Psalm 68:19–35 looks forward to the opening portion of morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these seventeen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that through Israel, God blesses, saves, gathers, and strengthens beloved servants from Israel and all the nations.
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this lesson)

Symptoms of Life (or Death!) in How We Hear and Respond to True Gospel Preaching [2022.09.25 Morning Sermon in Acts 13:42–48]


When God gives a living, saving response to gospel preaching, hearers want more of it, rejoice over it, glorify it, and believe in the Christ Who addresses them in the preaching.

(click here to DOWNLOAD video/mp3/pdf files of this sermon)

Earthly Nurture's Connection to the Core of the Covenant of Grace [2022.09.25 Sabbath School lesson in the Biblical Theology of the Diaconate series]

Faith in the Lord for provision and contentment with what He gives were centrally connected both to our sin in the Fall and Christ's obedience in our place. In connection with the Seed promise and the curse on the woman, special care of those with child and their children, has become emblematic of believers in the covenant of grace.
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2022.09.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 68:19–35

Read Psalm 68:19–35

Questions from the Scripture text: Whom does  Psalm 68:19a bless? What has He done (verse 19b)? Who is He to us (verse 19c)? Who is He more generally (Psalm 68:20a)? What are His in verse 20b? What will He do to whom in Psalm 68:21a? How does verse 21b make this more vivid? Upon what heights may these enemies be found (Psalm 68:22a, cf. Psalm 68:15–16)? In what depths (verse 22b)? What will the Lord do to them? Why (Psalm 68:23)? To where does the scene change in Psalm 68:24? What is seen there? Who are in this procession (Psalm 68:25)? What is done in these assemblies (Psalm 68:26)? Who, specifically, are named in this assembly in Psalm 68:27? Who has commanded what for them (Psalm 68:28a)? What do they ask Him to strengthen (verse 28b)? Whom do they want Him to subdue (Psalm 68:29-30)? Until what (Psalm 68:30c)? By doing what (verse 30d)? Who, specifically, are named in this recovery (Psalm 68:31)? Then who will do what (Psalm 68:32)? Unto Whom? What does Psalm 68:33a call Him? How does He make all this happen (verse 33b)? What must His congregation do (Psalm 68:34)? How do they voice this praise in Psalm 68:35a—what is He more awesome than? What does He give to whom (verse 35b)? How does verse 35c summarize the entire Psalm?

Who must and will bless the Lord for what? Psalm 68:19–35 looks forward to the opening portion of morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these seventeen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that through Israel, God blesses, saves, gathers, and strengthens beloved servants from Israel and all the nations. 

Blessed be God! (Psalm 68:19a, Psalm 68:35c). The second half of this Psalm declares its theme at its two bookends. Of course, God is blessed in Himself. The question is how does He display and honor that blessedness in His creation. The answer is by blessing and saving a people (Psalm 68:19b,c). It must be He that saves is His people’s salvation (verse 19c), because to Him alone belongs all salvation (Psalm 68:20). 

Accursed be His enemies (Psalm 68:21-23). Though His enemies be as high as Bashan (Psalm 68:22a, cf. Psalm 68:15–16), or as low as the depths of the sea (Psalm 68:22b), the Lord will find them and defeat them not only for Himself (Psalm 68:21) but for His people (Psalm 68:23). 

But blessed be His people, Israel (Psalm 68:24-27). Their blessedness is to know and praise Him. In front and behind are the priests, leading the priestly music (Psalm 68:25a), and even their maidens in the middle are participating with their hands (Psalm 68:25b). His people, from the greatest (as represented in Benjamin and Judah, Psalm 68:27a–b) to the least (as represented in Zebulun and Naphtali, verse 27c) are a royal procession.

And blessed be His people: Egypt, Ethiopia, etc. (Psalm 68:28-32). If we were a little surprised to see Zebulun and Naphtali named, then we should be fully amazed by Psalm 68:31. God scatters the wicked (Psalm 68:30d), but among those kingdoms of the earth whom He gathers in Jerusalem to praise Him are even Egypt (Psalm 68:31a) and Ethiopia (verse 31b)! Truly, in the gatherings of the church in Christ to sing His praise, we find the climax of the blessing of God’s Name in this world (Psalm 68:32, cf. Psalm 22:22; Hebrews 2:12). Unto this end, the enthroned One (Psalm 68:18, cf. Ephesians 4:8) is building His church up into Himself (cf. Ephesians 4:9–16).

In God Himself is all their blessedness, indeed all blessedness altogether (Psalm 68:33-35). The Psalm concludes by dwarfing the entire creation as that which is beneath Him (Psalm 68:33), and the church which exists for the same purpose of praise (Psalm 68:34). His holy places are not impressive in themselves; rather, He is their impressiveness (Psalm 68:35a). His people are not strong in themselves; rather He is their strength (verse 35b). True blessing is to know Him and praise Him as the One in Whom all true blessedness resides.

What happens to God’s enemies? What happens to ones who become His people? Why?

Sample prayer:  Blessed are You, O Lord, Who daily load us with benefits! You are the God of our salvation, and You have saved us from death and gathered us to Yourself, so that we may be blessed in blessing Your Name. Now, by Your own grace, we come to offer ourselves as spiritual sacrifice, to sing Your praise as the One to Whom all blessedness belongs. Display Your excellence over us, and strengthen us even for this, Your worship, we ask in Jesus’s Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP68E “Sing Out Your Praises” or TPH68B “O Lord, Thou Hast Ascended”

Monday, September 26, 2022

2022.09.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 3:19–20

Read Romans 3:19–20

Questions from the Scripture text: Who “knows” (Romans 3:19)? What is speaking? To whom is it speaking? What happens to their mouths? How many of whom become what? Before Whom? What deeds cannot do what (Romans 3:20)? In Whose sight? 

What is the role of the law in justification? Romans 3:19–20 looks forward to the sermon in the midweek prayer meeting. In these two verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the law’s role in our justification is to close our mouths, judge us before God, and convince us of sin.

The law cannot justify us (cannot give us a righteous standing before God). The apostle is going to come preach the gospel, because it is Christ alone Who can justify (cf. Romans 1:16–17; Acts 13:39). What is the law’s role in justification? It cuts off all other hopes so that we will hope only in Christ.

The law closes all mouths. Who are those who are under the law? The question is resolved by the effect at the end of Romans 3:19. The whole world (“cosmos”!) is liable to God’s judgment. So, “those who are under the law” means all creatures. The Creator is the Law-giver, so all creatures are “under the law.” When He makes this law to be written, He reminds us of this. The Jews’ misuse of the law (cf. Romans 2:17–24) reminds us that none of us are in a position to open our mouths. We are not God. We will not be permitted to make a case in His court or to counsel or question His verdict. We are under the law. Everyone is under the law. It shuts our mouths. We don’t get to say anything before God.

The law places us under God’s judgment. As we have said the whole cosmos is accountable before God. The word translated “guilty” is more literally “under the verdict of.” For sinful humanity, this does indeed mean that we are all guilty. We sinned in Adam, were condemned in him, and died in him (cf. Acts 5:12–19). All creatures are liable to God’s judgment, and sinful creatures are condemned by it.

The law convinces us of sin. God already knows that we are under His law. God already knows that we are condemned sinners. We all also know it (cf. Romans 1:32), but push down on that knowledge (cf. Romans 1:18), and even deny it (cf. Romans 2:15). So, the written law is a mercy to us, if we use it the right way. One wrong way to use the law is to think that it was written so that we can do works that will give us a right standing with God. We are mere flesh; we will not do well enough to be justified in the sight of God. But one right way to use the law is to know from it that we are sinners. By the law is the knowledge of sin. The way that this helps us be justified is by cutting off all other hope for justification but Jesus Christ.

How can you tell your mouth has been shut? What will you say at the judgment? What is your hope?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for Your law that tells us the truth about our condition. Grant that we would hope only in Christ, Who has perfectly kept the law in our place, in Whose Name we ask it, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH435 “Not What My Hands Have Done”

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Appointed to Live Forever by Way of a Believing Response to the Preaching of the Gospel [Family Worship lesson in Acts 13:42–48]

What are the possible responses to the preaching of the gospel, and who is responsible for them? Acts 13:42–48 looks forward to the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these seven verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that even the very best gospel preaching may be rejected by those who are given over to judge themselves unworthy of salvation, but the Lord has appointed others to eternal life, and these will believe.
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this lesson)

2022.09.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 13:42–48

Read Acts 13:42–48

Questions from the Scripture text: Who were going where (Acts 13:42)? But who else did what on their way out? What did they want? But when everyone was out, who did what to whom (Acts 13:43)? And what did Paul and Barnabas do to them? In what did they persuade them to continue? When does Acts 13:44 take place? Who come? To do what? Who saw what in Acts 13:45? With what were they filled? What two things did they start doing? Why were they doing this? What happened to Paul and Barnabas in Acts 13:46? In this boldness, what did Paul and Barnabas say was necessary? But what have the Jews done to the Word? And what frightful thing have they done to themselves? So, what are Paul and Barnabas doing now? Who had commanded this (Acts 13:47)? Who was the light and salvation of Isaiah 49:6? How is He now to be shown and proclaimed? Who heard this in Acts 13:48? How did they feel? What did they do to the Word of the Lord? Which ones believed?

What are the possible responses to the preaching of the gospel, and who is responsible for them? Acts 13:42–48 looks forward to the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these seven verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that even the very best gospel preaching may be rejected by those who are given over to judge themselves unworthy of salvation, but the Lord has appointed others to eternal life, and these will believe. 

An alive response to gospel preaching desires more of itActs 13:42-43. The scene in verse 42 has some familiar aspects. The service is over, the people file out. One difference, however, is that the Jews all leave first. As we’ve been seeing since chapter 10, they refused to fellowship with Gentiles, even God-fearers. So Paul and Barnabas are left inside, and we see the effect that their preaching has had on the Gentiles. They “begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath” (verse 42). Finally, the Gentiles get outside, and there are “many Jews and God-fearing proselytes” who refuse to leave. They follow their guest preachers, who persuade them to continue in the grace of God. The spiritually alive respond to gospel preaching by desiring more of it!

A dead response to gospel preaching responds from the fleshActs 13:44-46. The unbelieving Jews had apparently been polite enough on their way out in Acts 13:42. But things change even before the service on the next Sabbath. Rather than rejoicing at the greatest attendance ever at their synagogue, the Jews are filled with envy when they see the multitudes (Acts 13:45) of nearly the whole city eager to hear the Word of God (Acts 13:44). And because they are responding in a fleshly way, they think little of blaspheming Christ.

Paul had warned them at the end of the former sermon (cf. Acts 13:40-41) that the Lord had prophesied about those who respond with unbelief even to the proclamation of God’s good and glorious work. Now they fulfill that prophesy by rejecting the word of God. Though under the sovereignty of God, it is a dreadful thing when men reject the truth of the gospel! Yet, they cannot blame God. “You judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life” (Acts 13:46).

The three aspects of a saving responseActs 13:47-48. Though our translation uses different words, in the original the thing that the Jews judged themselves unworthy of in Acts 13:46 is what many were appointed to in Acts 13:48. So, what does the response to gospel preaching look like, when God has appointed someone to eternal life? Gladness, praise, and faith. “They were glad” the Gentiles rejoiced to hear that God’s plan was to proclaim Christ to them as light and salvation. They “glorified the Word of the Lord”; not only was Christ praise-worthy to them, the preaching was received as from Him, and they glorified it as His. “As many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” It’s not a saving response just to enjoy the Word and praise it as Christ’s. Salvation comes through faith in Christ; it is faith that receives Him and all that is in Him for us. And it is God’s appointment that gives this faith, in order to give eternal life.

How do you feel when you hear the gospel preached? How do you respond to the preaching itself? How do you respond to the Christ Whom you hear preached? Who determined that you would?

Sample prayer:  Lord, save us from responding to gospel preaching in a fleshly way. When we are irritated by earthly things in connection with it, we could be judging ourselves unworthy of eternal life. Grant, instead, that we would be eager for more preaching, rejoice to have heard the preaching, praise it as coming from the Lord Jesus Himself, and put all of our hope in Him, for we ask it in His Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP2 “Why Do Gentile Nations Rage?” or TPH425 “How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place” 

Friday, September 23, 2022

The Sabbath, Sabbaths, and God's Consecrated People: Precursors to the Lord's Day [Family Worship lesson in Exodus 23:10–19]

How does God’s society reflect that He is the Sabbath-giving God? Exodus 23:10–19 looks forward to the evening sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these ten verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the society of the Sabbath-giving God responds to Him by devoting the whole of life to enjoying Him and by reflecting His generosity to others.
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2022.09.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ Exodus 23:10–19

Read Exodus 23:10–19

Questions from the Scripture text: How long shall they do what two things (Exodus 23:10)? What are they to do in which year, in Exodus 23:11? For the feeding of what two entities? With what other agriculture are they to follow this pattern? How long are they to do what in Exodus 23:12? And then what are they to do? For what benefits two which four entities? To what speech does Exodus 23:13 now refer? What does God command, regarding all of this instruction? What two things should this carefulness keep them from doing? How often are they to do what unto Whom (Exodus 23:14)? Which feast does He mention first (Exodus 23:15)? What are they to do when? Why? What mustn’t they do? What feast does He mention second (Exodus 23:16a)? When (and with what) are they to assemble for this feast?  What feast does He mention third (verse 16b)? When does this occur? with what? What frequency is repeated in Exodus 23:17? Who, specifically is commanded to appear? Before Whom? What two caveats apply to the sacrifice in Exodus 23:18? What feast/offering does Exodus 23:19 repeat (cf. Exodus 23:16)? What additional prohibition concludes Exodus 23:19?

How does God’s society reflect that He is the Sabbath-giving God? Exodus 23:10–19 looks forward to the evening sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these ten verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the society of the Sabbath-giving God responds to Him by devoting the whole of life to enjoying Him and by reflecting His generosity to others. 

The Sabbath, the Lord’s Day of Christ, and the sabbaths of Moses. The Sabbath has been holy and blessed ever since it was created (cf. Genesis 2:3; Exodus 20:11). From the early hours of man’s existence, it was a reminder that although we are given the world to enjoy, it is the Lord Himself Who is our joy—even in the world; and, although we are given the world in which to work, it is the Lord Himself Who is the object of our work—even in the world. So, it is consecrated unto the Lord, and it is blessed by the Lord and in the Lord.

Now that the Lord has redeemed for Himself a people, the perpetual and moral use of the Sabbath among all of humanity receives special expression in the church/nation that the Lord has constituted for Himself at Sinai. This section concludes what is often called “The Book of the Covenant” that began in Exodus 20:22, and has at its bookends the reminder that the Lord has specially identified Himself with them, and they must exclusively identify themselves with Him (v13, cf. Exodus 20:23). 

With the nature of the Sabbath as that which is hallowed unto the Lord and blessed by the Lord and in the Lord, it is not surprising that the fourth commandment is mentioned more often in Scripture than any of the other nine. Even the remaining Sabbath-keeping (sabbatismon, Hebrews 4:9) is the primary way by which the Lord preserves us until we have finished out work in this world and entered His rest (katapausis, Hebrews 4:10). It is the high and holy day of the church under Christ as a Son instead of under Moses as a servant (cf. Hebrews 3:1–4:16). 

Here however, at the end of the Book of the Covenant, the Lord has not yet come in the flesh and is not sitting as a Human Mediator upon the throne of heaven. Not yet is the nation and church of Christ, gathered in their “katapausis,” being joined weekly by assemblies on earth, gathered in their “sabbatismons” (cf. Hebrews 12:18–29).

In Exodus 23, the church is still under Moses, still in the time of shadow. This church doesn’t have just one high, holy, heavenly day, the Lord’s Day. It has various multi-annual, weekly, and annual expressions as summarized in this passage (and expanded upon in Leviticus 23, 25). These are the sabbaths (note the plural in Colossians 2:17–20) that have found their substance in Christ the Lord, as He Himself leads us now in celebrating only His day.

Sabbath yearsExodus 23:10-11. One application of belonging to the generous Lord is that Israel must recognize that the Lord gives them enough in six years to cover seven. He is still the God of Joseph, and the God of Adam, the God of great abundance. So, they are to appreciate this abundance by letting the ground lie fallow every seventh year (Exodus 23:10-11a). As recipients of His generosity, they were also to mirror His generosity toward others—not only toward the poor of their people (Exodus 23:11b), but even toward the beasts of the field (verse 11c)! He would show them this generosity, and they were to mirror this generosity, even with the grapevine and the olive tree (verse 11d)

The Lord still tells us to do this. Although the ceremonial requirement for letting fields lie fallow has expired with the Levitical priesthood (cf. Hebrews 7:12), the Lord still expects us to live by the principle that the abundance of His giving to us should be reflected in abundant generosity toward man and service to God (cf. 2 Corinthians 9:6–15). 

The benefits of belonging to a weekly-Sabbath-keeping peopleExodus 23:12. Even Israel’s observance of the universal holy day for humanity had an unique aspect of mercy to it. Oxen and donkeys among the rest of the children of Adam did not enjoy the rest that they should have. Better to be an ox, donkey, lowly servant, or foreigner in Israel than in any other nation, for among this nation, one would actually receive and enjoy the prescribed rest. 

Still today, the lowliest ones in a thoroughly Christian culture should obtain the benefits of belonging to a people who set all else aside but worship on the Lord’s Day. A people who find merciful attendance to others necessities an especial way of facilitating others’ worship as well as their own. A people whose beasts of burden (if they have them) even enjoy a day of rest.

Sabbath seasonsExodus 23:14-17. The church under Christ now observes “the most wonderful time of the year” fifty-two times a year. But in the shadow-age under Moses, that number was reduced by a factor of almost 18. The Lord says that these three feasts are “to Me” in Exodus 23:14, and that it is “before the Lord Yahweh” that all of their males must appear three times a year (Exodus 23:17). They did not yet have the logistical advantage of having a Mediator enthroned in glory, through Whom they could “appear before Yahweh” every week in their local assembly.

Here, the feasts are called Unleavened Bread (Exodus 23:15, i.e., Passover), Harvest (Exodus 23:16a, i.e., Weeks/Pentecost), and Ingathering (verse 16b, i.e., Tabernacles/Booths). 

Years/Days/Seasons of Holiness unto the LordExodus 23:13Exodus 23:18-19. The point of all of these variations upon the Sabbath theme is the exclusivity and devotion of their corporate relationship with the Lord. In a word, “holiness.” 

Therefore, they are not even to name other gods (Exodus 23:13, cf. Exodus 20:23). Those particular stipulations in Exodus 23:18 that had belonged thus far only to the Passover are now applied to the other feasts, reminding them that they are a blood-atoned, blood-bought people. And practices belonging to the worship of other gods, such as that at the end of Exodus 23:19, were not to take place among them. 

Thus concludes the “Book of the Covenant” in which the Lord gives them some preliminary case law to drive home that this nation-church that He has just constituted will be one in which His character is reflected in all of life. Though not by these specific statutes, how much more ought Christ’s people seek to be holy, for whose sake He consecrated Himself (cf. John 17:19)!

Who is over the church now? Where is He? What holy day has He given us, until we get there, and to connect us to there in the meantime? What has been His greatest generosity toward you? What other generosity has He shown toward you? How should you respond to this generosity on His day? How should you mirror this generosity toward others? And how, especially, on His day? How should His identifying Himself with us motivate our view of holiness and pursuit of holiness?

Sample prayer: Lord, we bless Your Name for taking us to be Your very own people—for constituting us a royal priesthood and a holy nation. Be exalted among those who have finished their works in this world and entered Your rest! And help us, on Your weekly holy day, to consecrate it unto You in worship, and to reflect Your generosity in doing what we can to enable others to come and enjoy Your worship too. Thus, preserve us in  our time of wandering, that we might not wander in our hearts, but safely enter Immanuel’s land. By our weekly gathering unto heavenly Zion, preserve us for our unshakeable inheritance, we ask in Your own Name, Lord Jesus, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP118D “Now Open Wide” or TPH151 “Lord of the Sabbath”, TPH152 “Safely Through Another Week”

Thursday, September 22, 2022

The Priority of Prayer in Producing Godliness [Family Worship lesson in 2Timothy 2:1–3]

Having driven home the importance of Timothy’s reformational work in Ephesus, what is the first part of that work that the apostle urges? 1Timothy 2:1–3 looks forward to the second serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these seven verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that corporate prayer is the first part of participation in the work of God in our and others’ lives.
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We Are No Better Than They: Christ Our Only Righteousness [2022.09.21 Midweek sermon in Romans 3:9–18]


Humility is essential to the Christian mindset, because it recognizes that no good can come from us except that which is from Christ.

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2022.09.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Timothy 2:1–3

Read 1 Timothy 2:1–3

Questions from the Scripture text: What four types of prayer does the apostle urge in 1 Timothy 2:1? For which men? And for which ones, more specifically, in 1 Timothy 2:2? For the sake of whose life? And what four aspects of our life? What is the great virtue of such a four-fold life (1 Timothy 2:3)?  

Having driven home the importance of Timothy’s reformational work in Ephesus, what is the first part of that work that the apostle urges? 1 Timothy 2:1–3 looks forward to the second serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that corporate prayer is the first part of participation in the work of God in our and others’ lives.

Prayer first. This brief portion begins with a “therefore,” reminding us that the apostle has just been talking about preserving Timothy’s faith, and the other believers’ faith, from shipwreck. Now, he moves on to specific directions for what Timothy is to do, as he looks to Christ to bring reformation by His Spirit. 

And that first, specific direction is prayer. Before restoration of proper teaching or overseeing (1 Timothy 2:11–3:13), before reformation of doctrine (1 Timothy 3:14–4:16), before reformation of the dynamics of church life (1 Timothy 5:1–6:2) and personal life (1 Timothy 6:3–19), the apostle first addresses prayer (1 Timothy 2:1–10).

If we know our Bibles, this is not very surprising. All battling by the armor of God (cf. Ephesians 6:10–17) is pursued and maintained by prayer (cf. Ephesians 6:18). As the apostles ordained deacons in order to maintain their own ministry, the first part of that ministry was prayer (cf. Acts 6:4), even before the ministry of the Word.

Four types of prayer. Scripture gives us instructive examples of many different types of prayer. What a great variety there is, just in the Psalter! Here, the apostle commands four types, and the list is almost certainly representative rather than exhaustive: “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks” (1 Timothy 2:1). “Supplications” refers to requests or petitions for things that are needed. “Prayer,” just as it sounds, translates a more general word for talking to God. The word translated “intercessions” appears only here and in 1 Timothy 4:5; both it and its verb form are usually used of praying with regard to (sometimes in behalf of, sometimes against) another. “Thanksgivings” is the common word for expressions of gratitude—recognizing and appreciating to God that He has been gracious. 

Taken together, the four words give us a 3-D portrait of coming to God in faith and hope, humbly recognizing that only He can give what He says that we need, while acknowledging and adoring Him for the fact that He gives it. When the rest of our life, or of church life, is bathed in prayer of this sort, we begin to experience it as it truly is: an interaction with our gracious God.

Prayer for all men. Realizing the good that prayer is, we are not surprised that we are to do it for all, and especially for the household of faith (cf. Galatians 6:2–10). The word for “men” in 1 Timothy 2:1 is the generic one, meaning for all humans. It draws a contrast with the word in 1 Timothy 2:8, which is male-specific, but it is joined to the words “men” and “Man” in 1 Timothy 2:3-4. God is God, and men are men, and men’s only hope is for God to be gracious to us.

This is especially true of those who least acknowledge it: kings and all who are in authority (1 Timothy 2:2a). Their “high position” (a better translation than “authority”) has put them in a position not of less need but more. Even within the church, the apostle is going to recognize the increased spiritual neediness of those who are “rich in this present age” (cf. 1 Timothy 6:17), something our Lord taught His disciples in Matthew 19:23. If we love all of our neighbors, then we ought especially to pray for kings and those in high position, for they are spiritually imperiled by their earthly blessings.

Prayer that aims at four things. But there is another reason to pray especially for them: in God’s ordinary providence the just and wise exercise of administration of earthly authority is a means by which God facilitates our own right and wise living. So, when we pray especially for those who are in authority, it is a manner of praying that is “especially for the household of faith.” This mirrors God’s own work in all providence, doing all things for the good of His church, and especially in how He has ordained to use authority to do so—especially the authority of Christ (cf. Ephesians 1:19–23; Colossians 1:15–18). 

But what is that good that we hope for, from earthly authority? The opportunity to live a righteous and wise life. The apostle describes this life with four words. “Quiet” and “peaceable” translate rare (in the NT) words that complement each other. The former refers to one who is not disruptive toward others by his conduct; the latter to one who is not inwardly disturbed by what others do. Note that there is an implication here that if authorities behave in an ungodly manner, believers’ godliness will become disruptive to others. And, whether by our remaining weakness and sinfulness, or by a rightly grieved or indignant outward response, the worse our authorities get, the more inwardly troubled we will be.

The second pair of words about the Christian’s life are similarly related: the first indicating an inward religious devotion and weightiness, and the second indicating an outwardly religious and reverential manner. Though both of these aspects of our life are offered unto God, the first word has more of a nuance at being aimed at Him, while the second is nuanced slightly to others’ experience of us and observation of us. Taken all together, these four words form a portrait of a man whose life is one of steadfast, wholehearted love unto God and neighbor.

Prayer that participates in God’s work. Of course, it is not so much that our earthly authorities enable us to do this, or even that they facilitate our own self-enabling. As we come before God in the manner described in 1 Timothy 2:1, it already begins to produce the behavior and mindset of 1 Timothy 2:2 even without any difference being made in the authority. For, it is God Who is our Savior (1 Timothy 2:3), and in His salvation He is not only counting Christ’s goodness and acceptability for us, but also reshaping us to be like our good and acceptable Redeemer. 

God is the One Who uses the kings and authorities. God is the One Who uses our praying for them. And when He commands us to pray, He invites us into participation in His work as He sanctifies us (1 Timothy 2:3). In the next passage (1 Timothy 2:4-7), we’ll be considering how great is our privilege that He is also inviting us into participation in His work in saving all sorts of men. What a great privilege prayer has as a participation in God’s own work. What a mercy that He has been pleased to work in and by stirring us up to prayer, which He uses in us and to which He responds in others!

What is the first part of walking with God in your life? How do your daily habits reflect this? How do the reflexes of your hearts reflect this? For whom, especially, should you be praying? What sort of life should you be trying to lead? Who, especially, loves this sort of life and produces it in us?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for the privilege that You have given us of participating, by prayer, in Your work in our lives and in others’ lives. Forgive us for how often that which You command “first of all” is for us instead an afterthought or mindlessly performed. Grant that we would aim at the godliness which You desire for us: steadfast, wholehearted love unto You and our neighbor. Forgive us for how infrequently and weakly we pursue this godliness, and make us more like Christ, Who Himself has been perfectly godly in our place, and in Whose Name we ask it, AMEN!

 Suggested songs: ARP2 “Why Do Gentile Nations Rage” or TPH520 “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” 

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

The Many and Great Benefits of a Life Governed Entirely by the Word of God [Family Worship lesson in 2Kings 3]

What difference does it make to live by the Word of God? 2Kings 3 looks forward to the first serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these twenty-seven verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that living by the Word of God gives us peace and patience, provision, protection, and purity.
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2022.09.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Kings 3

Read 2 Kings 3

Questions from the Scripture text: Who became king over whom, where, when, and for how long (2 Kings 3:1)? What did he do (2 Kings 3:2)? Not as bad as whom? Why? But why was this improvement not enough (2 Kings 3:3)? Who used to do pay what (2 Kings 3:4)? When did this change (2 Kings 3:5)? What did Mesha do? So who went out from where and mustered whom (2 Kings 3:6)? How many of them? To whom did he go in 2 Kings 3:7? What did he say happened? What did he ask Jehoshaphat to do? What did Jehoshaphat say he would do? In what way? What did he ask in 2 Kings 3:8? What did he answer? With whom did these two kings go in 2 Kings 3:9? What sort of route? For how long? Of what did they run out? For whom? What conclusion did Jehoram draw (2 Kings 3:10)? Who had a different solution 2 Kings 3:11? What did he ask? What did one of Jehoram’s servants answer? What did Jehoshaphat say about Elisha in 2 Kings 3:12? Where do they go? Who speaks first in 2 Kings 3:13? To whom, specifically? What does he ask him? To whom does he tell him to go? How does Jehoshaphat answer? How does Elisha begin his statement in 2 Kings 3:14? What is the only reason he’s willing to interact? For what does Elisha ask in 2 Kings 3:15? What came upon him? How does he begin the command in 2 Kings 3:16? What does he say to do? What won’t they see (2 Kings 3:17)? But what will happen? For what purpose? How difficult is this for God (2 Kings 3:18)? What else will he do? And what four things are they commanded to do in 2 Kings 3:19? What was happening at what time in 2 Kings 3:20? And what suddenly happened at the same time? From where? With what result? Who had heard what (2 Kings 3:21)? And where had they gathered? What did they do, when, in 2 Kings 3:22? What did they see? But what did it look like? What did they say (2 Kings 3:23)? What did they think the three armies had done to one another? What did they urge each other to do? To where do they come in 2 Kings 3:24? What do they find instead of spoil—what does Israel do? And what do the Moabites now do? Who follows? Entering where? Doing what? What four things do they do (2 Kings 3:25, cf. 2 Kings 3:19)? What do they leave as a monument, after taking it in battle? Who sees what in 2 Kings 3:26? What last ditch effort does he try? When this fails, what is his final ultimate resort (2 Kings 3:27)? What came upon Israel at this sight? What do they do, when they have seen it?

What difference does it make to live by the Word of God? 2 Kings 3 looks forward to the first serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these twenty-seven verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that living by the Word of God gives us peace and patience, provision, protection, and purity. 

Living by God’s Word gives peace and patience. Chapter 2 had ended with Elisha reenacting the Carmel-to-Samaria run of 1 Kings 18:46. There, the Lord had offered to Ahab to live by Yahweh’s Word from the mouth of Elijah. Now, the same is offered to Ahab’s son, but with similar result. Jehoram makes some reforms (2 Kings 3:2), but the verdict is that he is evil (2 Kings 3:3) because rather than accept the offer to live by God’s Word, Jehoram continues worship that is according to the ideas of man (2 Kings 3:4). 

Jehoram is one of those fellows for whom the Word of God is a last resort; Elisha implies as much in 2 Kings 3:13: “What have I to do with you? Go to the prophets of your father and the prophets of your mother.” In fact, when they run out of water (2 Kings 3:9), consulting Yahweh doesn’t even occur to Jehoram. He just assumes that Yahweh is punishing him (which would be just). And so he despairs (2 Kings 3:10).

Jehoshaphat, however, has a peace and patience that Jehoram lacks. For Jehoshaphat, as long as they have access to the Word of Yahweh, there is hope. It is this God-given faith to which Elisha responds (2 Kings 3:14). The bit about the musician indicates that it is Yahweh Himself Who is responding through Elisha, who just gets taken over as a conduit. And Elisha says as much when he says, “Thus says Yahweh” in 2 Kings 3:16 and 2 Kings 3:17. While Jehoram panics, Jehoshaphat has peace and patience, because he is a man who lives by God’s Word.

Living by God’s Word gives provision. When we have the Lord and His Word, we quite literally have everything (cf. Romans 8:32; 1 Corinthians 3:21–23). Jehoram thought his problem was not enough water. The prophet now says that the problem is not enough places to put all the water they’re about to get; he commands them to dig ditches (2 Kings 3:16) to hold plenty of water for every man and beast (2 Kings 3:17). If we have Him, and we have His Word, we may be sure that we have every truly needful thing. 

Living by God’s Word gives protection. Now, the Lord shames them both. Jehoshaphat should have known that you seek the Word of God before you go to battle in the first place (cf. 1 Kings 22:51 Kings 22:7). It should have been Elisha whom he asked the question in 2 Kings 3:8. So, as the Lord announces that water rations is really too small a thing; He is going to give them the victory they should have asked for to begin with (2 Kings 3:18). And it is going to be a complete and devastating victory (2 Kings 3:19). 

How entirely does the Lord rule over all things? Their trip to get Edomites, instead of to consult Elisha, which had cost them their remaining water… turns out to be essential to Yahweh’s plan. For, He uses the very provision of water in the ditches as the mechanism by which He gives the Moabites into their hands (2 Kings 3:22-23). How great is the sovereign power of our God, and how wise His sovereign plan! Even when we are foolish and sinful, He is ruling and overruling it all for good.

Living by God’s Word gives purity. Now, this seems like it would be obvious, but it hadn’t been to Jehoram. He was still observing the liturgical innovations and liturgical calendar of Jeroboam Son of Nebat. How bad can things get, when you start veering off of the Word of God? The Israelites find out in 2 Kings 3:27. Mesha’s final attempt, with the seven hundred men in 2 Kings 3:26, has failed. Now what does he do? He thinks that if he sacrifices his son as a burnt offering, maybe he can curry favor with his god. 

How horrible are the demonic idolatries of men! There’s a translation issue in 2 Kings 3:27, which literally reads “great indignation was upon Israel.” It could mean that the Lord’s wrath fell upon them, but there’s no reason for that given in the text, and no destruction of them. Rather, the result of this indignation is that Israel depart and return to their own land. They have seen the horror into which idolatry can descend, and they want nothing more to do with Moab.

The message to Israel, and to us, is clear: the purity that comes only from the Word of God is worth it. The horror of our sin ought to be resisted as entirely as possible.

What are some habits of those who live by God’s Word? What sorts of things do they do? What sorts of things do they refuse to do? How do your own habits and actions line up with these? Which of the benefits of living by God’s Word, taught in this chapter, do you feel greatest need of right now? 

Sample prayer: Lord, thank You for offering to us to live by Your Word. Forgive us for treating it as a last resort instead of our first inclination. Forgive us for the smallness of our faith in what You can and will do for us. Forgive us for feeling free to wander from Your Word in what we think are small ways, when this is the path to horrible sins like the king of Moab. Grant that we would have hearts that love Your Word, look to You continually, and trust You for every good and perfect gift. Thank You that Christ perfectly did all these things in our place; make us to be like He is, we ask in His Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP119W “Lord, Let My Cry before You Come” or TPH173 “Almighty God, Your Word Is Cast”

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Just Society of a Just God: Just Witnesses, Just Neighbors, and Just Judges [2022.09.18 Evening Sermon in Exodus 23:1–9]


Because God is just, His society must be just.

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Apostolic Preaching (2): Jesus Affirms Salvation by His Resurrection and Applies Salvation by Preaching and Faith


Apostolic preaching of the gospel announces Jesus as the fulfillment of all God's promises of salvation and forgiveness of sins—accomplishing it by dying and rising again, and applying it by making His gospel preached and believed.

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Biblical Theology of the Diaconate 4—Sabbatical/Diaconal Rhythm of Life: Worship Flowing into Work, Flowing into Worship [2022.09.18 Sabbath School]

Though work in this world has great dignity, worship has priority. The Lord establishes our worship times with Him as the fountain from which our earthly service flows. And, He adds significance to earthly service by making it a necessity for facilitating our worship times.
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Theology Simply Explained — WSC53 Which Is the Third Commandment

Pastor walks his children through Westminster Shorter Catechism question 53: Which is the third commandment? The third commandment is, Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His Name in vain.
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Jesus: the God Who Is the Protection and Prosperity of His People [Family Worship lesson in Psalm 68:1–18]

How great is the church’s help and defense? Psalm 68:1–18 looks forward to the opening portion of morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these eighteen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that Israel’s greatness is not in herself but in her King.
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2022.09.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 68:1–18

Read Psalm 68:1–18

Questions from the Scripture text: Into whose hands was this Psalm entrusted (superscript)? Who wrote it? What is it? What does Psalm 68:1a desire Whom to do? What do verse 1b and verse 1c desire whom to do? What illustration does Psalm 68:2a–b use for what God does to His enemies? What illustration does verse 2c–d use for what happens to the wicked? Whose presence is like the fire? What new group does Psalm 68:3 introduce? What will they do before God? To what extent (verse 3c)? Now whom does Psalm 68:4 address? What does it command them to do? How does it describe Him? What Name are they to praise (verse 4c)? Again (cf. Psalm 68:3a, 3b, 3c), what are they to do before Him (Psalm 68:4d)? How does Psalm 68:5a describe Him? From where (Psalm 68:5b)? What does He do for whom in Psalm 68:6a? What does He do for whom in verse 6b? How does this contrast with those in verse 6c? How does Psalm 68:7 describe the wilderness wanderings? What events are described as the effects of the presence of Israel’s champion/leader (Psalm 68:8)? How does Psalm 68:9 describe God’s care for the promised land? What else was He doing in this (Psalm 68:10)? What great gift does Psalm 68:11 describe? How do Psalm 68:12-14 describe the conquest of the land? What places are jealous of Jerusalem and why (Psalm 68:15-16)? What are its defenses like (Psalm 68:17)? What has its King done (Psalm 68:18)? For what reason?

How great is the church’s help and defense? Psalm 68:1–18 looks forward to the opening portion of morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these eighteen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that Israel’s greatness is not in herself but in her King.

The current situationPsalm 68:1-3. This song is sung while there are still enemies of God. For those who have known their Bibles, this song has been sung and prayed in the hardest of times. But God is present, which has opposite results for the wicked (who perish in His presence, Psalm 68:2) and the righteous (who rejoice exceedingly in it, Psalm 68:3).

The God Who makes the differencePsalm 68:4-6. Yah (Psalm 68:4) is the high King in His holy habitation (Psalm 68:5b). But His concern from high in the clouds (Psalm 68:4b) is the lowest among the people: the fatherless and widow (Psalm 68:5a), the solitary (v6a) and those who are bound (Psalm 68:6b).

The Greatness of the Difference God MakesPsalm 68:7-14. How did the people make it through the wilderness? God went before them (Psalm 68:7)! What caused the heavens to drop manna (not rain, as our translation inserts in Psalm 68:8b) and Sinai to shake? The presence of our God (verse 8)! What caused the rain and fertility of the promised land? God’s confirming care (Psalm 68:9)! In all of these great works, God acted according to His compassion for the least among His people (Psalm 68:10).

And how did the people conquer the promised land (Psalm 68:12-14)? Armies and their kings were put to flight (Psalm 68:12a), while Israel was like the mothers and wives who simply waited for their champion to bring them the finest spoil (Psalm 68:12-13). Israel has no king; instead, she has God Who fights her battles for her!

But the center of the greatness is planted literarily between Psalm 68:8-10 and Psalm 68:12-14: the giving of the Word (Psalm 68:11). For, it is far greater that the people would be brought into fellowship with the living God than that they would be brought out of trouble from the enemy.

The Greatest Difference God MakesPsalm 68:15-18. The final verses of the first half of the Psalm focus on this greatest of differences. For, God has not only given His Word to His people, but He has even chosen to dwell among them Himself (Psalm 68:15-16). This is the ultimate plan of God (cf. Revelation 21:3). His people are His true “Sinai” (Psalm 68:17). 

But the One in Whom this difference is made is Immanuel—God with us (cf. Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). He is the Word (Psalm 68:11), become flesh and tabernacled among us (cf. John 1:14). And He Who descended into the lower parts of the earth (cf. Ephesians 4:9; the virgin’s womb, cf. Psalm 139:13–15) is He Who ascended on high and led captivity captive (Psalm 68:18, cf. Ephesians 4:8). In Jesus, God Himself has ascended His throne as a Man, and by the gifts that He gives in His church, He builds us up into Himself. He Himself, and everlasting and perfect fellowship with Him, is His greatest gift!

What circumstances present you with urgent needs? What gift from God do you need far more?

Sample prayer:  Lord, You have made Your holy dwelling place among Your people. In order that we might be safe and happy in Your presence, You Yourself have atoned for our sin. And it is in Yourself that You have brought us near to Yourself. So, make us to rejoice in Your presence, we ask in Your Name, Lord Jesus, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP68B “When With Your People You Went Forth” or TPH68B “O Lord, Thou Hast Ascended”

Monday, September 19, 2022

Believers' Good Thoughts, Words, or Deeds Are Not from Themselves [Family Worship lesson in Romans 3:9–18]

What should the believer be willing to admit about himself, apart from Christ? Romans 3:9–18 looks forward to the sermon in the midweek prayer meeting. In these ten verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that even those who do not make the errors represented in vv5–8 are, in themselves, so pervasively sinful that there can be no remedy for their sin in anything they think, say, or do.
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2022.09.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 3:9–18

Read Romans 3:9–18

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Romans 3:9 ask about those with right doctrine, by comparison to the self-righteous and antinomians whom Romans 3:5-8 have been referencing? What is the answer? Why? Where else has this been seen (Romans 3:10)? How many righteous are there (cf. Psalm 14:1)? How many are there who understand (Romans 3:11, cf. Psalm 14:2)? Who seek God? How many have done what two things in Romans 3:12 (cf. Psalm 14:3)? How many have done what third thing? What three parts of them offer no remedy (Romans 3:13 (cf. Psalm 5:9, Psalm 140:3)? What else can’t help; with what is it full (Romans 3:14, cf. Psalm 10:7)? What can’t make up for this (Romans 3:15, cf. Isaiah 59:7)? Where do they end up when they try (Romans 3:16)? What can’t they know/find (Romans 3:17, cf. Isaiah 59:8)? What can’t/won’t they even see (Romans 3:18, cf. Psalm 36:1)?

What should the believer be willing to admit about himself, apart from Christ? Romans 3:9–18 looks forward to the sermon in the midweek prayer meeting. In these ten verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that even those who do not make the errors represented in Romans 3:5-8 are, in themselves, so pervasively sinful that there can be no remedy for their sin in anything they think, say, or do.

There are “Christian” radio stations that like to bill their music as “positive and encouraging,” and certainly a Jew who didn’t pay close enough attention might have thought that the Psalter was that way toward him. But the one who “teaches himself” (cf. Romans 2:21) from the Scripture ought not indulge in such delusions. 

Coming out of Romans 3:5–8, our remaining fleshliness might tempt us to think that we are better than those who argue against the fairness of God to judge unbelievers in the church, or those who argue that the gospel of grace is a good excuse to sin. But the idea of our superiority would also be a delusion. The apostle stops us in our tracks with one question and answer: “Are we better than they? Not at all!” (Romans 3:9). Instead, he quotes extensively from at least six of God’s songs to remind us that what comes from us is all wicked and unprofitable; the good that can remedy our sin can come only from Christ, not from ourselves.

Better theology or intentions cannot remedy our sinRomans 3:11-12. Quoting from the opening section of Psalm 14, the apostle reminds us that if there is any good/better theology in us, it certainly wasn’t from us that it came. We are wicked in Adam (Romans 3:10b, cf. Romans 5:12–21), and this affects both our understanding (Romans 3:11a) and our intentions (Romans 3:12b). From/in ourselves, we can’t even rightly say that we “mean well”!

In fact, we are so opposite our original/holy nature (Romans 3:12a) that all the benefit that we could all produce, taken together, adds up to zero (verse 12b)! This is because there isn’t a single one of us that has a single thought, intention, or deed on the “good” side of the ledger (verse 12c). If our hope was to get our doctrine good enough, or our resolve sincere enough, that we could make a beginning of remedying our sin and guilt, then we have no hope at all.

Better speech or worship cannot remedy our sinRomans 3:13-14. Now, the apostle quotes from Psalm 5, 140, and 10. If we thought that perhaps there was some form of good speech—prayers, apologies, worship, etc.—that could remedy our sin, we would be greatly mistaken. Life cannot come from us; opening our throat is opening a place of death (Romans 3:13a). The best words that can be on our tongue simply expose how opposite our nature they actually are (verse 13b). That which comes from our lips is so far from being able to heal that it only causes further harm and death (verse 13c). Our mouths produce not blessing but cursing, not health but bitterness (Romans 3:14).

So, just as there was no remedy for our sin in our thoughts or wills, there certainly is not any remedy from our speech. Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks (cf. Matthew 12:34), which in light of Romans 3:10-12 is why the tongue is untamable and full of deadly poison (cf. James 3:8). Any attempt to bless God with the tongue is belied by our use of it at other times (cf. James 3:9–12). No, if any genuinely good speech comes out of us, it will not come from us in order to remedy our sin. Rather, the Lord must remedy our sin if any true good will ever be spoken by us.

Better deeds cannot remedy our sinRomans 3:15-18. If we are not able to muster proper thoughts or words, what about deeds? Surely there must be some penance, some restitution, some atoning service we can perform? Now, the apostle shifts to applying Isaiah 59:7–8.

Alas, our feet are no better off than the rest of us; they are “swift to shed blood” (Romans 3:15). Our “ways” (Romans 3:16-17) are no better than our words. Why? Because it is not the reverential fear of God that drives our actions (Romans 3:18). Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin (Romans 14:23), but there are none who fear God (cf. Psalm 36:1).

By the time we finish Romans 3:18, we may have forgotten where we began in Romans 3:9. Are “we” any better than they? The apostle, and those who are with him in avoiding the errors of others, are in the same position with respect to atonement and righteousness. If by God’s grace, we are with the apostle, it is still true of us: nothing we think, nothing we say, and nothing we do can remedy our sin or be our righteousness. We need a remedy and atonement that comes from outside us. And that is exactly what the apostle is proclaiming in the gospel: the righteousness of God that is for us by faith from start to finish!

Whom are you tempted to consider yourself better than? When you have a sense of your sin, what does your flesh tempt you to think that you can do to fix it, or make it up to God? From where, then, can there be any forgiveness for you? From where can there be help for you?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You for Your marvelous patience with such sinners as we are. Forgive us for the folly of thinking that we are deserving of such patience or have some good in us by which we can remedy our own condition. Grant that Your Spirit would bless Your Word to us, so that we would see and accept the totality of our depravity. And grant that Your Spirit would bless Your Word to us, so that we would see Your righteousness for us in Yourself, in Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. In Him, forgive us and help us, for we ask it in His Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH433 “Amazing Grace” 

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Singing God's Praise for His Great Goodness throughout History and in Our Lives [2022.09.14 Prayer Meeting Devotional]


We should sing God's praise for His great goodness in His people's history, trials, and individual lives.

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Jesus Affirms His Salvation by Resurrection and Applies It by Preaching and Faith [Family Worship lesson in Acts 13:13–41]

What was apostolic preaching like? Acts 13:13–41 looks forward to the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these twenty-nine verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that apostolic preaching of the gospel announces that the Old Testament promises of salvation have been fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus, Who was shown to be the God-Man by the resurrection, and through Whom we can have forgiveness of sin and the righteousness of God.
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2022.09.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 13:13–41

Read Acts 13:13–41

Questions from the Scripture text: Who set sail from where (Acts 13:13)? To where do they come? Who departs from them? To go where? From where do Paul and Barnabas depart in Acts 13:14? To where do they come? Into where do they go? On what day? What was read (Acts 13:15)? Who send to them? What do they invite Paul and Barnabas to do? What does Paul do in Acts 13:16? What two groups does he address? What three things does he begin by saying God did for Israel (Acts 13:17)? And what three further things in Acts 13:18-19? And then what sequence of leadership did He give them in Acts 13:20-22? What had God said about David? What did God raise up from David’s seed (Acts 13:23)? According to what? Whom did God send before Him (Acts 13:24)? Preaching what? To whom? But what does Paul refer to John doing in Acts 13:25? What did he say about himself? Whom did he say was coming? To whom does Paul readdress himself in Acts 13:26? What does he say has been sent to them? About what two groups does he speak in Acts 13:27? What didn’t these two know? Despite what? What did they fulfill? By doing what? What didn’t they find (Acts 13:28)? But for what did they ask whom? What had they fulfilled (Acts 13:29)? Then what did they do? But what did God do? What then happened for how long (Acts 13:31)? By whom? To whom do these witness? And now who is declaring it (Acts 13:32)? What do they call the declaration? To whom had these glad tidings been promised? For whom had God fulfilled the promise (Acts 13:33)? By doing what? As written where? What did this show about Jesus (cf. Romans 1:4)? How can we be sure that this blessedness is forever (Acts 13:34, cf. Isaiah 55:3)? But what had David himself undergone (Acts 13:36, cf. Psalm 16:10)? But what hadn’t happened to Jesus (Acts 13:37)? What did Paul proclaim to them through Jesus (Acts 13:38)? Who receives this forgiveness (Acts 13:39)? Into what standing with God does this bring them? What couldn’t do this? But how does Paul end the sermon (Acts 13:40)? What does he call them if they do not respond by believing (Acts 13:41)? What will happen to them if they do not believe (cf. Habakkuk 1:5)?

What was apostolic preaching like? Acts 13:13–41 looks forward to the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these twenty-nine verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that apostolic preaching of the gospel announces that the Old Testament promises of salvation have been fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus, Who was shown to be the God-Man by the resurrection, and through Whom we can have forgiveness of sin and the righteousness of God. 

To whom the preaching comes: all hearers from all nations. John Mark departs for Jerusalem, but Paul and Barnabas press on. They arrive at Antioch in Psidia and attend Synagogue. We remember from the Cornelius material that there are two groups who attend: Jews and God-fearers (a name for Gentiles who kept all the law but were still considered outsiders by the Jews, and denied fellowship.

Paul and Barnabas, of course, sit with the Jews. After the Scripture reading time, the synagogue rulers invite anyone to give a sermon (“word of exhortation”). Paul rises and volunteers. Twice—once before the exposition, and again before the application—he specifically addresses himself not just to the Jews but also to the God-fearers (Acts 13:16Acts 13:26). And he emphasizes that the word of this salvation has been sent to them (verse 26)—the implication being that God is the sender.

What the preaching announces: God and His salvation. God is the hero of this story. He was the Chooser (Israel did not earn) and the Lifter-up (Israel did not ascend), Acts 13:17a. They were the foreigners; God was the Deliverer (verse 17b). Their travel through the wilderness is presented as 40 years of God patiently putting up with them (v18). It was not they who took the land, but God Who destroyed the Canaanites (Acts 13:19a) and handed out their land to them (verse 19b). 

The subtlety of Acts 13:20 is that the judges were necessary to deliver Israel from their repeated turning away from God. God’s answer to this was a prophet (verse 20b), but Israel wanted a king instead (Acts 13:21). God give them the prototypical Israelite hero, and the mention of his forty years ties them in theme to the wilderness. God removed the king like what their hearts wanted (Acts 13:22a) and gave them instead the sort of king that God’s hear wants (verse 22b), because He intended to raise up Salvation from David’s seed (Acts 13:23). In all of Acts 13:17-23, the point is very clear: Israel is an anti-hero, but God is the Hero, the Savior. In this, this sermon is very much like Peter’s defense in Acts 4:8–12 and Stephen’s sermon at his trial (cf. chapter 7). 

How this salvation was accomplished: Christ’s death and resurrection. There was a salvation promised (Acts 13:23), and now Paul is announcing that has arrived (Acts 13:26). How? By Israel continuing to be like they had been. They didn’t recognize Jesus, nor did they recognize the promise of the Prophets who were read every Sabbath, exactly as had just been done a few minutes prior in that synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia (Acts 13:27). But those Prophets had promised that the Savior would die a judicial death, and those who dwell in Jerusalem and their rulers became the agents of that occurring. They couldn’t bring one legitimate or provable charge against Jesus, but still demanded His execution (Acts 13:28). Christ had been promised to die, and He did.

But Christ had also been promised not to see corruption (Acts 13:35, cf. Psalm 16:10, Acts 2:34–43). The sure mercies of David that Isaiah 55:3 promised to the suffering servant (Acts 13:34) were eternal mercies. And this resurrection proved that Jesus wasn’t just the Son of David, but the eternally begotten Son of God (Acts 13:33). So, when He was raised from the dead (Acts 13:30) and seen for many days (Acts 13:31a), it became the great message of the gospel to proclaim this Savior, this crucified and risen God-Man. This was what the apostles in Jerusalem were witnessing there (verse 31b) and what Paul and Barnabas were now preaching in that synagogue (Acts 13:32). In this, this sermon is very much like Peter’s sermons at Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:14–36) and in Cornelius’s house (cf. Acts 10:36–43).

How this salvation is applied: hearing that produces faith. The apostle weaves the story of what God had done in history with what God was doing on that day of history in that synagogue. He begins by urging them to listen in Acts 13:16. He re-addresses them in Acts 13:26, emphasizing that the word of this salvation had been sent to them. He emphasizes that the glad tidings are being declared to them in Acts 13:32. After warning them that those in Jerusalem who had killed Christ did so because they did not know Him (Acts 13:27), he urges them to “let it be known to you” in Acts 13:38. It is hearing, and responding to the Word in faith, through which this salvation is applied. This too is part of the gospel message, and in this, this sermon is very much like Peter’s sermon in Solomon’s porch (cf Acts 3:12–26). 

What is offered and what is warned: forgiveness unto faith and perishing unto unbelief. What John preached was a baptism of repentance (Acts 13:24), but repentance couldn’t atone or justify (Acts 13:39b). However, in the One Whom John said was coming (Acts 13:25), forgiveness of sins was now being preached (Acts 13:38). But this forgiveness is not for all who hear. They must believe (Acts 13:39a). For the same Scriptures have prophesied about those who would hear and not believe (Acts 13:41d–e).

One way or the other, if you are hearing the gospel of Christ crucified and risen for sinners, you have been prophesied about. Either you are one who will receive salvation through faith as promised in the prophets; or, you will fail to believe, as other hearers are prophesied to do, and you will perish for having despised (treated as inconsequential) Christ and His salvation. 

Who is the hero of your story? What do you believe about Jesus? What is happening when you hear the gospel? How have you responded to Him? For who else’s response are you praying?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You for promising salvation, and coming in the person of Your Son to secure that salvation. Grant Your Spirit’s work in us, that as we hear Christ preached, we would not treat Him or His gospel as inconsequential but cling by faith to the resurrected One, in Whose Name we ask it, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP98 “O Sing a New Song to the LORD” or TPH98A “O Sing a New Song to the LORD”

Friday, September 16, 2022

The Just God's Society Should Be Careful to Witness, Neighbor, and Judge Justly [Family Worship lesson in Exodus 23:1–9]

How must God’s society resist the temptation to treat others unjustly? Exodus 23:1–9 looks forward to the evening sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these nine verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that in situations where there is extra pressure to act unjustly, God’s people must be all the more resolved and consistent to act justly.
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2022.09.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Exodus 23:1–9

Read Exodus 23:1–9

Questions from the Scripture text: What shall they not do with what (Exodus 23:1)? What are they not to put with whom? To do what? Whom shall they not follow to do what (Exodus 23:2)? What shall they not turn aside after whom to do in what situation? To whom shall they not show what in Exodus 23:3? What sort of animal are they encountering in the situation in Exodus 23:4? What has happened with it? What are they to do with it? Whose donkey is in the situation in Exodus 23:5? What has happened to it? How would one want to act (i.e. according to his flesh)? But what must he do instead? What shall they not do to what in Exodus 23:6? Of whom? What sort of matter is in question in Exodus 23:7? What instruction does God give them about such a matter? Why? What shall they not take (Exodus 23:8)? Why, what two things does a bribe do to what two types of people? What shall they not do to whom in Exodus 23:9? Why, what do they know? How do they know it?

How must God’s society resist the temptation to treat others unjustly? Exodus 23:1–9 looks forward to the evening sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these nine verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that in situations where there is extra pressure to act unjustly, God’s people must be all the more resolved and consistent to act justly. 

God’s people must act justly as witnesses, Exodus 23:1-3.
The Israelite has not composed the report in Exodus 23:1, but he is tempted to support it. God describes this as putting his hand with the wicked. This does not change, even if everyone else is doing it. For if many have turned aside (Exodus 23:2b) so that they make a crowd (verse 2a), the Israelite must still refuse to do so. Better to side with God in the truth than all other men in a lie! Whose side is God on? The right one. And that doesn’t necessarily mean the poor man (Exodus 23:3). God is no Critical Theorist! Rather, knowing that the compassion that He has commanded toward the poor could be twisted, God now specifically forbids partiality toward him.

God’s people must act justly as neighborsExodus 23:4-5.
As the question in Luke 10:27–29 reminds us, being a neighbor isn’t necessarily easy. In fact, as Jesus’s answer (cf. Luke 10:30–36), sometimes the neighbor is from among the “enemy” (Exodus 23:4) “who hates you” (Exodus 23:5). So, the Lord takes the situation in which we’re most tempted not to love our neighbor as ourselves and uses the Hebrew doubling of the verb, in both verses, to press upon us our absolute obligation to love him.

Think about it: you see an ox or donkey going astray, or a donkey who has given out under its load. You notice that it belongs to an enemy, or someone who hates you. Are you not tempted in your flesh to laugh to yourself and consider it “justice” that this has happened to his animal? But you mustn’t! You must act with the same care as if the animal was your own. Return the straying animal and help the struggling animal. God demonstrated His own love for us in that while we were His enemies Christ died for us!

God’s people must act justly as judgesExodus 23:6-9.
Again, now in the case of judges, the Lord takes up several of the most tempting situations in which to take shortcuts to judgment. Exodus 23:6 treats the flipside of Exodus 23:3. A judge may be tempted to thrust aside the justice of the poor just as much as he might be tempted to favor the poor or the stranger (Exodus 23:9). The wealthy have more power to punish us or reward us (Exodus 23:8), but we must not allow that to blind us or change our words.

Another tempting situation is when there’s doubt about guilt in a capital crime (Exodus 23:7). The judge might worry that the defendant might be guilty, and what if he is letting him off the hook? God’s answer in verse 7 is that no one ever gets let off the hook. The wicked man, though the case be unproven on earth, will have to stand before God, Who will not justify him.

What are some situations in which you are tempted to be unjust? Whom do you know that acts as an enemy toward you or hates you? How does recognizing this help you prepare to obey the Lord in this?

Sample prayer: Lord, we thank You that You have shown us marvelous, redeeming kindness without compromising Your justice the smallest bit. Grant that we would be like You in both love and justice, especially in situations where we are tempted to be unjust. For, we ask it in Your own precious Name, Lord Jesus, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP51B “From My Sins, O Hide Your Face” or TPH174 “The Ten Commandments”