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

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

The Strength and Glory of God's Tabernacling among Us [2022.11.27 Evening Sermon in Exodus 26:15–30]


The structural core of the tabernacle communicated to us the enduring strength and heavenly glory in which the Lord dwells among His people.

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The Personal, Puzzling, Powerful Providence of God the Holy Spirit [2022.11.27 Morning Sermon in Acts 16:6–15]


The Spirit planted the great church in Philippi through personal, puzzling, and powerful providence.

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Biblical Theology of the Diaconate (12): Diaconal Service Is Designed to Display God's Gracious Work in the Heart [2022.11.27 Sabbath School]

At the outset of Israel as a church, the Lord made a great contrast between what Israel was like in the flesh, and the generosity that He is able to work in the heart. This was a great emphasis of the Spirit's in His account of the collection and construction for the tabernacle. Diaconal service is designed to display this contrast, unto the praise of the heart-changing Redeemer.
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Specific, Surprising, Spectacular Mercy in the Midst of Corporate Judgment [Family Worship lesson in 2Kings 8:1–6]

What hope can member believers have, when God is judging their nations or their churches? 2Kings 8:1–6 looks forward to the first serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these six verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that God’s sovereign, all-encompassing providence orders and overrules all things for the good of those whom He is redeeming.
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2022.11.30 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Kings 8:1–6

Read 2 Kings 8:1–6

Questions from the Scripture text: Who spoke to whom in 2 Kings 8:1? What did he tell her to do? For what had Yahweh called? For how long? What does the woman do in 2 Kings 8:2? According to what? With whom? When does 2 Kings 8:3 take place? What does the woman do? To whom does she go to do what? As she was coming to him, to whom does the king just happen to be talking, and just happen to be asking about what (2 Kings 8:4)? What was Gehazi talking about in 2 Kings 8:5? Who appears? Doing what? And who interrupts? Saying what? Who asks her about it (2 Kings 8:6)? What does he award her, even on top of what she asked?

What hope can believing citizens or members have, when God is judging their nations or their churches? 2 Kings 8:1–6 looks forward to the first serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these six verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that God’s sovereign, all-encompassing providence orders and overrules all things for the good of those whom He is redeeming.

Specific, surprising mercy in the midst of general judgment2 Kings 8:1-3. Many times (cf. Exodus 15:26; Deuteronomy 7:15, Deuteronomy 28:60), the Lord had warned Israel that behaving like Egypt would bring upon them the afflictions that He had brought upon Egypt. Now, the Lord was about to bring a seven year famine, but it was not preceded by seven years of plenty. Yahweh had shown How great (and, surprising, as His mercy often is) is His power and mercy by turning back the Syrian siege, but there still had not been repentance. 

Sometimes the Lord frightfully judges churches or nations. But for the believer in Christ, he receives mercy in the midst of the judgment. His mercy to the Shunammite woman (cf. chapter 4) is a wonderful example. Before sending the famine, Yahweh sends the prophet to warn her and send her. 

We see what He does for her, and we remember that the Lord remembers the least of His servants and the least of their kindnesses (cf. 2 Kings 4:10; Matthew 10:41–42). We remember David’s shelter among the Philistines, and we conclude that the Lord sometimes uses the most unlikely instruments to provide for and protect His people.

If you are in Christ Jesus, there is now no condemnation for you (cf. Romans 8:1). And while there may now be afflictions (cf. Romans 8:18a), they are hastening an eternal weight of glory (cf. verse 8:18b), as God works all things together for your good (cf. Romans 8:28), making you glorious (cf. Romans 8:30), and freely giving you all things (cf. Romans 8:32). This is true even of afflictions that come via judgments upon wicked nations and unfaithful churches (cf. Revelation 3:16–21). 

But there is a warning, here, too. We’re surprised to see Gehazi in the king's presence in 2 Kings 8:4 (cf. 2 Kings 5:27) and must conclude that chapter 5 was presented out of chronological order (suggesting that the works of Elisha were gathered into one place in a similar manner to what the king is asking for in 2 Kings 8:4 of our passage). The warning is that even those who know the greatness of God and hear His Word faithfully preached may yet bring dreadful consequences upon themselves and their descendants. 

God often gives personal mercy in the midst of general judgment, but often believers bring upon themselves personal judgment in the midst of others who are receiving mercy (cf. Hebrews 6:4–6).

Comprehensive, specific, sovereign providence in service of personal mercy2 Kings 8:4-6. One of the marvelous things about being the object of this God’s mercy is how complete and detailed His sovereign rule over all things is. 

It’s been seven years, but the moment that she is about to come to the king (2 Kings 8:3) just happens to be a moment in which the king is asking about all the great things that Elisha has done (2 Kings 8:4). And then the moment that she enters the very room (2 Kings 8:5b) is the moment that Gehazi has just gotten to the story of her kindness to Elisha, the gift of the child, and the raising of the child from the dead (verses 5a, 5c). 

This puts her in the position of being able to give the king what he especially wanted at that point: firsthand accounts of the great works that Elisha has done (2 Kings 8:6a)! 

If she had just come in and asked, and the king had given not only what she asked for, but a great deal more (2 Kings 8:6b, n.b. if the field was productive during famine, how great the proceeds would have been!), then surely she ought to have concluded that this has come in the providence of God. But we are often slow on the uptake, and the Lord often does things in a way that “shows off” what is always true: His mercy toward those whom He is redeeming is the goal of every smallest part of His providence, in every place, at every moment.

O, believing reader, how the mercy of God follows you, wherever you go! How it determines everything that will happen, everywhere, all the time for the purpose of doing you good! Only by His grace do you ever do that which is good, and yet He in His abundant generosity is pleased to repay that good that you do in Christ. What a God! What personal mercy! What powerful and all-encompassing providence!

What troubles do you see might be coming upon the church and the nations? What has He done, in His work in your heart and life, to encourage you that if the trouble does come, He will still be focused upon showing you mercy? If you don’t have such hope, because you are not sure that you are in Christ Jesus, then what ought you to do? But if you are in Christ Jesus, then what are all of these mercies bringing you to at last? How many of the events in your life are aiming at that?

Sample prayer: Lord, You rule and overrule all things in perfect justice. We confess that if You were to judge our church for unfaithfulness or our land for unfaithfulness, we would have to shut our mouths and know that You are just and righteous in doing so. But, we cling to Christ, knowing that if we have Him, then all must work together for our good. O that we clung to Him more! 

But, we confess before You that we are often ungrateful because we do not see how merciful You have been; and, we are often fearful because we do not see from You Word how merciful You are and how merciful You will be. We forget that Your power and Your love are perfectly steady and infinite—controlling every detail of Your providence in perfect wisdom. 

What hope can there be for those who know such truths about You, but live so often in such forgetfulness of You? You Yourself are our hope! The righteousness of Jesus counted for us is our hope! The sacrifice of Jesus atoning for us is our hope! The love in which You planned to give Him is our hope! The love in which You gave Him is our hope! The love in which You are freely giving us all things, together with Him, is our hope! 

So it is through hope in Jesus that we ask You to forgive us of our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness, which we ask in His Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or TPH256 “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

The Christ-King Is Yahweh, the Eternally and Universally Blessed and Blessing God! [Family Worship lesson in Psalm 72:16–20]

Just Who is the Forever-King? Psalm 72:16–20 looks forward to the opening portion of morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these five verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that David’s descendant, the Forever-King, is also Yahweh Himself!
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2022.11.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 72:16–20

Read Psalm 72:16–20

Questions from the Scripture text: What accompanies the reign of the Forever-King (Psalm 72:16)? Even where (verse 16b–c)? And where else (verse 16d)? What continues for how long (Psalm 72:17a)? What will it outlast (verse 17b)? What is the only way that one will be blessed (verse 17c)? How many of whom will call the Forever-King what (verse 17d)? Whom do they call blessed, when they call the Forever-King blessed (Psalm 72:18a)? What does verse 18b call such a reign and kingship? What will be blessed for how long (Psalm 72:19a, cf. Psalm 72:17a)? What will be filled with what (Psalm 72:19b)? What is this Psalm the ultimate instance of (Psalm 72:19-20)?

Just Who is the Forever-King? Psalm 72:16–20 looks forward to the opening portion of morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these five verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that David’s descendant, the Forever-King, is also Yahweh Himself!  

Blessing beyond imagination or expectationPsalm 72:16. Israel was a church-nation for whom agricultural production was directly tied to faithfulness and blessing. But this is more than rain in season and storehouses having to be cleaned out for a new harvest. This is peak abundance (v16a, c) not just out of season but out of place—from the tops of the mountains  (verse 16b) to the center of the city (verse 16d). 

The blessings of earthly/national Israel were great—much better than the measly things that our flesh constantly desires. But they were just hints, foretastes, shadows of the blessedness that was to come in Christ. 

Reign/lifespan beyond that of any mere manPsalm 72:17. It was already pretty clear that the promised King of 2 Samuel 7:13, 2 Samuel 7:16 had a reign and lifespan that would be everlasting. Yet, men have been tempted to read it merely in terms of a never-ending succession of kings. Scholars have an insufferable trait of either denying or forgetting that these words were written by the grace of God the Holy Spirit, and so posit such follies as “the prophet would not have had the incarnation in mind since that was a later theological development.” 

What a pile of interpretive rubbish! God, Who planned every nanosecond of redemption from before time existed, did not need the theology of the incarnation to “develop”! Here is David’s own understanding of the promise, even as he writes in honor of his son Solomon (cf. superscript). “His Name shall endure forever; His Name shall continue as long as the sun” (Psalm 72:17c–d). This is truly the Forever-King.

And His reign and fame span not just time but space. All nations shall call Him blessed. By the inspiration of the Spirit, David himself had already tied the promises of 2 Samuel 7 to those of Genesis 12:3, Genesis 18:18, Genesis 22:18, Genesis 26:4, Genesis 28:14

The same that is done with the Forever-King in Psalm 72:17 is done with God in Psalm 72:18-19, because God Himself is the Forever-King.

A King Who is Also YahwehPsalm 72:18-19. Yahweh alone does wondrous things (Psalm 72:18b). So, why is the response to those wondrous things in Psalm 72:19 the same as that in Psalm 72:17. Aren’t such responses—the blessing of His Name forever (Psalm 72:19a, cf. Psalm 72:17a–b) and the whole earth being filled with His glory/honor (Psalm 72:19b, cf. Psalm 72:17c–d)—reserved for Yahweh alone? Indeed. But they are also shared with the Forever-King from David’s line. How can this be? Because the One Who is the Son of David is also the Son of God, as demonstrated by His resurrection (cf. Romans 1:3–4). 

As we have seen through the books of Samuel and Kings, no mere man could ever be the King for whom God’s people were looking. But, praise be to God, it is the God-Man Who is not only our Prophet and Great High Priest, but also our Everlasting King!

This is not just David’s ultimate prayer and praise (Psalm 72:19c, Psalm 72:20), but truly all of creation’s ultimate end, and all of providence’s ultimate end, and all of redemption’s ultimate end: the unending praise of Jesus by the entirety of a new heavens and new earth filled with His redeemed and glorified people. Would we have moments of heaven on earth? When we have them the most is when our hearts and mouths are full of the blessing of the Name of Jesus!

How often do You actually bless the Name of Jesus Christ? With what genuineness and intensity of heart do you do so? What produces this praise of Him in you? With whom else do you do so now? With whom else will you do so forever?

Sample prayer:  Lord, truly there is blessedness in You for us, beyond what we could ask or think. You have already given us Your own Son, Whom You did not spare for our sakes. Surely, having given what eye could not see, nor could ear hear, nor our hearts devise, You will now also freely give us all things, together with Him! His Name endures forever, longer than the sun. And here we are, blessing the Name of Jesus Christ thousands of miles and thousands of years away from His life and death and resurrection on earth. Indeed, Lord Jesus, You are the LORD God, the God of Israel, Who only does wondrous things! Blessed be Your glorious Name forever! Fill the whole earth with Your glory! Help us by Your Spirit to worship You now, and hasten the day when You return, and all nations worship You perfectly forever, we ask in Your own Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP72C “May Waving Grain on Hilltops Thrive” or TPH72A “O God, Your Judgments Give the King”

Monday, November 28, 2022

2022.11.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 4:9–15

Read Romans 4:9–15

Questions from the Scripture text: What is the apostle asking about, from Romans 4:6-8, at the beginning of Romans 4:9? What are the two possible conditions of people upon whom this blessedness could come? Whose blessedness does verse 9 propose as a test case? What way did faith become righteousness? What question does Romans 4:10 now ask about this accounting/imputation? And what is the answer—what was Abraham’s condition, when he was counted as righteous? What was circumcision, then, rather than a justifying work (Romans 4:11)? What did this sign seal unto him? Whose father is he? How many of them? When did they believe? What is also imputed to them, as it was to their father? Whose father is he in Romans 4:12? What are they “of”? But in what footsteps do they walk? When had Abraham walked in these footsteps? About what does Romans 4:13 now ask? What was this promise about? To whom (and Whom!) had this promise been made? What had not been given when this promise was made? Through what righteousness, then, could this promise be made and secured? Who are not necessarily heirs, then (Romans 4:14)? What would have been made void if the law changed this? What would have been made of no effect? Though the law did not give blessedness or righteousness or inheritance, what does it actually bring about (Romans 4:15)? What does the law make it possible for sin to do? 

Who are the heirs of God and descendants of Abraham? Romans 4:9–15 looks forward to the devotional in this week’s midweek meeting. In these seven verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that Abraham’s true descendants are those whose faith is accounted as righteousness apart from works.

Circumcision not necessary to blessednessRomans 4:9-11b. The previous passage had recalled David’s Spirit inspired words from Psalm 32: that blessedness comes by God’s freely imputing righteousness to us apart from works. But for some Jews, this sounded like a problem. They thought that since blessedness is promised to the circumcised that somehow this meant that blessedness comes only to the circumcised and even through circumcision.

Romans 4:9 directly asks the questions, “Does this blessedness come upon the circumcised only?” However important circumcision may be, as the first sacramentally circumcised man, Abraham clearly answers “no” to the question. “No, blessedness does not come upon the circumcised only.”

It’s a simple matter of chronology. From Genesis 15:6 to Genesis 17, Abraham was a righteous and blessed—but still uncircumcised!—man for more than a decade. When he finally receives circumcision (Romans 4:11), it’s clearly not a way of obtaining righteousness. He had already been accounted righteous through faith. 

So circumcision enters late, as a sign of righteousness that he already had (Romans 4:11a), signifying how he came to have that faith in the first place: God cutting away the dead flesh and atoning for him by blood. This sign, that taught him about his faith, was also a seal that verified the righteousness that had been accounted to him through faith (verse 11b). 

The true children of AbrahamRomans 4:11-12. So, those who believe without being circumcised have a very good precedent: Abraham! He is the father of those who believe, and have righteousness imputed to them through that faith, even though they are uncircumcised (verse 11c). What an irony! A Jew, who is circumcised before he can believe, cannot walk in the footsteps of Abraham as fully as a Gentile can!

And the Jew who is circumcised is not a true descendant of Abraham unless he walks in the footsteps of the faith of an uncircumcised Abraham (Romans 4:12)!

Circumcision was added to the promiseRomans 4:13. Genesis 15 began with a great promise in Genesis 15:1. But Abraham didn’t understand how he or his seed could have God (and God’s world) as his very great reward, when he didn’t have any offspring at all (Genesis 15:2-3). This was the point at which the Lord made the marvelous promise concerning Christ in Genesis 15:4 and concerning all Christians in Genesis 15:5. It was this promise that Abraham believed. And as he rested upon Who Christ would be, this was imputed to him for righteousness (Genesis 15:6). The promise was secured through the righteousness of faith before there was even a hint about circumcision.

Circumcision could not delete the promiseRomans 4:14. Now, if the law about being circumcised decided who would receive the inheritance, what happens to faith? And what happens to the promise? 

Well, if being circumcised decides that you’re an heir, then suddenly the blessing is by the work of circumcision, rather than through faith in Christ. Is that possible? Can someone have Christ’s righteousness imputed to him, only to have that righteousness subsequently debited from his account? Can his faith be made void? If in Genesis 17, righteousness now comes through as a wage paid for the work of circumcision, then that is exactly what has happened: faith is made void.

And if faith is made void, what has happened to the promise? The promise, then, was made of no effect. God said that He would give it, but it suddenly becomes contingent upon something else. In this case, God would be dishonest and unfaithful, altering the previous deal. What a horrible, blasphemous thought!

Circumcision a good sign, but a fearful lawRomans 4:15. As a sign and seal, circumcision affirmed what God had promised, rather than substituting for faith. In that way, circumcision was not a work (just as faith was not a work). But what if it is viewed as a work? What if it is a legal way of obtaining righteousness and blessedness? 

In that case, the old problem of the law’s being weakened through the flesh (Romans 8:3) now reappears. There is no one who does good. The law cannot make a sinner into a doer of good; it only declares the sinner to be a sinner, convicts him as a transgressor, and sentences him to the Hell that he deserves for that sin. As Romans 4:15 puts it, “the law brings about wrath.” Sin is already sin. But when law is added, sin becomes guiltier, because now it is also a transgression of the law. Circumcision, then, cannot make a sinner better; it only makes him guiltier!

For us, very few think that blessedness is obtained by being circumcised. But there are some who think that blessedness is obtained by being baptized. If this were the case, blessing would be coming not by what Jesus has done but by what we have done. 

And even worse, we would never be able to live up to the proper way of being baptized to obtain blessedness. Baptism would become just one more thing in which we were offending God, without any hope of actual forgiveness or righteousness!

So, there are those who believe before they are baptized, and they receive the sign and the thing signified in the same order that Abraham did. And there are those who are already baptized, but in order to be Abraham's children they need to walk in more than just the sign-footsteps; they need to walk in the faith-footsteps. When they believe and have Christ imputed to them, with His righteousness, then they will truly be the offspring of Abraham.

Praise God, when faith in Jesus is imputed to us for righteousness, then Abraham truly is our father. It is thus that we walk in his footsteps. We rest only in Who Jesus is and what Jesus has done. And we receive our baptism not as a work that we do or present, but rather as a sign that God gives us of how truly and surely righteous are those who believe, being righteous with the righteousness of Christ. Praise God for what baptism signs and seals! And praise God for imputing righteousness to us from Christ, faithfully keeping His promise, just as He said He would!

What is the only way for you to be righteous before God? What sign has He given you to affirm this promise and its promised righteousness? How must you NOT think of this sign?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for making us righteous with Your own righteousness in Christ. And thank You for the sign of baptism that confirms the truth and certainty of the righteousness of those who believe in Christ. Forgive us for thinking of the sign as the thing that gets us in, rather than as a gift to strengthen our faith. And make us to be glad and sure of all that You have promised in Jesus, through Whom we ask it, AMEN!

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

Saturday, November 26, 2022

The Testing of Deacon Candidates for the Glory of Jesus [Family Worship lesson in 1Timothy 3:10–11]

What is the proper process for installing a qualified man to the office of deacon? 1Timothy 3:10–11 looks forward to the second reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these two verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that deacons must be tested (and test those whom they enlist for service), and only after being found blameless, be admitted to minister in the office.
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The Personal, Puzzling, and Powerful Providence in Which the Spirit Builds His Church [Family Worship lesson in Acts 16:6–15]

How did the famous church in Philippi get its start? Acts 16:6–15 looks forward to the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these ten verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the Spirit started the church at Philippi thorough several thwartings of the apostle and a humanly inauspicious opportunity.
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2022.11.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 16:6–15

Read Acts 16:6–15

Questions from the Scripture text: Through what two regions did they go in Acts 16:6? What didn’t they do where? Why? To where do they come in Acts 16:7? Where do they try to go? Why can’t they? Where do they go instead (Acts 16:8)? What appeared to whom, when, in Acts 16:9? Who was in this vision? What was he doing? When does Acts 16:10 take place? Who is now included? Where do they go? What had they concluded (verse 10)? From where do they sail in Acts 16:11? To where do they directly come? And where the next day? And where from there (Acts 16:12)? What is special about that city? What were they doing there? On what day does Acts 16:13 take place? Where do they go? What customarily happened there? What do they do with whom? Who heard in Acts 16:14? What was her occupation? What was her spiritual status? How did she come to heed what Paul spoke? Who were baptized upon her heeding the Word (Acts 16:15)? For what did she beg—what was her privilege as an acknowledged believer? What was the result? 

How did the famous church in Philippi get its start? Acts 16:6–15 looks forward to the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these ten verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the Spirit started the church at Philippi thorough several thwartings of the apostle and a humanly inauspicious opportunity. 

The Spirit is the Lord, and we are the servants. The Holy Spirit is a person, not a power. We are blessed with His fellowship (2 Corinthians 13:14) and warned against grieving Him (Ephesians 4:30). As the Father was creating by the Son, the Spirit superintended the creation through the entire process (Genesis 1:2). The Lord is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:8), and He searches and knows the deep things of God (1 Corinthians 2:10–11). 

Throughout the book of Acts, we have been hearing about what the Lord Jesus has continued to do and to teach on earth (cf. Acts 1:1–2), now in His church by His Spirit (cf. Acts 1:4–8). There is a dreadful consequence to a poor doctrine of the Spirit, in which He is viewed as an “it” instead of “Him,” or a power instead of a Person: men may think that to have the Spirit is to have a power that is there to serve them rather than to be attended by God, Whom we serve. 

But in the first two verses of our passage, the Spirit is clearly in charge. They want to go into Asia (a Roman province in what today is Turkey), but the Holy Spirit forbids them to preach the Word there (Acts 16:6). They try to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them (Acts 16:7). He Who hindered them in Acts 16:6 and Acts 16:7 is then recognized as “the Lord” who called them to preach the gospel to the Macedonians (Acts 16:10).

Providence is personal. That verse (Acts 16:10) helps us think about Acts 16:6-7. Clearly, the apostle and his team (now including Luke, n.b. “we sought”) knew from the Word of Christ that their charge was to preach the gospel (Acts 16:6Acts 16:10, cf. Acts 1:8; Mark 16:16; Colossians 1:23). The question isn’t about whether to preach; that much is decided. The question is where to preach. 

But how do they know? It would be a mistake to think that the “forbidden” in Acts 16:6 (more literally, “hindered”) necessarily indicates verbal revelation. Certainly, “permit” in Acts 16:7 does not. Rather, the indication is that they tried and couldn’t. So why does the Scripture say that the it was the Spirit Who was doing this? Because the Spirit still rules and overrules all that happens. He is God. 

The One by Whom they minister is the One Who rules and overrules in all things, the One Who works all things according to the counsel of His will (cf. Ephesians 1:11). So, the frustrations of effort in Acts 16:6 and Acts 16:7 are not a frustration of mission. They receive the providence as actions of God the Holy Spirit. 

This is true for every Christian. Every frustration of effort comes as a personal providence from the same Spirit by Whom we live in the Lord Jesus Christ. He Who is with us as the Helper is the same One Who works in every providence of our lives. Let this remove all frustration from your own spirit, dear Christian. Perhaps it may help you to think of the providence of God as very specifically the Providence of the Spirit. 

Life frequently will not go according to your plan, but it will always go according to the plan of God in Whom is your life and help. Some believers are accustomed to saying, “It’s a God thing,” when something goes surprisingly well. Let them also say, “It’s a God thing,” when their biblically intended plans are frustrated!

Providence is puzzling. What anticipation there must have been! Two different attempts to go preach have been thwarted. Now, Paul has a night vision (Acts 16:9), they conclude that the Lord is calling them to preach the gospel in Macedonia. So, “immediately,” they seek to go (Acts 16:10). There’s no time to stop in Samothrace or Neapolis (Acts 16:11). It was a Macedonian in the dream, and to the first city of Macedonia they press on (Acts 16:12). They arrive in the Roman soldier retirement colony, are there for several days, and finally it’s the Sabbath (probably not the Lord’s Day, since it doesn’t say “first day Sabbath” as in places where English translations often say “first day of the week”).

But there’s a problem. There’s no synagogue. Even in such a big city, there either aren’t the twelve men required to form a synagogue, or they don’t have enough liberty or influence to obtain a building. The Spirit’s providence is often puzzling. 

They do learn that outside the city, by the river, there are women who meet to pray (Acts 16:13). But the woman whose heart the Lord opens to heed the things spoken by Paul apparently isn’t even married, since she is over her own household (Acts 16:14). Her household is there with her, to be baptized when she believes, but there is no mention of a husband, who may have died or abandoned them. The first building block of the church in Philippi is a husbandless/fatherless household? The Spirit’s providence is often puzzling!

This reminds us of the gospel’s first incursion into Samaria in John 4. A woman, by a well, who has no husband, and becomes the initial believer of an avalanche of converts. Praise God for the Spirit’s puzzling providence!

Providence is powerful. This last—the Lord opening Lydia’s heart—shows us how powerful is the God of providence. He has the power to open closed hearts. It’s instructive to see what had to be done for Lydia to heed the things spoken by Paul. We are such slaves to our sin that in order to respond to the Word we need our hearts opened.

Even this woman who worshiped God in a general way could not be brought to saving faith in the Lord Jesus apart from the renewing grace of the Spirit. But praise be to God, He knows whom He will save, and He works in almighty power to save them. In His common, restraining grace He had brought this woman to a place where she groped after God, but not because this is some sort of half salvation. Rather, this became the means by which she was there to hear the gospel preached. And He Who would have overseen her life to bring her to this day, to hear this gospel, now exerted His almighty power to open her heart. How powerful is the providence of God!

It is this powerful providence that she laid hold of as she brought her household for baptism in Acts 16:15. He had saved her and made her His own eternally. And in so doing, He had added her household to the visible church of Christ on earth. As her household receives the mark of being set apart into the church, Lydia would lay hold of the hope that He Who had done all of this for them would open each of their hearts as He had hers. As she leads her household in worship, now, she will be doing so in confidence and eager desire, as one who knows God to be the Opener of hearts.

How do you tend to think of the Holy Spirit? How do you tend to think of the providence of God? If you are saved, how did that happen? If you are to be saved, how will that happen? What hope does this give you for others? How does God’s providence to covenant children give you more hope for them?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for reminding us that You personally rule and overrule all things out of personal love for us. Grant that we would trust Your wisdom in everything that happens. We praise You for the mercy and power in which You brought us to faith. And we trust in You to work by that same power in that same mercy in order to bring our dear ones to faith as well. Be glorified forever for Your marvelous salvation, we ask, in Jesus’s Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP34C “O Sons and Daughters Come” or TPH256 “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”

Friday, November 25, 2022

The Strength and Glory of God's Tabernacleing among Us [Family Worship lesson in Exodus 26:15–30]

What do we learn from the structure of the tabernacle? Exodus 26:15–30 looks forward to the p.m. sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these sixteen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the tabernacle received its structure from strong, splendid boards and bars—a visible (if lesser) glory, appropriate to the infant state of the church.
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2022.11.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Exodus 26:15–30

Read Exodus 26:15–30

Questions from the Scripture text: What are they to make in Exodus 26:15? To be used in what position? How long and wide (Exodus 26:16)? How will they be connected (Exodus 26:17)? How many boards for which side (Exodus 26:18)? How many sockets for receiving/connecting the tenons (Exodus 26:19)? Of what material? What other side will have the same boards (Exodus 26:20)? And what else the same (Exodus 26:21)? Which side is the far side (Exodus 26:22)? How many boards will it have? What other boards for what location (Exodus 26:23)? How will the corner boards be attached (Exodus 26:24)? How many boards and sockets total for the west/back side (Exodus 26:25)? What else is to be made of what material (Exodus 26:26)? And what else (Exodus 26:27)? What would these bars connect/support, in what way (Exodus 26:28)? With what would these boards and bars be overlaid (Exodus 26:29)? What will they do, according to what plan (Exodus 26:30)?

What do we learn from the structure of the tabernacle? Exodus 26:15–30 looks forward to the p.m. sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these sixteen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the tabernacle received its structure from strong, splendid boards and bars—a visible (if lesser) glory, appropriate to the infant state of the church.

While the furnishings, and especially the covering(s) of the tabernacle emphasized God’s glorious presence in a mobile and modular package in God’s “tent,” the boards that this passage now prescribes build on the tent motif by distinguishing it from other tents as stronger and more splendid.

God’s tent is a tent of strength. Where portability has been such a priority, the inner weight (acacia wood, Exodus 26:15), length (15 feet, Exodus 26:16), and overlaying (gold, Exodus 26:29) of each board stands out. Each of these boards would take several men to carry. 

This is no ordinary tent! The passage gives us not just the strength and solidity of the raw materials, but also of the construction. Tenons (Exodus 26:17), sockets (Exodus 26:19Exodus 26:21Exodus 26:25), reinforced corners with rings (Exodus 26:23-24), and cross-bars (Exodus 26:26-28) all fortify the tent. They are not the strength of God, but they convey that He is a God of strength.

And now the Lord has done much more than strengthen a tent. He Himself, in His almighty strength, is now our tabernacle in Jesus Christ. He is the tabernacling of God among us (cf. John 1:14; Hebrews 8–9; Revelation 21:3). And, He is the temple, built from His body (cf. John 2:19–22), of which He is the foundation and the chief cornerstone. And from Himself and upon Himself, Jesus is building a temple not from materials of earthly strength like acacia wood, but instead building from redeemed sinners, who are being conformed to His image (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:9–17; Ephesians 2:14–22; 1 Peter 2:4–10). How strong is the everlasting tabernacling and temple of God in His people!

God’s tent is a tent of splendor. From all of these passages in which we have considered the strength, we can see also the great glory of the ultimate tabernacling of God with His people. So, it doesn’t surprise us that great glory is another thing conveyed by these boards and sockets and rings and bars.

Strength itself is glorious. For instance, the size of the boards, as they are carried with Israel through the wilderness, would leave an impression upon the people. Though the boards would not be visible to them once the tabernacle was set up, even the procession of the boards among the people would communicate heavenly glory, the presence of a great God and King.

Once erected, from inside the Holy Place or Holy of Holies, the gold walls now contribute a truly splendid reflection of gold with the gold furnishings and the gold light from the lamps, all under the finely woven linen of the first curtain above. It is a place of light and glory and splendor.

But this was true to the eye. An outward, visible glory. Like a picture book for those so under-age that they cannot read. The church was still in its infancy (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:14–15; Galatians 3:22–25, Galatians 4:1–3; Hebrews 10:1). The true brilliance to come is seen first and foremost with the eye of faith not the eye of sight (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:16–18). Even in the new heavens and the new earth, when resurrected physical eyes behold magnificent new creation, what we know by the Word will be the way by which the light of the actual knowledge of God’s actual glory will shine in our hearts in the face of Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:2–6). 

Living in the age of the Word and the Spirit, rather than the infant age means that the glory is less outward, but that the glory is fuller, with more evidence from the finished work of Christ and completed Scriptures, and more efficacy with the ministry of the Spirit (cf. WCF 7.6 and Scripture proofs). Let us be grateful to God Who has given us to live in the time of this revelation. And, if He has placed us in this time (cf. Acts 17:26), let us seek from Him that heart-work of His Spirit that will make us know in truth the greatness of this glory!

How does God’s record of this tent’s construction communicate strength to you? But what is the true strength to which it points? How are you being helped by that strength in your day to day life? When you come to God through Christ in private or family worship, what is the glory that you are meant to see? How well have you been perceiving it? Who can help with this? What even greater glories are present for you to see in public worship? How are you enabled to perceive them? How well have you been doing so? How does the outward simplicity of this New Testament worship further help?

Sample prayer: Lord, thank You for being the strength and glory of Your people. Thank You for dwelling among us in a communication of that strength and glory. Thank You for giving us to live in a time when that communication is not the childish picture of the tabernacle but the mature reality of Christ risen, ascended, and enthroned. Grant unto us the ministry of Your Spirit to stir up our faith that we might know what is the hope of our calling, the greatness of Your power toward us, and the love of Christ which passes knowledge. Thus, grant that by Your Spirit’s use of Your Word to apply to us Christ in Whom the fullness of the Godhead dwells, we too might be filled with all the fullness of God. To You be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

 Suggested songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly, I Am with You” or TPH332 “Songs of Thankfulness and Praise” 

Thursday, November 24, 2022

All that We Contribute to Justification Is the Sin from Which We Need to Be Forgiven [2022.11.23 Midweek sermon in Romans 4:5–8]


All that we contribute to our justification and blessedness is the sin from which we need to be forgiven and the misery from which we need to be saved.

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2022.11.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Timothy 3:10–11

Read 1 Timothy 3:10–11

Questions from the Scripture text: What must be done before a man can be a deacon (1 Timothy 3:10)? What is the work of the deacon called? How does he have to do in his test in order to be qualified to be installed to the office? Who else must be proven by testing (1 Timothy 3:11)? What is the first thing that they must be? What must they not be? What is the second thing that they must be? What must the testing show about them? In how many things?

What is the proper process for installing a qualified man to the office of deacon? 1 Timothy 3:10 looks forward to the second reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In this verse of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that deacons must be tested, and only after being found blameless, be admitted to minister in the office.

First, let these be tested. This verse prescribes a procedure. Procedure, chronological words govern its shape: “first” and “afterward” (“then” in our version). Once we have found a man of 1 Timothy 3:8 qualities, 1 Timothy 3:9 doctrine, and a 1 Timothy 3:12 track record, we are not yet sure that we have a deacon. Something else must happen first. They must be tested. It’s not optional. It’s a command, an imperative verb.

The verb is the same one that is often translated “examine himself” in 1 Corinthians 11. It means to be proven by testing (which is where the concept of a “credible” profession of faith comes from). Before a man is made an administrator of the church’s service in material things, he must function as one provisionally in test cases. 

In these test cases, he should be found blameless. This “blameless” a different word than 1 Timothy 3:2 where the word applied primarily to the character; this one is more “without reproach” than “irreproachable” and focuses on how well spoken of the specific performance was in his testing as a deacon. His service in the church should have the general acclamation of the body.

Afterward, let them serve as deacons. Here’s the second part of the process. It, too, is not optional but a command. The ones having been tested and found blameless shall serve as deacons. This indicates the necessity of the office and the duty of the man whom the Lord calls to it. Where our version reads “let them serve as deacons,” it is actually all one word—a single imperative verb from the root word for “deacon.” 

Likewise, the women must be tested. It’s important to notice the structure of the passage. We have one office in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and another office in 1 Timothy 3:8-13. The two are connected by a “likewise” in 1 Timothy 3:8. Now, in 1 Timothy 3:11, the word “women” is not an office. And it certainly doesn’t mean “female deacons”; if that were the case, it would be bizarre for them to have a different set of qualifications than in 1 Timothy 3:8

However, there is an expectation that women will be doing much of the service under the administration and authority of the deacons. And, it is part of the blamelessness in his testing that a deacon is entrusting the labor under his oversight to particular sorts of women: women who will be dignified, not silly, so that the needy whom they serve experience honor by their conduct (“reverence”); not devils who would use information about others’ needs to attack them behind their backs (“not slanderers”); self-controlled and sober, not easily controlled or unstable (“temperate”); reliable and dependable, doing whatever they are entrusted to do (“faithful in all things”). 

Our version says “wives,” which is consistent with the same use of the word ‘woman’ immediately in 1 Timothy 3:12. And, it must certainly be expected that a deacon who rules his house well will have such a wife, and that she will be involved in the work. But deacons’ wives will not be the only ones serving under the diaconate, and all women to whom sensitive service is assigned must have a character as described here, which has been proven true by testing “likewise” unto how the deacons who oversee them have been.

What must be done with a man before he can be installed as a deacon? How well must he do? If he did so, what must he now do? Who else need to be tested? What should the test show about them?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for Your gracious work in men who oversee the church’s ministry of service in material things. And thank You for Your gracious work in women who participate in the sensitive work of distributing. Forgive us for taking diaconal ministry lightly, failing to value the honor that it brings to Christ when done well. Grant to us reformation and repentance in this area, we ask through Christ, AMEN!

 ARP128 “How Blessed Are All Who Fear the Lord” or TPH128B “Blest the Man Who Fears Jehovah”

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

The King, the Word, and God's Astonishing Power and Mercy [Family Worship lesson in 2Kings 6:24–7:20]

What controls the rise and fall of nations and fates of sinful individuals? 2Kings 6:24–7:20 looks forward to the first serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these thirty verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the rising and falling of nations, together with the fates of sinful individuals, is controlled by the Word of God.
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2022.11.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Kings 6:24–7:20

Read 2 Kings 6:24–7:20

Questions from the Scripture text: Who gathered whom in 2 Kings 6:24? How many of them? Where did he go to do what? What did this cause in the city of Samaria (2 Kings 6:25)? What was sold for how much money? What else for how much? Where was the king of Israel in 2 Kings 6:26? Who cries to him for what? Whom does he say isn’t helping (2 Kings 6:27)? What question does he ask in such a case? What two places will give no help without the Lord? What follow-up question does he ask in 2 Kings 6:28? What situation does she describe in 2 Kings 6:29? How does the king respond to this in 2 Kings 6:30? What do the people see there under his clothes? What does this mean he had been doing? Now what does he swear to do (2 Kings 6:31)? Where was Elisha (2 Kings 6:32)? Who was with him? What does he ask the elders? When? What does he say to do when the messenger does arrive? Who arrives in 2 Kings 6:33? Where does the king say the calamity is from? What does he ask? What does Elisha tell him to do at the beginning of 2 Kings 7:1? What does Yahweh say? Whose trusty officer answer in 2 Kings 7:2? What does he ask? What does Elisha say to that officer? To whom does 2 Kings 7:3 introduce us now? Where were they? What do they ask each other? What would happen to them in the city (2 Kings 7:4)? What would happen to them in the gate? Where do they decide to go instead? When do they go (2 Kings 7:5)? What surprise do they find? What had happened (2 Kings 7:6)? What had the Syrian’s said to one another? Why was their situation even more dire? What had they done in 2 Kings 7:7? In what condition did they leave their camp? What do the lepers now do in a tent in 2 Kings 7:8? Then what do they do? And what do they do with another tent? Then what do they say in 2 Kings 7:9? What sort of day was it? What do they feel obligated to do? Whom do they decide to tell? To whom do they speak in 2 Kings 7:10? What do they report? Whom do the gatekeepers call out in 2 Kings 7:11? What does the king do and say in 2 Kings 7:12, despite the prophet’s word the previous day? How does one of his servants suggest that it is worth the risk (2 Kings 7:13)? What do they do in 2 Kings 7:14? How far do they go in 2 Kings 7:15? What do they find? Where then do they go? Whom do they tell? What do the people do in 2 Kings 7:16? For how much are fine flour and barley now sold? According to what? Whom had the king appointed to do what (2 Kings 7:17)? What happened to him? According to what? What do 2 Kings 7:18-20 recount as a summary of what controlled this entire event? 

What controls the rise and fall of nations and fates of sinful individuals? 2 Kings 6:24–7:20 looks forward to the first serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these thirty verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the rising and falling of nations, together with the fates of sinful individuals, is controlled by the Word of God.

Who is really in control? Presently, the author lives in a sad and foolish age, where people look to civil government to cure health and provide economically. But one of the great tensions in 2 Kings is that between the Word of God and the king of men for power in the land, and one of the important datapoints in resolving that tension is the king’s impotence in health and economics. In 2 Kings 5:7, the king says, “Am I God, to kill and make alive, that this man sends a man to me to heal him of his leprosy”? Now in 2 Kings 6:27 he sarcastically says, “If Yahweh does not help you, where can I find help for you? From the threshing floor or from the winepress?”

Sadly, while the king seems to know that only the Lord and the power of His Word can resolve the situation, the king still doesn’t have enough respect for the Lord and the power of His Word. He blames the Word and now he threatens the Word (2 Kings 6:31).

He ought to have blamed himself and his people! We know from Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 that military and economic suffering in the land was an indicator of breaking of God’s law and a call to repentance. And indeed, what has the present distress revealed about them? That they’re the sort of people who resort to cannibalism in their repentance, rather than repentance (2 Kings 6:28-29). Why, indeed, would the woman think that someone who had proposed cannibalism of children wouldn’t be beneath lying? 

How should lesser authorities recognize this and respond? Rather than taking the lead in public repentance, the king has hidden his own sackcloth of repentance. Perhaps he wished to appear strong, or perhaps he thought the people themselves beyond repentance. But he who had recently called the prophet “my father” (2 Kings 6:21) now aligns himself with the attitude toward the prophet that recently resulted in forty-two shredded children (cf. 2 Kings 2:24).

The king has threatened Yahweh’s man (Elisha), so Yahweh takes his “officer on whose hand the king leaned” (2 Kings 7:2). The Lord’s great power is displayed both upon vessels of wrath and upon vessels of mercy. As in the flood, and at Sodom, both His righteous destroying and His gracious redeeming are glorious displays of His power (cf. Romans 9:22–24, 2 Peter 2:4–9). 

But it was “Yahweh’s help” (2 Kings 6:27) that was needed both for the famine of threshing floor and for the famine of righteousness. The latter famine was worse. We must have earthly kings who realize that they cannot give their people what the Lord has not appointed for earthly rulers to give. We must have earthly kings who realize that even what they can give still depends upon Yahweh’s help. We must have earthly kings who realize that their nation’s greatest need is righteousness before God, the favor of God, the blessing of God. 

What should we look for from our king(s)? But we must have more than just earthly kings. We must have that King Whose people fear God throughout all generations (cf. Psalm 72:5), that King Whose days outlast the moon, days in which the righteous flourish (cf. Psalm 72:7). 

King Jesus even hints at His being the King to Whom this passage points by His own mercy to and healing of lepers among the earthly signs of His Messiahship. It is an added layer of the power of God to redeem that He shows special favor upon “the least of these” in suffering Samaria. The use of the four lepers, and the special supply for them before the rest of Israel plunders, is itself a display of the King Who has mercy on the poor and needy (cf. Psalm 72:4, Psalm 72:12–14). 

God’s power and mercy are both greater than man can imagine. The now-trampled officer couldn’t imagine it (2 Kings 7:17). But indeed it came true, just as God’s Word has said. And this fulfillment of the Word is the final and main point, repeatedly and verbosely made in the long summary of the passage from 2 Kings 7:16-20. The Syrians were in much greater trouble than even they thought in 2 Kings 7:6. It was not “merely” the kings of the Hittites and the kings of the Egyptians, but the King of kings who was against them. 

Nations rise and fall according to His will, and they do so not merely so that Hebrews can have grain, but so that all of God’s elect may be brought to the faith by which they have the Bread of Life in Jesus Christ. This is what determines the entire course of the history of the creation (cf. Romans 8:18–23; Revelation 6:10–11).

How is it evident that you know King Jesus as all your help for believing and righteousness? How is it evident that King Jesus is also all your hope for health and bread? What does your nation need?

Sample prayer: Lord, the price of bread and meat is in Your hand. The fates of government officials and ignored lepers is in Your hand. We depend entirely upon Your grace, and our greatest need is repentance and righteousness, which You alone can give. Forgive us for trusting in ourselves. Forgive us for trusting in government, or for fearing governments. Forgive us for resorting to managing situations rather than first crying out to You in repentance and faith. Make us to remember that You know how to deliver the godly out of trials and to reserve the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment. Grant that we would not walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness or despise authority. Thank You for making Your Son, our Lord and Savior, to be the King over all kings and the Lord over all lords. For His sake, hear us as we pray in His Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or TPH256 “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

The Extents of the Kingdom, Power, and Glory of the Forever-King [Family Worship lesson in Psalm 72:8–15]

What is the extent of the Forever-King’s kingdom, power, and glory? Psalm 72:8–15 looks forward to the opening portion of morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these eight verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that as Christ’s kingdom is universal, His power absolute, and His glory infinite.
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2022.11.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 72:8–15

Read Psalm 72:8–15

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Psalm 72:8 describe as the boundaries of the Forever-King’s kingdom? Even which people will fall to their knees before Him (Psalm 72:9a)? How completely will His enemies be defeated (verse 9b)? Who are pictured as among His loyal subjects (Psalm 72:10)? How many kings (Psalm 72:11a)? How many nations (verse 11b)? What was the prior condition of these kings and nations (Psalm 72:12)? What did the King do for them (Psalm 72:12-14)? And specifically for their souls (Psalm 72:13-14a)? Why (verse 14b)? What does this King do (Psalm 72:15a)? What belongs to Him (verse 15b)? What else (verse 15c)? And what else (verse 15d)?

What is the extent of the Forever-King’s kingdom, power, and glory? Psalm 72:8–15 looks forward to the opening portion of morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these eight verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that as Christ’s kingdom is universal, His power is absolute, and His glory infinite.  

The extent of Christ’s kingdom is universal. He is king wherever there is sea, or land (Psalm 72:8). And His subjects are from the far northwest (Tarshish, Psalm 72:10a) to the south and southeast (Sheba and Seba, verse 10c). All kings fall before Him (Psalm 72:11a), either as defeated enemies or loving, adoring servants. All nations serve Him (verse 11b). Philippians 2:10 affirms that Christ is the King to Whom the knees of Psalm 72 bow.

The extent of Christ’s power is absolute. There is no enemy so great that he will not be brought to his knees (Psalm 72:9a) and lick the dust (verse 9b). Indeed this is the curse pronounced upon the dragon, that ancient serpent, the Devil and Satan, the greatest enemy (cf. Genesis 3:14, Revelation 12:7–9).

But there is a more gloriously displayed power than that in which the King destroys enemies prepared for destruction (cf. Romans 9:22). For He endures them with much patience that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles (cf. Romans 9:23–24).

These are those kings who discover themselves to be needy and poor (Psalm 72:11, with Psalm 72:12-13). Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for those lowly ones shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those needy who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. (cf. Matthew 5:3–6). 

Truly, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven (cf. Matthew 19:23–24), but such is the power of Christ the King that He gives the impossible (cf. Matthew 19:25–26): humility, gratitude, and adoration from kings! Sin entered into the world, and death through sin, but the great King redeemed the lives of sinners from death (v14a). Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies (WSC 26). 

The extent of Christ’s glory is infinite. How great is His glory? He is the One of Whom it is said that “He lives” (Psalm 72:15a, cf. Hebrews 7:8). He is the Creator, in Whom is life, and rom Whom all life comes (cf. John 1:3–4). He is the “I Am” (cf. Exodus 3:14)—the One Who has being in Himself, and upon Whom all beings depend. Yes, He is the Son of David according to the flesh, but when He took up His life again by His own authority (cf. John 10:17–18), He was declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead (cf. Romans 1:4)! He lives!

Ultimately, all will recognize that all belongs to Him and bring it as tribute (Psalm 72:15b).

He is the One Who is worthy. Every right prayer, given in His Name, asked according to His will, aims at His glory. Every proper request is a supplication that Christ the King would receive that which He deserves, His due of which He is worthy. What an honor the redeemed sinner has that we pray through Christ, and in this sense pray for Christ to receive what He has won in His life, death, and resurrection!

Daily, He shall be praised. That praise which we are to offer morning, and evening, and all day long, are praises unto Christ! His is the glory of all life. His is the glory of all gifts. His is the glory of all prayer. His is the glory of all praise! O, the joy and glory, of being subjects of the great King in His kingdom!

Who is the Forever-King? How big is His kingdom? How powerful is He? How glorious is He?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we praise You, our great and high King! Thank You for subduing us to Yourself, for loving us and counting our blood as precious in Your sight! Receive from us all our praise, all that we have, indeed our very selves. You have life in Yourself, and You alone are our life! You are worthy of all for which we properly pray! All praise belongs to You! Receive it now, even as You help us to offer it, by Your own almighty Spirit, we ask for Your sake and in Your Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP72B “Nomads Will Bow” or TPH270 “At the Name of Jesus”

Monday, November 21, 2022

What We Learn from the Ceiling and Roof of God's Tent [2022.11.20 Evening sermon in Exodus 26:1–14]


The tabernacle was a very mobile, temporary anticipation of glorious presence to come.

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How Christ's Spirit Grew the Churches [2022.11.20 Morning sermon in Acts 15:36–16:5]


The Spirit grew the church by follow-up ministry, fallible men, future ministers, and faithful maintenance of doctrine and practice.

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Biblical Theology of the Diaconate (11): Spiritual Needs Shown by Diaconal Needs in the Birth of Israel [2022.11.20 Sabbath School]

At the birth of Israel as a nation/church, spiritual need was exposed by diaconal need. And diaconal blessing was promised to spiritual faithfulness so that the goodness of the gracious God might be reflected and displayed in His gracious nation.
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Theology Simply Explained — WSC62, The Reasons God Gives for Keeping His Sabbath

Pastor walks his children through Westminster Shorter Catechism question 62—especially explaining from Exodus 20:8–11 how God’s wording of the fourth commandment piles up for us good reasons to keep it.

WSC62: What are the reasons annexed to the fourth commandment? The reasons annexed to the fourth commandment are, God's allowing us six days of the week for our own employments, His challenging a special propriety in the seventh, His own example, and His blessing the sabbath day.
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What Faith Contributes to Our Salvation [Family Worship lesson in Romans 4:5–8]

What does a believer contribute to his righteousness or blessedness? Romans 4:5–8 looks forward to the devotional in this week’s midweek meeting. In these four verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that faith must be the only instrument of our justification, because God justifies the ungodly one who does not work.
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2022.11.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 4:5–8

Read Romans 4:5–8

Questions from the Scripture text: About what sort of person does Romans 4:5 speak—what doesn’t he do? What does he do instead of work? In Whom does he believe? Whom does God justify? By what mechanism (accounting/imputing or debt) is he justified? Through what instrument is this righteousness imputed to him? To whom else does the apostle appeal as teaching this (Romans 4:6)? In what condition is the man that David describes? How did this man come into a state of blessedness—Who did what to him? Apart from what? What three things do Romans 4:7-8 describe this man as doing? What two things were done to his lawless deeds and sins (Romans 4:7)? Who did not do what to his sin (Romans 4:8)?

What does a believer contribute to his righteousness or blessedness? Romans 4:5–8 looks forward to the devotional in this week’s midweek meeting. In these four verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that faith must be the only instrument of our justification, because God justifies the ungodly one who does not work.

Justification by faith must be justification by faith alone, Romans 4:5. The Spirit taught us, in Romans 4:3-4, that justifying faith is not a work. Now, He makes it very clear that justification by faith will not allow the addition of any works or godliness. 

Justification is specifically for “him who does not work.” Bringing any of our works at all into the equation removes entirely the possibility of righteousness. God justifies not those of substandard godliness but the entirely ungodly. Godliness cannot even begin until justification!

The righteousness that believers have accounted for them (calculated as theirs) isn’t just unmerited righteousness but demerited. Believers don’t get “better” than they deserve; they get the opposite of what they deserve.

This is not new in the age of the gospelRomans 4:6. The Davidic beatitudes of Psalm 32 give us the portrait of the blessed man. David, a man “after God’s own heart,” was a great sinner, even after decades of walking with the Lord. Yet, he describes a life of blessedness in which a man is saved by God (cf. Psalm 32:6–7), gladdened by God (cf. Psalm 32:7c), and led by God (cf. Psalm 32:8), while surrounded by covenant love (cf. Psalm 32:10b) and filled with gladness (cf. Psalm 32:11). 

The believer’s contribution to his blessednessRomans 4:7-8. What “works” does the blessed man contribute to his coming into such a state of blessedness? “lawless deeds … sins … sin” (verses 7–8). Or, as our version of Psalm 32 itself has it, “transgression … sin … iniquity” (cf. Psalm 32:1–2). There is a way of thinking that says that God’s grace produces much, but then that we supply the faith or the choice. Or even that God supplies the faith, and that the faith is received as if it were a work good enough to make us right with God. 

But these miss what Paul and David both say by the Spirit. We do supply much—our contribution to our salvation is the sin from which we need to be saved! This is the only thing that we contribute.

The Lord’s contribution to the believer’s blessednessRomans 4:7-8. We supply the lawless deeds, but the Lord supplies the forgiveness (Romans 4:7a). We supply the sins, but the Lord supplies the covering of the sins (verse 7b). We supply every single sin, but the Lord supplies by Jesus the righteous (cf. Romans 3:26) calculation of that sin away from our account. Faith, then, sees that we supply only that which is bad, and that the Lord saves us by supplying in Christ every good thing necessary.

What did you supply to your salvation? In what must you hope, for righteousness? In what mustn’t you hope?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we look to You alone for righteousness, blessedness, and salvation. For, the only thing that we can contribute to these is the sin from which we need to be saved. Forgive us, and count us righteous, for only the works that Jesus has done, we ask in His Name, AMEN!

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

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Means by Which the Spirit Strengthened Churches in Faith and Increased Them in Number [Family Worship lesson in Acts 15:35–16:5]

How does the Lord strengthen His church? Acts 15:36–16:5 looks forward to the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these eleven verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the Lord strengthens His church by His blessing upon follow-up ministry by partially sanctified men and the church’s unity in doctrine and practice.
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2022.11.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 15:36–16:5

Read Acts 15:36–16:5

Questions from the Scripture text: Who speaks to whom in Acts 15:36? Where does he suggest they go? To do what? Whom did Barnabas want to bring (Acts 15:37)? Why did Paul insist not to (Acts 15:38)? How does the argument proceed (Acts 15:39)? What happens to Paul and Barnabas? Whom does Barnabas take? Where does he go? Whom does Paul choose (Acts 15:40)? What is done to them before they depart? By whom? Unto what? Through where does Paul go (Acts 15:41)? Doing what along the way? Until he comes to where (Acts 16:1)? Who was there? The son of what ethnicity woman? Of what faith? What ethnicity is his father? What people spoke of him in what way (Acts 16:2)? What did Paul want Timothy to do (Acts 16:3)? What does he do to Timothy? Because of whom? And why? Through where do they go (Acts 16:4)? What does he deliver to them? What happens to the faith of the churches (Acts 16:5)? And what happens to the number of the churches?

How does the Lord strengthen His church? Acts 15:36–16:5 looks forward to the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these eleven verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the Lord strengthens His church by His blessing upon follow-up ministry by partially sanctified men and the church’s unity in doctrine and practice. 

Follow-up ministry. It is Paul who desires to go and follow up on their first missionary journey (Acts 15:36a). The decision of the Jerusalem Synod has obvious implications for them (Acts 16:4), and as Christian love always is, he is interested to know how they are doing (Acts 15:36b). There is obviously the intent to “strengthen the churches” (Acts 15:41), and indeed by the end of the passage, the Spirit tells us that “the churches were strengthened in the faith and increased in number daily (Acts 16:5). 

Partially sanctified men. One of the reasons to know how they are doing, and strengthen them, is that both the churches generally and the elders under whose care they left them (cf. Acts 14:23) are fallible men. But so are young ministers. John Mark had washed out of the first missionary journey (Acts 15:38, cf. Acts 13:13), and Barnabas wants to use bring him, ostensibly to give him another opportunity for serving and growing. But seasoned ministers are also growing, and there is a sharp contention between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:39a).

One thing that we see here is that not all conflict must be resolved in order for men to continue ministering. Barnabas takes Mark anyway and sails to Cyprus. The text speaks more fully positively of Paul’s departure in that he and Silas are commended by the brethren to the grace of God. But it does not necessarily speak negatively of Barnabas. 

Barnabas’s labors pay off, and later Paul noy only commends Mark to the Colossians (cf. Colossians 4:10) but even specifically requests Mark as very useful to him in ministry (cf. 2 Timothy 4:11). Sometimes, finding an imperfect way forward is blessed by God to the curing of some of those imperfections. Mark ends up trained, and the relationship ends up restored, even on this side of glory.

The church’s unity in doctrine and practice. A great part of that strengthening of the churches for which Paul is laboring comes by unity of doctrine and practice. Paul and Silas are delivering the decrees of the Jerusalem Synod (Acts 16:4), but also practicing in the spirit of that decree by seeking the removal of offense for the proclamation of the gospel.

While requiring circumcision of Gentiles was an obstacle to the gospel that the council had rejected, Timothy was a half-Jew (Acts 16:1). As such, he was considered wholly holy, set apart to God just as much as if his father had been holy (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:14). His mother Eunice was a believer, as well as his grandmother Lois (cf. 2 Timothy 1:5), and the brethren spoke well of him in his own right (Acts 16:3). But all the Jews knew his father was a Greek (verse 3b). Not as a mere concession to keep them happy, but as a removal of an obstacle for gospel ministry, Paul circumcises him (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:20). 

We maintain unity by holding to the pure doctrine of the Word and not adding anything in doctrine or practice that would bring men’s consciences under one another’s opinions rather than under the Spirit in the Scripture. But it is each of our privilege when we have an opportunity to lay aside our rights in order to serve better the peace and growth of the church.

Why is separation sometimes necessary in the church? How are you seeking to be strengthened? How are you participating in Christ’s method of strengthening His church by His servants? How are you pursuing unity of doctrine with your church? What rights are you laying aside for peace and ministry?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for strengthening us by one-another’s service, and especially by the ministry of the gospel. Please bless and use our preachers and teachers so that we may all be of one, stable, Scriptural mind with Christ. Keep sanctifying us, and help us to love and forgive one another. Give us the humility and grace to lay aside our own rights or privileges wherever that would be helpful. Give us that mind that is in Christ Jesus, we ask in His Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or TPH409 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds” 

Friday, November 18, 2022

How Abraham's Boasting Was Excluded: More Help for Excluding Our Own [2022.11.16 Midweek sermon in Romans 4:1–4]


The righteousness that is truly ours in Christ comes as an accounting of grace, rather than the repaying of debt, we know that our faith is not a work, and we have no room at all for boasting.

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What We Learn from the Ceiling and Roof of God's Tent [Family Worship lesson in Exodus 26:1–14]

What do we learn from the style of covering of the tabernacle? Exodus 26:1–14 looks forward to the p.m. sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these fourteen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the tabernacle was a very mobile, temporary anticipation of glorious presence to come.
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2022.11.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Exodus 26:1–14

Read Exodus 26:1–14

Questions from the Scripture text: What are they to make for the covering of the tabernacle (Exodus 26:1)? How many of them? Out of what primary material? And what threads? With what embroidered upon them? How long should each curtain be (Exodus 26:2)? How wide? How are they to be arranged (Exodus 26:3)? What should be made on the edges in order to connect them (Exodus 26:4)? How many loops per curtain (Exodus 26:5)? What are they to make for connecting the loops (Exodus 26:6)? Out of what? With what ultimate result (end of verse 6)? What other curtains are to be made (Exodus 26:7)? In how many sections now (cp. Exodus 26:1)? And what length now (Exodus 26:8, cp Exodus 26:2)? What does the extra curtain do (Exodus 26:9)? What assembly does this second set use (Exodus 26:10)? Of what are its clasps made (Exodus 26:11, cp. Exodus 26:6)? What are the extra two cubits of length for (Exodus 26:12-13)? What additional layers are there to be (Exodus 26:14)?

What do we learn from the style of covering of the tabernacle? Exodus 26:1–14 looks forward to the p.m. sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these fourteen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the tabernacle was a very mobile, temporary anticipation of glorious presence to come.

Mobile. With the descriptions of the furnishings completed, the theme of the mobility of God’s tent now takes center stage. Before moving out into the court, God’s design addresses the covering of the Holy of Holies and of the Holy Place. “Curtains” here is a word that primarily refers to tent coverings used by nomadic people. The people are going to be wandering, and God prepares to wander with them. 

Modular. In addition to a portable style of dwelling, the particular design is for very rapid setup and take down. The loops and the clasps on multiple four-cubit (6 ft) sections would enable very quick assembly/disassembly. God’s people must be ready to obey and move at a moment’s notice. 

Both of these aspects of the design remind us that this is not the final form of God’s dwelling with His people. This is a greatly gracious season in God’s dealings with man, but it is anticipating a greater season still. One day, God’s dwelling with man will be permanent, stable, persistent.

Majestic. The materials of these under-curtains are costly. The blue, purple, and scarlet thread employed rare dyes. The clasps are made of gold. The linen is both costly and also mirrors the ritually pure garments of the priesthood when they are on tabernacle duty. Embroidered into this “ceiling” would be cherubim. The candle-light shining on the linen, the gold, and the costly-thread embroidered cherubim would all convey heavenliness even upon the “ceiling” inside the tabernacle.

Multilayered. There are three more layers described here. The design of the next one is the same, except with one extra layer overlapping in the middle, a cubit extra length at each edge, and less expensive materials (goats’ hair for the curtains and bronze for the clasps). The next layer is ram skins dyed red. Skins are especially suited to keeping moisture out. The final layer would be especially so, since the word translated “badger” in our version is probably “dolphin.” These extra layers not only reinforce the separation from the outside world but preserve the more delicate inner layer.

God, Who made the heavens, describes doing so as “stretching them out like a curtain” in Psalm 104:2. He uses the same word there as we have here. The care and design that He commands to be put into the tabernacle reminds us that this is a copy of a true and heavenly reality. One day, the mobile and modular will be replaced not only with the stability of a stationary temple, but finally with the glorious permanence of the resurrected and returned Savior. And the declaration will be that “the tent of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God” (Revelation 21:3). 

In Whom are you now with God? How has He come to dwell with You? If God designed and maintained the picture of that dwelling in the tabernacle, what will He do with you?

Sample prayer: Lord, thank You for coming to dwell with Your people and bringing Your people to dwell with You. Forgive me for thinking little of Your presence. Preserve me and sanctify me by Your Spirit, until You bring me at last into the perfection that the tabernacle pictured, I ask through Christ, AMEN!

 Suggested songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly, I Am with You” or TPH332 “Songs of Thankfulness and Praise”

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Foundational Qualifications of a Deacon [Family Worship lesson in 1Timothy 3:8–9]

What are the primary qualifications of a deacon? 1Timothy 3:8–9 looks forward to the second reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these two verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that deacons must be dignified men who live consistently with their sound doctrine.
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2022.11.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Timothy 3:8–9

Read 1 Timothy 3:8–9

Questions from the Scripture text: What is the first thing deacons must be (1 Timothy 3:8)? What is the first thing he must not be? What is the second? What is the third? What must he be doing (1 Timothy 3:9)? 

What are the primary qualifications of a deacon? 1 Timothy 3:8–9 looks forward to the second reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these two verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that deacons must be dignified men who live consistently with their sound doctrine.

The qualifications of deacons are introduced here (1 Timothy 3:8–9), a brief procedure for recognizing and installing them stated (1 Timothy 3:10), including the character of the women who serve under them (1 Timothy 3:11), followed by further description of how their character is shown in testing (1 Timothy 3:12-13). The implication is that the women in 1 Timothy 3:11 are first/originally their wives in the home (1 Timothy 3:12) and then the women who are officially engaged in the diaconal service of the church. More on that in subsequent passages, but for our purposes this week, we’re just noting the place of 1 Timothy 3:8-9.

Qualifications appropriate to position. By saying “likewise,” the apostle refers us back to the more extensive set of qualifications he has just finished delineating for elders. Just as those qualifications were suited to the “good work” that the office of overseer engaged a man in, now the good work of overseeing material service as a deacon requires qualifications appropriate to the work.

The implication is that while these qualifications in verses 8–9 are necessary, they are not the only ones. We know this already because of our study in Acts 6:1–7

A deacon must be reverent. The word here is related to the “dignity” and “nobility” word from 1 Timothy 2:2 and 1 Timothy 3:5. Beyond propriety, seriousness, and majesty of manner, this cognate word refers to worthiness of respect. If there is a shade of difference in meaning, it is that not only is his behavior is respectable, but the dignity and nobility of his behavior is what best summarizes him as a person: both inwardly by the Spirit and outwardly in serious, worthy living.

A deacon must not be double-tongued. There is a word that is more literally “double-tongued,” but this one is more literally “double-worded.” He doesn’t say one thing to one man and a different thing to another. Neither inconsistency nor partiality change the way that he responds. Deacons are going to have to deal with tricky situations and will often have to be deciding between competing interests and worthy causes. Consistency of conduct and impartiality is vitally necessary for a deacon. 

A deacon must not be given to much wine. Note, of course, the word “much.” It is not that a deacon does not drink wine at all, but that he is always ready to exercise good judgment. Not only does he need to do this for the real-time decisions that may be involved in the exercise of his office, but it will also help him make wise denials of financial assistance where that would be harmful. 

There have always been those who need material help because they squander their resources on drink. To give them more material help would only harm them by facilitating their obtaining more drink. A man who himself is addicted to fleshly desires weakens his ability to say no to another such man.

A deacon must not be greedy for money. This is that same “shameful gain” word that we came across in 1 Timothy 3:3. It refers to a man who has few compunctions about gaining in any way (not just financially) that he can get away with. The man who is always looking for an angle, always looking to advance himself, must not be given the opportunities to do so at the expense of the church and of the members who are most needy.

A deacon must hold to the mystery of the faith. The New Testament word “mystery” doesn’t refer to something still hidden, but to something that has been revealed and that we wouldn’t know apart from special revelation. The doctrine referred to in 1 Timothy 3:9 is summarized as “the mystery of godliness” in 1 Timothy 3:16. The core doctrines of the faith are the very ones that produce godliness in believers. Christ's divinity and incarnation, His death and resurrection, His appearance to messengers, His saving through preaching, and His current ascension and reign. 

A man who doesn’t believe these things is not a Christian, let alone qualified to be a deacon. But the second half of 1 Timothy 3:9 explains the connection between the character in 1 Timothy 3:8 and the doctrine to which the man holds. The diaconate is not just for “decent” men but for “doctrinal” men, whose decency organically and obviously flows from theology. The good works of the church are to adorn the gospel; the men who oversee these good works should be models of how those two things go together in one’s life.

These are not the only qualifications of a deacon, but they are all necessary. A man who lacks one of these is not qualified or called to the office. The Lord bless His church by gracing men in such a way as to fit them for this office!

What characteristics in these two verses do you find most rare in the churches today? 

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for Your blessed gospel! Forgive us for how we often fail to hold to the good doctrine in Your Word, and we often fail to work it our with a pure conscience. So, we live silly and superficial lives. And we are inconsistent and impartial in our speech. And we let our fleshly desires control us. And we are always looking to gain for ourselves. O forgive us! Give us deacons whom You have much sanctified from such sin, and sanctify us from that sin as well, we ask through Jesus Christ, AMEN!

 ARP128 “How Blessed Are All Who Fear the Lord” or TPH128B “Blest the Man Who Fears Jehovah”

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

The Holy Place Portrays Christ as the Fellowship of God and Light of God unto Us [2022.11.13 Evening sermon in Exodus 25:23–40]


The benefits of God's presence in Christ and atonement in Christ flow to us in His fellowship in Christ and the light of His blessing in Christ.

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