A Homiletical Spiral for Preaching Old Testament Narratives
- Wednesday, July 29, 2009
The sermon can now seize upon points that can be made with regard to the application of the passage. The above work was only preliminary; the sermon will probably not be as involved. However, it would not hurt to once and again cover both a text and one of its subtexts in a single sermon. This may enrich the depth of the sermon as well as (re-)familiarize congregants with other biblical narratives. Even so, the pericope is not to be abandoned to a cultural or literary motif (Egypt in our example). Rather, points can be made in light of these motifs.
For example, in light of the Egypt motif, one can say that the prophet's pronouncement in the above pericope cautions contemporary believers against turning away from God with respect to their worship and against making decisions that are against God's broader purposes for his people. Jeroboam had essentially brought the people back to Egypt, both in terms of temporary refuge and false worship. God is always bent on redeeming his people; even when they are subject to bondage, his ultimate intent is to redeem them. The idea of temporary refuge, then, is not ungodly in itself; neither is, I would argue, false worship. 7 However, if the spiritual state of believers is such that temporary refuge or false worship can destroy the spiritual vitality and redeemed-ness of God's people, they become abominable. False worship can lead to apostasy and temporary refuge to false reliance. Given the guilt attributed to Jeroboam in Scripture, religious leaders especially should be warned of causing their congregations to sin by implementing worship reforms or offering means of temporary refuge that have deleterious consequences. Should such a thing occur, there is always forgiveness available through repentance; however, undoing the damage can be an inestimable task. In Jeroboam's case, it took the installation of an anointed king who would centuries later rid the land of Jeroboam's institution, but even this reform could not erase Jeroboam's mark.
In Christ, believers have their every sin forgiven and have an unprecedented relation to God the Father. Christ accomplished a reform far greater than Josiah's; therefore, the idea that the prophecy of Josiah applies to Jesus by extension is suggestive. The fact still remains, though, that religious leaders especially, be they ministers or lay, should beware of leading their flocks back to Egypt for therein lies the double danger of false reliance and false worship. Egypt should be a thing of the past; it is no longer part of God's plan for his people. Put another way, it is something that God's people should outgrow. Once the four hundred years were up, God had no desire for his people to return. Not only did he say so explicitly in Deut 17, but the notion is intimated throughout the Pentateuch. 8 God alone is our eternally true refuge; believers should take care to trust in him and offer him true worship. What these two practically entail cannot be determined by law; they will differ from situation to situation, community to community, person to person. Specifics can then be adduced in accord with the preaching moment and in line with the preacher's convictions.
Just by scratching the surface, then, we see that Old Testament narratives can speak mountains to us today. We have used I Kgs 13.1-6 as our example, but the same can be said for almost every other narrative in the Old Testament. Some will be more difficult than other and motifs will differ from pericope to pericope and preacher to preacher, but by preparing sermons in spiraled phases, as I have called them, ministers may develop a facility with the narrative portions of the Old Testament by taking advantage of the macro-structures of Old Testament texts that expository preaching can so often depreciate.
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