Recently a close friend asked me a question that I thought was simply a delight to answer. He asked me, “How do I preach better from the Old Testament?”
Here is my answer:
I’m grateful you’ve asked about how to preach from the OT better. This is a grand desire, and one that you’ll feel for the rest of your life. The hardest thing about preaching is the first 60 years :), really. We all should be striving to be better handlers of God’s Word, asking God to make us more faithful every sermon we prepare for and preach. Here are a few basic guidelines I’m come to find very helpful and have embraced over the past 7-8 years.
First and foremost: Preach Christ from all of Scripture.
From Genesis to Revelation God only has one sermon, Christ crucified, risen, and reigning. Though every verse in the Bible does not explicitly have Christ in it – every verse in the Bible exists to get you to Christ in some manner. One of my RTS professors always said it like this, “Christ is the end which every verse in the Bible means to take you.” If Christ is not the center of every sermon, especially an OT sermon, than your hearers will usually only hear one thing: TRY HARDER, DO BETTER – this is preaching law not grace, tyranny not liberation. Rather, our hearers should hear the best words they could ever hear from every text of Scripture: IT IS FINISHED. All this is, is putting Colossians 1:28 into practice from all of the Scripture. One thing that will help you see the connections between the OT and Christ is a study in Typology. That’s what did it for me.
Second: Explain how the OT text would have been heard and understood to its original audience. Answer the question: what would have been the first thing coming into the original audience’s heart/mind when hearing or reading this passage of Scripture?
Third: Explain how the OT text must be heard and understood to our current day today.
Fourth: These previous two items may be very close to the same thing, but they may not be also. For example, knowing how the original audience of the Israelites would have read, heard, and understood the words of Genesis 1 (for example) helps us understand it more today. Though I have many friends who hold to the literary framework interpretation of creation, I highly doubt that was the original audience’s view. It most likely was understood as a literal 6 day, 24 hour creation.
Fifth: Listen to good OT preaching, a lot. It gets in your bones.
Sixth: Read good books on preaching, of which they’re are only 4 in my opinion:
a) John Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching
b) Martin Lloyd Jones, Preaching and Preachers
c) Dennis Johnson, Him We Proclaim
d) Edmund Clowney, Preaching Christ in All of Scripture
For His Fame,