2 Tips on Preaching from the Old Testament

This past Sunday I just finished the preaching through the book of Haggai. When the Lord first laid this little book on my heart, I was uncomfortable preaching through it. For one, I didn't know much about this little book. In addition, figuring out how to preach this book would be a great challenge. Questions immediatly began to come up. How do you preach OT prophecy as Christian Scripture? How to I make this relevant and not just sound like a historian? How can I preach the Gospel from Haggai each week and still remain faithful to the text? These are the sort of questions I had to wrestle with and over the past month I've learned a few tips to add to my homoletical tool kit through this series. If you are a pastor or teacher I pray this tips might be as helpful to you as you preach through books in the Old Testament.

1. Understand the Original Audience

When it comes to teaching the Old Testament, you have to really do the hard work and research of understanding the historical setting. This means getting some good commentaries and studying the history of Israel. A big area of focus is understanding the time line. As I was studying Haggai, I learned how huge the timeline was for understanding the book. Haggai is very specific about the time of each of his four messages. Understanding the Jewish Calendar and understanding the emotions of the post-exilic community greatly aided in understanding Haggai's message. So if your going to take on preaching the Old Testament, make sure you do your homework.

2. Develop a Robust Biblical Theology

Having a Good biblical theology will greatly help connect the passage your studying to the rest of the Bible. Knowing that the Bible tells one story and one message is key. Seeing the parts of the Bible and being able to find their place in the whole meta-narrative of scripture is an indespensible skill for any bible reader, but especially for a preacher of the word.  Know the plot line of the Bible: Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration.  There are a few huge themes that run throughout the whole Bible. These themes serve as easy "on ramps" to get to Christ, the Gospel, and the promises of God for 21st century people. Here are a few examples:

  • Covenant Promises
  • Temple
  • God's Soverignty
  • Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7)
  • Messiah

As we study the Old Testament, finding thematic on ramps greatly aids the preacher to seeing how all the Scriptures point to Christ.(Luke 24) I'll give you an example from Haggai. In Haggai the theme of temple is huge as Haggai challenges the people to rebuild the temple. As we get to Haggai 2:9 we find a startling prophecy and promise, "The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former". How to we handle such a startling promise as this? Through a robust Biblical theology we can see that the temple is fulfilled in Jesus Christ when God comes to tabernacle among us in the flesh (John 1). In the New Teatment the church is described as the temple of God. (Ephesians 2) However at the second coming we see the New Jerusalem is described as being one giant temple in which God's people will dwell in one giant Holy of Holies in the presence of God. You see jumping onto the thematic on ramp of temple puts you on the high way to Christ and even to the eschatological fulfilment of the temple in the New Jerusalem.

I struggled for the longest time in how to handle the Old Testament between faithfully studying it in its own context and also interpreting it as Christian Scripture. On the one hand I don't want to sound like a Jewish Rabbi but I do not want to dishonor the text. It is a tension I continue to wrestle with, but a good Biblical theology greatly aleviates the tension. Seeing the Scriptures as God's progressive revelation and as a unity empowers the pastor to teach from any portion of the Scriptures with confidence and Gospel intentionality. In some ways preaching from the Old Testament can be more difficult, but it is incredibly rewarding. Don't devoid your people of the blessings and treasures that can be found in the Old Testament. All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable, even obscure two-chapter minor prophet books.

Are there any tips you have for preaching from the Old Testament? Share them with us in the comments?