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?

Haggai Sermon Series Archive

In case your interested all my sermon audio from Forest Hills Baptist Church can be found on our website.  However in this blog post is a quick archive for my four week sermon series through Haggai.  I really enjoyed teaching through this series.  It is a labor of love for my church and it is a joy to serve them through proclaiming the word of God.  I pray these sermons may encourage you in your walk with Christ and encourage you to prioritize the Kingdom of God in your own life. Haggai Part 1: Prioritizing the Kingdom of God - Haggai 1:1-11

Haggai Part 2: The Obstacle of Discouragement - Haggai 2:1-9

Haggai Part 3: Blessings for the Defiled - Haggai 2:10-19

Haggai Part 4: Every Kingdom Needs a King - Haggai 2:20-23

At Forest Hills we are working on getting sermon video up online on a regular basis.  However, we were able to get one sermon from this series uploaded on video.

https://vimeo.com/73145412

 

Cleaned by Jesus

This blog was adapted from a recent sermon I taught from Haggai. You can access the original sermon audio here. Can you imagine being a total outcast? If so you can relate to the woman in Luke 8. The Gospel tells us that Jesus gets the call to go heal Jarius' daughter who was dying. Jesus goes on his way and the crowd pressed in all around him.

An Unclean Woman Made Clean

We are told that in that crowd is a woman who has had chronic menstraul bleeding for twelve years. She has spent the past 12 years and every penny trying to figure out what was wrong with her. However no one could heal her. No doctor could help her.

According to the Law she was ceremonially unclean. She was an outcast, she was alienated. No one could be around this woman lest they became unclean by touching her. This woman was completely and totally alone. No one would touch her. No one would shake her hand. No one would give her a hug. She was unclean. As Jesus is making his way through the crowd she has a crazy thought. She had heard about Jesus. She heard that he was a healer. Then she had this crazy thought – "If I could just touch his garment, I could be healed." So she goes and she fights her way through the crowd and she is able to just barely touch the fringe of Jesus' garment and at that moment she is instantly healed. The unclean woman is made instantly clean. Jesus realizing what just happened stops the crowd and asks who touched him. The woman falls on her face in the presence of everyone and confesses what she did. Jesus tells her "daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace".

Holiness is Not Contagious

This story is amazing. In Haggai 2:10-14, the prophet uses an priestly illustration of the nature of holiness. Here is the words Haggai penned:

“On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, “Thus says the LORD of hosts: Ask the priests about the law: ‘If someone carries holy meat in the fold of his garment and touches with his fold bread or stew or wine or oil or any kind of food, does it become holy?’ ” The priests answered and said, “No.” Then Haggai said, “If someone who is unclean by contact with a dead body touches any of these, does it become unclean?” The priests answered and said, “It does become unclean.” Then Haggai answered and said, “So is it with this people, and with this nation before me, declares the LORD, and so with every work of their hands. And what they offer there is unclean.” (Haggai 2:10–14, ESV)

Haggai says imagine someone is carrying around holy meat (meat sacrificed on the alter to the Lord) in a special garment. Haggai then said what if you take that garment, that was wrapped in the Holy meat and what if I touched this piece of bread with it? Haggai asks them, "Would this make the bread holy?" The priest answer, "No". Holiness is not contagious. It doesn't pass from one thing to the next.

Then Haggai said, well what if someone who is unclean by touching a corpse then goes to touch the bread what would happen to it? Well that food item would become unclean. Well what is Haggai's point? Defilment is contagious, uncleanness passes to other objects but holiness does not.

But Jesus' Holiness is Contagious

Now knowing this, think back to the bleeding woman. You see when this unclean woman went to touch Jesus. When she made contact with Jesus, Jesus should have then been unclean. Remember defilement is contagious, if you touched a woman like this you were to be ceremoniously unclean. Yet the opposite happens! The cleanliness of Jesus is imputed to this woman. Jesus' holiness is contagious and it is passed to this woman through her faith. In Haggai, that garment containing the holy meat would not transmit holiness to another object, yet here the garment containing the holy meat, the lamb of God, passes cleanliness to this woman! Why? Because Jesus is the holy one of God. He is undefiled and completely pure!

This is the beauty of the Gospel, that Jesus takes our uncleanliness and our sin and washes us with his blood. We are unable to make ourselves clean, but Jesus cleanses us and purifies us. In all our guilt and filth, Jesus cleans us and makes us his own!