Preaching The Old Testament Battles: Preaching Through 1 Chronicles

Sooner or later while preaching through 1 Chronicles you come across the battle narratives. That’s true in 1 Chronicles 18:1–20:8. This is an excellent time to teach about the enemies of our souls and how to defeat them through faith in Christ.

But before moving to a summary of the world, prince, and desires of the flesh (cf. Ephesians 2:2-3), spend a moment highlighting the supernatural foes and our terrible odds. One of my favorites is the six-fingered man and giants of 1 Chronicles 20:6-8. God wants us to know that our foes are menacing.

But key to the theology of this section is the repetition of “…the Lord gave victory wherever he went” (cf. 18:6, 13). David is invincible in these battles. All credit goes to the Lord. The victories were a gift from the Lord. And this is what makes any of our spiritual victories possible. This is what ensures any spiritual success.

Finally, what I love about preaching through Chronicles–true of OT narratives in general–is the balance of God’s work and our work. In 19:13 is the instruction: “Be strong, and let us use our strength for our people and for the cities of our God, and may the Lord do what seems good to him.”

Spiritual victories don’t happen without our using the strength God provides. Paul tells us the same thing in Ephesians 6:10ff. (“Be strong in the Lord…”). He says the same thing to Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:18; 6:12 (“fight the good fight of faith”).

And if you’re wanting to explain how God makes spiritual victories possible for Believers, mention how Christ achieved the ultimate victory (cf. Col. 2:15; 1 John 5:4-5 “…this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith.”

1 Chronicles 18:1–20:8 provide a great opportunity for us to urge our folks to use the strength our Lord provides in the fight against deadly temptation. And our Lord will receive glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).

Randal

Preaching David’s Prayer (or Paul’s for that matter): Preaching Through 1 Chronicles

It’s really that simple. God intends for His people to agree with David’s prayer in 1 Chronicles 17:16-27. It’s the same with Paul’s prayers in the NT. Here are a few angles for preaching these Old and New Testament prayers.

First, theology about God, humankind, and redemption are to be believed. In 1 Chronicles 17:16-19 the sovereignty of God in choosing David results in David’s humility: “…Who am I, O Lord God…that you have brought me thus far?” (v. 16).

In v. 27 God is acknowledged as the Source of blessing.

Or, how about the theology in v. 20 “There is none like you, O Lord, and there is no God besides you…”

Second, what David wants for God is what we want for God too. Often the Church can pray the same requests as David (and Paul if you happen to be preaching in an epistle). We want God’s name to “be established and magnified forever” (v. 24).

Third and maybe most important for the Church is asking and answering the question, “Does God answer David’s prayer (or Paul’s prayer) and if so why?” God answers David’s prayer as long as David and God’s people fulfill the conditions of the covenant.

Of course, we know the rest of the Story: David and Solomon can’t keep the spiritual momentum going and the kingdom dissolves. Thankfully, we also know the rest of the rest of the Story: one greater than Solomon (cf. Matt. 12:42) arrives, perfectly keeps faith and through death, resurrection, ascension, and dispatching the Spirit becomes our Eternal King who secures the blessing of God for all who believe.

The prayers of David and Paul too, for that matter, are answered as Believers enjoy their privileged position in Christ.

I hope you’ll consider preaching these prayers of David so God can continue to receive glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).

Randal

Preaching the Davidic/Solomonic Kingship: Preaching Through 1 Chronicles

I admit: the title of this blog post is not sermon-friendly.

My own title for 1 Chronicles 17:1-15 was: “Direct our hearts toward you, Lord”: Living Life In God’s Eternal Kingdom.

1 Chronicles 17 is one of the more significant chapters in the OT. That’s because it contains information about the promises God made to David concerning his dynasty.

The most important aspect of preaching the Davidic/Solomonic Covenant is showing how everything God promised us in Christ, the Son of David, is guaranteed because of what God promised to do for David and his son, Solomon. David’s dynasty would be eternal which means it’s still active every Sunday morning.

This is a case where biblical theology is as important, if not more important, than exegesis.

 

So, here’s a way to approach this chapter:

  1. Our need for God’s kingdom (vv. 1-10a). Verses 8-9 describe the fact of God’s powerful presence to defeat Israel’s enemies (especially, “violent men”). The warfare which began in Genesis 3:1ff. and the promised victories of Gen. 3:15 and 1 Corinthians 15:24ff. provide the context for the Church’s current situation and ultimate hope.
  2. Our need for a King in God’s kingdom (vv. 10b-12). It is very difficult to preach this point in a democratic society like the U.S. I spent some minutes reviewing why Israel wanted a king in the first place (cf. 1 Sam. 8:20, “…fight our battles”). Most important is the fact that God’s chosen king rules in a “kingship within God’s kingly rule” (Bock & Blaising). The Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology speaks of the significant “role of a royal covenant mediator in the person of the king.” We don’t access God’s kingdom and all the benefits of God’s rule apart from a Mediator.
  3. Our life as citizens in God’s kingdom (vv. 13-15). Here is the place to show that the special adoption language describing God’s relationship to the king applies to us (“…I will not take my steadfast love from him…”).

Finally, you may want to move from the son of David (Solomon) to the Son of David (Christ in Matt. 1:1, 17, 20) who is declared the Son of God (Matt. 3:17) who makes living in God’s kingdom possible.

I hope this provides the kind of framework that can help the Church make sense of the Davidic Covenant so God receives glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).

Randal

Preaching the Psalms in 1 Chronicles: Preaching Through 1 Chronicles

When you arrive at 1 Chronicles 16:7 you discover you’ve changed genres. We move out of narrative and into Hebrew poetry/psalms. We worship by allowing this song to guide our worship in church and in life. That means at least 7 aspects of worship, plus the reason why God deserves our worship.

So, as you read through the Psalm you can teach that worship involves:

  1. Giving thanks (vv. 8a, 34a)
  2. Asking for help (vv. 8b, 11, 35)
  3. Singing His praises (vv. 9a, b, 10, 23a, 28-29a, 36). Let me pause for a moment and point out in v. 10 that God commands us to be happy. I always love that. He says, “I know life is often hard, but I’m good and I am putting together the pieces of My broken world. You are a part of that restoration while you wait for Me to finish the job.” Your congregants will appreciate the honesty, the balance of brokenness and wholeness they experience.
  4. Witnessing in the world (vv. 8c, 9c, 23b-24). I must admit: I didn’t see that one coming. But, as you can see in the Psalm, corporate worship involves instruction to tell the Story. If I was a techie, I’d write: Tweet This: Every worship service is a commissioning service. But, I’m not…
  5. Remembering His promises (vv. 12-22)
  6. Bringing an offering (v. 29b). We’ll see more on this in the last chapter of 1 Chronicles.
  7. Becoming holy (v. 29c). It can’t get much clearer: “Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness…” It’s a great time to remind everyone that we can’t worship God and rebel against Him at the same time.

Finally, vv. 25-27, 30-33, 34b, c provide the reason why God deserves our worship: “For great is the Lord…” (v. 25).

If you’re interested in making a Christo-centric application (more on the difference between Christ-centered interpretation and application later maybe), you can move from v. 15-16 (“Remember his covenant forever…”) to the New Covenant in His blood (cf. Luke 22:20).

Preach the Psalms in Chronicles, or the Psalms in Psalms for that matter, so God receives glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).

Randal

Preaching the Return of the Ark of God: Preaching Through First Chronicles

Replace 2 Samuel 6 in the image above with 1 Chronicles 13. Now we’re good to go.

One of the difficulties in preaching through 1 Chronicles is having to handle large sections of narratives in one sermon. “Having” might be too strong. However, if you read 1 Chronicles 13-16:7 you will notice how the section revolves around the retrieval and arrival of the ark of God, that famous OT piece of furniture.

You can keep the unit together by focusing on the significance of the ark of God. It speaks to David’s desire to keep the worship of God central among God’s people. And as the first officially recorded action of David’s administration, it’s a significant act.

I developed the sermon this way:

  1. Our desire to worship the Lord (13:1-4). I recommend spending time on what worship looks like in a typical day. You can help your listeners evaluate their worship by having them fill in the blank: “I would be happy if only I had Jesus and _____________” (Scott Hafemann). According to 13:3 this desire to get the ark separates David from Saul, no small matter in 1 Chronicles.
  2. We face a hazard, however, in our attempts to worship (13:5-13; 15:1-15). Worship has to be done God’s way or else! Uzzah died because “he did not honor the ark’s sanctity” (Pratt). David learns his lesson in 15:2, 12-15. The terrible holiness of God is on display in this scene.
  3. There is blessing and celebration where God is worshiped (13:14–14:17; 15:16–16:7). Blessing is seen in prospering families and military victories. Celebrating in the form of volume, musical instruments, singing, and dancing occur. Except for Michal, Saul’s daughter (15:29).

All this is designed to say to our faith-families: “Join this kingdom of worshipers.” David’s idea to bring the ark of God back teaches us that worship must be our ultimate priority. Uzzah’s fatal impulse teaches us that we worship a holy God who must be approached on His terms. And those terms, of course, include trusting in David’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ to make us fit to worship our God.

Preach these long sections for the glory of God in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).

Randal

Cover More Text In Less Detail: Preaching Large Sections Of I Chronicles

When you preach through an OT book like 1 Chronicles, be prepared to cover large amounts of text in a sermon. Inevitably that will mean covering it in less detail, which goes against my training and bent.

I was trained to be a detailed expositor, not a skimmer. You?

However, in 1 Chronicles I’m learning that large amounts of biblical real estate are designed to function for the church as a unit. The question is how much detail can be included in a sermon covering so much ground.

Take, for instance, 1 Chronicles 11:1–12:40, the coronation and celebration of making David King of Israel. In these long sections I am looking for repeated themes about this kingdom, such as:

  • God appointing of a king (vv. 11:2, 3c, 9b, 10c; 12:18, 23). God doesn’t want us to miss that He is responsible for selecting David and giving Him victories. The people’s choice, remember, failed miserably, but not David.
  • Everyone is together (vv. 11:1, 3a, b, 4, 10a, b; 12:33, 38). 1 Chronicles uses the phrase, all Israel, 23 times. Everyone is on board after this selection (unlike our nation this past year, but that’s not important right now!). One of the major questions I asked our congregants was, “Who wouldn’t want to be in a kingdom like David’s?!?”
  • Success is everywhere (vv. 11:11, 20, 22-23; 12:1-2, 8, 14, 21-22, 32). Most of the long section records impressive military exploits. God’s people defeat their enemies consistently, remarkably.
  • And the result is a joy-filled celebration (vv. 12:39-40). The section closes with a huge victory party, “for there was joy in Israel.”

Apparently, God wants His people to inhabit this kind of kingdom that began with David and continues with the Son of David. This is the kind of existence God promises to all who trust Him.

I hope this helps you preach large sections so He receives glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).

Randal

P.S. I may have failed to also say to fight the urge to go into too much detail. Or, you may decide it best to break this into a mini-series and spend a sermon on each major point above.

Preaching Saul’s Unbelief to Urge David’s Faith: Preaching 1 Chronicles

After emerging from the fire swamp of nine chapters of genealogies, the story in 1 Chronicles really gets started. Chapter 9 ends the genealogy with Saul and his family. Israel’s first king functions as a literary foil or mirror to highlight David’s good qualities. First Chronicles records Israel’s history in such a way to invite us to experience the same blessings God’s people experienced under the reign of King David.

But the story begins by urging us to avoid Saul’s spiritual disaster. We worship by saying together,

“We will not commit the unfaithfulness of Israel’s first king.”

We know this is the focus because of the narrator’s key comment in 1 Chronicles 10:13-14 “So Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the Lord…”

So, while the story ultimately shows us how David became Israel’s king, it also directs our faith.

You can show your congregants a gruesome picture of the results of disbelief and disobedience in 10:1-12.

As I said above, then you can show the root cause of all spiritual defeat (10:13-14). In his commentary on 1 & 2 Chronicles, Pratt defines a breach of faith as, “attitudes and actions which constituted flagrant violations of Israel’s covenant with God.”

And, finally, the remedy is simple: faith in God’s ability to deliver us from evil and bring us His best gifts. This is a good time to show how the writer of Hebrews repeatedly warned his readers to listen carefully to the Word of God (1:1; 2:1-3a; 3:7-19; 4:1-3, 5-7, 11-16; 6:4, 11-12, those terribly difficult warning passages!).

The story will go on to show how David was not like Saul. Where Saul consulted the dark side for help in the battle, David sought the Lord God.

Ultimately we follow David’s example of faith by placing our faith in the Son of David, our Savior. The new covenant He instituted with His blood provides us opportunities to experience the blessing of spiritual victories over the enemies of our souls.

May you preach such OT narratives so God receives glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).

Randal

How to Preach Theology-in-Genealogies (an example from 1 Chronicles 1:1–9:34)

If you’re committed to preaching through books of the Bible, sooner or later you’ll come face to face with an OT or NT genealogy. What’s an expositor to do?!

  1. Enjoy the thought of covering 9 chapters in one sermon. I am finding that there are large preaching portions in the first several sections of 1 Chronicles. This allows the series to cover large pieces of biblical real estate tracts with each sermon.
  2. The lessons for the Church from 1 Chronicles’ history includes the narrations sprinkled throughout the genealogy. In no particular order, the omniscient narrator reveals…
  3. that we are products of Divine election (1:26-28; 2:15 where Abram is selected out of the blue, Isaac is put ahead of Ishmael, and David is selected even though he was “the seventh,” not the first).
  4. we are a people who make the right choices (1:1; 4:9-10; 5:18-22 where folks like Seth and Jabez highlight those who call upon the name of the Lord (cf. Genesis 4:26)).
  5. but we are also a people who sometimes make fatal decisions (1:1; 2:3, 4, 7; 5:1, 25-26; 9:1 where we see sin entering the world through the likes of Adam, and Israel’s firstborn, Reuben; not to mention those that “broke faith with the God of their fathers…”). What an appropriate warning for our faith-families! Hebrews 2:1 warns us of the possibility of professing Christians to “drift away…”
  6. Finally, these chapters are filled with God’s people fulfilling certain tasks in the world (4:14, 23; 6:31-33, 48-49; 9:13, 26-33). The tribe of Levi, for instance, is situated in the middle of the lengthy genealogy. Worship had to be central for God’s people to enjoy His benefits. But there was the need for “craftsmen” and “potters” too. There is lots of work to be done.
  7. Finally, we find our place in this family tree through faith in Christ, the son of David (Matt. 1:1; Luke 3:23-28).

Everything in the genealogy is headed towards King Saul and the theological explanation for Israel’s predicament: “And Judah was taken into exile in Babylon because of their breach of faith” (9:1). Their only hope and ours is found in another King, David and, ultimately, David’s Son.

And when we say we’re in Jesus’ family tree, we have to be honest about what kind of family member we are. Which characters are we most like? It’s a time for us to bolster, not break faith. It’s a time for us to work hard by the grace of God at our worship of and work for our King.

I hope this gives some ideas for preaching an extremely difficult section of Scripture so God receives glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).

Randal

How to Preach 1 Chronicles. Really.

You know you want to preach through 1 Chronicles.

When you do, this series of posts may provide some help. Last month I launched a series through this book so I will try to provide examples of navigating this part of redemptive history in a way that functions for the Church.

First, the image I selected for the series connects to my chosen theme for the book: “Direct Our Hearts Toward You, Lord.” These are the words of king David recorded in 1 Chronicles 29:18.

I have written before about the importance of choosing a preaching theme for a book study. It takes some time but is well worth the effort.

Benefit for the Listener: Notice that I’ve chosen to word the series title as an applicational statement. In this case, a request that mirrors David’s original request. As we worship our way through 1 Chronicles each Sunday, we remind ourselves how we are supposed to respond generally to our God. The Faith-Family never has to wonder how 1 Chronicles applies. It’s relevant by design.

You can imagine that your congregants will question the book’s relevance when they begin reading 9 chapters of genealogies (more on that next time)!

Benefit for the Preacher: But, selecting a theme for the book benefits you too. The process requires some familiarity with the whole book. That means reading through it quickly and consulting some introductory studies.

In the case of 1 Chronicles, reliable guides will highlight the unique positive perspective of the Chronicler: David and Solomon’s kingdoms are held up as positive examples for God’s people to follow so they can experience the blessing of God as did Israel in their hay day.

When I read through the book, as is often the case, the ending of the book provided a clue of its purpose. Unlike king Saul, David seeks the Lord.

1 Chronicles 10:14 (the narrator’s comment in the opening story after all the genealogies) describes Saul’s way: “He did not seek guidance from the Lord…” But David prays in 29:18 “…direct their hearts toward you.”

That’s the difference between spiritual defeat and spiritual victory. And every sermon in 1 Chronicles provides an opportunity for God’s people to follow their Savior on The Way.

May you experience the privilege of preaching 1 Chronicles for the sake of God’s reputation in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).

Randal

Preaching Opposing Views Of Doctrine (part 2)

Last week I was saying that there are times when I will say to our parishioners, “If I believed in a prosperity, health and wealth kind of gospel, I would really push this Scripture. Look at what God’s Word says…”

I reject the notion that we should steer clear of such doctrines.

I am not geared for much apologetic exposition (in other words, you won’t find me spending much time proving a certain position or disproving what I believe to be a poorer reading of the Bible).

Instead, I prefer showing the best side of the other side. It’s the opposite of creating a straw man argument. In an article in the Atlantic, The Highest Form of Disagreement (June 2017), the author uses the term, “steelmanning.” Steelmanning considers and addresses “the improved version” of an opposing view.

Congregants of all stripes will appreciate your ability to think carefully about an opposing view and present its best side. Especially when you do it with humility and grace. You still move to a preferred reading of Scripture, but at least you have been more than fair.

(My experience over the years of research shows that most “sides” are not thorough in their appraisal or critique of the “other side.”)

A listener that was not fully on board with you on a doctrine would likely give you a better hearing if you steelmanned.

But more importantly to me is what steelmanning says about you and me. The author wrote,

“steelmanning makes you a better person….It makes you more compassionate, learning to treat those you argue with as true opponents, not merely obstacles….And it keeps us rational, reminding us that we’re arguing against ideas, not people, and that our goal is to take down these bad ideas, not to revel in the defeat of incorrect people.”

I’ve experienced more than one setting where a dose of steelmanning would have been a breath of fresh air. I vowed not to contribute to vilifying through focusing on the weakest point of the position. It smacked of lazy thinking.

Before Sunday, see if you will encounter an opposing view in your preaching portion. If so, think about presenting its best argument, not its weakest. God will receive glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21) because you will be gracious, fair, but clear in communicating the better reading.
Randal