Preaching OT Prayers: Preaching Through Chronicles

When you reach 2 Chronicles 6 and 7 you have an opportunity to preach a strategic OT prayer. It’s one of the benefits of preaching through the OT. The OT prayers such as Solomon’s in this text contain important aspects of a theology of prayer. These prayers function for the church by teaching us about God’s character, the kinds of things we need from Him, and His ability to answer our prayers.

I organized the teaching this way:

  1. God is accessible (v. 6:18). The opening question shows that God dwells with us. These are excellent opportunities to teach God’s omnipresence and immensity.
  2. He’s also attentive to our prayers (vv. 6:19a, 20, 21a, 7:15-16). In this section Solomon prays what he knows to be true of God: “…have regard to the prayer of your servant…listening to the cry…”
  3. We pray for forgiveness and help (vv. 6:29b, 21b, 25, 27a, 30, 39; 7:14b). The Chronicler records 14 times where God’s people are unfaithful. I can’t think of another prayer more important to our spiritual lives than asking God for forgiveness. You can see from the verses how much of this section is devoted to what we need from God. You might have some fun with 7:14 since so many of our congregants have heard this verse quoted in terms of our country’s spiritual condition. There are lots of reasons why this verse shouldn’t be read and applied that way.
  4. We pray this because of our sin and its consequences (vv. 6:22, 24, 26, 28, 36). Verse 36 provides an excellent opportunity to teach the universality of sin (things like original sin and actual sins): “for there is no one who does not sin.”

Due to the length and importance of this section, I chose to spend two teaching times on it. Solomon leads the way so we will pray and God will answer. Consider preaching these prayers in Chronicles and contribute to God’s glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).

Randal

Preaching An OT Worship Service (Preaching Through Chronicles)

One of my favorite places in 2 Chronicles is from 2:1–6:2 and 7:1-3. This lengthy Scripture records the building of God’s house. In the middle of all the details about materials and furnishing you will find a description of an OT worship service.

Consider structuring your sermon around the following (providing you have already taught a theology of the temple in previous sermons as I had):

  1. The character of our God (vv. 5:13b; 7:3b). It should go without saying that our worship centers on our God. In this section we find repeated, “For he is good…” Think about how we use this word in daily life–“that was a good meal, movie, book, or day”–and you quickly realize we’ve got some work to do explaining the goodness of our God. The other character trait of our God is his loyal love (the important Hebrew word, hesed). Nothing sets off a worship celebration like focusing on the goodness of our God.
  2. The glory of our God (vv. 5:13c-6:1; 7:1-2). In this section “the glory of the Lord filled the temple.” 6:1 describes “thick darkness.” There’s a mysteriousness about our God’s presence. Even in Exodus 24:9-11, for instance, when we read, “they beheld God,” we learn that, “There was under his feet…” So, we don’t really see God, but only what He was “standing on.” It’s good for us to remember that our glorious God who matters most, is present with His people. We’re never alone in this world. God is with us.
  3. Finally, our response to His goodness and glory is seen in 7:3. We read, “they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord…” Our worship always includes this same humble attitude, if not the same humble posture.

And if you’re wanting to read Chronicles Christologically, you certainly can remind your faith-family from John 1:14 that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld his glory…” That vision of our glorious Christ continues to drive our worship services.

May we preach about worship in our worship services so God receives glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).

Randal

We Made It Through Another Advent Season!

Heading into each December I experience mixed emotions when I think about  preaching. I am excited because Advent has great sermon potential. I am apprehensive because I’ve covered this ground many times before. Twenty-seven to be exact.

On top of that, God has blessed me with two relatively long pastorates (12 advents at The People’s Church in New Brunswick, Canada and 15 advents and still counting at Calvary Bible Church, Mount Joy, PA). But with that blessing comes the challenge of finding new things to preach.

If you struggle like I do sometimes trying to figure out what to preach during Advent, here are some ideas that may help for 2018:

  1. Early in my pastorate at CBC, a dear parishioner reminded me that the birth narratives never get old. She was trying to ease my angst about finding something new every year. It was a good reminder. The Gospel narratives are always appropriate. Like classic Christmas songs or movies, the birth narratives of our Lord never get old.
  2. Every year I look forward to receiving Advent devotional booklets from the fine faculties of Dallas Theological Seminary and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Almost every year I receive direction for or confirmation of my Advent preaching plan.
  3. Church & Culture is a blog by veteran Pastor James Emery White of Charlotte, NC. Along with having a finger on the pulse of our society, he shares many of his Advent sermon themes. Having been at Meck’ for many years, White knows what it’s like to face yet another Advent season with the same faith-family.
  4. The Advent key words, hope, peace, joy, and love, make excellent series. The four Christmas concepts also provide latitude for us to preach on many Old and New Testament Scriptures.
  5. Finally, Advent provides excellent opportunities to explore major Christian doctrines. It’s a great time to read in depth theological works on theology proper, the Incarnation, the Trinity, Christology, Anthropology, and Pneumatology (this was my first year to include a sermon on the Advent of the Holy Spirit and the corresponding peace in John 14).

May God give us many more opportunities to preach during Advent so He receives glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).

Randal

Preaching the Wisdom of Solomon: Preaching Through 2 Chronicles

Solomon certainly was a wise ole owl. His God-given wisdom is highlighted almost immediately in chapter 1 of 2 Chronicles.

As I entered 2 Chronicles, I chose to stay with the same theme, “Direct our hearts toward you, Lord.” Solomon leads the way by showing that God alone possesses the wisdom we need to live LifePlus. When you preach 1:1-17 and also 9:1-31 you will be encouraging your parishioners to follow Solomon’s example by seeking the wisdom God provides.

You might begin with the concept of the Source and special nature of this wisdom (vv. 1:7, 10). It is significant that the narrative begins with God telling Solomon, “Ask what I shall give you.” There’s so much theology in that question.

I asked our faith-family: “Wouldn’t it be great if God asked you that same question?” Of course, according to Matt. 7:7 and James 1:5; 4:2, God does tell us to ask Him for the same: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all…” This separates us from the average citizen who turns elsewhere for this commodity.

Next, you might want to spend a moment talking about the priority of this wisdom (vv. 1:8-9, 11). There were so many other things Solomon could have asked for (see the list in v. 11). Every one of those things was important to Solomon’s success, but he asked God for wisdom. Solomon truly was a fine example of Homo (man) Sapiens (wise).

Finally, wisdom has its benefits (vv. 1:12-17; 9:1-28). Chapter 9 contains this wonderful story of the Queen of Sheba arriving to see Solomon’s wisdom firsthand. Solomon’s subjects were faring very well in his kingdom and she was amazed at what she saw. Wisdom did that.

Proverbs 3:18 says, “she is a tree of life…” and 4:13, “for she is your life.”

And if you want to read Christologically, Matt. 12:42 says, “…something greater than Solomon is here.” God made Jesus “our wisdom” says 1 Cor. 1:30.

God’s reputation in the church and in Christ Jesus will increase as you preach the wisdom Solomon received and Christ provides all who believe (Ephesians 3:21),

Randal

Preaching On Giving: Preaching Through First Chronicles

It’s great when you can preach about giving in the midst of an ongoing series through a book of the Bible like 1 Chronicles. You can say,

“Our study of the book of 1 Chronicles brings us to chapter 29 where King David teaches us about glad giving as a sing of or complete devotion to our Lord.”

Or something like that.

I was anxious to get to chapter 29 because v. 18 contained the phrase that became the title for our series: “…direct their hearts toward you.” David was asking the Lord to work in their hearts in such a way that they would never stop what they were doing. And what they were doing was “offering freely and joyously…” (v. 17).

Here are aspects of their giving you may want to consider for your congregants. Israel’s giving was…

  1. excessive (vv. 1-5a, 6-8). They were building a “palace” after all! The list, amounts, and quality of materials is impressive.
  2. eager (vv. 5b, 9b). Everyone was asked to give “willingly,” not of duty, but delight.
  3. wholehearted (vv. 5c, 9c). Their giving was an act of “consecrating” and involved their “whole heart.”
  4. glad (vv. 9a, d). They “rejoiced because they had given…” Here was a place where I confessed to our faith-family that I personally feel more celebration when I give toward a special project than I do when I write a check to the church each pay period. This section helped remind me of the joy of regular giving.
  5. worship-filled (vv. 10-22). This large section comes from David’s blessing the Lord: “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty…” (v. 11). No wonder they gave aggressively! And you’ll love the perspective in v. 14 “…and of your own have we given you.” It’s all His to begin with!

Anyway, 1 Chronicles 29 is an excellent chapter to teach a theology of giving and I hope you’ll get that far into the book so that our Lord receives glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).

Randal

Preaching My Toughest Section (so far!): Preaching Through Chronicles

When you reach 1 Chronicles 23:1 through 27:34 you encounter my toughest section to date. King David gives instructions to prepare for the building of the house of the Lord. What makes this section so difficult is, (1) it’s sheer size and detail and (2) needing to decide what temple details correspond to our worship and service.

McConville says that these five chapters provide “a picture of the people of God organized for the life of service” (p. 91). So, we urge our faith-families to worship by following the patterns presented by their temple service.

Here’s how I approached the section:

Title: “Direct our hearts toward you, O Lord” to do your work in the church and in the world.

  1. There is work to be done (23:4, 24, 28, 32;24:3, 19; 25:1; 26:12, 30). Nine times you’ll read, “work and duties.” The NT is not the only place to find the subject of spiritual gifts.
  2. There is praise and blessing to offer (23:5, 13). A neglected discussion pertaining to worship services is the pronouncement of blessings (cf. 23:13). It’s a time to announce: “You are the recipient of God’s special powers.”
  3. We’re characterized by humble service (24:5, 31; 25:8; 26:13). This is fascinating: everyone submits to casting lots to receive their ministry description. Social standing had nothing to do with the ministry you got.
  4. There’s lots of singing and instrumentals to offer (25:1, 6-7). This is a great time to rally your faith-family around the importance of music within the context of a worship service. I hope your church is fortunate to have people who use their musical talents. For some reason God has always appreciated music as an integral part of worshiping Him.
  5. There’s skill involved (26:6-9, 30-31). Evidently, non-skill would not honor the glory of God. God is worthy of our best talent and skill.
  6. Finally–everyone’s favorite–there’s money management (26:20, 22, 26-27). There’s hardly ever a bad time to talk to your faith-family about their financial habits. There’s so much disciple-making work to be done across the street or across the seas. And it takes a ton of money.

Finally, if you are interested in a Christological reading of this section of Chronicles, you can refer to the construction language in Ephesians 2:19-22, “…members of the household of God…Christ himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure…grows into a holy temple in the Lord.”

Preach that tough section well so God receives glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).

Randal

P.S. Unless you divide this message into two or three parts, you will need to cover these sections quickly. Due to my earlier teaching through Exodus, in this Chronicles section I decided not to go into details about the significance of the temple furniture and procedures.

Preaching the Significance of Solomon’s Temple: Preaching Through First Chronicles

Photo by Michelle Rosen on Unsplash

When you preach 1 Chronicles 22:1-19 and 28:1-21 you have the privilege of showing your faith-family the significance of “the house of the Lord” (22:1).

Kings David and Solomon, remember, are portrayed as ideal kings. Their best practices move us to want what they did for God’s people under their rule and authority. In this case, David’s instructions about building the temple shows us that the worship of God must be central in our lives.

I remember saying, “If only I could convince us that we need God’s powerful presence more than good health, someone to love, a spouse, family, friends, job, financial security.”

In his commentary on 1 & 2 Chronicles, Pratt refers to Israel’s worship center as his presence, “his accessible power.” That’s what they needed back then; that’s what we need now in order to experience any level of spiritual success.

I defined success as: “Success in whatever assignment God gives you in life and the redemption of any perceived failures or setbacks.”

But, as far as sermon structure through this section, you might try:

  1. Desiring God’s powerful presence (22:1-10, 17-19; 28:1-6, 11-21) Key to this section is 22:19 “Now set your mind and heart to seek the Lord your God.” And then help your parishioners see that “God is uniquely present when the church assembles” (from my friend, Jim Samra’s book, The Gift of Church, p. 24). Scriptures such as 1 Cor. 5:4; Eph. 2:21-22; Heb. 3:6; 10:22-25, and 1 Peter 2:5 can help solidify this understanding.
  2. Securing God’s powerful presence (22:11-16; 28:7-10). It’s critical to stress 22:12-13 in these minutes. Everything centers on our obedience. Note the condition, “Then you will prosper if you are careful to observe the statutes and the rules…” (v. 13). One of the great exhortations is in 28:9 “…know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind…”

And if you’re wanting to remind your folks how their Christianity works, take a moment to tell them what Christ said would happen if the people destroyed “this temple” (John 2:19-21) and how the Spirit creates our ability to fulfill the righteous requirement of the law (Romans 8:4).

Preach well so God receives glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21),

Randal

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