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).


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).


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).


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).


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).


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.


How To Preach Opposing Views Of Doctrines

At times I find myself saying to our faith-family: “If I were a health and wealth preacher, I would use this verse. This verse…” Or, “If I were an Arminian, this is an excellent slice of doctrine to support the view.”

I never really gave it any thought, never felt any risk in saying such a thing to a very conservative congregation with a strong fundamentalist history. But recently I came across this article in the Atlantic, June 2017 titled, The Highest Form Of Disagreement. I present a few key excerpts below and then give my understanding as to why presenting the best arguments of the “other side” is healthy for preaching.

The article began with the frustration many feel while listening to recent political debates where someone attacks a person rather than an idea. The author highlighted the “weak man” argument where people attack the weakest part or the weakest version of an idea (think of the weakest part of, let’s say, a charismatic’s view on the miraculous gifts or the weakest part of a part of Calvinism). And then proceeds with…

“…America would benefit if our culture of argument elevated the opposite approach, steel-manning, “the art of addressing the best form of the other person’s argument, even if it’s not the one they presented.” Here’s Chana Messinger extolling it in one of those great old-school blog posts that I am honored just to honor:

We probably know best which arguments are most difficult for our position, because we know our belief’s real weak points and what kind of evidence we tend to find compelling … use that information to look for ways to make their arguments better, more difficult for you to counter. This is the highest form of disagreement. If you know of a better counter to your own argument, say so. If you know of evidence that supports their side, bring it up….Because if you can’t respond to that better version, you’ve got some thinking to do, even if you are more right than the person you’re arguing with.
In short, she says, ‘Think more deeply than you’re being asked to.'”

That’s good stuff! Thinking more deeply is helpful for Sunday soul-watching. It’s fair to the “other side.” It shows that there is no threat. It shows we’re intellectually honest.

Before Sunday, see if your preaching portion contains important information about opposing views of doctrine. Let your listeners know it and watch those minutes contribute to God’s glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).


Preach the Book of Job in One Sermon?!?

I hope Jesus returns before I have to preach through a few books of the Bible. One of them is Job. But nearing the end of our summer series, Worshiping the Creator Rather Than the Creature, I selected Job 38–42:6 as one of our Texts.

In the course of preparing to preach that section of Job, I quickly realized I had to help everyone know the context. That forced me to preach the theology of the entire book of Job in one sermon.

Here’s my approach:

Title: The Next Time You Ask, “Why?”

  1. The test every Christian must pass (Job 1:9-11, 22; 2:4-5, 10b). Satan wanted to show God that Job’s integrity was a sham. God knew better.
  2. The question that shows the test is a real test (Job 3:20-26; 40:1-2, 8). This is where Job begins to question, “Why?” He says some awful things about his life, like wishing he didn’t ever live!
  3. How our Creator “answer” our question (Job 38:1–39:30; 40:6-7, 9–41:34). God never answers Job’s questions. Instead, God bombards Job with over 50 questions of His own. As Job is forced to answer God’s questions…
  4. The genuine worship that results (Job 40:3-5; 42:1-6). Job no longer demands an answer, but takes his rightful place as a worshiper of God.

I chose not to include a thought block covering Job’s friends’ attempts to “help” him, but you may want to do that. They say some good things, but God indicts them in the end and vindicates Job.

And if you want to preach Christ from Job, one way to do that is to move from Job’s “Why?” to Jesus’ “Why?” on the cross, “My God, My God! Why have you forsaken me?!?” True worship begins by acknowledging our need for the Savior God provided for us. By faith, Christ’s righteousness creates the same kind of character exemplified by Job in the opening verses of the book and sends us on a journey where our faith is tested to produce maturity (cf. James 1).

This example provides some help for tackling other similar assignments. For instance, notice that I deal with the beginning and ending of the book of Job. Many books reveal their intention at the beginning and the end. Then, you’re able to make better sense of the middle portions.

I hope you’ll have an opportunity some time to preach a whole book in one sermon. When you do, God will receive glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).


P.S. Last week I referred to Mark Dever’s, The Message of the Old Testament. It’s an excellent resource when you plan to preach an entire book of the Bible in one sermon. Dever’s book is a collection of his attempts to do the same for the Old Testament.

My Best Practices For Choosing Our Next Through-A-Book Series

This weekend, Lord willing, I will complete our summer series. That means it’s time for me to move to our next through-a-Book series. Here’s how I go about deciding what to preach next.

First, my practices are based upon my philosophy of preaching in church. Different philosophies will determine different practices.

I believe in long-term pastorates if the Lord allows it and I don’t mess things up. That means I am counting on the cumulative effect of my preaching to contribute to the faith-family’s spiritual growth. For me this means alternating between Old Testament and New Testament and between genres within each testament. Over time, I want the congregants to experience as many facets of the Story as possible from as many angles as possible.

I believe in an exegetical/theological approach to preaching rather than an exegetical/historical approach. In a nutshell, this means I can often preach on large portions of Scripture, especially in Old and New Testament narratives and OT poetry and prophecy. In other words, my practice does not advocate spending years in Ephesians. I select preaching portions determined by my big idea approach outlined in Preaching With Accuracy (Kregel, 2014).

With that said my best practices for choosing where to preach next are:

  • I speed-read the beginnings and endings of potential books. This often yields their theological purpose–how they are intended to function for the church–and helps me decide on whether they’re next material.
  • I read at least two, sometimes all three, of the following books: Theological Interpretation of the Old Testament (there may be a companion volume for the NT?), Talk Thru The Bible, and The Message of the Old Testament (I believe Dever has a NT volume?). These are extremely helpful in concisely presenting the theology and key themes of books of the Bible.

  • Finally, I am asking God for wisdom to choose His message that best fits the current situation of the faith-family. This is extremely subjective. Soul-watchers who preach through books of the Bible have a God-given sense of what book is “best” for now.

I hope you will consider the value of preaching through a book or large segments of a book of the Bible. It’s hard work. Be prepared for tough Sundays. Great sermons require great Texts and not all pastors and parishioners consider every Text, let’s say, in First Chronicles, a great Text.

Choose your next sermon series through a book of the Bible so God receives glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).


The High EQ Preacher (part 6): Do you look friendly?

Please tell me that’s not your preaching face!

I can easily forget to smile when I first address the faith-family. Some of it is due to trying to remember all I’m supposed to say at the beginning. Some of it is due to my serious side and the seriousness of the task at hand on Sunday mornings. But none of that helps accomplish the goal of enjoying a vibrant relationship with a healthy church.

This is the final post summarizing some of the more relevant information gleaned from reading, Emotional Intelligence 2.0 (Bradberry and Greaves, TalentSmart, 2009). EQ is thought to be the most important indicator of leadership success. And you know that pastoring, preaching, and leading are intertwined, right? And a big part of  a healthy EQ has to do with the kinds of relationships we build with others.

So, when these authors tell us to “smile and laugh more” (p. 114), I had to stop myself and ask whether this was really that important.

The answer is, “Yes.”

Take Chuck Swindoll for an example. I first learned about the importance of smiling and laughing through my limited interaction with him during my years at DTS. His smile and laughing were infectious. And it did not detract from his preaching; it enhanced it because it was genuine Swindoll.

Ask yourself whether your smile and laughter is indicative of who you are as a Christian minister who has the benefit of the joy of the Lord as their strength.

And one final instructional nugget from EQ: “Greet People by Name” (p. 139).

I’m taking that one step further and asking you to consider addressing some of your listeners by name during the sermon. It’s the result of having built a strong relationship with them and realizing that the sermon is the time to address them about them from the Bible.

When you speak their name, watch the level of interaction increase. Often a smile will come to their face (if, as above, you’re smiling at them when you say their name!).

Before Sunday, let’s continue to be high EQ preachers who build strong relationships with God’s people so He receives glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).


P.S. If you have not read anything about EQ, this book is a good place to start. It’s an easy, quick read. You will find much that pertains to your church ministry, including food for thought on how to assess the effectiveness, or lack of, of your leadership.