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

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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 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 the End of a Series (part 4 of preaching the gospel of Ruth)

Preaching through Ruth provides a good test case for exploring how to preach the end of a series. That’s because it is so short. The space between the end of the book and the beginning of the book is small. It is relatively easy to conclude with a comparison or contrast to the beginning.

So, when you conclude a sermon series consider:

  • re-emphasizing the series theme (in Ruth: Discovering God as “the Restorer of life” conveniently found at the end in 4:15; chapter 4 provides tons of opportunities to re-explain facets of redemption, including our need to become mini-redeemers in our world)
  • showing how far we’ve come from the beginning of the series (especially important in a narrative like Ruth; we began at the end of the Judges with no king, in great need of one, and end Ruth with an announcement of King David in 4:22; plus in the middle Ruth and Boaz are two characters who do not do what is right in their own eyes)
  • teaching how the book contributes to the Canon of Scripture (in this case, what does Ruth add to the Story; this will overlap some with the first bullet point above; if you didn’t have Ruth, what would we miss?)
  • reminding congregants about what God has done in Christ (especially important if you are completing a series through a NT epistle of Paul; usually, the letters will begin with the indicative and move on to imperatives; the end of the series is a good time to remind us all of the indicatives which were the foundation of the more practical sections)
  • convey a sense of corporate accomplishment (“We’ve traveled a lot of biblical ground together during this series…”; ending a series is a bit emotional, bitter/sweet; I have found that congregations that experience such travels begin to anticipate the next journey with you)

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

Randal

P.S. If you’re preaching Ruth chapter 4, consider the following path:

  1. Two kinds of redemption (spiritual and material; a time to carefully define redemption in its various forms in the story)
  2. The redemption we’re responsible for (vv. 1-10 and how God’s laws create opportunities for us to be mini-redeemers for those in need)
  3. The blessing that came and comes through redemption (vv. 11-22; here we find the wonderful announcement of our selected theme and the trajectory created by Boaz and Ruth’s son)

Let the Main Character Determine Your Sermon Idea

If you’re preaching through Ruth’s Gospel and reach chapter 3, you’re wise to let Naomi determine the subject of your sermon. She does that through the first recorded words in v. 1,

“My daughter, should I not seek rest for you…?”

Read through the chapter quickly and when you arrive at the end of the chapter you’ll hear Naomi repeat your sermon idea,

“…the man will not rest but will settle the matter…”

In any narrative it’s wise to allow key speeches of main characters have a say in our sermon themes. In the case of Ruth chapter 3, staying focused on the theme of “rest” will prevent us from focusing too much attention on the planning (vv. 2-5) and executing the plan surrounding the risky–some would even say, risqué–threshing floor scene (vv. 6-15).

The narrative means something because (1) we desperately need the kind of rest this narrative highlights. In his commentary, Webb says it’s “rest…from spiritual emptiness and alienation from God….acceptance…provision, a future, and a life worth living.” Jesus taught us about it in Matthew 11:28-30 and Hebrews tells us that it’s still future (4:1-11).

The bulk of the story involves (2) our search for rest. It’s an interesting combination of working and waiting. Ruth displays incredible faith in Naomi’s zany, even dangerous plan (an unmarried woman walking around in the middle of the night!).

N.B. Don’t miss the great opportunity to highlight the description of Ruth in v. 11, “…for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman.” It’s the same word used in Proverbs 31:10. In Ruth 3:11 it’s the reason Boaz gives for redeeming Ruth and Naomi. That reason will surely test your theological acumen!

Finally, (3) the source of our rest is still found in Boaz, the redeemer. This is repeated in vv. 2, 9, 12-13. Campbell defines him as “[the one who] takes responsibility for the unfortunate and stands as their supporter.”

And, if you’re looking for how Ruth and Boaz send us on a trajectory to Christ, like Ruth, Jesus becomes an alien/stranger on our behalf in order to bring us into true family status. Like Boaz, Christ brings us into His family so that we can enjoy the rest of God.

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

Randal

Preaching Ruth’s Christo-centric Narrative (part 2)

If you’re planning on preaching any Old or New Testament narratives these days or in the near future, my approach to Ruth may help.

For instance, (1) the entire narrative begins with a sovereign God allowing (bringing?) a famine, multiple male deaths in the family, but also good news that food was now available (vv. 1-7). It’s an example of the judgment God’s people could expect if they disobeyed Him (cf. Lev. 26:19-20).

Remember that all OT narratives meaning something within the context of the blessings and curses announced in the Covenant.

(2) Ruth’s decision to follow Naomi and her God is crucial to the story (vv. 8-18, 22). Our congregants need to hear that only the God revealed in Christ is the source of all truly good things in this life. That’s especially important in a time when an estimated two-thirds of Christians believe that many religions can lead to eternal life and half of all Christians believe some non-Christian religions can lead to life eternal. Of course, our parishioners are probably not trying to be Christian and Hindu, let’s say. More than likely they, like us, try to be Christian and still allow our affections to land on more sophisticated idols.

(3) Finally, we read this candid reaction of Naomi to all the “bitterness” the Lord brought into her life (vv. 19-21). So many tidbits. Naomi’s not recognizable (v. 19). She knows exactly what God has done to her (v. 20 “…the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me”). A great opportunity for us to explain a theology of trouble/discipline (cf. Heb. 12:3-11), the purpose of the “bitter.”

And, if you’re wondering about how to get from Ruth 1 to the Gospel, you might think: on the cross, the Almighty dealt very bitterly with Jesus (v. 20) and the Lord testified against Jesus and brought calamity upon Him (v. 21) because of our sins.

Preach well for the sake of God’s reputation in the Church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).

Randal

Preaching the Theology in Judges’ Civil War

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In these posts I am trying to provide strategies for preaching difficult narratives found in the book of Judges. What makes them difficult, you might ask? Well, they’re long Old Testament Narratives. But, if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know you can trust the genre. That could be your New Year’s resolution:

In 2017 I will trust the genre.

Trusting the genre in Judges 20:1–21:25 means identifying the major rise in the story’s action. The tribes of Israel send men through all the tribe of Benjamin saying: “…give up the men, the worthless fellows in Gibeah, that we may put them to death and purge evil from Israel” (v. 13a).

You may recall that the worthless fellows performed Sodom-like sins in the previous chapter.

When Benjamin refuses, the civil war begins. The narrative takes it time to describe how the civil war unfolded and how the “good guys” suffered multiple defeats before the victory.

Don’t allow yourself to get bogged down in all the detail. The theology is conveyed by the narrative structure, but not in all the detail. Allow the broad strokes of the narrative to preach to the church:

There is a tragic, but necessary kind of unity as God’s people combine to discipline their brothers (20:1, 8, 11).

There is also a tragic, but necessary kind of discipline (20:12-13, 18, 23, 26-28, 35). When God’s people decide to remain in sin, God instructs His non-sinning-at-the-moment people to act on His behalf. You can make canonical connections to God’s judgment on sinners (such as Matt. 11:20-24 or Romans 1:24, 26, 28) and also to God’s judgment on professing Christians who refuse to stop sinning (such as in 1 Corinthians 5 and Matt. 18).

A welcomed, yet messy expression of compassion occurs in 21:1-23a. The judgment on their brothers did not create ongoing animosity.

Finally, there is hope for future spiritual success in 21:23b-25 when rebuilding takes place and things almost seem to be normal again. The emphasis on “inheritance” points to future spiritual success that we enjoy in Christ.

This section is one of the best places to teach the church about the holiness of God and the need for discipline.

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

Randal

P.S. If you are interested in how Judges is put together, you might like to know that the book is ending where it began. It begins and ends with Israel asking God, “Who will go up” to fight against____? The problem is the first question addresses going up against God’s enemies. By the end of the book the question addresses going up against their own people! An entire tribe has morphed into the morality of the culture.

Preaching Both a Bad Example and Christ from the Wicked City of Gibeah in Judges 19

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In these posts I am working my way through the book of Judges to provide a strategy for preaching difficult narratives.

Whenever you preach through the book of Judges–a very brave thing to do, by the way–you will discover that there are no judges. But there are lots of people doing what was right in their own eyes. The theological reason is provided in 19:1 “In those days, when there was no king in Israel…” What could a king do?

Well, a certain kind of king could teach and enforce the ways of God among the people of God. That would put a stop to the terrible wickedness that we read about in the city of Gibeah. And, of all things, Gibeah was home of God’s people, not a “city of foreigners” (cf. 19:12). They were “Benjaminites” (v. 16). None of us readers are prepared for how wicked God’s people have become.

The story revolves around a Levite and his concubine. Davis says that “he was heading for Sodom-in-the-land-of-Israel.” The parallels between Judges 19:22-28 and Genesis 19’s famous story are numerous. What starts off with no hospitality (Judges 19:15) ends up in what might be the worst scene in all the Bible (spoiler alert: except for the Cross, of course!).

The Levite gives his concubine to “the men of the city, worthless fellows” and she is raped and killed (v. 22, 25). His insensitivity is unbelievable (v. 28). And then, the Levite follows that up with the unthinkable: “he took a knife…divided her, limb by limb, into twelve pieces, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel” (v. 29).

The chapter closes with the people’s reaction: “consider it, take counsel, and speak” (v. 30).

If you ever preached this chapter, one challenge is to help a church realize that it could get this bad. This is how bad things can get when God is not worshiped, when American individualism fills the hearts of people in the pews. Bad example? Yes.

A bigger challenge is to see the grace of God-in Christ in this narrative. That happens when we point out that the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ was a worst crime than anything Sodom or Gibeah experienced. And, of course, it is Christ’s broken body that makes it possible for Believers to experience the kingship of God in the power of His Spirit. Preach Christ? Yes.

Preach well for the sake of His glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).

Randal

P.S. I read the post and wanted to draw attention to the preaching strategy, how the narrative conveys theology for the Church.

First, the theological statement that drives the entire book is found in v. 1 (“no king”).

Second, the whole story revolves around God’s people, not pagans.

Third, the varied sins of God’s people are on display, including the most heinous ones.

Fourth, there is a clear reference to redemption in v. 30 (“the people of Israel that came up out of the land of Egypt”).

Finally, if you are inclined as I am to show how such a ghastly narrative points to Christ, look to the parallel between the concubine and the Cross.

Hope that helps.