Let Your Outline Tell The Story: Preaching Through Chronicles

When I arrived at 2 Chronicles 13 I decided to created an outline that told a story. Hopefully the story of the outline reflected the story of the narrative:

  1. We face a sinister foe (vv. 1-3, 6-9)
  2. But we belong to an eternal kingdom (vv. 4-5)
  3. Which means we are loyal to our God (vv. 10-11)
  4. And He fights with us for victory (vv. 12-22)

The outline points tell the story in broad strokes.

It is often possible to create outline points–major points–that follow the storyline of the narrative. You can do the same thing with an epistle. In that case the major points reflect the logical connections and flow of the argument of a paragraph or series of paragraphs.

When you preach 2 Chronicles 13 you have an opportunity to spend time with your congregation thinking about how God fights for us in our Christian experience. It’s one of my favorite themes of the Old and New Testaments.

Verse 12 reads, “Behold, God is with us at our head…” What a great opportunity to rally the faith-family around the concept of our Lord leading us in every spiritual battle.

And if you are inclined to read Chronicles Christologically, you could start with McConville’s statement:

“weakness is a positive advantage because it is a prerequisite of reliance.”

The Gospel includes the ultimate weakness of the Cross and the ultimate victory for all who believe. In 2 Chronicles 13 we lead the way in counting on our Lord to provide spiritual victory so He receives glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).

Randal

Preaching Both Folly and Wisdom: Preaching Through Chronicles

Due to the spiritual schizophrenia of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, when you reach 2 Chronicles 9:31–12:16 you preach both foolishness and wisdom. I found it to be one of my most difficult sermons in this Chronicles series. But here’s a strategy that worked.

Begin with foolishness and there’s plenty of it in 10:1-15a; 11:14-15 and 12:1, 14. Virtually every section contains some form of “go and do otherwise” examples from this king. His foolishness ranges from refusing to listen to wise counsel to unfaithfulness to the Lord Himself.

Then it’s easy to move to the cursed results of the king’s foolishness in 10:16-19; 12:2-5, 9-11 and 15. In those sections, God’s people experience division, defeat in battle, and are deserted by God. These sermon minutes are aimed at encouraging our faith-families to not follow the foolishness of Rehoboam.

Thankfully, the next section shows the king recovering some of his spiritual sensitivities. There is wisdom to emulate in 11:1-4, 16-17, 22-23 and 12:6. One critical concept throughout Chronicles is in 11:16-17 where people “set their hearts to seek the Lord….for they walked for three years in the way of David and Solomon.”

The sermon can end on a wonderful note of blessings found in 11:5-13, 18-21; 12:7-8 and 12-13. The highlight for me in this section is in 12:7-8 and 12-13 where the Lord extends mercy: “I will not destroy them…and my wrath shall not be poured out…”

And if you have the inclination to move to the cross, key on 12:12 “And when he humbled himself the wrath of the Lord turned from him…” Not so of Christ on the cross. And that’s the reason why we can experience deliverance in our world.

Anyway, that’s the way I handled probably my toughest preaching portion in Chronicles so far. I hope it helps you preach through the books so God receives His due 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 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 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