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

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

Lessons I Learned From Preaching About Head Coverings

It was inevitable. I am currently preaching through 1 Corinthians and it was just a matter of time before reaching chapter 11 and the subject of head coverings. Yikes!

Jesus didn’t come back in time.

So, here’s what I learned. Maybe this will help when you preach a variety of difficult texts:

  • “I will disappoint many of you. Thank you for loving me anyway.” I said that more than once preaching about head coverings in chapter 11 and spiritual gifts in chapters 12-14. I said it to prepare parishioners for what was coming and not coming during the teaching times.
  • If ever there is a time to model hermeneutical humility, it is while preaching such multiple-ways-to-understand texts!
  • I had to fight against the fear of losing some congregants because of my approach. It took more courage than normal to say to a non-hat-wearing faith-family: “We need to give this instruction a fair reading regardless of our current practice.”
  • I needed to remember that, for some listeners, their past experience in churches will keep them from hearing this teaching. So I needed to try to show why what God is saying may not be equal to what “turned them off.”
  • I trusted my leadership to hear the Word that Sunday and respond appropriately. I do that every Sunday, but it seemed more important due to the controversial subject matter. We agreed that no head covering “policy” was needed but that everyone should take seriously the need to maintain God-created gender distinctions in church.
  • That last sentence was important theologically. Paul wrote about head covering in order to address a more foundational issue (cf. 11:3; look for that with other difficult concepts). That issue of responsibility within a relationship was key. And in a culture that is blurring many lines, God’s Word needs a fresh hearing in the Church.
  • Finally, I learned that nothing beats some measure of pastoral longevity when having to preach difficult texts. One of God’s good gifts is the opportunity to be a part of a faith-family that will love me and think hard about difficult truths in the Word of God.

For what it’s worth…

Preach well–preach difficult texts well–for the sake of God’s reputation in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).

Randal