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.
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?”
- 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.
- 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!
- 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…
- 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.
Sometimes, when I’m done preaching through a book of the Bible, the “completed” series feels more like an episode of This Old House. Meaning there are some cracks to fill.
My approach through the years has been to preach through books of the Bible, but without being exhaustive (and hopefully not exhausting!). In other words, I keep the pace of the series moving by keeping my preaching portions each Sunday as large as the genre allows, short of feeling like I’m skimming over important material.
It’s a judgment call every preacher makes. Some very effective preachers spend years on a book that I determine to cover in a fraction of the time.
However, that means I will often follow-up a series on let’s say, Revelation, with what I call a Post-Revelation mini-series. I am counting on those post-book series to fill in the cracks.
So, while you’re preaching through a book of the Bible, record some of the areas where you’ve said to your parishioners: “I wish we could devote more time to this.” Use the post-book series to do that.
You’ll find that the post-book series will allow you more time to develop a detailed exposition of critical doctrines. You will have already dealt with the context and rudimentary understandings of the doctrine. Now you can fill in some of the cracks to create a smoother finish.
I find this approach helps me keep the original sermon series through a book moving along without sacrificing the necessary nuancing some doctrines may require.
Preach well for the sake of God’s reputation in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).
One of the first things I encountered preaching through books of the Bible was considering the option of selecting larger preaching portions. I was much more comfortable with preaching small sections of NT epistles. But, when I decided to preaching equally from both Testaments, it became apparent that larger-than-I-was-used-to portions were needed.
If you’re wondering why many OT narratives and some NT narratives call for larger preaching portions, consider:
- theology is being conveyed through a storyline, rather than through phrases in tightly packed NT paragraphs
- many narratives can be restating the same theology
Here’s an example from the book of Judges, a series I began a couple of weeks ago. Judges 3:7 begins the Book of Deliverers, what most of us think of when we think of Judges. I chose to cover the first four judges (five if you count Deborah and Barak separately) in one sermon. That meant covering Judges 3:7-4:24 in a 45-50 minute sermon!
There are three broad themes in these deliverance narratives: (1) our evil (2) God’s anger (3) God’s grace that raises up a deliverer.
Hardly any details are given about the first and third judges, Othniel and Shamgar. The stories of Ehud and Deborah/Barak contain tons of interesting details (the devious plan that led to Eglon’s assassination and Sisera being killed by a savage woman, Jael). However, most of those details do not contain theology. They do contain storytelling value and preachers have to decide how much time to devote to them.
I chose to highlight some things like God’s plan to use an unexpected deliverer that was left-handed and from the little tribe of Benjamin. Also, it was shocking that an enemy was dispatched by a woman, not Barak. Or, you might point out the incredibly power of God displayed in Shamgar’s military exploits (killing 600 Philistines with a cattle prod).
Anyway, consider the need to take larger preaching portions than you may be comfortable with for the sake of God’s glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).