Preaching the Davidic/Solomonic Kingship: Preaching Through 1 Chronicles

I admit: the title of this blog post is not sermon-friendly.

My own title for 1 Chronicles 17:1-15 was: “Direct our hearts toward you, Lord”: Living Life In God’s Eternal Kingdom.

1 Chronicles 17 is one of the more significant chapters in the OT. That’s because it contains information about the promises God made to David concerning his dynasty.

The most important aspect of preaching the Davidic/Solomonic Covenant is showing how everything God promised us in Christ, the Son of David, is guaranteed because of what God promised to do for David and his son, Solomon. David’s dynasty would be eternal which means it’s still active every Sunday morning.

This is a case where biblical theology is as important, if not more important, than exegesis.

 

So, here’s a way to approach this chapter:

  1. Our need for God’s kingdom (vv. 1-10a). Verses 8-9 describe the fact of God’s powerful presence to defeat Israel’s enemies (especially, “violent men”). The warfare which began in Genesis 3:1ff. and the promised victories of Gen. 3:15 and 1 Corinthians 15:24ff. provide the context for the Church’s current situation and ultimate hope.
  2. Our need for a King in God’s kingdom (vv. 10b-12). It is very difficult to preach this point in a democratic society like the U.S. I spent some minutes reviewing why Israel wanted a king in the first place (cf. 1 Sam. 8:20, “…fight our battles”). Most important is the fact that God’s chosen king rules in a “kingship within God’s kingly rule” (Bock & Blaising). The Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology speaks of the significant “role of a royal covenant mediator in the person of the king.” We don’t access God’s kingdom and all the benefits of God’s rule apart from a Mediator.
  3. Our life as citizens in God’s kingdom (vv. 13-15). Here is the place to show that the special adoption language describing God’s relationship to the king applies to us (“…I will not take my steadfast love from him…”).

Finally, you may want to move from the son of David (Solomon) to the Son of David (Christ in Matt. 1:1, 17, 20) who is declared the Son of God (Matt. 3:17) who makes living in God’s kingdom possible.

I hope this provides the kind of framework that can help the Church make sense of the Davidic Covenant so God receives glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).

Randal

Utilize This Resource To Add Practical Theology To Your Sermons

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Two things have come together to create this post: reading Joel Green’s, Practicing Theological Interpretation and Trueman’s, Luther on the Christian Life.

Well, actually, three things. The third one is my discussion last week with a young pastor who will begin his first pastoral post in about a month.

Let me start with the third factor. In talking about how to gain depth for preaching, I mentioned how important it is to read theology. The temptation for pastors is to read only for church growth, leadership, or commentaries for sermon helps. Over the years I’ve discovered how important it is to find in-depth theological works. These aids are tremendously helpful as a supplement to what would be considered normal exegetical work.

One place you may want to turn is to ancient catechisms. Green writes, “a theological hermeneutic might be well advised to ask, ‘What do we see as we read Scripture through the prism of the creeds that we would not otherwise see?'” (p. 80). Just as the creeds help flesh out interpretation and application of Scripture, so do catechisms.

Take, for instance, Luther’s catechism. Our Theology Readers’ Breakfast just completed a study of Trueman’s book, Luther on the Christian Life. The entries contain an intriguing combination of theology and practical application–practical theology.

Luther’s catechism is especially helpful because as Trueman states, “Luther was the first author of a catechism in the history of the church who came to the task as a father.” (p. 111) He writes for his children. But listen for the combination of theology and practical application.

“You shall have no other gods.”

What does this mean?

Answer: We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.

Or…

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.”

What does this mean?

Answer: We should fear and love God, and so we should not use his name to curse, swear, practice magic, lie, or deceive, but in every time of need call upon him, pray to him, praise him, and give him thanks.” (p. 111).

In both cases, notice that Luther begins with fearing and loving God. I would normally begin discussion of the first commandment with some minutes devoted to worshiping God. In the second case, notice the list of positive applicational actions.

So, as you study for Sunday’s sermon(s), ask yourself if anything in your preaching portion might necessitate some help from a good theology book or from an ancient catechism like Luther’s. And may our preaching contribute to God receiving glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).

Randal

Let Huge Theological Statements Carry Your Sermon, Especially in OT Narratives

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If you saw Michael Phelps swim the second leg of the team’s gold medal relay the other night, you saw yet another example of how he can carry a team. Some theological statements in OT narratives function like that.

Judges 6 provides an example of how such theological statements can carry a sermon. Verse 12 reads, “… ‘The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.'” Verse 16 reads, “And the Lord said to him, ‘But I will be with you…'”

When Gideon asks in v. 15, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest…and I am the least in my father’s house'”, the answer is: Gideon will function as a deliverer because the Lord will be with Him.

Here’s how the story develops:

  1. things become horrible for the once-faithful (vv. 1-6)
  2. we’re reminded of why things get so bad (vv. 7-10)
  3. we learn the key for our deliverance (vv. 11-16) Gideon is the unlikely deliverer because God will be with him.
  4. we receive some gracious confirmation (vv. 17-24) Here, God honors Gideon’s weak faith.

Point three is key. The theological statement is found within the longest and most detailed narrative in Judges: Gideon. God’s presence explains any spiritual victories we enjoy.

There are times in the OT when you’ll have to read for a long time before you hit such loaded statements that can carry a sermon. Avoid the temptation of getting mired in historical details. Some are necessary to explain the theology of the passage.

And, if you’re thinking about highlighting a Christo-centric reading of Judges 6, you can focus on vv. 23-24. After seeing the angel of the Lord and expecting instant death, we read:

“But the Lord said to him, ‘Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die.’ Then Gideon built an altar there to the Lord and called it, The Lord is Peace.” God extends peace to us only because He made war on His Son on the cross.

Before Sunday, if you’re preaching an OT narrative, look for a theological statement that could carry the sermon.

All for God’s glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).

Randal

Challenging Conventional Thinking

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You may have discovered that your sermon content often challenges the thinking of your congregants. That’s a good sign. It’s very difficult–maybe impossible–for anyone to grow spiritually if they continue to think the same things.

For instance, how do you think your congregation would answer this question, “Does God need your money?”?

I can tell you how mine did a couple of Sunday’s ago. The majority answered a confident, emphatic, “No!”

We were worshiping by responding to Philippians 4:14-20. Paul says, “Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again.” The work of God through Paul needed the Thessalonians Christians. If they hadn’t given to Paul, what would have happened to the work? Someone quickly answered, “Someone else would have stepped in.”

Right, God would have used someone else’s generosity to fund His work. It’s true, God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. But it’s also true that some other farmers also own them! Chuck Swindoll wrote, “Let’s face it, money and ministry often flow together” (Laugh Again). One of our missionaries serves under TEAM and I learned that donors provided the agency over 27 million dollars to operate last year!

Before Sunday, see if your preaching portion contains concepts which will challenge the conventional thinking of your congregants. Watch the reaction in the pews. Since we function as theologians for the flock, it is important that we spur them on to new ways of thinking about their God and their relationship to Him. I hope you’re sensing that God sent you to your post in order to stretch His people with the Word.

It’s not about inventing novel theology. It’s not about creating new doctrine. It’s about digging deep and thinking deeply about His Word and comparing that to the conventional thinking of the church.

Preach well for God’s glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21),

Randal

When Our Theology Gets in the Way of Meaning

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If I’m not careful, there are times when my semi-sound theology gets in the way of discovering the meaning of a preaching portion. For instance, in Luke 18:18 “a ruler” asks Jesus, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

In my earlier years I would have followed many preachers I had heard and said something like, “Obviously, the ruler didn’t understand the Gospel because he asks, ‘what must I do…’ You don’t do anything. You can’t do anything!” However, jumping to that conclusion sends you away from Jesus’ teaching. Actually, Jesus doesn’t quarrel with this ruler’s wording at all.

In v. 22 Jesus proceeds to give the ruler one more thing to do, something he refused to do: “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor…and come, follow me.”

So, if, because of your theology, you jump to the conclusion that the ruler asked Jesus the wrong question, you will have a difficult time with Luke 18:18-27. If you are going to jump to a conclusion, try this one: What Jesus told the ruler to do could not earn eternal life, but was a vital part of inheriting it. Like all good works, they are proof of genuine saving faith. Had the ruler said “yes” to Jesus’ instructions, he would have displayed evidence of being saved by grace and placing His faith in Jesus.

Before Sunday, see if your theology might be causing you to jump to conclusions that might be hurting your chances of discovering the meaning of your preaching portion. Is there any place where you might say, “God can’t be saying that because I know that (fill in the blank with the particular theology that seemingly cancels out the slice of meaning in question)”? It is risky because there may be times when I have to adjust my theology to the Bible. Imagine that!

Preach well for God’s glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus (Eph. 3:21).

Randal

Why the Question, Why?, Adds Theological Depth to Your Sermon

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In Luke 18:9 we read: “He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt.”

The “what” part of analysis might define self-righteousness as the feeling that we’re basically good and, therefore, acceptable to God. That’s certainly an important part of preaching Jesus’ parable.

We add theological depth to the sermon by asking why we feel that we’re basically good and, therefore, acceptable to God. During this segment of the sermon we delve into our depravity–how the human heart works.

That alone would be a good reason to move from “what” to “why.” For instance, I’ve met some non-Christians and some Christians who feel they are good because they compare themselves to others. I’ll never forget one person telling me they felt they were okay with God because they were better than Michael Jackson. I didn’t expect this from an elderly gentleman.

But there’s another reason to spend time talking about why we feel self-righteous. When we explore “why,” we create new angles from which to explain the Gospel to Christians. The bad news of the Gospel isn’t that only the “worst” people are condemned. The bad news of the Gospel tells us that “there is none righteous” period.

So, at some point in the sermon I might ask congregants: “How does faith in the Gospel move us from being self-righteous to being “one who humbles himself” (Luke 18:14)? I want them to see a connection between their faith in Christ and their ability to not be like the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable. I want them to see a connection between their faith in Christ and their ability to be like the tax collector who said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”

Before Sunday, see if your preaching portion highlights sin. If so, along with explaining what the sin is, spend some time exploring why we commit that sin. You can do the same with righteousness too. What kind of attitude or action is being held up for us to emulate? Why do Christians do that? How does the Gospel create that righteousness?

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

Randal

When Our Theology Waters Down Christ’s Warnings

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If we’re not careful, our theology may cause us to water down Christ’s warnings in the Gospels. Let me give you two examples. I believe genuine Believers are eternally secure. But that belief can cause me to water down Jesus’ warnings. I believe in dispensationalism with a small “d.” But that belief can also cause me to water down Jesus’ warnings.

In Luke 17:20-37 Jesus answers a question about when “the kingdom of God would come” (v. 20). A strong warning is found in v. 32 “Remember Lot’s wife.” Like all of Luke’s Gospel (cf. 1:4 “that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.”), Luke records this discussion about the arrival of the Kingdom of God so we would be sure we will enter it when it comes.

However, it’s possible that our theology might cause us to say to our congregants: “That’s a warning that need not be heeded.”

Over the years, I’ve tried not to allow my belief in eternal security or my brand of dispensationalism to water down Jesus’ warnings. Rather than allow my theology to cancel out the warnings, I’ve worked hard to give the warnings full force while maintaining my theology.

That means the question for me is no longer, “Are we eternally secure?”, but, rather, “How are we eternally secure?” Part of being eternally secure means heeding Jesus’ warnings and not being like Lot’s wife. In order to be ready for the arrival of the Kingdom of God, I must not allow anything in this fallen world to capture my affections.

And, as far as dispensationalism goes, the mindset and faith Jesus describes as necessary for salvation at His Second Coming is the same mindset and faith needed to be ready for salvation-by-Rapture. V. 33 makes this clear: “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.”

Before Sunday, see if your preaching portion contains any warnings and ask yourself if you are giving them full force.

Preach well for the sake of God’s reputation.

Randal

When Your Exegesis May Not Be The Last Word

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I will never forget having preached a sermon on Luke 17:7-10 at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Homiletics Society and having my professor/mentor, Dr. Haddon Robinson, approach me. As usual, he was gracious; as usual, he was also honest: “That’s not the final word.”

He was reacting to the way the preaching portion and sermon ended: “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty” (v. 10).

Even though Haddon does not consistently practice canonical interpretation, he knew that Christians would hear another word from God: “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Luke 19:17).

At that time I was still new to canonical interpretation (interpreting preaching portions in light of the entire Canon). So, I did not progress beyond my exegesis of Luke 17:7-10. But I should have. Haddon was right.

Thankfully, by God’s grace-in-Christ, servant self-talk is not the final word. There’s more. God will pronounce to us good and faithful servants (all genuine Christians) that we have done well.

In this case, as in many other cases, all I needed to do was track a key term (servant) throughout Luke and the rest of the Canon to see this progression of meaning. Because of Christ’s sacrifice for us, we move from unworthy to praiseworthy.

Before Sunday, check your preaching portion to see if there is more to be said than your exegesis. Like this case in Luke 17, it may make a significant difference in the sound of your sermon.

Preach well for the sake of His reputation.

Randal

Transforming History Into Theology (part 9 of what preachers do to the Bible to create sermons)

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This series of posts contains a list of some of the things preachers do to the Bible to create sermons. We perform all kinds of operations on the Bible so that it functions for the Church. One important thing preachers do is  turn history into theology. In our hands, narrative scenes and dialogue from the Old or New Testament go through a metamorphosis. History is transformed into theology, what God is saying to the Church or how God wants the Church to respond to Him.

A couple of weeks ago I reread sections of Buttrick’s, Homiletic, to review his idea of preaching in the mode of immediacy. In the book he says, “What the minister plots, then, is not a story, but a sequence of responses to a story as the story progresses” (p. 362). The sequence of responses to a narrative is another way of thinking through how the story is functioning for the Church. We do not simply retell the plot, but show how the plot conveys theology.

This is one of the most difficult parts of studying the Bible for sermons. Not much has been written to help us move from Text to theology without sacrificing the integrity of the Text. In other words, not all our timeless principles are actually taught in Scripture.

In Luke 14:15-24 Jesus teaches a parable to help us make sure we’ve really accepted God’s gracious invitation to experience LifePlus. This all began with someone exclaiming with dangerous optimism, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” The parable adds a dose of sobering realism to such dangerous optimism. The sermon focuses on the theology in this dialogue: that many who have first heard the gospel will not experience eternal life. It’s possible that many of our congregants said “yes” to God once in the past, but are not following Him now (see all the excuses in vv. 18-20, “I have bought a field….I have bought…oxen….I have married…”).

Before Sunday, if your preaching portion contains a narrative, see if your sermon shows evidence of transforming the caterpillar of history into the butterfly of theology.

Preach well for the sake of God’s reputation.

Randal

What Do You Do to the Bible to Create a Sermon? (part 4) Fill in the Gaps

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Each week we perform some operations on our preaching portion to create sermons. We…

  • explain various terms and concepts
  • announce the shape our worship takes (what that Scripture is intending to do to the Church)
  • show the flow of thought or logical connection between the thought blocks

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The fourth operation we perform on the Bible to create a sermon is filling in important gaps. The meaning of some preaching portions are like a puzzle that is missing one piece. Expository preachers fill in that missing piece.

In Luke 16:19-31 Luke records Jesus’ teaching on the rich man and Lazarus. In Jesus’ story, the poor man dies and is “carried by the angels to Abraham’s side” (v. 22a). The rich man, however, dies and lands “in Hades, being in torment…” (v. 22b-23a).

Jesus doesn’t give any explicit explanation of why each man goes to his eternal destiny. But, we have to. We have to fill in this theological gap in the preaching portion. We explain (you can see the overlap in these operations) that the poor man is not saved because he is financially destitute. Likewise, the rich man is not condemned by God because of his wealth. There were wealthy characters in the Bible that did not end up like this rich man (folks like Job).

So why is the rich man condemned and the poor man saved? The rich man didn’t love God or neighbor (cf. v. 20 and the address of the poor man: “And at his gate was laid a poor man…”). And the poor man? He must have also been poor in spirit. His humble financial situation must have been matched by a humility in his heart that recognized his need of God’s mercy. That gap must be filled in in order for this preaching portion to be understood and acted upon. Everyone must know what it is about the rich man to be avoided and what it is about the poor man to be emulated.

Before Sunday see if your preaching portion is missing a vital piece of theology and if your sermon devotes minutes to supplying that missing piece.

Preach well for the sake of God’s reputation.

Randal