Preaching An OT Worship Service (Preaching Through Chronicles)

One of my favorite places in 2 Chronicles is from 2:1–6:2 and 7:1-3. This lengthy Scripture records the building of God’s house. In the middle of all the details about materials and furnishing you will find a description of an OT worship service.

Consider structuring your sermon around the following (providing you have already taught a theology of the temple in previous sermons as I had):

  1. The character of our God (vv. 5:13b; 7:3b). It should go without saying that our worship centers on our God. In this section we find repeated, “For he is good…” Think about how we use this word in daily life–“that was a good meal, movie, book, or day”–and you quickly realize we’ve got some work to do explaining the goodness of our God. The other character trait of our God is his loyal love (the important Hebrew word, hesed). Nothing sets off a worship celebration like focusing on the goodness of our God.
  2. The glory of our God (vv. 5:13c-6:1; 7:1-2). In this section “the glory of the Lord filled the temple.” 6:1 describes “thick darkness.” There’s a mysteriousness about our God’s presence. Even in Exodus 24:9-11, for instance, when we read, “they beheld God,” we learn that, “There was under his feet…” So, we don’t really see God, but only what He was “standing on.” It’s good for us to remember that our glorious God who matters most, is present with His people. We’re never alone in this world. God is with us.
  3. Finally, our response to His goodness and glory is seen in 7:3. We read, “they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord…” Our worship always includes this same humble attitude, if not the same humble posture.

And if you’re wanting to read Chronicles Christologically, you certainly can remind your faith-family from John 1:14 that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld his glory…” That vision of our glorious Christ continues to drive our worship services.

May we preach about worship in our worship services so God receives glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).

Randal

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.

Why Gaining Attention and Interest Isn’t Enough in Our Introductions

I just completed a very satisfying week of teaching Doctor of Ministry students at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. That’s my excuse for not creating a blog post last week. The track is called, Preaching the Literary Forms of the Bible. Pastors and professors from all over the world made up the class and, as always, the final day or so is devoted to hearing them preach.

I was amazed at how many, regardless of where they were from or who trained them, chose to begin their sermon with some kind of attention-getting device. And in all cases, their opening stories or illustrations were effective in gaining attention and initial interest. But that’s not enough.

Over and over throughout the day I repeated and restated the same thing:

“Try telling us why we need to hear your sermon. How does this Scripture function for the Church?”

Homileticians sometimes refer to this as surfacing need in the introduction and I believe in the practice for the following reasons:

  • it shows our listeners in the opening minutes that the exposition of Scripture is relevant. This is critical because there are expositors who will begin their sermon and preach several minutes without ever telling their listeners that this affects their lives.
  • it’s an opportunity to clearly state how we will worship God as a result of hearing the exposition of Scripture. This keeps expository preaching from being a history lesson about the Text. This reminds us that preaching is an act of worship when we respond to the revelation of God.
  • it allows us to begin the process of application in the introduction instead of waiting till the end of the sermon or near the end of major points in our outline.

So, before Sunday, start with the “why?”, and not just the “what?” of your sermon so our Lord receives glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).

Randal

P.S. Some of you might be thinking that starting with “why” is giving too much information in the introduction. Some practice a much more inductive approach. My answer is that I want my listeners to know why this information/exhortation is being given from the start so that they can remember the purpose for our being together throughout the sermon.

Keeping the Sunday Goal in Mind on Monday Mornings

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Years ago The Mammas and the Papas sang,

“Monday, Monday….Every other day of the week is fine, yeah. But whenever Monday comes…you can find me crying all of the time….Monday, Monday, can’t trust that day….Monday, Monday…it’s here to stay.”

If you preach each Sunday, you can relate to the song. You know that Monday means starting all over again (or, Tuesday, if you take Monday’s off). I find it helpful to keep Sunday’s goal in mind each Monday morning. Since that goal is   corporate worship during the teaching time (Believers responding to the revelation of God), my goal for Monday morning’s study time is always more than initial exegesis.

I recently began rereading Kugel’s, How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now. In explaining the method of ancient interpreters, He writes, “Reading Scripture, and doing what it said, was now the very essence of Judaism–and in it’s wake, Christianity. But what did Scripture mean, and what was it telling people to do?” (p. xii).

How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now

That’s my Monday morning study goal: Reading Scripture–in my case, I’m currently preaching through Luke’s Gospel–praying and studying to learn what it means and what it is telling God’s people to do.

So, on a Monday morning when I’m studying Luke 16:1-9 (Jesus’ parable of the dishonest manager), I want my initial exegesis to yield something like this:

“Lord willing, we will worship on Sunday morning by being as shrewd with God’s money as that dishonest manager was with his master’s accounts.” (cf. vv. 8-9 “…make friends…by means of…wealth, so that…”)

Long before Sunday, look at your preaching portion with the goal towards understanding what it means and what it is telling God’s people to do.

Preach well for the sake of God’s glory in the church and in Christ Jesus,

Randal

P.S. If you’re interested in reading and preaching in the Old Testament, you will find Kugel’s insights helpful (that’s an understatement). I find myself saying, Why didn’t I see that?!, more often than I like to admit.

Does Worship Stop When Your Preaching Starts?

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We have our work cut out for us if we are going to keep congregants worshiping when the sermon starts. Think about it.

Who leads worship in your church? When people hear the term, worship leader, who do they think of? In most churches, most people now equate worship with the singing, not the preaching. In most churches, the sermon follows the music and singing. If parishioners equate worship with singing, what do they think is happening during the sermon? Years ago congregants were asked what segment of the worship service made them feel closest to God. The number one answer was moments of silence. Last place went to the sermon. As I said, we have our work cut out for us.

Several months ago I decided, in light of this reality, to tweak my approach to sermon introductions. My goal was to help people realize that the teaching time is a time for worship, too. Actually, I started with my prayers that I say prior to our public reading of Scripture. In that prayer I ask God to help us worship during the sermon. I ask Him to help us move from knowledge to appropriate response. Worship is, after all, the Believer’s response to the revelation of God. Then, I decided that most Sundays, after the public reading of the preaching portion, my introductions would begin with some variation of: “This is God’s Word. We worship this morning by responding to (fill in the blank with a summary of the scene in Luke’s Gospel, for instance).” At the end of the introduction, I’ll state the response that the preaching portion is intended to create.

For instance, in Luke 9:1-9 we read Jesus’ ministry description He gave to the original Twelve. So my introduction might begin with: “This is God’s Word. We worship this morning by responding to Luke’s record of when Jesus sent out His first official disciple-makers.” (Note that responding is different from learning about.) Then, my intro might end with: “This is a time for us to evaluate whether Jesus is accomplishing His mission in the world through you and me.” Throughout the sermon and especially at the end, we’ll talk about the small, but vital part we’re playing in God’s disciple-making program. We’ll make sure everyone is urged to join this ongoing mission.

I don’t want worship to stop when the preaching begins. I know you don’t, either.

Isaiah 58 When Worship Doesn’t Work

What drives the theology of Isaiah 58 is the commandment in Isaiah 58:1. Sermons that expose the sins of worshipers are not popular or fun to preach. God’s people are active in worship, but also just as active in sin.  Cf. Isaiah 58:1-2. This chapter gives us an opportunity to evaluate our worship practices. Isaiah’s description of God’s people creates yet another negative example (“go and do otherwise”). We can’t afford to worship the way they do and live like the devil (cf. Isaiah 58:4). Isaiah 58:6-7, 9-10, 13 show the kind of “fast” the Lord chooses for His people. All the “if you’s” are followed by “then you’s” to show the kind of healing God’s true worshipers experience when God’s condition is met (e.g., Isaiah 58:8-911-12, 14). In this section sin is exposed, exchanged for true righteous acts, and results in salvation. We’re living in a time when morality in the church matches the morality in the world. And this is taking place while we worship. Apparently, many church-goers are engaged in deficient worship. In order for someone to become righteous, they must first look to the one to whom Isaiah pointed. On the cross our Savior did indeed bow His head in the greatest act of humility (cf. Isaiah 58:5; John 19:30).