Theology

Musings on Old Testament Preaching, pt. 2

Yahweh is a preacher. He was a preacher from the beginning. “God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” (Gen 1:3) The Triune Yahweh preaches everything into existence: The Father speaks in and through the person of His Son (the Word), and the Spirit, proceeding from both, enlivens all things through the preached Word. Since Yahweh is a preacher, He wants preachers. This “Preaching God” sets up His “Preaching Office” to continue the preaching.

When He calls His prophets, that is, His preachers, He calls them as they are. He uses the talents those prophets have. He sanctifies those skills. From our perspective some of them are more skilled than others, but Yahweh uses them all. If they are Word-smithy like Isaiah, He is glorified. If they’re just straight forward preachers like Moses, He is still glorified. For, if by human standards the preacher seems weak, like a fool, He is glorified all the more. For “it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” (1 Cor 1:21)

Now there are times in the Old Testament when the eternal Word, the Son, appears and gives a message to His prophets to preach, as I’ve said before. Now, what happens when the preacher takes that Word? How does He preach it? We’ll take a look at two examples: Moses and Elijah.

Yahweh sent Moses as preacher to Pharaoh. Moses recounts his preaching in Exodus, which he also authored. Moses is a skilled author. He is a skilled preacher (despite his complaining to the contrary), and he is skilled in his directness.

The LORD spoke to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Let My people go, that they may serve Me. But if you refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all your territory with frogs. So the river shall bring forth frogs abundantly, which shall go up and come into your house, into your bedroom, on your bed, into the houses of your servants, on your people, into your ovens, and into your kneading bowls. And the frogs shall come up on you, on your people, and on all your servants.” ’ ”

(Exodus 8:1–4)

Moses doesn’t record any more than that. There’s no extra “and Moses said.” By writing this way, Moses is showing that he preached what Yahweh said word for word. He didn’t add anything. He took nothing away. Moses, in many ways, is a very direct preacher. Yahweh blessed His preaching. He preached to the people of Israel for 40 years, and they were sanctified and blessed with the Word he brought to them from Yahweh.

Elijah is different sort of preacher. He too gets a Word from Yahweh like Moses.

Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.”  So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, indeed a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Please bring me a little water in a cup, that I may drink.” And as she was going to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” 

So she said, “As the LORD your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.”

And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son. For thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the LORD sends rain on the earth.’ 

So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days. The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the LORD which He spoke by Elijah. 

(1 Kings 18:8–16, emphasis added)

Elijah’s preaching on the Lord’s Word is quite different from Moses’ preaching. While Moses is direct, Elijah receives a Word and applies it. The Lord told Elijah, “Go to Zarephath. I’ve commanded a widow to provide for you.” Elijah goes to Zarephath, encounters a widow, and he then asks her for water and food. She refuses not because she’s unwilling but because she’s only got enough for one last meal. It’s then that Elijah applies the Word he’s been given and preaches. “The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the LORD sends rain on the earth.” (1 Ki 17:14)

Preacher Elijah realizes that if the Word told him: “A widow will take care of you at Zarephath,” then that must mean she’ll take care of him no matter what. The Lord will obviously then sustain what she has so that His Word and promise to Elijah will be fulfilled. That’s exactly what Elijah preaches, and he knows and trusts that Yahweh will bless His Word—not only the Word He spoke to Elijah but also the Word He spoke through Elijah. And that’s exactly what Yahweh does: “The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the LORD which He spoke by Elijah.” (1 Ki 17:16)

Yahweh blesses His preachers. It doesn’t matter if they’re more word for word preachers, or if they’re more creative. He blesses His Word. He wants preachers, even as He Himself is a preacher.

 

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One thought on “Musings on Old Testament Preaching, pt. 2

  1. Why is trusting in the efficacy of the Word of God such a hard thing? It’s great fun mocking all the church growthers and their trust in programs, but it’s not real encouraging to view our own lack of trust just in our daily lives. “Take no thought for tomorrow “, I take a lot of thoughts for tomorrow, almost all of them filled with worry.

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