Friday, June 12, 2009

Preaching expository sermons on Leviticus

We have just begun a series of sermons on the book of Leviticus at church and it has spurred me to think about how I would preach through such an Old Testament book as Leviticus.

When you look at the book we quickly see there are many chapters on similar themes, for example sacrifice in chapter 1-5, then the Priesthood from 8-10 and so on. One is then tempted to lump them together and do a wholesale approach like taking the first 5 chapters together and do a thematic sermon for each group. Of course this is not expository preaching which I am committed to, even though there are times when I can see value in doing such a thematic preaching series from the bible.

Still I must ask myself "Have I preached through the book of Leviticus if I leave out chapters like chapter 5 and for the rest skim quietly over the text just drawing out the main theme of each chapter"?

My conclusion is no.

Still, having not preached through Leviticus I admire those who have attempted to preach it, either thematically or through expository preaching of the text. It is a daunting task, one that many leave undone altogether.

I have frequently seen on the internet preachers who take a "narrative" preaching tac with Old Testament books. That is, taking the section before them which can run into many chapters and then giving the general outline of the story and drawing an application from this.

This perhaps for some is prompted by the belief that the Old Testament books are primarily telling the story of Israel's birth as the people of God and then Israel's "story." For some this is then compounded by the view that since the Old Testament in it's early transmission was done orally, then the words and the phrases used are not of central importance. They seem to assume that oral transmission is of lesser accuracy than written transmission.

In practice we see this happen with some Preachers when they get past Genesis 12 with the choosing of Abraham by God. Suddenly they begin to choose a chapter or more at a time to preach from. However this leads to a neutered understanding of what God is teaching. We miss seeing the many connections with what the Lord God has already told Israel and us the readers, earlier.

To highlight just one example, when in Genesis 12 God says "Any one who curses you I will curse"

In this verse the words translated curse are different in these two cases. A point sadly missed by translators.
It says that any who even disdain Israel, God will curse! That gives it a whole different flavour doesn't it?

It tells us that Israel is indeed "the apple of His eye"! They are precious to Him.

If we pick up on this, something picked up from careful hermeneutics of the text and investigating each verse, then we see open for us a perspective that was previously hidden due to our "shallow" reading of the text. [ Again have a good read of T. D. Gordon "Why johnny can't preach" and the failure of preachers to understand the unity and argument and so on of the text. ]

With this perspective about Israel as precious to the Lord God and that God would curse those that even merely disdain Israel, what should the people of God have thought as they related to other nations? Further, do we not also see God's judgment on nations for their attitude and actions towards Israel throughout the Old Testament as fulfillment of this promise God made to Abraham?

That is just one example of taking careful note of what God says in His word. Can one not expect further reward when looking at other Old Testament books?

Some preachers approach to books like Leviticus is to see their importance in terms of generalities, in the sense of seeing types of Jesus prefigured by the sacrificies for example. Their basis for this is something I am intrigued by. Sometimes they justify their approach here by quoting Luke's statement in Luke 24 about Jesus comments to the two on the Emmaus road after His death and Resurrection.

In Luke 24 verse 27 we read "And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself." But let's be careful about what Luke is actually saying here. Does it mean that every chapter is talkimg about Jesus as Messiah? Not at all. There are for example chapters that lay out in detail the dimensions of the Temple, how it was to be built, how those set aside were to minister in it, the priests, etc. What we cetainly gain from such chapters is the necessity of a sacrifice for sin, at other times what we see that the Messiah is portrayed through typology, and other times that he is the one promised whom God would send. When the bible speaks of Cain killing Abel it is not speaking in any way directly about Christ, but rather the spread of sin after the fall of Genesis 3. When it speaks twice in Genesis of Abraham passing his wife off as his sister it does not speak of Christ, but of man failing to Trust the promises of the Lord God.

What one can surmise is that Jesus raised with the two on the Emmaus road passages that spoke of Him, one like 2 Sam 7 the promised Messiah, or the promised Messiah of Isaiah 53, "the son" of Psalm 2 and so on.
The point of Jesus' teaching is that they all pointed to Him, the annointed one, the suffering servant, the Messiah.

Next time I will give a simple outline of what I see as some of the important preachable points of Leviticus 1.

In Christ,

1 comment:

Evedyahu said...

You may benefit from reading this article: