Dr Jared Hood
I’m meant to begin with something humorous, aren’t I? Yesterday, I began with something my wife said. Perhaps I should say something that she said this morning and hope that she doesn’t hear the recording. I asked her what shirt I should wear because I can’t match my clothes. She said, “Wear the ones with the French cuffs. You know that he wears cufflinks, don’t you?” Perhaps she was thinking that if her husband was more like Iain Murray…
The task this morning is to provide some examples of preaching from the OT. All I’ve done today is select some of my sermons and I will hold them up to you as examples and we’ll assess whether they measure up to my principles yesterday. Remember Principle 8: Do not be formulaic for force the text into a particular mould. I am quite sure that my preaching is filled with all kinds of weaknesses and idiosyncrasies.
People find all kinds of books difficult to preach. Some say Romans or Ecclesiastes or Proverbs. The book I find hardest is 1 John with its repetitive, cumulative nature.
1 Wisdom Material
The wisdom material is poetic, including speculative wisdom (Ecclesiastes and Job), normative wisdom (Proverbs and Song of Songs). We link to think that we have genre anxiety. It is actually the contents of the book which is the problem. Why do we struggle about it? Because it doesn’t seem to have much of an evangelical feel to it. Where is the atonement in that? We would much rather go to narrative. It is us that have the problem. The reason is that we have a truncated Christ. We think it is only about the atonement.
Proverbs is not disconnected from the cross, but it gives us a bigger picture of Christ than what we’ve become accustomed to today. What does the wisdom material add to our understanding of Christ?
- There is a thematic link. The books are about wisdom and the NT expands about wisdom. Christ is our wisdom, has wisdom, exemplified wisdom, is the ultimate man of wisdom. When you preach Proverbs, you are always free to go forward to the life of Jesus and the moral teaching of the whole NT.
- There is an authorial link. Jesus is the author of the wisdom books. They are a reflection of the character of Jesus. It is Jesus’ will for you. Preach these books as part of the program of sanctification that Jesus wants for His people.
- There is a typological link. This hasn’t always been understood. The best comment I can find from someone on this topic is from Graeme Goldworthy (He is outstanding. I put him in the same basket as Edmund Clowney, which is high praise. He does have a problem with the level of human intention in prophecy, but I could have said the same about Greidanus or Poythress), “To the classic Reformation Christology, based on the offices of prophet, priest and king, we need to add ‘wise man’.” I am going to go one step further. I don’t think we need to add to or redefine Calvin’s munus triplex. Think about the office of king. What did a good king look like and do? He was a warrior, and brought about justice among his people. He would defend the underprivileged and the widow. What did the king need to do those things? Wisdom (1 Kings 3). That’s why Solomon was such a great king. This is the Biblical way of looking at kingship. We wish our leaders today knew more about wisdom. Guess who writes most of the wisdom books? Solomon, because is that wise king. This is royal wisdom. The OT picture of wisdom is incomplete without this, and therefore the picture of the Messiah is incomplete without this. These books tell us something about who the Messiah will be.
1.1 Proverbs 10:1-5
This is the start is the harder section of Proverbs which is not clearly thematically connected.
- First, I established the limits: I thought I saw a connection between these, being about works, with verse 6 moving to words. It seems to be about work, and how you need to work. This is not about the atonement. Christ wants His people to learn something about work.
- I isolated the points. This was hard to do, so I came up with three logical points from the text: The need not to be lazy, the need to work, the outcomes or incentives. Which would I put first? Which is more important, the outcomes or the work? Solomon wants to be glad about his son and doesn’t want him to die. This changes the main point, “How to live your life to please your father.”
- What God wants for you.
- How to get there: don’t be lazy.
- How to get there: work.
- The introduction was an explanation that Solomon wanted to be happy with his son and happy about the way his life turned out. The inspirer of the text says it to all sons and all people in the covenant; it is about how God can be pleased with you. This comment is open to wide explanation, so I went to another canonical explanation. Solomon isn’t saying, ‘I’ll only love you if you do these things.’ We are accepted in Christ, but we have a real relationship with God.
- What does God want for you? A long life (What does this mean if you die long?). Is there anything that you can do that will lead to you having a long life and getting these things that God wants for you?
- Don’t be lazy. Laziness leads to the opposite of what God wants for you and makes God displeased. I went to the NT to show that this theme is continued in the NT. “It’s not just an OT thing.” Paul talks about people who don’t provide for their own, and James talks about spiritual laziness, the filling out of the OT text (James 2:20).
- Be active: work. Use your opportunity. Have busy hands. I often tell my children, ‘Don’t watch the tele; Do something.’ This is in the NT too. Paul talks to rich people, telling them to be rich in good works (2 Timothy). Use Gospel opportunities, with the thematic link of harvest.
- I probably could have stopped there. I had explained the text and made a Gospel link. This is wisdom from Christ, reflecting the character of Jesus and shows us what Christ’s life was like. So I went on talked about Jesus’ work and showed how I was making this link. Solomon wrote this probably for Rehoboam wondering if he would drop the ball, but he knew that someone greater was yet to come because of the Davidic covenant. Jesus worked in summer. He made the best of a few short years here, talking about working while it was yet day. He was not lazy. He perfectly balanced work and sleep. He spoke about His work a number of times, including as a child (see John’s Gospel). I explored whether Jesus made the hearts of His parents glad. We don’t know about Joseph, but know about Mary (‘He grew in wisdom and she treasured these things in her heart’ Luke 2:52). Then we went to the cross because Jesus’ work is redemption. He was always righteous and was vindicated by His Father in resurrection, which is the basis on which we are vindicated. I got Isaiah 52-53 in there too, the servant who sees His work and is vindicated. We need to rest and rely on Jesus’ finished work.
Was I true to the principles I outlined yesterday? I hope I was. I showed the thematic and typological link, and showed it in the sermon. I also preached the morality of the passage. I stated the Gospel, which came through the typological link. Proverbs was not disconnected from the Christ.
There is something in Proverbs which implies that wisdom is Messianic (Proverbs 8).
1.2 Ecclesiastes 12
- I determined the limit of the text.
- In the light of the fact that we live in an empty, fallen and futile world, how do we live? I went back to Genesis 3, going back to the Fall as the book does; the Fall is real and we have to deal with that. Solomon knows all about the covenant and redemption, but how do you live in the fallen world waiting for the eschaton?
- The text gives us three points:
- Seek Your Creator (v1-8)
- Seek Wisdom (v9-12)
- Seek Obedience (v13-14)
- Seek Your Creator. He is a good God, which creation shows. I took a shot at Darwin here too. I pointed out that then we have a tension: a good Creator God and a fallen world. How did we get here? Will it always be like this? I said that Solomon knows that there is more than the Fall, but he doesn’t mention the Gospel promise of Genesis 3:15. I mentioned the cross at this point, showing the God of Creation putting things right.
- Seek Wisdom. This world is fallen, but God has given us a way to live. Living the life of wisdom will not deliver you from the futility of this life. I didn’t go to anything outside this passage, but worked with it. What does it mean to be wise and make good decisions?
- Seek Obedience. At this summary point, I was obliged to explain whether this makes sense to a NT believer. Is that the sum of it all, obedience to the Law? Evangelicalism today struggles with this. I went to the Sermon on the Mount and Romans (Matthew 7:12 and Romans 7). The Law is of the Spirit. Christ is our all, justification is our all, faith is our all, and obedience is our all. There are a whole lot of things which are indispensable in the Christian life. Maybe a Puritan could classify the different kinds of ‘all-ness’ there. I could have stopped there. I had explained the text there and spoken of redemption in a few places.
- But I wondered if anyone would respond to the book with depression. It shows that God understands me. He knows where I am at and He has lived it. Solomon and these writings are typical. This isn’t just Solomon’s wisdom; it is the awareness of the Christ as He walked in this world. It was hard and filled with pain. This was His path through it: He sought His creator, wisdom and obedience. I contented myself with having mentioned the atonement already: we have a Saviour who understands this.
1.3 Song of Songs
In Psalm 45, we have the key to understand the Song of Solomon. It is typological of the relationship of Christ and His people. So too does the central statement of the book (Song of Songs 2:4) This is an echo of the covenant, “I will be your God and you will be my people.” (Genesis 17:7).
Preaching on this, I mentioned the atonement, but this is higher. It is about union with Christ.
2.1 Psalm 8
I choose Psalm 8 because we are not equipped to understand it normally. It is dubbed a creation Psalm. Verse 1 is the theme, with two points: God is great, seen in infant children (v2), and God is good, He takes care of us (v3-8). But there is a third point in v2-8; it is about the grace of God’s majesty in the consummate man. This is a Davidic recreation Psalm. It is about the rule of David and his greater Son. God visits man (v4)! These are covenantal terms. This is not the covenant of works/creation, but of redemption. His grace is evident in the Davidic kingdom, which is the kingdom of the second Adam. This explains how the NT applies it to Christ. This isn’t just allegory. This makes more sense of verse 2 as well. How better could a baby silence God’s enemies than by the Messianic line continuing?
2.2 Psalm 104
This is of the same ilk. There is more going on here than creation. The Psalm focuses on the world today as well as back then. Then, the end of the Psalm is the eschatological triumph of the Lord (34-35).
3 The Prophets
This seems like safe ground because we believe in total depravity.
3.1 Haggai 2
The returnees are rebuilding the Temple, but the comparison to the first Temple is not flattering.
- Don’t lose your focus by looking back to how things used to be.
- Right focus #1: What you are going now is glorious because the Spirit of God is with you. How is God present with us? (Genesis 1-2, John 1). Is it a small thing to you that God is with you, even if you don’t have the numbers? Remember the cost for you to have the Spirit of God with you. It cost the Son of God His life. (See also Matthew 14).
- Right focus #2: This present Temple you are working on will one day be great. When? When ‘the desire of nations’ will come into it. Is that when Herod rebuilds it, Jesus enters it, when the disciples preach the Gospel in it? It may be all of these. The pastoral point is that their work is part of the eschatological picture.
I had a thematic connection. I didn’t explicitly find the atonement there, though it is there in Haggai 1. The thought of the presence of the Spirit is a link too.
We don’t have time to consider narrative with 1 Samuel 1. Hannah is a model of piety and is important because she is praying. We need to consider her so we can get to Samuel and to David. We can’t get to law either, which has clearer links to Jesus. I’m hoping that that is enough to set your minds working.
With apologies to Gregory of Nazianzus, ‘I can’t think of the OT without thinking of the NT or of the NT without thinking of the OT.’