Benjamin Walton. Preaching Old Testament Narratives. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, June 27th 2016. 256 pp.
4 out of 5
Most Christian preachers are probably more comfortable preaching from New Testament epistles than Old Testament narrative. Yet as the book points out forty percent of the Bible is narrative with a large part of that found in the Old Testament. If preachers are to be faithful in preaching all of God’s Word they need to do it well. The author Benjamin Walton has written an excellent resource for expositional preachers who want to preach faithfully the Word of God from Old Testament narratives while at the same time desiring to preach with the intention of impacting contemporary audiences today. Unlike most works on preaching this is a “two-in-one” in that it covers the interpretative skills that a preacher needs as he studies Old Testament narratives and also the practical skills of crafting a sermon. You really get the bang for your buck with this book. One really gets the feeling that the author is writing for the purpose of pastors and teachers able to do all the aspects of expositional preaching well.
In the preface Walton told the readers that this book began fifteen years ago as notes for a class at church. Teaching on preaching is one of those things that is best taught by those who have experienced doing it weekly and also by those who thought long and hard about how to preach. In what follows below are some of the highlights of the book and also some constructive criticisms.
- I found the book affirming the amount of time I spent in sermon preparation; Walton states that a quality sermon takes fifteen hours to prepare (47).
- Old Testament narratives goes on longer in words before teaching theological lesson compared to New Testament epistles; so be careful of being too quick to moralize from the narratives as this would be improper in interpreting the intention of the author if we don’t grasp the main point of a passage with a complete unit of thought (CUT).
- To help us identify a complete unit of thought it is helpful to identify the four plot stages: Introduction, Problem, Solution and Conclusion. This was very helpful for me as sometime I have a hard time cutting the right amount of verses for a sermon.
- I thought it was a good idea that Walton suggested forming an Application Team that consists of church members from different walks of life to get their input of what does application of God’s truth looks like. This is a helpful idea for those in churches in which the people are quite diverse and different.
- On page 52 Walton states that “Israel had no concept of reward or punishment in the afterlife until the book of Daniel, one of the latest book of the OT.” I think that is a difficult claim to say it is true from Scripture. Jesus in arguing with the Sadducees has the extra challenge of proving that there is life after death since they only believed in the book of Moses was Scripture. Yet Jesus still appealed to the truth that God was a God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob according to Exodus as an argument for the afterlife (Luke 20:37). Walton’s claim is also hard to square the book of Ecclesiastes which presupposes that God will judge us all one day whch I take was authored by Solomon before the book of Daniel was written.
- Walton has a good discussion about identifying with the listeners in his chapter on creating introduction in which he offers three questions to guide the listeners. One of the questions include “Does the Preacher like me?” I would say that as time goes on the relationship with a pastor and the congregation should be “Does the Preacher love me?” It might seem like a subtle difference but that should be the paradigm the preacher aim for more than merely being liked. I think Walton would agree with me here and I don’t think my point take away anything from what Walton is trying to say when he fleshed out what he meant by his question; it’s a matter of better word choice.
- I remain unconvinced with the chapter that was critical of Christ centered preaching. I didn’t think the rebuttal was that strong. While I agree that we shouldn’t misinterpret Old Testament passages under the guise of preaching Christ I still believe preachers must preach Christ even if their text is from Old Testament narratives. I do feel that an underrated consideration for Christ centered preaching is failure to consider the point in 2 Corinthians 3:18 that teaches us Christians are transformed by beholding Christ. Why would preachers neglect this responsibility to make a beeline to the Gospel and Christ? Certainly we must at minimum in the application during at some point in the sermon to preach the Gospel and Christ to the listeners.
Overall I recommend this book. Even the parts I disagree I felt that I still learned from it and made me think more critically and sharply about preaching. As I was reading this work I kept on thinking about how helpful this book is for preachers.
NOTE: This book was provided to me free by Kregel Publications without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.