According to the prophet Amos, the worst famine that can befall anyone is “not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11).
In our day, biblical preaching feeds the people of God with his Word. But while there may not be a famine in some pulpits, there is a degree of malnutrition caused by an unbalanced diet. Some parts of the Bible are preached over and over while other portions are ignored.
Perhaps the most neglected parts of the Word are the narratives of the Old Testament. These include large sections of the Pentateuch, the historical books, parts of Daniel, and the book of Jonah. I have preached some of my best-received sermons from these passages, and I have discovered several practical guidelines for preparing messages from narratives.
1. Emphasize people. Essentially, Old Testament narratives are the stories about people. History must be read in terms of the people who made it. Preaching must emphasize the human element more than the historical.
The Book of Judges is both a hall of fame and a rogues’ gallery. What preacher could fail to capitalize on the fascinating people of Judges? There was Deborah, in the front lines before women were registered for the draft; Gideon, with his almost comical fear followed by his utter failure to cope with his own success; and weak-willed Samson, the “super jock” of Scripture. It will make us familiar with ourselves, because in these Old Testament people we will see ourselves.
2. Explain actions. Usually the Bible tells us what its characters did with their lives, not what went on inside their heads. Don’t try to psychoanalyze the people of the Old Testament. Discover their characters through their actions.
For example, Gideon’s ...1
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