If you’ve been in church very long, you’ve probably noticed that 84.3% (or thereabout) of preaching comes straight out of the New Testament. This makes me sad, because I’m a big fan of the Old Testament, and someday when I’m a pastor, I want to be able to preach good sermons out of the Old Testament that make sense for people today. I’ve got to admit, though, that it’s pretty hard to do, and so I’m in an inductive Bible study class this semester on the Pentateuch. I’m hoping to learn how to interpret Old Testament stories, laws, and prophecy and then be able to write good, wholesome sermons from them. And I’ve been pretty excited to discover that there is quite a lot of good preaching material in the Pentateuch.
I think two passages have stood out so far as my favorites, and I wanted to share them with you today. For the most part I’ll just let them speak for themselves. As I learn to preach from the OT, I think it’s important for me to keep the sermons connected to the NT and especially to Christ. We can’t forget that the OT is all pointing to Jesus. I also think it’s important for OT sermons to show that the God of the OT is the same as the God of the NT. He didn’t just change and become loving and compassionate when Christ died on the cross. He’s always been loving and compassionate. He is love. And I think these two passages exemplify that God is the same today as he was back during the Exodus.
First, Exodus 34. This is the story which takes place after the golden calf incident. Moses has to chisel out two stone tablets and go back up on Sinai, and while he is there he asks to be shown God’s glory. God agrees, and God says he will come by and proclaim the name of the LORD. In 34:6-7 says, “The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children to the third and fourth generation.” For one thing, that’s a really long name! But more importantly, how often have we read the OT and only gotten a picture of a grouchy, judgmental God? How often have we only focused on the last part of that description and forgotten the first. How often have we thought that God in the OT was defined more by punishing people than by forgiving them over and over? If we’ve been thinking that way, I think he’d disagree. His name begins with love and mercy and ends with holiness and justice, and I think that is pretty neat.
Second, Deuteronomy 10. Moses has been recounting to the people what happened after they sinned by making the golden calf, and when he is done with the story, he reminds them of the lesson they learned about God. It’s found in Deuteronomy 10:12-19. “And now Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the statutes and commandments of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good? Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the LORD set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.” Turns out God’s always been the same: yesterday, today, and forever.
Yeah, I think those verses will preach.