Preaching in the Old Testament

Preaching the Word begins with God.  The first chapter of Genesis is filled with God’s creative power through His Words.  Peter Adams wrote, “The basis for any true human speaking for God is that God is a speaking God…and it is clear that the God of the Bible is a God who speaks” (Adams, 1996, p. 15).  What God has spoken was written down.  Thus the Old Testament prophets were commanded to perpetuate it.  Abraham was the original audience for the word in Genesis 12:1-3, but He would not receive the promises himself.  The Word of God would be for those that come after him.  Here we begin to see the outpouring of the revelation of God as it came to new people and the understanding of it (as far as they could).

The Old Testament is full of those that we would consider preachers.  There were three types: “the prophet who spoke a divine word from the Lord, the priest who spoke the law, and the sage who offered wise counsel” (MacArthur, 2005, p. 28).  They would reveal what the Lord had given to them for Israel, or they would unveil the meaning of it through instruction.  Many times we fail to see the preaching of the Old Testament for what it really is.

In the Old Testament, Moses was the great minister of the Word.  His duty was to receive the revelation, relay it to the people, and to write it down.  Moses argued against God that he could not preach because of his inability (Exodus 4:10-12).  God countered that He would “teach” him what to say.  Adams (1996) marks that, “The shape of the ministry of the Word in the Bible is already apparent: God gives his words to his servant, who is to pass them on to others” (p. 38).

It is here that spiritual preaching finds the first part of its definition.  Spiritual preaching is first a message from God to others through the preacher.  This brings to mind the originality of the message from God to the minister.  It does not allow much room for a preacher to receive his message from anywhere else but God.  Spiritual preaching finds its source of inspiration from God.  He is the one that gives the message to the preacher who in turn gives it to the people.

The second major preaching event happens in a post-exilic Israel.  While not taking place in the book after his name, Ezra the priest and scribe reads all the law to the people from a wooden podium, and then he and others illuminate the people of its meaning (Neh. 8:1-8).  The people were significantly affected by what Ezra preached.  They were attentive to the giving of it and thirsty for its understanding.  The question then is what made this spiritual preaching and what influence did that have on the people?

Again, Peter Adams (1996) shared that the common element of Old Testament preaching here is “the acceptance of the written or spoken Word as coming from God” (p. 41).  In other words, the people recognized the preacher as genuinely believing what was being preached.  There was an atmosphere of authority in their preaching.  Ezra and company spoke with conviction that God had given them the message and that they were called to share it with others.  Thus in the Old Testament, we find the second part of the definition of spiritual preaching is authoritative preaching.  Spiritual preaching has demonstrative power before others when preaching.

References

Adams, Peter. (1996). Speaking God’s Words: A practical theology of preaching. Leicester, England. Inter-Varsity Press.

MacArthur, John. (2005). Preaching: How to Preach Biblically. Nashville, TN. Thomas Nelson Publishing