How can we effectively preach and teach narrative passages in the Bible? That’s the subject of this short series of posts. In the previous two posts, I focused on 1) discovering the main message of the passage and 2) using “applicational lessons” as the main points of the sermon. Now we come to a third important aspect of preaching biblical narratives.
Highlighting the True Hero
For many years, I preached narratives in a way that highlighted the human heroes in the story. So in sermons from 1 and 2 Samuel, David was the shining star. When he messed up, he was the falling star. The implication was that we should emulate David’s good points and avoid his bad points. We should “be like David.” Or in some cases, “Don’t be like David.”
While there is certainly much to learn from David’s example (both positively and negatively), David is not really meant to be the hero of the story. That’s because David’s story is part of a larger story, as are all the narratives in Scripture. The Bible, though containing sixty-six books written over many centuries, is really one Book with one epic storyline. The major themes of this grand story are creation, fall, redemption and consummation. This epic story is ultimately the gospel story. And the true hero is the Lord Jesus Christ.
David’s story, like every other story in Scripture, is meant to lead us to the gospel story of Christ Jesus. That’s why Jesus could tell the Pharisees, “These are the Scriptures that testify about me” (John 5:39). That’s why when Jesus spoke with two disciples on the road to Emmaus, he could begin “with Moses and all the Prophets” and explain “what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). Jesus is true Hero of the Bible’s grand story.
Knowing this should affect the way we tell David’s story and the other stories in Scripture. While we can legitimately draw applicational lessons from David’s life, we need to do more than that. We need to allow David’s story to point our hearers to Jesus. For example, in the narrative of David’s anointing as king, we see a pointer to the anointing of David’s greater Son. As David was an unlikely king, overlooked by Samuel, so Jesus was also overlooked by the spiritual leaders of His day. David was called a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22); Jesus was the perfect expression of God’s heart. King David ruled the nation of Israel; King Jesus will rule all the nations of the world. (For more help in finding pathways from a narrative to the gospel of Christ, see Gary Millar and Phil Campbell’s book, Saving Eutychus.)
Weaving a “gospel move” into our narrative sermons enables us to draw applicational lessons from the story and still point people to the True Hero of the larger biblical story. It allows us to tell the stories of David (and other biblical characters) in a way that points to the story of Christ.
Preaching and teaching the narratives about David can be challenging. We will need to adequately discover the main message, accurately apply this message to our hearers, and authentically point to Christ. While this will require careful study and prayerful reflection, it is worth all the effort. The story of David’s life, and the larger story of David’s greater Son, will have a life-changing impact on us.
If you’d like to read more about preaching and teaching from narrative passages, I’d encourage you read Steve Mathewson’s helpful book, The Art of Preaching Old Testament Narrative.
Steve will be teaching a course on preaching narrative passages this spring at Heritage.