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Preaching Christ From The Old Testament
Recently I heard a sermon on I Samuel 17 (David and Goliath). The preacher was an expository preacher and dealt with the text masterfully. He was humorous without being a comedian, he had great illustrations, and he even mentioned some particularly relevant Hebrew words. His “Big Idea” was, of course, that we should not be daunted by the size of our problem, because the size of our God is incomparable. What a great point to drive home from this familiar text; something we constantly need to be reminded of.

It was a great talk — encouraging and inspiring; but it was not preaching. It lacked something vital. What is the difference between great speaking and true Christian preaching? The difference is content; that is, what is being preached about.

Listening to at least half a dozen different “preachers” per week for the last two years has convinced me that there is a real crisis in preaching. Let me share with you a dangerous trend that I have noticed. First, the preachers I encounter preach almost exclusively from the New Testament. For some reason they feel more comfortable in a world only 2,000 years removed from their own than they do in one 3,000 or 4,000 years removed.

The second thing I have noticed is that we tend to preach predominantly what I call “Be good!” sermons. They choose their passage based on the moral principles they wish to extol to their congregation from week to week. These two trends work together beautifully. If someone actually does break one of the trends, he will almost certainly fall into the other one. In other words, if a preacher decides not to preach a morals-centered sermon, than he will typically preach from the New Testament. If he decides to be bold and preach from the Old Testament, he will almost always make the point of his sermon to emphasize worthy ethical principles that we should seek to follow. In fact, I hear few sermons that seek to go against both of these trends by choosing an Old Testament text and preaching the actual divinely-intended message.

And what is the divinely intended message running through every preaching passage in the Old Testament and the New? The message is Christ.

Preaching Christ

I hope you were not shocked to read that the goal of the entire Bible is Christ. I assume that you do actually know this already. You remember reading Luke’s words that “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he [Jesus] explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:27 NIV).

The problem is not with this basic knowledge; the problem is that many preachers have never have been shown how to actually find Christ in the Old Testament. For this reason, I would like to present one simple approach to finding Christ in virtually every passage in the Old Testament.

STEP 1

The first thing we must realize is that God is the author of all of Scripture — both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Recognizing this allows us to accept that He had one big purpose in having all of this penned. Recognizing a divine author helps us realize that God may have had a special reason not only for the historical events but also for the writing about that history, and that this purpose may not have been perfectly known to the human authors.

STEP 2

Closely connected to this first step is an acceptance of the Redemptive Historical Approach to the Bible. This approach to understanding the Bible assumes that we as Christians believe that all the history that we read about in the Bible leads to that climactic event when God Himself breaks in on history in the person of His Son, Jesus.

Each covenant God makes in the Old Testament progressively reveals the plan God has. During the Exile, the prophets bring hope that restoration will take place, but the people of God continue in their old ways and so the true restoration is put off and is ultimately fulfilled only in the coming and death of Christ. What we absolutely must recognize is that both the Old Testament and the New Testament are eschatological — the New Testament just tells us how Christ fulfilled the Old Testament.

STEP 3

The final step is recognizing the three anointed offices of covenant mediation in the Old Testament — prophet, priest, and king. Every prophet, priest and king is given a role of being between God and His people and is, therefore, able to mediate the demands of the covenant. We also know that Jesus fulfills all three of these offices in the New Testament: “Christ, as our Redeemer, executeth the offices of a prophet, of a priest and of a king, both in his estate of humiliation and exaltation.” (Westminster Shorter Catechism #23). Why is it important that Christ fulfills these offices? These three offices are at the center of what it means to be in relationship to God. The only way covenant can be established is if one of these offices mediates.

The three steps to finding Christ in the Old Testament are clear:

1. Recognize the divine authorship of the Bible.

2. Look at the Bible redemptive-historically — that all biblical history is leading to Christ.

3. Recognize that Jesus is the Prophet, Priest, and King.

You already have enough information to enable you to find Christ anywhere in the OT. I am guessing you already understand steps 1 and 2, but this third one may be a bit new. Let me briefly illustrate how to do this third step.

PROPHET

First, you have to ask yourself “what do prophets do?” Prophets bring God’s word to the people — they preach. How does this help in our goal to find Christ? Anywhere you find people proclaiming God’s word in the Old Testament, you need to recognize that this proclamation of the word is fulfilled in Jesus. Hebrews even tells us that in times past, God spoke through His prophets, but now He speaks through His son (Heb 1:1). This means that all of the prophets’ proclamations or anything they do is only a shadow of the great prophet who proclaims God’s word.

When Nathan brings the word of the Lord to David after his sin with Bathsheba, he foreshadows that word that Jesus will bring a thousand years later. Even Jonah’s disobedience points us to the great prophet who will faithfully deliver the message with which he has been entrusted. Any and all prophetic roles, not just actual prophets, are fulfilled in Jesus. The Books of Moses include many commands and so proclaim God’s word. These proclamations also point directly to Christ. Answer #24 of the catechism says, “Christ executeth the office of a prophet in revealing to us, by his word and Spirit, the will of God for our salvation.”

PRIEST

Again, begin by asking what the role of a priest is. A priest prays and brings sacrifices to God on behalf of the people. His acts represent the forgiveness of God towards the people. How does this help someone preaching the OT? Anywhere you find any of these actions taking place, you should recognize that Christ performs these actions in a more complete way.

In Ex 29 when the priests are consecrated for ministry we are supposed to recognize a great high priest who ministers on our behalf (Heb 4-10). Even sinful acts of the priests can point to Christ. When Nadab and Abihu offer profane fire to God, we see their failure as pointing to a great priest who will not fail. Answer #25 of the catechism says, “Christ executeth the office of a priest in his once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and reconcile us to God, and in making continual intercession for us.”

KING

What are the roles of a king? His roles include fighting just wars, building temples, and representing God on earth. He is a special son of God. An ideal king should always point to God’s rule as supreme. For this reason anytime a battle is fought, a strategic plan is made, a temple is built, or an actual king appears, we are to see in this a foreshadowing of the Great King.

Joshua in the conquest performs the role of a king. David, of course, is seen as an ideal king. The book of Esther — which never even mentions the name of God — is all about a king who (even though he is not of Israel) represents the Great King. Even genealogies are designed to point to certain “regular” people who have been told to have dominion over the earth (Gen 1:28). Mankind is made in the image of the Great King; and therefore, man’s actions should point to God and therefore to Christ who fulfills this role. Answer #26 of the catechism says, “Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.”

Having detailed each office of covenant mediation, hopefully you can see one easy way to find Christ anywhere in the Old Testament. When you are preparing a sermon, first ask where in the History of Redemption does the story fall — is it during the patriarchs, the monarchy, the exile, etc.? Then examine your passage for activities that fall under the purview of a prophet, priest or king. I think you will find that virtually every passage says something about this. After finding the activities of these anointed offices, you must ask yourself how Christ fulfills these. Your final step is to create a sermon that both impacts the lives of the listeners and points them to Christ.

The David and Goliath sermon is not over when you have shown the congregants how to defeat their giants. It is preaching only when you show them that David, an ideal king, is a type of the truly ideal king who has defeated the ultimate evil on the cross. Consider the theme of Job: “why do bad things happen to good people?” There is nothing wrong with charging the congregation not to curse God and to know that God has a reason for everything even if we don’t see it. This is fine, provided you show them the ultimate theodicy — Christ on the cross.

Even sermons from the NT do not always preach Christ. It is good to preach to take the log out of your own eye before judging others, but how much better to show that Christ is the ultimate judge and there are not logs in his eyes — only a blood soaked one attached to His back. Teach people to be moral and to do right, to love their spouses, to be good parents, to not covet their neighbors goods, but please, in every sermon, show them how all of the Scripture points to Christ.

A.W. Tozer said “I have suffered through many a dull and tedious sermon, but no sermon is poor or long when the preacher is showing me the beauty of Jesus.” Spurgeon said, “I sometimes wonder that you do not get tired of my preaching, because I do nothing but hammer away on this one nail. With me it is, year after year, ‘None but Jesus! None but Jesus!’”

The problem with “Be good” sermons is that they can be preached in a kingdom hall, a synagogue or even a mosque. We must be different. Our goal is not just to teach Christians to behave well. Our goal is, as Spurgeon said, to hammer that one nail, proclaiming Christ Jesus as the only Son of God, and our only hope for salvation.

Maybe you will do what Dr. Russell Conwell did in his church. On the back of the pulpit, he had inscribed these words: “We would see Jesus.” As leaders of the church, we must preach the whole counsel of God, including the Old Testament, and to preach the message of Paul and all of the apostles — Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor 2:23).

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Jace Broadhurst is teaching this year at Reformed Theological Seminary (VA) and Trinity Theological Seminary (Australia). He is currently a PhD candidate in hermeneutics at Westminster Seminary.

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The Memoirs of the Mighty Men by Jace Broadhurst

“Everyone dies, not everyone truly lives”

I. Introduction

a. “Everyone dies, not everyone truly lives” from Braveheart

b. What do you live for? What will you be known for?

II. II Samuel 23 — exposition

a. Josheb-Basshebeth killed 800 men in one encounter

b. Eleazar taunted the Philistines and even though all retreated around him he stood his ground and won the victory

c. Shammah won a victory from the middle of a field

d. The Three broke through Philistine lines to get a drink for David

e. Abishai killed 300 men

f. Benaiah killed a lion by jumping into a pit with it and beat a huge Egyptian with only a club

III. David vs. Goliath paralleled to Jonathan/Armor bearer vs Philistines

a. Reminder of the mighty men being like David

b. David against impossible odds

c. Jonathan against impossible odds

d. David and Jonathan’s souls knit together because of like passions

IV. Church History memoirs

a. Polycarp

b. George Mueller

V. Charge to Non Christians

a. They lack the ability to make a permanent difference in the world.

b. Even with great intellectual leaps, they will ultimately be forgotten because they have pointed us in the wrong direction

c. Call to Christ

VI. Charge to Christians (more detailed to make the point of the article)

The character traits of the Mighty men, of Jonathan, and of David, are the traits of kings. One role of a king is to protect by conquering enemies.

Abraham, the beginning of our dynasty, was a great king — he took 318 men and conquered five armies to protect Lot. Moses was a great king — leading the people towards the promised land, defeating Israel’s enemies the Pharaoh of Egypt, Og of Bashan and Sihon the Amorite. Joshua too defeated the enemies of Israel; each of the judges defeated the enemies. Each of these had kingly roles, but it is not until the book of Samuel that we find God’s true king. Finally, one who will finish the fighting, who will be a blessing to the Gentiles, who will expand the kingdom over all the earth. His warriors were the means to this ideal end. They represent David, the ideal king. Each was willing to do anything to make his message heard and he was so courageous that he was willing even to lay down his own life. That’s commitment to a cause. But they didn’t truly succeed.

With Solomon peace is achieved and contact with the rest of the world reaches new heights. But still, the goal is not achieved. Israel falls, but Judah remains. Maybe a Judahite will succeed. But Judah falls. Still there is a remnant that returns. Maybe they will succeed, but for 400 years Israel remains a vassal.

Despite the failures, these warriors and kings of the past point to something. They point to a king who does not fail. They point to a king who does NOT pick up a spear to kill 800 men in one encounter; who does not defeat an Egyptian with a piece of a tree. Rather, they point to a king who will defeat all the forces of chaos by being pierced with a spear and by being nailed to a piece of a tree. They point to a king who fights and wins the victory against not 800 evil men, but all evil, and in so doing makes a way for Jews and Gentiles to win the victory through him. These men of the past fail, but Jesus never fails. We have victory through him.

This gospel message is not simply for the non-Christians. We as Christians must continue to preach the gospel to ourselves, lest we become complacent and forget. This passage in II Samuel points to one very important thing — CHRIST. He is the one who will be remembered and it is to him that we point. These are men whose character and role point directly to the great King.

VII. Wrap up charge

a. What impact are you having for the kingdom?

b. Do we point to the king?

VIII. Concluding illustration: Alexander and the cowardly soldier

The full text of this sermon is available here.

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