Good preaching appeals to the senses.
Taste. Your mouth waters as you think of the luscious grapes from the vine in Canaan. You taste the fish and the bread when Jesus feeds the five thousand. You taste the bitter vinegar offered to Jesus in preaching the cross.
Smell. You smell the incense wafting a pleasant aroma in the service of the tabernacle. The olfactory nerves pick up the scent of lilies in the valley. The nose senses the awful smell of dung proclaimed by the prophets. Your nose turns at the very thought of the smell of Gehenna fires burning outside Jerusalem’s walls.
Hearing. You hear Jesus walking in the garden in the cool of the day. Your ears hear the hoof beats and the wheels of chariots as God’s people flee Egypt near the Red Sea. You hear the cry of baby Jesus at His birth. Your ears tune to the screams of mothers when Herod aims to kill all babies after the birth of Jesus. You hear the guttural sounds of groans and grunts on the cross.
Sight. You see the promised land as Moses looks from Mount Nebo. You watch giants as one of the spies from the wilderness. Your eyes watch Mary, Jesus’ mother, at the foot of the cross. You shield your eyes as soldiers thrust a spear into Jesus’ side. You cover your eyes as thunder booms and lightning flashes. Three days later you see the shining apparel of a resurrected Christ.
Preaching which appeals to the senses makes the Bible come alive!
Touch. What about touch? The Psalmist describes God’s touch on our lives as a meeting, like a husband and wife holding hands as they tenderly care for their young. He pictures God’s touch as a kiss, the cheek to cheek greeting of those who respect each other.
The Psalmist declares:
I will hear what God the Lord will speak
For He will speak peace
To His people and to His saints;
But let them not turn back to folly,
Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him,
That glory may dwell in our land,
Mercy and truth have met together;
Righteousness and peace have kissed.
Psalm 85:8-10, NKJV
Preaching invites listeners to hear a word from the Lord. Obviously God uses human instruments through which to trumpet His Word. Preaching calms unsettled souls, delivering peace. The Word preached confronts those tempted to return to foolishness.
Preaching has a magnetic pull — the metal of a hearer’s soul drawing near to the heart of God. Salvation connects the metal of a soul with the magnetic force of God’s heart. God’s glory arrives in splendor when the Word connects. Splendor introduces mercy and truth. Righteousness kisses peace.
For believers to grow spiritually, preaching must balance tenderness with toughness, a mother’s tender touch with a father’s disciplinary touch. Balanced preaching combines smoothing rough edges with touching to heal, the carpenter’s touch with the soft touch of a doctor. What is the touch of preaching?
A Mother’s Touch
When a baby enters the world a mother cares for her. She caresses the child. She feels the child’s soft skin. She applies Baby Soft to diaper rash. A mother affectionately nurtures her child with a gentle touch.
Preaching God’s mercy exposes the maternal side of preaching. Do not confuse this with the notion of removing male gender from the Bible. Nor should you exchange “Our Father” for “Our Father/Mother.” Such substitutions miss the point of God’s mercy.
God is neither feminine nor neuter. But He does reach out with gentle, tender care as a mother does for her precious child. The hand of His mercy touches the soul with what the Bible calls “lovingkindness.”
Lovingkindness is the tender touch of God forgiving sin. His hand wipes the heart as white as snow. His mercy serves as a protective hand, like a mother shielding her child from danger. King David experienced God’s mercy in this way (II Samuel 22:51). God’s mercy details God’s devotion even unto death (Psalm 23:6). His mercy moves beyond death, a loving faithfulness that endures forever. Who can live without it?
Mercy is not a sentimental love. It is a deep, sacrificial love. Jeremiah advances mercy as everlasting or steadfast (Jer. 31:3). He creates an image of tender love, God drawing His child into His arms because of his unwavering love. Hosea (2:19-21) portrays mercy as a covenant, or a unique relationship where two agree. Isaiah adds that God’s mercy implies action, God’s personal care impacting the resources of life (Isaiah 63:9). His mercy produces His activity in our lives, like a mother raising a son to be a responsible adult.
Preaching strokes the child of God with a mercy from the soft finger of God. Is this not the picture of a mother stroking her child in lovingkindness? If a mother loves her child through care (mercy), then a father loves his child by discipline (truth). Imagine a mother and father holding hands while sitting on a bench at the park. Together they watch their son climb the ladder and slide. Words shared in that moment of bliss reveal dreams they have for this child. They desire life’s best for him. But how does he receive life’s best?
A Father’s Touch
A child ideally receives life’s best from his father’s touch. A father disciplines a child because he loves the child. The discipline may include spanking, time out, or some restriction placed on the child’s freedom. A father disciplines a child to teach the child the difference between right and wrong. The father simply aims to point the child to truth.
The writer of Hebrews (12:7-11, NKJV) agrees:
If you endure chastening, God deals with you as sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?
But if you are without chastening, of which all become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.
Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirit and live?
For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.
Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Preaching the truth exposes the paternal side of preaching. The preacher assumes the role of a father who yearns to see his children walk wisely. Preaching the truth corrects those who walk by faith. Preaching profits those who hear and respond. Preaching leads those who have been disciplined down the road of holiness. Though painful, at least initially, preaching produces spiritual joy in the long run, As one father said to his pastor after the sermon, “Preacher, you stepped on my toes this morning! But I needed it!” Is this not a declaration that truth leads the hearer to holiness?
What about truth? After all, mercy and truth meet together. Truth touches the soul. It convicts, impacting the conscience and conduct. Is this why Hosea (4:1, NKJV) shouted at Israel, “There is no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the land?” Hosea spoke God’s word clearly. The people ignored the Word. Hosea grieved. Have you faced a similar circumstance?
The father side of preaching connects the hearer with God. “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17, NKJV). It opens God’s Word and lays it out for people to eat and digest.
Preaching announces God’s truth as God’s personal activity in your life. “For the word of the Lord is right. And all His work is done in truth.” (Psalm 33:4, NKJV). God involves Himself in your daily routine. You are not alone.
Paternal preaching cries out for guidance. It proclaims, “The Spirit guides you into all truth!” (John 16:13). The hearer responds with antiphonal music from the heart, “Oh, send out Your light and Your truth! Let them lead me …” (Psalm 43:3, NKJV). Preaching touches the nerve of response. It demands a reply.
The paternal side of preaching prepares saints for daily realities and struggles. The believer begins the day by putting on the belt of truth (Ephesians 6:14). Preaching disciplines the child of God so he can face spiritual battles.
Preaching guides the believer with the disciplinary hand of God. Who can mature without it? Though sometimes painful, it yields a harvest in the soul planted for God. What are two of those results?
A Carpenter’s Touch
If mercy and truth convene, then righteousness and peace greet the souls of those who respond to this gathering.
The touch of preaching implies the carpenter’s touch. Consider the carpenter who constructs furniture. He measures twice, then cuts the wood to specifications. He nails or glues pieces of wood at joints. He makes a chair for a desk, a table for the kitchen, or a bench for the front porch. Along the way, he uses sandpaper to smooth rough edges.
The carpenter’s touch in preaching is like sandpaper on wood. It levels the uneven parts of our lives. It rids the soul of external impurities. It creates a standard. What is that standard?
Righteousness is the standard in the carpenter’s touch. Righteousness embodies all that God expects of His people, holding up God’s standard.
Righteousness summons the listener to obedience (Deuteronomy 6:25). It lays before hearers God’s standard:
You love righteousness and hate wickedness;
Therefore God, your God, has anointed you
With the oil of gladness more than your companions.
(Psalm 45:7, NKJV)
Righteousness brings you out of trouble (Psalm 143:11). Those who sow righteousness reap a sure reward (Proverbs 11:18). Righteousness exalts a nation (Proverbs 14:34). The righteous need not fear men (Isaiah 51:7). When you seek God, His righteousness falls on you with the freshness of a spring rain (Hoses 10:12). Faith resurrects righteousness in the soul, creating, a life of confessing Christ (Romans 10:10).
Preaching the carpenter’s touch is a tool of the trade of righteousness: God’s Word a measuring stick assessing power and life. His Word is a knife piercing, the soul and spirit. His Word is sandpaper, smoothing rough edges of the joints and marrow while passing judgment on the thoughts and motives of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). Does not righteousness supply the standard?
Preaching the carpenter’s touch reverberates exciting news. The faithful will one day receive a “crown of righteousness” from Jesus who ultimately judges your life. If a crown has future reference, what does righteousness produce now?
A Doctor’s Touch
The work of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever. (Isaiah 32:17, NKJV).
Think of peace as the doctor’s touch. When a doctor checks your health he gently feels your neck. Or he places pressure on your stomach, Or he tests your reflexes. Or he looks into your ears or throat. Doctors have a soft touch. I have never known a doctor who had rough, calloused hands. Why do doctors touch you softly?
Doctors aim to discover an ailment so they can prescribe medication to restore your health. Doctors concern themselves with well-being.
The word peace in the Old Testament refers to welfare, health, good fortune. The Hebrew word shalom means peace. It sends a greeting like “I pray all is well with you!”
Spiritually, the doctor’s touch of preaching pinpoints a spiritual sickness. Once pinpointed, such preaching prescribes a spiritual remedy like confession of sin (I John 1:9). God’s Word furnishes the soul with health.
My son, give attention to my words;
Incline your ear to my sayings.
Do not let them depart from your eyes,
Keep them in the midst of your heart:
For they are life to those who find them,
And health to all your flesh.
Proverbs 4:20-22, NKJV
What best describes this health? Peace. In preaching the doctor’s touch, God turns His face toward hearers to give peace (Numbers 6:26). Preaching with the doctor’s touch shouts declarations of peace: Peace to this house! (Luke 10;5); Peace be with you! (John 20:29); Peace to you! (John 20:26). Proclaim good news of Jesus from the housetop, “These things I have spoken to you that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, NKJV).
As a doctor does not speak in technical jargon, the preacher should preach in common vernacular — street language, words understandable to the patients. The preacher preaches to heal. The preacher rolls out gauze to touch wounds with the salve of God’s grace. Lotion is applied to soften the heart. The doctor gives a prescription of medicine to strengthen weakened spirits. The preacher sets forth an exercise program to add muscular tone to the soul. The preacher yearns for the hearer to walk. leap, run, fly like an eagle by the power of the Spirit. God’s touch comes through the preacher to the hearer by God’s Spirit.
Ian Pitt-Watson, in his book A Primer for Preachers, is right. He says, “But sometimes I have had an uneasy feeling with some of my own sermons that though they looked all right ‘there was still no breath in them.’ That is when we need to remember the work of the Holy Spirit.”
Preaching at its best, opens dark rooms in the soul, flooding them with Light. God’s Spirit touches the heart. And someone might even send you a note or say at the door on Sunday morning, “Preacher, the sermon touched me this morning.” When this happens know that mercy and truth met in the heart. And know that righteousness and peace have kissed the heart. The Holy Spirit does what you cannot do. God reaches out to touch.
Why not reach out and touch someone … with preaching?
The Touch of Preaching
Good preaching appeals to the senses.