September 10, 2009

Why I Preach Expositionally, part 5, The Fear of God

In Preaching and Teaching from the Old Testament, Walter Kaiser argues that, "continual neglect of [God's] word can lead to God himself making that word scarce so that few can find it and thus profit from applying its message" (18). I was shocked when I first read this statement. But Kaiser makes his case quoting Amos 8:11-12:

"'The days are coming,' declares the Sovereign Lord, 'when I will send a famine through the land - not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.'"

Kaiser points out that possession of God's word is not enough. God's people must love God's word and give it central place in everything they do. If we do not, then the consequence (or judgment) is that we get what we asked for. If we neglect God's word, then he will make it scarce.

In light of this, we must renew the call for thoroughly biblical preaching, preaching that seeks to exposit God's word and explain it clearly to God's people. The pulpit must be a place where love of the scriptures is exemplified and communicated. The preacher must demonstrate through his preaching that the word of God is authoritative and valuable. By preaching expositionally, the focus is on what God has said. This is the best way to cultivate among our people a sense of the importance of what God has said and a deep love for the scriptures.

We might be tempted to think that the word of God could never become scarce in our own day. After all, we have new translations, paraphrases, and study bibles published on what sometimes seems to be a daily basis. We have bibles for doctors, farmers, teachers, Marines, students, hunters, fishermen, and others. We have study bibles, application bibles, green bibles, bibles for him, and bibles for her. Despite the commercial proliferation of variously marketable editions, we may not have a deep love for the word of God. Indeed, for all our many versions of the Bible, we live in a day of great biblical illiteracy. I fear this is because our people all too often receive from the pulpit the latest self-help-psycho-babble rather than the vigorous declaration of the whole counsel of God. We guard seekers from the word because we do not want to offend them. But we forget that we offend the one who alone is Holy God when we harness his word and cloak the uncomfortable parts. The consequence for such neglect is that God makes his word scarce.

Therefore, let us give the scriptures a central place in our churches and pulpits. Let us preach to expose the word to our people and our people to the word. Let it not be said of us that we neglected the life-giving word in our ministries. Let it not be said of our day as it was said in the days of Eli that, "in those days the word of the Lord was rare" (1 Sam 3:1).

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