The Word Became Fresh: How to Preach From Old Testament Narrative Texts

We need not be surprised at our sterility and poverty if we refuse to be beggars for the Spirit’s help.

All biblical texts are fair game for preaching. But you’d never know it. It almost seems like some ogre once promulgated an unwritten decree that certain texts are off limits for preaching. Naturally, most of them are Old Testament texts. Some apparently think that although God allowed these accounts in his written word, he must have higher standards for the preached word.


I am a bit puzzled over why many Christian seem to think the Old Testament is such a “problem.” I know the usual answers to that, but I can find many of the same “difficulties” with the New Testament. The following points are offered as exercises in learning the proper interpretation of Old Testament narratives in preparation for preaching.


We are guilty of arrogance, not merely neglect, when we fail to beg for the Spirit’s help in the study of Scripture. We may have a high view of the Bible; we may be distraught because large sectors of the church seem to ignore its authority. Yet in our own Scripture work we easily ignore its chief Interpreter. Professionalism rather than piety drives us. We need not be surprised at our sterility and poverty if we refuse to be beggars for the Spirit’s help. God had given his word in the form of literature, part of which is narrative; I should therefore use all available tools for understanding such literature. I seek the Spirit’s aid and use an approach suited to the form of his word.


Narrative has some of its own peculiarities and anyone interpreting it should be alert to these. Most all of them fall into the category of literary features we need to recognize, such as reticence, eavesdropping, selectivity, sarcasm, imagination, surprise, emphasis, intensity and tension.


“There are no non-theological texts in the Bible.” The theology of a biblical text is what the text means to say about God, his ways and his works. It’s the intended message of a biblical text.

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