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

by Dale Ralph Davis

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335358,347 (4.18)None
"...I still believe that traditional Old Testament criticism has had the effect of killing the Old Testament for the church. This little tome can hardly reverse that, but it is meant as an exercise in reading the Old Testament for fun and profit. As my mother-in-law used to say, 'It's different anyway.' And maybe it will help. Most of what I do in the following pages involves discussing examples of Old Testament narratives. I have tried to select examples from a broad range of possibilities. By the way, I assume that you have the biblical text handy in order to carry on your 'Berean' work." Dale Ralph Davis… (more)
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Any preacher who has read Ralph Davis' commentaries on the Old Testament historical books, or heard him preach, will be in no doubt that he is a man who has that rare combination of exegetical thoroughness, no-nonsense application, warm-hearted pastoral concern, and not a little dry humour to boot. It is a brave preacher who will preach from a passage in Joshua - 2 Kings without at least consulting Davis first.

The logic of Davis' exegesis is usually so compelling, that the preacher can often be left asking himself the question, Why couldn't I see that? This makes this new book (full title: The Word became Fresh: How to Preach from Old Testament Narrative Texts) extremely appealing.

After an introductory chapter on the right approach to the Old Testament, Davis deals with seven different ways in which Old Testament writers get their readers' attention and make their point. Each chapter is full of brief, but pertinent, examples from Scripture, which makes one wish a Scriptural index of the passages discussed had been added.

Of course this little book (150 pages) cannot contain all the answers. That is not its intention. But what it does, it does remarkably well. It opens our eyes to the riches of the Old Testament, and the skill and insight of those responsible for its content (both human and divine). It reminds us that exegesis is truly a hard work. This book makes clear that there is no magical formula that will make our sermons just fall into place. Davis' wisdom has come through years of patient study. This book may speed things up for us, but it won't make endeavour unnecessary. This in turn reminds us of our great need for the Spirit to help our study. But, just as importantly, this book fills us with enthusiasm for the Old Testament. I wanted to preach a sermon every time I turned the page! As I read the book with an open Bible, what I learned was too good not to share (just ask my wife!). Davis' intention was that the book is to be `an exercise in reading the Old Testament for fun and profit'. It is certainly that.

With this book, Ralph Davis has rescued us from any excuse to fear or neglect Old Testament narrative, or to put it out of the reach of our congregations through shoddy workmanship. If you can buy only one book on preaching this year, put this one at the very top of your list. ( )
  mark_read | Aug 13, 2020 |
This is a wonderful book, putatively about the task of preaching from Old Testament narrative texts, but written with such clarity, insight and freshness that I find it has much to offer anyone who is called to preach God's word to God's people.

Davis believes that there is a prejudice, occasionally spoken but primarily inferred, against preaching from the Old Testament. The biases include the way God can be so easily be perceived as a God of vengeance, the admitted difficulty of wrestling with stories that seem to have little relevance to our day, and the fact that the Bible's hero, Jesus, is at best a hidden actor in the Old Testament. And after acknowledging the validity of these objections, Davis calls preachers to jump feet-first into the waters of the Old Testament, for there are indeed riches to be found there if we would but take the time and make the effort to learn how to handle the narratives well.

Davis deals with the basics of Old Testament narrative interpretation in nine easy-to read chapters. He is not esoteric in any way but is always firmly anchored in the text and practical in method. Rather than stretching for an interpretation, one which may or may not be accurate and relevant, he teaches how to dig a bit more deeply and how to ask penetrating questions of the text, to find the riches God has provided for his people. His book is filled with generous examples and his prose is wonderful to read, using a style that is informal and yet highly informative. I highly commend this book for all preachers of God's word. ( )
  BradKautz | Apr 23, 2014 |
I found this to be a delightful little book and very enjoyable to read. Its primary help in preaching would probably be as a commentary on individual passages of Scripture, but there is plenty of help in knowing how to approach different kinds of Old Testament narrative literature. (With his insights, I preached one sermon covering the entire book of Exodus.) The answer is not to sanitize or allegorize the stories but to emphasize how the “chemistry of divine providence takes the sludge and crud and confusion of our doings and makes it the soil that produces the fruit of his faithfulness” (41). Indeed, that is the theme that keeps popping up: “God takes the deepest depravity and the grossest messes and makes them conduits of his grace” (67).

Though this would be a good read even for non-preachers, there is plenty of good, practical advice for those who are trying to preach these texts. For example, “we must remember that there’s a huge amount of stuff that we study that we don’t bring into the pulpit” (130). This may cause a problem for some. “Of course, if you don’t give full coverage to, say, Naaman’s leprosy, you’re sure to have some character come up to you afterwards who has always had a special interest in biblical ‘leprosy’ and biblical diseases and who has read a 1982 article by a gynecologist in Tasmania whose hobby is ancient dermatology and who proposes a hitherto unproposed proposal about, of all people, Naaman’s disease.” What’s to be done in such a case? “There are some people who need to be ignored” (ibid.).

Unfortunately, there is no Scripture index in the back. However, if you are careful to create your own as you read, you will have a very helpful, unique, reference to use when preaching Old Testament texts. ( )
  trbixby | Jul 26, 2011 |
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"...I still believe that traditional Old Testament criticism has had the effect of killing the Old Testament for the church. This little tome can hardly reverse that, but it is meant as an exercise in reading the Old Testament for fun and profit. As my mother-in-law used to say, 'It's different anyway.' And maybe it will help. Most of what I do in the following pages involves discussing examples of Old Testament narratives. I have tried to select examples from a broad range of possibilities. By the way, I assume that you have the biblical text handy in order to carry on your 'Berean' work." Dale Ralph Davis

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