Friday, July 30, 2010

The Exegetical Challenges of Preaching From the Psalms

If you haven’t listened to the latest White Horse Inn broadcast, I recommend that you do. It is entitled, “How Not to Interpret the Bible.” The basic gist of the discussion boils down to the redemptive historical hermeneutic. Essential the guys show the flaws in any other way of interpreting Scripture.

This is true for the historical narratives, but especially for the Psalms. The proper meaning or application of each Psalm hinges upon its place in redemptive history. If one ignores this or does not take it into account, all sorts of confusion will ensue.

Think for a moment of the Messianic Psalms or the Imprecatory Psalms. The important principle to remember when interpreting any portion of Scripture is its relation to Christ. I have always liked Augustine’s writings on the Psalms for this reason. Sometimes he seems to be straining the text to see Christ in it, but surely it is better to err that way than to not use Christ as the interpretive key.

This presents a challenge for the preacher. First of all, it requires much more work on his part. The congregation has to be made biblically literate. How can the preacher expound a passage’s place in redemptive history if the whole congregation is virtually ignorant of the over-arching narrative of Scripture? Using the Psalms to analyze David psychologically – to get inside his head – as he wrote his various songs is to horrendously mistreat Scripture. The characters of Scripture are not our examples of Christian character. Christ and Christ alone is the model. Abraham lied about his wife, as did Isaac. David spied on the neighbor lady while she was in the shower, slept with her and then killed her husband. Judah – well let’s not go there… Christ alone was perfectly obedient to God’s law and only His finished work on the cross savingly applied to the believer by the Spirit effectively changes a person’s life.

Trying to find lessons on friendship, loyalty and courage from Israel’s history is to miss the point entirely of the Old Testament. Culling every passage for some moral application denies the Spirit’s ability to powerfully impact the hearer with the meaning and implications of the passage being studied, plus it turns Scripture into little more than a manual for behavior – slightly more spiritual than Emily Post.

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