I have found that one of the greatest privileges of being an ordained Anglican minister is that I am given time and the opportunity to study the Holy Scriptures. And I do so in order to preach the word especially in our weekly Sunday services. I have almost always found it to be quite a gruelling process accompanied by much blessing and challenge.
I have been in a small parish for almost 25 years which has meant that most weeks I am the one preaching. Naturally, this can be difficult when one feels weary from the weekly grind and ready for a break but it has also had the definite advantage of providing continuity in expository preaching through the Scriptures. When I was an Assistant I would be given a passage in a book and then jump to a different book a month later. There was rarely a sense of developing a series with this sense of continuity. How things changed when I came to Bellevue Hill and began preaching through the books of the Old Testament especially Genesis and 1 Samuel.
The books of 1 and 2 Samuel are two books which I have returned to through the years as I worked through the 55 chapters in the story of the founding of the monarchy in Israel. I first began a series on 1 Samuel 1-15 back in 2001 and then picked it up every couple of years. When I began I was naturally familiar with the story and the main events. I’d been through Moore Theological College and had heard lectures on the book, studied some chapters in Hebrew and had drummed into me the importance of 2 Samuel 7. Even prior to that, way back in the 1980s I recall reading some of Arthur Pink’s book on ‘The Life of David’ so it’s not like it was unknown territory when I started preaching on the books of Samuel. But, in some ways, as I look back now, I feel like I barely knew the books. There is nothing quite like mulling over a text week in and week out, preaching it, teaching it (even in simple ways such as for young children in a school Scripture class) and returning to it year after year in order to really come to know the Scriptures, and indeed, the Lord of the Scriptures. My Hebrew is very weak but I use resources to help work through the Hebrew bible though often I’d like to be a lot more adept. It takes a long time…but that’s where I am very thankful to have been given time to study the bible. It does take time – I’ve needed the past 20 years to study the books of Samuel and I still find it growing on and in me. Sometimes it almost seems to me that I’m in a biblical marinade – soaking it in. Not only the texts of Samuel, but the multitude of connections with the rest of the bible. After more than 30 years of study and preaching of the word, I am so aware of how significant this has been. I do give thanks to my God and Heavenly Father for this privilege of being given the opportunity to be a student of his word. Thanks be to you, Lord God!
On a side note, this morning I completed today’s Wordle which was the word ‘Slung’. I had just read 1 Samuel 25 to our children last night and found this little game drawing me to recall Abigail’s wise words to David in verse 29: ‘the lives of your enemies shall be slung out as from the hollow of a sling’. Gotta love the wisdom of Abigail!
In addition to expressing my gratitude, this post is a preliminary to talking about commentaries and their contribution to my preaching. But that’s for the next and subsequent posts. For now, the apostle has this exhortation about the Old Testament writings:
“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4).