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Preaching & Teaching from the Old Testament: A Guide for the Church by Walter Kaiser

According to Walter Kaiser, the Old Testament (OT) has posed a significant problem for a lot of Christians. All too many Christians struggle with the significance of the OT particularly because so much of it is no longer in force and normative for the church (29). The result is that the OT has suffered serious neglect. Thus, Kaiser has written the present volume to give pastors and teachers some answers to the problems posed. For many pastors the OT remains strange and inaccessible. Kaiser’s aim is to provide a guide to help pastors navigate the daunting texts of the OT.

The book is split into two main parts. In the first, the author makes the case for the need to preach and teach from the OT. The chapters are devoted to the value of the OT, the problems involved in teaching the OT, and the task of preaching and teaching the OT. In the final chapter of the first part, Kaiser argues that the expository preaching of the Bible (both testaments) is the solution to many ills facing the church today.

The second part of the book presents a practical guide for preparing sermons from the OT. Each of the seven chapters in this part takes a different OT genre and outlines a method for approaching the texts in that genre. The chapters include guides for preaching narratival, wisdom, prophetic, lament, praise, and apocalyptic literature. There is also a chapter on preaching from the Torah, though, as the author acknowledges, this really falls in the category of narrative. I found most helpful the chapters on narrative, the prophets, and wisdom literature. I found the chapter on laments least helpful in that it provided more example sermon outlines than it did specific method for approaching the laments. Of great value is that each of these chapters concludes with an example sermon from the genre dealt with in the chapter. These sermons are excellent models of expository messages from the OT.

Kaiser also proposes that the relationship between the testaments be thought of in terms of promise and fulfillment. He sees the OT as unified around the promise-plan of God to Abraham in Genesis 12:3 (32). The New Testament (NT) writers claimed that the fulfillment of the promise came in Jesus of Nazareth. I take this to be a particularly helpful lens for approaching the canon and for preaching the OT. The OT is always looking forward to something. Our sermons on the OT can highlight this and provide the answer that the NT authors provide, namely Jesus.

I am happy to give this book a high recommendation. It really is one of the most helpful books I’ve read lately. My guess is that most pastors are quite intimidated by the thought of preaching from the OT, not to mention preaching an entire book of the OT. But imagine the benefit of preaching through an entire OT book for both the pastor and the congregation. The church owes Kaiser a debt of gratitude. An excellent writer with the ability to make complex matters accessible to the non-specialist, Kaiser has provided an essential guide for preaching and teaching the OT. Every pastor should put this one on the list of must-reads. I intend to consult it again and again.

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