“Best of Preaching and Preachers” Episode 152: Tips for Preaching the Old Testament with Dr. Jason DeRouchie

This week I welcome Dr. Jason DeRouchie to the podcast. Dr. DeRouchie serves as research professor of Old Testament and biblical theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. This week, Dr. DeRouchie and I discuss tips for preaching the Old Testament.

Guest(s): Dr. Jason DeRouchie



Dr. Allen: Welcome to Preaching and Preachers, a weekly podcast devoted to those who preach and to the task of preaching itself. I’m your host, Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Today I want to welcome Dr. Jason DeRouchie to the podcast. Dr. DeRouchie serves as research professor of Old Testament and biblical theology here at Midwestern Seminary. He’s also a new colleague here and a new friend, Dr. DeRouchie, welcome to preaching and preachers.

Dr. DeRouchie: Thanks, it’s a delight to be here.

Dr. Allen: Hey, it’s great to have you in the studio today and to get to catch up and talk about life and ministry a touch and then to get to talk about in particular our topic for today, tips for preaching the Old Testament. And you very capably pulled together seven tips or as you said, six plus one. And we’ll look forward to doing that and talking through it. But we’re here in the studio on Reformation Day and a snow was on the ground in Kansas City. We had a late summer and then we had an abrupt winter and we kinda are here now and had a chill. And I’m from the Gulf Coast. So the first winter blast always hits me hard. Now you spent the past 10 years in Minneapolis, so this is like sunbathing weather for you, I assume.

Dr. DeRouchie: That’s right. I’ve been out jogging in my shorts and long sleeve tee shirt watching people in their scarves and winter hats and chuckling a little.

Dr. Allen: The 10 day forecast looks promising for me. There’s a lot of sunshine and warmer days. But something about that first jolt always hits me particularly hard. But here we are and we’re in the studio and delighted to be having a conversation. So before we get into that though, a word of update, obviously you’re here in Kansas City, the Lord has called you and your family to Midwestern Seminary. But for our listeners who broadly know of your ministry and broadly know you, hear a word about that transition, about how your family’s doing, about what you guys are experiencing and discovering in Kansas City and at Midwestern Seminary.

Dr. DeRouchie: For sure. These three months have been just delightful for our family. We’ve felt so welcomed. We have delighted in the climate, both the climate of the churches and the climate in the air. We’ve enjoyed the topography of Kansas City. Beautiful rolling hills, fall colors are abounding and it’s just delightful for us to be here and now the Lord is providing us a home we believe and gearing up to move out of a campus apartment. It’s been a sweet season, but it’s a season that needs to pass. So we’re looking forward to getting into a home.

Dr. Allen: We’re looking forward to that for you guys. We like you lived in student housing for a period of months when we moved and we loved it. There was a sweetness to being so close to students and families and bumping into them by the hour, but with the large family and a small apartment as the months begin to accrue, you’re ready to get settled. And so we know that and we feel that for you guys and that you got really to find your your place.

Dr. DeRouchie: Thank you.

Dr. Allen: And listen, you mentioned the seasons. I love the four seasons I mentioned being from the Gulf coast where you had summer and then you had summer, then you had summer and then you had something a little less than summer. But to actually enjoy four seasons in the Midwest is a particular delight.

Dr. DeRouchie: For sure. We always love fall. We love breezes and cold is still cold, but we know how to layer up and we’re looking forward to a Kansas City winter.

Dr. Allen: Tremendous. Well listen, let’s talk today about tips for preaching the Old Testament. And again, you serve here as research professor for old Testament and biblical theology. You’ve written extensively on the old Testament. So today’s a bit of a challenge because I know there’s so much that you would want to say and so much you have said and have written, but we’re trying to kind of condense this down to a few takeaways for our listeners. Our listeners primarily are pastors and ministers and seminary students and so you provided for me something that I don’t think any other guests ever has. You provided extensive crib notes for me and so this was a kinda your topic by way of idea and the way you distill this into seven points. And man, this is just so well done even as I’ve glanced this over before the podcast and so thank you for doing this. So I’m just going to kind of walk through these and really leads you to comment, Dr DeRouchie.

Dr. DeRouchie: great.

Dr. Allen: And we trust this will be helpful. Seven tips for preaching the old Testament. Tip number one: approach the Old Testament as Christian scripture written for our instruction.

Dr. DeRouchie: Yeah, here what I’m talking about is that Jesus and the apostles explicitly say the Old Testament was written for our instruction. It’s easy to think that the initial three fourths of our Bible is distant because it’s old and yet it was the only Bible Jesus ever had and he never read Romans. He never read Revelation. He came as an Old Testament preacher proclaiming himself and all that God was declaring would come about. When Paul says, Timothy, you grew up learning the sacred writings that are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ, Timothy’s grandmother and grandmother were Jewish. The sacred writings were what we call the Old Testament. So when the very next verse, when Paul says, all scripture is God breathed and profitable, he’s referring principally to the Old Testament text. And then when he says just a few verses later preach the word Christian pastor, on his mind is principally the Old Testament yet read and proclaimed through the light and lens of Jesus.

Dr. Allen: And Paul speaks that prescriptively. But we see that taking place descriptively in the book of Acts. I mean, you look at the sermons in the book of Acts and again and again, we see just what you suggested. The Old Testament passage or passages typically taken with apostolic insight and interpretation and really application impressed or expressed from it.

Dr. DeRouchie: That’s right, drawing on their Bible, but now read through the light and lens of Jesus, which I’ll talk about more in point 7.

Dr. Allen: Okay, point number two: interpret the Old Testament with the same care you would the new.

Dr. DeRouchie: This was Jesus’ Bible and my point is simply to stress that theologically we need to think about the Old Testament like we do the new. It is the very word of God which Jesus considered authoritative, which he believed could not be broken. He called people to know and trust what this word, this Old Testament word was saying so that they could guard themselves against doctrinal error and hell. Methodologically, what I’m saying is that when we approach the Old Testament, we want to approach it with the same care, with the same methodological consideration that we do in the new. I’ve known of many Old Testament preachers who are willing to give years to the book of Romans and yet they only give 12 weeks to the minor prophets. And I’m just calling us to when we’re approaching the Old Testament to be thinking about things like genre, literary boundaries, grammar, translation, structure, argument, flow, key words and concepts, historical and literary context, biblical, systematic, practical theology, all the things that are on our mind when we’re preaching expositionally from the New Testament. I’m urging us to approach our Old Testaments with the same exegetical rigor and theological care.

Dr. Allen: And when the old Testament is handled, shall we say, sloppy compared to how it’s handled by the New Testament from some preachers. In your observation and your experience, do you think that’s because often just the pastor, the preacher, is a little intimidated by the Old Testament text? You know, their Hebrew never was as good as their Greek. It’s a more distant past. And what’s going on here with these prophecies and the historical background is a touch more textured, I mean, what do you see?

Dr. DeRouchie: Well, I totally think that’s a big part of it. It’s a massive part of our scripture. 75.6% of our Bible is Old Testament. And then it takes, it does take much more work because it’s dealing with a covenant, an era that we’re not a part of and so we’ve got to build more bridges. My urging though is that it’s worth it. It’s worth the task to give special theological and methodological rigor when it comes to preaching the Old Testament. Jesus said it was pointing to him, it concerned him, it was about him. To properly understand the Old Testament is to understand the life, resurrection, life, death and resurrection of the Christ and the mission that he would ignite. That’s what Jesus saw when he read his Bible and I think we can arrive there if we approach it with the same conviction and care that Jesus and the apostles did.

Dr. Allen: Amen. Third tip: treat properly the testamental nature of the old Testament. So what do you mean by that?

Dr. DeRouchie: We call it old Testament, new Testament. Those phrases derive from the early church fathers who rightly saw that the initial three fourths of our Bible were controlled by an old covenant. That’s what the Latin is Testamentum and the last fourth of our Bible, the new covenant, and to talk about covenant, all of a sudden we’re dealing with something that has historical particularity. It’s about a specific relationship that God had with his people at a particular time. And with respect to the Old Testament, we’re dealing with the era before Christ. So what I’m saying is that when we approach the Old Testament, we need to be thinking about its historical specifics about its context. The fact that it was written in Hebrew to Hebrews, it’s filled with peoples and places and powers that are indeed so foreign to us. And so we’ve got to to approach it thoughtfully, carefully. We need to observe with care. We need to understand rightly, evaluate fairly. And we need to ever be mindful of the fact that it’s dealing with material that antedates, precedes the coming of Christ. And we can not automatically apply it today without considering how Jesus fulfills the stories and the laws and the promises to just take the laws of Moses and to apply them to the church to take the promises without considering how it is that Jesus makes everyone yes, could lead us to apply, misapply the old Testament. And we don’t want to do that. So being mindful of the testamental nature of the Old Testament, what I’m saying is be mindful of the fact that it’s covenantal material originally given at a specific time within redemptive history.

Dr. Allen: So for our listeners, they might be asking themselves, how do I know if I’m thinking in that way appropriately, what would you say?

Dr. DeRouchie: That’s a, that’s a great question. And the more we read how the New Testament authors and Jesus himself approached that Old Testament, the more we’ll have good guards in place to read our Old Testament rightly, but again, I’ll get there in point 7.

Dr. Allen: Okay, let’s inch our way there to point number four: remember that the old Testament is old.

Dr. DeRouchie: I used to be willing to call the Old Testament just the Hebrew Scriptures but I stopped doing that because the more I recognize the initial three fourths of the Bible, Jesus’ Bible as Christian scripture, I’m compelled to recognize that it’s tag of old is very intentional because it’s now been superseded by a new. It’s focused on the old covenant, principally a covenant that you and I are not a part of, that the Christian Church is no longer a part of and that covenant has been superseded by another, what the book of Hebrews would call a better covenant with better promises. So we have to be very mindful of the fact that the Old Testament is old. If we want to faithfully handle it as Christian scripture, we need to keep Jesus at the center. There has been a massive salvation historical shift. The two areas of history are before Jesus and after Jesus and the Old Testament addresses this era before Christ in Jesus. Every promise becomes yes, he is the substance of all Old Testament shadows. He’s the embodiment of every ethical ideal filled up in the law and in the wisdom. Paul said the law was our guardian until Christ came in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we’re no longer under the guardian. An Old Testament preacher, a Christian Old Testament preacher needs to have a framework for the Old Testament being old.

Dr. Allen: Well-stated fifth, read the Old Testament through the light and lens of Christ.

Dr. DeRouchie: By light I’m simply saying that regeneration, I believe is necessary to properly understand the Old Testament. That it takes an encounter with the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. Abraham saw Christ. He rejoiced that he would see Christ’s day and he was glad he had light, but he didn’t have lens. What I mean by lens is that the coming of Christ, according to the new Testament and the Old, the life, death, and resurrection of Christ actually provides a grid for reading what is actually there in the Old Testament, but what Paul calls a mystery that’s now been revealed. So there are continuities and discontinuities when it comes to the relationship of the testaments. In continuities I’m referring to the fact that the prophets did see something about who Jesus was. They saw him, they rejoiced. They were glad. Many prophets and righteous people, Kings, longed to see what you see, but they didn’t see it. Peter says, the prophets who spoke of the grace that is ours, searched and inquired carefully to know what person and time the spirit of Christ in them was for telling the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. They saw something, but there were some things they couldn’t see. We know that the rebel didn’t have eyes to see or ears to hear the message of the prophets. Not only that, even the remnant people like Moses, people like Jeremiah, Daniel, they were not privy to everything that would be now disclosed to us. The apostle Paul said to him, who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known. Those prophetic writings are the Old Testament Scriptures. In Jesus we gain a lens for rightly reading the scripture. When Paul saw Jesus on the road to Damascus, he never read his Old Testament in the same way and we shouldn’t read as if Jesus hasn’t come. That’s my point for preachers. The New Testament provides both an answer key and an algorithm for rightly reading the full message of the Old Testament text. And answer key meaning it tells us where we should arrive, but by algorithm I’m saying that the Old Testament sets up patterns like two and four but it’s the new Testament that tells us whether the next number is six or eight. It not only tells us the answer, it tells us whether we’re to read this pattern as addition or multiplication. That’s how the types in the Old Testament work. They set patterns that help clarify and anticipate the coming of Christ, but it’s only once he comes that we can fully see all that the Old Testament was referring to and pointing to. We want to read our Old testaments through the light and lens of Jesus.

Dr. Allen: Sixth tip: consider how to faithfully see and celebrate Christ in the Old Testament. And here you have a brief list of different specific ways and let’s make sure we enumerate those carefully because I want our listeners to get all of those and we can kind of cram those in here.

Dr. DeRouchie: I believe Jesus saw himself in his Bible. And as preachers of Jesus’s Bible, we want to make much of the one to whom that scripture points. So here’s my, here’s my brief summary. Number one, we can identify how Christ fulfills messianic prophecies, direct predictions about him. So we should look for him through those predictions. Number two, we can consider how Christ stands as the goal and climax of the redemptive story in all the salvation historical trajectories. There’s all these tendons that are reaching backward and reaching forward in every text and we want to trace those tendons and see how ultimately faithfully with biblical warrant, we arrive at Jesus as the culmination of all God’s purposes. Ultimately, scripture is his story and we want to identify him as the climax of that story. Number three, we can recognize how Christ coming creates numerous similarities and contrast between the old and new ages, creations and covenants, and when we recognize how Jesus is the one that shifts us from shadow to substance, that he’s the one who moves us from Passover lamb to human substitutionary sacrifice, that he’s the one who moves us from a presence of God in a building to the presence of God disclosed in the great I Am. In the God with us. When we identify the similarities and contrast, we recognize Jesus is right at the center of that, of those shifts and we’ll make much of him. Number four, we can determine how Old Testament characters, events, and institutions or objects clarify and anticipate Christ’s person and work. Now here I’m, I’m referring to how characters like Adam or Melchizedek, the prophet Moses anticipating a prophet like him, David and the ultimate son of David. How certain characters, persons foreshadow the coming of the Christ or how about events like the flood portraying baptism, the Exodus as the great deliverance, the return to the land is restoration and renewal. All of these Old Testament events are patterns set by the living God to help us anticipate and celebrate the work of Christ. And finally, institutions like the Passover lamb or the temple and the priesthood; when we see those, we are given as Old Testament preachers ample fodder for making much of Christ. So we can use the old Testament to make much of Christ through these what’s often called types number five we can reflect on how who Yahweh is and what Yahweh does reveals the identity and activity of the divine son. Jesus is God with us. Jesus said, no one has seen the Father except the Son. So when we see Yahweh showing up in human form, it suggests to me that in the Old Testament we’re seeing a pre incarnate disclosure of the divine Son, the second person in the Trinity. But not only that, all of God’s saving acts, all of his acts of judgment are ultimately pointers to what is embodied in Christ himself as savior. And as judge. Next, we can contemplate how Christ embodies every ethic, every ethical ideal through the law and wisdom. And then celebrate his justifying work with every law that we ultimately are unable to perfectly keep in surrender to God. We’re able to celebrate who Jesus is as the great justifier of humanity, his perfect obedience, perfect righteousness being imputed to us. So as a preacher, I’m given an opportunity with every single ethical ideal to make much of Christ and to celebrate what he’s done for us through justification. And finally, we can use the Old Testament to instruct or guide others. The New Testament authors do that all the time, but they only do so in light of Christ. In light of the pardon that he has secured. Because without pardon, there’s no reason to attempt to obey the law. We are condemned as imperfect followers, but through Christ’s pardon now we are put in a new position to just celebrate who God is for us. In Christ, our righteousness and his pardon secures for us now pardon and promise that enable us to live in ways we could have never lived before. Not perfectly overnight, but truly progressively over a lifetime. And his life sets a pattern that Moses never had. So every ethical ideal we can, we can use the old Testament to instruct or guide through Christ’s mediation. Seven different points in how we can see and celebrate Jesus.

Dr. Allen: So you rolled this up and you said you have seven tips, but it’s really six plus one and the seventh tip or the first of the second category is when preaching from the New Testament, take the time to consider how the authors are using their Bibles. Why six plus one and what do you mean by that point?

Dr. DeRouchie: Well, you asked me to give tips on preaching the Old Testament and here’s a tip for preaching the New. But what we’re actually seeing is how the new Testament authors preach their Old Testament. Keep an eye on the fact one– that the foundation of the new Testament church is the preaching of the apostles. It’s Moses. The foundation of the church is the proclamation of the apostles and the prophets with Jesus Christ as the cornerstone. But then when we step back and we say, okay, John, Peter, Paul, it’s their words that I am going to build my ministry around. Then we say, well, what were they saying? And they had their Bibles open all the time. And we will help our people in their devotional life. We will help our people in their daily pursuit of Jesus if we can show them how to use their whole Bible. We’ll open up three fourths of the Bible to them that so many of our people don’t even know how to use because we’re going to show them how did the New Testament authors, how did Jesus think about his scripture? And how did they see it as pointing to the son of God?

Dr. Allen: Well, and if you were to ask the question, why does the average evangelical pastor, so avoid or ignore three fourths of the Bible and their preaching I think if you were to pour truth serum down their throats, the answer that would most often be given the word intimidation. They’re intimidated because they don’t, again, they don’t quite know how. They don’t quite know what; it’s hermeneutically difficult, exegetically difficult and their Hebrew was always rusty anyway and they’re intimidated by it all. But a part of this conversation today is you’ve reminded us that the Old Testament is actually accessible and for the health of the church, it needs to be accessed both from the pew and from the pulpit. Now to further that, and we’ll button up the conversation here. You have provided a number of resources here and look, I’m gonna, I’m gonna boast where you wouldn’t boast. I’m going to point out who you wouldn’t point out. And that is yourself. A couple of books you’ve written here recently contributed to. What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About: A Survey of Jesus, His Bible by Kregel. And then more recently, How to Understand and Apply the Old Testament: 12 Steps from Exegesis to Theology by PNR. Dr DeRouchie, these are helpful resources. This conversation today has been helpful as well. Thank you for your service and for the time today on Preaching and Preachers.

Dr. DeRouchie: My delight. Thank you.

Dr. Allen: Thank you for being with us today and for listening to Preaching and Preachers. For more information, go to my website, jasonkallen.com. That’s jasonkallen.com.

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