Preaching from a narrative text is different from preaching Paul’s epistles. In Preaching Old Testament Narratives, Benjamin Walton (professor, former pastor and president of Preaching Works) focuses on the skills and hermeneutical approach needed to preach from Old Testament narratives well. Sensitive to story, Walton shows preachers how to craft a message which takes into account the genre and connects with the congregation.
Walton likes three letter abbreviations and his methodological approach involves a series of them. First, he advises preaching from a CUT (complete unit of thought). This is roughly equivalent to what exegesis books and homiletics professors mean when they say, “determine the pericope,” but Walton observes that CUTs are larger for narrative texts (perhaps a chapter or two) than say your typical epistle pericope (34). Once you determine your CUT, you interpret it with an eye for its OTM (original theological message)—what the passage was communicating about God to its original hearers. Once you figure that out, you explore how it speaks to people today. This is your THT (take home truth). Finally, you depict the THTs with PPAs (picture painting applications) which make the truth of God’s word vivid for congregants context (165). Along the way Walton offers great tips on how to craft and deliver a compelling message (i.e. writing the sermon and delivering it), and connecting Old Testament narrative to Christ’s redemptive work.
There is a lot that is commendable about this book. Walton’s approach is similar to Haddon Robinson’s Big Idea preaching but he is more sensitive to narrative than Robinson. Narrative texts make their points implicitly and indirectly and sometimes take a couple of chapters to do it. If you are going to preach story well, it is helpful to have a sense of how story works. Walton is aware of this, helping preachers attend to the story in their exegesis and their delivery.
This doesn’t mean that this a hermeneutically heavy handed book. There are footnotes to Shimeon Bar-Efrat and Tremper Longman discussing some distinctives of the genre, but Walton never delves too deep into the characteristics of Hebrew narrative (i.e. doublets, type scenes, reiteration of events, etc). His approach is accessible to non-scholars, though is respectful of the interpretive gifts of literary approaches to the Bible. There is more to be said about narrative interpretations, but Walton gives enough of the goods to get young preachers on their way.
He also has tons of practical advice of how to craft and deliver sermons. A lot of what he commicates can be gleaned from other preaching books, but Walton focuses on how to do this with a narrative text. He doesn’t advise three-point sermons, alliteration or bullet points. Instead he helps preachers pay attention to the shape of story, and the way it communicates its theological message and take home truths (without devolving into moralism).
I give this book four stars and recommend it for young preachers and any preacher who wants to hone their craft. I love narrative but picked up some helpful stuff here. I give this book four stars.
Note: I received this book from Kregel Academic in exchange for my honest review