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Expositional Joy

January 3, 2013

Sorry, I am aware that this is the New Year and that Everyone who is Anyone is posting about their thoughts concerning this “New Year”, however, I am going to break from tradition (if there really is one when it comes to this blog) and refuse to post about the coming year…unless, of course, you count my brief rant above. I am having a lot of mixed feelings about the whole “New Year” thing right now and I feel that it would be best to work out those feelings in privacy rather than working them out in front of the whole world (which totally goes against my Facebookian nature).

Think of this post as an “echo” of my first post on Expository Preaching; “Why Exposition?”. As with my first post, this will not even come close to being able to exhaust this topic. My goal with this post, and with potential future posts, is that your understanding of Expository Preaching would be further developed (along with my own understanding I might add).

Expositional Joy

I think that it would be good to clarify the meaning behind the title before continuing. There needs to be a post discussing “The Joy of Expositing the Word” but this is not that post. By “Expositional Joy” I am referring to the reality of how hearing the Word explained causes Joy in the hearer.

(As an aside: This whole idea of exposition leading to joy is not a human idea. There are many people in the broader American church that see Expositional preaching as an “undesirable” method of preaching because it doesn’t appeal to those who are far from God. I would say that they are right in saying that this type of preaching doesn’t appeal to those who are “far from God” because according to Paul they are haters of God and they despise truth (Romans 1). On the other hand, God’s people love the Word because it reveals the nature and character of God. The goal of Exposition is to simply “expose” or “make clear” the word of God and understanding leads people to joy. I make the point that it is not a human idea simply because it is a reality that we can see, not only in our churches, but in God’s Word.)

Nehemiah

The history of Israel is filled with stories of how the Israel promises to be faithful to God, almost immediately rebel and turn to other gods, are exiled, repent, and then brought back to Israel. The story of Nehemiah is a small part of this greater history but what we see when the people turn back to faithfulness to God is crucial to a fuller understanding of Expositional preaching.

This book centers on the return back to Israel from exile. This exile that they were in was the same one that was prophesied about by the prophet Jeremiah. If you remember my post on Jeremiah 29:11, then you will remember some of the important points about this exile (if not, I am going to remind you). The first important point to remember is that they were exiled because they turned from their worship of the One True God and began to worship false gods. The second point is the promise that God gave to the exiles in Jeremiah 29:10, in that he promised them that after a period of 70 years he would return and restore his people to Israel. Both of these aspects are seen reflected in Nehemiah, the later in the fact that God really did indeed return after 70 years and the former in the Israelites initial response to God’s Law in Nehemiah 8:10.

Just to give you a little bit of context; the first six chapters in Nehemiah tell us how Nehemiah and the Jews returned to Israel, in particular Jerusalem, and began to rebuild the wall and the city. The seventh chapter is simply an account of the people who had returned and were now living in Jerusalem. The eighth chapter is what is important for this particular post (namely verses 3, 8, & 12).

Exposition

When we first look at Nehemiah 8, we see both the importance and centrality of the Word to the people of God. The people who were able to understand what they heard, gathered together and asked Ezra the scribe to bring out the Word of God that was given to Moses.

Nehemiah 8:3  And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.

Nehemiah 8:8  They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.

It is clear from the passage that there were other activities that took place in this six hour assembly (vv 3), such as public praise and physical worship of God (vv 6). While there are other things going on, it is clear that the Word is central to this gathering. There are two clear activities that happened in relation to the Word; the first being an extensive reading of the Word and the second being the explanation, or the “exposing” of the Word.

Many that would argue against Expositional Preaching would do so on the basis that people need to hear about practical topics. This example of “Expository Preaching” from the Old Testament clearly shows that understanding God’s Word is of primary importance to God’s people.

Joy

But what does this example of Exposition have to do with Joy? Good question…

Nehemiah 8:12 And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.

We see that ultimately, the explanation of the Word of God led to the people understanding the Word of God which then led to rejoicing. Because the Scriptures stand as the revelation of the character and nature of God, being able to understand his revelation is akin to knowing who God is (as He has revealed Himself to us). For God’s people, there is no higher calling or privilege than knowing and understand the One whom they love and worship.

To Pastors: One of your greatest desires for your people should be that they will experience joy in knowing God through Christ. You should be teaching and showing them how ultimate joy is found solely in Christ found in the written Word. To distract your people away from Christ by teaching on “relevant” topics does not aid them but rather leads them away from true Joy.

To Layman: Where are you finding Joy? Do you find Joy in a sense of “self-satisfaction” and practical steps for perfect obedience, or do you find your Joy in understanding the Word of God? Do you go home on Sunday afternoon “rejoicing” that you understood the words that were declared to you? Or even a better question to be asking, what was proclaimed to you? Does your pastor preach his opinions, or does he “Expose” the Word of God to you?

Jeremiah 9:24 “Let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”

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