Pilgrim Benham is a contributor of the Expositors Collective, a growing network of pastors, leaders and laypeople, which exists to equip, encourage and mentor the next generation of Christ-centered preachers. Our two-day intensive training seminar is designed to give young preachers exposure to both intentional training as well as hands-on experience and feedback in a peer/facilitator setting. Our next seminar is on February 21-22 in Las Vegas. Register at expositorscollective.com.
Often at church, when we do an Old Testament character study, we compare ourselves to that character, and then the moral of the story or sermon becomes "Dare to be a Daniel," or "Have faith like Abraham" or "Don't blow it as Lot did." Now those aren't wrong in themselves--they aren't incorrect, but they are incomplete. We could be tempted to study David's life (for example), and look at our outline like this:
- Saul Rejected as King (I need to be a better Saul)
- David & Goliath (I need to slay my giants like David)
- David & Saul (I need to respect my elders the way David did)
- David & Jonathan (I need to be a good friend who sticks closer than a brother)
- David & Mephibosheth (I should show kindness to those with disabilities)
- David & Bathsheba (I should be a better Bathsheba and dress modestly)
What ends up happening is that I become the centerpiece of the story: I'm the hero. But is that true? Am I the master of my fate; am I the captain of my soul?
Do I need to be a better Bathsheba, or do I need to realize that I've been wooed and violated by the world? Yet Jesus doesn't cover up sin by shedding others' blood to cover His guilt; He died and covered my shame and guilt through His own shed blood.
Do I need to show kindness toward disabilities like David does to Mephibosheth, or do I realize that I am crippled in my sin and deserve the full wrath of God? Yet Jesus calls to me, beckons me to come and then carries me to His table to display His grace and kindness to me.
Do I need to be a good friend like Jonathan, or do I need to realize that to be a friend to this world is enmity with God? Yet Jesus is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Do I need to slay my giants, or do I realize that I am incapable of defeating sin and death? Yet Jesus came and defeated our impossible foe with a single blow.
A True and Better David
You see, I don't need to be a better David. There is already a true and better David who is the Son of David--and His name is Jesus Christ.
In John 5:39-40, Jesus said, "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life." Jesus confirms that the Scriptures testify about Him.
Hebrews 10:7 says, "Then I said, 'Behold, I have come--In the volume of the book it is written of Me." The Bible is about Jesus; the Old and New Testaments are the revelation of Jesus Christ. John 1:1 says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Verse 14 affirms: "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." Jesus is the Word (the Bible) made flesh. The Old Testament gives us over 300 prophecies concerning Jesus, both literal and implied. He is to be born to a virgin, in the town of Bethlehem, from the tribe of Judah. He would come riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, to heal the brokenhearted and the blind, lame, sick and raise people from the dead. Thousands of years before 33 A.D., we hear that He would be betrayed with a kiss, crucified, take our punishment, His clothing gambled over; He would be crucified with sinners and buried in a rich man’s tomb.
The Scriptures testify of HIM! So when I read the Bible, I need to realize who I am in the grand narrative of the Scriptures. I'm a blind beggar who can't change my condition by trying to be a better person. I am desperate and thirsty, seeking refreshment and purpose as I draw water from a well that will never satisfy. I am the one who has spiritually committed adultery, and in the midst of my accusers, comes One who brings deliverance and salvation, not by abolishing the law, but fulfilling it.
So that means when I read the narratives of Scripture, I see myself rightly.
Seeing Myself Rightly
I'm not Noah who needs boldness to preach righteousness among a corrupt generation; I'm a doomed sinner facing the sure wrath of God who needs to enter through the Door of the ark and be saved.
I'm not Jonah who needs to be a good missionary and go where God sends me; I'm among the Ninevite people who were certain to be destroyed. God's plan all along was to send Jesus in the belly of the earth for three days, and yet come, representing God to me!
I'm not Esther who needs to be prepared for such a time as this; I'm among a people who will perish by the threat of death if it weren't for One who intercedes on our behalf, though it cost His life.
I'm not the Good Samaritan who needs to care for my neighbors; I'm the one who was beaten by this world and left for dead. Yet the One whom I never would have expected has come to heal my wounds and pay the price I owed.
May we understand the Bible the way it was meant to be understood: not from my subjective and customized, personal perspective, but from a Christ-centered, Christ-honoring, Gospel-revealing perspective. May the Word of God reveal the God of the Word in the person of His Son, Jesus.