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On Character, Discontent, and the Old Testament

I have somewhat of a tradition of reflecting somewhere on my blogs about books I am about to publish. So today I want to look at Allan R. Bevere’s new book The Character of Our Discontent.

Allan is a primarily New Testament trained preacher who has decided to take on some major passages in the Old Testament in preaching to his congregation. In turn, he has collected them to share with others.

My friend Alden Thompson, who is author of Who’s Afraid of the Old Testament God?, also from my company, generally leads off weekends of discussion of the Old Testament with a litany of the reasons that people don’t like the Old Testament. He then takes a look at the Old Testament in the New, and especially in the teachings of Jesus and then he’ll say something like: “So you may not like the Old Testament, but Jesus did!” Now he says it so nicely that nobody is offended, but he certainly catches people’s attention.

I specialized in Hebrew and ancient near eastern literature, so I tend to lean toward the Old Testament in my own study and teaching. But amongst those who teach outside the seminary, that is all too rare.

I had a conversation just days before I accepted this manuscript for publication. A pastor with many years of experience lamented the lack of collections of good sermons, sermons that could provide an example to new preachers. I had to agree with him. In my experience, many people end up as pastors with much too limited knowledge and experience in some of the basics. I think preaching is better taught in most seminaries than subjects such as prayer, spiritual gifts, or even church management, but nonetheless there is a great value in having more material that covers some of the basics. So I found this combination irresistible, even though sermon collections often have poor track records for sales.

There are two values in this collection that I want to emphasize. First, these sermons introduce some Old Testament characters and situations in a way that is easy to understand. They are worth reading on their own. This book isn’t heavy reading. You could read one of these sermons for a quite reasonable devotional. Second, they provide examples for people who may be afraid to start preaching from the Old Testament because they didn’t specialize in it. Now these are not sermons that come from hasty or light preparation. What they are is solid sermons that come from a non-specialist who put in the time to produce a good sermon on each topic.

The presentation is easy to follow. The illustrations are good and to the point. You’ll find yourself directed to some good resources as you read. Allan doesn’t try to solve all the problems of Old Testament interpretation. What he does is apply some of the principles and lessons of these passages to the people found in the pews today.

I’ve mentioned some books that I agonized over before publishing. I’ve even had some I expected would offend some folks. I didn’t have to agonize over this one. I was certain almost from the start that I was going to publish it. Oh, it might offend you in some places, though if so I’d take it as conviction. Some of those Old Testament characters provide quite a challenge to our very un-heavenly way of life here in the American church.

So if you’ve been neglecting the Old Testament, here’s a chance to remedy that situation. My wife tells me that she feels that before she started getting involved in reading and studying the Old Testament she feels she was missing out on half the power God had for her in his Word.

Or, as Dave Black said in commenting on the release of The Character of Our Discontent:

An Old Testament-neglecting Christian is a contradiction in terms.

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