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Davis on OT Narrative

Dale Ralph Davis. The Word Became Fresh: How to Preach from Old Testament Narrative Texts.
(Christian Focus Publications, 2006) pb., 153 pp.

I have already mentioned several other really good books from this year on preaching the Old Testament. Here is one more which may be my favorite. I have appreciated Davis’ popular commentaries in the past and am really enjoying this book. He shares the concerns of books previously mentioned that the Old Testament has been taken out of the church’s hands. Some blame he places on the way the OT has too often been handled:

“For nearly two hundred years a skeptical brand of Old Testament criticism has largely held sway in our universities and divinity halls; it ‘un-godded’ the Old Testament, implied the Old Testament documents were extremely complex and involved, and managed to make Old Testament studies mostly boring, lifeless, and dull.” (i)

“I still believe that traditional Old Testament criticism has had the effect of killing the Old Testament for the church.” (ii)

Davis then makes it clear that we are not seeking some magic key to unlock the Old Testament. Too much of hermeneutics is so complex it ends up sounded like this. Instead Davis calls for a sensible, sensitive, and careful reading of the text.

“Nor do I have any tricks. I cannot offer any magical procedure which, if followed, will unlock the riches of the Old Testament narrative. . . . I simply want to stir up the biblical juices of preachers and students, to help people walk away from the text muttering about what a delightful book God has given us.” (3)

If we read in this way looking particularly for what we can learn about God we will understand much and be enriched.

“It’s safe to say that usually the writer’s purpose is theocentric – he intends to communicate something about God, i.e., his character, purposes, demands, or ways.” (4)

“…whenever you see God clearly in a text you can be sure there is something very applicable there for you.” (9)

I think Davis succeeds admirably in his goal. I found myself stirred up reading the book. He writes well and shows how, even though there are difficult and confusing parts of Scripture, it is not that difficult to find key truths. This is a very encouraging and helpful book.

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