Eating with Our Ears: Thoughts on Isaiah 55.1-3 (pt. 4)
God delights in giving his people the real thing to eat. “Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.” The Hebrew word for rich is literally fat. The feast that he provides in the gospel is not a meager, low-carbohydrate or low-fat diet. He brings the real thing: real bread, real steaks, real Parmigiano Reggiano – the best food and the best wine. He blesses his people with a rich banquet and authentic cuisine, a cuisine that is redemptive-historical. In other words, the preaching served to the people in the local church should always use a method that preaches Christ responsibly from the whole Bible.
Of course, the term ‘redemptive-historical preaching’ is somewhat elastic, at least in Reformed circles. It is similar to the phrase ‘covenant theology;’ not everyone means the same thing when they use it. For example, I have sometimes heard people caricature redemptive-historical preaching as preaching that ignores the imperatives of Scripture and leaves little place, if any, for application. That is a most unfortunate misrepresentation of what I (and many preachers far more experienced and able than myself mean by the term). Redemptive-historical preaching, in its most simple definition, is preaching that preaches Christ from all the Scriptures. It assumes that the Scriptures are not a collection of timeless principles in abstract, but a coherent record of progressive revelation that tells the story of God redeeming a people for himself through the Person and Work of Christ his Son. It takes seriously Christ’s admonition to the Pharisees who missed the point of this story: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5.39). It is the kind of preaching that Christ himself did to his disciples on the road to Emmaus, where, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures, the things concerning himself” (Lk 24.27). It applies biblical theology, which, as Graeme Goldsworthy notes, “is nothing more or less than allowing the Bible to speak as a whole: as the one word of the one God about the one way of salvation.”
It is the Bible’s prescribed method that proclaims Old Testament characters such as Noah, Joseph, David and Daniel preached primarily not as moral examples to imitate, but as sinners in the unfolding drama of redemptive history who foreshadowed Christ. It is a method of preaching that takes seriously Edmund Clowney’s warning that “it is possible to know Bible stories, yet miss the Bible story.”
The Bible is much more than William How stated: ‘a golden casket where gems of truth are stored.’ It is more than a bewildering collection of oracles, proverbs, poems, architectural directions, annals, and prophecies. The Bible has a story line. It traces an unfolding drama. The story follows the history of Israel, but it does not begin there, nor does it contain what you would expect in a national history. The narrative does not pay tribute to Israel. Rather, it regularly condemns Israel and justifies God’s severest judgments. The story is God’s story. It describes His work to rescue rebels from their folly, guilt, and ruin.
Starving, weary souls need to hear this story line and unfolding drama that culminates in the Person and Work of Christ.
Sadly, however, there will always be local chefs who deviate from the Bible’s cuisine. Let them be urged to keep it authentic. “The preacher’s business,” said R.L. Dabney, “is to take what is given him in the Scriptures, as it is given to him, and to endeavor to imprint it on the souls of men. All else is God’s work.” Fusion food might be a fun fad in our postmodern culture, but it has no place on the spiritual menu in the local church.
Mike Brown, Pastor
Christ United Reformed Church