The Majesty of God in the Old Testament by Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.
This fine little book is, as its subtitle suggests, “a guide for preaching and teaching.” While the reader will gain much information concerning the majesty of God, and the book is valuable for that alone, its real purpose is to instruct teachers in the best homiletical approach to the Old Testament. In this regard, Kaiser promotes the “big idea” method, in which the preacher/teacher discovers from the text the central theme and then arranges his message around that theme. I concur with Kaiser that this is the best homiletical methodology. As a matter of fact, if I were to teach a course on how to preach the Old Testament I would make The Majesty of God required reading.
Kaiser’s introduction alone is worth the price of the book. Here he gently rejects the common view that all biblical texts focus on Christ and thus “all preaching is really about getting Jesus across to an audience” (p. 15). Since the majority of the Old Testament does not focus on Christ, this is done by reading the New Testament back into the Old Testament. But Kaiser argues that such an approach makes the reader, rather than the author (inspired text), the final authority and communicator of truth. Instead, Kaiser insists, God has given us in Scripture what He wanted us to know and, as teachers of the Word our job is to communicate that Word, not read between the lines. In other words, the Old Testament texts contain the truth God wants understood, without the need to run constantly to the New Testament to legitimize that truth.
Kaiser also attacks the “New Homiletic” which is a postmodern approach claiming that propositional preaching is no longer viable, and the goal of preaching is not the communication of information but the evocation of an experience in which new meanings are created and discovered (pp. 19, 158).
Instead Kaiser says the tests of a good sermon are: (1) Does the lesson accurately reflect what is being taught in the text? and (2) has the text been applied to our contemporary contexts so that we are called to change for the glory of God (pp. 19-20).
Finally, Kaiser warns not to reduce the Old Testament to the use of illustrations for New Testament sermons. This is unwise because most modern audiences do not know the Old Testament well—why illustrate with material unknown to the listener? And this is not a good approach because the Old Testament is far more than illustration material for the New Testament (pp. 20-21).
Following this grand introduction Kaiser gives us ten examples of how to use “big idea” homiletics with the Old Testament. Several of the examples are excellent: Isaiah 40:9-31 (chapter 1); Daniel 4:1-37 (chapter 2); Psalm 139 (chapter 7) and Ezekiel 1 (chapter 8) being the best.
I will have to admit, however, my disappointment with several issues of Kaiser’s exegesis.
• I believe he missed the “big idea” of Numbers 20 (chapter 3) and instead spiritualized the text.
• He makes a feeble attempt to prove that Holy Spirit regeneration and indwelling were a reality for the Old Testament believer. In order to do this he had to take the few passages that seemed to allude to such out of context (pp. 91ff).
• His attempt to teach that tithing is incumbent on New Testament believers is weak at best (pp. 132-136).
Despite these disagreements, Kaiser has written a wonderful book that would be profitably read by every communicator of the Old Testament.