PREACHING THE WORD with Dr. John Herbst

John Herbst, our Scholar-in Residence, offers pastors and other church leaders insights into the scriptures. These blog posts focused on books of the Bible, and biblical themes are designed to help those preparing messages and Bible studies.


 

 


“Be a Blessing:” The Call of Abraham (Genesis 12)

As the new year dawns, many of us think about renewing and enhancing commitments to things that matter to us. I hope that this causes Christians to reconsider what it means to be called to Christ! This post is the first of three that explore “calling” in the life of the first person in the Bible whom God calls to his service, Abraham. Of course, there is much more to say about Abraham that just his calling! But since Abraham’s story begins with a call, it’s appropriate for this blog to begin there as well. While the Bible begins with Genesis 1, it’s helpful to think of the first eleven chapters of Genesis as an introduction. These chapters deal with issues pertinent to all human beings: whether or not we choose to follow God, we are all descendants of Adam and Noah. This means Genesis 12 is the real beginning ...
Read More
/ blog, calling, Preaching the Word

The Christmas Message

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” (Isa. 9:2 NIV) This post is about the central meaning of Christmas.  Next year I’ll devote a few posts to the background and interpretation of Luke 1–2, but this time around I will discuss John 1:1–9 in its New Testament context. One of the perennial “fun” debates about Christmas is the correct birthday of Jesus. Some people second-guess December 25, often moving it to the Spring or some other warmer time of year.  But there are two very good reasons to think that the birth of Jesus really did happen near the end of December. First, Luke 2 tells us that Joseph and Mary travelled to Bethlehem because the Roman Empire ordered a special census to effect some sort of tax.  Since we have no other record ...
Read More
/ Christmas, Preaching the Word

Struggling with God’s Calling: Reading Exodus 3–4 in Light of Exodus 1–2

This is the third of three posts about Exodus 3 (and, here, Exodus 4). While I tend to avoid getting into ALL the details of the passages I write about, this introduction to the relationship between God and human beings is worth the extra thought. My last two posts explain how Exodus 3 introduces ideas that get developed and repeated all through the Bible. First, when God meets human beings, he meets us at our point of need: the Israelites were slaves, and God appointed Moses to lead them out of slavery. Second, God shares his personal name, “Yahweh,” (translated “the Lord,” with small capital letters, in most English Bibles), to help human beings develop an intimate relationship with him. In the Bible, God is not just an all-powerful force; he wants to relate to us on a personal level. We now move on to a message that is more ...
Read More
/ Preaching the Word

Sharing Names: A First Step to a Relationship With God

My last post looked at a couple of the main ideas of Exodus 3, the story of Moses’s “first encounter” with God. I explained there that just as first times are important to us in the 21st century, we need to think about the first time each Bible character meets God. The Bible authors knew that we human beings naturally remember and ponder the first time each of us felt a special moment with God. So they were careful about how they described the first time each character encounters God. And since the relationship between God and Moses is the most important God-human relationship in the Bible, the “first time” passage of Exodus 3 deserves special attention. God communicates four big ideas to Moses in Exodus 3–4.  I wrote about two of them last time, found in Exodus 3:6–10. First, God claims to be the god that Moses and the ...
Read More
/ Preaching the Word

Exodus – Intro

I’m going to start this series with a few posts on the theologically most important book of the Old Testament, Exodus. Not only is Exodus fun to read and explore, but it brilliantly ties together two big ideas: freedom from slavery, and obedience to God’s law. Exodus teaches us that we become free from slavery by one means only: God does a miracle. The Israelites do nothing to save themselves; God does everything! Yet after the Israelites are free, they risk slipping back into slavery. The solution? If the Israelites will only obey God’s law, they will remain free. These ideas from Exodus are at the center of our faith. Each of us starts out as a slave to sin. We cannot free ourselves; God does all the work. Yet once free, many, many Christians slip back into slavery. Tempted by things like money, power, sex, substances, internet, and so ...
Read More
/ Preaching the Word