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.



Abraham Blesses His Neighbors, Part 2 (Genesis 18:16–33)

“If one day God does not punish NYC for its wickedness, he will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah” – John E. Herbst. My Dad lived his whole life in New York City, never wanting to move anywhere else. And as a proud “Noo Yawkuh” myself, I can’t disagree with his statement above. As much as I love NYC, I won’t deny that it had a lot of wickedness when I was growing up, and it has a lot of evil today. Almost all American Christians know of places and organizations near us that reek of evil. These may be neighborhoods, businesses, government organizations, or social groups that seem to embrace wickedness. How does God expect Christians to respond? We find an excellent answer in one of my favorite Old Testament passages, Genesis 18:16–33. This is my third consecutive post about Abraham’s efforts to honor God’s call. While the ...
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Abraham Blesses His Neighbors, Part 1 (Genesis 14)

What does it look like for God’s people to “be a blessing?” The earliest biblical example is Genesis 14, a passage that introduces us to how God wants us to treat our neighbors. In my previous post I wrote about Abraham’s calling to bless the world. While the New Testament holds up Abraham as a model of faith, Genesis 12–25 does more to stress Abraham’s call than his faith. Most of the time Abraham does believe God, but his faith is inconsistent, so he is not the best model of faith. But through his story Abraham shows loyalty to his call to benefit the people around him. In this post and the next we’ll see how Abraham goes about blessing others. For many Christians, Genesis 14 is almost impossible to decipher, especially the first ten verses.   But when we take the time to do the work of sorting through names ...
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“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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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