One of the things that has concerned me over the last four or five years is the sharp decline of expository preaching in churches. This has spread throughout all denominations including those known for preaching line upon line and precept upon precept. The hip and trendy thing is to pelt the audience with a potpourri of verses, which are loosely connected to a topic while being woefully divorced from their immediate context.
In my humble opinion, the topical approach fails to provide a full sense of the passage’s context and place in the biblical narrative. It seems to me that topical preaching reminds me of skimming the surface. Zero in on the big topics without digging too deep in order to avoid the difficult portions of scripture so as to avoid controversy. What is wrong with preaching through an entire book of the bible? Give the people the benefit of the doubt with respect to their attention spans and intelligence. The deeper issue in all of this is the lack of knowledge of God and his word in American churches.
I think expository preaching serves the church and its people the best; however, there is much more needed than changing the pulpit style. The prophet Hosea dealt with similar circumstances in his day. Take a look at the following passage:
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children” (Hosea 4:6, ESV).
At the beginning of Hosea, chapter four, the prophet announces to the children of Israel that he is about to declare God’s word to them. By way of historical context, the nation of Israel was divided into two kingdoms at this point. The tribes of Judah and Benjamin comprised the Southern kingdom also called Judah while the other ten tribes made up the Northern Kingdom called Israel. Hosea’s words in this fourth chapter pertain to them.
Based on the above quoted text, Israel was in an irreversible state of decline. The root cause of this centered around the lack of the knowledge of God (Hosea 4:1, 6, ESV). What happens to a community, a town, or a city that does not have a solid footing in the knowledge of God? I think the answer is a simple one: it withers without the sustaining word of God (John 15:4, ESV). Israel, the people of the Northern Kingdom, are decaying and declining in rapid fashion due to their rejection of the knowledge of God. Something inside of them rejected God and his word for either their own knowledge or someone elses.
During Hosea’s day and even further back, the priests had the responsibility of teaching the people the word of God. They were yesterday’s pastor-scholars for the lack of a better word. The priests bore the full weight of training both young and old in the nature of God and his word through Torah. In the middle portion of verse six, we read of God’s rejection of Israel’s priests for their rejection of his knowledge (Hosea 4:6, ESV). What manifested in their lives was destruction or ruin, which paved the way for being rendered unfit for any good thing.
One of the saddest lines is the very last one in the sixth verse. The Northern Kingdom’s rejection of God and his word leads to the Father proclaiming that he will forget their children or descendants. From my point-of-view, this is a horrifying legacy to hand down to one’s progeny. In the book of Deuteronomy, God commanded Israel’s ancestors to teach his commands to their children. Before the the Lord instituted the Mosaic Law, he instructed Abraham to teach his children and their descendants about who he is and his words (Genesis 18:19, ESV). To disobey this command to teach about God and his word to their children, and then seek after false gods and false teaching, would lead to the nation perishing from the land (Deut. 4:25-26, ESV).
Fast forward about 600-700 years after Moses, the prophet Hosea informs the Northern Kingdom or Israel that they are in line to face the judgment spelled out in Deuteronomy chapter four because they have rejected God and his word. Through Moses, the Lord states emphatically that man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Deuteronomy 8:3, ESV). Life proceeds from him because that is his nature. Provision comes from him for his people because he is their Father. He disciplines those whom he loves in order to teach them repentance. God’s warnings do not take place in a vacuum. He issues both blessing and warning as a reflection of his love and grace toward his people.
When the people and priests of Hosea’s day turned away from God and his word, their judgment became inevitable. No one in Hosea’s day could claim ignorance, or turn around and say that God never said anything like that to us. Neglecting the Lord and his word leads to ruin for all whether layperson and minister. The apostle Paul urged Timothy to preach the word in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2-3, ESV). I take this to mean that there is never a good reason to stop preaching and teaching the word. The God of heaven and earth has the words to live by throughout all the ages. Do I desire the knowledge of God in my life? Am I reading God’s word to learn about him and his knowledge? Does my life display the knowledge of God and its transforming power in my life?