"Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision." - Joel 3:14 (KJV)
How many times have you heard a sermon preached on this passage? A pastor offers up this text or one similar to it and explains - "this is where you are today." In this text for example, the word decision is found, and the man in the pulpit exclaims that "there is a decision to be made!" You must choose! Do you want to accept the gift of salvation that Christ has waiting for you? Or will you reject Him, damning yourself to everlasting judgment in the flames of Hell!
While this does "preach", and will likely generate a response or two from the multitudes wishing to escape judgment... is it really an accurate presentation of what the text really means?
I was reminded again this week of how often we hear superficial preaching coming from our pulpits. A pastor used this exact verse as his sermon text during a revival service that I attended. And while this text did come from the Scripture, I do not think the message that went along with it was totally accurate. So with that as my spring board into the world of blogging - pastor, let me challenge you today to exegete the text! So what exactly is Exegesis? The word exegesis simply means "to draw the meaning out" of a given text. This is the opposite of eisegesis, which means to read one's own interpretation into a given text. This is very often what happens to a pastor whose habit is to preach topically. He first comes up with his topic, and then goes in search of a scripture that contains supporting words or ideas. In the case of the scripture above, a pastor might want to preach on making a decision for Christ, so he searches his favorite concordance or Bible software program for words that will support his message. He finds Joel 3:14, and reads into the text the idea that this is encouragement for an individual to make a decision for Christ. When in contrast, what is really happening is that the Lord is making a decision or judgment against all those in the valley. They are His enemies, and the enemies of His people, and will be judged accordingly. Is this the same thing? Is it still ok to use the text to support your topic? Maybe you should ask yourself another question; are those true converts if they are converted with a word that didn't come from God? What does God's Word say? "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." - Romans 10:17
Pastor, let me encourage you today - exegete the text! Go to scripture first, and let it do the speaking for you. This doesn't mean that you can never preach on a "topic," but when you do, make sure that it is properly interpreted. Make sure that your supporting scripture, actually supports your topic.
In this day of superficial preaching, our churches (I'm a Southern Baptist) are filled with false converts. Those who believe they have been taught the clear un-edited Word of God. Yet, they quickly fall away, or constantly have to make a new "decision"! Why, because preachers have not been faithful with the Word.
Brothers, let us commit from this day forward, to exegetical preaching! Preaching that does not show how clever we are at putting together sermons, but preaching that honors the God of the Universe!
Soli Deo Gloria,