You’ve been asked to give a Bible talk. Where do you begin? And how do you make sure you’re understanding and applying the passage rightly? How will you get to the gospel?
In this workshop session, recorded live at TGC’s 2021 National Conference, Nancy Guthrie takes listeners through the process of preparing to teach the Bible—including prayer, looking at the context, determining the structure of the passage, composing an aim, creating an outline, getting to the gospel, developing applications, and coming up with an introduction and conclusion. She then applies each of these tasks to putting together a talk on Numbers 6:22–27.
Putting Together a Bible Talk worksheet (referred to in this podcast)
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Nancy Guthrie: Welcome. Welcome to this live recording of the “Help Me Teach The Bible” podcast before a live audience here at The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference. I love it that you are here in this room. We’ve got a lot to try to accomplish. And I love it that some of you are joining me online. And I hope whichever way, you like have your seatbelt on. I was just looking at what I’d written and I had written, “In the hour we have, I can’t be exhaustive.” And so like two days ago, I found out I only have 40 minutes for this. So are you ready? Because I’m gonna try to be as genuinely helpful as I can though I can’t be exhaustive. And I’m gonna be referring throughout the workshop to a worksheet. Now, if you are here in the room, if you pre-registered for this session, you got an email from me, right? Some of you? You got an email from me that had a worksheet on it. And if you are watching online, you wouldn’t have gotten that because you didn’t register for particular breakout sessions, but you can get access to this. In fact, those of you in the room who didn’t bring a copy, or you wanna be following along with it, are you ready for me to tell you how you’re gonna find it like on your phone? All right. You’re gonna go to nancyguthrie.com. I’ll let you type it in, nancyguthrie.com/bibletalk. Bibletalk, one word, no hyphens. Are you getting that online? So like you’re watching this online, you might also pull that up on your computer or on your tablet, or on your phone. Because what we’re gonna do is that worksheet is gonna provide kind of the outline that I’m gonna walk through on putting together a Christ-centered Bible talk. And then those of you who had registered for the workshop, I gave you actually an assignment. And I heard from maybe 50 of you or so who did it and you sent me your worksheet. I gave the assignment of working through Numbers 6:22-27 and just kind of figure out how you might do a talk on it.
So first, I’m just gonna talk through all of the things on the worksheet for preparing a Bible talk. And then as fast as I can, we’re gonna try to take that Numbers passage and try to apply some of what we’re learning to putting together a talk on that passage. All right. So some of you have been in the situation, or you hope you will be someday that you get asked to give a talk. Now, if you’re like me, at first, I’m really excited, right? And then I read the passage. And I think to myself, “Why did I agree to do this?” Because I don’t even get what this passage’s about. I don’t know how I’m gonna be able to understand it. It’s not gonna be interesting. It’s not gonna be helpful. I guess I’m sounding a little negative, aren’t I? But can anybody relate to this, please? All right. The panic that sets in. Exactly. Well, actually, this panic is exactly what we need to take our first step for putting together a Bible talk. It’s not yet on your worksheet, but this is number one before even the worksheet and that is to pray. Because we simply don’t wanna rely on our own instincts or our own skills. We want and need the Holy Spirit to open up the passage to us. We wanna need the Holy Spirit to begin to use that passage to work on our own hearts first. And so we pray. And we ask him to do that. And then we get to work using some tools in the text that are going to help us dig down deeper than just the surface of the text that we read through that first time and we’re so intimidated by.
So the first thing we’re gonna do is, in a sense, interrogate the text. Now, do you ever hear someone give a talk and you think to yourselves, “How did he or she see that because I didn’t see that when I read the passage?” The reason they saw that, if they’ve spent some time in the passage using some tools on it trying to unearth its treasures and they’ve come to the surface. The first time you read it, you likely won’t have done that. But if you’re gonna teach on a passage, you’re gonna need to spend some time doing that. So you’re gonna need simply some time in the text. So we begin that way. And how do we spend that time? Well, maybe we outline or diagram. Maybe we’re looking for repeated words. We’re looking for repeated words or phrases. We’re looking up other passages, looking at the cross-references in our text, looking for other passages that are connected to it.
My first step, however, is always to go to the esv.com and copy the text I’m working on and paste it into a Word document, and print it out and really large type with big margins and print it out so I can start doing this. I’m underlining. I’m drawing arrows. Oh, this idea is connected to this idea. I’m writing questions besides certain parts of it, something I’m gonna have to figure out that it’s not immediately obvious to me. I’m maybe putting brackets on the side that shows me how that text divides up. You know, I don’t really wanna do that in my Bible. So I’m gonna print out the text on a piece of paper where I can just write and scribble and find those things. And as you begin to do that, you’re gonna be tempted to jump ahead of that, but you’re starting getting ideas. And you’re gonna be tempted to, like, jump ahead and start maybe writing your talk. Resist the temptation, all right? Because you want to do… Some of the things I’m gonna say to you, it’s gonna sound like busywork and you think, “Oh, I just get to writing, and what’s that point?” What I’m gonna invite you to do is to build a foundation so that when you begin to put your talk together, it’s built on a solid foundation, right? And it’s actually gonna save you a lot of time in the long run because you’re not going to go on a bunch of rabbit trails and find yourself in the middle of writing your talk and realize, “This is going nowhere.” All right?
All right. So you’ve got your printed out text that you have read through, you’ve marked up. The other thing you’re really tempted to do at this point is pull out a commentary and see what somebody else who you think is smarter than you have said about it. Now, I wanna encourage you to not do it yet. I’m all for commentaries. I’ve got a library full of them, and I love them. But I wanna encourage you to spend more time in the text before you listen to what somebody else says about it. Because you know what happens. You read their take on the text, and it becomes your take on the text because it sounded really good. And so wait on that. Wait until you’ve even worked out your talk and use the commentary later to answer specific questions that you couldn’t find the answers to on your own. Or read it to kind of double-check yourself. Or read it for ideas, for illustrations or introductions or that kind of thing. All right?
So spend some time in the text. And then the next thing we’re gonna look at is figuring out the context. And by context, notice, if you were able to pull up that at nancyguthrie.com/bibletalk, you’re able to pull up that, notice what kind of context. Do you see that there’s three kinds? Three kinds of context: literary, historical, and biblical. So what’s the difference? Literary context is simply the passages before and after your text. Now, I notice a lot of people when they do this, they focus only on what’s before it. So think about what’s before and after your text. And the goal of figuring out the literary context is to figure out where your passage fits in the flow of ideas in the text so you can answer the question, why is this here, and how does this contribute to the larger point that the author is trying to make? So that’s literary context.
Next, historical context. And that generally refers to kind of the story behind my text, how it relates to…what the situation or circumstances were of the original audience for the text to try to understand culture and customs, issues that those people were facing. Now, where are you gonna find this, the historical context? Well, you’ll find a lot of it in the book that you’re studying, maybe in a different part of that book. It will tell you something. For example, in the book of James that we’ve been studying here at this conference, remember the very first part, it talks about he’s writing to the 12 tribes who are in the dispersion from Jerusalem? Well, that’s gonna impact everything we read throughout the rest of the book. And so maybe we need to figure out something more about this. Where might we read about these believers of the 12 tribes who’ve gone into dispersion? And I’m gonna ask people to answer and you gotta answer real loud if you’re in the room. And, you know, you can answer me online and I’ll just pretend like I hear you. Okay? So where might you go in the Bible to read about this dispersion?
Nancy Guthrie: Acts, exactly. And then you can also look at sources outside the Bible like a Bible Atlas or a Bible Dictionary that might help you think. Okay, the third kind of context, biblical context, and here you’re looking for quotes or allusions in your passage that come from other parts of Scripture. Maybe you’re looking for, is my passage fulfilled somewhere later in the Bible? Or maybe are you looking at, is my passage a fulfillment of something previously in Scripture? Now, as we think about context, it’s not simply, what is the context you’re looking for? You’re looking for, are there aspects of the context that should influence how I understand my passage? And here’s the very important thing about context. It might or it might not make it into your talk. A lot of people start with this study of this, and they, therefore, start their talk with this. Maybe your talk isn’t gonna be best started with context. Maybe it’s gonna be really needed but maybe it’s not. But you still want to do it because it’s gonna guide your understanding of the text, whether or not it makes it into your talk at all.
All right. The next part, structure. What is the basic structure of the passage? Now, this could be an outline of the passage. It could be a diagram of the passage. It could be a plotline if you’re working in narrative. Every passage has a Holy Spirit-inspired basic structure. And that structure can be very different, and the way you would find it would be very different depending on what genre of text we’re working in. Now, I find that most people, when you tell them to find a structure, the first thing they do is go to an outline because that’s just kind of what… I don’t know. Do we learn that in school? That’s what we always do, right? And oftentimes, that can be really helpful, is to outline it. You’re figuring out, “What are the big points and what are the subheads underneath it?” I often find, especially like working in discourse, where an author is making an argument. And think about it, when he’s making an argument, maybe he gives some reasons for it, and then he gets to a, therefore, or because of this, here’s what you need to do. That doesn’t really fit on an outline necessarily. That’s why I need to diagram it. So my best tool is my pads of graph paper. I go through tons of these, all right? And so I turn it this way, and I start writing it out. And maybe some parts of it look like an outline with ideas, and then sub-ideas. But then a lot of times, it’s an arrow. That means this, it’s headed this way. So that’s what I mean by diagram.
A while ago, I had given a talk on a particular passage a number of times, and then I learned some of these skills about diagramming. And so when I was getting ready to give that talk again, I pulled it out and said, “I’m gonna diagram that even though I’ve given this talk numerous times.” I discovered that the thing I had made the main point wasn’t really the main point. It had always been kind of the main point of every talk I’d ever heard about that passage. So I guess I assumed that was the main point. But when I diagrammed it, I saw, “Oh, that’s just, like, serving what he’s really getting at here.” And here’s the thing, when I give the talk, I wanna get at what the original author was wanting to get at and not just what I’ve heard somebody else say about it, or what I could say about it. So diagramming really helps me with that.
Sometimes the structure, like I said, is a plot diagram if you know what I’m talking about, right? Setting, rising action, comes to a climax, a resolution. Sometimes you look at your passage, and you see that the author kind of divided it in two parts. He’s contracting to things, like two ways to live, right? Or to two kinds of people and their response to Jesus, those kinds of things. And so you just see that as you work on the passage, you can say, “Oh, that’s the structure.” Well, that’s gonna significantly impact how you structure your talk on the passage.
All right, the next section, do you see it there? It says author’s aim. What do I mean? an author’s aim is what the biblical author intends to accomplish through what he has written. And what we have to really think about at that point is, who was his original audience? Because we can’t figure out what he was trying to accomplish necessarily without thinking that through. What was it he wanted his original audience to understand? How did he want them to respond? Now, I think this is the easiest step to skip. Because we go to the passage, and what you and I tend to do is we’re immediately thinking about, what am I gonna say to the people I’m gonna talk to about it? But here’s the thing, you don’t know how to rightly apply this passage until you see what the original author was trying to accomplish with his original audience. Because you want what you’re gonna do with the passage to line up with what he was doing with the passage. And you want to get so clear on what his aim was for this passage that you could actually express it in a sentence. A sentence with a noun and a verb and a period at the end. Getting that clear. And of course, you know, if you got a complicated passage, there’s gonna be things that don’t show up and maybe this one central sentence. But if you get really clear on what he was trying to do in this passage, that clear that you could write a sentence in it, I promise you that clarity and that specificity is going to serve you well as you get ready to take the next step. So writing out this author’s aim is a way of demonstrating that you understand and can articulate the central point of the passage for the original readers. It captures what he might have been trying to persuade his audience.
So I like to begin my sentence with the name of the author. It kind of helps me make a complete sentence. Moses’s aim was to, Peter’s aim was to, James’s aim was to. And you want this sentence to capture the unique content of your passage. You don’t want it to be a sentence that’s so general that if someone came and looked at it, they could think of a dozen places that that sentence could be from the Bible. Your sentence is gonna be populated with words from these specific texts so that when someone hears that sentence, they go, “Oh, I know what passage she’s gonna talk about,” because your sentence is so unique and specific to that passage. So before you leave, you’ve written a sentence and you’re thinking, “Hmm, am I there yet?” Here’s some questions to ask yourself. Is it one, clear, uncomplicated sentence? Is my sentence populated with words from my text? And is it missing keywords from my text?
All right. So we’re done interrogating the text. That was fast. And let’s move on to developing the direction of the content for our talk. You know, I think one of the best compliments a person ever gets when they teach the Bible is for someone to say, “That was so clear.” Isn’t that the best? Because that’s our aim, not to impress people. You know, we wanna be clear because, you know, we want the listener to get it. And so how does that happen? How do we become teachers who teach clearly? Well, it begins with us being able to state the aim of our teaching in one single uncomplicated complete sentence. Because let me tell you, if you can communicate, if you can express what you’re intending to communicate with your talk in a single sentence and you use that sentence maybe two or three times in your talk, then here’s what’s gonna happen. Somebody is gonna leave your talk and maybe she talks to somebody, “I went to Bible study in this morning.” And they say, “What was it about?” And she might actually be able to say what it was about in a sentence because you were so clear on it, and you repeated it, and they were able to get it. Now, this doesn’t have to be a creative sentence. Doesn’t have to be creative. And one big challenge is to keep it from becoming complicated because we have the tendency to want to make sure we cover everything in our text in this sentence. And sometimes we can, and sometimes we can’t. But just think of it this way. This is the central truth you want to drive home in your talk. And this is gonna guide every step that we have from here, or at least it should.
Now, maybe your question is, “How is this sentence different from the sentence that I wrote out for the original author’s aim?” Actually, it shouldn’t be very different. I mean, that’s actually the beauty of this exercise, it’s kind of a check. It’s a check on our creativity. It’s a check on maybe some agenda. There’s something we wanna say, or there’s something we saw in the passage that we really wanna talk about. But instead, if we’re looking at, “Here’s my aim and, you know, how close is that to the original author’s aim for his audience?” That’s going to be kind of a check. It’s gonna help us to align our aim with the original author’s aim, but how is it going to be different? We’re gonna take in consideration our audience because we’re gonna be speaking to a different audience, not the original audience. And here’s the other very significant thing. We’re going to consider our passage and think about, what difference does the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus make? Especially for Old Testament passages. We don’t wanna teach a passage like the Jewish rabbi down the street. We wanna consider what is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus? What difference does that make? Because that makes all the difference for our audience.
All right. Second, organization. How are you gonna organize your talk? And here we’re looking for two, three, or four parallel, memorable points or questions. Now, here’s where you take the huge leap toward being…even really starting writing your talk, is that you’re figuring out, “What are those sections? How am I gonna word each of those two, three, four sections?” And because what this is gonna be, it’s gonna be the skeleton of your talk on which once you get really ready to put it together, you’re gonna be adding flesh to the skeleton, but the skeletons gotta be really solid before you start adding the flesh, or your talk is gonna be a mess. And this is where you begin to use some creativity. Creativity with words, and creativity not so people think you’re incredibly clever. What are we always serving? We’re serving clarity. And we’re serving our audience to help them grasp what we’re saying and hold on to it and remember it. And the more effectively you articulate what your two or three points are gonna be, the more likely your audience is gonna take away. “Here’s what she talked about.”
Do you remember Courtney this morning? Remember, she had four points. Do you remember this? And she told us at the beginning what the four were. And then she worked through them. Then she repeated them at the end. That was a framework for us to be able to grab hold and grasp the content of her talk. And this is another time when I pull out my pad of graph paper. I mean, if you came and looked at my trash can right now, you’d see the most recent message I was working on, and you’d see pages and pages of tries at the outline. I mean, I spent a long time on this because it is the framework. But once I’ve got that, oh, man, then I am really ready to go. Here’s the important thing about your points. The questions you’re gonna ask before you leave your points, you’re gonna ask the question, do my points serve my aim? That’s that aim sentence you wrote. Do my points support and serve that? Are they gonna enable me to make that big point, get that content across that I said I wanted to get across? Are my points gonna help me to make my talk clear and memorable? And if they don’t, and if it’s maybe said interestingly, but it’s not gonna serve your aim, maybe you’re not done with this step yet and you gotta go back at it again.
All right, gospel connections. And we’re asking ourselves at this point, what opportunities does my text provide to get to the gospel? Isn’t this the difference we love when we begin to discover gospel-centered teaching? If some of you are like me, like, “Where’s this been all my life?” All right? So we want to do that. We don’t wanna weigh our listeners down with only imperatives. We don’t merely tell an interesting story. We don’t wanna merely give them good advice. We want to be sure that the message we give presents the gospel because we know that the gospel is the power of God to make spiritually dead people alive. And why else would you wanna get up and teach the Bible if that’s not your goal?
And it’s not enough simply to say, “How am I gonna get to Jesus?” Here’s the question, a better question for you to ask and answer. What facet of the gospel is in my text or could I get to from my text organically? What facet of the gospel? What do I mean by that? The gospel, some people think the term gospel and they think it’s like an evangelistic message. The gospel is an announcement of the good news of the person and work of Jesus Christ. Centered on the person and work. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is at the heart of the gospel announcement. It’s not the whole of the gospel announcement. There’s actually much more fullness to the person and work of Christ. There is his incarnation. There is his righteous life, his sacrificial death, his victorious resurrection, his glorious ascension. His present reign in heaven, his sure second coming, and his eternal reign in the new heavens and the new earth. All of those are facets of the gospel. So what you’re gonna do at this point as you’re working on your text is you’re going to look through your text, and you’re gonna mine it for opportunities. You’re mining it for opportunities that are right there in your passage. Not from outside of your passage or you’re gonna import. What is there in your passage? You’re looking for words, phrases, images that connect to the person and work of Christ. And so on your sheet, what your sheet when you do it should have…what mine would have would be I’d have a few phrases in quote marks that are exactly out of my text. And then after that, maybe a few notes about how I’m gonna get to a facet of the gospel from that. And then the passage of Scripture that I’m supporting that gospel connection with that’s gonna give that power.
And when you’re working on your worksheet, you’re solely looking for, like, all the opportunities that you could get to the gospel from your text. And when you get to writing your talk, you probably won’t use all of them or you might. But you’ve got them all down. It’s like you’ve created this basket of opportunities that you can draw from once you get to working on your text. Because once you get to working on your text, you might not be thinking exactly in those terms. You’re gonna wanna write down everyone you see. All right. And before you leave this section, there’s some questions you’re gonna ask about your gospel connections. You’re gonna ask, “Are my gospel connections from this specific passage? Are they using words, phrases, images from this particular text? And do they connect to a particular facet of the person and work of Christ? And if so, which one? And what am I gonna use to support it?”
Applications. What kind of applications can you make to your audience? Or what are some questions that you could ask, some ways that you will propose to your audience that they might apply the truth of the passage to their lives? One of the best approaches… I mean, how many of you have sat under teachers like this and they’re just so good at asking penetrating questions? Isn’t that oftentimes the most powerful kind of application? They just ask you. I mean, Courtney really did that in her message this morning. And so did Jackie. I mean, just asking really good questions you can kind of think, “How did she know?” Right? How did she know that I struggle with it? And that’s actually one of the ways you come up with applications, is that you think, first, where does this passage intersect with me? Where does it rub me in a place that I realize, “Wow, I need to submit to this, I need to change this, I need to believe this, I need to receive this? So as you think about applications, it’s not a bad idea to consider there’s a lot of people who struggle with the same things you do. But then you wanna set that aside and say, “There’s a lot of people in the room that struggle with things that I’ve never struggled with at all.” And so you think about your audience and you think about their life situation and you think about their backgrounds. And you pray through those people, and you ask the Lord to show you, how can I apply this that will serve my audience? So these penetrating questions.
Then I think this is finally. Finally, your introduction and your conclusion. How can you introduce and conclude your talk? Now, first, I’m gonna tell you how you don’t wanna start. You don’t wanna start by getting up there and saying, “Well, when so and so asked me to speak and I thought about what…” Oh, gosh, that’s boring. Boring, self-focus, lazy. So how are you gonna come up with a good way to introduce it? You’re gonna study your aim. And you’re gonna ask yourself, “How can I set up a need, an issue, a problem, a common thing that’s actually gonna point to my aim? Like, my aim is gonna answer that need, answer that issue. So you’re not just, you know, trying to be cute or whatever at the beginning. You want it to serve where you’re headed, wanna accomplish your aim. All right?
Recently, I did a workshop like this, and a lot of people told me they would start by reading the passage. Well, okay. I’m not sure that best prepares your audience to really tune in and listen. What you want, you wanna give them a reason to listen. You wanna connect your aim, what you’re gonna communicate with them so closely they think, “I wanna listen. I wanna see where she is going here.” And here’s the other thing…that was introductions. If you have ever noticed it, some of the talks that you have enjoyed the most, that you felt satisfied with at the end, they start with…however they started in their introduction, they came back to the end. Isn’t that the case? Did you hear Courtney do that this morning with the pair? Right? And so there’s something very satisfying about that.
And so however you started, it may be that you’ll come back to it in your conclusion. The most important thing is that you don’t just kind of peter out at the end, but that you are headed somewhere. Maybe in your conclusion, you tie your points together. Perhaps you review them for clarity and impact. Your conclusion should likely contain at least a version of your aim, maybe a summary of your points. And you should call your listeners to something. This may be the most significant weakness I see in women Bible teachers. We’re a little too timid. We feel like maybe that’s assuming too much authority to actually call the people we’re listening to to respond to what the text is calling them to. See, it’s not all about your authority, it’s the text. And whatever you’re calling to, it’s gonna have the tone of the passage. And different parts of the Bible have a different tone, but you want your tone to match the passage tone.
And then finally, you’re ready to write your talk. And honestly, all the work that you’ve done to this point, then it gets really easy because you’ve gotten all kinds of ideas, and you’ve been jotting them down on the side as you’ve gone along. And you know what you want to say at this point, and you know the framework you’re gonna use and what’s going to support it as you put the flesh and bones on your outline. When I started, I told you about how I always feel initially when I agree to give a talk. Like, “Why did I agree to this?” But let me tell you what happens over the process of doing this kind of work to prepare to give a talk. What I find is my heart changes significantly from, “I don’t wanna do this,” to, “I can’t wait to say this.” Because the Word goes at work in our own hearts, and we become so convinced and passionate about it that we just can hardly wait to share it. We have a sense of urgency and a sense of mission. We know that we need this word. And so there’s probably other people who need this word and we can hardly wait to give it.
All right. How’s my time? Oh, boy. All right. So I told you in the description for this workshop, it told you that we were gonna work through this on this specific passage on Numbers 6:22-27. So if you have a Bible, open to Numbers 6:22-27. And some of you actually put a copy of your worksheet you worked up in my dropbox and I appreciate that. I looked at all of them and just saw a lot of great work. I’m gonna kind of go through our worksheet here and talk about how this might help us if we were working on a talk on Numbers 6:22-27. And let me read that quickly so you remember it. You’ll know it is the Aaronic blessing, right?
The Lord spoke to Moses saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you, the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. So they shall put my name on the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”
So we’re trying to figure out the context. What’s the literary context gonna be of this? Well, if you look before, you’ve got all of these strict guidelines for cleansing the camp. In context, you wanna kind of ask not just what’s there but why? Why was cleansing the camp important? Because the goal was to be able to bring the people near to God. And I wonder if these former slaves would have thought, “What’s gonna happen when God comes near? Maybe we don’t know Him that well.” And I think that’s part of what this passage tells them. So there are some contexts at the beginning. Here’s what’s gonna happen when you come near God. What you can expect is that His disposition is gonna be to bless you. That’s pretty good news. There’s context after. After this is when we’re gonna see that Balak is gonna be hired to curse Israel, and he’s unable to do it. And that’s kind of interesting if we think about… We know, why would that be? Because God has determined to bless His people. So there would be some literary context, historical context. They’re living in the difficulties of the wilderness, and they might be tempted to think God has no intention to bless them. And in fact, we know what they’re gonna think, right? Remember, like, why did you bring us out of Egypt to make us die in the desert? They need to know that God intends to bless them there in the wilderness, not to kill them.
All right, how about biblical context? Biblical context, where’s the first place… Somebody yell this out to me. Where does the first place we read about blessing in the Bible?
Nancy Guthrie: Genesis what?
Nancy Guthrie: Huh? Genesis what?
Nancy Guthrie: All, is that you said?
Nancy Guthrie: Twelve. Yes. But then before then, how about Genesis 1? And God made and God made and He blessed, and He blessed, and He blessed, and He blessed and blessed, right? And then we get to Genesis 12, which is so important when God comes and makes this promise to Abraham, “I’m gonna bless you. And I’m gonna bless those who bless you, and through you, all the families of the Earth are going to be blessed.” So we begin to think about this passage in light of this larger story of blessing. I think when we read this passage, we should think about Exodus 32, which happened shortly before this. And that’s when judgment came down because Aaron, the high priest, has done something very different than bless them. Do you remember? Exodus 32, he leads them into throwing all their gold into the fire to make a golden calf. They might be afraid that God is only out to punish them. Or here’s the other one, Exodus 34, 35. This is where Moses goes into the presence of God and he comes out, and what’s happening? His face is shining. Can you see why we would pick that? Because we hear it in our passage about God’s face shining on us. So at this point, I don’t know what that’s gonna mean if I’m gonna use it, but I wanna write it down so that I might keep that in mind.
Okay, author’s aim. This is a way of demonstrating you get it. And I think this passage, in particular, maybe some of you who worked on this, you found this struggle. It can be kind of confusing because it’s God telling Moses to tell Aaron to say something to someone else. And so if you worked on it, it’s like, “Whoa, whoa, who’s the author?” Right? And so it’s a little bit challenging in that regard. But I think our question is, what would Moses want the original readers and who would the original readers be? They would be the next generation living in the wilderness and the people of Israel living in the Promised Land. And so we would be asking the question, why would Moses want them to know that the priests were instructed to pronounce or speak this blessing over God’s covenant people?
Now, in terms of the author’s aim, I wanna tell you something I noticed on many of your worksheets that were submitted to me. And if you brought yours with it, you can kind of check and see if this is you. It was very interesting how many on the author’s aim, they didn’t use the word bless at all. Look back at the passage. You gotta use the word bless, don’t you? It’s throughout the passage. So it was missing that keyword. The other thing I found interesting is a lot of people, they described the aim as being a call for obedience. And I want you to look back at the passage. Do you see a call for obedience anywhere in this passage? So we probably don’t want that to be our aim, do we? We’re gonna find that in lots of other places in the Bible, that’s for sure, but it’s not in our passage. So we’re not gonna impose that on it. Here’s what might be a good sentence for Moses’s aim. Moses’s aim was to assure God’s people of His intention to bless them with the security, acceptance, peace, and identity that only comes from Him. Simple sentence.
All right. Now we’re gonna get to our aim. I’m gonna tell you a couple of good ones that I received. This first one, I loved that this person connected Moses’s aim so well to her aim. So Moses’s aim, she had, “Moses’s aim was to bless the people of Israel with the knowledge of God’s provision, protection, and presence.” And then her aim was, “To bless the people of God with the knowledge of His provision, protection, and presence for them.” And the only way I would improve this is I would say, “His provision, protection, and presence through Christ.”
All right. Time’s slipping away, slipping away. What I noticed mostly on worksheets was how different the my aim was from Moses’s aim. So you wanna get those lined up as much as you can. Oftentimes, it was not a complete sense, or it was too complicated of a sentence. In what I think is an exemplary talk on this passage… Do you have your pen handy to write this down? Because you should listen to this later if you really wanna get better at this. And that after what I have said, you’ll be able to listen a little even more intelligently to pick out what he’s doing. Okay. There’s an excellent talk by Iain Duguid. And you’ll find it at preachingtheword.com. Preachingtheword.com, and you’ll look for the messages on Numbers and there’s one called “True Blessing” by Iain Duguid. I want you to listen to that, and when you hear it…I’ve listened to this message numerous times. And here’s what I think his aim must have been by listening to the message. You can listen to see what you think. I think this was his aim. He says, “The priestly benediction tells us that blessing lies in face-to-face relationship with the Lord experiencing His protection and favor.” Simple, beautiful, guiding aim. So, yeah, is it populated with words from the text? Have I included things that aren’t in the text?
All right, points or outline. You wanna state them simply, clearly, memorably. I loved how beautifully this person’s points flowed out of her aim. Her aim was to unfold how God works to establish His rightful and loving relationship with His people in turning a life under the curse of death into a life under the blessing of grace. That’s good, isn’t it? And so here’s her points, and they flow out of her aim. Her points were, “God turns our place of danger into a place of safety. God turns our place of rejection into a place of gracious acceptance. God turns our place of death into a place of life-giving peace.” So on the worksheets, what I saw, not enough teasing out of words in the text. There were more sentences than pithy points. The points didn’t relate to the aim. Oftentimes, people’s points came from other passages instead of from this passage.
All right. I haven’t left myself too much time for getting the gospel, and I’m just gonna go over a little over time. Are you okay with that? Livestream audience, be patient with me, okay? Because we gotta get to the gospel. All right. We don’t want our connection to the gospel to be general. We don’t want it to be something that could come from anywhere in the Bible. We want it to be organic from this specific text. So look back at the text with me, and I’m gonna point out every word where I see a connection that you could make to the gospel in this passage. The first one I have underlined is Aaron. How are you gonna get to Jesus from that? Well, Aaron, the high priest, announced a blessing. Jesus, the great high priest, is the blessing. Thus you shall bless the people, and this is where you go back to Genesis 1 and Genesis 12. And you go forward to Galatians 3 because we know how we’re gonna get to the gospel. We don’t deserve this blessing, but Christ who does deserve this blessing, we read in Galatians 3, became a curse for us.
When we see this line, “The Lord bless you and keep you,” how are you gonna get to the gospel with that? We’re gonna look at Jesus and say, “Jesus was not kept. He was not protected by God so that you can know you will be kept and you will be protected.” This, “Make His face to shine upon you,” I think about the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. When His face shines upon us, we see the human yet glorified face of the Lord Jesus Christ turning in our direction. And one day, we will see him face-to-face. This line, “And be gracious to you,” what could make it possible for God to show us this much grace? Because we certainly don’t deserve it, do we? What makes this possible is the punishment we do deserve is put on Christ so that he can show grace to us.
We read this line, “Lift up His countenance upon you,” and we think about once again, Jesus on the cross. What did he say? “My father, my father, why have you forsaken me?” In the Transfiguration, God, the father, lifted His countenance upon you and said, “My Son in whom I’m well pleased.” And there on the cross, the father turns His face away. He is abandoned on the cross. Why? So that we will never be abandoned.
“Give you peace.” I would go to Romans 5:1. We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. And then this line, “So shall they put my name upon the people,” and this makes me think of Jesus saying, “Go and baptized and put my name in a sense through baptism on people from every nation.” And then, you know, where it says, “Turn His face upon you,” I would have to get to Revelation 22:4 somehow where we read, “They will see His face and His name will be on their foreheads.” There’s the fulfillment of this blessing, is we see it at the very last chapter of the Bible. See His face, His name will be on our foreheads. And I probably have to say somewhere along the way, Jesus could have said, “Everything promised in the Aaronic blessing is now realized in me.” You want this kind of blessing? It’s found in Christ.
Applications, how would the original audience need to respond to the truth in this message? My answer to that, they had to receive it. It’s not telling them to obey. They had to open their lives and their hearts to receive this blessing that God is postured and prepared to give to them. So I think that would be a primary application. Or maybe an application would be, where are you looking for blessing apart from God? Because this passage is making clear, He is the source of blessing. In fact, when I did a talk on this, my big points were He is the source of blessing and He’s the substance of the blessing. It’s not just we want a blessing from Him, He is the blessing.
Introduction and conclusion, I’m gonna skip those. But I hope this has been helpful to you. And as I have buzzed through this, if you have seen so much need for improvement in your own work on this, excellent. Don’t be discouraged, be motivated. Be motivated to interrogate the text and to work to some of these questions, this big picture work, before you start thinking up a talk. Because it’s gonna make the actual putting together the talk really easy, and you won’t waste time on rabbit trails. You won’t fill up your talk with interesting and perhaps even helpful and perhaps even true things. But rather, your talk will fit tightly to the text and what it’s really all about.
So let me close by praying for you. When we’re done, I’m gonna be over here and I’m happy to talk with anyone for a while until the next crew starts coming in here. I also brought with me some cards that have all the dates. I’ve got about 17 biblical theology workshops for women around the country. I mean, now that they’re setting us free, I’m just like hitting the road. Okay? So before the end of the year, I’m going to 17 cities to teach biblical theology workshops for women. I would love for you to come. And I’ve got cards here with the list of dates. And if you’re getting this virtually, you can just go to nancyguthrie.com and see all the cities and dates for biblical theology workshops because I would love to see you there.
Lord, I thank you so much that you entrust your Word to us. And we want to study to show ourselves approved as women who rightly handle the Word of truth. And we want to please you in the way we do it. So would you give us the grace we need to do the work required and give us the time we need and give us the energy we need and give us the helpers and mentors and resources we need because we want to bring glory to you in the way that we give out your word? Amen.