Friday, December 19, 2008

Nehemiah Series Commentaries

Commentaries are a wonderful tool as long as we remember that they are exactly that—a tool. How privileged we are to have the benefit of godly men who have gone on before us. What a blessing to partake of the fruit of their labor in the Text. But enjoying and benefiting from their work can never replace our own labor in the Text. If we truly believe Hebrews 4:12, then we have to allow the Sword of God’s Word to cut into our own lives rather than simply report on the bleeding of others.

One of my favorite modern preachers, Alistair Begg, summarizes his method of preparation in four points: think yourself empty, read yourself full, write yourself clear, and pray yourself hot. I have found this to be an excellent model to emulate.

After soaking in the Text by reading and re-reading and re-reading it, and meditating upon it, it’s important to think about it. What does it mean? What is the context? What are the implications of the Text? How does it connect with life today? Are there nuances in the original languages that shed light on the meaning of the passage? In the words of Begg, “I must know what this says, and I must learn what this means.”

It is only at that point that commentaries are of their most value. We should only turn to the study of others once we have been thoroughly steeped in the Text ourselves. But once we have gotten to that point, commentaries are invaluable discussion partners. At that point, we are no longer sponges, waiting to soak up whatever we might find—good or bad. Instead, we are discussion partners, able to have our iron sharpened by the friction of interaction with the commentator’s iron.

As I have written previously, I will be starting a new preaching series through the book of Nehemiah in January. As I lay the groundwork in my own life for starting that series and as part of the “reading myself full” phase, I am interacting with several commentaries that I wanted to share with you. Please let me know if I am missing a commentary you have found especially helpful. I want my preaching iron to be as sharp as possible so as not to impede the true sharpness of God’s Word.

Word Biblical Commentary Vol. 16, Ezra-nehemiah (williamson), 470pp

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