I found this book at Keswick, and already am glad that I did. Dale Ralph Davis was speaking on the first week, check out the programmes on clayton.tv
This is a book on preaching, or perphas a book on Old Testament narratives in preparation for preaching. In chapter 1 Dale writes on an approach to preaching.
Quoting John Owen, "For a man solemnly to undertake the interpretation of any portion of Scripture without invocation of God, to be taught and instructed by his Spirit, is a high provocation of him; now shall I expect the discovery of truth from any one who thus proudly engages in a work so much above his ability." (p. 1)
I found this a humbling reminder of my human weakness, a great challenge to any professional pride in handling Scripture. A call to prayer and dependance upon God is surely the only way to approach preaching.
Later on, "In facing Scripture one must take account of two realities: Spirit and text. This fact forces me to one of my operating presuppositions: God has given his word in the form of literature, part of which is narrative; I should therefore use all available tools for understanding literature. So I seek the Spirit's aid and use an approach suited to the form of his word." (p. 3)
What a great operating presupposition! Let's try to understand God's word starting from the form in which he has given us his word - literature, narrative. This leads to some obvious questions.
Why? What is the authors intention?
"Now all this concern with a writer's intention is terribly out of step. I call it 'dinosaur hermeneutics'. Reader-response criticism is more the current rage; it only wants to answer, 'How does this text affect me?' There is no precise or correct meaning but only meanings which arise from within the reader. I admit my preoccupatin with a writer's intention is dated. And I really don't care. It's hard to get away from the suspicion that someone meant to mean something with a text. Sooner or later folks will recognize that - again." (p. 4-5)
Yes, yes, yes! Words consciously and deliberately placed in sentences, in paragraphs, in narratives mean something. I do not construct a meaning by imposing my meaning upon a text - that is textual abuse. Submission to Scripture begins with a sustained seeking of the purpose of the text, the intention of the author.
Dale then comments on: (ii) How? What is the Structure of the text? (iii) What? What is the actual content of the text? Before coming to So what?
"We need to hear some loving mockery behind us, crying, 'So what? What difference does all this study make for anyone? Why should I want to pay any attention to this?' If we are constantly 'berated' that way, it will make us far better interpreters." (p. 7)
We have not preached, we have not studied a portion of Scripture until and unless we have answered this 'So what?' question. The authors intention must connect with my life. The structure and content of the passage must bear down upon me and land on Monday morning.
What a simple and straighforward approach to understanding Scripture in preparation for preaching. Pray as though everything depended upon the Spirit (which it does) and work hard at a few simple questions as though the whole thing is depending upon your study (which it does).
May God raise up such preachers and ministers of his word in our land.