The opening paragraphs of Dale Ralph Davis' The Word Became Fresh: How to preach from Old Testament narrative texts are enough to stop every preacher dead in his tracks.
Ralph Davis mentions that as he was reading Richard Pratt's He Gave Us Stories, Pratt cited these words from 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; nor shall I expect the discovery of truth from any one who thus proudly engages in a work so much above his ability.And if that were not enough to send you to your work with your complacency shaken, Ralph Davis adds:
We are guilty of arrogance, not merely neglect, when we fail to beg for the Spirit's help in the study of Scripture. We may even have such arrogance even when we seem to be seeking the Spirit's aid--I think of those times when in a light-headed tokenism we utter our slap-happy prayer that the Lord would 'guide and direct us as we study this passage.'These words are well worth reading again, and reflecting upon at length, and acting on daily. Who knows, this may be the most important thing that you read today.
One shudders to think how flippant we are. But how many more times we neglect any overt seeking of the Spirit's help! The pressure is on. The passage must be studied for the sermon or lesson. We pull out our exegetical notes; we grab several of the better commentaries off the shelf; make sure that one Bible dictionary of choice is close at hand.
Deep into our study time the thought occurs to us that we have not looked--nor did we think of looking--to the God who breathed out this Scripture to give us an understanding of the Scripture.
He will likely give that understanding through the tools we use, but when we use tools while neglecting him the tools have become idols.
We may have a high view of the Bible; we may be distraught because large sectors of the church seem to ignore its authority. Yet in our own Scripture work we easily ignore its chief Interpreter.
Professionalism rather than piety drives us. We needn't be surprised at our sterility and poverty if we refuse to be beggars for the Spirit's help.
The Word Became Fresh is published by Christian Focus. You can find out more about it here