What to do with an Old Testament story?

Last Sunday I preached in a small church not far from us. I was assigned a passage that I would never choose for myself, at least not as a one-off message. The raising of the Shunammite’s son by Elisha (2Kings 4:8-37). There are always short-cuts when preaching an Old Testament narrative, but I’m not comfortable with them. For example it is easy to tell a story and then jump to Jesus (and preach a New Testament message). But the story stood as inspired long before the New Testament was added. Or it is easy to tell the story, ignore the theological context/content and then draw out some human-level moral principle – “so let’s be like person X.” Again, that usually is not the point of the narrative. The challenge is to avoid the short-cuts and preach the intended truth of the passage in its context with the full theological implication, but to also be sure to apply the message specifically to the listener today. On one hand, it is easy to do a historical lecture, but leave your listeners untouched by the truth of the passage. On the other hand, it is easy to springboard from a story to all sorts of possible applications that do not honor the meaning and purpose of the passage. And if there can be a third hand, then it is also relatively easy to force Jesus and the New Testament back into the Old Testament and end up preaching a different passage. So how to avoid the easy options and instead preach the passage itself?

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