It is often tempting to use Old Testament stories as illustrations in a sermon, but before doing so, here are five questions to consider:
1 – Do they know the story? Many listeners do not know the stories of the Bible. This means we have to explain our illustration. Does it make sense to have to make something clear, that is given in order to make something else clear? If your listeners need to get to know these stories, why not preach on them?
2 – Is there a better illustration? This may sound heretical, but in a hierarchy of illustrations, most biblical stories actually sit low on the ladder – experienced by none, learned by few. Biblical stories should be preached, but that doesn’t mean they must be our primary pool of illustrations for other biblical texts.
3 – What’s the main idea of the text? A different biblical text will have a different central idea than the one you’re preaching. There is the ever-present danger of misrepresenting a biblical text.
4 – Are you going in the right direction? If people don’t accept your point from one biblical text, offering them another often won’t help. However, if they do accept what you are saying, then why move backwards to the Old Testament instead of forward into their lives with a relevant illustration of personal application?
5 – What example are you giving? To listen to some preachers, some might get the impression that all they need to live the Christian life is the New Testament, and a passing acquaintance with the Old. If the preacher does not model the highest respect for the whole canon, who will?
There may be good reason to use a biblical illustration, but before doing so, consider these questions first.