I suppose many of us preachers have a desire to make every passage understandable. This is good and right on many levels. Yet some passages, and some details in passages, are tough. I was leading a Bible study on Isaiah 49-50 the other night . . . there was a tough detail. Should I force my understanding on people? What if my understanding of it rests on a broader background than some of those present can draw on? I’m intrigued by Piper’s point in chapter 14 of Brothers We Are Not Professionals – we should show people why God inspired hard texts.
It is amazing that so much of Christianity rests on the shoulders of a “book,” and some parts of that “book” (technically 66 of them I suppose) are hard to understand. Why did God do this? Piper offers four reasons. 1. To stir in us a sense of desperation (utter dependence on God’s enablement). 2. To move us to supplication (prayer to God for help). 3. To prompt real cogitation (thinking hard about Biblical texts – which is no alternative to praying for help!) 4. To stimulate genuine education (the training of young people and adults to pray earnestly, read well and think hard.)
As preachers we must wrestle with hard texts and not simply skirt around them in our preaching, nor avoid them in our scheduling. On the one hand it is up to us to help make the message of the text clear. At the same time, we may do our listeners a disservice if we don’t point out when a passage is tough, and look for ways to let that be a motivation for study, rather than a hindrance.