1. Typically we have less familiarity with the broader flow of the Old Testament and may be tempted to only preach the familiar handful of Noah, Joseph, Joshua, Goliath, Jonah, Daniel narratives. Take a look at some of the lesser known stories. I am willing to guarantee that if you study an obscure story you’ll want to preach it. More than that, if you really wrestle with it in its context, then you’ll probably preach it well!
2. Not only do we have less familiarity with the Old Testament world, but so do our listeners. This means being sure to take some time to orient them to cultural features of the world in which the story is set. For example, we have to help listeners understand what it was like to live in the world of the ancient near east, where the plurality of the gods of the nations made every battle into a playground tiff among the gods (and what it meant therefore to be defeated by a foreign power, and worse, exiled by them).
Typically I think a lot of the challenges here are in respect to two issues:
3. Recognizing the elements of continuity. Even in a radically different world, we can resonate with ancient biblical narratives because human nature doesn’t change, and neither does God’s character. The latter offers another set of issues since many are convinced by the Marcionite confusion that leads to Christians pulling away from the God of the Old Testament. We have to help people see the fullness of who our God is, which isn’t always easy.
4. Recognizing the elements of discontinuity. A lot has changed since back then. For instance, their hoped for deliverer has now been and gone, more than that, he went to the cross, rose again, sent his Spirit, is building his church, etc. So we have to figure out how to preach the text so that we see it in its fullness back then, as well as in its fullness for us today.
Old Testament narratives aren’t always easy, but they are so worth it. Let’s not reduce them to illustrations or children’s talks, but preach them as well as we can!