Behind the Scenes of Sermon Preparation

Behind the Scenes of Sermon Preparation
Updated on May 3, 2020 | Mark McAndrew
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I thought it might be helpful to write a blog post for those interested in the kind of resources that are used in private before a sermon is given. So below is a complete list (I think!) of resources I’ve had the privilege to use for my sermons on the Psalms. I also would like to briefly note how they influenced the messages on Psalm 22, Psalm 34Psalm 69 (Part 1) and Psalm 69 (Part 2).
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[The following list of names is a not an unqualified endorsement of the totality of each person’s writings.]
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Derek Kidner’s two volume commentary on the Psalms has been a great help. I’ve read and reread his comments before each message and they’ve influenced aspects of each sermon. He is the master of saying so much in so few words. His comments helped me see that all of Psalm 22 is Messianic, not just the parts concerning the sufferings. To mention one specific thing amongst many, he helped me with my comments that since the Garden of Eden we have been tempted to think that fearing God leads to misery rather than joy.
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Alec Motyer‘s commentary in the New Bible Commentary is both helpful and concise. I greatly enjoyed his commentary on Exodus this past year and have found his comments on the Psalms worthy of reading more than once. Among other things, he influenced my comment on Psalm 34:7 that the “angel of the Lord” is an indication of “diversity within the unity of the Godhead” and that David’s testimony in that chapter is valuable because it rests on the unchanging character of God.
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Spurgeon‘s massive multi-volume commentary on the Psalms called The Treasury of David has been a huge help (and is all free online). I read just about all of his commentary on Psalm 22, most on 34, and much on 69. As one example among many, Spurgeon’s comments on “I am a worm” (Psalm 22:6) helped contribute to my comments on that phrase. He gives explanatory notes on virtually every verse, sermon ideas, and quotes from others theologians.
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James Boice has a wonderful three volume commentary on the Psalms that I have found very helpful for getting sermon ideas. He is great at giving lists, such as the one on Psalm 69:1-18: “1) Enemies, 2) Brothers, 3) A Proverb, 4) Rulers, 5) Drunkards.” Boice influenced my comments that Christians today will be called “bywords” like “anti-science,” “anti-progress,” etc. However, Boice used the phrases “religious nuts,” “radical right,” and the “God squad” instead.
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Don Carson‘s commentary on The Gospel According to John (which Scott and I used constantly during the John series) helped inform my comments on Jesus saying, “I thirst” (John 19:28-29 which fulfilled Psalm 69:21).
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Carson’s comments on Psalm 69 in his devotional book called For the Love of God helped clarify some of my opening remarks about how the Psalm is about Jesus typologically. He also gave the most exhaustive list of places Psalm 69 is both quoted and possibly alluded to in the New Testament, including John 7:5.
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Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament is one of my favorite books. I use it constantly whenever the NT quotes an OT passage. I used it for Psalm 22, 34, & 69. In that book, Carson’s comments were especially helpful in understanding how 1 Peter makes use of Psalm 34. In the same book, Andreas Kostenberger was helpful regarding how John uses Psalm 69 in his gospel (especially in John 2:17; 15:25; & 19:28-29).
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I listened to Richard Phillipstwo sermons on Psalm 69, which were solid as usual. I listened to his first sermon on verses 1-18 repeatedly. It especially inspired my thinking about how the world hates Jesus and His followers and how we should respond. The fact that he preached the chapter in two messages split at the end of verse 18 influenced me to preach it that way. I was originally going to preach Psalm 69 as one sermon, but changed my mind because I couldn’t figure out how to fit all of it into one message.
Christopher Ash, Joe Morecraft, and Joe Carter all had helpful messages on Psalm 69 (see herehere, and here for audio). I listened to most of a Psalm 69 sermon from Mark Dever’s church preached by Zach Schlegel which helped me see how to preach this Psalm in a Jesus-centered way. What I mean is that he helped make it personal, emphasizing Christ’s sympathy and intercession for us.
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John Piper‘s message on Psalm 69 called Pour Out Your Indignation Upon Them was superb. If you have time to listen to only one other sermon on this passage, I recommend this one. As you listen you’ll likely hear aspects of his sermon that impacted my own. He influenced me both to include Romans 12:19-20 in my message and my comments on that passage. I used part of the following quote from this message as well: “In other words, the way Paul interprets the words of David is not as sinful personal vengeance but as a reliable expression of what happens to the adversaries of God’s anointed.
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Tim Keller has a devotional I have found useful called The Songs of Jesus. The idea to mention Jeremiah 9:23-24 (“boasting in the Lord”) while covering Psalm 34:2 came from that book (p. 64). Keller also helped me understand how Romans 12:19-20’s teaching on God’s future judgment frees us (perhaps surprisingly) to love others.
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I listened to Doug Wilson‘s message on Psalm 69 and found it helpful, especially regarding the typological aspect of the Psalm, even though the latter half of the sermon seemed to wander a bit off the main topic. Wilson, among others, helped me see that verse 5 is obviously not about Jesus, but that much (all?) of the rest of the Psalm is about David and Jesus.
I found Sinclair Ferguson helpful as always on both Psalm 22 and Psalm 34. Sinclair often stirs my affections although I have a hard time bringing ideas from his messages into my own. I listened to Dick Lucas, who I always enjoy, on one or more of the Psalms but don’t remember the messages well.
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I received clarity and help for the verse divisions for my Psalm 22 outline from James Boice, but the idea to preach it out of order came to me while talking to Scott on the phone on that Saturday night because I was stuck and did not know how to order the message in a way that was easy to follow. I received help in titling my outline for Psalm 34 from the MacArthur Study Bible and help for my outline and some sermon ideas on Psalm 69:1-18 from David Guzik. I got a helpful Spurgeon quote from him about our throats being parched more often by talking about frivolous rather than significant things. I also got the idea to mention that Jesus was mocked by the High Priest and the thief on the cross who represented the elites and dregs of society, respectively.
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Matthew Henry‘s whole Bible commentary is always good, especially in obscure parts of the Old Testament. He was helpful for me in confirming the David/Christ typology in his introductory remarks about Psalm 69.
I used various Romans commentaries regarding my comments on Romans 11, 12, & 15. These include Tom Schreiner‘s, Doug Moo‘s, and Mark Seifrid‘s excellent works and (although he is not a reliable commentator) James D.G. Dunn‘s.
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Before I preach on a passage (including these on the Psalms) I usually work through the study notes in most or all of the following Bibles: the ESV Study Bible, the Biblical Theology Study Bible, the Reformation Study Bible, the MacArthur Study Bible, and the Gospel Transformation Study Bible.
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These study Bibles just listed are superb. If a person had only five books they could own to better understand all of Scripture, these are hard to beat. It’s great to have them all so you can see where they agree/disagree and better weigh the evidence.
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[I semi-regularly use the NET Study Bible, which is especially good with issues of textual criticism. Less frequently, I use the NIV Cultural Background Study Bible (I’m not a huge fan of the two primary authors, especially John Walton who edited the OT notes), the NLT Life Application Study Bible (this one is flawed in some important theological ways, but sometimes helpful with practical issues), the HCSB Study Bibleand the ESV Archeology Study Bible (which is excellent on its subject matter).]
With today’s sermon I had a large imprecatory section (Psalm 69:22-28). I listened to Piper’s sermon on this repeatedly and found it quite helpful. I have read and reread Derek Kidner’s section on this kind of Psalm in his introduction to volume one (p. 25-32). While I doubt I agree with every sentence, much of what he said was very helpful. I’ve read the brief but helpful introductory section on imprecatory Psalms in the Reformation Study Bible. I also found a great extended study note in the NIV Zondervan Study Bible (now republished as the Biblical Theology Study Bible). It helped shape the eight points I gave regarding imprecatory Psalms.
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I watched two brief youtube clips about imprecatory Psalms. One was by John Piper and one by Robert Godfrey & Al Mohler (this one was especially good and encouraged me in the relevance of imprecatory Psalms for today and how the New Testament has its own form of imprecations). I also read part of an older sermon by John MacArthur on the topic as well.
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I also planned (but forgot) to use C.S. Lewis as a bad example of how to deal with imprecatory Psalms. Chapters 3 and 10 in his very flawed book Reflections on the Psalms are frankly two of the worst chapters I’ve ever read from Lewis. He actually goes so far as to say that the imprecations in these Psalms are “sin” and even “devilish.”
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[This reminds us that we must use discernment even while reading someone as well loved as C.S. Lewis. Even he gets it wrong (very wrong!) in significant ways sometimes. His view of Scripture (which he expresses in chapter 10) is sadly and simply unbiblical and harmful.]
Ok, thanks to anybody who read this far! You are both great people!
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I happily admit that I have few original ideas. Most of what I say (and perhaps this is true of all of us) comes from standing on the shoulders of others much wiser and more knowledgeable than myself. If I’m counting correctly, last Sunday’s sermon alone was influenced and shaped by about 23 different resources. Usually the closest I get to referencing them are when I say something like, “commentators point out [blank]” or “most commentators agree/disagree about [blank].” Well, it’s a blessing that we have all these resources and occasionally even get to cite them in detail!
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Thanks for reading!
-Mark
[One last comment: When you read and listen to a lot of different commentators and pastors you often begin to see a great similarity between their approaches to the passage, but you also get to see the differences; sometimes quite significant ones.
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So, for instance, the fact that the 1 Chronicles’ account of David’s preparation of the temple may be the background to Psalm 69 was referenced repeatedly in most sources I looked at. That Jesus’ brothers rejected Him in John and Mark, as mentioned in Psalm 69:8, was mentioned by many of the commentaries as well. That “those who sit in the gate” refer to the social elites and “the drunkards” to the societal dregs (69:12) was common among the commentators also.
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About half the sources I used last Sunday said that David’s own “folly” (in Psalm 69:5) was the occasion of his mockery by others. The other half said David’s folly had nothing to do with the mockery. I took the second position and did not get into the debate in that message. But it was due to being exposed to multiple sources that I was able to see that there even was a debate, who took what side and why, and finally come to my own conclusion.]

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