How to preach OT with Gary Millar

Gary Millar is an Irish OT scholar who is Yoder smart. I’ve been wanting to use that pun since listening to Mark Driscoll.

He’s at QTC today speaking on how to preach the Old Testament. He’s got seven basic ways to bring an Old Testament passage to Jesus. These are the points with some notes.

1. Follow the plan – Genesis to 2 Kings is a narrative that leaves us waiting for the ultimate king – wherever you are you can say “this is the first bit of the plan which will ultimately lead to Jesus”

2. Expose the problem – sometimes the Bible just shows up that left to our selves we do some horrendous things. Some narratives just highlight that we are deeply sinful people.
3. Some parts are there to explain categories – what is Leviticus doing in the Bible? Several things. It explains how sacrifice works – how can we understand sacrificial language in the NT if we don’t understand how it worked in the OT. Leviticus explains the category of “ritual cleanliness” – we can’t leave the house without becoming unclean (like Israel who couldn’t avoid becoming unclean).
4. Highlight the attribute – Some stories are there just to show us what God is like. What’s the book of Hosea there to do? In essence it’s there to show us the love of God to an unfaithful people. If you’re preaching on Hosea you highlight the love of God by being faithful to the text – but at some point you have to interact with the NT and what it has to say.
5. Trace the fulfillment. Micah – the “ruler coming out from Bethlehem” – some passages make it easy, in others it’s harder. Different to “following the plan” which involves following the story, tracing the fulfillment is more direct/specific. God promised to do this, he did this.
6. Focus on the action – David and Goliath – the action is 33 words of 58 verses. The rest is David’s commentary on the action – it’s the Lord fighting his enemies. (extra thinking – David and Goliath is like a boxing match with a huge descriptive build up and a very quick knock out).
7. Point out the consequences – Some parts of the Bible make it very clear that if you live without God this will happen, if you live with God this will happen… how wisdom literature fits into the scheme of Biblical theology.

“I think that boring preaching is sinful and we’ll have to answer to God for it.
Boring preaching makes the pew warmer feel guilty and then bored. They walk out feeling worse than they felt when they walked in.”

When approaching the OT Gary takes the following steps.

  1. I sit with a big bit of paper and divide the book up into the chunks that I’m going to preach on…
  2. Read the book as many times as I can
  3. Write down what I think the big idea is for each passage.
  4. Write down if one of the seven options works beside each passage – and I make sure I’m never doing the same one of those seven two weeks in a row.

He added the following insights…

  • When we take bigger chunks of narrative there are more possibilities.
  • The further back you go in history the longer and more complex it becomes to “follow the plan”


Stuart Heath says:

I’m a big fan of Gary Millar, and I like that he gives us varied ways of doing Biblical theology so that OT talks are less yawn-worthy.

I think I’d want to bolster this list with some thinking about teaching ethics from the OT: the OT narratives shaped Israel’s life, and they should shape ours, too.

On this, you can’t go past Gordon Wenham’s Story as Torah, chapter 5, ‘Ethical Ideals and Legal Requirements’ (readable online here: