So today I tried an experiment that seemed to go OK. This Advent we have been looking at Christmas as a time for emotional healing: healing for barrenness, hurt, anger, fear and this week was healing for sorrow. I was preaching on the slaughter of the innocents. It only covers two verses and a big part of that is a quoting of the words of Jeremiah from Jer. 31:15.
“This is what the LORD says:
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
mourning and great weeping,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because her children are no more.”
It is basically a strange passage (if you have studied it) because it is not easily identifiable how this verse pertains to the event, except that Rachel is buried at Bethlehem. But Rachel is not recorded to have wept for her children. She died in childbirth when Ben-Oni/Benjamin was born.
But in studying it, the event referred to in Jer. 31:15-17 is a “type” of the slaughter of the innocents. Without going into the entire sermon, the passage makes perfect sense if you understand biblical typology (which is currently pretty much out of vogue).
But I decided that this morning I wanted/needed to spend a little time explaining the principle of biblical typology. I thought, “this could really be disastrous!” I have been criticized for making my preaching more like college classroom than a pulpit.
But I clearly stated that one of the purposes of my preaching is to equip people to understand scripture as they read it for themselves. And an understanding of types is essential. It is found in the teachings of Jesus (Jonah and Jesus being in the tomb for three days) as well as Epistles (Melchizadek and the priesthood of Jesus). I only spent five minutes on it (although that is a LONG time if it is confusing and boring to you!) And so I was willing to invest the time. I then totally turned away from a discussion of typology and focused on principles from the slaughter of the innocents that inform us as we deal with sorrow.
- Sorrow must be taken seriously (a particular need here in the northwest)
- God is not the author of all sorrow.
- Sorrow reminds us of the need for the promises of God
- God has not forgotten us
- For believers, there is eternal life
- For believers, there is resurrection and reunion
- God does bring healing
- God can create new and wonderful things in your life, and in the life around you out of the heartache of your grief
- God’s plan is not thwarted by sorrow-causing events.
And I think my experiment was successful. I got good (often emotion-laden) responses to the sermon. And the one person I questioned about the discussion of typology mentioned that he had been helped by it because he had been troubled by this verse for some time (Thanks for the feedback, Bruce!)
I hope that I accomplished both of my purposes: Inspiration: showing how this passage addresses how we handle sorrow; but also Biblical Exegesis: equipping the saints to understand an important principle of biblical interpretation.