David A. Booth
Preaching Christ from Daniel: Foundations for Expository Sermons, by Sidney Greidanus. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012, xv + 440 pages, $34.00.
Preaching which exalts Christ is vital for the well being of the church and is an essential element in carrying out the Great Commission. Faithful preaching that consistently engages our congregations with the central message of Scripture is also demanding. Even the best preachers sometimes flop, and every preacher needs all the help he can get in this sacred task. We have been blessed with several excellent books on preaching over the past few decades that tell us how to better engage in this work. With the Foundations for Expository Sermons series, Professor Greidanus moves beyond telling to showing us how it is done. We couldn’t ask for a better guide on this journey.
Preaching Christ from Daniel opens with an introductory chapter on “Issues in Preaching Christ from Daniel,” which includes a brief discussion of authorship, the original audience, the unity and rhetorical structure of Daniel, and the purpose of this prophetic book taken as a whole. All of the introductory materials are conservative and traditional. The heart of the book consists of eleven chapters corresponding to the literary divisions that Greidanus finds in Daniel. Each chapter contains a rudimentary exegesis of the passage, a discussion of the pericope’s literary features and plot line, as well as chapter-specific items such as the nature of apocalyptic literature, New Testament references, and character description. Greidanus then identifies what this passage teaches about God (the theocentric theme), along with themes which are specific to the passage under consideration. The chapter then moves to discussing how to faithfully preach Christ from this passage. Instead of simply showing one way of preaching Christ from each passage, Greidanus explores different ways of preaching Christ from each particular text before explaining why he chooses one or more for his exposition. Preachers will appreciate the nuance and care that Greidanus demonstrates in approaching this task. Rather than trying to pick Christ-centered themes like rabbits out of a magician’s hat, Greidanus seeks to show that these themes develop organically from rightly understanding each portion of Daniel in its original context. Every chapter concludes with a sample exposition of the passage that is being examined.
There are many things to commend in this work. All preachers will benefit from seeing an expert on homiletics attempting to put his theory into practice as they re-think their own approach to crafting a sermon. The text is particularly strong in analyzing the plot line and literary features of a passage in a manner that is superior to most technical commentaries on Daniel. Inexperienced preachers will also benefit from the examples Greidanus gives on how not to preach a passage. Learning to avoid just one of these common mistakes is worth the time and effort of working through this volume. Paradoxically, even the most obvious weakness of the book may actually provide significant benefit to the working preacher. Professor Greidanus is so committed to preaching entire literary units that he occasionally chooses impossibly long passages to preach. For example, Greidanus attempts to treat Daniel 10:1–12:4 in a single sermon. Few, if any, congregations can keep that large a section of Daniel in mind during the sermon. Using such an approach means that the preacher will not have time to refute faulty interpretations of these chapters, which many members of our congregations are likely to have been exposed to. Furthermore, several of the divisions which Professor Greidanus has made contain so many verses that the resulting expositions tend toward being extended paraphrases of the passage, lacking in specific, concrete application to his hearers. Most experienced preachers will recognize that developing smaller portions of the text more fully would provide a greater blessing to their congregations. This shortcoming in the book is a useful reminder that those Christ sends out as heralds must be more zealous to communicate and apply the King’s message to his people than they are for any particular theory of homiletics.
This fine work will be far more useful to those who work through it while preaching through Daniel than to those who read it as a standalone work. In addition to this volume on Daniel, Professor Greidanus has also blessed the church with similar volumes on Genesis and Ecclesiastes. I highly recommend that the next time you preach through one of these books you take along the corresponding work by Professor Greidanus as your companion and guide.
David A. Booth is an Orthodox Presbyterian minister serving as pastor of Merrimack Valley Presbyterian Church in North Andover, Massachusetts. Ordained Servant Online, December 2013.