Our team of four recently returned from Ambo, Ethiopia. We were there teaching the fifth course in TLI's curriculum, "Understanding and Communicating Biblical Poetry." In the training we carefully walk through select psalms and proverbs, using them as examples for how to interpret biblical poetry. Along the way, we ask questions to understand the author's meaning, locating the text in the Bible's redemptive story and making application to our lives.
This process is still new to our trainees. And it's far from what they're used to when it comes to the psalms. "In Ethiopia, Psalms is the book for lazy preachers," they explained to us. "Whenever a pastor opens his Bible to Psalms on a Sunday morning, you know he hasn't prepared to preach."
“Whenever a pastor opens his Bible to Psalms on a Sunday morning, you know he hasn't prepared to preach.”
Apparently, Ethiopian pastors know that, in a pinch, they can always reach into the Psalms grab bag and find a ready-made sermon. Read a phrase. Make application. Read another phrase, make more application. That's the way our trainees have learned to preach from Psalms.
But by going through TLI's curriculum, the pastors at our Ambo site have found a better way. They've explored the distinct characteristics and literary depths in biblical poetry: vivid imagery, meaningful parallelism, powerful emotions, and rich biblical theology. They've experienced the value of hard work to understand and communicate God's word.
By day three of our training, my class was so struck by what they were beginning to see that they demanded we skip lunch until we finished the process in Psalm 30. They wanted to make the connection to Jesus and find the psalm's application in him. They were anything but lazy.
And in verse 3, we found him: the one whom God brought up from Sheol, the one whom God restored to life after submitting to death. And there we were, in verse 9: united with the risen Christ. With Messiah, we will rise from the dead to praise God and tell of his faithfulness.
Now late for lunch, with empty bellies and full hearts, our trainees spontaneously burst out in song, "Yesus barabaraan goofta-dha!" Jesus is Lord forever!