“…And the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law; and the people stood in their place. So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading.” Nehemiah 8:7–8

One of my young sons had a hobbyhorse. It consisted of a stick and a horse head with a bit and bridle. He went everywhere with the thing, galloping, jumping, snorting, and gullumping noisily. He had his cowboy hat on, his guns strapped to his waist, and his bandana flapping in the breeze. He loved that horse so much he named it, “the horse that goes faster than anything!” I think he really believed that. That horse was his constant companion.

Hobbyhorses have been the delight of many a happy childhood down through the generations. It is no surprise that the term has been applied in the adult world to anything that becomes a favorite pet topic. “Riding his hobbyhorse” describes a person speaking with relish on a subject to which he often returns. In the church world it is used to describe a preacher’s predilection to revisit his pet topic, something like the final groove on a record. Hobbyhorses are not always bad, they just need to be reined in if a man wants to be a preacher of the “whole counsel of God.”

Preaching the whole counsel of God would be equivalent to giving a disciple a “well-rounded education” in the Word of God. Somewhere along my college or seminary training a professor passed along? a tidbit of wisdom that has instructed me ever since. He taught that preaching topically was usually a good way to grow a church but preaching expositorily was the best way to grow believers. There is more danger of a preacher becoming a “hobbyhorse” preacher when he feeds his flock a steady diet of topical preaching. While I am not saying that either topical or hobbyhorse preaching are evil, I am saying that in order to grow the children of God into well-rounded saints they must become accustomed to expository preaching. Preaching is to cause people to fall in love with Christ not with the preacher. God’s people are to know what God says in any given passage rather than what their pastor thinks and likes.

Preaching is such a unique form of communication that it is easy to be manipulated and abused. Where else in our world do we allow someone to expound his thoughts uninterrupted, and generally receive his words as nearly infallible since he has studied the subject long and hard? After all, isn’t the preacher special in his thinking because he has this mysterious call of God upon his life, and who can speak ill of a man of the cloth? While this thinking maybe on the wane today, it is a transference of the rapt attention and allegiance from Holy Scripture (rightly due to its Author) to a lettered man who is apt to vagaries, vicissitudes, and fallibility (all the things that tend to hobbyhorse preaching). We would do well to remember Luke’s words concerning the Bereans in Acts 17:11, “These were more fair-minded (noble) than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.”

Our text in Nehemiah does a pretty good job of expressing the key elements in preaching which guard against hobbyhorses and spiritual quirks of pastors. They enable the thirsty saint to be satisfied from the fresh spring of God’s Word. When the Israelites returned to their land from captivity they gathered to hear the Word read and explained. They stood from early morning until noon and listened intently. The Law of the Lord was read distinctly (distinguishing between words), the words and ideas were given their sense (understanding, meaning in context), and the people were caused to understand (discern, discriminate, distinguish the meaning so that they became expert in the application and use of the teaching). What a gift these people were given when, upon truly hearing God’s words, heart, commands, and law, they became consumed with guilt for the error of their ways and repented. Verse 10 records that the Levites further explained that such a gift of discernment was actually a blessing! “For this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!” The exposition of Scripture grows saints.

To the disciples on the road to Emmaus, Luke 24:27 records, “beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” Our Savior explained (dihermenuo—hermeneutics—to interpret fully, 1 Corinthians 14:5, 13, 27) the Scriptures that pertained to His ministry so that the disciples might understand His work on earth. Taking passages of Scripture and exegeting them (a technical, grammatical drawing out of the meaning of a text—letting the Scriptures interpret Scripture) is what allowed them to declare in verse 32 “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?”

While “issues preaching” and a topical diet of learning will teach you many valued lessons, exposition of the Word of God will disciple you into a well-rounded saint equipped for the Master’s use. Study to show yourself approved, a workman ?ho needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth because all of the Word, and only the Word of God is inspired (2 Timothy 2:15, 3:16) Trust and obey.