Good application commentary

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Pavel Kostecka | Forum Activity | Posted: Tue, Nov 27 2012 6:24 AM


I own number of good technical series (WBC, Anchor, NIGT, Baker, Pillar, JPS…) and even more of intermediate ones. But more and more I see that my sermons need more practical life applications. Before I became a pastor I was a scientist and used to think very exactly. I have no problem with exegesis but practical conclusions maybe a problem sometimes.

Recently I have upgraded to L5 Silver. Later I noticed Preaching the Word Series in L5 Platinum.. I can still return Silver and buy Platinum. Is it worthy?

But be freely and recommend other series.


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Graham Criddle | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Nov 27 2012 6:27 AM

Hi Paul

NIVAC series also provides an application section - some of which are useful and some are less so (in my opinion).

Personally I find the Preaching the Word series very good, both from a non-technical exegesis and application perspective. I would strongly recommend them


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Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Nov 27 2012 10:42 AM

Interpretation has a fair amount of application in it. 



Posts 103
Mark O'Hearn | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Nov 27 2012 11:26 AM

I have been enjoying a book entitled, "Preaching that Changes Lives."  I believe it came with a Nelson bundle purchased last Christmas. 

Without a doubt my sermons have been too weak on application.  I have been undervaluing that part of the process.  But as the author points out, what is the point of a sermon if there is no "therefore" for the audience.  Your question raises a very important issue, because far too often we listen to wonderfully deep theological sermons and yet leave with little to nothing to actually apply/do.  Application should not be seen as a threat to the necessity of sound exegesis, but if there is no point/application for us to take home, then we will be just "hearers and not doers."

I just started using this series myself.  Therefore, I cannot provide a reasonable assessment yet.  I believe at least one or two other series like this one comes with Platinum 5 (at least I never noticed them until I recently upgraded to that level).

I do enjoy the Expositor's series, and have always found value from the Holman commentary series with regards to application.


Posts 57
Pavel Kostecka | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Nov 27 2012 11:51 AM

I was addressed by 2 Tim 3:16-17 where it is put in relationship that Bible is God-breathed and useful for quite specific things. It seems that inspiration is used especially as the argument for that Bible can be used for teaching, rebuking…

So, the sermon has to be practical and I seek for tips how to do that. This is  the core of my motivation.

On the other hand one must be careful and not to change the sermon into a manual what to do and what not. I want rather to use tips for making addressing actual questions than for rebuking. 

Posts 57
Pavel Kostecka | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Nov 27 2012 2:13 PM

And yet, what about Focus on the Bible?

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Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Nov 28 2012 10:32 AM

I also feel i should mention an oft overlooked commentary series.. Tyndale's Cornerstone Bible Commentary, I believe the december release will complete it and it is often very good. Just the other day i was using it in Zechariah and found it very nice. It has very few technical notes but i will post the section i was looking at a couple days ago for you to get a feel for it.

4. Good and evil shepherds (11:4–17)


11:4 flock. The OT prophets often refer to the people of Israel as God’s flock (e.g., Isa 40:11; Ezek 34:8; Mic 5:4). The relative helplessness of sheep places a premium on careful shepherding of the animals, making leadership the main subject of Zechariah’s shepherd allegory.

intended for slaughter. Like sheep fattened for butchering, the people are treated as a commodity—“disposable goods” in a corrupt and oppressive economic system.

11:5 buyers. The sheep (i.e., the Hebrew people) are sold as slaves to the occupying foreign powers, foreign allies, or domestic slave-traders (cf. Amos 2:6).

sellers. The sellers of the sheep appear to be the shepherds themselves, the leaders of the people!

11:7 two shepherd’s staffs. The staff or crook was a symbol of leadership in the biblical world. In ancient Egypt the ornamental shepherd’s crook held by the Pharaoh represented his just rule of the people. Unlike the prophet Ezekiel, who joined two sticks into one symbolizing the reunification of the two Hebrew kingdoms (Ezek 37:15–19), Zechariah dramatized the reversal of covenant relationship and unity by breaking the two staffs (see 11:10, 14).

Favor. This staff symbolized the election of Israel as the people of God, as stipulated in the covenant with Abraham (Gen 12:1–3), and the promise of leadership after the manner of King David, as stipulated in the Davidic covenant (2 Sam 7:12–16).

Union. The second staff symbolized the unity of the Hebrew tribes as a single nation, achieved during the reign of King David (cf. 2 Sam 5:1–3). The reference to the “Union” staff alludes to the two sticks joined together by the prophet Ezekiel, representing the reunification of the divided kingdoms of Judah and Israel (Ezek 37:16–17).

11:8 three evil shepherds. This enigmatic historical reference has prompted more than 40 different identifications for the three shepherds, whether the last three kings of Judah, certain high priests from the intertestamental era, or various leaders from the offices of king, priest, and prophet (see further the discussions in Baldwin 1972:181–183; Redditt 1995:98; cf. Meyers and Meyers 1993:265, who observe that the number three is symbolic of completeness and conclude that the passage is “deliberately vague and, thereby, inclusive”).

11:9 devour each other. Taken literally, this may be a reference to the cannibalism that resulted due to famine during the siege of Jerusalem first by the Babylonians in 587 bc (cf. Lam 4:10) and later by the Romans in ad 70 (cf. Josephus Wars 7.4.4). The expression may also be understood metaphorically as various forms of exploitation and oppression of the poor by the rich (cf. Mic 3:3).

11:10 cut it in two. The OT prophets often resorted to symbolic actions to dramatize their message. The snapping of the two staffs named Favor and Union spoke figuratively to the breaking of the covenant bond between God and his people (11:11) and the bond of unity between the kingdoms of Judah and Israel (11:14).

revoked the covenant. A covenant between Yahweh and the nations is otherwise unattested to in the OT. The prophet may be referring to a “covenant of restraint” by which God had protected Israel from the nations (cf. Ezek 34:28) or even the Jewish colonies scattered among the foreign powers (so Baldwin 1972:184). In either case, the annulment of the covenant puts the people of God at risk of “the sheep merchants, freed to prey on the sheep” (Ollenburger 1996:822). Meyers and Meyers (1993:270) boldly suggest that Zechariah actually proclaimed the dissolution of the historical covenant binding Israel to Yahweh as the people of God. Such a prophetic declaration was not unprecedented, as the sin of Israel prompted Hosea to disavow the northern kingdom as the people of God (Hos 1:9). Later, Jeremiah terminated the Davidic covenant as a result of Jehoiachin’s sin (Jer 22:28–30; the end of this curse was later signaled during Haggai’s ministry; cf. Hag 2:23).

11:12 thirty pieces of silver. This was the price of a slave later in the biblical world (cf. Exod 21:32). The standard rate for the purchase of slaves in the early second millennium was 20 shekels (cf. Gen 37:28). Hosea paid a similar amount to redeem the adulteress Gomer out of slavery (half in silver and half in barley and wine, Hos 3:2). In the allegory in Zechariah, the silver constitutes “severance pay” given by the sellers or merchants to the shepherd since he had renounced his role as shepherd (11:9).

11:13 Throw it to the potter. The silver was to be given as a donation to “the potter in the Temple of the Lord” (11:13c). Baldwin (1972:185) speculates that a guild of potters may have been minor Temple officials due to the continual need for sacred vessels (cf. Lev 6:28). The word “potter” (yotser [3335A, 3450]) is similar in sound to the word for “treasury” (ʾotsar [214, 238]), prompting the suggested reading “throw it into the treasury” (so NRSV). It is noteworthy that the NT account of Judas throwing the betrayal money onto the floor of the Temple conflates 11:12–13 and Jer 32:6–9 and cites both the “treasury” (Matt 27:6) and the “potter’s field” (Matt 27:10). The LXX translates “throw it into the furnace,” suggesting that the silver was melted down by a smelter or founder and recast into a silver vessel of some sort for use in the Temple rituals.

magnificent sum. Thirty pieces of silver was a considerable amount of money in the ancient world (more than two years’ wages for the average laborer; cf. Baldwin 1972:184). Rather than being sarcastic, the expression contributes to the overall theme of reversal in the allegory (so Meyers and Meyers 1993:279).

11:15 worthless shepherd. Zechariah’s description of the “worthless shepherd” has parallels to the shepherds portrayed by Ezekiel as the enemies of God (Ezek 34:7–10). These corrupt and greedy leaders are driven by self-interest, unlike the true shepherd who rescues the scattered sheep, feeds them, and tends to the injured and weak among the flock (Ezek 34:11–16).

11:16 tear off their hooves. This cryptic Hebrew idiom describes the wanton and ravenous search for the last morsel of edible meat on an animal carcass. The prophet Micah used similar language to describe the leaders of Judah whose unjust rule was akin to eating the flesh of the people (Mic 3:3).

11:17 cut his arm … pierce his right eye. The woe-oracle against the worthless shepherd takes the form of a poetic curse invoked for abandoning the flock. The maiming of the arm and the blinding of the right eye are figures of speech that represent the physical and mental abilities of the shepherd. The loss of the “arm” and the “eye” render the worthless shepherd powerless, thus ending his selfish and opportunistic rule (cf. the discussion in Meyers and Meyers 1993:291–292).


The metaphor of the shepherd for the leaders of the Hebrew people provides the theme that binds the last three messages of Zechariah’s first oracle together (9:16; 10:2–3; 11:3, 5, 7–9, 15–17). This final message (11:4–17) of the first oracle (chs 9–11) combines the genre of allegory with a report of symbolic action. Craigie (1984:208) has suggested that the text be understood as “an enacted prophecy, akin to those many cases in the Book of Ezekiel, where the prophet was instructed to perform certain actions which symbolized their own meaning.” It is possible, however, that the report of symbolic action is simply a literary device designed to carry the gist of the prophet’s message from God to the people of postexilic Judah (11:11).

The allegory of the good and evil shepherds consists of three distinct units: the call to Zechariah to shepherd a doomed flock of sheep (11:4–6), the rejection of the good shepherd (11:7–14), and the installation of a worthless shepherd over the people (11:15–17). The passage is difficult to interpret due to the obscure nature of the language and the lack of an immediate historical context for the story (e.g., the reference to the ousting of “three shepherds” in one month, 11:8). Thus, it is unclear whether this is a reflection on the recent Babylonian exile or a warning about a future “slaughter and scattering” of the Hebrew people. Beyond all this, Zechariah’s role in the allegory is puzzling because the prophet is first charged to care for God’s flock first as a good shepherd (11:4–14) and then to play the part of a worthless shepherd (11:15–17). Quite apart from the ambiguity of the allegory, basic theological truths emerge from the story related to “shepherds” (or leaders) and “sheep” (or people).

Calvin Miller (1987:84) reminds us that leaders are prone to abuse their power, given the natural inclinations of fallen people in a fallen culture. The compassionless and evil shepherds portrayed in Zechariah’s allegory serve to confirm this observation (11:5, 8). The condemnation of corrupt leaders, whether political or religious, is a recurrent theme in the Old Testament prophets (e.g., Isa 1:23; Jer 25:34; Ezek 22:6; Hos 5:1; Zeph 1:8). Even King David, the prototype for the ultimate shepherd-king (cf. Ezek 37:24), succumbed to the lure of his own absolute power, as the sordid account of his affair with Bathsheba reveals (2 Sam 11).

Zechariah implicitly preaches that the shepherd-leader must have compassion for the sheep under his or her oversight (cf. 11:5). God, as the Father of all mercy (or compassion, NIV; 2 Cor 1:3), is full of mercy (or compassion, NIV; Ps 116:5). Jesus, the self-proclaimed “good shepherd” (John 10:11) had compassion on people “because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34). The story of Jonah in the Old Testament and the parable of the Good Samaritan in the New Testament (Luke 10:30–37) reveal that God expects his faithful servants to exhibit compassion for others regardless of the size of their sphere of influence as a leader. The second great commandment, to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:39), is a divine imperative to show compassion to the widest possible spectrum of human beings (Stott 1975:16–17). As John Piper (1996:277) has observed, compassion is all about “God-esteem and grace esteem, not self-esteem.”

A second important theological lesson from Zechariah’s allegory of the good and evil shepherds concerns the sheep. Craigie stuns us with the insightful observation that “the shepherd metaphor runs more deeply than at first appeared; human perversity and ignorance are so profound that human beings will not even accept good leadership if God gives it to them” (1984:210; cf. 11:7–8). Our penchant since the sin of Adam and Eve and the fall of all humanity (Gen 3:6–7; Rom 5:12) is to destroy what God made good because we love the darkness more than the light and our actions are continually evil (John 3:19–20). Tragically, even when the Good Shepherd appeared in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, he was despised and rejected by his own people—the Jews (John 1:11). The Good Shepherd, the compassionate Shepherd, necessarily gave his life for the sheep who demanded his death (cf. John 10:11, 15). Craigie has encouraged us to consider, however, that “the good news emerging from this dark scene is that, beyond the death of the Good Shepherd, the staff called ‘Grace’ [or ‘Favor,’ 11:10] was restored; still the doors are open for human beings to recognize in God the true and eternal Shepherd” (1984:210).


Posts 21
Brian Durbin | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Nov 28 2012 11:51 AM

I'm a fan of the Preaching the Word series. Here is the review I posted a while back on it's product page: 

Over the years I have received many incomplete commentary sets from Logos in their Christmas Library Builder specials, this one included. This is one of the few sets I've appreciated so much that I made sure I completed it as new additions became available.

Compared to commentaries like Word, NICNT/OT, NAC, and ITC which I often used in my graduate studies, this is much less scholarly and much more homiletical/devotional. At the same time, rarely do I feel like this set misapplies passages from lack of the authors' own scholarly abilities (which is a feeling I often get from other "homiletic/devotional" commentaries). This series is "made by preachers for preachers" to give good insights and application points, and now that I am no longer a graduate student and I preach full time this is one of my "go-to" commentaries.

The quality is also fairly even along the whole series since it was mainly written by one author (in other words, if you like one of them you’ll like the whole set). “Uneven quality” is one of the biggest reasons to not purchase entire commentary sets, but you don’t have to worry about that here.

A note that will be very helpful when using the Logos version: many passages will have 2-3 different treatments in these commentaries. So if I were to look up a passage in most commentaries, Logos will take me directly to the beginning of that commentary’s treatment of that pericope, and when I'm done reading through that section I can expect to have read all that the author had written on that pericope. In the Preaching the Word commentaries, however, this is not always the case. It appears that if R. Kent Hughes has preached 3 or 4 different sermons on a given passage, there will be 3-4 different treatments of that passage. So when I look up a passage in Logos, sometimes Logos takes me to the 2nd or 3rd treatment in these commentaries, and if I don't scroll up or down far enough I may totally miss some good application and insight that were given in other sections but not the one Logos defaulted me to. I just figured this out about a year ago, so I know I missed lots of good material in the past (and yet still found this set incredibly helpful!).

Bottom line: if you are a preacher/teacher looking to add material with good application, illustrations, and insight to your Logos base package, this is probably the best “bang for your buck.”

Posts 103
Mark O'Hearn | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Nov 28 2012 12:19 PM

Brian, thank you for your review/post.

Posts 57
Pavel Kostecka | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Nov 28 2012 12:25 PM

Dan: Thank you for good tip


Brian. Thank you too. You mentioned some series suffer from lack of "authors' own scholarly abilities" Would you mention some of them?

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JT (alabama24) | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Nov 28 2012 1:05 PM

Pavel Kostecka:
I have no problem with exegesis but practical conclusions maybe a problem sometimes.

Pavel - Not directly related, but may I suggest a book on the topic? Communicate for a Change by Andy Stanley is my favorite work on the subject of preaching. He is a disciple of Howard Hendricks (who wrote Teaching to Change Lives), but takes Hendricks teaching a bit further.

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Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Nov 28 2012 4:17 PM

I also know one series i am very excited about is


Quoting from the page:

The Westminster Bible Companion Series (33 vols.) assists laity in the study of the Bible as a guide to Christian faith and practice. This series, compiled by some of the best names in contemporary scholarship, is concise, yet non-technical. Each volume explains the biblical book in its original historical context and explores its significance for faithful living today. These books are ideal for individual study and for Bible study classes and groups.

The Logos Bible Software edition of the Westminster Bible Companion Series (33 vols.) helps you read and study the Bible more effectively for sermon preparation, research, or personal study. Every time you run a Passage Guide on a text, results from the series will appear—all opened to exactly the right page. What’s more, with Logos, every word is essentially a link. Scripture references are linked directly to the original language texts and English Bible translations in your library. That makes the Logos edition of the Westminster Bible Companion Series (33 vols.) the fastest, easiest, and most rewarding edition of one of the top evangelical commentaries available today.

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