One of the most valuable resources I found when I first arrived at Heritage Presbyterian Church was a complete set of "The Interpreter's Bible" commentaries that were in the church library. When we packed and moved, that set was the first thing I packed for my office library. Now I rarely begin working on any sermon without reading through the Scriptures and the commentary that is in this wonderful set of books.
They were first published in 1957, and despite all the gains in Biblical research and all the new resources that are available and all the various web pages - I have never found anything that beats it for providing me with sermon "hooks" that truly add to the messages I try to bring with the Holy Spirit's help. Each time I open one of the volumes, I can easily see why the founding pastor, Rev. Ozzie Lutz, used this set of books. (His signature is on the map of the Holy Land, which is located on the first page of each volume. See the picture above.)
But that's not the only reason it's so valuable to me!
As old Ozzie worked with these books, he often underlined various words, phrases, and passages that really emphasized a particular point. I do the same thing, but Ozzie did this for YEARS as he worked through his sermons and the Scripture passages. And each volume of the 12-volume set has Ozzie's hints scattered throughout the pages. It's almost as if he is still sharing his thoughts with me.
The other day, I was reading Micah 6 in the commentary. I saw that Ozzie had underlined the words "blood sacrifice." I read the passage and the commentary to try to find why he did this. Then in the margin, in Ozzie's handwriting, I found a mysterious message: "no sacrifice---at all?" When I preached 'What God Required' people said, "See, you don't have to sacrifice."
Obviously, this troubled Ozzie. Because I never met him (he passed away years before I arrived here), I can only imagine why he wrote it.
But as I pondered this, I looked ahead and found another sentence underlined across the page. Here, the commentator had written, "It is basically not so much wrong as irrelevant, argues Micah." The point of the commentator's message is that all the ceremonial stuff that the ancient Israelites did (and probably some Christians do today) does not really matter; it is what is in the heart - and more importantly...what it moves us to do - that counts.
I wonder if that's what Ozzie meant! I guess we'll never really know.
But I praise God for that good man, his notes to me, and the base that he helped to establish that is our church today.