Sometimes the emotional tone of a passage is neither high nor low, but rather even-keeled. Like a professor addressing the classroom, God provides us with certain information that’s communicated on a practical level and tells us what we need to know, think about or work on when it comes to topics like relationships, money, marriage, parenting, work, etc. The book of Proverbs is very much like this.
Many passages in Scripture are cause for a big party. The tone is energetic and upbeat.
I can still remember my first football game in high school. At halftime, we were down. We went to the locker room, and our coach—a big guy with a walrus mustache—got up and just started losing his mind. He gave the guts-and-glory speech, and we all headed back onto the field fired up and ready to go.
Like a halftime speech, some parts of the Bible are incredibly inspiring, and the tone is meant to move people into action.
5. Boot camp
A drill sergeant doesn’t waste a lot of time before making a point. A drill sergeant doesn’t say to recruits, “Let’s build a relationship of trust, and I will then offer you some advice.” No. A drill sergeant issues orders that the listeners are simply meant to obey.
God is our Lord, and he has the authority and the position to tell us what to do. He speaks with clarity for our benefit, to guard us from folly and damnation, and we disobey to our own detriment. God uses his drill sergeant tone when speaking through many of the prophets with a sense of high authority and urgency.
More than a teacher, a coach or a soldier, God is a good dad who loves his kids. For those who have been reconciled and adopted into the family through Jesus, all of God’s words can be read with the tone of a loving father. He encourages, instructs, corrects, disciplines, warns and leads because he loves us.
Pastors who prefer a particular tone will gravitate toward the parts of the Bible that match their taste. But read through the entire Bible, and you’ll hear a variety of tones, including everything on this list and probably more. For church leaders, the key is to work with your team to have the theological and emotional trajectory of your Sunday service match up with the text you are teaching, as best you can.