Preaching Goliath’s Sword

Once in church while growing up we had a guest missionary speaker. He preached on 1 Samuel 21:9, especially the end of the verse. This is when David comes to Nob and asks if Ahimelech the priest has a sword or spear and Ahimelech responds that they only have Goliath’s sword. David says, “There is none like it; give it to me.”

Probably several ways to go with this narrative in Scripture, but I never expected the way the guest speaker did go. He took David’s statement in 1 Samuel about Goliath’s sword, and he challenged, imagined, and speculated about David. He had Goliath’s sword being too big for David so much so that the point dragged on the ground and left a trail wherever David went. Everyone could see where David had walked. This is not in Scripture.

The missionary stomped around the platform illustrating what this must have looked like. He put his hand on his imaginary sword as if he was David and spoke what he thought David might have said. He imagined David’s mighty men having conversations about how tired they were of seeing David’s big sword. These fictional conversations had them being annoyed because every appearance showed how great a victory David had gotten and how they just didn’t measure up. He speculated that those same mighty men must have realized they needed to go out and get their own dramatic victory. That was really the application of the sermon. Go out and do great things for God.

It was entertaining, gripping, mesmerizing, and attention grabbing. He had lots of conjecture, guesswork, and speculation. Those last three words, while accurate to this sermon, are not the marks of biblical preaching.

You know the problem with this sermon already. Scripture. doesn’t. say. that. It doesn’t. After the sermon was over, we didn’t know much more about what the Bible actually said than before he began.

It was a great sermon that was ruined by Scripture. It seemed he cared more what he could make the Bible say than what it actually said. I guess it “worked.” I remember this sermon, and there are a lot of sermons that I don’t remember at all. But it wasn’t faithful to the Bible.

A homiletics professor related the story of a chapel speaker whose sermon—like the one above—had little relation to the text. One of the professor’s students came up to him after the chapel service and excitedly said, “I couldn’t have gotten that from that passage!” The professor responded genuinely, “I couldn’t have either.” 😉

Genuine, biblical preaching must, it must explain clearly what the passage says. That’s not all preaching does, but without it you don’t have faithful preaching. If your congregation doesn’t know what the passage says by the time you’re done, you’ve messed up.

That’s the type of preaching you should expect in your church. The sermon might not have a great introduction, or a stunning conclusion. It might not have helpful illustrations or specific application. All of those really help a sermon. But if the sermon is mostly conjecture or personal stories, then it’s not biblical preaching.

T. David Gordon in his book, Why Johnny Can’t Preach asks this question, ”Could they [the congregation] answer what was that sermon about and was it based on the text?” It’s a question to consider each time we preach. It is a weighty responsibility to get up each Sunday and essentially say, “thus sayeth the Lord.” We better be sure that the Lord has actually said that.

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