Rhetorical Flashback . . . .

flashback 1  Remember When!

An interesting way to add some context to a message, as well as draw a stark contrast, is by using what I call “rhetorical flashback.”

If one were doing a message on the life of King David, involving his arrival in the city of Nob (I Samuel 21), one could create just such a “rhetorical flashback.”

What an amazing scene.  Here is David in the city of Nob, fleeing from Saul.  He has fled the wrath of Saul and arrived in the city of Nob – a city of Israel’s priests.

David makes the claim that because of the suddenness of events, the carrying out the king’s business, he is forbidden to share his errand with anyone.

I Samuel 21:8 — And David said unto Ahimelech, And is there not here under thine hand spear or sword? For I have neither brought my sword nor my weapons with me, because the king’s business required haste.

The truth is, he has fled for his life and is running frightened.  His fears have so overcome his thinking and emotions that he left without that weapon which he had slain 1000’s.  David has been mentally panicked by the confirmation of Jonathan in the field.

I Samuel 20:38 – 39 — And Jonathan cried after the lad, Make speed, haste, stay not.  And Jonathan’s lad gathered up the arrows, and came to his master.
But the lad knew not any thing: only Jonathan and David knew the matter.

Indeed his father, King Saul, would be unstopped in seeking to have David killed.  The words shouted out to the “lad” were actually words shouted to David!

David is running frightened and fled with little to no thought as to what he should do and where he should go.  His thinking processes have been short-circuited!  David shows up in Nob and lies to them – which will leave them vulnerable to Saul irrational hatred of David as well.

David requests a sword.  However, this is a city, not occupied by military or fighting men, but inhabited by Israel’s priest – men of God, not men of war.  HOWEVER, by an interesting turn of events, this particular city of priests preserved and accommodated the “sword of Goliath.”

I Samuel 21: — And the priest said, The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom thou slewest in the valley of Elah, behold, it is here wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod: if thou wilt take that, take it: for there is no other save that here. And David said, There is none like that; give it me.

You are not serious!  You mean that the city of Nob housed that famous sword which David took off of the body of Goliath and which David used to deliver the final death blow and decapitation of Goliath.  David even states, “There is none like that.”

Surely picking up this sword and holding it again in his hands will shake David out of his panic!

Were this a cinematic production or a book, there would be a “flashback” to that very scene.  David is standing in the field with sling and stones, calling out Goliath’s blasphemy against the God of Israel’s.  The scene would be replayed in David’s mind and memory all leading to Goliath’s thud upon the ground. Then David is raising Goliath’s own sword followed by a blow so powerful that David is able to lift and hold up Goliath’s head by its hair.

Remember David!  Remember when you said – God delivered me from the lion and the bear, and God will deliver you from this Philistine!  David – think!

Remember ! — when you were anointed King by Samuel!  All the other sons of Jesse were passed over, and the question was asked – Is there yet another son?  That was the Lord seeking you as the next anointed king over Israel.

Remember ! —  when you escaped the hand of Saul by your wife’s love and commitment to you – Michael, who was given to you as a snare but proved to be the hand of God’s deliverance — by your wife and by the very hand of King’s Saul’s own daughter!

— Ted Martens

It’s Rhetorical Value:

This “flashback” approach . . . .

  • contrasts what is happening at the moment and brings the events into clear & bold relief
  • gives an opportunity to builds in some of the contextual details
  • highlights the emotions which are operating (or it could be the thinking / or the response / or the words / or the actions)
  • has the potential to paint the situation in vivid colors

Other Examples:

You can do this with various accounts, portions or passages of Scripture.  What kicks off this possible use of this approach is WHEN there is an item, person, place, or event mentioned in an account that connects it.

You could do this with Esther – 2:10, 20 – “charged her”  and  – 4:7-12, 13 – “commanded.”

Esther, don’t you remember all that has happened.  How the Lord gave you favor with . . . and . . . . and . . . .

  • Ruth (cp. 1:16, 2:11-12) – Conversion: it was your commitment to Jehovah that also attracted Boaz to Ruth
  • Jonah (cp. 1:1, 3:1) – Obedience: remember last time you said no, don’t do that again
  • Joseph (cp. 37:5,  40:8) – dreams: his dream and their dream – still believed in God’s dream
  • Daniel – (cp. Daniel 1:8, 6:7) – convictions: diet and prayers
    Saul – (cp. I Samuel 13, 15:9) – disobeyed: sacrifice and Agag
  • Joshua – (cp. Numbers 13-14 & Joshua 2:11; 5:1) -Entering the promised land / hearts melted and recalled that by Joshua
  • etc.


The Mind Generating Template:

The “wording template” is something like this . . . .

  • In my thinking, I would have hoped that David had been brought back to that moment when . . .
  • As much as David’s mind was brought back to the lion and the bear before he fought Goliath, his victory over Goliath in the valley of Elah should have come to mind when David was panicked over the words and actions of Saul . . . .
  • If this were scripted by a writer or author, it would have been scripted like this — David unwraps that sword from its blankets and as he lifts that sword . . . .
  • The Lord expects our memories to be jogged by the events of the past.  This is no chance event of being in the very city where Goliath’s sword was kept.   David’s mind could have been and should have been brought back to that day when . . . .
  • If I am leading David to the city of Nob and the sword of Goliath – I am expecting him to call back to his mind that day when he and Goliath . . .

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