A Different Way To Drive Truths
We could call this technique “rhetorical refrain.” It is . . . .
- rhetorical repetition/restatement
- hammering a truth application upon application
- driving the truth or principle home
- “ringing the changes”
“Ringing the Changes” Defined:
“This phrase derives from the practice of bell ringing.
Each pattern of the order of striking the bells is called a change.
In order to ‘ring the changes’ all the variations of striking pattern are rung,
bringing the ring back to its starting point.”
It Drives, While It Applies!
Iteration upon iteration continually drives the point, as it also applies the particular truth. I say “applies” because each iteration speaks to another area of a believer’s life and living.
Dominic Smart illustrates this rhetorical technique in a message titled, “- What About Your Gilgal-s?”
We don’t belong to the gods who you think give you your crops
We don’t belong to the god who you think makes your flocks and your herds have kids and lambs and all the rest of it
We don’t belong to the god that you think it is shining from the sky – the sun
We don’t belong to the gods that you think send the rain at the right time
We belong to the one true God – Jehovah
You see – when we go out bearing the marks of what it means to be the covenant people of God
We go out into a world that is already occupied by many gods.
But we go out we say
We don’t belong to the god who says you got to be wealthy in order to be contented
We go out and we say
We don’t — we don’t actually belong to the god who says you got to be successful and good looking in order to mean something in this world
We go out we say
We don’t belong to the god who tells you – that unless you are somehow or another – checking all the boxes of what it means to be cool or trendy – then you’re worth nothing.
We don’t go out into the world – and send – and say
We belong to a god that you belong to who says – if you don’t earn your own way you never expect anything from God
We don’t go out in the world that has made a god out of money or success or status or self-help and self-sufficiency
We go out into the world and say we belong to the God of grace.
We belong to the God who has given us value by making us
We go out in the world that is not populated by anti-gods
We go out into the world that belongs to the one true God.
The pattern is obvious and quickly picked up by the listeners. It is the repetition and sometimes “restatement” of a key phrase. In this case, two phrases . . . .
We don’t belong . . . .
We go out into the world . . . .
However, there is a second element of this rhetorical pattern. Dominic Smart is not merely repeating and restating a phrase, but he is changing up the elements which are attached to that repetition and restatement. He both defines God and also makes application to various areas of life . . . .
- God gives us our “crops.” – He gives us our daily bread – He provides.
- God gives us our “flocks” and “lands.” – He gives us our wealth.
- God is God of the sun – He is the Creator God.
- God is God of “rain” & at the right time – He is the God Who watches over us.
- God is a God of grace Who gives us value.
- God is the God Who made us.
Then the “elements” switch to another series of applications. Obviously, he does not make these following statements, but yet he is actually making these points . . . . .
- Life is not success.
- Life is not personal beauty.
- Life is not the world’s valuations of trendy/cool.
- Life is not money – success – status – self-sufficiency
To do what Dominic Smart does . . . .
you can either begin with the passage you are working on and let this rhetorical pattern run through your mind . . . .
or you might have to think backward. Begin with the (A) and/or (B) and lay those “applications” out first. THEN, build your “refrain” using those “applications.”
Let’s Try It:
Let’s try that and use an account from the book of Esther. Mordecai is trying to persuade Esther to approach the King on behalf of her people (Esther 4:12-17).
Here is a list of truth and principles which come out of the passage . . . .
- position and power is for a purpose
- we are where we are by God’s design
- we must identify with God’s people
- we must identify ourselves at such times
- we must be willing to risk our lives to help
- life is not that dear to remain silent
- God is a God who will deliver
- God uses people
None of these truths or principles are new or unique. They all come out of the passage, and we have probably all preached such truths from this chapter. We are only presenting them a different way using this rhetorical technique.
Now, set up a reoccurring phrase(s)
“Mordecai knew and understood . . . .”
“Esther needed to grasp the reality that . . . .”
Now let’s put the two together . . . .
Mordecai knew and understood that God was the one who put people into positions.
Mordecai knew and understood that God gave people power for a purpose.
Mordecai knew and understood that there is a time to risk our lives for righteousness — for doing what is right.
Mordecai knew and understood there were times when identifying with God’s people and as one of God’s followers would potentially cost! That there is a real potential cost in being a follower.
Mordecai knew and understood that there is something more dear than life. That this life is not to be bought by silence.
Mordecai knew and understood that God would stand for and with His people even when others would not.
— Ted Martens
You could do the same with the second possible phrase (“Esther needed to grasp the reality that . . . ” ), or other similar phrases.