Noticing the form as well as the content
Perhaps it’s an old cracked record, but it’s a good tune. So often the key to a good sermon is in understanding the content of the text and the way it’s put together. Take Judges 17-18 that I’m working on at the moment (and, BTW, Barry Webb’s NICOT is crackingly good). It’s a pretty bleak story, car crash TV, really, as one disastrous detail of the story builds on another. Key to the whole story is the mysterious Levite who becomes Micah’s priest but is nabbed by the Danites during the transfer window (Judges 17:7). I guess a key detail is that this Levite is not a priest – that’s a clear inference from the way the passage works. But right at the end you get a detail which proves the case, when you are shocked to discover that he is “Jonathan, son of Gershom, son of Moses.” So, not a priest (descendant of Aaron), but a direct descendant of Moses!
Now, in your sermon, you could use that end of story detail to show how wrong it is for him to serve as priest in the previous chapter. After all, naming him perhaps makes the story more engaging. But it ignores the form of the passage as well as the content. His name is deliberately held in reserve to make the point: “Here is the crowning scandal of the Danite’s disastrous shrine: it brought dishonour even on the revered name of Moses” (Webb).
My sermon has got to retain that tension or I’m doing the text an injustice in form, if not in detail. Hard work this narrative preaching!