Most preachers and Bible teachers have great difficulty when presented with a historical narrative. The sermon often becomes an extended set of historical observations about the text and perhaps bootstrapping it into a strange illustration (five hints for slaying the Goliath in your life).
Daniel Block provides a set of five questions which can help direct one’s understanding and use of narrative texts:
In the Scriptures historiographic compositions are primarily ideological in purpose. The authoritative meaning of the author is not found in the event described but in the author’s interpretation of the event, that is, his understanding of their causes, nature, and consequences. But that interpretation must be deduced from the telling. How is this achieved? By asking the right questions of the text: (1) What does this account tell us about God? (2) What does it tell us about the human condition? (3) What does it tell us of the world? (4) What does it tell us of the people of God—their collective relationship with him? (5) What does it tell us of the individual believer’s life of faith? These questions may be answered by careful attention to the words employed and the syntax exploited to tell the story. But they also require a cautious and disciplined reading between the lines, for what is left unstated also reflects an ideological perspective. Having described the problem and set the agenda, we may proceed to answer the questions raised.
Daniel Isaac Block, Judges, Ruth, vol. 6, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 604–605.