We did part 1 last week, and this morning we are going to look at part 2 of a story that I’ve dubbed “The Wicked, the wrathful, and the wise.”
It’s not the most famous story in the Bible – but it is a riveting tale and it’s found in 1 Samuel chapter 25. It’s the story of King David (before he was king) as he interacted with a sheep farmer named Nabal. Nabal, who was known for being crude and mean in all his dealings, was quite a contrast to his wife, Abigail, who was known for being sensible and beautiful! These two characters couldn’t be more different!
We haven’t seen much of Abigail in this story so far, but we’ve had a quite an introduction to Nabal!
You see, this story all begins at sheep-shearing time – a time of feasting and celebration. David, who has been on the run from Saul, has been camped near Nabal’s shepherds around Carmel. Now David had been very good to Nabal’s shepherds as they camped near each other – David’s men had kept them safe from the Philistines and nothing was ever stolen from them during their time together…
And so, when David hears that Nabal is sheering his sheep and is having a great celebration, he sends messengers to Nabal asking if Nabal could kindly share whatever provisions he could with his friend David and his men!
Nabal, however – true to his reputation, would do nothing of the sort and responded by heaping insults upon David and sent David’s messengers home empty-handed.
As you might imagine, this did not sit well with David who’s only recorded response to Nabal’s rude reply was to tell his men “Grab your swords” as he strapped on his own! In classic case of wild over-reaction, David sets out to murder Nabal in retaliation for his insults! This is quite out of character for David – a guy who is called “a man after God’s own heart” – but I guess it goes to show how even the best of us are aways susceptible to sin! We ought not think we’ve matured beyond the point of being able to mess up big time – cuz that’s just what David is about to do.
And that’s about where we left off last week – David and 400 of his men are armed and headed towards Nabal’s house with the intent to murder every man in Nabal’s household.
We pick up the story now as the scene shifts back to Nabal’s home. It says in verse 14…
14 Meanwhile, one of Nabal’s servants went to Abigail and told her, “David sent messengers from the wilderness to greet our master, but he screamed insults at them. 15 These men have been very good to us, and we never suffered any harm from them. Nothing was stolen from us the whole time they were with us. 16 In fact, day and night they were like a wall of protection to us and the sheep. 17 You need to know this and figure out what to do, for there is going to be trouble for our master and his whole family. He’s so ill-tempered that no one can even talk to him!” 2 Samuel 25:14-17
First of all, we can note here again the poor character of Nabal. This servant recalls how Nabal didn’t just turn David’s messengers away, but he screamed insults at them. It certainly wasn’t a polite “Thanks, but no thanks” to David’s request. It kinda sounds like Nabal totally lost it and flew into a rage – screaming insults and just totally blowing up! In fact, this servant goes on to say how Nabal was so ill-tempered that no one could even talk to him – that’s why this servant came to Abigail instead! They couldn’t even have a civil conversation with Nabal about this sort of stuff. It would seem that Nabal had a serious anger problem!
I’m reminded of Proverbs 29:11 which says:
Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end. Proverbs 29:11 NIV
An explosive temper is the hallmark of a fool! Those who don’t control their temper – controlling themselves and controlling their own words – are headed for a world of hurt! They are fools!
That’s why James tells in James 1:19…
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. 20 Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. James 1:19-20
You probably know this from your own experience – losing your temper doesn’t not usually result in righteousness! It usually results in hurtful words, damaged relationships, physical and emotional harm to the people around you…. Anger almost always results in hurt!
Now that’s not to say that we should never get angry. In fact, there are times when God gets angry.
We should get angry at sin. We should get angry at injustice. We should get angry when others are abused or taken advantage of. God is certainly angry at those things, so I think there is a place for righteous anger. But there is a big difference between God’s righteous anger and our human selfish anger.
That’s why Paul writes in Ephesians 4:26…
26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. Ephesians 4:26-27 ESV
It’s ok to be angry – but its not ok to use that anger as an excuse for sin. We need to be very careful not to give the devil a foothold in our lives – and anger will certainly do that. Not only does anger express itself in many hurtful ways, but the bitterness and the emptiness that comes from unresolved anger has destroyed many lives from the inside out. That’s why Paul says not to let the sun go down on your anger. Don’t let it fester and stew – deal with it – because it will eat you from the inside out.
And it would appear that Nabal foolishly allowed his anger to get a foothold in his life – and not only did that make life very unpleasant for his family, I’m sure – but that also put his entire household in grave danger. He had blown up at the wrong guy and now David was on his way to wipe them all out!
Thankfully, there was this unnamed servant who saw all this happen and they realized that something bad was about to go down. And so they approached Nabal’s wife – explaining everything that had happened and urging her to do something about it!
And do something about it, she did! It says in verse 18:
18 Abigail wasted no time. She quickly gathered 200 loaves of bread, two wineskins full of wine, five sheep that had been slaughtered, nearly a bushel of roasted grain, 100 clusters of raisins, and 200 fig cakes. She packed them on donkeys 19 and said to her servants, “Go on ahead. I will follow you shortly.” But she didn’t tell her husband Nabal what she was doing. 1 Samuel 25:18-19
Abigail didn’t even have to go and confirm with her husband what had happened – she knew well enough just how ornery and miserable he could be, and so she jumped into action – gathering up a good supply of food that had no doubt been prepared for Nabal’s feast and sent it on ahead to David. Then after sending all that food as gift to David, she herself followed behind so that she could explain and try to make things right. So we continue reading in verse 20.
20 As she was riding her donkey into a mountain ravine, she saw David and his men coming toward her. 21 David had just been saying, “A lot of good it did to help this fellow. We protected his flocks in the wilderness, and nothing he owned was lost or stolen. But he has repaid me evil for good. 22 May God strike me and kill me if even one man of his household is still alive tomorrow morning!”
1 Samuel 25:20-22
Now you’ve got to appreciate how intense this scene would have been. I mean, here is David – the mightiest solider of all of Israel’s armies – the one the woman sang about “Saul has killed his thousands and David his tens of thousands” – the one who had become famous throughout Israel for winning more battles against the Philistines than any other commander! That same David, leading an army of 400 men, is now swearing before God that he is going to kill every man in Nabal’s house before morning – and here comes Nabal’s wife to try and stop him.
Abigail must have been a pretty gutsy lady! She was sensible and beautiful and obviously very brave! Being married to Nabal – I’m sure she was well aware of the risks of confronting an angry man! But there she is – boldly putting herself in harms way so that she might save the life of not only her husband, but of her entire household.
I’m reminded of John 15:13 where Jesus says:
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 KJV
That’s just what we see Abigail doing here. Putting her life on the line for the sake of others. And you know, Abigail’s self-less actions to save her husband and her entire household are a picture of what Christ did for us.
Just like Abigail was willing to risk her life to save her family, Jesus was willing to lay down his life for us. And Jesus didn’t just lay down his life for his friends, he laid down his life for his enemies. Colossians 1:21 says…
21 This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. 22 Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. Colossians 1:21-22
Jesus loved us so much that he died for us – his enemies – so that we could become his friends. Christ was willing to lay down his life so that we can stand before God – forgiven of our sins – holy and blameless before him without a single fault.
That’s a pretty incredible love! And I would just encourage you this morning that if you’ve never accepted that love – if you’ve never accepted God’s forgiveness for your sin – you can do that even today. You can simply pray and ask God for his forgiven and accept his promise of new life. I tell ya, there is no greater love that you will ever experience than the love of God! So consider doing that even today!
But to get back to our story – let’s see what happens when David & Abigail meet. Verse 23
23 When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed low before him. 24 She fell at his feet and said, “I accept all blame in this matter, my lord. Please listen to what I have to say. 25 I know Nabal is a wicked and ill-tempered man; please don’t pay any attention to him. He is a fool, just as his name suggests. But I never even saw the young men you sent.
26 “Now, my lord, as surely as the Lord lives and you yourself live, since the Lord has kept you from murdering and taking vengeance into your own hands, let all your enemies and those who try to harm you be as cursed as Nabal is. 27 And here is a present that I, your servant, have brought to you and your young men. 28 Please forgive me if I have offended you in any way. The Lord will surely reward you with a lasting dynasty, for you are fighting the Lord’s battles. And you have not done wrong throughout your entire life.
29 “Even when you are chased by those who seek to kill you, your life is safe in the care of the Lord your God, secure in his treasure pouch! But the lives of your enemies will disappear like stones shot from a sling! 30 When the Lord has done all he promised and has made you leader of Israel, 31 don’t let this be a blemish on your record. Then your conscience won’t have to bear the staggering burden of needless bloodshed and vengeance. And when the Lord has done these great things for you, please remember me, your servant!”
1 Samuel 25:23-31
I find Abigail’s plea to David to be a great example of wisdom in knowing how to defuse an explosive situation.
Notice first of all, her humble approach. As she gets off her donkey and bows before David, the very first thing she says is that she accepts all blame in this matter – even though it wasn’t her fault at all! A little further on she asks his forgiveness if she has offended him in any way. And through out it all, she repeatedly refers to David as ‘my lord’ and to herself as ‘your servant’.
She is very genuinely humble in this whole interaction. And that humble approach goes such a long way in defusing an explosive situation. Proverbs 15:1 says…
A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
It was Nabal’s harsh words that stirred up David’s anger in the first place – but it was Abigail’s gentle words that turned away David’s wrath. That’s a great principle to remember as we deal with our various conflicts in life. ‘A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.’ Good words to remember.
Another thing I notice in Abigail’s plea to David is how she reminds David that He can trust God take care of him. He doesn’t need to worry about taking revenge on Nabal – God is well able to take care of all David’s enemies. She says….
“Even when you are chased by those who seek to kill you, your life is safe in the care of the Lord your God, secure in his treasure pouch! But the lives of your enemies will disappear like stones shot from a sling!
1 Samuel 25:29
I wonder if Abigail’s choice of words here – talking about how his enemies will disappear like “stones shot from a sling” – I wonder if she’s bringing David’s victory over Goliath to his mind. God was certainly with David then – and she reminds David that God is with him even now. Perhaps in the heat of the moment, David had kinda forgotten about that. And so Abigail just gently reminds him of that truth.
And that’s another little nugget that we can apply to our lives today. Sometimes all we need to change our perspective is to be reminded of the truth. That’s why daily spending time in God’s Word is so important. Even if you’ve read through the Bible 20 times already – we are forgetful creatures. We need those constant reminders of the truth.
- We need those reminders that “Greater is He that is in us, than he that is in the world.”
- We need those reminders that “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
- We need those reminders that “nothing in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
- We need those reminders that “Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close.”
There are so many wonderful promises of God that can totally change how we see the world! Sometimes, we just need to be reminded of them!
And it seems that David needed that gentle reminder from Abigail. As she humbly reminded him of all of God’s promises – gently urging him to do what is right so that this act of vengeance wouldn’t be needless stain on his conscience, David accepted Abigail’s words. It says in verse 32:
32 David replied to Abigail, “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you to meet me today! 33 Thank God for your good sense! Bless you for keeping me from murder and from carrying out vengeance with my own hands. 34 For I swear by the Lord, the God of Israel, who has kept me from hurting you, that if you had not hurried out to meet me, not one of Nabal’s men would still be alive tomorrow morning.” 35 Then David accepted her present and told her, “Return home in peace. I have heard what you said. We will not kill your husband.”
1 Samuel 25:32-35
As David reflected on what he was about to do, he was so thankful for God sending Abigail to stop him. Verse 33 really says it all. “Thank God for your good sense! Bless you for keeping me from murder and from carrying out vengeance with my own hands.”
In hindsight now, David can see what a fool he had been and he was so thankful for Abigail and her good sense! She had saved her household from disaster and saved David from a great sin. Had she not acted quickly or not been so wise with her words – the end of this story could have been very different.
But as it was, David listened to Abigail’s wise words and everyone was able to return home in peace.
I think this is just a great reminder of how important it is to have those wise people in our lives who boldly dare to tell us the truth – even when we might not want to hear it! Proverbs 19:20 says..
20 Listen to advice and accept discipline,
and at the end you will be counted among the wise.
Proverbs 19:20 NIV
It’s always a bit humbling to be corrected or to be shown the error of your ways – but as this proverb points out – listening to that advice and accepting that discipling (that correction) is what helps us be wise!
It’s not always enjoyable to have people warning us that we’re about to make a mistake. It’s not pleasant to have others tell you that you’re making a foolish choice! It kinda hurts our pride a little bit to be told that we’re wrong. But you know, I am so thankful for the people in my life who have been bold enough to do that for me. In hindsight now, I can see that they have spared me from a lot of trouble and heartache.
That was certainly true for David. I’m sure it was a bit humbling for David to be corrected by Abigail, but He wisely accepted her advice and was so thankful that He did. He choose to leave vengeance in the hands of the Lord and God certainly honoured that wise decision. The story continues in verse 36…
36 When Abigail arrived home, she found that Nabal was throwing a big party and was celebrating like a king. He was very drunk, so she didn’t tell him anything about her meeting with David until dawn the next day. 37 In the morning when Nabal was sober, his wife told him what had happened. As a result he had a stroke, and he lay paralyzed on his bed like a stone. 38 About ten days later, the Lord struck him, and he died.
39 When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Praise the Lord, who has avenged the insult I received from Nabal and has kept me from doing it myself. Nabal has received the punishment for his sin.” Then David sent messengers to Abigail to ask her to become his wife.
40 When the messengers arrived at Carmel, they told Abigail, “David has sent us to take you back to marry him.”
41 She bowed low to the ground and responded, “I, your servant, would be happy to marry David. I would even be willing to become a slave, washing the feet of his servants!” 42 Quickly getting ready, she took along five of her servant girls as attendants, mounted her donkey, and went with David’s messengers. And so she became his wife.
1 Samuel 25:36-42
It’s kind of a fairy tale ending isn’t it? The villain gets taken out (though not at the hands of the hero), and brave and beautiful leading lady marries the hero eventually becoming the queen, and the hero himself is vindicated without innocent blood on his hands.
It’s quite a different ending than what could have happened if David had not been stopped by Abigail. Just imagine how this might have played out if Abigail had not hurried to intervene or if David a not chosen to listen to Abigail.
David and his men would have slaughtered Nabal and many other innocent men – likely including Abigail’s own sons. David would have to live with that sin on his conscience for the rest of his life – his character tarnished and his reputation smeared. And who know what would have happened to Abigail? I’m sure she wouldn’t have been marrying David, that’s for sure!
Things could have turned out very differently to say the least. And it just reminds us all over again how God’s ways and God’s plans and God’s timing are so much better than ours!
We can chose to live however we want – but following God’s lead, doing what is right, living by the principles God’s Word, trusting in the Lord – that will always result in a better ending to our story than if we insist on doing things our way! It may not all come together in 10 days like it did in this story, but we can have confidence that in the end – God’s ways are best!
God loves us like crazy and He has promised to work out all things for our good when we choose to love and follow Him.
So this week as you face many different crossroads in life – as you make decisions about how you’re going to live and who you’re going to trust – I hope this story serves to remind you to trust in the Lord and to live for Him.
Maybe you have questions that you just don’t have answers for – you’re not sure which way to go or what decision to make – I’d encourage you first of all, to get into your Bible and be reminded of the promises of God. Sometimes it’s just those little reminders of the truth that totally change our perspective.
Maybe God will send you someone wise to intervene in your life – to encourage you to trust in God and to do what is right. I’d encourage you to listen to that person.
But seek the Lord – trust in Him – live by the principles that God has already shown you in his Word – and then allow Him to take care of the rest.