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The Wicked, the Wrathful, and the Wise – Part 1

For the past few weeks we’ve been looking at some of the lesser-known stories of the Old Testament. And I’ll tell ya – it’s been quite a mixed bag of goodies! We’ve had talking donkeys, floating axeheads, human cannibalism, and more! They may be lesser known, but these have been some of the most sensational stories of the Bible! And all of them have been packed with important lessons about God and how He wants us live in this world!

Now the story I want to look at today isn’t quite as sensational, but it’s still an incredible story – one that I think would probably make a pretty fantastic movie! It’s got some great movie characters – a villain you love to hate, a band of blood-thirsty vigilantes eager for revenge, and a brave & beautiful leading lady who saves the day! It would be an Oscar winner for sure! And like those other stories we’ve looked at – it’s not the most well-known story in the Bible, but there is much that we can learn from it.

We find this particular story in the book of 1 Samuel – chapter 25. So let’s turn there now and the author will introduce us to all the main characters in the first few verses. It begins like this:

Then David moved down to the wilderness of Maon. 2 There was a wealthy man from Maon who owned property near the town of Carmel. He had 3,000 sheep and 1,000 goats, and it was sheep-shearing time. 3 This man’s name was Nabal, and his wife, Abigail, was a sensible and beautiful woman. But Nabal, a descendant of Caleb, was crude and mean in all his dealings.

1 Samuel 25:1b-3

So there is at least one familiar character in this story – I’m sure most of you have at least heard of King David. Although at this point, David has not yet become king. Saul is still the King of Israel, and he has been hunting David like a criminal – chasing him all around the wilderness – even though David has never done anything to harm him! Saul is consumed by his jealousy of David and is determined to kill him, but David continues to be loyal to Saul and is equally determined not to harm Saul in any way.

In fact, in just the chapter before this, David was hiding from Saul in a cave when Saul just happened to come into that very cave to go to the bathroom. David snuck up and quietly cut off the corner of Saul’s rob – showing Saul how He most certainly could have killed him if he wanted to – but he didn’t. 

Of course, when Saul realized how David spared his life, he repented and left David alone for the time being and went back home – but David, knowing that Saul would soon change his mind, headed out further into the wilderness of Maon.

Now in Maon, we find our two other characters in this story. We have Nabal – who was a very rich sheep farmer and was known for being crude and mean in all his dealings. And then we have his wife, Abigail, who was known for being sensible and beautiful! 

These two characters seem to be quite a contrast to each other. I guess it’s true that opposites attract – or it could be that this was an arranged marriage. We’re not really given that information – we’re just simply told that Nabal was known for being crude and mean while his wife, Abigail, was known for being beautiful and sensible.

And just as a side note – have you ever considered what characteristics you’re known for? If your co-workers or neighbours had to describe you in just two words – what two words would they use? Beautiful and sensible? Or crude and mean in all your dealings? Selfish and tyrannical? Generous and kind? Loud and obnoxious? Patient and gentle?

Proverbs 22:1 tells us:

A good name is more desirable than great riches;

    to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.

Proverbs 22:1 NIV

Likewise, Solomon reminds us in Ecclesiastes 7:1 that:

“A good reputation is more valuable than costly perfume.”

Ecclesiastes 7:1a NLT

Even in the New Testament – Paul gives us a similar exhortation. He writes:

“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Philippians 1:27a NIV

We need to remember that we are ambassadors of Christ – we are His representatives on earth. And as such, we need to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of his Name. The things we do, the words we say, the character traits we display as we interact with our kids, with our neighbors, with our coworkers – they all reflect on our Lord. We need to be careful to live in a manner worth of the Gospel. If we are Christians, the we want to be an accurate representation of Christ. We don’t want to drag the name of Christ through the mud – We want to have a good reputation for Christ.

So what kind of reputation do you have? It’s something to think about anyways!

But continuing on with our story… Now that we know the characters, the story begins like this:

4 When David heard that Nabal was shearing his sheep, 5 he sent ten of his young men to Carmel with this message for Nabal: 6 “Peace and prosperity to you, your family, and everything you own! 7 I am told that it is sheep-shearing time. While your shepherds stayed among us near Carmel, we never harmed them, and nothing was ever stolen from them. 8 Ask your own men, and they will tell you this is true. So would you be kind to us, since we have come at a time of celebration? Please share any provisions you might have on hand with us and with your friend David.” 9 David’s young men gave this message to Nabal in David’s name, and they waited for a reply. 1 Samuel 25:4-9

So as we just read, it’s sheep-shearing time! This would have a been a time of great feasting and celebration! We might liken this to our thanksgiving! It’s a time when the harvest is in and God’s abundant provision is celebrated!

And so in this passage, basically, David is requesting, that as Nabal feasts and celebrates all that God has given Him, that he share some of his abundance with David and his men. After all, David had been very kind to Nabal in providing protection for Nabal’s shepherds and his sheep while they were among them near Carmel. 

At this time in Israel’s history, the Philistines were known to send raiding parties into Israelite territory to steal crops and livestock! And David points out to Nabal that while his shepherd were among David’s men – nothing was stolen and no harm came to them. They had provided a valuable service for Nabal – potentially saving him from a great loss!

And of course, David is not demanding payment for this. This isn’t extortion or some kind of protection racket… David’s request comes across as a very humble request – he even refers to himself as “your friend David” in verse 8. Other translations put that as “your son David” – implying that David is giving Nabal the kind of honour and respect that you’d give to a father-figure. 

And so David’s request for provisions here does not come across as a demand from the future king, but it’s presented much more as a friendly neighbour who just happened to show up during dinner.

And of course, in that culture, hospitality was incredibly important, so I’m sure David was fully expecting Nabal to express his thanks for all David had done and that Nabal would sent those ten young men back to David with a generous portion of Nabal’s feast!

However, you’ll recall that Nabal was known for being crude and mean in all his dealings – so let’s take a look to see how he responds to David’s request.

10 “Who is this fellow David?” Nabal sneered to the young men. “Who does this son of Jesse think he is? There are lots of servants these days who run away from their masters. 11 Should I take my bread and my water and my meat that I’ve slaughtered for my shearers and give it to a band of outlaws who come from who knows where?”

1 Samuel 25:10-11

Clearly this was not the kind of response that David was expecting! 

At first glance, it almost comes across as if Nabal didn’t even seem to know who David was – he says “Who is this fellow David?… “and further on he says “Should I give my food to a band of outlaws that come from who knows where?” 

But I don’t think it’s a matter of Nabal not knowing who David was. Somehow he knows that David is the son of Jesse (even though we don’t see that information in David’s message to Nabal.) But yet Nabal said “Who does this son of Jesse think he is?”

He also references how many servants these days are running away from their masters, referring to how David was being chased by Saul – even though I’m sure that didn’t come up in David’s message either.

What’s more, after David’s victory over Goliath some time earlier, David had become very well-known throughout the entire land of Israel. 1 Samuel chapter 18 tells us….

 But all Israel and Judah loved David because he was so successful at leading his troops into battle…. Every time the commanders of the Philistines attacked, David was more successful against them than all the rest of Saul’s officers. So David’s name became very famous.

1 Samuel 18:16, 30

David was pretty much legendary – so I find it pretty hard to imagine that Nabal wouldn’t know who David was. No, I think Nabal knew exactly who David was, but either he didn’t support David as the up and coming king, or more likely, he was just plain selfish. In verse 11 he says….

Should I take my bread and my water and my meat that I’ve slaughtered for my shearers and give it to a band of outlaws who come from who knows where?” 1 Samuel 25:11

Notice his language…. My bread. My water. My meat. I think he’s just so wrapped up in himself that he’s got no thought for anyone else. He doesn’t want to share with anyone! He’s greedy and selfish – plain and simple.

When we first heard Nabal being described as crude and mean – we talked briefly about the importance of having a good name and a good reputation. There is nothing attractive to anyone about being selfish and greedy.

If you know anyone like that – you know how off-putting greed and selfishness is. 

But as ambassadors of Christ, we should be just the opposite! Christians should be known for their generosity. We should be the best tippers, we should pay the most generous wages, we should make the greatest contributions to charities – and all that stuff!

Our God has blessed us with so much – both in spiritual blessings and in physical blessings! I think we have the responsibility to mimic Him and generously use whatever blessings we have to bless others!

Paul instructs Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:17….

17 Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. 18 Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. 19 By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.

1 Timothy 6:17-19

God has blessed us so that we can be a blessing to others! We need to use all that He has given us (physical blessings and spiritual blessings) to do good to others.

Jim Eliot – the famous missionary pilot who was martyred in Ecuador in the 1950s famously said…

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.”

 ~ Jim Eliot

That’s so true. A person is no fool to give what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose!”

We take nothing with us when we die – so why not use all that we have to impact others for eternity?! Whether that be our money, our homes, our time, our very lives! We are no fools to generously give it all for Christ! Don’t be like Nabal – selfish and greedy – Instead, be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. Store up your treasure in heaven!

But of course, that was certainly not Nabal’s perspective. He was not about to share anything with David or his men and he sent the messenger’s back to David empty-handed. The story continues in verse 12.

12 So David’s young men returned and told him what Nabal had said. 13 “Get your swords!” was David’s reply as he strapped on his own. Then 400 men started off with David, and 200 remained behind to guard their equipment.

1 Samuel 25:12-13

Now, I have to admit, I’m a little surprised by this. To me this seems like a bit of an over-reaction! Certainly Nabal was ungrateful, rude and selfish – but did that really warrant killing the guy? That seems a little extreme. But yet, that’s exactly what David is about to do. He grabs his sword and instructs his men to do likewise! David’s about to murder a man in response to an insult! This extreme response really seems out of character for David.

Remember, this is the David who just spared the life of Saul in the previous chapter after Saul had been relentlessly trying to kill him. So if David was willing to over-look Saul’s repeated attempts to take his life, why could David not overlook this one insult from Nabal?

Well, I’m not really sure what was going on in David’s mind – but it sure serves as a warning to me!

How many times do I over-react when someone offends me? How many times does someone’s simple comment fill me with anger or bitterness or hurt? How many times do I then hold a grudge against that person or harbour some kind of resentment towards them? For me, the answer is far too often!

It’s so easy to over-react when someone says or does something to offend us. And we see that happening like crazy in the world around us – everyone is offended by everything it seems! It’s gotten to the point of being ridiculous!

But it’s so easy to do when the only person you’re thinking about is yourself! When all you think about is me me me, you’re going to be constantly offended! 

In that respect, David is really being no different than Nabal right now. He’s only thinking about himself. He’s thinking about how his feelings are hurt, how he deserves better treatment, how unjust and unfair this whole situation was!

Those are all the same kind of thoughts we have when we’re offended. We’re just thinking about ourselves!

But you know what, the minute you start thinking about the other person, thinking through why they may have said or done what they did – as you have compassion on that person, trying to see things from their point of view, suddenly their offence doesn’t seem to be nearly as significant as it once did. It’s becomes a lot easier just to brush it aside and not let it bother you.

For a small example, sometimes when I’m driving down the highway, someone might cut me off. Now I can react in one of two ways – I can get all offended – thinking about what a jerk that person is to cut me off. They almost made me spill my coffee – I might have gotten into an accident! Boy what a jerk they are!

Or, I could stop and consider, well, maybe that was a teenage driver just learning to drive and this was their first time on highway 2! They’re probably scared half-to-death and probably don’t even realize that they cut me off! Suddenly, as I consider the other person and stop thinking about myself and start thinking about them suddenly, their offence doesn’t seem to be such a big deal anymore. It becomes a lot easier just to brush it off and move on.

Proverbs 19:11 says…

Good sense makes one slow to anger,

    and it is his glory to overlook an offense.

Proverbs 19:11 ESV

I really like that last part of that verse – It is our glory to over-look an offence. In other words, It’s to our credit – it shows our good character – to over-look the offending words or actions of another.

After all, isn’t that the character of God – to over-look an offence? Psalm 145 says…

8 The Lord is merciful and compassionate,

    slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.

9 The Lord is good to everyone.

    He showers compassion on all his creation.

Psalm 145:8-9

God is the master of over-looking our offences. In fact, it was his compassion and mercy for us that lead Jesus to die on the cross so that we could be forgiven. God didn’t just over-look the offence of our sin, he took the punishment for it so that we could experience salvation!

In the same way, we ought to have compassion and mercy on those who offend us.

13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.  Colossians 3:13

So this morning I’d just encourage you to remember this verse this week, because I’m sure you will have opportunity to put it into practice. There will be offences in your life this week. There always are. There will be times when people do things or say things that hurt you. Sinful people will do and say sinful things. But just as Christ had compassion and forgave you, so too, you must have compassion and forgive others.

As for David, we’ll have to come back next week to see how that all plays out! We haven’t talked much about Abigail yet, so I’m sure she’ll be a key player in resolving this story. And we’ll just see if David extends compassion and forgiveness to Nabal or whether he carries out his threat of murdering a selfish, but innocent man.

But that will be next week. For today, let me close in prayer.

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