Sunday, March 19, 2023

Abigail calms the wrath of David

In chapter 25 of 1st Samuel we see several turning points in the life of David. Many years ago David had been a young shepherd boy when he met a prophet of Israel named Samuel. But the story is about to shift radically.

It says in 1st Samuel 25:1: “Now Samuel died, and all Israel assembled and mourned for him; and they buried him at his home in Ramah. Then David moved down into the Desert of Paran.”

The prophet of God has now died. And David moves his men into the desert.

Samuel never saw David take the throne. He waited all those years, watching Saul squander everything. But Samuel believed. Even though he never saw it happen. He knew David would be king. I’m sure David mourned the loss, I wonder if he even attended the funeral in secret, watching with tearful eyes as they entombed Samuel the prophet of God.

David headed off into the desert I’m sure with a heavy heart mourning the loss, but the next phase of his journey was about to begin.

That's our first point for today: Be aware of turning points in your life. I've noticed this about God, he will give nudges that a turning point is near. A big shift happens, and the journey changes from one stage to the next. It's almost like leveling up in an RPG video game, your traits are adjusted, you've gained new skills, and you move forward to a new spiritual region. 

Next, we’re going to see an incident that occurs between David and a man named Nabal.

The scriptures say, 1st Samuel 25:2-3, “2 A certain man in Maon, who had property there at Carmel, was very wealthy. He had a thousand goats and three thousand sheep, which he was shearing in Carmel. 3 His name was Nabal and his wife’s name was Abigail. She was an intelligent and beautiful woman, but her husband was surly and mean in his dealings—he was a Calebite.”

Nabal and Abigail, Nabal is a mean guy, negative, harsh. We’ve all known men like that, gruff, intense, loud, sharp, mean-spirited, and just want to yell at you. But he’s married to this beautiful, intelligent woman named Abigail.

Nabal means “fool” it could’ve been a nickname, though perhaps by a twist a fate it was his actual given name. But he seems to fit the name well. He’s stubborn and doesn’t listen, as we’ll see in a moment.

David has been a help to Nabal in the past, it says in verse 4-6, “While David was in the wilderness, he heard that Nabal was shearing sheep. So he sent ten young men and said to them, “Go up to Nabal at Carmel and greet him in my name. Say to him: ‘Long life to you! Good health to you and your household! And good health to all that is yours!”

David orders his men to be very polite and respectful to Nabal in seeking his help. He sends messengers to connect with Nabal, to start things off on the right foot.

The message continues, verse 7-9: "Now I hear that it is sheep-shearing time. When your shepherds were with us, we did not mistreat them, and the whole time they were at Carmel nothing of theirs was missing. 8 Ask your own servants and they will tell you. Therefore be favorable toward my men, since we come at a festive time. Please give your servants and your son David whatever you can find for them.’” When David’s men arrived, they gave Nabal this message in David’s name. Then they waited.”

So David is looking for some supplies, some provisions, food, clothing, water, whatever Nabal can spare.

Let’s see Nabal’s response, verses 10-11:

Nabal answered David’s servants, “Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days. Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where?”

Nabal’s response is harsh, rude, he says, "who are you? I don’t know who you are. Many people are rebelling against their masters today, and why should I give my food and drink to random people anyway?" A very worldly response. I’m not helping anyone, what’s mine is mine and that’s all. If Nabal was wise, he would know, this is the coming king of Israel, if I help him, he will show me favor in the future. But Nabal is a fool, so he makes some smart remarks. He insults David and his men, and sends them away with nothing.

Let’s see what happened next. Verses 12-13, “David’s men turned around and went back. When they arrived, they reported every word. David said to his men, “Each of you strap on your sword!” So they did, and David strapped his on as well. About four hundred men went up with David, while two hundred stayed with the supplies.”

So here we see David is angry with Nabal’s response. He gathers his men, 400 of the 600, weapons ready, to go and deal with Nabal.

Our second point today is this: Watch your words carefully. Watch your tone of voice, in your dealings with people. You can make enemies very quickly by what you say. And by how you say it. Check your harsh words. Wait a minute before you speak. Be cautious how you speak. Your words have power. And be careful what you post on social media. Make sure it’s edifying, valuable, holy, good. Because your words can often come back to bite you, just like in this situation. 

Time and again in the book of Proverbs, it talks about watching your words, using wise words, and giving a timely word. Remember that our words have power. Use your voice wisely. 

Meanwhile the employees of Nabal saw how he mistreated David’s men. It says in verse 14-17: “One of the servants told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, “David sent messengers from the wilderness to give our master his greetings, but he hurled insults at them. Yet these men were very good to us. They did not mistreat us, and the whole time we were out in the fields near them nothing was missing. Night and day they were a wall around us the whole time we were herding our sheep near them. Now think it over and see what you can do, because disaster is hanging over our master and his whole household. He is such a wicked man that no one can talk to him.”

David’s men had apparently been protecting the flocks and employees of Nabal when they were in his region. And they never stole anything, or took anything for themselves. But Nabal has insulted David. And the servant can tell something bad is coming.

Have you ever been in a situation where you can sense that something is wrong? Fire is burning. Get out of the building. And you must act quickly! Critical moments are taking place. It’s moving fast. And we’ve got to act. I've had times like that in my life, I knew, I need to act quickly. 

Disaster is hanging over their heads. Let’s see what Abigail does next in verses 18-19:

“Abigail acted quickly. She took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five seahs of roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins and two hundred cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys. Then she told her servants, “Go on ahead; I’ll follow you.” But she did not tell her husband Nabal.”

Abigail springs into action. She’s going to somehow make things right with David and his men. She must know they’ll certainly be coming soon. So she heads in their direction on a donkey. She doesn’t come empty handed though, she brings huge amounts of food and drink. She’s coming with gifts. She’s a wise, godly, beautiful woman who is going to somehow make this right. I’m sure this isn’t the first time she’s had to deal with blowback from Nabal’s foolish behavior.

That’s our third point today, know when you need to spring into action. Take the required action. Step up in faith. And do so with wisdom. If you’ve got to settle a dispute, bring a gift along with you. It can help cool off the raging anger of those you’re trying to reach.

Same with us today, if we’re in sin, if we’ve wronged someone, we must spring into action, in Spirit and in truth, to turn away the wrath, to seek forgiveness and to find right standing once again. Abigail goes to work to make this right. 

Sometimes God will tell us to "Stand still" and watch as He works. Other times he'll tell us "get up and go" and get to work. That's why we have to be wise and discern what God is saying to do in our situation. Sometimes it's "stand still" other times it's "go and take action." 

Abigail heads out. In verses 20-30:

As she came riding her donkey into a mountain ravine, there were David and his men descending toward her, and she met them. David had just said, “It’s been useless—all my watching over this fellow’s property in the wilderness so that nothing of his was missing. He has paid me back evil for good. May God deal with David, be it ever so severely, if by morning I leave alive one male of all who belong to him!”

When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed down before David with her face to the ground. She fell at his feet and said: “Pardon your servant, my lord, and let me speak to you; hear what your servant has to say. Please pay no attention, my lord, to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name—his name means Fool, and folly goes with him. And as for me, your servant, I did not see the men my lord sent. And now, my lord, as surely as the Lord your God lives and as you live, since the Lord has kept you from bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hands, may your enemies and all who are intent on harming my lord be like Nabal. And let this gift, which your servant has brought to my lord, be given to the men who follow you.

“Please forgive your servant’s presumption. The Lord your God will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my lord, because you fight the Lord’s battles, and no wrongdoing will be found in you as long as you live. Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my lord will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the Lord your God, but the lives of your enemies he will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling. When the Lord has fulfilled for my lord every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him ruler over Israel, 31 my lord will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself. And when the Lord your God has brought my lord success, remember your servant.”

Abigail’s gracious and humble words turn back David’s wrath. Abigail speaks truth, speaks life over David. She says what Nabal should’ve said. Her words are matched by the food and drink she brings as well. She humbly asks for mercy from David and his men.

Fourth point today, speak gracious words. Be humble. And you’ll find success. If you’re prideful or harsh, obviously it’s not going to turn out like this. But if you humble yourself, speak gracious words, and speak life, you’ll find reconciliation.

How does David respond? In verse 32-35 it says:

David said to Abigail, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands. Otherwise, as surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak.”

Then David accepted from her hand what she had brought him and said, “Go home in peace. I have heard your words and granted your request.”

Point number five, David gives God the glory. Abigail did all the right things here. But it was ultimately God who gave the victory. Guess what, you can do all the right things, say all the right things, and it can still turn out bad. But, in this situation, God moves in David’s heart to have mercy on Abigail and her family.

Next, Abigail goes back to her husband to tell him what happened. In verses 36-39:

When Abigail went to Nabal, he was in the house holding a banquet like that of a king. He was in high spirits and very drunk. So she told him nothing at all until daybreak. Then in the morning, when Nabal was sober, his wife told him all these things, and his heart failed him and he became like a stone. About ten days later, the Lord struck Nabal and he died. 

When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Praise be to the Lord, who has upheld my cause against Nabal for treating me with contempt. He has kept his servant from doing wrong and has brought Nabal’s wrongdoing down on his own head.”

Point number six, let God deal with your enemies. It’s not your job to deal with them. Since David left it to God, God dealt with Nabal quickly. And Nabal was struck by God and died.

The only problem now is Abigail doesn’t have a husband. Her foolish husband Nabal has been struck dead. In ancient times men were the landowners, women had to have a husband to be cared for. 

So, it says in verse 39-44: Then David sent word to Abigail, asking her to become his wife. His servants went to Carmel and said to Abigail, “David has sent us to you to take you to become his wife.”

She bowed down with her face to the ground and said, “I am your servant and am ready to serve you and wash the feet of my lord’s servants.” Abigail quickly got on a donkey and, attended by her five female servants, went with David’s messengers and became his wife. David had also married Ahinoam of Jezreel, and they both were his wives. But Saul had given his daughter Michal, David’s wife, to Paltiel son of Laish, who was from Gallim.”

Abigail goes from being saddled with Nabal, always having troubles, to taking a new course of action, and she now joins up with David’s army. She becomes his wife, and a blessing to his troops and men. She becomes an honored woman in his affairs.

Point seven today, God provides for those he loves. He provided two ways here, first, by providing the food and drink for David’s men through Abigail’s offering, and providing marriage for David and Abigail. God provides marriage to David, romance to David, through Abigail becoming his wife. I’m sure David was lonely as this leader in exile, with his fighting men in the wilderness, so God provides companionship through Abigail. Abigail is also now cared for, and not left alone to beg on the streets. God is our provider.

So how can we apply what we learned today from Abigail and David's conduct? Let's review our seven points: 

Point number one, be aware of turning points in your life, like the death of Samuel, it marked a turning point in the history of Israel, and in David’s life.

Point number two, watch your words, tone of voice, a gentle answer is wise, a harsh answer brings offense.

Point number three, jump into action when the moment calls for it. (Know when to stand still as well) 

Point number four, speak humble gracious words to turn away offense. Use wisdom.

Point number five, give God all the glory, he guides events, not our wisdom.

Point number six, let God deal with your enemies, he certainly will.

Point number seven, God provides for those he loves. Twofold in David's situation: food and drink, and romance/marriage.