GOD’S ANOINTED: With neighbors like these…

Abigail asks for mercy


1 Samuel 25

Chapter 25 opens with the death of Israel’s great prophet and priest, Samuel—

Now Samuel died, and all Israel assembled and mourned for him; and they buried him at his home in Ramah.  (verse 1a)

After a very long life of devotion to both God and his people, Samuel went the way of all flesh.  It had been some time since David had any contact with Samuel.  In fact, while David was in the Nob (chapter 22), the town of priests, he was visited, not by Samuel but by Ahimilech.  In all likelihood, Samuel had been dead for a while before chapter 25, even though the event isn’t mentioned until verse 1.  According to the records of Josephus, Samuel ruled over the people alone for 12 years after the death of Eli and he ruled alongside Saul for 18 years.  In all, Samuel held his priestly/prophetic office for 40 years and passed away in his 70th year.

Though not connected in any what with Samuel’s death, David is next seen doing this—

Then David moved down into the Desert of Paran.  (verse 1b)

By now David had lost his source of earthly inspiration and comfort, but the Lord had given King David an army of some 600 men.  These followers of David would need supplies—food, water, and clothing—and this is why they are moving (“roaming”) into the desert region of Paran.  Though referred to here as a desert, this area had extensive pasture lands, perfect for David and his band.

In this story, we will meet three major characters, David, Nabal, and Nabal’s wife, Abigail.  These three characters each give us a glimpse into the three dominant kinds of people on the earth today.  First we David, who is not only God’s anointed, but also represents God’s Anointed as He calls people to Himself.  Then we have Nabal, who in is pride and foolish behavior really serves to represent the kind of person who is given opportunities to follow Christ but stubbornly refuses.  Finally there is Abigail, the picture of the person who believes in Christ and Christ’s Word whole-heartedly.

1.  David’s request,  verse 8

Please give your servants and your son David whatever you can find for them.

This is what David instructed some of his men to ask Nabal, a wealthy land owner who lived in the region.  The question was predicated on the fact that while living in Paran, David and his men had given Nabal’s considerable sheep herd and shepherds and herdsmen armed protection against the desert raiders who threatened them often.

Night and day they were a wall around us the whole time we were herding our sheep near them.  (verse 16)

This was the testimony of Nabal’s employees, and because of David’s thoughtfulness and generosity in helping Nabal, David respectfully asked Nabal for help, in the form of food for himself and his men.   In fact, it was customary to share of your bounty on the “feast day,” so David’s request was not only reasonable but it was grounded in a custom of the day.

Rather than go personally to Nabal, David sent ten handpicked men—

So he sent ten young men and said to them, “Go up to Nabal at Carmel and greet him in my name.”  (verse 5)

These ten men functioned like ambassadors of Christ; Christ sends His ambassadors with the message of salvation to lost souls, and to reject Christ’s ambassador is to reject Christ—

“Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.”  (Luke 10:16)

Notice the message of David’s messengers—

Say to him: ‘Long life to you! Good health to you and your household! And good health to all that is yours!  (verse 6)

The Hebrew word these ambassadors used was “shalom,” or “peace.”  David was wishing the very best personal peace and personal well-being on Nabal.  Is this not exactly the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  To respond to the Gospel results in real and everlasting peace; a peace that passes all understanding that is grounded in Jesus Christ, not in anything temporal.

As Christ’s ambassadors, we carry a similar message to people who have been or are being hurt, misused and abused by the cold, hard world.  The world offers no peace; the world itself is looking for peace.  But we have what they are looking for; it is within our power to give lost and hurting people true and lasting peace.

2.  Nabal’s response

No doubt, Nabal was a man of substantial means, and was a great man of his day.  Unfortunately, great men are not always smart men.  This is especially true of an unregenerate man.  The Apostle Paul observed—

The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.  (1 Corinthians 2:14)

The foolishness of the unsaved is highlighted when they are brought face-to-face with the challenges of the Gospel.   Notice how utterly foolish Nabal was:

He rejected the claims of DavidNabal answered David’s servants, “Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days.  (verse 10)

Nabal’s response to David’s very polite and gracious request was contemptuous, even to the point of referring to David as a runaway slave!  Obviously Nabal knew exactly who David was.   Nabal’s response to David was a lot like Pharaoh’s response to Moses—

Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD and I will not let Israel go.”  (Exodus 5:2)

In denying his Savior, Peter, during his darkest hour also made a similar response—

He began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”  (Mark 14:71)

It seems like even the nicest people are very adept at disowning the nicest of people, even Jesus Christ!   Nabal, for his part, not only blew David’s men off, but he refused them the simplest of things:  bread and water.  Nabal, in fact, had a huge ego.  In verse 11, Nabal used “I” and “my” an astonishing 8 times!  This man sees only himself.

He lived only to please himselfWhen 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.  (verse 36a)

This was probably after the sheep-shearing had taken place, and Nabal was celebrating in a kingly, lavish fashion.  During this feast, Nabal proved the truthfulness of Proverbs 30:22, 22—

“Under three things the earth trembles, under four it cannot bear up: a servant who becomes king, a godless fool who gets plenty to eat.”

In a telling play on words, the Hebrew word for “godless” is nabal.  This man in certainly living up to his name; rather than seeking to honor the Lord’s anointed; he is honoring his belly and his godless servants.  Nabal, the man who had nothing for David, apparently had plenty on which to gorge himself.

How many modern-day Nabals are there, even in the church of Jesus Christ?  These kinds of people have very little to offer God, but plenty to meet their own desires.  Nabal was a fool, but so also is the one who is accumulating treasures on earth instead of in heaven!

3.  Abigail’s wisdom, verse 3

She was an intelligent and beautiful woman.

Abigail must have been something.  She was intelligent, or as some versions say, “of good understanding,” yet she was married to a total buffoon.  Here is an excellent picture of a believer being unequally yoked to an unbeliever.  Life for this person is difficult because they want to please God, but then they also want to be a faithful spouse to their unsaved spouse.  It’s hard to honor both at the same time, though not impossible.  Abigail’s wisdom is evident when we consider her attitude to David—

When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed down before David with her face to the ground.  (verse 23, but read verses 18—23)

Abigail yielded to David immediately.  Note verse 18 carefully:  Abigail acted quickly.

She wasted no time in trying to meet all of David’s needs.  This was surely a labor of faith, but it was also a work of love.  She believed in David and believed in his righteous cause and she also believed the God would cause David to succeed—

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.  (verse 28)

That is truly an astonishing thing to say, considering she never met any of David’s men, according to verse 25.  It was her “good understanding” that enabled her to see the righteousness of David and the faithfulness of his God.

Abigail represents the kind of believer we should all aspire to be.  She was a faithful believer in the middle of the most trying of circumstances.  She did not have a godly husband to encourage her.  She was alone in the world.  Yet Abigail was never truly alone.  The Spirit of God rested with her, and judging by what she has told David, the Spirit of God rested IN her, as well.   She told David that he would indeed be recognized as King of Israel even though at the moment he was on the run, hiding from Saul.  Here was a remarkable woman of faith, who could see what wasn’t there.  Verse 29, though, is a powerful one—

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.

The phrase “bound securely in the bundle of the living” is translated by Moffatt as “wrapt up safe among the living,” and is an expression for one whose life is under the safekeeping of God.  How could she know all this?  Abigail was a woman of “understanding,” she was a woman of amazing faith.

She prayed earnestlyPlease 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. (verse 25)

There was likely not love lost between Abigail and her husband, nonetheless, she asked David to ignore her idiot of a husband, who ran around doing things that were “right in his own eyes” (Proverbs 12:15).  But she was a woman of wisdom so Nabal was foolish in her eyes. She also prayed for herself—

Please forgive your servant’s presumption. (verse 28)

She knew what kind of power David had even if David did not.  She knew that her life and the life of her husband were in David’s hands.  Did you know your life is in God’s hands?  We don’t often think about that reality, but it’s true.  Ideally, all of us should bow the knee and serve the Lord in obedience out of our love for Him and out of appreciation for what Jesus did for us, but sheer terror of arousing the anger of the Lord is a pretty good secondary reason for behaving!  The unsaved live their lives like there is no God; they live exactly like Nabal.  The thing is, God is real whether a person believes in Him or not.

She bore witness in courageThen 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.  (verse 37)

Now here is real wisdom on display.  Here is real courage being exercised.  When her loser husband was finally sober, she told this “rich fool” how narrowly he had escaped death.

She was courageous because it would have been easy to talk to Nabal while he was drunk and in good spirits.  How many of us as children approached our parents about some mischief we got into at school while they were distracted?  Abigail was wise because she told her husband the truth about the situation; she sugar-coated nothing.  What an excellent picture of a true Christian who is unafraid to boldly share their faith with others!

4.  The results

Nabal diedAbout ten days later, the LORD struck Nabal and he died.  (verse 38)

This verse calls to mind a parable our Lord told in Luke 12, which ended with this exchange—

‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’  “This is how it will be with those who store up things for themselves but are not rich toward God.”  (Luke 12:20, 21)

Either through fear or rage, Nabal suffered a heart attack or a stroke and a few days later, the rich fool was dead.  God’s will is always done no matter what a man may do.  The schemes made by the ungodly against God and God’s people will never succeed.  What was proven by Nabal is a truth that has stood the test of time:  the one who refuses to believe in Jesus Christ is setting the eternal God against him.

Abigail is exaltedThen David sent word to Abigail, asking her to become his wife.  (verse 39)

When the news of Nabal’s death reached David, he was once again thankful that he had been prevented from taking matters into his own hands.  It was Abigail’s wise words that gave David pause, and because David rested in the Lord, the Lord moved on David’s behalf.   Thanks to Abigail’s prayer, God had kept David from doing wrong, while Nabal received the reward for his wrongdoing.

As a reward for her faith, David sends for Abigail and “marries” her.  However, what is interesting about this is Abigail’s response to David—

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.”  (verse 41)

David was no saint!  He already had at least one other wife; he was polygamist.  But Abigail recognized his authority; in her mind she was not his wife, rather, she was another of his servants.

Notice carefully the wording of verse 40—

His servants went to Carmel and said to Abigail, “David has sent us to you to take you to become his wife.”

And compare it with the wording of 2 Samuel 11:4, which deal with the wife of another man, Bathsheba—

Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her.

And compare both of those verses to what the late Samuel had warned Israel about concerning what kings would do to them—

Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use.  (1 Samuel 8:16)

David, as remarkable a man as he was, could never be more because he was a sinner living in sinful world and a bad situation.  Israel was never meant to have a king, but God allowed  them to have many kings and David was the very best.  Yet, even King David could never rise above a certain level of godliness and holiness.  There is a tremendous lesson here for all of us:  No human being can ever be more than a human being.  People will always disappoint us and hurt us whether they realize it or not.  No political leader can ever create a utopia on earth because God has designed His universe to always leave human beings wanting something more that only He can provide.  Wise is the person who stops trying to find those things on his own.  We need more Abigail’s and fewer Nabals in the Church of Jesus Christ today.  Only when we live in faith do we ever rise above the sea of mediocrity all around us.

(c)  2009 WitzEnd


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