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Monday, January 24, 2011

Waste No Time

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.”
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.(1 Samuel 25: 14-19 NIV 2010)

I have always found the kind of humility and bravery that Abigail shows in this passage to be an inspiring example for Christians to follow.  God brought it to mind last night, while I was planning what to write today.  After re-reading 1 Samuel 25, I saw again the parallels between this passage and God's relationship with the righteous and the unrighteous.  Intrigued?

Abigail's Choice

The Bible records that Abigail "was an intelligent and beautiful woman, but her husband, a Calebite, was surly and mean in his dealings." (1 Samuel 25: 3 NIV).  As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that although her husband was like a king in his household (vs. 36), Abigail was the one who kept his kingdom together.  Nabal was not a good man, but she stayed with him and soothed his enemies, at least once in recorded history shielding him from the consequences for awhile (vs. 36).  History records one more thing about Abigail: She was a righteous woman with a strong sense of morality, and she let no one, not even the head of her household, persuade her to put in her lot with foolishness.

When Abigail heard the trouble that Nabal had gotten them into, some Bible translations say that "she wasted no time,"  in taking steps to correct it.  Abigail didn't let any person prevent her from doing what she knew was necessary.  If she had waited for advice, or had run her plan by her husband for approval, it would have been too late.

Now, some may be puzzled by the strange assortment of things that she took to David as a peace offering.  Abigail probably learned from her servants that David had a large band of followers (600 men, if you tally them up), and yet she took relatively small quantities of things--five sheep, two skins of wine, about a bushel of grain, and enough loaves of bread and cakes of dried fruit to feed half that number of men.  Scripture doesn't explain this, but I think what we see here is her own dinner preparations going out on donkeys for David's men.  She gathered up what David's men had asked for--"whatever you can find for them" (vs. 8).  There was no time left to go slaughter some more sheep or bake more bread, so she took all that she had and ran with it.

Still, when she arrived, I think it was her honest acknowledgment of Nabal's folly and her willingness to accept the blame that soothed David's anger, not her meager offering of food.  She fell at his feet, which was an admission of weakness and an appeal for mercy, and said, "He [Nabal] 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," (1 Samuel 25: 25 NIV 2010). David listened to her because she spoke the truth without justifying herself.

Drawing a Parallel: Repentance Turns away God's Wrath

Often, stories in the Bible are parallels to later passages and teachings in Scripture.  For instance, David's life is often called a "type" of Christ.  In this case, we can draw a parallel between how David, Abigail, and Nabal acted, and the way God receives righteous and unrighteous people.

David and his men had protected and blessed Nabal and Abigail and all that they had, just as the Bible says that God sends rain and sunshine to both good and evil people (Matthew 5: 45).  Nabal, however, behaved like the wicked people who refuse to acknowledge the God who helps them (Psalm 14: 1-5), and because of Nabal's attitude, he earned David's wrath.  Does God get angry and punish people who take advantage of His help while ignoring Him?  I think the Bible does bear that out in later chapters.

Abigail, on the other hand, here modeled for us the way righteous people should behave when they hear that God is angry with them.  She acted quickly, giving up everything she had (drawing parallels to Mark 12: 41-46 ; Matthew 10: 34-38), even though it was a meager offering compared to what had been done for her.  She did not care about what she was risking to please David and his men, because she cared more about appeasing their wrath than pleasing herself or even her husband.  Similarly, we should give no thought to what we must give up when we choose to obey God; it is preferable to please God than to take our chances with His punishment.  Even though she had brought the food David requested, Abigail saw that she still had no negotiating power, and she acknowledged that by falling at David's feet to beg for mercy.  This lack of arrogance pleased him and soothed his anger.  If we do likewise before God, He, too, will not despise our pleas for His mercy (Psalm 51: 17).  If we fall at Jesus' feet and ask Him for mercy, He will turn away God's justifiable wrath and remove from us the judgment that comes upon sin--that is, eternal death (1 John 1:9).

So what do we learn from Abigail?  First, we should take no part in the sins of others, but wherever possible, we should be righteous even when those close to us are not. Second, we should be willing to repent, and do it quickly, when we see that we have done wrong.  Next, we should not be arrogant when we repent, but do so without justifying ourselves, acknowledging what is right and admitting without qualification what we did wrong.  Finally, we should know, as Abigail learned, that repentance turns away God's wrath, even at the last moment, when He has already resolved to punish us.

I'll leave you with some questions, to get you started thinking and commenting on this post:  The last time you realized you had offended God, did you react like Abigail or did you act like Nabal?  What other valuable things can readers learn from Abigail's example in 1 Samuel 25?  Does this passage bring to mind other Scriptural parallels that you would like to share?


Anonymous said...

There are some good thoughts in this post. I don't think that anything Abigail did was in rebellion to her husband. She actually protected him and her entire household through her actions.

Your main point was in drawing parallels between God and David and how we should react when we have displeased God. I agree with your scriptural basis for these ideas.

I also see that a believing wife can help put a covering of protection over her entire household. Ladies. If you have an unbelieving husband, don't give up on him. Continue to serve the Lord faithfully and your diligence will be rewarded by God according to His will for your life.