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Bible Search
From the Sheep Pen to the Palace
Dear Abby
I Samuel 25
 
There are several well-known events in the early years of David's life such as the killing of Goliath and cutting the robe of King Saul while he was using the bathroom. 
 
But there are some other things that happened that are not nearly as well-known, yet they contain some valuable lessons for us.  One of those is today's study found in 1 Samuel 25. 
 
The story revolves around David and a married couple named Nabal and Abigail. And this story, though not as well-known as some of the others, has got it all! There is intrigue, injustice, conflict, anger, revenge, attempted murder, an impassioned plea, sudden death, and unexpected romance. All in the same chapter! It’s like an episode of some soap opera or best-selling movie, except that this story is entirely true.
 
Just in case you weren't here last week or you've forgotten some of the details, let me quickly catch us up one where we are in David's journey to the throne.  King Saul has come to believe that David wants him dead, even though nothing could be farther from the truth.  David had the opportunity to kill King Saul while he was using the bathroom in a cave near a place called En Gedi. 
 
But instead of killing him, David's cuts the corner from his robe and later shows it to him to prove he didn't want to kill him. 
If he had wanted to, he had the perfect opportunity,  but he spared his life and refused to take revenge. 
 
After that, the two men go their separate ways. Eventually David and his men moved west from the Dead Sea area across the rugged mountains into the Desert of Maon. They settle near the ranch of a man named Nabal.
 
We are introduced to Nabal in verse 2 where we learn that he is a very wealthy man.  In fact, the Hebrew word translated "very rich" means “heavy”, which in modern terms means he was loaded. He had 1000 goats and 3000 sheep.
 
Notice also, Nabal is described as being harsh and evil in his doings.  In fact, in Hebrew his name means “fool.” So whenever someone said, “Hey, Nabal,” they were really saying, “Hey, fool.”
 
In his commentary, Matthew Henry called him a “muck-worm.” He was cursed with a hard heart, a mean spirit, a senseless head, and an evil nature. He was an rich, arrogant jerk.
 
We also meet his wife who name is Abigail.  And if Nabal was rightly named the "fool", so was Abigail appropriately named because Abigail means “source of joy.”  Verse 3 describes her as a "beautiful woman of good understanding". 
 
So there they are, a mean-spirited rich jerk married to an intelligent and beautiful woman. How did it happen? Who knows? I'm guessing it was an arranged marriage, but it wouldn't be the first time I've been surprised by what some men can catch!
One other thing that is revealed by the way the events unfold is that apparently David and his men protected Nabal’s flocks and servants from the bandits and robbers who would attack without warning.
 
We read that between the lines as we learn in verse 4 that it is sheep-shearing time.  Now in the culture of the day, sheep-shearing time was always a festive time of the year.  It was the time when you cashed in on months of hard work and it was a traditional time of hospitality.
 
In fact, there was an old custom, sort of an unwritten law, that at sheep-shearing time you gave gifts to those who had been protecting your flocks.  And it is that little bit of historical background that sets the scene for what happens beginning with
 
1.  Nabal's Ignorance
 
verses 5-8
 
So David sends these servants to Nabal asking him to share from his bounty since it is sheep-shearing time.  He sends his compliments and reminds Nabal that his men had protected Nabal’s flocks and his servants even though Nabal hadn’t asked for his help.
 
And all of that was true.  We see later in the chapter in verses 15-16 that one of Nabal’s servants verifies that this was true.  In fact, he says that David’s men were like a wall of protection against bandits who might have attacked them.
 
 
 
But David has assumed wrongly the response his men will receive from Nabal. 
 
1 Samuel 25:10-11
 
Now that was as stupid thing to say, but remember Nabal is named "fool"! And with his response, he proves he is rightly named!  He has made two very grave mistakes:
 
1) He refused to show kindness to David and his men, and
 
2) He insulted David and his father Jesse.
 
And that last part was a big mistake.
 
2.  David's Anger
 
verse 13
 
That verse reminds me of a situation we had at Braum's a number of years ago when the boys were little.  They had an indoor play area in the Braum's out by the highway at that time.  Micah had been in there playing with some other kids.  Caleb was at the table with us. 
 
Micah came to the table telling about some little bully who had gotten rough and done something or the other.  Caleb jumped down, grabbed Micah by the arm and said, "Come on Micah!"   The time had come to take care of business!  That is where we find David.  Put on your sword.  By the way, you don’t put on swords to have a friendly discussion over a cup of tea. It's time to teach the fool a lesson. 
After all, the odds are now 400 to 1 in favor of David and Nabal is nothing more than a loud-mouthed goat roper. 
 
Now I want to stop there for moment and think about where we find David.  I think David probably had good reason to be angry but he had no right to seek revenge.
 
He would have been better off saying, “This guy’s a jerk. Just forget about him and let’s move on.” But he didn’t.
 
After all, just a few days earlier David had spared Saul in the cave near En Gedi. If anything, David had a greater reason to kill Saul and he had the perfect opportunity. But he didn’t. Now along comes Nabal and David is ready to snuff him out over a steak dinner.
 
Nabal is the lesser man—a nobody, really—but somehow he has become the greater irritation. David the merciful has become David the vengeful. And when David puts on his sword and tells his mean to strap on theirs, he has every intention of taking Nabal's life.   And the shock of this story is not that Nabal was a jerk.  Everyone knew that.  What's shocking is how quickly David loses control, especially after showing such restraint with Saul. 
 
As this is unfolding, word gets to Abigail that David is on the way to kill her husband.  And for what she does and what she says, and the courage and grace she shows under pressure, for her quick thinking and her wise intercession, she really deserves to be much better known than she is.  She should be  numbered among the great women of the Bible.
3.  Abigail's Wisdom
 
verse 18
 
There we have the original Meals on Wheels. Or I guess it was Meals on Hooves! Knowing that David’s men were hot, tired, and hungry, she whips up a meal for 400 angry men. The feast includes bread, wine, lamb, grain, raisins and figs.
 
She intends to intercept David’s men, feed them, and talk David out of killing her husband. She is actually giving us an Old Testament picture of the biblical doctrine of propitiation, which means to turn away wrath by the offering of a gift. We usually apply it to the death of Christ, but it also applies to many human relationships.
 
Verse 20 tells us what happened next.
 
verses 20-22
 
Over the hill comes David riding full tilt, with 400 men kicking up dust behind him. His eyes flash with anger. “I’m going to teach that so-and-so a lesson he’ll never forget.” Then he looks down the road and there on a donkey is a beautiful woman riding toward him, reins in one hand and a crock pot in the other!  It’s Dear Abby to the rescue!
 
If there is such a thing as love at first sight, this is it. He looks at all the food, knowing that his men are hungry. When he halts before Abigail, she does something strange. Getting off her donkey, she bows down in the dust before David. She asks David to take revenge on her because she is Nabal’s wife. David has never met a woman like her before. He’s not about to do anything to her.
 
In everything she does we see her greatness. She is prompt in her actions, generous in her gifts, and wise in her words. It is clear that she cares more for her family than she does for her reputation.
 
What follows in verses 23-31 is her speech to David. And I will tell you, if you ever find yourself in a position where you have to appease an angry person, you might want to carefully study what se says because with an humble attitude and just the right words, she defuses a deadly situation.
 
First, she says, “It’s my fault—blame me,” though none of it is her fault
 
verse 24
 
Then she admits that her husband is a fool.
 
verse 25
 
Contrary to what you might think, she’s not being disloyal. She is protecting him by admitting the truth to David.
 
Then she offers three reasons why David should spare her foolish husband:
 
#1: God's Restraining Protection
 
1 Samuel 25:26-28
 
This is the doctrine of the restraining grace of God, or you might call it the Preventive Providence of God. Abigail says, “God sent me to keep you from committing murder by killing my husband.”
She appeals to his higher nature by calling him to grant forgiveness to a fool. Let the Lord fight your battles and you will win every day.
 
#2: God's Gracious Provision
 
1 Samuel 25:29
 
This is a beautiful piece of advocacy. She refers to Saul’s pursuit of David and reaffirms that God will keep him safe “in the bundle of the living.” David, God himself has protected you and will protect you. You can afford to show kindness to Nabal.
 
When she mentions “the pocket of a sling,” there is a clear reference to the day David defeated Goliath with one stone from a sling. It’s a subtle way of saying, “If you rely on the Lord to fight your battles, you will win every time.”
 
#3: God's Faithful Promise
 
1 Samuel 25:30-31
 
Abigail reminds David that one day he will be king and when that happens, little pipsqueaks like Nabal won’t matter. But what will matter is whether or not his hands are clean. It took enormous faith to say that because at the moment David was the leader of a rag-tag band of vagrants on the run from Saul. But she could see that David was God’s man and that one day he would reign over the nation.
 
 
In light of David’s destiny, he can’t afford to give in to the temptation to get even. Revenge feels good now but it will feel bad later. You simply can’t win by trying to get even.
 
So many tragedies would be avoided, so many broken relationships would never happen, so many tears would never be shed, so many marriages could be healed, if only we would stop and think before we act or speak.
 
Many of us have said or done things in anger and then wished a thousand times we could take them back.
 
Once Abigail finishes her speech the story quickly comes to a climax. In verses 32-35 David agrees with Abigail and gives thanks to God that she saved him from a huge mistake.
 
1 Samuel 25:32-35
 
Notice that David praises God, blesses Abigail, and acknowledges God’s hand in her intervention. Most of us think we are really doing something if we just quietly listen when someone rebukes us. Very few of us are thankful for it, and hardly any will ever admit that God is at work when it happens. 
 
Very seldom do we thank the person who cared enough to confront us with our behavior and had enough courage to stop us in our tracks. But that’s what David did.
 
As for Nabal, he comes to a sad end. While Abigail is saving his life, he’s home having a party. When she finally arrives at home, he is drunk. The next morning when she tells him how close he and his men came to being massacred, the news gives him a heart attack. He became “like a stone” (meaning he was in a coma) and died ten days later.
David responded to the news by giving God thanks for keeping him from killing Nabal and for bringing Nabal to justice in his own way and in his own time
 
verse 39
 
That should be end of the story. But there is one loose detail that needs to be wrapped up. Now that Nabal is dead, Abigail is a single woman again. David realizes what a tremendous woman she is and sends his servants to ask her to become his wife.
 
You may ask, "Wasn't David already married?  He was, and I'm certainly not advocating for it, I'm just stating the fact that polygamy was common among the kings of Israel, and David had more than one wife.
 
1 Samuel 25:41-42
 
It is a fairy-tale ending to a very strange story. In fact, as strange as it sounds to say it, Abigail turns out to be the best wife David ever hand. And the truth of the matter is, God solved a dangerous situation because a godly woman convinced an angry man to wait for God to do his work. He waited, God worked, and they became husband and wife.
 
Now, let's put a New Testament perspective on what we've read.  Listen to what the Apostle Paul said to the Romans in
 
Romans 12:17-21
 
In our story, it was Abigail who poured the hot coals of kindness on David’s head and thus overcame evil with good.
David gave room for God’s wrath to work itself out in Nabal’s life. At least for David and Abigail, all’s well that ends well.
 
As we stand back and look at this story, two very important truths stand out for our consideration.
 
1) Yesterday’s victories do not win today’s battles.
 
Notice how quickly David was overcome by anger for Nabal after just refusing to get revenge on Saul. There is a not so subtle reminder there that the same thing happens to us.  You may win the battle yesterday and lose it today. Or you may have patience today and snap at your children tomorrow. Is this not a mirror of life? We may conquer in a moment of enormous temptation and then lose in a tiny skirmish tomorrow.
 
So why did David respond like he did?  Why did he win with Saul and struggle with Nabal? Maybe he was caught off guard.  After all, he knew Saul wanted to kill him, so it wasn't a surprise when he tried.  And because he knew where he stood, he had time to think it through and figure out how he was going to react.
 
But with Nabal, he had every reason to expect better, and therefore he wasn’t prepared for the  rejection. And because he wasn’t prepared, he reacted in anger.
 
What a lesson that is for all of us. In regard to spiritual battle and putting on the armor, Paul told the Ephesians to “Be sober, be vigilant.” says the Lord.
 
This is the nature of all spiritual warfare. In the moment of great triumph, you may stumble and fall. When we face a great crisis, we normally rally all our resources to help us get through.
 
We pray, we seek the Lord, we search the Word, and we depend on our friends. We know we have to lean hard on the Lord or we won’t make it.
 
But when it’s a little trial—an everyday irritation—we are much more prone to go into battle unguarded, unprepared, and unarmed. And that’s when we’re set up for a fall. The devil is a cunning foe who knows when to hit us hard. He knows that after a great triumph is the moment when we are likely to let our guard down.
 
That explains why you will sometimes see great Christians, the kind who would lay it all on the line for Jesus, who fail in the ordinary pressures of life. They are good people who are spiritual in every sense of the word, but they lose their temper over some of the most trivial and ridiculous things. 
 
They let down their guard for a moment and Satan takes advantage of the opportunity.  They think they can rely on yesterday's bread.  That's why Paul warned the Corinthians to be careful when they thought they were standing because they were in danger of falling.
 
Here's the second thing:
2) Revenge is for fools
 
David learned this lesson the hard way. If it hadn't been for Abigail, David would have make a terrible mistake.
 
Revenge never works the way we want it to. We call it sweet revenge and we say we’re going to get even. We’re going to settle an old score, give him a dose of his own medicine, measure out an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, tit for tat, blow for blow.
 
But it’s still wrong. In the first place, we can never be sure our punishment is just. Because we don’t know all the facts, we may be too harsh or too easy. And when we seek revenge, we are usurping God’s authority and interfering in His work.  In fact, we take God off the throne and assume it for ourselves.   We decide we know better than God what someone deserves. 
 
But I want to remind you that He is in charge of the Justice Department, not us.  Our job is to show kindness, to turn the other cheek, to go the second mile, to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us, and to pour hot coals of love on the head of the person who hates us. In so doing, our kindness may convict them in a way our harsh words never could.
 
Once again we are confronted with our Lord Jesus who forgave his killers and died that they might be set free. He loved those who hated him. We should go and do likewise.
 
I’d like to wrap up this sermon with two personal applications.
First, it may be that your greatest need is to meet
Jesus Christ as your own Lord and Savior.  Did you see the gospel in this story? It’s right there in broad daylight.  Let me show you: 
 
David is a picture of the entire human race,  He is overcome with anger, lusting for revenge, heading full speed down the road of self-destruction.  Abigail is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ.  He took it upon himself to intercept us on our headlong rush to destruction. He stood in the road, stopped us in our tracks, and said, “Let me offer you a better way.”
 
And by his death on the cross he turned away forever the wrath of God. His bloody sacrifice satisfied God’s righteous demand and created the basis by which we could be forgiven. God accepted the death of his own Son and therefore will accept the sinner who trusts in him. This means that if you have never met Jesus Christ, he stands in the road right in front of you.
 
He is there whether you can see him or not. He stands with his arms outstretched, asking you to consider your ways, to turn from your sin, and to trust him as Lord and Savior. This is your moment to believe on him.
 
If you have the slightest desire to be saved, if you need a new life, if you want to be forgiven, if you know God is calling you, stop what you are doing and run to the cross of Christ.
 
Second, there may be someone her who has a room in their heart where the Holy Spirit is not welcome.
 
It is a private place with the lock on the inside and it is a storehouse of hatred and revenge. It is a dark room filled with pain and anger and you keep it locked because you don’t want anyone else to know the room is there. And maybe you even pretend to yourself that the room doesn’t exist. It is a room that God will not enter without your permission.
 
It’s very possible that you are nursing hatred and bitterness and a desire to get even with someone who hurt you terribly. And you may say, “But I’m justified in it. They did me wrong.” And you may be entirely right about that.
 
But I ask you, how can God’s Holy Spirit do his work and bestow his blessing in a life filled with anger? If God is ever going to greatly use you, and if your life is ever going to change, that door must be opened by you because it is locked from the inside. I can’t open it for you, and God won’t. He is the perfect gentleman. He waits to be invited inside.
 
No one is more miserable than the person who harbors secret hatred and wishes for revenge. And no one is happier than the person who finally opens the door to the Holy Spirit and says, “Come in and do your work in me.” In the moment when you say that, healing begins on the inside.
 
Instead of hatred there is love; instead of bitterness, kindness. Instead of revenge, forgiveness. If I am describing your life, then God’s word to you is: “Open the hidden door and let my Spirit come in.” May God give you grace and strength to open the door so that the healing may begin today.
 
Let's pray.
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