Today we’re going to head to another chapter in First Samuel (Chapter 25) that tells a story about a greedy, selfish fool, a nearly fatal act of retribution by a future king, and a beautiful, wise woman who intervenes and changes a heart. And in the end, we see a lovely demonstration of kindness and redemption.
King Saul is still alive and pursuing David. (He never seems to give up; his jealousy is all-consuming.) David is running around with a band of followers trying to stay alive.
While David is hanging out in the wilderness with his devoted followers, (evading Saul), he and his men protect the flocks and shepherds belonging to a thankless fool named Nabal. (His name actually means “fool.”) Afterward, David and his men need some provisions, and David sends some of his men to Nabal to ask Nabal to return the favor—really a rightful compensation—by providing food for David’s men. And he does it in a very respectful manner. David blesses Nabal in the greeting and all of his flocks and possessions.
But old Nabal feigns ignorance about David, who is the young king-elect. Scripture says all of Israel knows about David, they’ve even made up songs about him and his successful battlefield exploits and giant slaying, so it is hard to believe that Nabal doesn’t know who David is, and what he is going to be to Israel.
Well, after Nabal’s disrespectful (stupid) response, David’s hot blood explodes. He plans to make Nabal pay for his insolence, in a big way. One of Nabal’s servants zips back to the house to alert Nabal’s wife, Abigail, about Nabal’s response and David’s plans, and beautiful, wise Abigail immediately makes plans to try to change David’s vengeful mind. She gathers together a feast and provisions and rides out to meet David before he can slaughter Nabal and lay waste to his belongings. She bows reverently before David, takes the blame for her foolish husband, and begs David to protect his own honor and reputation by changing his mind and accepting the provisions she has brought to him and his men. She believes in David and doesn’t want him to do anything that might endanger his throne or position, or cause the people to mistrust or fear him.
Thankfully, David’s heart is softened, by her words, her wisdom, and probably her good looks and changes his mind. He listens to her wise counsel, voices gratefulness for it, and turns away his wrath. Later in the story, we read how God, Himself, exacts the vengeance on Nabal. Afterward, David hears about Nabal’s death and proposes to Abigail, who accepts and becomes David’s wife. David proposal appears to be an act of gratefulness and protection.
But where is peace in this story? And what can we take away from it?
The Shalom (peace) is used three times in verse 6. David sends ten young men to Nabal, who is out in the field shearing his sheep, telling them to greet Nabal in the following manner: “And thus you shall say to him who lives in prosperity: ‘Shalom be to you, Shalom to your house, and Shalom to all you have!’”
David gives Nabal a greeting of friendship and blessing. And Nabal throws it back in his face. His words indicate that he is unimpressed by David, and not moved by his words, or needs.
This is something we’ve seen previously in our study: when a greeting of peace is ignored or not accepted. It is, in fact, thrown back at the giver.
And it takes someone else to recover from the rejecter’s stupidity, a person close to the insult to rectify it and turn the results around. In this case, it was a wise woman who didn’t pace around waiting for her foolish husband’s return so she could blister him with heated, nasty words; who didn’t wait around wringing her hands to see what happened; a woman who didn’t run from the issue.
Abigail was a brave woman who took upon herself the foolish actions of her husband, quickly prepared what was necessary to take to David and his men, rode out to David herself and proactively honored him and spoke wise, mind-changing words to him. She took action, and she was fully prepared to receive the punishment herself, if necessary.
All that because an extension of kindness and request made in peace was rejected.
Sometimes it takes drastic measures to rectify an insult or problem.
Questions to Ponder
1. Do you know someone you have helped out and then extended a word of peace to and requested some help from who has turned his face away from you? Someone who has actually denied knowing you, and not come to your aid? How did you feel about that rejection? How did you respond to it? Did you respond like David intended to respond, in anger and with retribution on your mind and in your heart? How much energy did you expend in that process?
What would the benefit be to you, or the offender, if you do respond with retaliation? Would it help you, or the situation? Could it make you look foolish, as though you’ve lost control? Could you leadership be questioned and your authority then be weakened? How much better is it to respond in meekness, which actually means “strength under control”?
2. Pray about how you might better respond to a person who rejects your peace overtures. How could you be more of an Abigail? (Hint: Spending a lot of time in prayer and reading how Jesus responded to people will give you much insight on how you can respond in a way that pleases God, and grants you favor in the eyes of others who are surely watching your behavior.
3. Finally, pray also that you would be properly prepared to respond positively to sincere overtures of peace from others.
I think the bottom line take-away here is: Always be prepared! Respond thoughtfully and prayerfully. And keep control over your temper!
Until next Monday, may your week be full of blessings that you receive and give, your heart be full of joy and thankfulness, and your days be filled with laughter! Build a little heaven in your life right now, and watch your heavenly garden grow!
In Christ’s love and peace,