Recently I had the opportunity to teach a couple of lessons at our church’s women’s Bible study. We were finishing up a series on women of the Bible. I could think of no better woman to include in that study than Abigail–a bold champion of right.
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Abigail’s story is told in I Samuel 25. David is running for his life away from King Saul. He and his 300 mighty men just had a chance to eliminate Saul. This seemed like the perfect way to fulfill God’s promise to make David the king of Israel, but David refused to take matters into his own hands:
“The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord’s anointed.” (I Samuel 24:6)
He recognized that life and death belong to the Lord. God had a plan, and it was not David’s place to rush it.
Once again, David proved he was merciful, trustworthy, and honorable. He left vengeance in the hands of the Lord. He proved he was a “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22) and worthy to be the next king of Israel.
Often when we have a spiritual victory, it is quickly followed by some sort of test. Full of confidence, or perhaps pride, we often fail the test. Unfortunately, this is what almost happened to David.
If it were not for Abigail’s confrontation, David would have mercilessly slaughtered Nabal, his family, and his servants. David would have had blood on his hands. And when it was time for him to become the king of Israel, the already divided country would have been more divided: stay with Ishbosheth, the weak son of Saul, or follow someone who had earned a reputation as being fierce and cruel—David.
As we meet our characters, I’m reminded that each of us has a reputation. Maybe it’s based on something we did or did not do in the past. Maybe it’s based on who our family is (and that is hard to change). Or where we live. Or our job. But we each have a reputation. As Christians, our reputations should reflect our savior, Jesus Christ. We need to be careful how we live our lives, because once we tarnish our reputations, it is almost impossible to remove that tarnish.
This story focuses on three main characters:
Abigail: Her name means “My father rejoices.” She is described as “discerning and beautiful” (v. 3).
Nabal: His name means “Foolish” Did his parents name him this or did he earn this nickname? Regardless, v. 3 says he was “harsh and badly behaved,” v. 17 tells us he was “worthless,” and v. 25 says he was as foolish as his name.
David: His name means “Beloved.” Up until this point he had a reputation of being brave, fearless, and honorable. He was God’s anointed future king of Israel.
Apparently Nabal was a supporter of Saul (or perhaps whoever would benefit him the most). I’m sure he’d heard of David. Even the surrounding countries knew about David’s defeat of Goliath. But Nabal was self-centered. He only cared about his own convenience and gain. Giving food to David’s men would not meet that goal. He didn’t care about God’s promises. He only cared about himself. And right now David was a hunted fugitive. Look what had happened to Ahimalech the high priest when he gave David bread—he and his whole family were murdered by Saul’s command (I Samuel 21-22). Supporting God’s anointed came at a price.
Meanwhile, the man who had just spared the life of King Saul completely lost it! He knew vengeance belonged to God, but now he was taking matters into his own hands. The stress of living in fear and hunger overwhelmed him. He had done something nice for Nabal, expecting something in return. Perhaps this is why Jesus (Luke 6:35) tells us to help others not expecting anything in return. We should be helping others to be a blessing to them, not thinking about what we can get out of it.
Nabal’s servants were supporters of David. Instead of informing on him to King Saul, they had developed a relationship with David and his men. It was meant to be mutually beneficial. David protected the sheep herders, and he and his men received food in return.
Abigail was put in a difficult position. She was expected to obey her husband. But his actions were foolish and wrong. If she didn’t take food to David, she and her husband would die. If she did, and her husband found out, he would no doubt make her life miserable.
Apparently Abigail was used to rescuing Nabal from his folly. While some would argue she was not being submissive to her husband, others could argue that what he wanted done was wrong. Besides which, she was saving his life! Acts 5: 29 reminds us that in a conflict between right and wrong, we are to obey God rather than whomever may be over us (husband, boss, political leader, etc.)
This was a life or death situation. Abigail did not even attempt to reason with Nabal (see v. 17). Instead she took matters into her own hands to stop David and save her family.
Abigail was a courageous woman. That does not mean she did not feel fear, but rather that she did not let it paralyze her.
Abigail was not afraid to plead for her life or to confront David’s sin. Nor did she try to pretend her husband was someone he was not. She was honest about Nabal and what he deserved. She was also honest with David about who he was and what his responsibilities were.
I find it interesting that she did not attack David. Nor does she rebuke him. Instead, she starts off by blessing David for withholding vengeance (v. 26). And then she reminds him of his character and responsibilities (vv. 28-30) and of God’s power. She concludes (v. 31) by showing him the positive end result of his prudence: no guilty conscience!
I’m impressed and convicted! Too often, I want to attack to wrongdoer and force him/her to acknowledge his/her crime. But when we attack people, they just get defensive. And once someone gets defensive, it’s hard to admit wrongdoing.
Abigail never told David he was wrong for wanting to kill Nabal. She didn’t run up to him screaming that he was committing murder. Instead, she reminded him of who he was. And she reminded him of the God he served.
By appealing to David’s character, she won his attention and respect. We all want to feel respected. She made it easy for him to change his plans without losing face. Abigail was one smart lady!
If she hadn’t confronted David, his reputation would have been ruined. And he would have murder on his conscience for the rest of his life.
David returned the blessing. He recognized and admitted he was in the wrong. And he praised both God and Abigail for keeping him from murder (vv. 32-35).
God is way better at vengeance than we are. Nabal paid for his selfish, uncaring, foolish ways. And it happened without David staining his hands and conscience.
And God blessed Abigail for her role in this story as she played the part of a peace maker.
But Abigail was more than a peacemaker. A peacemaker just negotiates a compromise. Abigail, in a roundabout way, confronted David’s sin. She held David accountable. Galatians 6:1-3 reminds us that each of us has a responsibility to watch over our fellow believers. If someone we know falls into sin, we are to gently attempt to bring him/her back to God. We also are to watch our own attitudes and actions so that we don’t become proud and fall into sin. None of us have reached the point where we are above falling into sin.
It’s not easy to confront sin. Often we aren’t sure how to do it. And often the response is not as positive as the one David gave Abigail.
It’s especially difficult when the person in error is in a position of leadership.
A lot of leaders, especially those in Christian circles, have fallen into sin over the years. David himself would sin again a few years later with Bathsheba. And Nathan the Prophet would come and confront him—leading David to repentance (Psalm 51). We are all capable of sin. And we all need accountability partners in our lives. I have heard over and over that all Christians should be both discipled by someone and discipling someone else. One of the reasons the Bible has so much to say about discipling each other is that discipling includes encouraging, teaching, training, and confronting sin if necessary. We all have areas where we need to grow and sin we do not realize. No one is exempt.
In Kay Warren’s book, Sacred Privilege, she devotes a chapter to maintaining our testimonies. She is concerned over the number of Christians who fall into sin and not only ruin their lives, but also tarnish Christ. Even though she is primarily writing to Christian leaders, there is much of what she says that applies to every Christian.
Model of Integrity
(from Sacred Privilege by Kay Warren, pp. 190-194)
1. “Aim for a clear conscience, seeking to live with holiness, integrity, and sincerity.”
(II Cor. 1:12)
Acts 24:14-16 (Paul before Felix)
2. “My audience is God.” (II Cor. 2:17)
I am not trying to impress anyone else.
I’m not trying to profit from serving God.
Everything I do should be for God, not men. (Col 3:23)
3. Serving him is a “sacred privilege,” so I “will get rid of secret, shameful sins.” (II Cor. 4:1-2)
- Any role, ministry, or chance to serve that we have is a gift from God and should be treated with honor.
4. I will make every effort to have my private and public lives match—no hiding or
pretending.” (II Cor. 5:11)
- I Samuel 16:7 – We can’t fool God. He knows our thoughts and the true intentions of our hearts.
- Numbers 32:23 – The truth usually comes out; even if it is after we are gone. And that truth can ruin our testimonies and tarnish God’s name.
5. “I will keep in mind how easy it is to discredit the ministry [God’s work, my testimony, my church] by my behavior and lifestyle.” (II. Cor. 6:3)
- Our lives should be our greatest testimonies. People notice hypocrisy. If we say one thing and do another, we show we are not a new creation (II Cor. 5:17).
6. “I will get rid of anything that contaminates my body or my spirit.” (II. Cor. 7:1)
- Colossians 3:1-10 (esp. v. 9)–We are supposed to be changing from the inside out.
- II Cor. 4:16
7. “Everything in my life—including my finances is in order. I will live with transparency and work hard to do what is right in the sight of God and others.” (II Cor. 8:19-21)
May we all seek to be like Abigail as we graciously confront, challenge, and encourage each other to be all that we can be as we serve the Lord.