1 Samuel 25 Abigail
Sermon preached on September 26, 2010 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.
Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.
A couple of weeks ago I told you about when I worked as a stevedore when I was in university. One of the guys I often worked with was a guy named J. His stevedore number was near mine which meant that we were called for a lot of the same shifts. In stevedoring you almost always worked with a partner. There were often 5 men in a gang and one of the would work relieving the trolley driver, and the other four would split into two groups. So you had a partner. J. was my favorite guy to work with. Part of the reason was because he was a hard worker. You really didn't want to get paired with someone who was lazy or someone who liked goofing off. That would be no fun at all. You'd either have to do a lot of their work or you'd have to be getting after them all the time. But J. didn't mind hard work so he was good to work with. Not only that, but he was a really nice guy. I liked Jim a lot.
But one of the things about Jim was that he didn't want to be a stevedore. He really wanted to be a Mountie, a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. That was his dream. Yet it was a dream that was never going to come to pass. Just before I first met Jim he had applied to the Mounties and he had been rejected. Back then they had height rules and if you weren't tall enough, it didn't matter how smart you were, how industrious you were—or anything else—you weren't going to get into the Mounties. If my memory is correct, Jim as rejected because he was an inch too short on their height requirements. I can't remember what the cut off height was, but I read somewhere recently that the ideal RCMP candidate back then was 6 foot tall, so the cut off height then might have been 5 foot 10 inches.
It was a hard blow for Jim. He still wasn't over it when I worked with him. He would bring it up occasionally. It was like his dream had been taken from him and he was having a difficult time adjusting. I can still remember the disappointed look on his face when he would talk about it.
How do you handle disappointment in your life? What do you do when you know that your dreams aren't going to come true?
Abigail is a good example to us here. She faced difficult circumstances with aplomb. She is a great example of someone who was determined to persevere in spite of troublesome events.
But before we get to her example, let's consider for a few moments just
how difficult things were for her.
The first thing we see is that she was in what people would call today a 'bad marriage'. She and her husband were not compatible. Verse 3 makes this very clear. It says,
"His name was Nabal
and his wife's name was Abigail.
She was an intelligent
and beautiful woman,
but her husband, a Calebite,
was surly and mean in his dealings."
The underlying Hebrew word order emphasizes the contrast by using a chiastic structure—the AB/BA pattern, man, wife, woman, man. Their names also illustrate the contrast between them. Nabal's name means, (BDB)
"foolish, senseless, esp. of a man who has no perception of ethical and religious claims, and with the collat. idea of ignoble, disgraceful"
It refers to one 'who has no relationship with God: fool, unbeliever". (HALOT) Nabal. It's hard to imagine that this would be his real name, but that is possible. Others suggest that it was a nickname. It is also possible that it was his real name but that the name had a different origin with another meaning. The text also notes that Nabal was a Calebite. David Tsumura writes, (1 Samuel, p. 577)
"Because Calebite and 'dog' (keleb) are similar in Hebrew, the narrator might have used the expression a Calebite as meaning 'the Calebite type,' who is 'rough, stubborn and thoughtless.'"
Indeed, later in the chapter we learn that Nabal was a drunkard. When Abigail came back from meeting David she found her husband, (verse 36)
"in high spirits and very drunk."
When Abigail returned home she didn't tell him what she had done right away. She had saved his life. But she doesn't tell him that day. She probably would have received much abuse if she had done that.
He was having a banquet like that of a king, perhaps suggesting as well that he was self-indulgent and self-centered. His answer to David's men shows how mean and godless he was. He had contempt for God's choice of David to be king. He said, (verses 10)
"Who is this David?
Who is this son of Jesse?
Many servants are breaking away
from their masters these days."
It was common knowledge that God had promised that David would be king over Israel. But Nabal had contempt for God's promise to David. His answer also shows how mean he was. He said,
"Why should I take my bread and water,
and the meat I have slaughtered
for my shearers,
and give it to men coming
from who knows where?"
Nabal had no fear of God and no regard for God's promises or His threats.
Abigail on the other hand, was a delightful person. Her name means, (HALOT)
"(my) father was delighted".
She is described as being of good intelligence and beautiful in appearance. Her actions in this chapter show that she was a remarkable woman, one who trusted in God and His promises and sought the good, not only of her household, but of those who were serving God. Dale Davis writes, (1 Samuel, p. 262-263)
"Throughout the story Abigail's vindicates the narrator's judgment of her (v. 3): she is decisive and resourceful in action (v. 18-19a), perceptive in circumstances (vv. 19b, 36b-37), courageous in danger (v. 20), engaging in demeanor (vv. 23-24), theological, rational, and convincing in argument (vv. 26-31a), and shrewd in suggestion (v. 31b)."
But she found herself married to this cad. I suspect that their marriage was arranged. I mean, if Abigail was so intelligent, why would she marry a man like Nabal? It could have been that she didn't have a choice in the matter, that her parents arranged her marriage. Some arranged marriages were essentially business transactions and it could have been that Abigail's parents arranged her marriage with Nabal's parents. Abigail was in a bad marriage. Life was difficult for her.
But what's noteworthy is that
trouble was the norm for Abigail.
The biblical history of Abigail only covers a brief period of time. Yet it as almost all a time of trouble. Even after Nabal died, when she got married to David, things were not easy for her. Verse 43 says,
"David had also married Ahinoam of Jezreel,
and they both were his wives."
David probably married Ahinoam before Abigail. But we're not sure. In any event, David broke God's commands by having more than one wife. In a certain sense he was betraying his wives and bringing trouble on them. In just about every case in the Old Testament where we read about someone having more than one wife, whether it's a wife and a concubine, or two wives—jealously and trouble follow. We see it with Abraham and Sarah after Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham. We see it with Jacob and Rachel and Leah. So even in her marriage to David, it was not easy for Abigail. Other troubles followed because of her marriage to David.
We see this in 1 Samuel 30:5. When Abigail married David he was still in danger from King Saul and other enemies. At one point David left Abigail at Ziklag. While he was off with the Philistines, the Amalekites attacked Ziklag and Abigail was captured and taken as a war prize. It was several days before David and his men were able to rescue all those that were captured.
So it's important that we understand that for at least certain periods of her life, trouble was the norm for Abigail. For awhile, she went from hardship to hardship.
That can be the way that it is for some Christians. You'll remember that in Matthew 16:24 Jesus told His followers,
"If anyone would come after me,
he must deny himself
and take up his cross and follow me."
The way of Christ is the way of self-denial, and is often filled with suffering and hardship.
What do we learn from Abigail? How should you react when you find yourself in a difficult situation?
The first thing we see in Abigail is that
she knew that her condition was part of God's plan.
In verse 26 she said to David,
"Now since the Lord has kept you,
my master, from bloodshed and from
avenging yourself with your own hands…"
Abigail saw her actions in intercepting David as part of God's plan. David confirmed as much in verse 32. He said to Abigail,
"Praise be to the Lord,
the God of Israel,
who has sent you today to meet me."
Abigail's position as Nabal's wife and her actions were part of God's plan to save David from great sin. Abigail's position as Nabal's wife enabled her to bring gifts of food to David and intercede on his behalf. No one else would have been able to do that. If she hadn't done that, David would have had needless bloodshed on his hands. If he had done that he would have sinned greatly against God. Many innocent people would have died along with Nabal. Abigail being Nabal's wife was part of God's plan to keep David from sin, to keep it so that he would indeed become king over Israel.
In Acts 17:26 the apostle Paul told the people of Athens that God had,
"determined the times set for them
and the exact places where they should live."
That was true of Abigail as well. God placed her in that situation so she could save David.
Remember this principle well. You're not in the situation you are in by accident. God has a plan. Jesus is the Good Shepherd and He is leading you. Romans 8:28 tells us,
"in all things God works for the good
of those who love him,
who have been called
according to his purpose."
We see it in Joseph's life. We see it in the life of Daniel. As the apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 4:19,
"So then, those who suffer
according to God's will
should commit themselves
to their faithful Creator
and continue to do good."
In Matthew 10 Jesus said that a bird can't fall to the ground apart from the will of the Father. Jesus said that we didn't have to fear because we are much more valuable than the birds. He knows the very hairs of your head.
The world today makes two great mistakes as far as difficulties go.
First, they don't see God's hand in them. Secondly, they don't see a purpose in them. Difficulties are things to be avoided, to be walked away from, to be minimized at all costs. If you're in a bad marriage, what do modern marriage counselor's tell you to do? They'll tell you to turn your back on your spouse, that it's unhealthy to stay in a bad marriage, that 'emotionally confused people' tend to hang on longer to a really poor relationship.
The world will also tell you that if you're suffering, that you should probably choose 'death with dignity' — you should commit suicide. They will tell you that there's no point to a person suffering.
But God tells us that there can be great value in difficulties. In 1 Peter 1:6–7 the apostle told us that for a little while we have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.
"These have come so that your faith
—of greater worth than gold,
which perishes even though refined by fire
—may be proved genuine
and may result in praise,
glory and honor
when Jesus Christ is revealed."
You're in the situation you are in for a reason. Hebrews 12:7 says,
"Endure hardship as discipline;
God is treating you as sons."
Difficulties are great opportunities to learn, to draw closer to God, to share in the sufferings of Christ. In Philippians 3:10–11 Paul wrote,
"I want to know Christ
and the power of his resurrection
and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings,
becoming like him in his death,
and so, somehow,
to attain to the resurrection from the dead."
In 1 Peter 4:13 Peter wrote,
"But rejoice that you participate
in the sufferings of Christ,
so that you may be overjoyed
when his glory is revealed."
In our sufferings we are able to identify with our Savior. As Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 10:24–25,
"A student is not above his teacher,
nor a servant above his master.
It is enough for the student
to be like his teacher,
and the servant like his master.
If the head of the house
has been called Beelzebub,
how much more
the members of his household!"
In our sufferings, we are being counted worthy to be set aside our Master.
Thus is difficulties, seek to draw close to God. Seek to learn from them. Seek to glorify God in them by being patient, by becoming more holy, by serving Him well in them.
The second thing we see about Abigail is that
she knew God's promises and believed them.
Notice how she quoted God's promises to David. Her words to David were all about God's promises to him. She said, (verses 29–31)
"Even though someone is pursuing you
to take your life, the life of my master
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.
When the Lord has done for my master
every good thing he promised
and has appointed him leader over Israel,
my master will not have on his conscience
the staggering burden
of needless bloodshed
or of having avenged himself.
And when the Lord has
brought my master success,
remember your servant."
Dale Davis writes (1 Samuel, p. 264)
"Abigail is both a rein upon David's folly and a goad to his faith. Abigail speaks as a quasi-prophetess, knowing about Yahweh's promise to David and affirming that David will certainly enjoy its fulfillment."
Abigail had meditated on God's promises. She held them close to her heart. She believed them. There was not one ounce of doubt in her heart. She knew that God's Word was reliable.
We don't embrace difficulties for their own sake. We seek to be delivered from them. We look past them to the glory that will be revealed in us. As Paul told us in 2 Corinthians 4:17,
"For our light and momentary troubles
are achieving for us an eternal glory
that far outweighs them all."
And in Romans 8:18 he wrote,
" I consider that our present sufferings
are not worth comparing with the glory
that will be revealed in us."
What this means is that when you're in a difficult situation, you should focus on the promises of God. That's what Abigail did.
The Christian life is about trust. You can trust God. He is faithful. He has given us great promises in Jesus Christ and He will fulfill them. He will not fail you. You need to trust Him. There is glory ahead for you. It's all because of your great Savior Jesus. 2 Corinthians 8:9 says,
"For you know the grace
of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that though he was rich,
yet for your sakes he became poor,
so that you through his poverty
might become rich."
For those of you who are not Christians,
this means that instead of being like Abigail, you're being like Nabal.
Nabal didn't believe God. He scoffed at God's promises. He was a fool. Nabal was self-centered and considered what he had as his alone. He was a fool. Nabal lived for pleasure and was unaware of the danger he was in. He was a fool. Don't be like Him. Trust God. Trust the promises. Go to Jesus and find life.