There are times in our lives when it all just doesn’t seem fair. We’re praying, we’re studying the Word, we’re coming to church and revival, we’re tithing, and we’re thrown smack in the middle of a trial, a big trial, with persecution.
How we deal with that persecution is important. This morning we’ll look at an episode in David’s life where he didn’t react the way we thought he would.
David had been serving Saul as a warrior by day and as the King’s private Praise & Worship leader by night. Saul’s son Jonathan was his best friend. And then everything was wonderful until Saul became jealous of David. His jealousy grew to the point that he threw a spear at David coming so close that he pinned his cloak to the wall. David ran for his life and was labeled an outlaw.
That doesn’t seem fair. He was doing his job and doing it well and his boss flipped out and started a plan of persecution against him. Ever been there?
At the point we pick up the story this morning, David had acquired a band of followers. These were all people that Saul despised – 600 of them. We know that David was a great warrior, this group became his army. There were others faithful to David: people from his hometown, some priests, women, children who became in Saul’s eyes his enemies.
Saul was relentless in his pursuit of David. In the town of Nob he had 86 priests as well as their families murdered because they had fed David & his troops. People who were David’s friends when he was in the palace told lies about him to Saul when David ran for his life. You know people like that? We call them fair-weather friends. They’re with you when things are going good and against you when someone else is in the lime-light.
We know that David had chances to kill Saul during his pursuit, in fact, many people expected him to, but he didn’t. He chose to trust that God would work things out. Despite what was going on around him – God would work things out.
By then end of chapter 24 of 1 Samuel we think David has it all together. He’s passed the test. He showed compassion. He just cut off the hem of Saul’s cloak rather than kill him. Saul had even said that David was a better man that he. But that wasn’t enough to stop Saul’s persecution of David.
Which brings us to the question for this morning, after you have been persecuted and shown compassion to those above you, how do you respond, when you are in the place of authority – when you have the power?
Turn to 1 Samuel 25:2
2 A certain man in Maon, who had property there at Carmel, was very wealthy. He had a thousand goats and three thousand sheep, which he was shearing in Carmel. 3 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.
Calebite: Who was Caleb? Caleb from Joshua & Caleb, the 2 spies who had a good report about the Promised land. Nabal was one of his descendants. Remember that.
4 While David was in the desert, he heard that Nabal was shearing sheep. 5 So he sent ten young men and said to them, “Go up to Nabal at Carmel and greet him in my name. 6 Say to him: ‘Long life to you! Good health to you and your household! And good health to all that is yours!
7 “‘Now I hear that it is sheep-shearing time. When your shepherds were with us, we did not mistreat them, and the whole time they were at Carmel nothing of theirs was missing. 8 Ask your own servants and they will tell you. Therefore be favorable toward my young men, since we come at a festive time. Please give your servants and your son David whatever you can find for them.’”
This is a common middle eastern custom. Bedouin tribes live on the borders of the desert. In exchange for gifts they guarantee the protection for shepherds. It’s a good deal.
9 When David’s men arrived, they gave Nabal this message in David’s name. Then they waited.
10 Nabal answered David’s servants, “Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days. 11 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 knew who David was. David was a military hero but, David’s troop included many runaway slaves, as well as men who had abandoned Saul’s army. Since David was now a fugitive Nabal looked upon David as a mere runaway slave.
There are 2 points I want to make here.
- First, you are identified by the people you surround yourself with. David gave the run-aways and deserters status – after all he was a great military hero. But if you look at it from the other side – Nabal’s side, his association with run-aways & deserters made you look at David that way. He had run-away from Saul and had in essence deserted Saul’s army.
- Second, the enemy has come to kill, steal and destroy your reputation. People will ignore all the good you have done in the past and focus on your fall. Forget that David & his men had protected your sheep & shepherds from harm. He was a criminal. He didn’t deserve any payment.
12 David’s men turned around and went back. When they arrived, they reported every word.
Here comes the test. Will David show Nabal the same compassion he showed Saul? After all, in a way he had served them both.
13 David said to his men, “Put on your swords!” So they put on their swords, and David put on his. About four hundred men went up with David, while two hundred stayed with the supplies.
Did David act in compassion? No.
What emotion describes his reaction? Anger/wrath
What did David intend to do? Kill Nabal and take what he wanted.
Would that have been a wise thing to do? No, it would have made David a murderer.
Now remember, David was still God’s choice for king. God provided a way of escape for David.
14 One of the servants told Nabal’s wife Abigail: “David sent messengers from the desert to give our master his greetings, but he hurled insults at them. 15 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. 16 Night and day they were a wall around us all the time we were herding our sheep near them. 17 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.”
18 Abigail lost no time. 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. 19 Then she told her servants, “Go on ahead; I’ll follow you.”
The fact that Abigail was able to gather so much food so quickly shows how wealthy Nabal was. If this much food was on hand, it makes Nabal’s reply to David all the worse.
In much the same way, Jacob sent his wives and children ahead of him when he returned home. Here, let me give you lots of presents, and by the time you get to me, you won’t be so angry.
19b But she did not tell her husband Nabal.
Why? Because she knew he wouldn’t allow it.
20 As she came riding her donkey into a mountain ravine, there were David and his men descending toward her, and she met them. 21 David had just said, “It’s been useless—all my watching over this fellow’s property in the desert so that nothing of his was missing. He has paid me back evil for good.
David’s anger led not only to action, telling his men to put on their swords, but foolish speak. Notice what he says in the next verse.
22 May God deal with David, be it ever so severely, if by morning I leave alive one male of all who belong to him!”
David made an oath to God. He asked God to punish him if he did not carry forth his threat to exact revenge on Nabal’s household. You tell me, who refused to give David’s men food? Nabal. Did the servants in that household have any input on their master’s decision? No, and yet they would lose their lives for it. David’s oath was requiring God to punish him if he did not spill innocent blood.
Does God work that way?
Can God work that way?
23 When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed down before David with her face to the ground.
A sign of great respect
24 She fell at his feet and said: “My lord, let the blame be on me alone. Please let your servant speak to you; hear what your servant has to say. 25 May my lord pay no attention to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name—his name is Fool, and folly goes with him.
Fool and folly mean more than stupidity. The word in Hebrew suggests one is unable to recognize God’s voice, who neither fears God nor man, and relies on his own rationalizations to make decisions.
25b But as for me, your servant, I did not see the men my master sent. 26 “Now since the Lord has kept you, my master, from bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hands, Now since the Lord has kept you, my master, from bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hands
How would she know that? She couldn’t unless the Holy Spirit had come upon her and revealed the enemy’s plan against David.
26b as surely as the Lord lives and as you live, may your enemies and all who intend to harm my master be like Nabal.
How is that? Unable to recognize God’s voice, neither fears God nor man, and relies on his own rationalizations to make decisions. You tell me, if David’s enemies are like that, how successful can they be?
27 And let this gift, which your servant has brought to my master, be given to the men who follow you. 28 Please forgive your servant’s offense, for the Lord will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my master, because he fights the Lord’s battles.
Unlike Saul, David fought the Lord’s battles. How can I say that? What war was Saul waging at this time? He was hunting David down instead of fighting the people who had no regard for the God of Israel. This verse compares the foolishness of Saul to the foolishness of Nabal.
28b Let no wrongdoing be found in you as long as you live. 29 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.
Bound in the bundle of life: is a Hebrew saying. It is found throughout history on almost every Jewish tombstone. It refers to the custom of binding up valuable things in a bundle to prevent their being injured – much like we would wrap crystal or porcelain in bubble-wrap to keep it from breaking in transit. What Abigail is prophesying over David is that God will keep him safe from harm, while his enemies are exposed to danger.
30 When the Lord has done for my master every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him leader over Israel, 31 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.”
Abigail’s argument was that any shedding of blood at this point would work against David. It would start a blood feud among the clans of Judah and David needed all of Judah to back him as King. In addition, Abigail argued, David’s conscience would trouble him if he shed innocent blood.
32 David said to Abigail, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. 33 May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands. 34 Otherwise, as surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak.” 35 Then David accepted from her hand what she had brought him and said, “Go home in peace. I have heard your words and granted your request.”
36 When Abigail went to Nabal, he was in the house holding a banquet like that of a king. He was in high spirits and very drunk.
What was that definition of a fool? One who is unable to recognize God’s voice, neither fears God nor man, and relies on his own rationalizations to make decisions. The servants knew they were in trouble. They knew David’s men were about to attack. But that didn’t matter to Nabal – he wasn’t afraid of anyone. So he threw himself a party.
So she [Abigail] told him nothing until daybreak. 37 Then in the morning, when Nabal was sober, his wife told him all these things, and his heart failed him and he became like a stone.
He had a stroke and was paralyzed.
38 About ten days later, the Lord struck Nabal and he died.
Did God avenge Nabal’s insult to David? Isn’t it always better to let God deal with those who do us wrong than to take matters into our own hands?
39 When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Praise be to the Lord, who has upheld my cause against Nabal for treating me with contempt. He has kept his servant from doing wrong and has brought Nabal’s wrongdoing down on his own head.” Then David sent word to Abigail, asking her to become his wife. 40 His servants went to Carmel and said to Abigail, “David has sent us to you to take you to become his wife.”
41 She bowed down with her face to the ground and said, “Here is your maidservant, ready to serve you and wash the feet of my master’s servants.”
Not exactly your typical response to a marriage proposal is it? No, but it does show you Abigail’s heart.
42 Abigail quickly got on a donkey and, attended by her five maids, went with David’s messengers and became his wife.
What did we learn here?
1. That no matter who you are, the devil’s assignment against you is to kill, steal and destroy. If he can’t destroy your faith, he’ll take your life, your marriage, your family, your wealth, your reputation…
2. In the world’s view: You are identified with the people you associate with. If they are good people, you are good. If they are bad, you are bad. From a Christian perspective, we are identified with Christ. It doesn’t matter where we came from or what we did before Christ. All that matters is that we are in him. Nabal’s folly came in turning his back on his faith. You will remember that he was a Calebite. He had a heritage of faithfulness and chose to abandon it.
3. Persecution brings trials of its own. Remember the question of the day? After you have been persecuted and shown compassion to those above you, how do you respond, when you are in the place of authority – when you have the power? David was gracious to Saul, but ruthless to Nabal. He intended to kill all the men of his household. Isn’t that what Saul wanted to do to David? That’s why Saul gave David’s wife, Michal to another man, to erase David’s line.
Something else to consider, what would David have done after he killed all the men? Probably given all the women, cattle, sheep and household goods to his men. Spread his sin around his camp – wouldn’t they have received stolen goods?
4. We are to watch our words in the midst of trials and persecution. People make foolish vows when they are angry. David wanted God to hold him accountable if he didn’t sin. Talk about giving the enemy a foothold!
5. God always provides a way out. Not only did Abigail’s actions prevent David from acting in vengeance, but she saved her whole household.
6. Those who do things God’s way are rewarded. David became King. He fulfilled his destiny. Abigail’s household was saved. And because of her faith in God, His wisdom was manifested in her and she became David’s wife.