Good morning and welcome to worship! I hope you can stick around for the picnic after worship today! Over the last few weeks we’ve been in a sermon series called “Portraits from the family album. The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful.” We’ve been studying people in the Bible whose stories are rarely heard.
Some are good, some bad, and some like the woman we’ll see today are truly beautiful. We learned last week that true beauty is more than skin deep. King Saul had a beautiful outward appearance, but he rejected the LORD and his heart became ugly and depraved.
The Bible warns us “Charm is deceitful and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” Prov 31:30 Abigail was a woman who feared the LORD. Though she’s described as physically beautiful, it was the beauty of her heart that transformed the world around her.
Her name means, “Father’s joy”. It’s the name Grace and I gave to our youngest daughter. Our Abby is her ‘father’s joy’, not just to me, but even more to her heavenly father. Let’s open our Bibles to 1 Samuel 25 and find out more this Biblical Abigail and what it was that brought such joy to her heavenly father’s heart.
Its 20 years after a teenage shepherd boy named David became the national hero of Israel by slaying the giant Goliath. His fame as a musician and warrior has skyrocketed. He’s collected and trained an army of 600 warriors to protect Israel from her enemies.
Saul has become so jealous of David that he sends his army out to destroy him. David and his men flee to the wilderness where they live a Spartan life in the desert. Yet, wherever the need arises, David and his men are there to protect the people from outlaws and enemies.
About this time one of the richest men in northern Israel, gathered his flocks for the annual shearing. An ideal time for enemies to attack! The man’s name is Nabal – meaning ‘fool’ and he was. His wife is Abigail. Remember what Abigail means? Father’s joy and she is!
Nabal was harsh, mean, dishonest, stubborn, selfish, brutal, and a shrewd business man. Why did Abigail marry this pompous fool? We aren’t told. Probably because marriages were arranged in these days and she didn’t have a choice.
When David heard that Nabal was shearing sheep, he sent 10 men to greet Nabal and remind him of the protection his warriors had given to his flocks and shepherds throughout the year. David’s army was not supported by the government. In fact, Saul was trying to destroy them. They were dependent upon the gifts of those they protected.
Nabal’s responds by humiliating David and his men. He calls them bums. We don’t get how serious a slam this was until we see David’s response. David, now about 30 years old, summons 400 men and says, “Strap on your swords, men. We need to pay Nabal a visit!” Judgment day had come for a fool named Nabal!
One of Nabal’s servants overheard what happened and quickly went to Abigail He told her. “David sent messengers from the desert to give our master his greetings but Nabal hurled insults at them. These men were very good to us. They did not mistreat us or steal anything from us…
…Night and day they were a wall around us to protect us. Now 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.” 1 Sam 25:14-17
By the way, are you aware that another way to spell ‘fool’ is PRIDE! Abigail quickly responds to the crisis! She assumes David and his men are on their way to punish Nabal for his terrible insult. She could have thought “Finally I’ll be done with this brute!” But she realizes more than Nabal is at stake and she’s right!
She quickly gathers an offering of pack train of supplies, gets on her donkey and heads out to meet David. Meanwhile David is nursing his grudge - “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. May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by morning I leave alive one male of all who belong to him!” 1 Sam 25:22
David is dead wrong and about to make a terrible mistake. Five centuries earlier, Moses told God’s people “Vengence is mine, says the LORD, I will repay!” Deut 32:35
A miracle of intercession is needed to prevent this disaster and that’s what Abigail does. As soon as she sees David and his men, she jumps off her donkey and bows down before him. “Pardon your servant, my lord, and let me speak to you; hear what your servant has to say. Please pay no attention to Nabal. He is just like his name and folly goes with him…”
“…And as for me, your servant, I did not see the men my lord sent. Let this gift, which your servant has brought to my lord, be given to the men who follow you…”
“… The LORD your God will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my lord, because you fight the LORD’s battles, and no wrongdoing will be found in you as long as you live…”
“…When the LORD has fulfilled for you every good thing he promised and has appointed you ruler over Israel, then you will not have on your conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed from avenging yourself.” 1 Sam 25:28-30
I imagine David thinking to himself, “Who is this woman! I’ve never met anyone like her. She risked her life to intercede for her husband and her people and prevent me from an act I would always regret!”
He said to her, “Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands. 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.” 1 Sam 25:32-34
David returned to his desert camp and Abigail went back to Nabal. When she arrived, he was drunk and throwing a big party to celebrate his profits. She waited until the next day when he was sober to tell him about David. When he heard the news he had a heart attack and 10 days later he died. When David heard, he said, “The LORD brought Nabal’s sin down on his own head.”
David later sent word to Abigail to ask her to become his wife and she agreed. She became his third wife which isn’t right, but more on that next week. Our focus isn’t on Nabal’s sin or David’s sin, but on Abigail’s righteousness and willingness to risk her life to save others. She had her heavenly Father’s heart.
Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be children (sons and daughters) of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Mt 5:44-45
So what can we learn from Abby’s story?
First, husbands, wives, don’t be a fool like Nabal. Don’t bully your spouse, your kids, others around you. If you tend to be prideful and selfish, repent, humble yourself. Ask God to forgive you and change your heart before its too late. Wake up! Strength is not found in mistreating others, but in serving them. Jesus said, “If you want to be great in the kingdom of God, learn to be servant of all.” Don’t be a fool like Nabal.
Second, when someone offends you don’t look for a change to get even, don’t react with revenge. Instead forgive. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you allow others to take advantage of you. It means that you turn the offender over to God. Forgive as God has first forgiven you.
Third, be an intercessor. Satan is the great accuser. Jesus didn’t come to condemn us. He came to intercede for us and he calls us to do the same for others. Romans 8 says “Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life - is at the right hand of God interceding for us.” Rom 8:34
Paul also tells us that the Holy Spirit is always praying for us in groans too deep for words. Paul wrote to his young pastor Timothy, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” 1 Tim 2:1-2
I have not in my life time seen a time when our nation has been in greater need of our intercession. Our nation is in a crisis of bitterness, hatred, violence and revenge. And if we don’t pray for God to forgive us and heal our land, who will?
It is so easy to look at the wicked fools like Nabal and write them off, condemn them, resent them, call down the fire of God’s judgment on them. But that’s not what our Heavenly Father has called us to do. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.” Mt 5:9
Abigail was a peace maker between two proud fools who easily could have shed the blood of dozens of innocent men. But she put her own life on the line to restore God’s peace. She became her name. Her Father’s Joy! Thank you, Abby! May we do the same!