Abigail, Standing in the Gap

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Photo credit to Psyche Angelik Mendoza Villacillo-Zuhura.

“Now the name of the  man was Nabal; and the name of his wife Abigail: and she was a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance:  but the man was churlish and evil in his doings; and he was of the house of Caleb.” 1 Samuel 25:3

Did you ever wonder what God expects of a woman?  Did you ever wonder what God was thinking when He created Eve?  I do.  Why?  Because it has bearing on what my expectations for myself as a woman ought to be and it has bearing on what others around me ought to expect from me also.  So I figure, if I want to know what Your expectations are, God, I ought to look at Your word and find out what You point out in the women You want us to remember.

So now I’m looking at this woman in the Old Testament named Abigail.  And I find that Abigail had kind of a tough marriage.  Now, I suppose that wasn’t unusual in that day and age because I’m pretty sure that most marriages were arranged and not so on the basis of love but on the basis of provision.  This was just the way life was.

Life had placed Abigail in this marriage with this man named Nabal.  Now, what do I know about Abigail and what do I know about Nabal?  Well, 1 Samuel 25:3 tells us that “she was a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance:  but the man was churlish and evil in his doings; and he was of the house of Caleb.” So now I know that his name was Nabal, which happens to mean “dolt” or “fool”.  I know that her name was Abigail which means “father (source) of joy” (wonder if that could mean that her Father is her source of joy?).  I know that Abigail was a woman of intelligence, success, discretion, knowledge, prudence, sense, understanding, and wisdom- that’s a woman of good understanding.  I also know that she was beautiful to look at.  But now I wonder if that beauty was more than skin deep?  I wonder if it was because of Who her source of joy was?

But I can’t stop there because I know some other things about Nabal.  I know he was churlish.  He was quite the opposite of Abigail and by nature was cruel, grievous, hard-hearted and just plain hard, heavy, impudent, obstinate, prevailing, probably the kind who was always right no matter what, and just plain old stubborn.  Not only that, but Nabal was evil in his doings.  So I guess you could just say that Nabal was an out and out bad man.  Well, except I feel pretty strongly that when Scripture says evil, it means evil and that Nabal had no concern for God or for others.  His life was just wretched and wrong along with his decisions.  And in the midst of it all, he was a rich man.  And I know one other thing about Nabal.  He was of the house of Caleb.  Nabal should have known better.  See, his ancestor Caleb was one of the two spies sent out into the promised land that believed God could give it.  Nabal should have known and should have cared, but he didn’t.

Yet there is Abigail.  And despite her husband, Abigail was the one who knew and cared.  And that knowing and caring and obeying God first and foremost, even over her husband, led to the saving of her whole household.  I know that, because if Abigail had not taken a stand, everyone would have been slaughtered.

You see, David, in his running from Saul, had been living in Nabal’s area, around Nabal’s shepherds, and had made sure that nothing had happened to them or their flocks.  David decided to seek provision from Nabal for his men and sent a message to Nabal.  But when David’s men came to Nabal and shared his request, Nabal basically mocked David.  “Who is David, this son of Jesse?  Am I supposed to serve a servant who has broken off his master Saul?”  At least that’s pretty much what I think he was implying.  Whatever it was, he could care less about David or who he was.  And I wonder about that, because I would think that everyone knew that David had been anointed by Samuel.  I think people knew what was going on.  But people always have to make a choice.  Do we choose God’s way, or the way we are used to, or the way we want?  And Nabal was making his choice.  And it wasn’t God’s way.

Now I know that David was not a perfect man even though he was a man after God’s own heart.  I know that because Scripture tells me that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  Only Jesus was without sin.  And I’m pretty sure that David’s pride was stinging right now. And he gets so angry at Nabal that he is readying his men to slaughter every male in Nabal’s family.  So now what?

One of Nabal’s young servants hears and runs to Abigail.  Why to Abigail of all people?  What strength does a woman have, right?  But even the servants knew who has wisdom and strength, so they ran to the one who could help.  And the fate of her family and servants was laid upon her.  “Now therefore know and consider what you will do; for evil is determined against our master, and against all his household: for he is such a son of Belial, that a man cannot speak to him.”  So what does Abigail do?  Does she say, “I’m sorry, that’s my husband’s decision and I have to abide by it, right or wrong?  If we die, it’s his fault, not mine”?  I wonder if our child were drowning and our husband did not jump in to save it, would we watch as it drowned or jump in ourself?  It seems to me, that God has not released us from responsibility for those around us.  Hmm.  Coheirs.  Why does that pop in my head?

So Abigail “makes haste” and loads up food and provision and sheep already prepared, parched corn, raisins, fig cakes and loads them up and sends them on with her servants to David.  Then she followed.  Oh, but she doesn’t tell her husband Nabal what she is doing.  Bad idea?  I think not.  To tell him would have been a deadly idea.

She meets David and his men coming toward them.  She meets David with this attitude in his heart- “So and more also do God unto the enemies of David, if I leave of all that pertains to him by the morning light any that pisses against the wall.”  Do you hear that attitude?  Not one male left alive.  And here is Abigail, to stop this angry man in his tracks.  How?

She sees him and hurries and gets off her ass (no pun intended), and falls before David on her face and bows herself to the ground and falls at his feet, and pleads and takes the responsibility for everything upon herself.  But she didn’t just plead for herself and her people and confess the sin of Nabal.  She also reminded David of who he was in the Lord and his responsibility before God and others.  She knew who David was.  Hear her words, “I pray thee, forgive the trespass of your handmaid: for the LORD will certainly make my lord a sure house; because my lord fights the battles of the LORD, and evil has not been found in you all your days.  Yet a man is risen to pursue you, and to seek your soul: but the soul of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of life with the LORD thy God; and the souls of your enemies, them shall He sling out, as out of the middle of a sling.  And it shall come to pass, when the LORD shall have done to my lord according to all the good that He has spoken concerning you, and shall have appointed you ruler over Israel; that this shall be no grief unto you, nor offense of heart unto my lord, either that you have shed blood causeless, or that my lord has avenged himself: but when the LORD shall have dealt well with my lord, then remember your handmaid.”  She knew who the Lord had called.  She knew the responsibility that God had given David.  She knew God’s desires.  She knew that everything was in God’s hands and that David needed to put this back in God’s hands and not his own.  And because of the humility and strength and truth with which she presented this, David listened.  David learned.  And David submitted to God.

Because Abigail obeyed the responsibility that God had given her to care for those around her, even her churlish husband Nabal, and because of her delight in the Lord, all were spared.  Not only that, a godly future king was turned from making a decision in anger that would have haunted him in the future, as he would have sought his own vengeance instead of leaving it in God’s hands.  Instead of innocent blood being shed, God himself removed the churlish one by His own power.

This takes me back to Genesis when God, You created that help meet for Adam, that ezer kenegdo.  To understand Your idea of ezer kenegdo is to understand what it is to be God’s woman and the woman that Adam and our families and friends, and enemies need.  Not everyone responds rightly to the ezer kenegdo.  But how did David respond?  “And David said to Abigail, Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, which sent you this day to meet me: and blessed be your advice, and blessed be you, which have kept me this day from coming to shed blood, and from avenging myself with mine own hand.  For in very deed, as the LORD God of Israel lives,  which has kept me back from hurting you, except you had hasted and come to meet me, surely there had not been left unto Nabal by the morning light any that pisses against the wall.”  Thank God for women who are not afraid to stand up and stand in the gap for Him and those around them.  And thank God for men who have open hearts to hear and humility to obey the voice of the Lord, no matter who it comes through.

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