May 13, 2018
Pastor Frank Bowden
I want to walk you through a little exercise this morning using your imagination. Don’t worry. You don’t have to say anything. All I want you to do is get a little image in your head and stick it right in front of you, so you can see it really clearly, and as we go through this, it’s going to evolve a little bit, alright?
So, what immediately comes to mind when you hear me say the word “hero”? Let’s take the first thing that jumped in your brain. Now, let’s take it a step further; let’s get a little more personal with this. Who comes to mind when I say the word “hero”? Now that image will start evolving a little bit. Let’s take it one more step, and let’s get really specific. What kind of event comes to mind when you hear the word “hero”?
Alright, ‘everybody got your image? Get it right out in front of you right now. I can’t possibly guess everyone’s, but I’m going to take a stab at it. I’m going try to guess maybe some categories of heroes that maybe you came up with. So, maybe one person thought about this guy when we did that little exercise [image of a fireman shown]. You know firemen; they go into burning buildings, they put their life on the line to save somebody trapped inside a building.
Or maybe you went this route [image of policemen shown] and you thought of maybe some of our Columbus P.D. or sheriff’s deputies, or maybe someone from the marshal’s office. -these guys who keep our communities safe by taking down bad guys. Sure.
Alright now, without a doubt, at least a dozen or more people thought about these heroes [image of army soldiers shown], our warriors. -Maybe because you’re married to one, or you might be sitting beside one this morning, but this one seems like the most obvious in the bunch, right?
Or you could have gone this direction [image of a doctor and nurses shown], and maybe you thought about our medical professionals, our first responders, our nurses, our doctors. -those guys, those gals who, with very quick thinking and very steady hands, save all kinds of lives every single day.
I know there’s another group of heroes that I have not forgotten about because I know someone took this very literally, and you thought super hero, and you thought about our buddy, Thor [image of Thor shown].
Now, I’m proud to say that we have all of these heroes represented in our Calvary family (minus Thor), but in all honesty, the truth is, that exercise was far too easy. I mean, those are the people, those are the heroes that you most expect to come up with because the nature of their jobs carries the expectation in the duty that when things get tough and when things get hard and when things get scary, they’re right there in the middle of it. It’s who they are and it’s what they do. But today’s text isn’t that simple, because in today’s story, it’s the least likely of all the candidates who steps up and who fills the gap with the reckless abandon of self, when the heat gets turned up and when the threat is imminent.
For the past several weeks, this sermon series has been studying men and women of the Bible who take giant risks, and they may or may not fit the stereotypical mold of a hero, but they did step up and step in when no one else would. In fact, I want you to write a statement down because they take great risks in what they do, and we learn something about risk takers today from our story. I want you to write this statement down: A good sword is the one left in its scabbard.
Now, here’s what I’m saying by this: This statement doesn’t mean to be passive, and this statement doesn’t mean, “Hey, mind your own business. Don’t do anything; don’t get involved. Just you do your thing and let everybody else take care of their own problems.” That’s not what this statement means. Really, what this statement is saying is, just because you have a sword and just because you’ve proven that sword in battle, doesn’t mean that every situation calls for it. Sometimes, your great risk might involve standing before an armed militia with only your words to say.
I. Risk Takers selflessly consider the cost placed on others
Today we’re learning from a story where Abigail stepped in, and she kept a bad situation from getting worse, and we learn some qualities from her about risk takers, and the first quality that we learn from Abigail is this: Risk takers selflessly consider the cost placed on others.
Let’s read this one from God’s word. We’re in first Samuel chapter 25. We’re going to start in verse 14. Let’s read from the Bible this morning about what’s going on in Abigail’s world. So, verse 14 starts off like this:
1 Samuel 25:14-17 (CSB)
14 One of Nabal’s young men informed Abigail, Nabal’s wife: “Look, David sent messengers from the wilderness to greet our master, but he screamed at them. 15 The men treated us very well. When we were in the field, we weren’t harassed and nothing of ours was missing the whole time we were living among them. 16 They were a wall around us, both day and night, the entire time we were with them herding the sheep. 17 Now consider carefully what you should do, because there is certain to be trouble for our master and his entire family. He is such a worthless fool nobody can talk to him!”
Does it sound like we kind of just walked right into the middle of something right there? I think so. Let me give you a little bit of background that gets us to this point, because what we just read is going to make a whole lot more sense. David (who would later be known as King David), he is in the wilderness on the run from the current king, Saul. David knows he’s next in line to be king. He knows he’s already been anointed. That’s going to happen. But he’s laying low right now because Saul is actively trying to kill him. With David is a group of men about 600 strong, and these men are rough. They’re a group of misfits, they’re a group of outcasts, their a group of criminals. They’re what you would call “friends in low places”. These aren’t the types of guys you bring home to meet mom, alright?
And these guys under David’s leadership basically became David’s army. Their reputation was widely known among the area because every battle they got into, they won, and it really wasn’t even close. These are not the type of guys you want to pick a fight with.
So now, something David and his men were used for, was protecting the locals in the area that they were in. So, if you were a farmer, if you had a lot of crops or herds, it wasn’t uncommon for raiders or enemies to come in out of nowhere, just unannounced, ambush you, steal your crops or steal your animals or your herds. And David’s men, what they would do, this army would surround these farms and surround the fields, and they would give protection to the workers by fighting off any of the enemies that would come in.
One of these farms that they protected belonged to a man named Nabal. Now, the Bible describes Nabal in verse 2 as a very rich man. The original word in the original language here means it’s heavy, which for us would translate today as “loaded”. We’re talking billionaire-like status of his day. But he was also a ruthless man, and he was not afraid to cheat his way to wealth.
There’s another important piece of information that helps this story makes sense. It’s about the timing of this story. The story takes place during sheep shearing season, and this is a festive-like season, because this is the time when you get to cash in on months and months of hard work. Traditionally, it was a very hospitable time. What happened is, in the old custom of the day, you would give gifts or you would leave a portion of your crops behind to the men who gave your workers protection. This wasn’t a law or anything. It was kind of like an unwritten rule. It was a common practice. -much like tipping is in our culture today. It was just like that.
David hears that Nabal is shearing his sheep, and he sends ten of his men to go ask him for some provisions. This isn’t anything out of the ordinary. This isn’t David being rude. This is actually a pretty customary thing for David to do, but Nabal’s response to him is harsh, and it’s flippant to his men. In fact, he goes a step further and he insults David and his family. He says, “Who is this son of Jesse?” Now, there is no way that during this time Nabal does not know who David is, and he refuses to give his men anything to eat. He kicks them out and sends them back, even though he knew the whole time David’s men protected his business.
When the guys came back to tell David this, you can imagine how angry he was. This lit a fire in David that only blood could put out. He tells 400 of his men, “Get your swords.” Literally, it means arm yourselves for battle. Remember how many David has with him. 600. He takes 400 with him, armed and ready for battle, hitting the road toward Nabal’s house. This is 400 armed men for combat against one man who doesn’t have the first bodyguard. This is like killing a cockroach with a shotgun.
And now, we kind of understand the angst in the servant’s plead to Abigail in our opening verses. This servant of Nabal, this young man, knew that something had to be done, and he took matters into his own hands by telling Abigail about this conflict that was brewing between Nabal and David. And this is odd that a male servant would tell Abigail, would speak to Abigail about this. She’s a woman. It’s Old Testament culture, Old Testament times. This just seems kind of weird. Now we know the Bible and verses 4, 5, 6, and 7 start talking about Abigail and how she’s intelligent and she’s beautiful and this servant feels comfortable enough to come to her with this and to tell her about this.
This young man, he is fully aware and has been exposed to the ignorance of Nabal, but he also knows that if there isn’t anyone who knows it better than him, it’s Abigail. And if there’s anybody who can fix the situation that they have found themselves in, it is Abigail. This young servant says something really alarming to her in verse 17. He says, “Now consider carefully what you should do.” In other words, “Abigail, you’ve just been given information about a huge situation that’s going to affect your entire family, and what you do next will greatly determine and impact the history and the future of this family. So, consider carefully what you must do.”
This is Abigail’s risk taker moment. If she chooses to do nothing, then she knows by the next day, there won’t be a male left alive in her household. But if she chooses to intervene and if she chooses to take a stand and to speak up against David, she’s putting her life on the line with no guarantees that David will even stop to listen to her… but maybe he will.
What would you do if you were Abigail and this hit you at 2:30 in the afternoon? What are you doing? There’s not a whole lot of time to waste to make a decision. I think there’s a significant challenge to us today in how our culture approaches risk. Disciples of Jesus have been called to go into a community that is lost and hurting and searching for a hope, a hope that you and I know and the hope that we have. We need to consider carefully what happens to the Chattahoochee Valley if no one does anything, and that’s a thought that Calvary should selflessly consider and allow to move us into action and involvement, even at great risk to our reputation.
II. Risk Takers boldly spring into action on behalf of others
Ed Stetzer says, “Nothing will change until the pain of staying the same outweighs the pain of suffering.” When you consider the eternal pain that could occur to your neighbor, maybe to your co-worker, the eternal pain that may happen your classmate or friend, maybe even a spouse, and you do nothing or if you do nothing, then that should move you into action, and that thought moved Abigail. We learn from her that risk takers boldly spring into action on behalf of others.
She knew the time was ticking, and she had to do something. So, let’s listen to how she responds to the servant’s plea. We’ll pick up in verse 18:
1 Samuel 25:18-22
18 Abigail hurried, taking two hundred loaves of bread, two clay jars of wine, five butchered sheep, a bushel of roasted grain, one hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys. 19 Then she said to her male servants, “Go ahead of me. I will be right behind you.” But she did not tell her husband Nabal. 20 As she rode the donkey down a mountain pass hidden from view, she saw David and his men coming toward her and met them. 21 David had just said, “I guarded everything that belonged to this man in the wilderness for nothing. He was not missing anything, yet he paid me back evil for good. 22 May God punish me and do so severely if I let any of his males survive until morning.”
Abigail put everything on the line to save Nabal and to save Nabal’s men. She knew time was of the essence, and immediately, she starts to gather food. She didn’t just grab a few things from the pantry. She empties the pantry, and you kind of wonder, how did she get this enormous amount of food? If you look at the quantities there, this would have been more food than what Nabal would have traditionally left behind for David’s men. Had he done that to begin with, if David our neighbor would have just done the customary thing to do, it would have been less than what Abigail gathers up.
Look back at the text. She gathers 200 loaves of bread, 2 jugs of wine, 5 sheep already butchered and prepared. It makes you wonder, where does she get all of this to begin with? How was it already prepared and at the ready? Well, in verse 36 we learn that while Abigail is gone trying to save the family, Nabal is back home having a party that the Bible describes as fit for a king. It is my belief that the food that she got was part of the food that was prepared for Nabal’s feast. She just basically stole right from his party, and what Abigail does here is rare for a married woman in the ancient near east. In fact, in this case, what she does is downright scandalous, because it involved meeting one of her husband’s enemies, and one might ask the question, “Time out, Frank. Hold up. Isn’t Abigail being disobedient? Isn’t she being disloyal to her husband by not telling him about this and going behind his back and doing it anyway? I thought the wife was to be submissive to her husband.”
Alright, fair question. What Abigail does here I believe illustrates for us the essence of all true submission, because submission is not mere blind obedience, and as we read earlier in Philippians chapter 2, true submission is the active pursuit of the best interests of another, by the subordination of your own personal interests. Abigail isn’t out to promote her own wants and needs here. It would have been better for her to pretend to be the perfect wife and stay at home and do exactly what Nabal wants her to do. It would’ve been better for her if she simply stayed home and served Nabal another drink because she knew, By the end of the day tomorrow, I’m going to be liberated from his tyranny. I’m going to be free from this when David and his men show up and kill my husband.
But she didn’t do that. Instead, Abigail shows us a truly submissive behavior and that she acts in a way that actually benefits her husband and his men, at the expense of herself. She tries to save her husband, and in doing so, she puts her own life on the line.
Peter Drucker, who many called the father of modern management, said this: “People who don’t take risks generally make about 2 big mistakes a year, and people who do take risks generally make about 2 big mistakes a year.” His point is that we tend to look at the worst-case scenarios about the outcomes in our minds, and while we need to be careful not to ignore the risk or the consequences of our actions, we also need to trust in the sovereignty of our great God to uphold us and to sustain us as we act.
Some of you have been wrestling with this. Some of you have been wrestling with the Holy Spirit about whether or not you should step into a situation, about whether or not you should intervene because you see something happening. Maybe it’s within your family. Maybe it’s within the family of a friend. Or maybe it’s something happening at your work. It could be happening on your team and you see, Hey, this is a bad situation, and it’s getting worse and it’s getting worse fast. I may be the only one who can step in and intervene here. And you’ve been wrestling with, Should I do this, or should I just keep my mouth closed?
III. Risk Takers confront fury with truth and wisdom
Abigail teaches us that we can’t afford to hesitate to take that risk when we have wisdom to impart, faith to share, and help to offer. But she also shows us how to do this because as a risk taker, risk takers confront fury with truth and with wisdom. Let’s see how Abigail confronts this in these next few verses. Starting in verse 23. It’s kind of a lengthy passage, so bear with me as we read this.
1 Samuel 25:23-31
23 When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off the donkey and knelt down with her face to the ground and paid homage to David. 24 She knelt at his feet and said, “The guilt is mine, my lord, but please let your servant speak to you directly. Listen to the words of your servant. 25 My lord should pay no attention to this worthless fool Nabal, for he lives up to his name: His name means ‘stupid,’ and stupidity is all he knows. I, your servant, didn’t see my lord’s young men whom you sent. 26 Now my lord, as surely as the Lord lives and as you yourself live— it is the Lord who kept you from participating in bloodshed and avenging yourself by your own hand—may your enemies and those who intend to harm my lord be like Nabal. 27 Let this gift your servant has brought to my lord be given to the young men who follow my lord. 28 Please forgive your servant’s offense, for the Lord is certain to make a lasting dynasty for my lord because he fights the Lord’s battles. Throughout your life, may evil not be found in you. 29 “Someone is pursuing you and intends to take your life. My lord’s life is tucked safely in the place where the Lord your God protects the living, but he is flinging away your enemies’ lives like stones from a sling. 30 When the Lord does for my lord all the good he promised you and appoints you ruler over Israel, 31 there will not be remorse or a troubled conscience for my lord because of needless bloodshed or my lord’s revenge. And when the Lord does good things for my lord, may you remember me your servant.”
Can you imagine what must have been going through Abigail’s mind when she turns the corner and locks eyeball to eyeball with David and 400 of his men dressed for combat. Can you picture that scene and what would be happening in her head? Her heart had to be beating out of her chest in that moment, and when she’s finally able to speak and get the courage to have words come out of her mouth, the first thing she says is, “It’s my fault. Blame me.”
Now look; we all know none of this is her fault. We’ve just read the story together. None of this is her fault, yet she takes responsibility for Nabal, and she even says, “Pay no attention to this worthless fool, Nabal. His name means stupid, and stupidity is all he knows. He is just doing what his name means.” He’s living up to the expectation here. In those verses, Abigail gives David 3 reasons why he shouldn’t do what he’s on his way to do. She lays out for him 3 reasons why the best thing for him to do is to stop, turn around and go back home. Snd she’s laying it all on the line here.
She lays her case out before him, and she says these things. First statement: “God sent me to protect you from making a foolish mistake. David, God sent me to keep you from committing murder by killing my husband.” Really, what she’s saying is, “David, God sent me to keep you from basically doing the same thing that Nabal did to you. I’m keeping you from being a fool here today.”
The next thing she says to David is, “God is the avenger of the wicked, not you.” This is a beautiful piece of advocacy because she references Saul’s pursuit of David and reaffirms that God will keep him safe where the Lord protects the living. Some translations read “in the bundle of the living”, and that’s a metaphor there. That’s reflecting a practice that was common in this day where you would take your valuables and you would bundle them together to keep them protected, to keep them either safe from injury, or you would bundle them together to keep them safe from harm. What she is saying is, God cared for David as a man would his valuable treasures. “So David, you can show a little forgiveness, a little kindness to Nabal.” And when she mentions this pocket of a sling and these stones taking down two enemies, this is a clear reference to the day where David defeated Goliath with the stone from his own sling. It’s a subtle way of her, saying, “If you just rely on the Lord to fight your battles, you know you’re going to win every time, right? You don’t have to be the avenger of the wicked.”
Then she tells David, “You’ll never regret this later.” Abigail reminds David that one day he’s going to be king. That is going to happen, and when that happens, little guys like Nabal won’t matter to him, and they are not going to have an effect on him. But what will matter, is whether or not his hands are clean and his conscience is clear.
It took enormous faith for her to say those things because again, she’s looking at a guy who is mad and getting madder, because she steps toward him as she just hears him say, “I can’t believe what he did. I can’t believe he said those things. You know what? I’m going to show this guy a lesson. I cannot believe he had the audacity to say that about my family. I can’t wait to see him.” And she meets him mad and getting madder. He’s at level 10 already, and she says these things and then hopes for the best.
Let me ask you this: When we need jump into a situation and when you decide to take a stand, when you see that there is something happening around you and it’s worth your time and energy of involvement and say, “I need to do something here. I need to intervene. I need to step in,” whose glory are you trying to advance when you do that? When you have that moment, whose glory are you really trying to make known? I would just like to caution you to guard your pride and to be honest about your motives when you decide to take that stand, and learn the discipline of keeping the sword in the scabbard by humbling yourself before Jesus and asking him that he would be glorified by your words and by your actions before you act. And be reminded that just because you have the sword, doesn’t mean that every situation calls for it. And sometimes we need to allow God to direct our words as we intervene on behalf of others.
IV. Risk Takers put their faith in a Greater Deliverer
Really, what Abigail is showing us this morning is that risk takers put their faith in a Greater Deliverer. Abigail doesn’t need David to liberate her from Nabal and David doesn’t need to avenge himself of Nabal. Let’s read how David responds to Abigail’s plea. We’ll go in at verse 35 here.
1 Samuel 25:35-38
35 Then David accepted what she had brought him and said, “Go home in peace. See, I have heard what you said and have granted your request.” 36 Then Abigail went to Nabal, and there he was in his house, holding a feast fit for a king. Nabal’s heart was cheerful, and he was very drunk, so she didn’t say anything to him until morning light. 37 In the morning when Nabal sobered up, his wife told him about these events. His heart died and he became a stone. 38 About ten days later, the Lord struck Nabal dead.
Abigail’s words pierced through David’s armor straight to his soul, and he heard from her, and everything she said squares with all that God has told him. He knows she is right, and the first thing he does when she finishes speaking is praise God for sending her to him. David recognizes in that moment that Abigail was literally a God-send, and he stops and considers what he was about to do. He says, “No, I’ve heard from the Lord through this woman. I’m not going to do this.” He blesses her; he sends her back home in peace, and David and his men turn around and go back.
Now completely oblivious to the stupidity of his actions and just how close to death he has come, Nabal is partying like a king in his house when Abigail returns, and it’s funny that the text tells us this: “And that the 200 loaves of bread and the wine and the sheep that Abigail took to give to David really had no effect on this party.” It kind of gives you an insight to the magnitude of his arrogance. -that she could take that much provision and he really not even notice. And he is completely wasted when she gets back. In fact, he was so drunk, the Bible tells us that Abigail just says nothing to him when she gets home.
Hey ladies, can you imagine having that kind of a day and then getting home, I can’t wait to tell my husband what I’ve been doing all day. -and then when you get home, you see him passed out on the couch like that, and you’ve got to keep that kind of stuff in for the rest of the night? Can you imagine having a hold that in and just sit on that all night, knowing what you’ve been doing all day to save this fool from certain death, and you just sit on it? And you think about it, you know what? Just wait. In the morning time, we’re going talk.
When morning comes, Nabal sobers up, and they had a conversation. Abigail tells him everything that happened the previous day, and maybe I think for the first time, he comprehends the magnitude of his stupidity. The Bible says his heart died within him, and he became like a stone. He probably had a heart attack and then sat there for 10 days suffering. After 10 days, the Lord struck Nabal dead. How much better that he died from the hand of God in this moment than from the hand of David and his men.
You want to know something? There are a lot of Nabals in this world today, and they can crush you with their cruelty, and they can break you down by how they treat you. They can quickly put you in your place with their words, and I want to say a hard truth this morning. I really want you to hear me say this from love. Some of you today are being a Nabal. You’re being a fool right now in your relationships. Your life is rooted in selfishness and sin, and the way you speak and the way you act is crushing those around you. Don’t wait to do the right thing. Do it now while you still have the opportunity, and make things right.
For all of us guys, for all of us men, I want to challenge us, and I want to encourage you with words from the Apostle Paul in 1st Corinthians chapter 16. In verse 13. Paul says, “Be watchful. Stand firm in faith. Act like men. Be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.”
Some of you are being dominated by a Nabal, and you don’t know what to do because your paths, your spiritual paths, are going in opposite directions right now. Let me just say this to you: When the Nabals of your world just don’t make sense in your life, Jesus does. And God richly rewarded Abigail for her obedience and her faithfulness, both to God and to her husband, Nabal, even during his foolishness. So, stand firm in your faith.
What I love most about today’s story is it offers an interesting parallel for understanding the work of Jesus, because mankind is like Nabal, where we foolishly reject God’s goodness and consequently, deserving of his judgment. Like David, God holds everyone accountable for their actions and for their disobedience, and the only hope for humanity, the only hope for you and me, is for someone to intercede and stands in the gap like Abigail did for Nabal. She demonstrated how Jesus, with this overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love for us, stood in the gap between a sinful humanity and a holy God.
Maybe you’re hearing for the first time that Jesus is your Great Deliverer. Through Jesus, and Jesus alone, can you have forgiveness of your sins and experience the mercy that he offers.
• Today for the first time, I put my trust in Jesus as my Great Deliverer from my sin.
– I’ve allowed the foolish words/actions of others to take my focus off of Jesus. Pray for me to demonstrate Christ’s love in my response to them this week.
+ I will pray for an opportunity to share my faith with someone this week.
- What happens when you get angry? Do you blow up or simmer? What can people do to calm you down?
- Have you ever had to quickly act to fix a mess created by someone else? What made you step in?
- Do you think Abigail was being a good wife or a rebellious wife when she did what Nabal refused to do?
- How is Biblical submission more than just blind obedience? How did Abigail demonstrate this?
- If you had an Abigail to intervene somewhere in your life, what is the situation she would be talking with you about right now?
- Do you have the courage to do what you know is right in God’s eyes even if those closest to you advise otherwise?
- Pray for God to give you a spirit of boldness, humility, and wisdom as you interact with people this week.