1 Samuel 25 is like the meat in a sandwich. The meat in a sandwich, or the cheese in a sandwich, is surrounded by two slices of bread. And chapter 25 is the meat in a sandwich, or it’s like the cheese in a sandwich, because it’s surrounded by chapter 24 and chapter 26.
You might remember from last week what chapter 24 was about. Saul had gone into a cave for a bathroom break, not knowing that David and his men were hiding in the same cave. And it seemed to David’s men that this was David’s chance to kill Saul. But David refused: he would not harm Saul who was still the Lord’s Anointed King. That’s what happened in chapter 24.
We haven’t come to chapter 26 yet, but you may be familiar with it. David and one of his men crept into Saul’s camp at night when Saul was sleeping. And as far as David’s companion was concerned, this again was their chance to kill Saul. ‘Let me pin Saul to the ground with my spear’, he said. But once again, David refused. He was not going to harm the Lord’s Anointed King.
So, in chapter 24 David had the chance to kill Saul, but he refused to do so. And in chapter 26, David had the chance to kill Saul, but he refused to do so. And in the middle of those two chapters we have chapter 25. And in this chapter, David wants to kill someone. He’s all set to kill someone. He and his men have strapped on their swords and they’re on the war-path. They’re ready to kill this man, Nabal. But Abigail, who was Nabel’s wife, managed to persuade David not to do it. She reminded him that he would one day be king; and what he was planning to do to Nabal was not the kind of thing the Lord’s Anointed King should do. When the Lord’s Anointed King is insulted, he must not retaliate. When the Lord’s Anointed King suffers, he must make no threats. Instead of taking matters into his own hands, the Lord’s Anointed King is to entrust himself to him who judges justly. In other words, he must entrust himself to God. And, you see, that’s what God’s True Anointed King, Jesus Christ, would be like. And so, once again, what we read here about David speaks to us of Christ the Saviour who did not retaliate or make threats, but who was prepared to suffer and die for sinners.
In the very first sentence of the chapter we’re told about the death of Samuel and how all of Israel mourned for him. We haven’t heard much about Samuel recently, although back in chapter 19, after David first fled from Saul, he went to Samuel and told him all that Saul had done to him. And since Samuel was a prophet, it’s likely that David went to him for a word from the Lord and for advice.
But now Samuel has died. And so, who is going to advise David now? Who is going to reveal to him the will of the Lord? Who is going to keep him on the right path? Well, as we’ll see from this chapter, even though Samuel was dead, the Lord was still able to guide David and to keep him on the right path. And he was going to do so by means of this woman, Abigail.
Verses 2 to 13
First, though, we’re introduced to Abigail’s husband, Nabal. We’re not told his name at first, but we’re told he was very wealthy and he possessed lots and lots of goats and sheep. And then, having told us about his wealth, we’re told his name, which is Nabal. And Nabal means ‘fool’. Psalm 14 begins with the line: ‘The fool says in his heart, “There is no God”.’ Well, the Hebrew is: ‘Nabal says in his heart, “There is no God”.’ Nabal means ‘fool’. Who can know why his parents gave him that name, but it turned out to be the best name for him, because, as we’ll discover, Nabal was very foolish. He was surly and mean in his dealings, we’re told. Or, as another translation puts it, he was harsh and badly behaved. His wife, however, was intelligent and beautiful.
And we read that David sent some of his men to go up to Nabal who was shearing his sheep at that time and to ask him for food. And you can read in verses 5 to 8 what David told his men to say. So, greet him in my name. Wish him well and his household well. Remind him how David’s men had provided protection for Nabal’s men when they were minding Nabal’s sheep. And since we’ve come at a festive time, when everyone is in a generous mood and is feasting, please give us something to eat: whatever you can find.
And so, we read that David’s men went to Nabal and said what David told them to say. And then they waited for Nabal’s answer. And Nabal, this surly, mean, badly-behaved man, was rude and insulting. ‘Who is this David?’ he asked. Of course, he knows who David is. Everyone had heard about David. But Nabal doesn’t care. He’s not impressed by David. ‘Who is this son of Jesse?’ he asked. He’s saying: He’s nobody to me. As far as I’m concerned, he’s only a runaway servant. And so: Why should I take my bread and my water and my meat for my shearers and give it to him? Notice how he repeats the word ‘my’. He’s mean and selfish.
And so, David’s men turned around and went back to David to report what Nabal had said. And David’s reaction is startling, isn’t it? We haven’t seen him respond like this before. ‘Put on your swords’, he said to his men. So, they put in their swords. And David put on his sword. In the Hebrew text, the word ‘sword’ is repeated three times to underline for us what they were thinking and what they were planning to do. They weren’t going on a picnic; they weren’t going sight-seeing; they were going with their swords to make war on Nabal. Four hundred of them set off to massacre Nabal and those who belonged to him.
Verses 14 to 17
But providentially, providentially, one of Nabal’s servants told Abigail what had happened and how Nabal had hurled insults at David’s men. And he explained to Abigail how David and his men had protected Nabal’s men when they were looking after their sheep. David and his men were like a wall around us, he said, like a protective wall, to keep us from danger. And he asked Abigail to do something, because disaster was hanging over their house because of her husband.
Verses 18 to 31
Abigail lost no time. She got together a load of provisions to give to David and his men and told her servants to go on ahead of her and she would follow behind. But she didn’t tell her husband what she planned. She didn’t tell him, presumably because she knew what he was like and how he would object.
And we’re told that she headed out to find David. And here’s David coming in verse 20. And we’re allowed to hear what David is thinking. And he’s thinking about how Nabal was repaid him evil for good. He had done good to Nabal by guarding his men and his sheep so that not one his possessions had gone missing. But Nabal has only done him evil. Some of the commentators suggest that there might have been an agreement between the two men and that Nabal had previously agreed to repay David for protecting his property. But now Nabal has broken his promise. And take a look at verse 22: David intends to kill every single male in Nabal’s household. That’s how angry he is.
So, that’s what David was thinking. But here comes Abigail, who bowed down before David before addressing him. And her speech to David is quite long, so let me summarise the main points. Firstly, in verse 24, she says: ‘Let the blame be on me alone.’ Some of the commentators think she’s accepting responsibility for what has happened. She’s perhaps saying: ‘It’s all my fault.’ And no doubt there are wives who are listening to this and from time to time you’ve had to apologise for your husband, because we husbands often say foolish things. But it’s also possible that this was just the customary way in those days to begin this kind of conversation. Think of the way we sometimes begin a conversation by saying: Excuse me. Excuse me for interrupting. And then she asks David to listen to her.
Secondly, in verse 25, she asks David not to pay any attention to her husband. And again, there will be wives listening to this and you’ve perhaps said that about your husband: Don’t pay any attention to him. He’s talking nonsense. Abigail therefore asks David not to pay any attention to her husband, because he’s really only a fool who shouldn’t be taken seriously. And if I had been there, when your men came to the farm, I would have prevented my foolish husband from refusing your men.
Thirdly — and this is remarkable — she knows, she knows that David will one day be king of God’s people. Look with me at verse 28 where she says that the Lord will certainly make a lasting dynasty for David. A dynasty is a line of rulers or kings who are descended from one another. And what Abigail says here is similar to what the Lord will say to David in 2 Samuel 7, where the Lord promised to establish a house, or a dynasty, for David so that his house and kingdom shall endure for ever. He and his descendants will rule over God’s people. So, Abigail believed that David will one day be king. And she says something similar in verse 30 where she says that the Lord will appoint David leader over Israel. David will one day be king.
The question then is what kind of king will he be? Will he be the kind of king who fights the Lord’s battles? Do you see how she mentions the Lord’s battles in verse 28? In other words, will he be the kind of king who goes to war on behalf of the Lord to protect the Lord’s people from harm and to rescue them from the Lord’s enemies? That’s what the Lord’s Anointed King should do. That’s the kind of king he should be.
But right now, it seems to Abigail, David is in danger of becoming the kind of king who does not fight the Lord’s battles, but who fights his own battles. Look at verse 26 where she refers to bloodshed and to avenging yourself with your own hands. And she repeats that phrase in verse 31 where she warns David that he doesn’t want on his conscience the burden of needless bloodshed and of having avenged himself.
So, will he be the kind of king with a reputation for fighting the Lord’s battles and doing the will of the Lord? Or will he be the kind of king who is known as someone who murders and kills out of personal revenge?
And she reassures David that the Lord will always watch over him. Look at verse 29: ‘Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life….’ And she’s presumably referring to Saul, because he was the only one who was pursuing David at that time to take his life. ‘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.’ Just as we might put something in a purse or wallet to keep it safe, so the Lord will keep David safe. ‘But the lives of your enemies he will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling.’ There’s no need for David to murder and kill out of personal revenge, because he can trust in the Lord to keep him and to deal with his enemies on his behalf. ‘Vengeance is mine’ says the Lord. ‘I will repay’. So, don’t think about repaying your enemies, because you can trust in the Lord to punish your enemies on your behalf.
So, what kind of king will you be, David? And, you see, when Abigail went out to find David, she wasn’t so much going out to save her husband, because from what she said in verse 26 it seems she was expecting the Lord to punish her husband. No, when she went out to find David, she went out to save David’s reputation and his good name and to ensure that he would be the right kind of king.
And having said everything she needed to say, she concluded her speech by asking David to remember her. Remember to show her favour and mercy and to do her good.
Verses 32 to 35
Many of us don’t like to be told that we’re in the wrong. Many of us don’t like having to receive advice. Many men don’t like taking advice from women. But David was willing to listen to Abigail and he praised the Lord who sent her to meet him. And he asks the Lord to bless her for her good judgment and for keeping him from bloodshed and for keeping him from taking revenge. In other words, she had saved his reputation.
And he received the food she brought for him and he sent her home.
Verses 36 to 44
And the chapter ends by telling us that when Nabal heard what had happened, his heart failed him and he became like stone. And about ten days later, the Lord struck him and he died. ‘Vengeance is mine’, says the Lord. ‘I will repay.’ The Lord’s servants, and especially the Lord’s Anointed King, must not take revenge, but must leave it to the Lord. And we’re told that David took Nabal as his wife; and he also had another wife at that time. Meanwhile, Saul had given his first wife, Michal, to another man.
The Lord’s servants, and especially the Lord’s Anointed King, must not take revenge, because the Lord commands his people to love even our enemies and to bless those who curse us. Get rid of all bitterness, Paul tells us in Ephesians, and rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other. Be imitators of God, Paul tells us, and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us.
And think of how the Lord Jesus loved the people around him when he was on the earth and how he refused to take revenge on those who hated him. When the Pharisees and the teachers of the law and the Sadducees came to argue with him and to try to trap him into saying something incriminating, he was patient with them. Though they plotted to do him evil, he never retaliated. When the guards came to arrest him, he wouldn’t let his disciples fight back and told Peter to put away his sword. When he was falsely accused before the Sanhedrin, he did not retaliate or hurl insults and accusations at his enemies. When he was being tried by Pilate, he did not threaten Pilate. When the soldiers beat him and whipped him and nailed him to the cross, he could have called for an army of angels to come and destroy his enemies, but instead he prayed for his enemies. Both the criminals who were crucified with him insulted him at the beginning, but when one asked the Lord to remember him, the Lord was willing to pardon him and to assure him of eternal life. And he did not retaliate when the people passing by mocked him.
The Lord Jesus, who is God’s Anointed King, did not retaliate when insulted. He did not make threats when he suffered. He did not repay evil for evil or insult for insult. Instead he entrusted himself to his Father in heaven and he was willing to suffer and to die on the cross to pay for your sins with his life and to wash away your guilt with his blood.
The Lord sent Abigail to David to keep him from bloodshed and from taking revenge, because David was to display to the world what God’s True Anointed King would be like. And God’s True Anointed King did not come to take revenge, but to give salvation to all who will believe in him.
And think about your life. Perhaps you’re a believer and a member of Christ’s kingdom. You’ve been a Christian for many years. And yet, there have been many times when you have been like Nabal and have refused to serve and honour Christ your King. Though he gave up his life for you, there have been many times when you have disobeyed him and when you have been unwilling to do his will and when you have refused to serve him as you should. And there have been times when you have dishonoured him by the things you have said and done. He commands you in his word to love and serve him, but how many times have you said ‘no’ to him in your heart? How many times have you dishonoured him?
And yet, instead of becoming impatient with you, and instead of strapping on his sword and striking you down, he has been patient with you, hasn’t he? And in heaven, he stands before his Father, and he’s praying for you, interceding on your behalf, reminding the Father in heaven that he has paid for your sins and shortcomings in full. It’s as if he’s saying to his Father: Do not treat him as his sins deserve. Do not repay her according to her iniquity. But for my sake, forgive them. Instead of taking revenge, he has done all things necessary to secure your salvation.
And he offers salvation to all who will believe in him. No matter what you have done to offend him, he offers forgiveness and peace and eternal life to all who trust in him as the only Saviour of the world. And he will not send away anyone who comes to him, humbly, confesses their sin and asking for forgiveness. He will not send them away, but will gladly welcome them.
And Christ our King who loved us and who gave himself for our salvation, commands us to follow his example and to be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you. And he gives you his Spirit to help you. He gives you his Spirit to help clean out of your heart bitterness and rage and anger and brawling and slander and every form of malice; and to fill your heart with love and compassion, so that the life you live here on earth will reflect the gentleness and the kindness and the compassion of your Saviour, Jesus Christ.