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A Woman Of Wisdom

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I Samuel 25

Periodically in the Bible we run across a story that seems to be a book within a book; short stories within the larger story of a complete book of the Bible.  These short stories have their own introduction, their own plot and counter-plots.  And then they have their own conclusions. And if you spend enough time on a few of these kinds of stories, they leave a lasting impression on your mind. 

Now, in I Samuel 25, you find a story like that.  It’s a book within a book.  Hopefully, after today this story will become as memorable to you as the story of Abraham offering up Isaac, or of the Hebrew children in the fiery furnace, or of Daniel spending the night in the den of lions.  I Samuel 25 contains a story that is really a simple 3-act play.  And if you can let your imagination run with you for a moment, I’d like for you to think about this three-act play beginning with the main characters coming out in font of the curtain before the curtain rises before the first act. 

You’ll notice in verse 1, the first character that is introduced to us in this scene of Scripture is man who is very familiar to us.  His name is David. We read that Samuel the prophet died.  “And all Israel gathered together assembled and mourned for him; and they buried him at this home in Ramah.”  The very next phrase says that “David moved down into the desert of Moan.” (Some of your Bibles read Paran).  So we have David who is living in the desert of Moan.  That’s the first character in this story.

Then comes the second main character and he is mentioned for us by name in verse 2, “A certain man in Moan, who had property there at Carmel, was very wealthy.  He had a thousand goats and three thousand sheep, which he was shearing.”  Now this guy is very rich. The Scripture says literally he was “heavy”.  He was weighted with riches.  We’d say this guy was loaded!  Verse 3 gives us his name.  His name was Nabal.  Now skip over the middle part of verse 3 and look at how the verse ends describing Nabal as a “Calebite, who was surly and mean in his dealings.”  Now, the name Nabal means “fool”.  In those days a man’s name was often a reflection of his character.  And that’s the way it was with Nabal.  He was a harsh, bigoted, stubborn, irritable fellow.  Other than that, he was a nice guy!  Look at verse 17 if you want to get a glimpse of what one of his servants said about him. This servant is right now talking to his wife.  Verse 17 reads, “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.” 

This past week I came across a little story about Oliver Cromwell.  Oliver Cromwell was a great British statesman of years gone by, and he had a disfiguring wart on his face. And his portrait painter suggested rather tactfully that Cromwell pose in a certain way that he might cover the wart. And Cromwell blurted out, “No!  Paint me as I am. Warts and all!”  Now that’s the way the Bible paints people.  Nabal had warts on his character.  He was an ugly, harsh, irritable fellow that nobody could talk to.

Now unfortunately someone was married to that fellow, and she was a lovely person.  Verse 3 introduces the real star of the play and her name is Abigail.  “His name was Nabal and his wife’s name was Abigail.  She was an intelligent and beautiful.”  That’s a tremendous combination. She wasn’t just beautiful.  She had the face and she had the figure.  Abigail was a knockout!!  Let’s just put it straight, okay?  And here is this winner of a woman married to a loser of a husband.  Abigail had everything going for her, but she was married to a dud!  Well, how does a beautiful woman with so much going for her wind up with such a loser for a husband?  In those days, a woman had little choice in who she would marry.  Her father made that decision. And this is the one that her father linked her up with, no doubt.


Now it’s payday as the curtain rises on Act one.  It’s sheep-shearing time.  And sheep-shearing time was to these people what the first and 15th of each month is to many of us.  It’s the time in which the money is paid out and the employees are given their due.  Verse 4 reads, “While David was in the desert, he heard that Nabal was shearing sheep.” 

Now why would that concern David?  Because David was sort of an ancient Robin Hood if I could use an extreme illustration. David had about 600 men with him in the desert of Moan and they voluntarily looked over the sheep of a number of the people.  In this case, they watched over the sheep and shepherds of Nabal and they voluntarily protected them from the prowling thieves and wolves.  So when sheep-shearing time came, then it was time to pay off David and his men.  Now, there was no written contract that was legal and binding. But it was sort of like tipping at a restaurant.  And it was in some ways expected that you would pay the people out in the field who guard your sheep.

Now, notice what David does.  We’re in the field in this first act, scene one.  Look at verse 5, “So David sent 10 young men and said to them, ‘Go up to Nabal at Carmel and greet him in my name.  Say to him: ‘Long life to you! Good health to you and your household!  And good health to all that is yours!  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.  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.”  I would say that is a very genuine and gracious bill.  Has the Water department or the Phone Company ever sent you a bill like that?  They never send a bill hat reads, “Dear Mr. Mason, Peace to your home.  Peace to your family.”  They just send a bill that says PAY BY THIS DATE or we’ll shut your water off!  David doesn’t do that.  He just sends word that “Whatever you feel led to give, we’ll accept with gratitude.”  So Nabal is left with a very gracious open-handed offer.

Before we run ahead and find out what his response is, look down in verse 15 because this is the testimony of Nabal’s shepherds who were in the field.  “These men were very good to us. They did not mistreat us, and the whole time we were out in the fields next them nothing was missing.  Night and day they were a wall around us all the time we were herding the sheep near them.”  Now that’s faithfulness.  And David and his 600 men had faithfully taken care of Nabal’s flocks of sheep and herds of goats.  So they come to Nabal at the ranch at Carmel. 

Now, go back to verse 9. This is scene two in Act one.  Verse 9, “When David’s men arrived, they gave Nabal this message in David’s name. Then they waited.”  In other words, the men came and delivered the message , and then they just sort of stood there with their hands in their pockets, wondering, “What is Nabal going to say?”  Well, they’re about to find out.  Verse  10, “Nabal answered David’s servants, ‘Who is David?  Who is this son of Jesse?  Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days.  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?’”  That bigoted, stubborn, stingy old goat!  He owed David and his men a  little bit of money anyway.  A little food for guarding the sheep. But Nabal’s servant was right, you can’t talk to a man like that.  “Who’s David?  You’re a bunch of gypsies running around out there in the field.  I don’t know who you are.  Get out of my face!” 

Now verse 12 introduces you to a group of men who knew David, and in their heart they must have thought, “Nabal, you don’t know what you’re saying!  You haven’t seen David when he’s mad.” But they went back.  Verse 12, “David’s men turned around and went back. When they arrived, they reported every word.” And David responded just like most of us would have responded.  Nothing is wrong with getting angry.  I want to make this point clear.  There is something terribly wrong in the way he planned to express it. But there is nothing wrong with him feeling angrily towards Nabal.  It says in verse 13, “David said to his men, ‘Put on your swords!’  So they put on their swords, and David put on his.  About 400 men went up with David, while 200 stayed with the supplies.”  Act one concludes.  The curtain closes.  You can just picture 401 men coming down from the desert of Moan to invade that little tiny village in Carmel.



Now Act two begins and as the curtain opens, we’re back at the ranch.  Verse 14, “One of the servants told Nabal’s wife Abigail: ‘David sent messengers from the desert to give your master his greetings, but he hurled insults at them.  Yet these men were very good to us.”  We’ve read those verses.  Now look at verse 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.”  Now please notice in verse 17 that this servant is concerned about the master and his household.  If Abigail had been like the average wife trapped in an unhappy and unfair situation, this would have been her chance to think,

“God moves in mysterious ways his wonders to perform.” 

“Let’s just wait and see what happens.” 

“Let’s just pray that my dear husband’s passing will be swift and painless.” 

But she doesn’t do that!  Instead, very quietly, according to verse 18, she begins to plan what she is going to do.  She was a wise woman.  “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 in the vans and took off (in those days they were donkeys.)”  She put together the first catering service!    Verse 19, “Then she told her servants, ‘Go on ahead; I’ll follow you.’  But she did not tell her husband Nabal.”  Why?  Well, she realized that if he found out what she was planning, he’d call a stop to it.  So she did not tell her husband Nabal.

Now scene two begins and we’re in the field.  Verse 23, “When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed down before David with her face to the ground.  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.  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.”  Was she right in saying that?  I believe she was dead right.  I believe she spoke this not out of harsh criticism, but she spoke realistically to a man who was angry.  And she said realistically to David, “David you’ve got to understand the source of these words that you heard from your servants.  Nabal had no idea what he was saying and I’m coming in his behalf to plead with you to rethink what you plan to do.”  In fact she says in verse 25, “I did not see the men that you sent.”

She continues in verse 26, “Now since the Lord has kept you, my master, from bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hands, as surely as the Lord lives and as you live may your enemies and all who intend to harm my master be like Nabal.  And let this gift which your servant has brought to my master, be given to the men who follow you.”  All the way through she is referring to David with words of deepest respect. And yet, she never once with wrong motives attacks her husband.  She says, “Let’s understand the source of those words. When you do, I know you’ll understand and you’ll not follow through with your plans.”  She adds in verse 30, “When the Lord has done for my master every good thing he has promised him and has appointed him leader over Israel, my master will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself.”  What’s she saying?  “Oh David.  If you take Nabal’s life and wipe out his household, you’ll never live it down.  It will haunt you the rest of your life.  Don’t have this on your record. Stop and think.” 

David responded in verse 32, “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.”  One great Old Testament scholar, in his biography of David entitled this chapter “A Cool Hand On A Hot Head.” And that’s exactly what Abigail provided at this juncture.  Verse 34, “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.”  And as the curtain falls on scene two, David and his men are sitting there in the dirt road leading out of the desert of Moan eating a delicious meal the Abigail provided for them.


Act three begins back at the ranch.  Tired and emotionally spent, Abigail walks in the front door of her home and into the arms of a grateful husband.  Unfortunately, that’s not how the story unfolds.  Instead, she stumbles onto an appalling scene.  Verse 36, “When Abigail went to Nabal, he was holding a feast in his house like the feast of a king.  He was in high spirits and he was very drunk.  So she told him nothing until daybreak.  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.”   Abigail comes to the breakfast table and says to her husband, “Let me tell you what happened yesterday, Nabal.”  He listens, and as she’s telling it . . . UGGGH! . . . he has a stroke and is paralyzed.  “About ten days later," according to verse 38, “the Lord struck Nabal and he died.” 

Now those of you who are unhappily married, be VERY CAREFUL how you read verse 37 and verse 38!  I heard a preacher telling about his church’s efforts to expand and they were checking out some land for a possible relocation and they were asking some of the neighbors around the current property about the possibility of the church buying their property.  And one man’s response was emphatic, “NO!  You’ll never buy my house.  Over my dead body will you buy my property.”  

And the preacher confessed, “You know, it’s really hard to know how to pray in a case like that.” 

10 days later, Nabal is dead!

Now, verse 39 says, “When David heard that Nabal as 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 head.”

Now for those of you who like fairy-tale endings, you’ll love this ending.  David sent a proposal to Abigail to become his wife.  Verse 40, “David’s servants of David went up Carmel and said to Abigail, ‘David has sent us to you to take you to become his wife.’”  Look at her response in verse 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.’”  What a response to a proposal of marriage!  I would hazard a guess that not many of us men here today ever heard that kind of response come from the lips of our wife-to-be! 

Ask her, “Will you marry me?” 

And she says, “Here I am your maidservant.  I’m ready to serve you and wash the feet of your servants.” 

If you’re unmarried man, let me give you a tip. If you ever come across a woman who responds like that, snatch her up quickly!  “Abigail quickly got on a donkey, and attended by her five maids, went with David’s messengers and became his wife.” 


Now this is Mother’s Day, I know.  And the Bible doesn’t say that Abigail was a mother. We don’t read that she had any children . .  . other than the one she was married to.  But Abigail was a woman of great wisdom and I believe God has something to teach all of us from this wonderful story.  

The first lesson I want to draw your attention to is that a wife’s primary role is to support her husband, regardless.  Look at verse 17 and 18 of I Samuel 25.  I think it was Ruth Graham who said of her husband, Dr. Billy Graham, “It’s the woman’s job to love her husband and to make him happy.  It’s God’s job to make him good.”  God hasn’t called you, wives, to fashion your husband into what he ought to be.  He’s called you to support your husband.  I never find Abigail delivering a lecture, pinning little notes to his pillow, or dropping little sermonettes on Nabal.  She supported him. He a worthless, no-good man, and yet Abigail supported him and looked out for his best interest.  Remember our look at Genesis 2 last week?  God created the woman so that she’d be a helper suitable for her husband.  The word suitable means “corresponding to him; meeting his needs.”  There are parts of your husband’s life-puzzle that are missing that only you, his wife, can complete.  That’s the role of a wife.

Secondly, I find that God honors a woman who honors her husband.  In this case, Abigail was relived of the strain. In some cases, God gives great grace to you and you find his grace sufficient for your situation.  I’d like to have you turn to me to I Peter 3.  Now wives, the Lord has provided you with the husband that you have.  The one that you have been given, came to you imperfect.  And the one who will pass on from this earth, will pass on in an imperfect state. There is no such thing as one who is perfect.  Peter was a married man and he talks about that relationship in verse 1 of chapter three that applies to all of us.  “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of these wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.  Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes.”  Remember Abigail not only had the beautiful dresses and the fine jewelry and the attractive hair-do and her outward appearance was impeccable. But there was also an inward beauty about her.  Peter says, “Your beauty should be that of the inner self, the understanding beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit which is of great worth in God’s sight.  For this is the way the holy women of the past (the Abigails) who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful.  They were submissive to their own husbands.” 

Maybe you don’t know Christ as your personal Savior.  He’d like to make you beautiful from the inside out.  He’d like to turn your life around.  He can do that, you know?  If you will respond in your faith that you believe in him, come in your repentance that you’re willing to  turn from your sin and live for him, and submit to your baptism into him, you can be changed into a completely new person this morning.  If you’re already an immersed believer and you would like to become a part of this church family, we invite you to come as we stand and sing our invitation hymn . . .

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