Previously, in chapters 18 & 19 of 1st Samuel, King Saul first intentionally endangered the life of the young David, and then he actively tried to kill him. Since both men have been anointed as kings of Israel, Saul fears that David will be the Lord’s instrument for his prophesied dethronement.
While operating out of his fear and without the empowering grace of the Holy Spirit (1 Sam. 16:14), Saul doggedly attempts to kill David at least ten times over the remainder of Samuel’s narrative. Meanwhile, David returns his unjust hatred with mercy, by twice sparing Saul’s life.
In our reading for today, we see a window into both the victories and trials of David’s life on the run. We discover in chapter 25 that David and his 600 men have been protecting certain shepherds who watched the sheep of a wealthy local leader named Nabal.
Because they were living off the land and in great physical need, David petitions this Nabal for food during his shearing festival. Nabal returns David’s kindness with rudeness. He transgresses the ancient cultural laws of hospitality by denying food to David and his followers, and then even mocking him.
Thank goodness for his discerning wife, Abigail! When she hears about Nabal’s idiotic insolence, she runs out to greet the avenging David with his mighty men. She falls down at his feet, and she repents on behalf of her husband. She provides David and his men with plenteous food, and then she curses her husband and blesses David.
At first glance, Abigail’s actions seem somewhat saucy to me, as she goes behind her husband’s back to undo his decision. Then, she curses him publicly, while blessing his sworn enemy, who would later become her second husband! Her behavior is not necessarily admirable nor is it advisable, so why do we read her story on the pages of Holy Scripture?
I loathe that bumper sticker that says, “Well Behaved Women Rarely Make History,” because it appears to give carte blanche to an “anything-goes” mentality. But this slogan applies to Abigail. Abigail was not really well behaved, but she believed greatly.
Abigail’s risky act comes from the knowledge of the Lord and his plan for Israel. She, like others, must have heard about David’s anointing by the prophet Samuel, and she must know that David is expected to succeed Saul. Failing to help David, then, is not simply unwise (“you shouldn’t upset the future king, right?”), but is a sign of downright blasphemy and disobedience to the Lord.
She fears the judgment of the Lord more than she fears the displeasure of her husband, and her bold and courageous act of faith saves the lives of her husband and all the males in her household.
Many of the biblical heroes are not well behaved; but they make biblical history because they, like Abigail, show us that true godliness is not about behavior but about faith. Faith manifests itself through humility, repentance, and a risky allegiance to great David’s greater Son, the perfect and true anointed King of Israel, who is Jesus Christ our Lord.