1 Samuel 25:1-42

What do you do when life is not working out according to your brilliant plans? When the carpet is pulled out from under you? When your exciting dreams are all shattered? When the people in your family are destroying everything and there seems as if there is nothing you can do about it? This study looks at a woman whose experience can help us to learn so much about God's heart for us and how He wants us to behave. Her name was Abigail and she is described as being "an intelligent and beautiful woman" and married to a wealthy man, but one who is "surly and mean in his dealings". His name was Nabal (which, in Hebrew, means "fool").

Abigail came into David’s life at a time when he was on the run from his master, King Saul. David had been anointed by the prophet, Samuel, as the next king of Israel, but he had to wait his time! He had proved his worth as a warrior by defeating (with God's help) the Philistine champion (and giant) called Goliath. (1 Samuel 17:45-51) He then married Michal, the king's daughter, and entered Saul's service as a military commander, but Saul became envious of David's abilities and even afraid of him. (1 Samuel 18:26-29) As time went on, Saul started to look for opportunities to destroy David, but God protected him and gave him friends who supported him through this very difficult period. David was eventually forced to leave Saul's court and live as an outcast in nearby territories.

But David was popular and other outcasts - around six hundred men - began to flock to him and to follow him as their leader. This only worried Saul all the more and he took to chasing after David with his loyal troops to try and capture him and eliminate the threat that he posed. However, even though David, during one of these clashes, found himself in a position to kill the king, he refused to harm God's anointed one and would not allow his followers to attack Saul or his army. (1 Samuel 24:1-7)

Not much to celebrate

After the incident when David spared Saul's life, the prophet, Samuel, died and the nation gathered in his home town, Ramah (a short distance North of Jerusalem), to mourn for him. David then moved to Paran, which was a desert area to the South of Jerusalem and much further away. After he and his followers had been there a while, the time for sheep-shearing came round - normally a time for celebration and feasting. David's men had been living amongst the shepherds and looking after them, so he sent some envoys to Nabal, asking if he would provide some extra food for David's camp. This was a perfectly reasonable request, since the protection given by David's men would have contributed significantly to Nabal's own prosperity.

However, Nabal responded only with insults and rudeness. Without doubt, Nabal would have known who David was. He would have heard tales of his military prowess, fighting for Israel, and of his popularity with ordinary people, but his behaviour was really offensive to David. Nabal’s servants recognised how well David’s protection and support had served them and understood that Nabal's provocation could prove disastrous for Nabal and his household, but they knew that it was pointless to speak to him about it and, instead, approached Abigail, his wife. (1 Samuel 25:15-16)

A time to tear down

David, who had shown tremendous self-control in his dealings with King Saul, is not disposed to be anywhere near as lenient with this rude and ignorant man who has not only refused to help him, but actively insulted him into the bargain. He gathers his fighting men around him and they set off to deal with Nabal. Fortunately, Abigail has realised the danger and acts swiftly. She collects together a plentiful supply of food and sends it off with some servants to intercept David and his men. They meet in a mountain ravine with Abigail heading upwards and David making his way down from the high ground.

Abigail quickly gets off her donkey, approaches David and bows down to greet him. She addresses him respectfully, taking full responsibility for the wrong done to David and his men. She acknowledges that her husband is a fool, but that the LORD has intervened to keep David from bloodshed and vengeance that would surely have caused him later to feel enormous guilt once his anger had cooled. She also assures him that she believes God has chosen him to lead Israel and that God will make a lasting dynasty for David, provided that he continues to fight the LORD's battles and to do only what is right.

Her intervention brings David up short and he realises what a risk Abigail has taken and what she has saved him from. She has shown him that there is a bigger picture on which he needs to focus, without getting distracted by the insults and offences of a foolish man. David recognises Abigail's wisdom and courage and accepts the provisions that she has brought, promising that no harm will come to herself or her household.

And a time to build

Abigail returns home to find her husband in a drunken stupor, so she wisely waits until morning to tell him what she has done. Despite his foolishness, she does her best to protect him from himself. The following morning, when he was doubtless suffering an almighty hangover, she calmly explains what has happened. Nabal promptly suffers a heart attack and enters a catatonic trance before dying ten days later. David hears of Nabal’s death and sees how God has avenged him so much better than if he had taken revenge himself. David asks Abigail if she will become his wife. She does not delay but immediately comes to him, promising to serve him as best she can. (1 Samuel 25:39-42)

What can we learn from this amazing woman?

Responsibility: Abigail took her responsibility to her husband, her household and her leader very seriously. Nabal obviously did not appreciate his wife. He treated her as a second-class citizen and of little value, but she did not rise to the bait. She did not derive her sense of worth and value from her husband’s attitude to her and, although she was confident in herself as a person, she was not arrogant.

Wisdom: When there was a problem, Nabal's servants knew where to come for help. Abigail understood David's situation and his need of support, whilst also realising that he would fight for his men if pushed to it. She quickly sees the obvious solution: to provide what David needed and to throw herself on his merciful nature. She did not hesitate or procrastinate.

Humility: Although Abigail was the wife of a prominent and wealthy businessman, she did not allow this to go to her head or make her proud. She protected her husband and she was willing to abase herself before David, despite the fact that he was currently on the run for his life and without any official position or resources.

Emotional stability: She used her confidence in her own ability, her communication skills, wisdom and attractiveness and took the opportunity she had been given to save her household. She must have felt the fear, but acted resolutely rather than curling up in a corner and saying: “it's not my responsibility - it's that drunken man I am lumbered with!” She kept a cool head rather than allowing herself to be swept away by emotion.

Living in the light

In Abigail's time, a person's relationship with God was a more distant, formal affair, but Abigail believed that God was active in her own life and those of others around her. She saw His hand in the events of her time and sought to do what was right to the best of her ability. Nowadays, we are blessed in the knowledge that Jesus has died for us but has been raised to new life and can live close by our side through the Holy Spirit. It is, therefore, wise for us to keep our attitude right before God who knows all things. God was able to work in Abigail’s life for her good because she had kept her heart right through years of being largely disregarded by her husband. Nonetheless, she submitted to him as head of the household. She relied on God so was not self-centred or full of self-pity, but able to see the bigger picture. Even during a time of acute stress, she remained cool and calm.

Whatever situation we may be in today, God is saying to us: "With Me, you can do everything if you learn from My word, follow My instructions and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit". If we have difficult relationships with our husband or partner, our ex, our children, relatives or friends, we can talk to God about them. When we follow His leading and give Him space to move in divine wisdom, we shall see whole situations turned around, lives saved, relationships healed, finances and health restored.

We can always go straight to God and pour out our thoughts, feelings and emotions to Him. It can help to write a diary or journal and then put that before God, asking Him if what it says is true or if it's just an emotional response because we're not seeing the big picture as our heavenly Father does. The truth sets us free and helps us deal with our feelings before God. No human being can help us so quickly and truthfully, offer such positive outcomes, restore broken relationships and heal wounds in the same way as our wonderful God. We can ask the Holy Spirit to bring verses to our minds, enabling us to walk in the Spirit rather than following our fallen, human nature.

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