Handled: Part 5
I recently heard Malcolm Kayes speak from 1 Samuel 25 about David, Nabal and Abigail as models of how we respond to events, and found it so helpful I want to recap it here:
“I don’t suffer fools gladly…”
Rather sadly, Nabal’s parents had named him ‘fool’, for that is what Nabal means. Even more sadly, Nabal lived up to his name. He clearly had ability, as he had managed to accumulate considerable wealth, but he was not a popular or a pleasant man. David and his men had kept guard over Nabal’s shepherds when they were out in the wilds with their flocks, but Nabal had no interest in showing reciprocal respect towards David. Nabal was the kind of man who says, “I’m not going to help him – I’ve worked for what I’ve got. Why should I help that waster? Let him go and get a proper job.”
When David’s request for help came, Nabal told him to get lost.
“I don’t deserve to be treated like that…”
David was not the kind of man to take an insult lying down. He told his men to strap on their swords, and marched off to slit Nabal’s throat. David felt complete justification about this – Nabal had it coming.
It is interesting that this story comes immediately after the account of David sparing Saul’s life. When David had Saul at his mercy he did not lay a finger on him, and was even consumed with guilt at cutting off a corner of Saul’s robe. But an insult from Nabal and David is ready to start a slaughter.
Sometimes it is easier to respond righteously in the face of the big test than it is to a smaller test. We might behave with nobility when something huge happens to us, but then fly off the handle at the smaller stuff. This is like the man who handles redundancy with dignity, but then gets into a fury when another driver cuts him up. What it reveals is that there is some heart work that still needs to be done.
“I’ll respond with grace…”
In contrast to the foolish Nabal and the hot-heated David, Abigail is a model of gracious action. She compensates for her husband’s arrogant folly by making arrangements for David to receive a generous gift; she prevents David from taking the law into his own hands and becoming guilty of shedding blood by flattering and charming him.
Not only does Abigail respond to a very difficult situation with incredible wisdom, but she acts selflessly. It is easy to imagine that the prospect of David chopping off Nabal’s head might be attractive to Abigail. It could be her way out of what was probably a pretty ugly marriage. But she doesn’t do this. Even when she gets back home from placating David, Abigail finds things worse rather than better with Nabal drunk and disorderly. But rather than look for a way out of a difficult situation Abigail remains faithful.
How do you handle it?
Each of us has the potential to act like Nabal – to be selfish and thoughtless and foolish. In our different ways we can find ourselves looking down on other people and making wrong judgements about them.
Each of us also has the potential to act like David – taking hot-headed exception to the slights (real or imagined) that others throw our way.
Abigail is a better model of godly response here. Rather than fighting her own corner or running away in fear, she faces a difficult situation head on and makes wise choices that result in a good outcome. Abigail is a wonderful example of how to handle a handling. May we go and do likewise.
This is the fifth and final article of the Handled Series.