The Subtle Snare of Self-Salvation.

And David said to Abigail, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodguilt and from working salvation with my own hand! For as surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, who has restrained me from hurting you, unless you had hurried and come to meet me, truly by morning there had not been left to Nabal so much as one male.” Then David received from her hand what she had brought him. And he said to her, “Go up in peace to your house. See, I have obeyed your voice, and I have granted your petition.”

And Abigail came to Nabal, and behold, he was holding a feast in his house, like the feast of a king. And Nabal’s heart was merry within him, for he was very drunk. So she told him nothing at all until the morning light. In the morning, when the wine had gone out of Nabal, his wife told him these things, and his heart died within him, and he became as a stone. And about ten days later the Lord struck Nabal, and he died. – 1 Samuel 25:32-38 ESV

David knew the hand of God when he saw it. As he and his men stood there with their weapons at the ready, prepared to wipe out Nabal and every male in his household, Abigail had showed up with a gift of food and a word of wise counsel. She had bowed down before David and begged his forgiveness. And she appealed to David to refrain from doing something he would later regret. Nabal was a fool. He was insignificant and not worth the time and effort it would take to enact revenge. She wisely warned David, “When the Lord has done all he promised and has made you leader of Israel,  don’t let this be a blemish on your record. Then your conscience won’t have to bear the staggering burden of needless bloodshed and vengeance” (1 Samuel 25:30-31 NLT).

Her words struck a chord with David. They were like a cold glass of water thrown in his face, waking him up to the reality and danger of what he was about to do. And he was grateful, not only to her, but to God for having sent her. “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you to meet me today!” (1 Samuel 25:32 NLT). He knew this was a God-ordained encounter with Abigail. He clearly sensed that God had sent her to prevent him from doing something he would later regret. Killing Nabal would have been an act of vengeance, but not an act of God. David had not sought out or received any word from God to take the life of Nabal or anyone else. But the temptation of self-salvation and taking revenge on those who offend us always lingers within us. David had been offended by a rich fool and he was man enough to do something about it. But a man after God’s own heart would leave vengeance up to the Lord. And that is exactly what Abigail reminded David of. God had bigger plans for David. He was going to be the next king of Israel. Nabal was a bump in the road on the way to the throne room, and David would be better off letting God deal with him.

It’s interesting to note that when David had been given the opportunity to kill Saul, he had refrained from doing so. He even told Saul, “May the Lord judge between me and you, may the Lord avenge me against you, but my hand shall not be against you” (1 Samuel 24:12 ESV). At that point, David had been willing to leave the judgment of Saul in the hands of God. But when it came to Nabal, David had suddenly determined to take matters into his own hands. Only the words of Abigail prevented David from doing the unthinkable and committing an act of fratricide against fellow Jews.

And when David heard the words of Abigail, he immediately recognized the gravity of what he had been about to do. He said to her,  “Thank God for your good sense! Bless you for keeping me from murder and from carrying out vengeance with my own hands” (1 Samuel 25:33 NLT). There is the key to understanding this exchange between Abigail and David. His sin was not his anger with Nabal, but his desire to carry out vengeance against Nabal with his own hands. What he was about to do was an act of self-salvation, but not self-preservation. Nabal was no threat to David. All he had done was offend David by treating him with contempt and disrespect. He had hurt David’s pride. And David had been willing to slaughter Nabal and everyone associated with him in a needless act of revenge.

It’s interesting to note that, years later, when David was king, he would have another opportunity to take revenge on someone who treated him with disdain and disrespect. It was when his son, Absalom, had taken over Jerusalem and David had been forced to flee for his life. On his way out of town, he had been confronted by a man named Shimei, a member of the clan of Saul. As David and his men made their way out of the city, he threw stones at them and loudly cursed David.

“Get out of here, you murderer, you scoundrel!” he shouted at David. “The Lord is paying you back for all the bloodshed in Saul’s clan. You stole his throne, and now the Lord has given it to your son Absalom. At last you will taste some of your own medicine, for you are a murderer!” – 2 Samuel 16:7-8 NLT

David’s men offered to kill Shimei, but David restrained them, saying:

“My own son is trying to kill me. Doesn’t this relative of Saul have even more reason to do so? Leave him alone and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to do it. And perhaps the Lord will see that I am being wronged and will bless me because of these curses today.” – 2 Samuel 16:11-12 NLT

David’s encounter with Abigail had taught him a valuable lesson: To leave vengeance in the hands of God. He was to do nothing without God’s expressed permission. Taking Nabal’s life might have assuaged David’s damaged pride, but it would have done far more damage to his reputation. It would appear from studying the life of David, that he was a man prone to impulsive behavior. He was susceptible to giving in to his inner impulses and failing to think things through. His affair with Bathsheba is a case in point. He let his physical passions override his reasoning. He saw her and he wanted her. So, he took her. He didn’t think it through. And when his actions got him in trouble and she became pregnant, he threw reason to the wind, and went into self-preservation mode. He attempted to cover up his indiscretion with a carefully thought-out plan to have Uriah, he husband returned from war so that it might appear that the child was his. And when is efforts failed, his self-preservation efforts escalated and he had Uriah murdered, so he could take Bathsheba as his wife.

Self-salvation is tempting, but it never turns out like we were expecting. Taking matters into our own hands may feel good for the moment, but the repercussions can be devastating. Too often, our desire for revenge is based on nothing more than our own damaged pride. There is no real threat to our safety, but we find ourselves offended by something someone has said to us or about us. Perhaps it’s a rumor that someone has spread falsely representing us. It could be a simple case of someone showing us disrespect or treating us in a way we find distasteful. Our first impulse is to get even, to teach them a lesson. But what would God have us do? How would He prefer we respond? For David, the best course of action was no action at all. He was to leave Nabal in God’s hands. Rather than seeking revenge on Nabal, he was to rest in the sovereign will of God.

Jesus gave us some similar advice in the Beatitudes.

“You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.” – Matthew 5:38-42 NLT

We are to be driven by a bigger purpose than our own self-salvation and preservation. God has bigger plans for us than worrying about what others think and wasting our time attempting to protect our reputations. God had greater plans for David than eliminating a fool who happened to offend him. There were greater enemies to fight. There were much more significant wars for David to wage. He was to leave Nabal in God’s hands. And because he did, David would see God deal with Nabal as only God could. When Abigail told Nabal all that had happened and how David had been planning to come and destroy him, “he had a stroke, and he lay paralyzed on his bed like a stone. About ten days later, the Lord struck him, and he died” (1 Samuel 25:37-38 NLT). God avenged David. God dealt with Nabal. And David learned that the salvation of God is preferable to self-salvation every time.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson
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Wisdom From God.

Then Abigail made haste and took two hundred loaves and two skins of wine and five sheep already prepared and five seahs of parched grain and a hundred clusters of raisins and two hundred cakes of figs, and laid them on donkeys. And she said to her young men, “Go on before me; behold, I come after you.” But she did not tell her husband Nabal. And as she rode on the donkey and came down under cover of the mountain, behold, David and his men came down toward her, and she met them. Now David had said, “Surely in vain have I guarded all that this fellow has in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that belonged to him, and he has returned me evil for good. God do so to the enemies of David and more also, if by morning I leave so much as one male of all who belong to him.”

When Abigail saw David, she hurried and got down from the donkey and fell before David on her face and bowed to the ground. She fell at his feet and said, “On me alone, my lord, be the guilt. Please let your servant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your servant. Let not my lord regard this worthless fellow, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he. Nabal is his name, and folly is with him. But I your servant did not see the young men of my lord, whom you sent. Now then, my lord, as the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, because the Lord has restrained you from bloodguilt and from saving with your own hand, now then let your enemies and those who seek to do evil to my lord be as Nabal. And now let this present that your servant has brought to my lord be given to the young men who follow my lord. Please forgive the trespass of your servant. For the Lord will certainly make my lord a sure house, because my lord is fighting the battles of the Lord, and evil shall not be found in you so long as you live. If men rise up to pursue you and to seek your life, the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living in the care of the Lord your God. And the lives of your enemies he shall sling out as from the hollow of a sling. And when the Lord has done to my lord according to all the good that he has spoken concerning you and has appointed you prince over Israel, my lord shall have no cause of grief or pangs of conscience for having shed blood without cause or for my lord working salvation himself. And when the Lord has dealt well with my lord, then remember your servant.” – 1 Samuel 25:18-31 ESV

In these verses, we are provided with a stark contrast between Nabal and Abigai, and it shows up in their speech, their choice of words. When Nabal had first encountered the men sent by David, he responded rashly and rather harshly.

“Who is David? Who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants these days who are breaking away from their masters. Shall I take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers and give it to men who come from I do not know where?” – 1 Samuel 25:10-11 ESV

Nabal treated David’s men with disrespect and dishonor. His words were flippant and filled with disdain. All the time that his shepherds had been tending his flocks in the wilderness of Paran, David and his men had provided protection. One of Nabal’s own shepherds confirmed this fact when he appealed to Abigail to intervene.

“These men have been very good to us, and we never suffered any harm from them. Nothing was stolen from us the whole time they were with us. In fact, day and night they were like a wall of protection to us and the sheep.” – 1 Samuel 25:15-16 NLT

And yet, Nabal refused to acknowledge any of this and treated David with contempt rather than showing him gratitude. He was a fool. He fit the biblical definition of a fool.

Wise words bring approval, but fools are destroyed by their own words. – Ecclesiastes 10:12 ESV

Fools’ words get them into constant quarrels;
    they are asking for a beating.

The mouths of fools are their ruin;
    they trap themselves with their lips. – Proverbs 18:6-7 NLT

And Nabal was about to get a beating from David. In fact, David was planning on wiping out Nabal and every one of his men.

“A lot of good it did to help this fellow. We protected his flocks in the wilderness, and nothing he owned was lost or stolen. But he has repaid me evil for good. May God strike me and kill me if even one man of his household is still alive tomorrow morning!” – 1 Samuel 25:21-22 NLT

But wiser minds prevailed. Abigail, the wife of Nabal, when apprised of the situation, stepped in and determined to right the wrong her husband had done to David. This was probably not the first time she had been forced to intervene in her husband’s affairs. She is well aware of his reputation and, as his wife, she had first-hand experience with his foolishness. She was extremely blunt when describing him to David.

“I know Nabal is a wicked and ill-tempered man; please don’t pay any attention to him. He is a fool, just as his name suggests.” – 1 Samuel 25:25 NLT

But it was her words of reconciliation to David that provide us with the greatest insight into the difference between Abigail and her husband. Her words and actions were marked by wisdom and insight. And what she exhibited was far more than mere human intelligence. She was not just a smart woman. She was a godly woman.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
    and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. – Proverbs 9:10 ESV

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
    all those who practice it have a good understanding. – Psalm 111:10 ESV

Abigail was wise because she was godly. She feared the Lord. She saw the hand of God at work in the life of David. God had provided her with insight into the circumstances surrounding David’s life. While Nabal saw David simply as a man on the run, a fugitive from justice; Abigail saw him as the next king of Israel.

“The Lord will surely reward you with a lasting dynasty, for you are fighting the Lord’s battles.” – 1 Samuel 25:28 NLT

When the Lord has done all he promised and has made you leader of Israel,  don’t let this be a blemish on your record. – 1 Samuel 25:30-31 NLT

Abigail was not just buttering David up, stroking his ego in an attempt to get on his good side. She had divine insight from God. She had been given wisdom from God that enabled her to assess the situation and recognize that David, as God’s hand-picked successor to Saul, would not want to do anything that would blemish his future reputation or dishonor the name of God. Her words and actions reveal her wisdom.

From a wise mind comes wise speech;
    the words of the wise are persuasive.

Kind words are like honey —
    sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. – Proverbs 16:23-24 NLT

Every aspect of Abigail’s handling of this delicate and dangerous situation reveals a divinely inspired understanding of human nature and the keys to the successful mitigation of difficult circumstances. Her provision of food for David’s men and her choice of words for David’s ears were both divinely inspired. One of the most insightful things Abigail did that day was to get David to see things from God’s perspective. She knew David would be upset, and rightfully so. She fully understood how her husband’s foolish actions and words would cause David to take offense and be tempted to seek revenge. But what would God have David do? She wanted David to understand that God was working through her to prevent the unnecessary slaughter of innocent people, an action that would place a permanent blight on David’s reputation. It is impossible to think about this fact and not fast-forward to a future event in David’s life when he failed to heed the words of Abigail.

“When the Lord has done all he promised and has made you leader of Israel, don’t let this be a blemish on your record. Then your conscience won’t have to bear the staggering burden of needless bloodshed and vengeance.” – 1 Samuel 25:30-31 NLT

Years later, after David had become the king of Israel, he would have an affair with Bathsheba, the wife of one of his soldiers. And when she became pregnant with his child, he would arrange for her husband, Uriah, to be exposed to enemy fire on the front lines, in order that he could legally take Bathsheba as his wife. And he would know what it was like for his conscience to bear the staggering burden of needless bloodshed.

The words of Abigail were wise because they were godly. And they were godly because they came from the mouth of a godly woman. And we will see that David was going to recognize the hand of God in the actions of Abigail. His God would use this woman to accomplish His will regarding David.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Fear Foolishness.

When David’s young men came, they said all this to Nabal in the name of David, and then they waited. And Nabal answered David’s servants, “Who is David? Who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants these days who are breaking away from their masters. Shall I take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers and give it to men who come from I do not know where?” So David’s young men turned away and came back and told him all this. And David said to his men, “Every man strap on his sword!” And every man of them strapped on his sword. David also strapped on his sword. And about four hundred men went up after David, while two hundred remained with the baggage.

But one of the young men told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, “Behold, David sent messengers out of the wilderness to greet our master, and he railed at them. Yet the men were very good to us, and we suffered no harm, and we did not miss anything when we were in the fields, as long as we went with them. They were a wall to us both by night and by day, all the while we were with them keeping the sheep. Now therefore know this and consider what you should do, for harm is determined against our master and against all his house, and he is such a worthless man that one cannot speak to him.” – 1 Samuel 25:9-17 ESV

We discover in these verses that Nabal was a man who lived up to his name, which happened to mean “fool”. He had all the classic characteristics of a biblical fool.

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
    but a wise man listens to advice. – Proverbs 12:15 ESV

The wise don’t make a show of their knowledge,
    but fools broadcast their foolishness. – Proverbs 12:23 NLT

Short-tempered people do foolish things… – Proverbs 14:17 NLT

He was arrogant, full of himself, quick-tempered, resistant to counsel, and ignorant of the consequences of his behavior. He treated David, a mighty warrior, as if he were a nobody. He showed him no honor or respect. He looked down his nose at him, foolishly saying, “Who does this son of Jesse think he is? There are lots of servants these days who run away from their masters. Should I take my bread and my water and my meat that I’ve slaughtered for my shearers and give it to a band of outlaws who come from who knows where?” (1 Samuel 25:10-11 NLT). He knew exactly who David was. Even the Philistines had heard about David’s reputation as a mighty warrior. But Nabal, knowing that David was a man on the run, made a very foolish decision to treat David with disrespect and disdain.

One of Nabal’s shepherds, when he had witnessed what his foolish master had done, ran and told Abigail, Nabal’s wife. Even his words reveal the depth of Nabal’s problem: “he is such a worthless man that one cannot speak to him” (1 Samuel 25:17 ESV). Nabal’s foolishness ran so deep that he could not even recognize the folly and danger of his own actions. And he was totally resistant to the wise counsel of those around him who might have been able to protect him had he only listened.

What would have possessed Nabal to act so foolishly and risk the wrath of someone as powerful as David? We have to remember that, according to the Bible, foolishness is not a mental or psychological problem, it is spiritual. At the heart of Nabal’s folly was lack of respect for and fear of God. He had placed himself at the center of his own life, making himself his own god and arbiter of his own fate. Ultimately, foolishness is the lack of wisdom. And Psalm 111 tells us:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
    all those who practice it have a good understanding. – Psalm 111:19 ESV

Scripture repeatedly warns us that a person who denies, ignores, or neglects God lacks wisdom and inevitably displays the characteristics of a fool.

  • He acts thoughtlessly: He gives little or no thought to God; refusing to consider the truth about God. His treatment of others is simply a byproduct of his lack of thought regarding God’s holiness and judgment.
  • He becomes dull-minded:  When a man fails to consider God, his mind becomes dulled by the things of this world. He begins to lose the ability to see clearly, having his spiritual vision clouded by materialism, success, comfort, and pleasure. not being sharp in his thoughts about God. His mind becomes intoxicated with the things of this world and he sluggish toward God.
    • He becomes senseless: A man who neglects God finds himself lacking in wisdom and acting contrary to good common sense. Because he is deficient in his thoughts about God, he becomes in his ability to think clearly and sensibly. He may be smart and successful, but he will be plagued by senseless decision-making and the harmful outcomes it brings.
    • He will be without understanding: Because he fails to grasp or comprehend God; he will end up with wrong conclusions or thoughts about God. He will wrongly assume that God is not there or that God does not care about what he is doing. He will make godless decisions because he is essentially living a God-less life.
    • He will exhibit an ignorance of God: He won’t truly know God. Because he has left God out of his thought processes, he will display behavior that reveals his faulty understand of God. He won’t fear God’s holiness. He won’t worry about God’s judgment. He won’t seek God’s wisdom. He won’t see a need for God’s forgiveness.
    • He will be unwise: Without God in his life, he will lack wisdom. If fact, regardless of what he tries to do, he will act contrary to wisdom. His behavior will make sense to him, but it will actually lead to dangerous and foolish outcomes.

These characteristics, while true of the lost, should be especially scary to the believer, because any of us can exhibit these same qualities at any time. All it takes is for us to neglect God in our lives, to fail to fear Him and treat Him with the honor, respect and worship He is due. When we leave God out of our lives, we open up the door to foolishness. Foolishness if nothing more than a lack of wisdom and, as the psalmist said, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Nabal was a fool because Nabal was ungodly. If he didn’t fear God, why in the world would he fear David? If he was willing to treat God with disrespect, what would prevent him from treating David the same way?

It is interesting to note that, in the Proverbs, there are five different types of fools mentioned. They seem to run on a continuum, moving from bad to worse. There is the simple fool, the silly fool, the sensual fool, the scornful fool and the stubborn fool. Each is characterized by a different Hebrew word. The last one, the stubborn fool, is the word, “nâbâl”, which just happens to be the name of the character in our story.

According to the Proverbs, this is the most dangerous type of fool. A stubborn fool rejects God and His ways. He is self-confident and close-minded. He is his own god, freely gratifying his own sin nature. It is his goal to draw as many others as possible into following his ways. His actions tend to impact all those around him, just as Nabal’s actions were going to result in the deaths of all those around him. The Proverbs make it clear that only God can reprove a stubborn fool. And we will see in the story that, while David had a heart for God, he ran the risk of acting foolishly himself. He was going to let the foolish actions of Nabal cause him to respond in a godless, foolish way. But wiser heads would prevail.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Fear Foolishness.

When David’s young men came, they said all this to Nabal in the name of David, and then they waited. And Nabal answered David’s servants, “Who is David? Who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants these days who are breaking away from their masters. Shall I take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers and give it to men who come from I do not know where?” So David’s young men turned away and came back and told him all this. And David said to his men, “Every man strap on his sword!” And every man of them strapped on his sword. David also strapped on his sword. And about four hundred men went up after David, while two hundred remained with the baggage.

But one of the young men told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, “Behold, David sent messengers out of the wilderness to greet our master, and he railed at them. Yet the men were very good to us, and we suffered no harm, and we did not miss anything when we were in the fields, as long as we went with them. They were a wall to us both by night and by day, all the while we were with them keeping the sheep. Now therefore know this and consider what you should do, for harm is determined against our master and against all his house, and he is such a worthless man that one cannot speak to him.” – 1 Samuel 25:9-17 ESV

We discover in these verses that Nabal was a man who lived up to his name, which happened to mean “fool”. He had all the classic characteristics of a biblical fool.

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
    but a wise man listens to advice. – Proverbs 12:15 ESV

The wise don’t make a show of their knowledge,
    but fools broadcast their foolishness. – Proverbs 12:23 NLT

Short-tempered people do foolish things… – Proverbs 14:17 NLT

He was arrogant, full of himself, quick-tempered, resistant to counsel, and ignorant of the consequences of his behavior. He treated David, a mighty warrior, as if he were a nobody. He showed him no honor or respect. He looked down his nose at him, foolishly saying, “Who does this son of Jesse think he is? There are lots of servants these days who run away from their masters. Should I take my bread and my water and my meat that I’ve slaughtered for my shearers and give it to a band of outlaws who come from who knows where?” (1 Samuel 25:10-11 NLT). He knew exactly who David was. Even the Philistines had heard about David’s reputation as a mighty warrior. But Nabal, knowing that David was a man on the run, made a very foolish decision to treat David with disrespect and disdain. 

One of Nabal’s shepherds, when he had witnessed what his foolish master had done, ran and told Abigail, Nabal’s wife. Even his words reveal the depth of Nabal’s problem: “he is such a worthless man that one cannot speak to him” (1 Samuel 25:17 ESV). Nabal’s foolishness ran so deep that he could not even recognize the folly and danger of his own actions. And he was totally resistant to the wise counsel of those around him who might have been able to protect him had he only listened.

What would have possessed Nabal to act so foolishly and risk the wrath of someone as powerful as David? We have to remember that, according to the Bible, foolishness is not a mental or psychological problem, it is spiritual. At the heart of Nabal’s folly was lack of respect for and fear of God. He had placed himself at the center of his own life, making himself his own god and arbiter of his own fate. Ultimately, foolishness is the lack of wisdom. And Psalm 111 tells us:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
    all those who practice it have a good understanding. – Psalm 111:19 ESV

Scripture repeatedly warns us that a person who denies, ignores, or neglects God lacks wisdom and inevitably displays the characteristics of a fool.

  • He acts thoughtlessly: He gives little or no thought to God; refusing to consider the truth about God. His treatment of others is simply a byproduct of his lack of thought regarding God’s holiness and judgment.
  • He becomes dull-minded:  When a man fails to consider God, his mind becomes dulled by the things of this world. He begins to lose the ability to see clearly, having his spiritual vision clouded by materialism, success, comfort, and pleasure. not being sharp in his thoughts about God. His mind becomes intoxicated with the things of this world and he sluggish toward God.
  • He becomes senseless: A man who neglects God finds himself lacking in wisdom and acting contrary to good common sense. Because he is deficient in his thoughts about God, he becomes in his ability to think clearly and sensibly. He may be smart and successful, but he will be plagued by senseless decision-making and the harmful outcomes it brings.
  • He will be without understanding: Because he fails to grasp or comprehend God; he will end up with wrong conclusions or thoughts about God. He will wrongly assume that God is not there or that God does not care about what he is doing. He will make godless decisions because he is essentially living a God-less life.
  • He will exhibit an ignorance of God: He won’t truly know God. Because he has left God out of his thought processes, he will display behavior that reveals his faulty understand of God. He won’t fear God’s holiness. He won’t worry about God’s judgment. He won’t seek God’s wisdom. He won’t see a need for God’s forgiveness.
  • He will be unwise: Without God in his life, he will lack wisdom. If fact, regardless of what he tries to do, he will act contrary to wisdom. His behavior will make sense to him, but it will actually lead to dangerous and foolish outcomes.

These characteristics, while true of the lost, should be especially scary to the believer, because any of us can exhibit these same qualities at any time. All it takes is for us to neglect God in our lives, to fail to fear Him and treat Him with the honor, respect and worship He is due. When we leave God out of our lives, we open up the door to foolishness. Foolishness if nothing more than a lack of wisdom and, as the psalmist said, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Nabal was a fool because Nabal was ungodly. If he didn’t fear God, why in the world would he fear David? If he was willing to treat God with disrespect, what would prevent him from treating David the same way?

It is interesting to note that, in the Proverbs, there are five different types of fools mentioned. They seem to run on a continuum, moving from bad to worse. There is the simple fool, the silly fool, the sensual fool, the scornful fool and the stubborn fool. Each is characterized by a different Hebrew word. The last one, the stubborn fool, is the word, “nâbâl”, which just happens to be the name of the character in our story.

According to the Proverbs, this is the most dangerous type of fool. A stubborn fool rejects God and His ways. He is self-confident and close-minded. He is his own god, freely gratifying his own sin nature. It is his goal to draw as many others as possible into following his ways. His actions tend to impact all those around him, just as Nabal’s actions were going to result in the deaths of all those around him. The Proverbs make it clear that only God can reprove a stubborn fool. And we will see in the story that, while David had a heart for God, he ran the risk of acting foolishly himself. He was going to let the foolish actions of Nabal cause him to respond in a godless, foolish way. But wiser heads would prevail.

 

 

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Suffering Fools Not-So-Gladly.

Now Samuel died. And all Israel assembled and mourned for him, and they buried him in his house at Ramah.

Then David rose and went down to the wilderness of Paran. And there was a man in Maon whose business was in Carmel. The man was very rich; he had three thousand sheep and a thousand goats. He was shearing his sheep in Carmel. Now the name of the man was Nabal, and the name of his wife Abigail. The woman was discerning and beautiful, but the man was harsh and badly behaved; he was a Calebite. David heard in the wilderness that Nabal was shearing his sheep. So David sent ten young men. And David said to the young men, “Go up to Carmel, and go to Nabal and greet him in my name. And thus you shall greet him: ‘Peace be to you, and peace be to your house, and peace be to all that you have. I hear that you have shearers. Now your shepherds have been with us, and we did them no harm, and they missed nothing all the time they were in Carmel. Ask your young men, and they will tell you. Therefore let my young men find favor in your eyes, for we come on a feast day. Please give whatever you have at hand to your servants and to your son David.’” – 1 Samuel 25:1-8 ESV

This chapter is going to serve as the centerpiece between chapters 24 and 26, linking the two stories they contain. In chapter 24, we saw David pass on what appeared to be a God-given opportunity to take the life of King Saul. He would not raise his hand against the Lord’s anointed. Chapter 26 will present us with a very similar story in which David is presented with another tempting and seemingly divine opportunity to get rid of Saul once and for all. Sandwiched in-between these two chapters is the story of David’s encounter with Abigail and Nabal. The central figure in the story is Abigail. Her relationship with her rich, but foolish husband, Nabal, will provide a timely comparison to that of David and Saul. We will find intentional hints dropped along the way that reveal how much Saul is like the character of Nabal. And Abigail will provide a hard-to-miss illustration of how someone is to handle the “fools” in their lives.

But before we address David’s encounter with Abigail and Nabal, we have to deal with David’s loss. The chapter opens with the announcement of the death of Samuel. This would have been a shocking blow to David. Samuel, the prophet and the last of the judges of Israel, had played an integral role in the nation’s transformation into a monarchy. He had witnessed and overseen the establishment of Saul as the very first king over the nation of Israel. He had done so somewhat reluctantly, seeing their demand for a king as an indictment against him as their judge. But there was more to the story. We’re told in 1 Samuel 8 that Samuel had two sons, Joel and Abijah, who both served as judges, but they didn’t exactly have sterling reputations.

Yet his sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain. They took bribes and perverted justice. – 1 Samuel 8:3 ESV

It was the thought of these two men judging over them that moved the people to demand a king. But Samuel took offense. He had been the one to rule over and guide them. He had served as God’s mouthpiece, dispensing judgment and providing direction for the people. But with the appointment of Saul as king, Samuel’s role changed dramatically. He became a counselor to the king and a prophet to the people. He still had a vital role to play, presenting Saul with the difficult news that his kingdom was coming to an end and that God had already chosen his replacement. He was the one to anoint David to be the next king. But now, as the nation stood on the brink of a major change, as the transfer of power from one man to another grew closer, Samuel died. The last judge of Israel passed off the scene. A new era was beginning. The period of the kings was about to begin in earnest and it would represent one of the most volatile and unstable periods in the history of the nation of Israel. David and Saul would end up representing the two diametrically  opposite extremes of kingly conduct and character. Israel would know what it was like to have godly kings and godless, foolish, immoral kings.

And that is where the story of Abigail and Nabal comes in. David and Saul had parted ways after their encounter outside the cave in the wilderness of Engedi. Saul had shown remorse over his treatment of David and acknowledged his realization of the fact that David was going to replace him. It was God-ordained. But David did not return with Saul. He continued to live in the wilderness with his men, knowing that not much had changed. The transfer of power from Saul to himself was up to God and according to His timing. He would have to continue to wait until God decided the timing was right. And that brought him into the wilderness of Paran, where he had a “chance” encounter with Nabal.

We’re told that Nabal was rich, having 3,000 sheep and 1,000 goats. He also had a wife named Abigail. And the text tells us, “The woman was discerning and beautiful, but the man was harsh and badly behaved; he was a Calebite” (1 Samuel 25:3 ESV). We are immediately presented with the contrasting characters of these two individuals. They have been joined together in marriage, but they could not be more dissimilar in their natures and behaviors. Later on in the story, Abigail will rather bluntly share with David, “I know Nabal is a wicked and ill-tempered man; please don’t pay any attention to him. He is a fool, just as his name suggests” (1 Samuel 25:25 NLT). His very name meant “fool.” Somewhat of an odd name for any parents to name their child, but the name obviously fit. Nabal was a surly, egotistical, arrogant and unwise individual who had made a name for himself in the world and enjoyed a life of relative wealth. In the Bible, the designation, “fool” had nothing to do with intelligence. It is more of a spiritually-oriented label. David would one day write in one of his psalms, “Only fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good!” (Psalm 14:1 NLT).

In Psalm 10, we are given an even more descriptive assessment of the fool, but in terms of their wickedness:

4 The wicked are too proud to seek God.
    They seem to think that God is dead.
Yet they succeed in everything they do.
    They do not see your punishment awaiting them.
    They sneer at all their enemies.
They think, “Nothing bad will ever happen to us!
    We will be free of trouble forever!” – Psalm 10:4-6 NLT

It seems that David and his men had encountered the shepherds of Nabal while they were hiding out in the area of Paran. Because of their presence there, David’s men had made the area safe from Amalakites and Philistines. They had served as a kind of military presence in Paran, ensuring the safety of its residence, and this had included Nabal’s shepherds and his sheep. So David determined to seek aid from Nabal, expecting him to gladly extend courtesy out of gratitude. He sent his men with a message for Nabal.

“Peace and prosperity to you, your family, and everything you own! I am told that it is sheep-shearing time. While your shepherds stayed among us near Carmel, we never harmed them, and nothing was ever stolen from them. Ask your own men, and they will tell you this is true. So would you be kind to us, since we have come at a time of celebration? Please share any provisions you might have on hand with us and with your friend David.” – 1 Samuel 25:6-8 NLT

But David was in for a rude surprise. His kind words were going to be met with stubborn defiance. This encounter was going to push David to the limits. He was already struggling with his ongoing feud with Saul. He had been hiding and running for some time now. And he had just heard the devastating news that his mentor, Samuel, had died. He was not in a good mood. He was not a man to be trifled with. And yet, at this low point in his life, David found himself coming face-to-face with Nabal, the fool.

David was going to receive an invaluable lesson on how to handle the fools in his life, and it would come from an unlikely source, the wife of Nabal. And this lesson would serve David well in his ongoing relationship with Saul.

 

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

A Heart-To-Heart Talk.

“See, my father, see the corner of your robe in my hand. For by the fact that I cut off the corner of your robe and did not kill you, you may know and see that there is no wrong or treason in my hands. I have not sinned against you, though you hunt my life to take it. May the Lord judge between me and you, may the Lord avenge me against you, but my hand shall not be against you. As the proverb of the ancients says, ‘Out of the wicked comes wickedness.’ But my hand shall not be against you. After whom has the king of Israel come out? After whom do you pursue? After a dead dog! After a flea! May the Lord therefore be judge and give sentence between me and you, and see to it and plead my cause and deliver me from your hand.”

As soon as David had finished speaking these words to Saul, Saul said, “Is this your voice, my son David?” And Saul lifted up his voice and wept. He said to David, “You are more righteous than I, for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil. And you have declared this day how you have dealt well with me, in that you did not kill me when the Lord put me into your hands. For if a man finds his enemy, will he let him go away safe? So may the Lord reward you with good for what you have done to me this day. And now, behold, I know that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand. Swear to me therefore by the Lord that you will not cut off my offspring after me, and that you will not destroy my name out of my father’s house.” And David swore this to Saul. Then Saul went home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold. – 1 Samuel 24:11-22 ESV

There are those who struggle with the Bible’s references to David being “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). After all, this is the man who committed adultery with Bathsheba, then had her husband killed so he could marry her. He was far from perfect morally or spiritually. So why the lofty designation as a man after God’s own heart? Today’s passage provides us with a glimpse into the very heart of David. Under the worst of conditions and after a great deal of stress and emotional duress, David reveals his true heart, and provides a stark contrast to the dark and hardened heart of Saul.

David has just passed on the opportunity to take Saul’s life. He had the motive, the means, and the full support of his men. But he refused to act, telling his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this to my lord the king. I shouldn’t attack the Lord’s anointed one, for the Lord himself has chosen him” (1 Samuel 24:6 NLT). He allowed Saul to walk out of the cave with his life, but missing a small section of the hem of his royal robe. When Saul stepped out of the cave and into the light of day, David followed and confronted him. He called out to Saul, addressing him as “My lord the king!” (1 Samuel 24:8 ESV). David treated Saul with honor and respect. There was no screaming. No angry accusations. No claims to holding the moral high ground. All David wanted to do was to assure Saul that he had nothing to fear from David. He was not attempting to usurp his throne or take his life. He was still a loyal servant of the king and recognized Saul as the Lord’s anointed (vs. 10).

David started out his address to Saul by referring to him as king. But then he shifted his emphasis, calling Saul, “father” (vs. 11). David was Saul’s son-in-law, but he also viewed Saul as mentor. He had been Saul’s armor bearer and court musician. He had lived in the palace, served at the king’s side, and ministered to Saul in some of his most dark and lonely moments, playing his lyre in order to calm Saul’s tormented heart. David had proved himself faithful, serving as one of Saul’s commanders and successfully defeating countless numbers of the nation’s enemies, even while on the run. He had faithfully served Saul even while Saul was obsessively seeking to kill him. So David told Saul, “May the Lord judge between me and you, may the Lord avenge me against you, but my hand shall not be against you” (1 Samuel 24:12 ESV). This is where we are given what is probably the most vivid explanation for David’s designation as a man after God’s own heart. In spite of all he had been through and the countless reasons he may have had to justify being angry with and taking action against Saul, he responded with restraint. He focused his attention on God, rather than Saul. At no point does he judge or accuse Saul. David even gave Saul the benefit of the doubt, excusing Saul’s actions as nothing more than the result of bad advice. David was going to leave any judgment up to God. And if there was a need for any avenging to be done, as far as David was concerned, that was God’s purview, not his. David was going to trust God. And the heart of David is best seen in the psalms of David. Psalm 57 was written during the days in which David was hiding in the caves, seeking refuge from the relentless pursuit of Saul.

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy!
    I look to you for protection.
I will hide beneath the shadow of your wings
    until the danger passes by.
I cry out to God Most High,
    to God who will fulfill his purpose for me.
He will send help from heaven to rescue me,
    disgracing those who hound me.
My God will send forth his unfailing love and faithfulness. – Psalm 57:1-3 NLT

Psalm 142 was written during the same period of David’s life.

4 I look for someone to come and help me,
    but no one gives me a passing thought!
No one will help me;
    no one cares a bit what happens to me.
Then I pray to you, O Lord.
    I say, “You are my place of refuge.
    You are all I really want in life. – Psalm 142:4-5 NLT

David had a heart for God. He sought after God. He trusted in God. In his darkest moments, he called out to God, seeking deliverance and direction from God. And he let Saul know that he had nothing to fear from him. As far as David was concerned, Saul was the king and would remain so until God deemed otherwise.

It is interesting to note that Saul was moved by David’s words. He was legitimately moved by what he heard. Even he saw the stark contrast between his heart and that of David. Perhaps it was the words of the ancient proverb that David quoted: “Out of the wicked comes wickedness.” Saul may have been given a sobering glimpse into the darkness of his own heart. The Proverbs of Solomon say,  “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23 ESV). Jesus told His disciples, “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person” (Matthew 15:18-20 ESV). As David stood before Saul that day, he provided Saul with a less-than-flattering reminder of all that he had become. David served as a stark counterpoint to Saul’s godlessness, heartlessness, faithlessness and self-centeredness. And he could not help but respond, “You are more righteous than I, for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil” (1 Samuel 24:17 ESV).

These two men, one the anointed king of Israel and the other, the anointed king-elect of Israel, could not have been more different. But the greatest contrast between the two of them was not external, but internal. It was the spiritual conditions of their hearts. David was committed to seeing his life through the lens of God’s sovereignty. He was going to trust in God’s will and leave his life in God’s all-powerful hands. Saul had been committed to preserving his own legacy, at all costs – even attempting to thwart the revealed will of God. He was a man after his own heart, not God’s. He was self-consumed and overly obsessed with doing whatever he had to do to protect his way of life. And when he stood there that day, in a face-to-face encounter with David, he got a glimpse into the condition of his heart. He would be convicted. He would show remorse. He would feign repentance. And he would walk away. But his heart would remain unchanged.

In His sermon on the mount, Jesus spoke these words concerning false prophets, but they apply to the situation between Saul and David as well.

“You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.” – Matthew 7:16-20 NLT

David’s actions revealed the true nature of his heart. And Saul’s heart had been exposed as what it really was: Dark, diseased, and devoid of a healthy relationship with God.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Opportunity Versus Authority.

When Saul returned from following the Philistines, he was told, “Behold, David is in the wilderness of Engedi.” Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel and went to seek David and his men in front of the Wildgoats’ Rocks. And he came to the sheepfolds by the way, where there was a cave, and Saul went in to relieve himself. Now David and his men were sitting in the innermost parts of the cave. And the men of David said to him, “Here is the day of which the Lord said to you, ‘Behold, I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it shall seem good to you.’” Then David arose and stealthily cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. And afterward David’s heart struck him, because he had cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord’s anointed.” So David persuaded his men with these words and did not permit them to attack Saul. And Saul rose up and left the cave and went on his way.

Afterward David also arose and went out of the cave, and called after Saul, “My lord the king!” And when Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the earth and paid homage. And David said to Saul, “Why do you listen to the words of men who say, ‘Behold, David seeks your harm’? Behold, this day your eyes have seen how the Lord gave you today into my hand in the cave. And some told me to kill you, but I spared you. I said, ‘I will not put out my hand against my lord, for he is the Lord‘s anointed.’” – 1 Samuel 24:1-10 ESV

Distracted by the surprise attack by the Philistines, Saul was forced to call of his pursuit of David, allowing him time to escape to the wilderness of Engedi. But it was not long before Saul was back on the war path, accompanied by 3,000 highly trained soldiers. His mission: Capture and kill David. But chapter 24 is going to provide a striking contrast between Saul, the current king of Israel, and David, the God-appointed king- elect of Israel. Time and time again we have read of Saul’s relentless pursuit of David and his obsessive compulsion to take his life. Now we will see the tables turned. This time around, David will have the chance to take matters into his own hands and eliminate the threat of Saul once and for all.

As David and his men were hiding in one of the caves in the wilderness of Engedi, Saul entered, seemingly alone, and placing himself in a very vulnerable position. Little did he know that the very man he pursued was there in the darkness watching his every move. And when David’s men saw Saul walk into their hideout, they spied what they believed to be a God-ordained opportunity.

“Now’s your opportunity!” David’s men whispered to him. “Today the Lord is telling you, ‘I will certainly put your enemy into your power, to do with as you wish.’” 1 Samuel 24:4 NLT

Their assessment of the situation was quick and incredibly clear – at least to them. God had obviously sent Saul into the cave for the sole purpose of David taking his life. What else could it be? The timing was perfect. Saul was alone. He was defenseless. Of all the caves in the wilderness of Engedi, he had chosen this one. What else could it be but a divinely ordained opportunity for David to out an end to this nightmare?

There was only one problem: Nowhere in the text does it indicate that God had given His permission for David or anyone else to take the life of Saul. Regardless of the picture-perfect circumstances and the seemingly divine nature of the opportunity, what was missing was the divine authority for David to lift a finger against Saul.

But David, emboldened by the advice of his men, crept forward and in the darkness of the cave, sliced off a section of Saul’s robe. He had chosen to spare Saul’s life, but his action was intended to send a deliberate and crystal-clear message to Saul that he could cut his reign short at any time. What David did was an act of rebellion, and he soon had second thoughts. The text tells us:

But then David’s conscience began bothering him because he had cut Saul’s robe. He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this to my lord the king. I shouldn’t attack the Lord’s anointed one, for the Lord himself has chosen him.” So David restrained his men and did not let them kill Saul. – 1 Samuel 24:5-7 NLT

His action had been presumptuous and without divine authority. God had not given him permission to take matters into his own hands. Earlier, when Jonathan had told David, “You shall be king over Israel” (1 Samuel 23:17 ESV), those words must have registered in David’s mind and given him the confidence to believe that God had anointed him to be the next king of Israel. But God had not told David when or how his reign would come about. Saul was still the king. Technically, he was the anointed sovereign over the nation of Israel. Saul had been chosen by God, and at no time had God given David permission to take his life in order to speed up the process of his coronation. David was susceptible to the same thing we all face as followers of God: To believe that the end justifies the means. It was far too easy for David to assume that if he was to be the next king, then getting rid of the current king must be part of God’s plan. But God had not disclosed to David the means by which He was going to bring about the transition of power from one man to the next. That was God’s concern, not David’s.

The Scriptures are full of warnings about confusing our plans with those of God.

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.
 – Proverbs 19:21 ESV

We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps. – Proverbs 16:9 NLT

We can make our own plans, but the LORD gives the right answer. – Proverbs 16:1 NLT

LORD, we know that people do not control their own destiny. It is not in their power to determine what will happen to them. – Jeremiah 10:23 NET Bible

David had no shortage of well-meaning friends providing well-intended advice. But what he really needed was a word from God. The opportunity may have looked right, but without God’s approval, the outcome was going to turn out all wrong. It is interesting to note that David would eventually admit to Saul, “the Lord gave you today into my hand in the cave” (1 Samuel 24:10 ESV). This is not an admission on David’s part that he believed God had given him permission to kill Saul. He was simply saying that this encounter had not been a coincidence. He had been put to the test by God. And David’s own men had made that test even more difficult by counseling David to take Saul’s life. But he didn’t. David even saw his cutting off of the section of Saul’s robe as an act unsanctioned by God. He had overstepped his bounds.

Opportunity means nothing without God-given authority. In fact, there is an interesting side story that involves Saul himself. In the early days of his reign, when he had been king for only two years, he found himself besieged by the Philistines. He was outnumbered. He had 3,000 men, but was facing 6,000 Philistine cavalry, 30,000 chariots and infantry “as the sand which is on the seashore in multitude” (1 Samuel 13:5 ESV). Needless to say, his troops were terrified. In fact, the passage tells us:

When the men of Israel saw that they were in danger (for the people were distressed), then the people hid in caves, in thickets, in rocks, in holes, and in pits. And some of the Hebrews crossed over the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. – 1 Samuel 24:6-7 ESV

Here’s the point. Saul had been instructed by Samuel the prophet to wait in Gilgal for seven days. When the seven days passed and the prophet was nowhere to be found, Saul took matters into his own hands. He was facing a formidable foe with demoralized troops. Saul seized the opportunity. He commanded his servants, “‘Bring a burnt offering and peace offerings here to me.’ And he offered the burnt offering. Now it happened, as soon as he had finished presenting the burnt offering, that Samuel came” (1 Samuel 13:9-10 ESV). Saul thought that he had done the right thing. They were in trouble. The prophet wasn’t there. Somebody needed to offer a sacrifice to God before the battle ensued. But while Saul had the opportunity, he did not have the authority. And he would have to suffer the consequences for his disobedience.

When confronted by Samuel, Saul explained, “‘The Philistines will now come down on me at Gilgal, and I have not made supplication to the Lord.’ Therefore I felt compelled, and offered a burnt offering” (1 Samuel 13:12 ESV). Saul’s compulsion was not to be confused with God’s permission. His urge to do something was situation-induced and self-authorized. And as a result, his offering brought God’s wrath, not blessing. Acting on behalf of God, but without the permission of God, is a sign of disobedience, not faithfulness. God had a plan. Saul got impatient. He took matters into his own hands. But just because an opportunity presents itself does not mean God is in it or has given His permission for it. God’s will can only be done God’s way. Opportunity without authority will almost always result in calamity.

 

 

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Rock of Escape.

David saw that Saul had come out to seek his life. David was in the wilderness of Ziph at Horesh. And Jonathan, Saul’s son, rose and went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God. And he said to him, “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Saul my father also knows this.” And the two of them made a covenant before the Lord. David remained at Horesh, and Jonathan went home.

Then the Ziphites went up to Saul at Gibeah, saying, “Is not David hiding among us in the strongholds at Horesh, on the hill of Hachilah, which is south of Jeshimon? Now come down, O king, according to all your heart’s desire to come down, and our part shall be to surrender him into the king’s hand.” And Saul said, “May you be blessed by the Lord, for you have had compassion on me. Go, make yet more sure. Know and see the place where his foot is, and who has seen him there, for it is told me that he is very cunning. See therefore and take note of all the lurking places where he hides, and come back to me with sure information. Then I will go with you. And if he is in the land, I will search him out among all the thousands of Judah.” And they arose and went to Ziph ahead of Saul. – 1 Samuel 23:15-29 ESV

Verse 14 of this same chapter stated that Saul sought David every day. He was on a relentless, obsessive mission to destroy David because he knew that as long as David was alive, his crown was in jeopardy. He had even warned his son, Jonathan, “For as long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, neither you nor your kingdom shall be established” (1 Samuel 20:31 ESV). And it seems that Jonathan had taken those words to heart. He risked the wrath of his father and his own life by covertly arranging to see David one more time. And at that reunion with his best friend, he disclosed to David, “My father will never find you! You are going to be the king of Israel, and I will be next to you, as my father, Saul, is well aware” (1 Samuel 23:17 NLT). Jonathan had seen the handwriting on the wall. He somehow knew that David was to be the next king and that it would be the will and work of God. The text tells us that Jonathan “strengthened his hand in God” (1 Samuel 23:16 ESV). He encouraged David to trust God. Not even his father, Saul, was going to be able to stop what God had ordained. Jonathan knew his father was in the wrong and would eventually fail in his attempt to thwart the will of God. It had become increasingly clear to him that Saul’s obsession with David’s death was not only uncalled for, but would prove to be unsuccessful. These words from his best friend and the rightful heir to the throne had to have encouraged David greatly. Jonathan was abdicating any right he had to be the next king because he believed David to be God’s choice for the role.

It is interesting how God sometimes uses others to reveal to us information regarding us that has escaped our notice. All David seemed to know was that Saul was out to kill him. It would seem that he had not yet put two and two together and arrived at the conclusion that Saul’s obsessive-compulsive behavior toward him did have a reason: Saul knew David was God’s choice to be the next king. It took Jonathan to add up the facts and present David with what should have been an obvious conclusion: He was going to be king of Israel. Jonathan assured David that even Saul was well aware of this fact. We are not given insight into David’s reaction at this news, but it had to have been an epiphany for him, a light-bulb-illuminating-over-the-head moment. Suddenly, it all began to make sense. The anointing, spear-throwing, raging, and running all began to come together into a clear picture of what God was going. The last time the two of them had met, David had asked  Jonathan, “What have I done? What is my guilt? And what is my sin before your father, that he seeks my life?” (1 Samuel 20:1 ESV). Now he knew the answer. He was Saul’s God-appointed replacement. No wonder Saul was acting the way he was.

But even with this eye-opening, riddle-solving news, David’s lot in life didn’t undergo any kind of remarkable change. Jonathan would return home and David would find himself still living as a wanted man. In fact, it wouldn’t take long for reality to set back in as David’s location in the wilderness of Ziph was disclosed to Saul by the area’s residents. They ratted David out, informing Saul of his whereabouts, and promising to turn him over to the king.

To get an idea of what David was thinking at this stage of his life, all we have to do is turn to Psalm 54, which was written at this very time. In this psalm, David bears his heart to God. He calls on God to save him. And he promises to offer sacrifices to God when He does finally provide him with deliverance.

O God, save me by your name,
    and vindicate me by your might.
O God, hear my prayer;
    give ear to the words of my mouth.

For strangers have risen against me;
    ruthless men seek my life;
    they do not set God before themselves. Selah

Behold, God is my helper;
    the Lord is the upholder of my life.
He will return the evil to my enemies;
    in your faithfulness put an end to them.

With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you;
    I will give thanks to your name, O Lord, for it is good.
For he has delivered me from every trouble,
    and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies.

One of the revealing statements in this psalm is David’s conclusion that those who were seeking him and those who would betray him “do not set God before themselves.” The New Living Translation phrases it this way: “They care nothing for God.” The actions of Saul and the Ziphites had nothing to do with the will of God. David describes them as strangers, ruthless, and enemies; and he refers to their actions as evil. David realized that this was a spiritual battle between those who care nothing for God and God Himself. So David calls on God to do what only He can do. He pleads with God to save and vindicate him, to avenge and deliver him, to hear and help him. David knew that his life was in God’s hands. God had anointed him and would be God who would have to protect and deliver him.

And David would receive yet another timely example of God’s ability to deliver. When Saul heard that David and his men had relocated to the wilderness of Moan, he set out in hot pursuit. The passage tells us, “Saul and David were now on opposite sides of a mountain. Just as Saul and his men began to close in on David and his men, an urgent message reached Saul that the Philistines were raiding Israel again” (1 Samuel 23:26-27 NLT). Just in the nick of time, God stepped in. It would be tempting to write this off as nothing more than a very timely coincidence. But for David, it would have been the very well-timed, miraculous intervention of God. Just when Saul and his men were closing in, God stepped in and provided a way of escape. And God would use the enemies of Israel to deliver the next king of Israel. The Philistines had chosen that particular moment in time to raid Israel, forcing Saul to abandon his pursuit of David and return home. The name of that place became known as the Rock of Escape. God had become a rock of escape for David, protecting him from his enemies and providing a miraculous, perfectly timed deliverance from his enemies. But notice that God did not eliminate Saul. He did not provide a permanent victory over Saul by allowing David to kill him in battle. He simply removed the immediate threat and gave David a glimpse of His capacity to save. God was not interested in removing the difficulties from David’s life as much as He was in getting David to trust the One for whom no problem was to difficult. Saul was not going to go away, but neither was God. David’s life was not going to be problem-free, but David was going to learn that nothing that happened in his life was free from God’s all-seeing eye. Which is why David, years later, would later be able to write these words:

You are my rock and my fortress.
    For the honor of your name, lead me out of this danger.
Pull me from the trap my enemies set for me,
    for I find protection in you alone.
I entrust my spirit into your hand.
    Rescue me, Lord, for you are a faithful God. – Psalm 31:3-5 NLT

 

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Rejected Savior.

Now they told David, “Behold, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are robbing the threshing floors.” Therefore David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?” And the Lord said to David, “Go and attack the Philistines and save Keilah.” But David’s men said to him, “Behold, we are afraid here in Judah; how much more then if we go to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?” Then David inquired of the Lord again. And the Lord answered him, “Arise, go down to Keilah, for I will give the Philistines into your hand.” And David and his men went to Keilah and fought with the Philistines and brought away their livestock and struck them with a great blow. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah.

When Abiathar the son of Ahimelech had fled to David to Keilah, he had come down with an ephod in his hand. Now it was told Saul that David had come to Keilah. And Saul said, “God has given him into my hand, for he has shut himself in by entering a town that has gates and bars.” And Saul summoned all the people to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men. David knew that Saul was plotting harm against him. And he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring the ephod here.” Then David said, “O Lord, the God of Israel, your servant has surely heard that Saul seeks to come to Keilah, to destroy the city on my account. Will the men of Keilah surrender me into his hand? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? O Lord, the God of Israel, please tell your servant.” And the Lord said, “He will come down.” Then David said, “Will the men of Keilah surrender me and my men into the hand of Saul?” And the Lord said, “They will surrender you.” Then David and his men, who were about six hundred, arose and departed from Keilah, and they went wherever they could go. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he gave up the expedition. And David remained in the strongholds in the wilderness, in the hill country of the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day, but God did not give him into his hand. – 1 Samuel 23:1-14 ESV

There are many ways in which David was a type of Christ, providing a foreshadowing of the Messiah who was to come. Jesus would be a descendant of David and would be born in the city of Bethlehem, just as David had been. David had been a shepherd and Jesus was the Good Shepherd. Like David, Jesus had been the king-elect, sent by God to become the King of kings and Lord of lords. But also like David, He would experience a time of waiting, in which He would minister on behalf of the people of Israel, but not necessarily receive their full appreciation for His efforts.

In this passage, David, though pursued by his enemy, Saul, would continue to fight against the Philistines. He was on the run and living in hiding with his rag-tag group of malcontents and misfits, but he had not given up his desire to destroy the enemies of Israel. Jesus too, lived his life as a man without a home, with no place to even lay His head (Luke 9:58). He was surrounded by a motley crew made up of fishermen, tax collectors and other less-than-impressive individuals. And Jesus was constantly pursued by his enemies, the Pharisees and Sadduccees. Both David and Jesus were both fighting the same unseen enemy, Satan, whose every desire was to cut short their rule and reign, in an effort to thwart the plan of God. Even the people of Israel, who greatly benefited by the efforts of both men would, in many ways, turn their backs on them. David would rescue the people of Keilah, only to learn that they would betray him to Saul if given the chance. Jesus would offer the people of Israel salvation from death and freedom from sin, but the majority would turn their backs on Him, rejecting Him as their Messiah, preferring the darkness of their lives over the light of life being offered to them (John 3:19).

David, like Jesus, was faithful to God. He still saw himself as a servant of God, and was willing to fight the enemies of God even while living on the run from Saul. When David received word that the Philistines were harassing the inhabitants of the Israelite city of Keilah and robbing their threshing floors, he immediately determined to do something about it. But not before he sought the will of God. David had learned some valuable lessons from his decision to flee to Gath and then deceive the priests at Nob. The first one had almost cost him his life. The second one had resulted in the slaughter of hundreds of innocent people. And in neither case had he sought out the will of God. So this time he did. And God gave His approval. David and his growing band of men went to Keilah, attacked the Philistines and “struck them with a great blow” (1 Samuel 23:5 ESV). They saved the inhabitants of Keilah.

But news of David’s good deed made its way to Saul, who saw this as just another opportunity to trap David and destroy him. He was not grateful for David’s help against the enemies of Israel. He refused to see David as an ally, but instead, viewed him as a threat and an enemy to his way of life. In the same way, the Pharisees refused to see Jesus as a fellow minister to the people of Israel. He was a threat to the status quo and they were jealous of His growing popularity. They refused to see His miracles and victories over demons and diseases as having come from God. As far as they were concerned, He as the enemy and they were willing to do anything to get rid of Him.

Saul, true to form, made his way to Keilah with a large force to take David, and he was willing to destroy the city and everyone in it if necessary, just to get his hands on David. But David was well acquainted with Saul’s unbridled hatred for him and knew that he would most likely show up at Keilah. So David sought the will of God once more. This time he used the Urim and Thummim.

The Urim and Thummim were a means of revelation entrusted to the high priest. No description of them is given. The Urim and Thummim were used at critical moments in the history of God’s people when special divine guidance was needed. The civil leader was expected to make use of this means for all important matters for which he needed direction. – Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology

The book of Exodus provides us with an explanation of their function.

Insert the Urim and Thummim into the sacred chestpiece so they will be carried over Aaron’s heart when he goes into the Lord’s presence. In this way, Aaron will always carry over his heart the objects used to determine the Lord’s will for his people whenever he goes in before the Lord. – Exodus 28:30 NLT

These were evidently two stones that were placed in the pocket of the high priest’s ephod. It is thought that one was light in color and the other was dark. When a decision was necessary, each stone was assigned a different answer or opposing outcome. Whichever one was pulled out was believed to be a divine answer from God. We are told that Abiathar, the only priest to have escaped the slaughter at Nob, had brought along the high priest’s ephod, and now David determined to use the Urim and Thummim to ascertain God’s insights and direction. David wanted to know if Saul was coming and if the people of Keilah would betray him to Saul. God affirmed both questions. So David and his men left Keilah and “went wherever they could go” (1 Samuel 23:13 ESV).

David would return to the caves, but he was far from alone. His entourage had grown to more than 600 men. But more importantly, He was accompanied by God. Even though Saul “sought him every day,” God was with Him and “did not give him into his hand” (1 Samuel 23:14 ESV). David had been rejected by the people of Keilah as their savior, but he had not been rejected by God. His deliverance of them was not enough to forestall his betrayal by them. The very same thing happened to Jesus. In John’s gospel we read the sobering words, “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:11 ESV). David would continue to experience rejection by his own people. He would find himself under constant threat by Saul. But he would remain faithful to God and committed to his cause to stand against the enemies of God. He would suffer greatly, but his suffering would eventually lead to his exaltation as the king of Israel. Jesus too, would suffer, even to the point of death, but as the apostle Paul reminds us:

…he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 2:8-11 ESV

 

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Dark Days.

Then Ahimelech answered the king, “And who among all your servants is so faithful as David, who is the king’s son-in-law, and captain over your bodyguard, and honored in your house? Is today the first time that I have inquired of God for him? No! Let not the king impute anything to his servant or to all the house of my father, for your servant has known nothing of all this, much or little.” And the king said, “You shall surely die, Ahimelech, you and all your father’s house.” And the king said to the guard who stood about him, “Turn and kill the priests of the Lord, because their hand also is with David, and they knew that he fled and did not disclose it to me.” But the servants of the king would not put out their hand to strike the priests of the Lord. Then the king said to Doeg, “You turn and strike the priests.” And Doeg the Edomite turned and struck down the priests, and he killed on that day eighty-five persons who wore the linen ephod. And Nob, the city of the priests, he put to the sword; both man and woman, child and infant, ox, donkey and sheep, he put to the sword.

But one of the sons of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped and fled after David. And Abiathar told David that Saul had killed the priests of the Lord. And David said to Abiathar, “I knew on that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would surely tell Saul. I have occasioned the death of all the persons of your father’s house. Stay with me; do not be afraid, for he who seeks my life seeks your life. With me you shall be in safekeeping.” – 1 Samuel 22:14-23 ESV

The moral, spiritual, and mental state of King Saul was on a steep and rapid decline. His animosity toward David was insatiable and he would let anyone or anything stand in the way of his quest to eliminate David once and for all. So, while his treatment of the Ahimelech and the priests of Nob may shock us, it should not surprise us. Even the priests of God were fair game and subject to Saul’s wrath. But while Saul seemed to have lost all fear of and respect for God, his troops had not. He was unable to recruit any of them to carry out his vindictive order to kill the priests. But there was one man who was more than willing, most likely driven by a desire to see himself promoted and rewarded for his efforts. Doeg the Edomite, the man who had been at Nob when David showed up, had made a beeline to King Saul with the news. This Edomite, a foreigner, was more than willing to carry our Saul’s command. Doeg was “the chief of Saul’s herdsmen” (1 Samuel 21:7 ESV), and, like any other ambitious individual, was probably seeking a way to get out of the pasture and climb the palace social ladder. By carrying out Saul’s command when no one else would, he knew he would ingratiate himself to the king and secure his favor. So Doeg slaughtered 85 priests of God that day. And then he killed every living inhabitant of Nob. It was a bloodbath – a senseless, sinful, and Satan-inspired act would turn the  priesthood from Saul to David. A solitary priest, Abiathar, miraculously escaped the carnage that day and made his way to David with the news of what had happened. David was wracked with horror and guilt. He felt responsible for the deaths of Ahimelech and his fellow priests. It was his deception that had led to their destruction. He had lied to Ahimelech that day by telling him he was on a secret mission for Saul. His rash decision to seek refuge from the priests and then lie to secure their help had put them at great risk. And Saul, in his ever-present paranoid state, saw them as traitors and had them summarily executed.

David most likely assumed that Saul, as the king and a servant of Yahweh, would show the priests the respect they were due. He probably never imagined that Saul would dare lift his hand against the priests of God. But he had been proven wrong. And David was furious. His respect for Saul all but disappeared that day. We get a good idea of David’s mental state at the time, because he wrote a psalm to commemorate the event. In it, he reveals his feelings about Saul.

Why do you boast about your crimes, great warrior?
    Don’t you realize God’s justice continues forever?
All day long you plot destruction.
    Your tongue cuts like a sharp razor;
    you’re an expert at telling lies.
You love evil more than good
    and lies more than truth. – Psalm 52:1-3 NLT

David was a warrior himself, but he was appalled at the actions of Saul. He was shocked at the actions of someone he once admired and idolized. He could not believe that Saul, the king of Israel, could do the things he had done. But he knew that God would not let Saul’s actions go unpunished.

You love to destroy others with your words,
    you liar!
But God will strike you down once and for all.
    He will pull you from your home
    and uproot you from the land of the living. – Psalm 53:4-6 NLT

David was confident that God would bring justice and retribution against Saul. He would not allow this immoral act to go unaccounted for. While David was in no position to do anything about it, he knew that God would.

The righteous will see it and be amazed.
    They will laugh and say,
“Look what happens to mighty warriors
    who do not trust in God.
They trust their wealth instead
    and grow more and more bold in their wickedness.” – Psalm 53:6-7 NLT

Through the misguided and unrighteous actions of Saul, David was learning some valuable lessons regarding those who fail to place their trust in God. He saw in King Saul a stark portrayal of the once godly man who abandons his faith in God for reliance upon his own strength and resources. Saul’s blatant betrayal of God was difficult for David to understand. But it drove him in his commitment to place his trust in and maintain his reliance upon God, whatever happened.

But I am like an olive tree, thriving in the house of God.
    I will always trust in God’s unfailing love.
I will praise you forever, O God,
    for what you have done.
I will trust in your good name
    in the presence of your faithful people. – Psalm 52:8-9 NLT

Abiathar, the sole remaining priest, would find refuge with David. The future king of Israel and the future high priest of Israel were suddenly united by one man’s hatred for them and God’s divine plan for them. Neither David or Abiathar knew what God had in store for them. David had no idea what the next few years of his life would hold. Abiathar only knew that he was alone and no longer able to exercise his priestly duties. Both men were unaware of all that God was doing behind the scenes. There was no silver lining to the dark cloud that hung over them. There was no light at the end of the foreboding tunnel in which they found themselves. But they would learn to trust in God by having to place all their hope in God.

 

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson