David, the anointed of God, was a wanderer in the wilderness which was part of that very land which God had chosen him to reign over; yet in God’s eyes a king; by faith, the Lord’s anointed. At this time, David and his followers (1Sa 25:1-2) were dependent, day by day, upon supplies coming as God sent them to him in direct answer to prayer; and he testified: “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.” (Psa 23:5.) In this history some light is thrown upon the way in which their wants were supplied.
“There was a man in Maon, whose possessions were in Carmel; and the man was very great, and he had three thousand sheep, and a thousand goats: and he was shearing his sheep in Carmel.” David was well acquainted with the surroundings and circumstances of this man, and news was brought to him that the sheep‐shearing had commenced. So he sent out ten young men with a friendly message to the rich farmer, and charged them, “Get you up to Carmel, and go to Nabal, and greet him in my name: and thus shall ye say to him that liveth in prosperity, Peace be both to thee, and peace be to thine house, and peace be unto all that thou hast.” There was a kingly, a priestly character in David’s greeting. He wielded sway over no earthly empire, but the God of peace was surely with him, and he spoke with his God’s authority in this message of peace. But with him, as with Christ’s disciples later, the law held good: “If the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again.” (Luk 10:6.) Christ Himself does not force His peace where it is unwelcome.
Having thus greeted Nabal, David made a reasonable request. He, with his young men, had been a wall of defence to Nabal’s shepherds. He asks now for some share in the provisions which were so plentiful at the sheep‐shearing time, saying,
“Let the young men find favour in thine eyes: for we come in a good day: give, I pray thee, whatsoever cometh to thine hand unto thy servants, and to thy son David.”
David’s young men had been reduced to obedience. He practised kingly power in the wilderness before he exercised it in Jerusalem. “They spake to Nabal according to all these words in the name of David, and ceased.” A true type of real disciples; they added no words of their own.
Two parties apparently became acquainted with David’s message. Nabal, who “was churlish and evil in his doings; and he was of the house of Caleb”; and Abigail, Nabal’s wife, “a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance.”
David’s request was very differently received by these two. Nabal answered David’s servants and said:
“Who is David? and who is the son of Jesse? there be many servants now‐a‐days that break away every man from his master. Shall I then take my bread and my water, and my flesh that I have killed for my shearers, and give it unto men whom I know not whence they be?”
Nabal calls God’s anointed a servant who breaks away from his master. He sides with Saul, man’s king, and rejects David, the Lord’s anointed. He is full of himself; My bread and my water and my flesh that I have killed for my shearers. In grudging David, he grudges God.
The name of Nabal means “fool.” He is indeed a fool for time and eternity whose self‐life is so prominent that he cannot recognise God’s David, our beloved Lord, the Christ of God.
David was indignant, and was about to lead his forces against the ungrateful farmer, and destroy him and his possessions; but Abigail, a true helpmeet, a wife after God’s own heart, heard from one of the young men what had happened, and when an appeal was made to her: “Now, therefore, know and consider what thou wilt do; for evil is determined against our master, and against all his household: for he is such a son of Belial that a man cannot speak to him,” Abigail rose to the occasion. She spoke no word to her husband, but she made haste and “took two hundred loaves, and two bottles of wine, and five sheep ready dressed, and five measures of parched corn, and a hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred cakes of figs, and laid them on asses,” sending the servants on before with these provisions, and she followed after, but strictly prohibited her servants from telling the unreasonable Nabal.
Abigail met David, half way towards the execution of his purpose of vengeance. She was a woman of deeds more than of words; she had not waited long to decide what was the right thing to do; she had recognised David’s claim as just and reasonable; and now when she saw David, “she hasted, and lighted off the ass, and fell before David on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, and fell at his feet.” She took the lowest place, while Nabal had taken the highest, the place of judgment. There was a grace about this woman which was beyond the dispensation in which she lived. Like Daniel, who confessed his sins and the sins of his people, Abigail, as being one with her husband by the fact that she was his wife, took his sin upon her.
“Upon me, my lord, upon me let this iniquity be,” she said.
O, how few there are who understand this refinement of Christian spirit! O, how few know the burden of another’s sin! Paul says: “Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?” (2Cr 11:29.)
Having taken the lowest place, Abigail, like a true prophetess, is in a position to point out to David where he may be in the wrong.
“Now, therefore, my lord, as the Lord liveth and as thy soul liveth, seeing the Lord hath withholden thee from coming to shed blood, and from avenging thyself with thine own hand, now let thine enemies, and they that seek evil to my lord, be as Nabal.”
Abigail takes no credit to herself: she recognises God’s hand, and is herself only an instrument, not so much as to be mentioned; and then she beseeches him to accept her present, but accounts it unworthy for himself. She retires out of view, and says: “Now this blessing which thine handmaid hath brought unto my lord, let it even be given unto the young men that follow my lord,” and then beseeches for pardon as though she had been the guilty one who had insulted him.
Again she rises into a prophetic strain, and declares to David:
“The Lord will certainly make my lord a sure house; because my lord fighteth the battles of the Lord, and evil hath not been found in thee all thy days. Yet a man is risen to pursue thee, and to seek thy soul.” Nabal reckons. David a servant who has escaped from his master; Abigail reckons Saul “a man,” but David, who is the Lord’s anointed, is her “lord.”
Again she prophesies: “The soul of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of life with the Lord thy God; and the souls of thine enemies, them shall He sling out, as out of the middle of a sling. And it shall come to pass, when the Lord shall have done to my lord according to all the good that He hath spoken concerning thee, and shall have appointed thee ruler over Israel, that this shall be no grief unto thee, nor offence of heart unto my lord, either that thou hast shed blood causeless, or that my lord hath avenged himself.”
Abigail speaks as God’s messenger oven to the anointed king; and only now, after securing her husband’s interests and David’s own interests, she mentions herself. “But when the Lord should have dealt well with my lord, then remember thy handmaid.” Perhaps with another husband, one who would not have been a continual cross to her as Nabal must have been, this exceptional woman would never have been what she became in the constant furnace of domestic trial.
David understood her, and he understood her vocation and her ministry to him. He recognised her as
A MESSENGER OF GOD.
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, which sent thee this day to me: and blessed be thy advice, and blessed be thou, which hast kept me this day from coming to shed blood, and from avenging myself with my own hand.” Then David received of her hand that which she had brought him, and spoke to her these words—also prophetic—
“Go up in peace to thine house; see, I have hearkened to thy voice, and have accepted thy person.”
Abigail’s mission accomplished, she went home into quite another atmosphere. From the presence of the Lord’s anointed, she returned to find her wretched husband revelling in his drunkenness. She had learnt to restrain her tongue, and she told him “nothing till the morning light,” and then he listened with nerves shaken, so that his cowardly spirit died within him, and he was as though paralysed with fear, and in ten days, his miserable life ceased to be upon this earth. God thus vindicated the character of His beloved David. And David, God’s king, heard of it, and sent to Abigail, calling her to take her place by his side, and reign with him over Israel when God’s time should come.
It is a true history, but wonderfully prophetic of the Church of Christ called by our David to recognise His Kingship in these last days, and finally to reign with Him for ever.