This sermon is number 2 in a series of 5
Little Women - Part 2
by David Legge | Copyright © 2007 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Turn with me to 1 Samuel 25 please. Our character tonight, as I have said, is 'Abigail' - and we have rather a long reading this evening. Do make yourself comfortable, it's been warm these last couple of days within the building, and we don't want you to lose concentration because of that, so do make yourself as comfortable as is possible.
First Samuel 25, beginning to read at verse 2 - and I'm warning you that we're reading down to verse 44, so be prepared for that, to the end of the chapter: "And 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. Now the name of the man was Nabal; and the name of his wife Abigail: and she was a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance: but the man was churlish and evil in his doings; and he was of the house of Caleb. And David heard in the wilderness that Nabal did shear his sheep. And David sent out ten young men, and David said unto the young men, 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. And now I have heard that thou hast shearers: now thy shepherds which were with us, we hurt them not, neither was there ought missing unto them, all the while they were in Carmel. Ask thy young men, and they will show thee. Wherefore let the young men find favor 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. And when David's young men came, they spake to Nabal according to all those words in the name of David, and ceased. And 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? So David's young men turned their way, and went again, and came and told him all those sayings. And David said unto his men, Gird ye on every man his sword. And they girded on every man his sword; and David also girded on his sword: and there went up after David about four hundred men; and two hundred abode by the stuff".
"But one of the young men told Abigail, Nabal's wife, saying, Behold, David sent messengers out of the wilderness to salute our master; and he railed on them. But the men were very good unto us, and we were not hurt, neither missed we any thing, as long as we were conversant with them, when we were in the fields: They were a wall unto us both by night and day, all the while we were with them keeping the sheep. 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. Then Abigail made haste, and took two hundred loaves, and two bottles of wine, and five sheep ready dressed, and five measures of parched corn, and an hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred cakes of figs, and laid them on asses. And she said unto her servants, Go on before me; behold, I come after you. But she told not her husband Nabal. And it was so, as she rode on the ass, that she came down by the covert on the hill, and, behold, David and his men came down against her; and she met them. Now David had said, Surely in vain have I kept all that this fellow hath in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that pertained unto him: and he hath requited me evil for good. So and more also do God unto the enemies of David, if I leave of all that pertain to him by the morning light any that pisseth against the wall". Let me just say of that phrase, which can be quite startling to people today when they realise how it is used in our contemporary sense in the genre of bad language, that this is an idiom in the Hebrew. Whilst it is a bit crudely translated in the Authorised Version, it is very literally translated - that is, in fact, what the Hebrew says, and it is an idiom that speaks of males, men. What David is saying is that 'I'm not going to leave one of Nabal's men alive today', and maybe the mood that he was in accounts for the language that he uses!
Verse 23: "And when Abigail 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, and said, Upon me, my lord, upon me let this iniquity be: and let thine handmaid, I pray thee, speak in thine audience, and hear the words of thine handmaid. Let not my lord, I pray thee, regard this man of Belial, even Nabal: for as his name is, so is he; Nabal is his name, and folly is with him: but I thine handmaid saw not the young men of my lord, whom thou didst send. 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. And now this blessing which thine handmaid hath brought unto my lord, let it even be given unto the young men that follow my lord. I pray thee, forgive the trespass of thine handmaid: for 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: but 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 offense of heart unto my lord, either that thou hast shed blood causeless, or that my lord hath avenged himself: but when the LORD shall have dealt well with my lord, then remember thine handmaid".
"And David said to Abigail, Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet 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 mine own hand. For in very deed, as the LORD God of Israel liveth, which hath kept me back from hurting thee, except thou hadst hasted and come to meet me, surely there had not been left unto Nabal by the morning light any that pisseth against the wall. So David received of her hand that which she had brought him, and said unto her, Go up in peace to thine house; see, I have hearkened to thy voice, and have accepted thy person. And Abigail came to Nabal; and, behold, he held a feast in his house, like the feast of a king; and Nabal's heart was merry within him, for he was very drunken: wherefore she told him nothing, less or more, until the morning light. But it came to pass in the morning, when the wine was gone out of Nabal, and his wife had told him these things, that his heart died within him, and he became as a stone. And it came to pass about ten days after, that the LORD smote Nabal, that he died".
"And when David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, Blessed be the LORD, that hath pleaded the cause of my reproach from the hand of Nabal, and hath kept his servant from evil: for the LORD hath returned the wickedness of Nabal upon his own head. And David sent and communed with Abigail, to take her to him to wife. And when the servants of David were come to Abigail to Carmel, they spake unto her, saying, David sent us unto thee, to take thee to him to wife. And she arose, and bowed herself on her face to the earth, and said, Behold, let thine handmaid be a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord. And Abigail hasted, and arose and rode upon an ass, with five damsels of hers that went after her; and she went after the messengers of David, and became his wife. David also took Ahinoam of Jezreel; and they were also both of them his wives. But Saul had given Michal his daughter, David's wife, to Phalti the son of Laish, which was of Gallim". Amen.
Now if espionage is one of the most popular types of fiction, as we saw last week, surely the most popular is romance. No? I imagine that is the case, but this account that we have in the Old Testament is primarily there not for your romantic instincts, but to tell us historically how David came to marry this woman Abigail. Whilst that is the case, that's why it's here, there also is within this account all the ingredients of a great love story with, of course, a happy ending. It's better than fiction, because - why? - it's true! It's God's word, it's a real story. Here we have in Abigail a highly intelligent, stunningly beautiful young woman, but she is married to an arrogant, selfish drunk whose name, 'Nabal', personifies his character - for 'Nabal' in Hebrew literally means 'fool'.
Now, do note, before we go on any further, that we this evening will be extolling the wise virtues of this wonderful woman, Abigail, and we read of them in verse 3 where she is described by the narrator as 'a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance'. You might retort: 'Well, she couldn't be that wise if she took this fool to be her husband!'. The fact of the matter is, we can't blame Abigail for that. More than likely her parents matched her up with Nabal in the arranged marriages of the East as they were. The likelihood was that Abigail was eligible to marry Nabal because she was so beautiful, and Nabal was seen to be an eligible husband to Abigail because he was a wealthy man, and the two were brought together. But let me say that although what we have here is most likely an arranged marriage between these two, there is still a great warning to all of us - and especially young people - that though we will see tonight how God can and does often overcome in a bad marriage, it is far better not to get into a bad marriage. It is better to use the entire God-given sense that we have in order to make an intelligible choice of a marriage partner. As the saying goes: 'To be forewarned is to be forearmed', and as the marriage institution says, 'Therefore it ought not to be entered upon lightly or unadvisedly, but thoughtfully and reverently'.
Abigail didn't have that privilege most likely. You do. But the sad fact is that even those who do do this, and enter the institution not lightly and not unadvisedly, but thoughtfully and reverently, and even carefully seeking God's guidance and believing that they have it, often discover after they are in it, with horror, that the person they married has changed beyond all recognition from the person they first came to love. Now if you find yourself in those circumstances, can I say to you that Abigail is your perfect role model. If this is your circumstance, you need to study Abigail tonight, and derive great instruction and encouragement from her.
Now, yes, this story has a happy ending - but like most love stories and happy endings, there is a lot of heartache, heartbreak, and pain along the way. I'm sure that some of you can identify with that tonight. Someone yesterday confessed to me that they knew nothing about Abigail. I heard also that there is a little group of women who have taken to studying the Bible lately, and they couldn't even find where Abigail was in the Bible! Proverbs 31 and verse 10 tells us: 'Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies' - and in Abigail we find such a woman. So let's learn the lessons from this lesser-known woman of the Bible, tonight, that is Abigail.
First of all what I want to do is show you the scene that is set. Here in verse 2 we find that David is at a low point, one of the lowest points, I believe, of his life. In verse 1 of 1 Samuel 25 we find that Samuel has died. You remember that God promised to take the kingdom from Saul, and to give the kingdom to another, and it was the prophet Samuel who had anointed David as the next king over Israel. Saul, fuelled by jealousy, set out to kill his successor, David. Now Samuel, David's adviser and confidant has now died, and David along with the nation is plunged into deep grief. This is a very dark period in David's experience. To escape the wrath of Saul David flees and wanders the country with about 600 loyal soldiers. Now during his travels in the wilderness David stayed for a time near Carmel - verse 2 speaks of that - now that is not Mount Carmel, but it is a town near Maon named 'Carmel', where he defended the shepherds and sheep of Nabal against enemies and animals.
Now whilst David was there he began to run out of provisions. He sent ten of his men to go and ask Nabal for provisions because they were protecting his sheep, his livelihood, his business. This was customary, it was the accepted thing that if someone was being your bodyguard for your business, you had a duty to pay them by these provisions. Now think of this: Nabal was the man who was benefiting from David, Nabal had grown richer by the day because of David, and Nabal had the audacity, the arrogance and insolence to scorn these messengers of David and give them nothing. We see this in verses 10 and 11: 'Nabal answered David's servants, and said, Who is David? and who is the son of Jesse?'. He insults him and his father! 'There be many servants now a days that break away every man from his master'. The fool insulted David, though he was starving and though he was poor, though he was an outcast, he was still the most powerful man in the region at that time.
Now, how did David react? Well, instead of overcoming evil with good, David was vehemently angry. We see here that David, in verse 13, readied 400 soldiers for battle. They got on their horses, got their swords ready for the kill. If you look at verse 13, 'David said unto his men, Gird ye on every man his sword. And they girded on every man his sword; and David also girded on his sword: and there went up after David about four hundred men; and two hundred abode by the stuff'. He marched forward towards Nabal's home. We saw from verses 21 and 22 that David was intent on slaughter of all the males in Nabal's house, young and old alike.
Then the story turns, for in verses 14 to 17 Abigail hears through one of her servants of the rude and inhospitable actions of her husband as he insulted David's servants. This wise woman Abigail decides to take the situation in hand, because she realised the danger she and her whole household were in, and so she set about to appease David. In verse 18 we read: 'Then Abigail made haste, and took two hundred loaves, and two bottles of wine, and five sheep ready dressed, and five measures of parched corn, and an hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred cakes of figs, and laid them on asses'. She prepared a supply of provisions over and above anything that David would have been expecting or had requested, and she took it and went out to meet them.
Once she met David on the road, Abigail immediately began her appeal. From verse 24 to 32 we read of it, we'll look at it a little bit later in detail, but in the end the result was that Abigail's words and actions turned and averted the wrath of David - verses 32 to 35. Abigail, in the end, was rewarded in her lifetime for her wisdom, and her good character, and her godly ingenuity. About ten days after David's aborted attack, God avenged David, and verse 38 tells us He smote Nabal. And when David heard of the death, he sent his servants to Abigail, and asked Abigail to be his wife - verse 42 tells us she accepted. What a story! What an ending! What a woman Abigail was!
But before we look at this heroine, let's look at some of the other primary characters in the story. So we move from the scene that is set, to the characters that are presented, and the first one we face is Nabal, Abigail's husband. Nabal, whose name means 'Fool'. The first term that springs to mind when I think of Nabal is 'incompatibility'. We hear an awful lot about that word these days when it comes to separations and divorce, but if ever there was a mismatch, there was one in this pair: Abigail and Nabal. He was a fool, he was a difficult man, but I believe that this name tells us more than that. In Psalm 14 and verse 1 we read these words: 'The', in Hebrew, 'Nabal has said in his heart, There is no God'. That's how it reads, 'The fool has said in his heart, There is no God' - and the word 'Nabal', this man's name, is used there, and I believe that this is indicating that as a son of Belial, she says and her servants say, this man was an unbeliever.
In verse 2 we read that he was rich. He had 3000 sheep, 1000 goats - and Abigail, I suspect, would agree with the Beatles that 'Money can't buy me love', and it certainly didn't for her! In verse 3, the second half of it, we find that Nabal was harsh and evil, that's what that means, 'He was churlish and evil'. In his dealings with other people he was an arrogant, insolent individual - no regard for anyone but himself. In verse 11 we see this in the fact that he is so selfish, and - I think I'm right - I counted seven times where Nabal refers to himself: '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?'. Intoxicated with himself!
Then we see in verse 17, in the second half of the verse, that he was a wickedly stubborn man, for Abigail's servant says: 'For he is such a son of Belial, that a man cannot speak to him'. He was unteachable, unadvisable! Then verse 36, near the end of account, we find that he also had another problem: he was a drunk. Incompatible, would you agree? It appears that though they were incompatible, Abigail, to her eternal credit, tried to make the most of what was a terrible situation for her. It was an unequal yoke that we read of in the New Testament, 2 Corinthians 6:14. Now don't underestimate when I say she tried to make the most of it: it was very hard for her, perhaps nigh on impossible. He was a fool, she was wise. He was an unbeliever, she, from the evidence we have here, was a believer. He was ugly in his nature, she was beautiful internally before God. He was brash, she was gracious. He was hostile and violent, she was a peacemaker and loving. He was carnal, she was spiritual. Now know some of you are thinking: 'You need to go further, he was a man and she was a woman - is that not the idea?' - no, not quite! They're not all the same!
But Abigail must have felt suffocated in such a marriage, having been paired with a husband - now I am sure that her father thought this was some match. Wealthy Nabal was a real catch! Little realising that the man's life and his attitude might one day endanger his daughter's very life. Can I just say a word to parents here? I have a lot to learn in the days that lie ahead of me, but we need to be careful of the relationships that we encourage in our children. I know we don't have much say in it, but perish the thought that we should ever encourage our children to seek a life partner because they are rich, because they're intelligent, because they're successful - because all those things mean nothing, as we see in Nabal. We must encourage them to seek first the kingdom of God, and all these other things may be added unto them.
Nabal was a fool, and she was lumbered with him. Then look at Abigail. Abigail means, perhaps ironically, 'My father is the source of my joy' - that's what it means, and I just wonder did the father think he was going to be the source of her joy in pairing her off with Nabal? That didn't work out, for sure! The Bible doesn't say that Abigail was young, though it's more than likely she was because David, we believe, by this stage in his life was still under 30 years of age - and we can't imagine him being attracted to anyone too much older than him. We see very clearly first of all about Abigail: she was an attractive young woman. Verse 3 says she was of a beautiful countenance, but as we read on we see that her beauty was not only skin deep. I believe Pastor Mitchell preached on this many years ago under the title 'More Than a Pretty Face', and she was certainly that. She was beautiful and intelligent. Verse 3 says 'Of a good understanding', and we see from this particular account that she was very wise and quickwitted in how she dealt with this potentially disastrous situation.
In verses 14 to 17 we see that after her servant came to her and appraised her of the situation, she heard how David's men were coming, and David's men had only done good to the shepherds of Nabal - but David's men were angry. Though they had been a wall of protection to Nabal and his shepherds, verse 16, now he had insulted them, now they were coming to slay them and the whole household - and what did Abigail do? Post-haste she devised a strategy to avert disaster, verse 18: 'Then Abigail made haste', and we have read it before, she took these provisions as a gift. She and her servants took them on a donkey, went to intercept David on his way - and what was David doing? He was breathing murderings and threatenings, like Saul of Tarsus. Look at the import and weight of verses 21 and 22: he was going to kill all around him! He had been angered!
So not only was Abigail attractive and intelligent, but we see that she was also a mediator, or a conciliator - we would say 'a peacemaker'. Now see how she does this, for it is masterful. In verse 23, if you look at it: 'When Abigail saw David, she hasted, and lighted off the ass, and fell before David on her face, and bowed herself to the ground'. She prostrated and bowed on her face before David as an act of homage, she respected him and she showed him. In verse 24: 'She fell at his feet, and said, Upon me, my lord, upon me let this iniquity be'. She took the guilt of her husband's iniquity upon herself. Now if that shows anything, it shows great humility, because Abigail had suffered years of living with this insolent fool - and yet it had not made her bitter. She had resisted the temptation of saying: 'Give him what he deserves, David'. Neither did she play the blame game that's so easy to play when we're in bad relationships, but she actually asks that the guilt of this offence of her husband should be laid upon her! Then she does ask for pardon, because she herself did not know of David's request through his servants - we see that at the end of verse 25. In verse 25, at the beginning, she says: 'Let not my lord, I pray thee, regard this man of Belial, even Nabal: for as his name is, so is he; Nabal is his name, and folly is with him'. She excused Nabal's behaviour on the grounds that he was an unbelieving fool whom God would judge, and foolishness would always be with him because of the way he lived his life.
A mediator, a conciliator, a peacemaker - then we see fourthly, not only was she attractive, intelligent, peacemaking, but she was a wise counsellor. I think it's interesting that in Samuel's absence, after his decease, she was fit to give advice to David - just the advice that he needed at that moment. So she appeals to David not to commit this butchery. Look at verse 26: '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'. She pointed out that God had caused them to meet, that God had brought Abigail across David's path - why? In order to prevent him committing murder and becoming blood-guilty. That's reassuring, isn't it? I don't know whether David's reaction of great anger and murderous spirit was a result of his deep grief for the death of Samuel, and also an expression of his hurt being out in the mountains, away from Jerusalem because he was running from Saul, not recognized as King. And now this sheep farmer felt he could be insolent enough to curse his name! Yet the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord. Just in the right time, before David committed this great sin, God brought Abigail along his path.
What I want you to see is that Abigail points this out to David: 'God has brought me to you'. Then, at the beginning of verse 26, we see as well at the end, she points out that God is the only rightful avenger - that is the inference. 'God has prevented you avenging yourself, but He is the only one', that's the point she's making, 'who can avenge'. Then in verses 27 and 28: 'Now this blessing which thine handmaid hath brought unto my lord, let it even be given unto the young men that follow my lord'. She points out these gifts that she has brought, and she reminds David that there was a day coming when he would receive far greater gifts, he would receive a dynasty as the King of Israel if he honoured God. Then verse 29: 'Yet a man is risen to pursue thee, and to seek thy soul' - she reminds David that God would protect him from Saul, he had no need to be afraid. Then we see in the second half of verse 29: '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'. Abigail reminds David that God would deal with Saul, God would deal with all David's enemies, he didn't need to take the matter into his own hands! She uses this metaphor of them being slung out of a sling. She knew about David and Goliath, and she was reminding him about all the odds being against him as a young boy, and yet God came to his rescue - and He would do it still.
Then verses 30 and 31, she reminded David that God would keep His promise to him to become King. The weight of the argument here is found in verse 31, she makes the point that if he had shed blood causelessly and avenged himself, the Lord would not deal well with him. I'm reminded of that proverb, Proverbs 15 verse 1: 'A soft answer turneth away wrath'. Here you have these two testosterone-fuelled males: Nabal the arrogant fool, David the powerful outcast warrior - and there is more heat than light, until this attractive, intelligent, peacemaking, wise woman comes with a soft answer. Now I know a lot of men, myself excluded, who never take a woman's advice - never, ever, because they're only women! This is very common even in a church context. Can I tell you: if you're like that, do you know what you are? You're a fool! You're a fool!
Nabal was a fool, he didn't listen; but David listened. David didn't say: 'Listen, you mind your own business love, this is men's business - man-to-man - away you back to the kitchen sink and the nappies. It's not for you!'. Now I know that men are to be the head of the home, and I know that men are to lead a church - but sometimes, men, it would help if we listened to the women, because sometimes, sometimes, they have something to say. Look at David's reaction to see how he took this advice. He was, I believe, bowled over. In verse 32 he praised God: 'David said to Abigail, Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me'. Then he blessed her for her wise intervention that prevented him sinning in verse 33: 'Blessed be thy advice, and blessed be thou, which hast kept me this day from shedding blood, and avenging myself with my own hand'. Then in verse 35 he sends her away: 'Go up in peace to thine house' - pardoned! Disaster and bloodshed averted!
Then the story takes another turn. She arrives home to tell Nabal what she has done, the threat that is averted - and do you think Nabal was worried? Look at verse 36: 'Abigail came to Nabal; and, behold, he held a feast in his house, like the feast of a king', and his heart was merry within him, and he was drunk! This fool is feasting like a king, when he was a no good fool who had insulted the true anointed king of God - and he was drunk. He would have been a lot of use if David and his men had come, wouldn't he? But what a wise woman - what did she do? Did she grab the frying pan, and take it to him? She waited till the morning, verse 37 says, waited until he was sober, and when he wakened she told him of the disaster that was impending because of his foolish arrogance, that he would have been dead, and his men would have been dead - and she would have been dead, perhaps. Verse 37 says his heart died within him, now that's not literally speaking, it means it became as a stone - and it may well be that he took a stroke. It says that ten days later, verse 38, the Lord struck him, the Lord took his life.
It reminds you of that story Jesus told about the rich farmer building his barns, and God said: 'Thou fool'. When David heard the news he blessed God for avenging him, and verse 39 shows us he sent to make Abigail his bride. What a story! What a woman! But we need to ask tonight: what lessons can we learn from this lesser-known woman of the Bible, this beautiful, intelligent mediator, conciliator, peacemaker, wise counsellor. So I want to leave you tonight in our closing moments with the timeless truths that are acted out in this great biblical romance. There are so many that I wouldn't have time to exhaust them this evening, but let's deal with a few. The first, I believe - and there are five truths involved in this, and they are all related to the issue of marriage. Now if you're not married, forgive me for dealing with this for a moment - there might come a day when you will be! - nevertheless, listen, because this has great application to many here this evening.
Here's the first truth that we find in this story: it is that an unequal yoke can cause untold pain and anguish. Now Abigail didn't make the choice of an unequal yoke, and maybe you're here tonight and you have not made the choice either. You were saved after you were married, or you came back to the Lord after your relationship. But the point I'm making here tonight is: don't you make that mistake. It's one thing having it imposed on you by circumstance, it's another thing making the choice. She didn't have a choice, you do.
The second timeless truth here, and this is profound, and I want you to listen very carefully to this: bad marriages happen, even when we seem to make right choices, even when we feel that we are being guided by God, even some of the most godliest of individuals have found themselves in bad marriages. Mismatches are common! Now let me say, to qualify that remark, some of those marriages improve - praise God for that. There is nothing too hard for the Lord, and God's grace is great. Often a partner gets saved, or there is a spiritual transformation in the life of a spouse, or they just grow into spiritual maturity and are easier to live with. But some bad marriages don't get better, some bad marriages don't have happy endings - we need to live in the real world here. Whilst this is a wonderful romance with a happy ending, there needs to be a public health warning on this: your happy ending may not happen this side of heaven.
In verse 39 it says that Nabal was judged, and many people launch in there and say: 'Well, there you go! God bailed Abigail out of this awful situation'. But note what verse 39 says: Nabal was not judged for Abigail's sake, but for David's sake because he was the anointed king. Justice may not be meted out for you, dear one, in this life because of a bad marriage or a bad situation; but be assured of this: God will iron out all the creases of injustice in your life some day. It might be in time, it might be later on in eternity, but here's the point: so many of us are tempted to take these matters into our own hands. What Abigail teaches us is that she believed, and she exhorted to David, that revenge is God's business. He will avenge! He will distribute justice from His courts!
But there is tremendous encouragement for those who may find themselves in a bad marriage from Abigail, and it's this: you don't have to despair, you can glorify God in such a marriage - please God, it gets better; please God, God transforms it supernaturally and wondrously - but if you find yourself in such a circumstance, all hope is not lost. Even if that marriage seems to end, and you've done all in your power to prevent it, you can still glorify God! Indeed, some of the greatest saints had the most unhappy experience in their relationships. I don't know whether you've ever read a biography of John Wesley, but John Wesley had awful unfortunate experiences related to romance. Grace Murray was a young, attractive, well educated, married woman who was converted through John Wesley's preaching on one occasion. She was married, she was the wife of a Scottish Master Mariner who was from no mean family. When he returned from sea, after her conversion, he was absolutely appalled and furious because she had become a Christian and a Methodist - I don't know which was worse for him! He threatened to put her out, put her in an asylum. It seems, as the story goes, that her meek and winsome spirit delayed the execution of his threats against her. Having gone back to sea, another tragedy struck, the husband was drowned.
So she was a widow, she left London, went back to her home in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and there she employed her life in working for the Lord. Often, when John Wesley visited to preach, she was one of the class leaders for the women's groups. Later, when John Wesley opened an orphanage, he employed her as the housekeeper. During her 9 or 10 years employed there he would often stay. Grace Murray's labours as a class leader for women were so successful that she came to lead all the classes in the whole of the North of England, and became an itinerant, a bit like John, on horseback - moving around preaching God's word to other women. Now, would you be surprised that such a woman found affection in John Wesley's heart? The two of them agreed to be married, but there was a problem. A young man called Charles disapproved - Charles Wesley, yes, the hymn writer, John's brother. He disapproved even more so when he was misinformed that Grace Murray was engaged to be married to one of Wesley's other preachers, John Bennett. So Charles took it upon himself to tell Grace that though John loved her, he would have to give her up for the sake of the work of the Gospel, and could not marry her. Then Charles went and persuaded John Bennett that he should marry Grace Murray a few days before John's marriage to her!
John's heart was broken, and his state was revealed in an unpublished letter, let me quote it to you where he says: 'The sons of Seraiah were too strong for me, the whole world fought against me, but above all my own familiar friend, Charles Wesley. Then was the word fulfilled, 'Son of man, behold I take from thee the desire of thine eyes at a stroke. Yet shalt thou not lament, neither shall thy tears run down''. That wasn't the end of his romantic tragedies, for at age 48 he married a wealthy widow, Molly Vazeille. J. C. Ryle, in his biographical chapter, writes this - listen carefully: 'The union was a most unhappy one. Whatever good qualities Mrs Wesley may have had, they were buried and swallowed up in the fiercest and most absurd passion of jealousy. One of his biographers remarks: 'Had he searched the whole kingdom he could hardly have found a woman more unsuitable to him in all important respects'. After making her husband as uncomfortable as possible for 20 years by opening his letters, putting his papers into the hands of his enemies in the vain hope of blasting his character, and even sometimes laying violent hands on him' - I indeed read one account where it said she used to swing him around the room by his hair! - 'Mrs Wesley at length left her home, leaving word that she never intended to return. Wesley simply states the fact in his journal saying that he knew not the cause, and briefly adding' - and I love this - 'I did not forsake her, I did not dismiss her, and I will not recall her'. This was the man that shook at least two continents for Jesus Christ, and he was in a bad marriage.
So the third thing is: your spouse is no excuse for your lack of spiritual growth. Abigail testifies that, Wesley testifies that. Bad marriages can happen - now don't be using reverse reasoning with me tonight, and say: 'Well, then it doesn't matter who you marry, because God will make it alright in the end'. No, if you want to help matters, marry the right person! But if you find yourself in such circumstances, though it might be hard, and even very hard, don't believe the lie of the devil - because God's Word tonight testifies: it is not impossible.
The fourth lesson: God will bring other encouraging believers along the way, just like he did for Abigail and David. When they come, seek their fellowship, take their counsel and advice. Fifthly, even good marriages have their problems. Yes, that's right! Maybe you're one of these special couples - I hear people talking like this - 'We never argue, we never fight, 40 years and we've never said a bad word to one another'. I'll not call you what I think you are, but the fact of the matter is: Abigail had to go into exile with David. She wasn't marrying a rich man, she was marrying a rejected King, he was fleeing from Saul. She had to join him in the wilderness, verse 42. She lived with him, we read later on, in Gath of the Philistines, in Ziklag of the Philistines - and from there, in Ziklag, she was captured by the Amalekites until David led a rescue. This was a different situation, she didn't have her own donkeys like she did in Nabal's marriage. What was the difference? Here was the difference: both of them loved God, and they loved one another, and that got them through! It wasn't easy, but because she suffered with him she ended up reigning with him in Jerusalem as King, and bore his son Chileab, or 'Daniel', to him.
Now finally let me give you some timeless truths that are acted out in this story that apply specifically to the women. First, if you are married, women, be godly examples to your husbands. If you're not married, be godly examples to other men - that is possible, because if they are unsaved, that might save them. In 1 Corinthians 7:16 that's what Paul says: 'For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?'. First Peter 3:1: 'Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives'. I'll tell you something: no one ever got nagged into heaven. If the man or the woman is saved, it will not save them but it might sanctify them - there's a lot of husbands and wives need to be sanctified! Some people feel that Abigail was rebellious here, that's what some commentators say, that she was going behind her husband's back, and because she didn't tell him her plans she was usurping the headship of the home. Women, how would you like to be married to some of those teachers? The fact of the matter is, the Bible says this in Ephesians 5, men are to love their wives as Christ loved the Church, wives are to obey their husbands and submit to them - is that it? 'In the Lord'.
When a husband fails to do the godly thing, do you know what the wives should be doing? They should be encouraging him to be the head, and do the right thing. Even when he doesn't do the right thing, do you know what I'm going to say tonight? You do it! If he fails, and you can't even encourage him to do it, you do it! It will have an important effect on your children and your family, that's for sure. Then secondly, women, pray for your husband and your family. Pray for his health, his work, his relationship with the children, his service for the Lord. If you need to, confess to God bitterness that is in your heart, ask God to shape your marriage for His purposes. Thirdly, women, be peacemakers in your family, in the church too!
We can live on several levels, that's what this story tells us, surely if it tells us nothing else. We can return evil for good like Nabal, or like David we can return evil for evil, or like Abigail we can return good for evil. Jesus said: 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they are the children of God'. What a story! What a woman! What an example! Now it's over to you.
Our Father, we thank You for Abigail's example and the lessons we can learn from her. We thank You for her beauty that was internal, for her intelligence that was wisdom from God, for peacemaking that came from Your Spirit. Lord, we pray that we will be able to follow her counsel as David did. Help those that are struggling in their situation, but let none believe the lie of the devil that they are no use to God, but show them tonight what You can do with one who feels a failure, by Your grace, and by Your mercy in the strength of the Lord. Hear our prayer, we pray, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the second recording in his 'Little Women' series, entitled "Abigail" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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