" . . . the Lord has sought out a man after His own heart and appointed him leader of His people. . ." (1 Samuel 13:14, NIV)
Whenever I read the Bible, my tendency is to look for the broken qualities of those about whom I'm reading. I guess it helps me to feel hopeful that I'm not a lost cause. It's easy to read about some of our heroes of the faith and then romanticize them into more than they were. But the characters in the Bible are people just like you and me. They did not hold some secret key to the mysteries and mind of God. They had to come to Him the same way we do, humbly and by grace. Right now I'm especially intrigued by King David, a man after God's own heart.
Read Psalm 32 and Psalm 40:1-3
Questions for reflection:
What are some ways that God relates to you like He did with King David?
"A man after God's own heart." That statement makes him sound like he had some sort of elusive quality that made him extra special. Something more than human -- superhuman. Whenever we think that about any Bible character (or anyone else for that matter) we have just made a huge mistake in interpreting God's word. It's true that David loved God and sought Him wholeheartedly (for the most part). It's true that David prayed for God to bless him and to give him the throne that was promised to him so that he could finally rule as the King of Israel. It's true we see God answering David's prayers and speaking to him about his life as a man and as a king. But what about any of that is different from you and me? I, too, love God and seek Him wholeheartedly (for the most part). I, too, pray for God to bless me and to give me the things that come as the promise of a righteous life. God also answers my prayers and He speaks to me about my life as a woman, a wife, a mom and a Christian.
It's very easy to make King David larger than life, but he struggled just like you and me; and, just like you and me, he sinned. He had to fall upon God's grace and mercy more than once in his life. God picked him up from the miry pit of mud and clay and set his feet on solid ground more than once in his life. Just like you and me. One of my favorite stories about King David is found in 1 Samuel and it involves two other very interesting characters: Nabal and Abigail. This story paints a picture of the famous and the average, the mean and kind, the evil and the good and the brokenness of us all. It also points out, as always, the gracious and merciful hand of God in the lives of the broken ones. King David, Abigail, Nabal, you and me.
Read all of 1 Samuel 25.
In this chapter of 1 Samuel we find David still living out in the fields and caves hiding from King Saul having attracted an army consisting of rejects and malcontents. Nabal, a wealthy man from Carmel, has sent his men out to shear the sheep that were pasturing out where David and his men happened to be camping. David, having been anointed King of Israel but unable to rule, already had the heart and attitude of a king. You can tell by the way he had his men surround Nabal's sheep shearers and his sheep as a way of protecting them from harm. This is what a king does. He keeps his people safe and brings no harm to them. I love this about David. Before he is actually sitting on the throne, he is living into his calling from God. He knows he is the rightful King of Israel and lives into it, with or without the throne. When the sheep shearing is finished and Nabal's servants return to their master, David sends out his own messengers to Nabal with a message of peace. He expects to receive food and other necessities for his men in return for his protection. Let's not make the mistake in thinking that David only gave protection to Nabal, his men and his property in order to get something in return. David protected Nabal and his property because it was the right thing for David to do. Nabal returning that consideration to David and his army by means of food and other supplies was the right thing for Nable to do. Nabal, however, was a mean brute of a man.
Abagail was kind, wise and beautiful, and, unfortunately, Nabal's wife. When she finds out how her husband has treated Isreal's future king, she rushes out to meet David, sending lots and lots of good food ahead of her (everything that Nabal should have sent) hoping to talk David out of murdering her husband (deserving as he was). It made sense to her that David would come after her husband because what Nabal did went against all common considerations among the Israelites -- especially considerations toward the King. So off she goes to convince David otherwise.
David is a king yet he hides in the wilderness like a common criminal. Nabal as much as acts like a criminal yet lives like a king. Nabal's heart is dark and cold and Abigail's heart is kind and full of love and life. David is a master who serves the people. Abigail has a servant's heart that becomes the master of a king's heart. There are so many dichotomies in this story. I'm certain you can come up with a few of your own.
Read Matthew 5:43-48; 13:24-30; Acts 17:26-27 and Psalm 31:15.
Dichotomies can often times seem like injustices yet God always has a plan and He holds our days in His hand. What are some situations in your life that seem like dichotomies? Some weeds among your wheat? Some evil clouding your sunshine?
How is knowing that God holds your times and has directed where you are right now comforting to you?
Abigail bows at David's feet and begs him not to commit murder -- an unnecessary and heavy burden, she explains, that the king will have to carry on his conscience for the rest of his days. Killing another person is never an easy thing to bear no matter how much the other party seems to deserve it. She begs him not to avenge himself on her husband. She reminds David of his role as the King and not to let his anger and humiliation brought on by Nabal discolor his honor, his dynasty and his rule. This is beauty. This is humility. This is grace! Abagail, the wife of a brute, a servant of David, a daughter of The King rules the day and David's heart. I love how she pronounces on David the true law of grace and mercy: "Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my master will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the Lord your God." (1 Samuel 25:29a, NIV) David heeds Abigail's words as God's hand on his life and turns from doing what he has set out to do. The law of grace and mercy always results in life and honor.
Now, here's what's real to me about David: even though God characterizes David as a man after His own heart, David's heart is still very human. When Nabal refuses David and his men nourishment and hurls insults at them, accusing David and his men of being nothing more than runaway slaves, David gets angry and humiliated and sets out to act upon that anger and humiliation. David acts the way any of us would act, or, at least would want to act. He goes about taking matters into his own hands. In an effort to make the world a better a place in which to live and because Nabal breaks all the laws of decency by refusing the King (an act worthy of severe punishment, if not death) and the King's men of needed food, he deems it necessary to rid the earth of wicked Nabal. David is very human. Very real. David, the man after God's own heart, feels the need for revenge, acts out of anger, retaliates after being humiliated. I doubt anyone would have even tried to stop him. No one from Nabal's camp or his own. Nabal, after all, was mean and wicked and selfish and, therefore, more than likely hated by his servants, so his servants certainly wouldn't have stopped the future King of Israel. David was already recognized as the King of Israel by most people of the day so who would dare try to stop him. He was already renowned for his fighting ability, his leadership ability and his merciful ways with King Saul. He already held the loyalty of the people, so who would question him after Nabal acted so ungraciously towards him. I think it would have been so interesting to be a part of this time period. News about the comings and goings and ins and outs of Saul's and David's reign and relationship spread daily. If they'd had FOX news back then, it would have been a top story every day. "King David said to be spotted in the wilderness of Maon." "When will King Saul give up the throne?" "David spares King Saul's life yet again." "Obscure shepherd spots David and his army in the wilderness." The headlines would go on and on. You can be assured that news got around for there wasn't anyone in the land who did not know of David's exploits. There was no one in all of Israel who did not know that David was to be King. Abigail knew it (which is why she spoke to him the way she did). Nabal's servants knew it (which is why they feared what was going to come of them if Abigail did not do something). And, you can be sure that Nabal knew it (which makes his insults all the more arrogant and brutal).
Abigail returns home to her husband who is now drunk from too much celebrating. In the morning, after he is sober, she explains to him her actions on his behalf. Nabal immediately has a heart attack and goes into something that looks like a coma and dies 10 days later. By God's hand, not David's. God held Nabal's times in His hand. The shock of his wife being so bold and presumptuous as to wander away without his permission with goods that belonged to him to take to David, someone for which he clearly had no respect, was just more than he could take in. I kind of think that Abigail was secretly happy that her brute of a husband was no longer able to terrorize her or the servants or the hired hands. His death, however, left her with the dilemma of having no one to provide for her. A serious matter. Abigail, too, was a broken human being. After all, she was married to someone who showed her no respect and undoubtedly mistreated her at every turn. She had asked King David to remember her. She said, "When the Lord has brought my master success, remember your servant." (25:31b, NIV) And, remember her he does. He sends her word to come and be his wife.
It should bring hope to you and me that one of the most loved characters in the Bible, one of the great heroes of our faith, is actually someone who acted impetuously from time to time. Even though we see that sometimes David could act rash and allow his feelings to dictate his next move God was still able to see deep in David's heart. God saw the love David had for his King. I love how God used Abigail, an average Israelite woman, to keep David, the famous King of Israel, from sinning. I love how God extends His hand of grace and gets involved with us, working to guide and direct us in the right path. I love how God extends His arm of mercy and provides a way out of our own impetuous, rash decisions before they become a sin to great to bear.
As with every passage of scripture, the life lessons and profound truths are numerous. This story holds truths I've yet to pick out. I can only write about the way it hits me and the about the truths that God points out to me at the time. My hope and prayer is that God sees deep into my own heart and finds the love I have for my King in spite of my rash and impetuous ways!