“So and more also do God unto the enemies of David, if I leave of all that pertain to him [Nabal] by the morning light any that pisseth against the wall.” (1 Samuel 25:22 KJV)
No doubt about it; David was pissed. He had just had a handful of his fighting men sent away by a wealthy rancher named Nabal, who refused to share any of the food and wine of his sheep-shearing festivities with them; this, after David and his men had protected them in their fields. “Night and day they were a wall around us the whole time we were herding our sheep near them,” one of Nabal’s servants had reported to him. Nonetheless, Nabal had turned down the request and insulted them and David in the process. “Who is this David?” Nabal had said. “Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days. Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where?” (:10-11)
This incident happened at a time when David was homeless. He was traveling like a nomad with 600 superior fighting men, camping in fields and in caves, making sure to avoid King Saul who was out with his army trying to kill him. It was common practice for a nomadic army to guard workers in a field in return for a share of the harvest. It was a communal symbiotic relationship. But Nabal [whose name means “fool”] would have nothing of it.
So David took 400 of his men, told them to strap on their swords and headed out to Nabal’s homestead to take out his revenge by wiping out everyone who “pisseth against the wall.” (This was obviously a derogatory term for every male member of Nabal’s household.) But before he could get there, he was blocked in a ravine by a woman traveling towards him with a small entourage of servants and supplies. It was Abigail, Nabal’s wife, seeking to avert the coming crisis by a bold, risky move of confrontation.
When she saw David, she got off her donkey, fell with her face to the ground and said, “On me alone, my lord, be the blame. And please let your maidservant speak to you, and listen to the words of your maidservant. Please do not let my lord pay attention to this worthless man, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he. Nabal is his name and folly is with him; but I your maidservant did not see the young men of my lord whom you sent.
“Now therefore, my lord, as the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, since the Lord has restrained you from shedding blood, and from avenging yourself by your own hand, now then let your enemies and those who seek evil against my lord, be as Nabal. Now let this gift which your maidservant has brought to my lord be given to the young men who accompany my lord. Please forgive the transgression of your maidservant; for the Lord will certainly make for my lord an enduring house, because my lord is fighting the battles of the Lord, and evil will not be found in you all your days. Should anyone rise up to pursue you and to seek your life, then the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living with the Lord your God; but the lives of your enemies He will sling out as from the hollow of a sling. And when the Lord does for my lord according to all the good that He has spoken concerning you, and appoints you ruler over Israel, this will not cause grief or a troubled heart to my lord, both by having shed blood without cause and by my lord having avenged himself. When the Lord deals well with my lord, then remember your maidservant.” (:24-41)
It could have gone any direction for Abigail from here. That’s what happens when you become completely and utterly vulnerable. David could have ignored her or run her through with his sword and continued on with his planned massacre of all the men in her household. Or he could have recognized the truth that she spoke, blessed her for speaking the word of God to him, accepted her gifts and returned to his camp, which is what he did. But there was surely no guarantee of this outcome.
This is the true picture of biblical submission which means being completely and utterly vulnerable, while at the same time speaking the truth, confronting foolishness, and doing the right thing for the right reasons. The traditional Christian view of submission which comes down to being weak, mousey and manipulative, is bogus submission. Bill Gothard and his Chain of Command would not have approved of what Abigail did, but bother that, God did.
Here we brush the surface of what Abigail did:
She humbled herself before David
She was completely and utterly vulnerable
She took full responsibility and blame for what happened
She brought the food and the wine that should have been shared in the first place
She praised David for his restraint (even though he hadn’t exercised it yet)
She asked for forgiveness
She reminded David he was fighting the battles of the Lord (implying that this was not one of them)
She spoke the word of the Lord
She prophesied victory for David against all his enemies
She proclaimed him ruler over Israel
She suggested he did not want to shed blood to avenge himself
She told him that the Lord would deal with this situation (and when He did, David should remember her)
In many ways, many of us Christians today are like David. We have been personally offended by the culture we live in, and have strapped on our swords, and are marching forth to take on battles that are not ours to fight. We need to meet up with an Abigail in the road — one who will call us to fighting, instead, the battles of the Lord (Ephesians 6:12), to using restraint in society for the sake of the gospel, to not shed blood in avenging ourselves and our way of thinking, and, most of all, to believe that God is perfectly capable of handling all these situations. He does not need us to help Him along by fighting our self-proclaimed culture wars over the issues of the day. Vengeance is His. Besides, He needs us for other things.
We are here, first and foremost, to respectfully proclaim with complete vulnerability, the grace of God which was first given to us, and now, through us, can be offered to everyone within all tribes of people everywhere.
This is not the time to pick up swords. It is a time to lay our swords down. This is a time to gather together everyone, everywhere, offering and inviting people into fellowship. It is a time to be about doing what the Lord has called each of us to do through the Spirit of God with an accepting, open heart, which is to go and make disciples of all tribes, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything He has commanded us. And surely He is with us always, to the very end of the age.