|*October 23 - 29
|Abigail: No Victim of Circumstances
Read for This Week's Study:
|1 Samuel 25, Isa. 28:23, 53:12, Dan. 9:15–19, Matt. 15:10, Rom. 8:34.
|“Wisdom rests in the heart of him who has understanding, But what is in the heart of fools is made known” (Proverbs 14:33, NKJV).
|Have you ever felt a victim of
circumstances? Have you ever wished you could be somewhere else? Or
that you were someone else? Consider, then, the character for this
She was an intelligent and beautiful woman but, unfortunately, married a selfish, short-sighted, and mean man, Nabal—a descendant of Caleb, but nothing like his esteemed forefather. Nabal may have been wealthy, but his name or nickname, which means “fool” or “foolish,” accurately reflected his character.
In the time of Abigail and Nabal, marriages were prearranged, and so Abigail probably had no choice in the matter. Circumstances seemed to speak against her in such a marriage as this. Conditions were not favorable, but in the glimpse that we are given into the life of Abigail, we are encouraged not to become victims of circumstances.
Abigail did not try to escape reality. She was realistic about her situation (1 Sam. 25:25), but she did not let circumstances ruin her. She decided to grow where she was planted.
*Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, October 30.
Someone Who Will Listen
Most folk have no problem talking. If the truth be known, most of us talk too much. How much better would it be if we learned to be good listeners. There are seminars given on how to be better listeners. After all, a lot is going on around us. How important, then, for us to listen.
Read Isaiah 28:23, Matthew 15:10, and James 1:19. What are they telling us to do, and why?
David and his men were on the run from Saul. While living in the wilderness of Paran, they met up with the herdsmen and animals of the wealthy landowner Nabal. Instead of helping themselves to the animals, David and his men protected the herdsmen and animals. At last, the sheep- shearing time arrived, and a festive spirit was in the air. This was the time for saying thank you and giving gifts. Knowing this, David sent ten of his men to ask for provisions.
Read 1 Samuel 25:1–11. Why is David so insulted by Nabal’s reply? What does David hear?
Nabal is truly making good on his name. He sneeringly calls David’s men runaway slaves and sends them packing empty-handed. Nabal makes it very clear that he thinks David is a nobody. In his mind, David is so insignificant that knowing where he comes from or what he is doing is not really worth the asking. Though David has demonstrated amazing self-restraint with murderous King Saul, he, like us, feels deeply wounded when told that he is a nobody and amounts to nothing. This is compounded by the fact that he had shown kindness and was being rewarded with insults and humiliation.
Nabal is totally unaware of who he is dealing with. He does seem to know some of the facts. He knows who David’s father was and that David is on the run from Saul, but Nabal is so self-centered and conceited that he is unable or unwilling to listen to his servants. Nabal’s servants have lived near David’s men and know that they are a fighting force to be reckoned with. The servants recognize that their master “ ‘is such a wicked man that no one can talk to him’ ” (1 Sam. 25:17, NIV). And so they turn to someone who will listen—Abigail.
|When was the last time your lack of attentive listening caused you or others trouble? How can you learn from your mistakes?
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Read 1 Samuel 25. What is the essence of the story? What lessons immediately can be drawn from it? What questions remain?
After having heard the report of the servant, Abigail immediately begins preparations. Abigail does more than listen; she acts. The narrator in 1 Samuel 25:18, 19 details the list of supplies she readies: raisins, figs, sheep ready to be cooked, roasted grain, bread, and wine. These supplies were luxurious and probably more than David’s ten men had expected.
The next part of the story is full of movement and action. The writer of the passage moves between different scenes, building the tension. We wait and hold our breath for the moment of contact. In the heat of the moment, without pausing to listen to God or reason, David and his men march out to take revenge because of an insult. The number of men that David takes with him reflects just how angry he is. David is pulling out two-thirds of his fighting force.
When we react in anger, it is very difficult to make an appropriate response; we normally overreact. Abigail does not just send the gifts off and then wait to see what happens. She saddles up and rides to meet David. Despite the fact that she has been married to an overbearing and rash man, she has not allowed him to crush her spirit. She has not let herself be victimized. She still holds to her sense of self-worth and is ready to risk her life in order to protect her household. The odds are something like the young David facing Goliath: a woman with donkey-loads of food and a few servants, going to face 400 armed and angry men.
Meanwhile Nabal, the fool, is also busy. While his brave wife is going out to face an angry army, he is at home having a dinner party and getting drunk.
What do the following verses teach about the significance of our actions? Matt. 7:21, 25:31–46, James 2:14–17.
Talk may be cheap, but our actions confirm or contradict our speech. The actions of Abigail, David, and Nabal speak volumes about what they thought, who was important to them, and which spirit motivated their actions.
|If someone were to draw conclusions about you and the kind of person you are solely by your actions, what conclusions would they draw, and why? What does your answer tell you about yourself?
A Time to Talk
In a mountain valley or ravine, Abigail meets up with David’s forces. She bows before David and treats him as though he were already king.
Read carefully Abigail’s speech in 1 Samuel 25:23–31. Contrast that to Nabal’s reply (vss. 10, 11). What does this tell us about the difference between the two of them?
Abigail addresses David as “my lord.” Perhaps this in itself serves as a reminder to David that he should behave as would befit God’s anointed king and not as the leader of a marauding band. Abigail is able to promote nobleness in David, because she has not lost her own sense of self-worth. This enables her to see the best in David and encourage godly behavior in him.
What is the first thing Abigail says to David? What do her words remind you of? What is she attempting to do? Exod. 32:32, Esther 7:2–4, Isa. 53:12, Dan. 9:15–19, Rom. 8:34.
Intercession is marked by one common denominator: the person interceding must closely identify with the person he or she is interceding for, whether or not the interceding person stands to gain anything from the transaction. The person must be willing to put aside his or her own selfish interests and ask for what would be best for someone else. Abigail could have seen this threat on Nabal’s life as a way of getting rid of her husband and regaining her freedom; instead, she chooses to identify herself with him and pleads for his undeserving life.
Perhaps the very best form of intercession is intercessory prayer. We pray for people who are unable or unwilling to pray for themselves. We have to put our own wants, needs, and wishes aside and talk to God for these people. Our prayers give God the excuse to move deep into Satan’s territory. It is in praying for others that we realize the immense compassion that God has for us. We can learn how to bless those who curse us and pray for those who mistreat us (Luke 6:28).
|Have you ever had someone ever intercede for you in a situation where you couldn’t take care of yourself? How did that situation help you to understand better what it means that we have Jesus interceding in our behalf?
What Abigail Won’t Do
People often are afraid of an abusive person. They are ready to cover for the abuser and will lie and pretend in order to appease the abuser.
Samuel 25:25, 26. What does it say about Abigail that she was so open about
her husband’s faults? How does this make her intercession in his behalf
that much more remarkable? If someone were interceding for you right now (which
there is), what might be said about you?
Although Abigail is ready to risk her life to save her household, she also has personal integrity. She does not lie for Nabal. She knows that he is the one with the problem, and she is not afraid to say so even in public.
Someone in an abusive relationship often begins to feel responsible for the abuser’s actions and feels guilty. Abigail does not do this. She has a strong sense of self-worth. This sense of worth is grounded in her sense of mission. She does not give herself credit for intercepting David and bringing the gift but sees herself simply as God’s instrument in changing David’s mind. Because Abigail knows who she is, she is able to encourage David to be all he can be. She reminds him that he is to fight the Lord’s battles and not waste his time and energy in seeking revenge for personal insults. Abigail’s observation that “evil [has] not been found” in David (1 Sam. 25:28, NKJV) is both a statement and a warning that David has not (yet) disqualified himself from the great office that he has been anointed for—to be king.
Abigail also reminds David that with his life firmly bound up in God, he has no need to “save face” or defend his honor. God would do it for him.
Remember, too, that in Abigail’s world divorce and even separation were not options for a woman. From an earthly point of view, she would “belong” to her husband until the day of her death. However, Abigail does not see her life as useless or as a permanent prison. She believes that God will deal with her husband in His own good time.
Abigail’s speech shows that wisdom can be found in any life situation where we surrender ourselves to God. Wisdom is not a theory but a practical way of living and reacting to the people around us.
|What does it mean to surrender ourselves completely to God? How does one do it? If someone were to say to you, “I want to give myself completely to the Lord, but I don’t know how,” how would you respond?
In and Out
Unlike many of us, David could take constructive criticism, and he observes in Abigail’s words the workings of God. In a moment he sees the consequences of his proposed actions in perspective, and he is thankful that God has intervened to prevent a bloodbath. Abigail arrives home to discover that her husband is once again in no condition to listen, and so she wisely waits until the next morning to inform him of what has happened.
Nabal is terror-stricken. He most likely suffers a stroke and dies ten days later. David has not forgotten Abigail and sends men to make a marriage proposal for him.
Consider Abigail’s last recorded words in the context of this week’s study (1 Sam. 25:41). What do they tell us about Abigail? What other biblical examples can you find of the same principle in action?
Abigail was a woman of influence. She had five maids; and yet, she was willing to serve. Much later Jesus would say, “ ‘the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve’ ” (Matt. 20:28, NKJV).
Abigail’s life was no fairytale, even after her marriage to David. As was the custom in those days, David had many wives, and family life was far from God’s ideal. Abigail was David’s second wife and had to be constantly on the run from King Saul. At Ziklag she, along with the other men’s families, was captured by the Amalekites and later rescued. It is here where Abigail finally disappears from the biblical narrative. We would all expect to see this wise and beautiful woman at King David’s side, playing an important role as David’s story develops further, and there’s only silence instead. All we know about her further is that she had a son called Daniel (1 Chron. 3:1) or Chileab (2 Sam. 3:3), who was second in line to the throne by birth order. However, both Abigail and her son disappear from the picture. Some scholars believe that both she and her son died violently. Given the later rapes, murders, revolts, and rebellions that David’s oldest sons were involved in, an early death was perhaps not the worst that could happen.
As followers of Jesus, our lives are not necessarily fairytales, either. God knows the end from the beginning, and so all the turns of our lives do not need to make sense to us. We need, instead, to trust in the goodness of God.
|Submission to others, even when appropriate, is not usually easy, for it requires a sense of humility and dependency. How well do you fare in that area? How can you learn to submit when necessary? How can we learn from Christ’s incredible examples of submission?
“[Abigail’s] words could have come only from the lips of one who had partaken of the wisdom from above. The piety of Abigail, like the fragrance of a flower, breathed out all unconsciously in face and word and action. The Spirit of the Son of God was abiding in her soul. Her speech, seasoned with grace, and full of kindness and peace, shed a heavenly influence. Better impulses came to David, and he trembled as he thought what might have been the consequences of his rash purpose. ‘Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.’ Matthew 5:9. Would that there were many more like this woman of Israel, who would soothe the irritated feelings, prevent rash impulses, and quell great evils by words of calm and well-directed wisdom.
“A consecrated Christian life is ever shedding light and comfort and peace. It is characterized by purity, tact, simplicity, and usefulness. It is controlled by that unselfish love that sanctifies the influence. It is full of Christ, and leaves a track of light wherever its possessor may go. Abigail was a wise reprover and counselor. David’s passion died away under the power of her influence and reasoning. He was convinced that he had taken an unwise course and had lost control of his own spirit.
“With a humble heart he received the rebuke, in harmony with his own words, ‘Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil.’ Psalm 141:5. He gave thanks and blessings because she advised him righteously. There are many who, when they are reproved, think it praiseworthy if they receive the rebuke without becoming impatient; but how few take reproof with gratitude of heart and bless those who seek to save them from pursuing an evil course.”—Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 667.
| Spouse abuse is a big
problem. As a church we have a responsibility to help. That’s why
every year, on the Seventh-day Adventist calendar, the fourth Sabbath
of August is “Abuse Prevention Day,” which gives us a
special opportunity to educate fellow members and create awareness
about this problem. What can we do to help those who are suffering from
this terrible scourge?
“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (Matt. 5:9). Drawing on this week’s lesson, what are the characteristics of peacemakers? How can we make peace without compromising our principles?
|I N S I D E Story
|Saving Grace: Part 2
Gana finally agreed to become the church treasurer. But she didn't want to give anyone a reason to question her honesty, and she was determined not to let one cent escape.
As Gana experienced God's grace, her life changed. Her father, who had once been close, drew away from her. Often when he drank, he sought to destroy her Bible and sometimes even threatened her. But she hung on.
Gana watched one of her friends share her faith with a boy she knew, and suddenly Gana knew that she too must share God's love. She invited her brother to attend church with her. He wasn't interested in religion, but he went to play basketball with the other young people and to learn to play the guitar. Soon he was attending church as well.
One day as the two talked at length about religion, they realized that they had a duty to share their faith with their parents. But how? Older people in Mongolia don't take advice from younger people. Gana and her brother decided they could show them the difference Christ makes in their lives, even if they couldn't speak it. And they began waiting until their parents were asleep and then kneeling near their bed and praying for them.
They invited their parents to a special church service. Gana and her brother were overjoyed when their parents agreed to attend. Their mother attended the new believers' class and agreed with what she heard. Their father remained silent, but after church he told Mother that he did not object if she wanted to join their children in attending church.
"I know now that it was God's will that I not attend the national university," Gana says. "He protected me from dishonesty and taught me the importance of being faithful in whatever I do. My life is happier now because I failed that exam."
The change in Gana's life has affected her entire family. Today her brother is a believer, and her mother attends church and prays. Gana has even seen changes in her father's life, though he still doesn't attend church.
The church in Mongolia is growing rapidly. Our mission offerings support new believers as they reach out to others with the love of Christ. Thank you for your faithfulness in giving so that others may hear of God's love.
GANA is the accountant for the Seventh-day Adventist English Language School and trea¬surer of her church in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
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