God Enables Us to Deal With “Nabals”

1 Samuel 25:32

"David said to Abigail, 'Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands.'"

Read the entire account in 1 Samuel 25.


The events described in 1 Samuel 25 took place while David was hiding in the wilderness from King Saul, who was trying to eliminate David as a threat to his throne and dynasty. David and his men were camping in the area where a wealthy rancher named Nabal kept large flocks of sheep and goats. David’s 960 armed men were honest, and they naturally formed a protective shield against “rustlers” and thieves. Some of Nabal’s prosperity probably resulted from the presence of David’s men. So on a festive sheep-shearing day, David sent messengers to Nabal requesting some provision for his men in return for their protection of his livestock and employees.

Even though Nabal was a wealthy man who could easily have shared with God’s chosen king, he sent David’s men away empty-handed. Even worse, he rudely denounced David and his men. When David heard this response he was enraged and planned immediate revenge. Fortunately, the good sense and godly character of Abigail, Nabal’s wife, were so well known to their servants that they turned to her for help. Abigail quickly prepared a sizeable offering of food and supplies and went to meet David with a message of peace, urging him not to take his own revenge.

Teaching Points

1. God allows "Nabals" to test our faith and patience.

Earlier in his life, David passed a great test of patience and faith in God when he turned down the perfect opportunity to kill King Saul (1 Samuel 24). On that occasion he chose to trust God and wait patiently for God to deal with the self-centered and hostile king.

In 1 Samuel 25 David was again tested in the very same areas: faith and patience. This time, however, he failed the test--with near disastrous results. We can understand why David was enraged. In that culture David was well within his rights to ask for hospitality and a small recompense, but Nabal responded to David’s polite request in a selfish and malicious manner. Unfortunately, David lost it. Instead of patiently trusting God work things out in His own way and His own time, David told his men to grab their swords and follow him as he rode off to kill Nabal and his men (v21-22).

What about us? God allows us to be tested, and He may use rude or selfish people like Nabal to do so. The test may come in our workplace, our neighborhood, our family, or even in our church or small group Bible studies. How do we handle situations in which we are treated unjustly? Do we become hostile and defensive? Do we “gird on our swords” and lash out with rash words? Or do we pass the test by patiently allowing the Lord to take care of the situation?

1 Peter 2:21-23 gives us guidance from the Lord Himself when we are tested by unjust treatment: “…Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth. When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly.”

2. The results of "passing the test" are patience and godly character.

James 1:3-4 says, “…when you face trials of many kinds… know that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

Notice that the verse doesn’t say if you face trials—it says when you face trials! God will allow us to go through tests of our faith. Even though the trials will not be pleasant in themselves, it’s possible to have a positive outlook. Why? Because we know that the trials can produce maturity in our lives as believers.

Abigail’s exemplary character probably resulted from many tests of her patience and trust in God. For years, she had been married to an insensitive man, but she had not adopted his crude behavior, nor had she become bitter. (It wouldn’t have been surprising if she had reacted to the news of David’s planned revenge with a smug smile, thinking, “He’ll finally get what he deserves!”) Abigail’s godly character was so well established that the servants knew she would act quickly to resolve the conflict. She reacted to a crisis situation in a mature way, trusting God to control the outcome.

Through Abigail, the Lord taught David a lesson he didn’t forget. In Psalm 37, David wrote, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. Do not fret when men… carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath. Do not fret-it only leads to evil… A little while and the wicked will be no more... but the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.”

Practical Application

Let's allow God to use the "Nabals" in our lives to build godly character.

How we respond under pressure is a reflection of our character. It’s easy to be pleasant when everything is going well, but how do we react when we are treated unfairly? There will always be a few “Nabals” around. Do we over-react, as David did, or do we respond patiently, knowing that God allows the “Nabals” in our lives to build Abigail-like character in us?

When we are confronted with a “Nabal,” let’s remember the example of the Lord Jesus in 1 Peter 2:23. Let’s ask for the Lord’s wisdom and guidance about the situation, rather than reacting in haste. Let’s seek (and listen to) the counsel of the “Abigails” God has placed in our lives. We can trust God to deal with the “Nabals,” perhaps even as dramatically as he later dealt with Nabal in 1 Samuel 25 (v38).

The apostle Paul was often misjudged, bad-mouthed and treated unjustly. In Romans 12 he gave us words of wisdom and guidance from the Lord: “Be patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer… Repay no one evil for evil... If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men… Do not avenge yourselves, but rather leave room for God’s wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
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