Sunday, January 19, 2014

[Matt's Messages] "A Tale of Two Fools"

“A Tale of Two Fools”
A Heart for the Heart of God: The Message of 1 Samuel
January 19, 2014 :: 1 Samuel 25:1-44

Our story for today begins on a very somber note. The man whom this very book is named after dies.

In verse 1, Samuel dies, and that means that we are in a new era.  There is now no national prophet, now no judge-like character to step in between the reigning king Saul and the anointed king David whom King Saul is chasing.

The man whom both Saul and David had once counted as a friend has gone on to his reward and left them both.

That’s how this story begins.

Let’s look at it. Chapter 25, verse 1.

“Now Samuel died, and all Israel assembled and mourned for him; and they buried him at his home in Ramah. Then David moved down into the Desert of Maon.”

So, Samuel is dead and David (and Saul for that matter) are on their own.

Nothing really has changed. After the funeral, Saul is still after David, even though, last chapter he admitted to being in the wrong and knowing that he’s going to eventually lose.

But David is still a fugitive, on the run.

Chased but not caught.

And right now, he’s running with his rag tag army in the desert of Maon.

And also in that region is a very wealthy man who is also a fool.

And his name actually means “Fool.” His name is Nabal.  “Foolish.”

I wonder if his Mom was drunk when she named him?

Or maybe it’s his nickname?

From what we’re going to read, the shoe obviously fits.

I’ve actually entitled this message “A Tale of Two Fools.”

The one fool is obviously Nabal.

But there is another person who acts quite foolishly in this chapter, and it isn’t Nabal’s wife, Abigail.

It is the king-elect of Israel. His name is...David.

Let’s get into chapter 25 and see what happens. V.2

“A certain man in Maon, who had property there at Carmel, was very wealthy. He had a thousand goats and three thousand sheep, which he was shearing in Carmel. His name was Nabal and his wife's name was Abigail. She was an intelligent and beautiful woman, but her husband, a Calebite, was surly and mean in his dealings.”

That’s quite a way to start a story, isn’t it?

You get a quite a picture. A nasty guy who has managed to marry very well.

He is very wealthy but also very foolish, surly and mean.

She is intelligent and beautiful.

He is a Calebite, which means that he, like David, is from the tribe of Judah. Perhaps, they are actually distant relations, possibly even kinsmen or cousins of some kind. The text does not say.

And it turns out that David and his men have been in living in the region of Nabal’s flocks and have been helpful to Nabal’s shepherds.

And because it’s shearing time, David decides to send a delegation to Nabal to ask for a thank-you gift for all of the services that David and his men have been rendering.

Now, this is not a protection racket–he’s not threatening to break Nabal’s kneecaps if he doesn’t comply.

This is a simply a normal custom of the time in the Near East. It’s festival time and David feels that he’s been a help to Nabal and sees a way that Nabal can be a help to him at a time when Nabal should be giving out favors.  V.4

“While David was in the desert, he heard that Nabal was shearing sheep. So he sent ten young men and said to them, ‘Go up to Nabal at Carmel and greet him in my name. Say to him: 'Long life to you! Good health to you and your household! And good health to all that is yours! [Blessings!]

‘'Now I hear that it is sheep-shearing time. When your shepherds were with us, we did not mistreat them, and the whole time they were at Carmel nothing of theirs was missing.

Ask your own servants and they will tell you. Therefore be favorable toward my young men, since we come at a festive time. Please give your servants and your son David whatever you can find for them.'’”

It’s a bold request but not, I think, an unreasonable one.

However, it gets an unreasonable response. V.9

“When David's men arrived, they gave Nabal this message in David's name. Then they waited. Nabal answered David's servants, ‘Who is this David? 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?’”

He could have just said, “No.”

But instead Nabal insults David. He calls him names. He calls him a runaway slave. He acts like he doesn’t know who David is or why David is on the run.

David has acted honorably towards Nabal, but Nabal returns evil for good. V.12

“David's men turned around and went back. When they arrived, they reported every word. David said to his men, ‘Put on your swords!’ So they put on their swords, and David put on his. About four hundred men went up with David, while two hundred stayed with the supplies.”

Uh oh.

David says, “Them’s fighting words.”

David is insulted to the extreme, and he’s not going to take it lying down.

“Get your guns, boys. We’re going to town.”

Now, last week, we saw David show great restraint when given the chance to harm the Lord’s anointed king.

But, Nabal is not Saul. David has not promised to keep his hands off of Nabal.

In fact, he’s just about to promise the opposite! There is going to be trouble at the OK Corral in Maon tonight.

And that’s just what one of the servants of Nabal thinks, and instead of talking to Nabal, he goes to the one everyone knows has the real brains in this outfit. V.14

“One of the servants told Nabal's wife Abigail: ‘David sent messengers from the desert to give our master his greetings, but he hurled insults at them. Yet these men were very good to us. They did not mistreat us, and the whole time we were out in the fields near them nothing was missing. Night and day they were a wall around us all the time we were herding our sheep near them. [Everything David had said was true.] Now think it over and see what you can do, because disaster is hanging over our master and his whole household. He is such a wicked man that no one can talk to him.’ [What a fool.]”

But Abigail is no fool! V.18

“Abigail lost no time. She took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five seahs of roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins and two hundred cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys. Then she told her servants, ‘Go on ahead; I'll follow you.’ But she did not tell her husband Nabal. [You can’t tell him anything.] As she came riding her donkey into a mountain ravine, there were David and his men descending toward her [with their swords!], and she met them.

David had just said, ‘It's been useless–all my watching over this fellow's property in the desert so that nothing of his was missing. He has paid me back evil for good. May God deal with David, be it ever so severely, if by morning I leave alive one male of all who belong to him!’”

Friends, that is foolish talk.

It’s normal talk. We talk all the time about getting even with those who are bad to us.

And David has the means to do it.

But it’s foolish talk.  But watch what happens next. V.23

“When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed down before David with her face to the ground. She fell at his feet and said: ‘My lord, let the blame be on me alone. Please let your servant speak to you; hear what your servant has to say.

May my lord pay no attention to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name–his name is Fool, and folly goes with him. But as for me, your servant, I did not see the men my master sent.

‘Now since the LORD has kept you, my master, from bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hands, as surely as the LORD lives and as you live, may your enemies and all who intend to harm my master be like Nabal.

And let this gift, which your servant has brought to my master, be given to the men who follow you. Please forgive your servant's offense, for the LORD will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my master, because he fights the LORD's battles. Let no wrongdoing be found in you as long as you live.

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. But the lives of your enemies he will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling.

When the LORD has done for my master every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him leader over Israel, my master will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself. And when the LORD has brought my master success, remember your servant.’”

What a masterful speech!

Abigail pulls out all of the rhetorical stops and uses all of her persuasive powers to reach David and try to stop him from doing something rash, something that he would eventually regret, something incredibly foolish.

Abigail is wise. She doesn’t just say, “Please don’t do it!” She presents reasons. She uses images. I love that v. 29 “Even though someone [Saul] is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my master [David] will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the LORD your God. [Doesn’t that sound good? I’m not sure exactly what it means but it sounds really good, “bound securely in the bundle of the living.”] But the lives of your enemies he will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling.”  A sling! What’s she reminding him of?

This is the longest recorded speech by any woman in the Old Testament.

And it’s shrewd.

Abigail appeals to David to not become like Saul. To not nurse a grudge. To not give in to bloodshed and avenging himself and going against his conscience.

“Don’t do something like Saul and Doeg did at Nob!”

“Let no wrongdoing be found in you as long as you live!”

Abigail reminds David who he really is. V.28

You are the one who “fights the LORD’s battles.”

“A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.”

“Don’t act like this. Don’t be a my husband. Blame me, if you must, but don’t be another fool.”


“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.

Otherwise, as surely as the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak.’

Then David accepted from her hand what she had brought him and said, ‘Go home in peace. I have heard your words and granted your request.’”

David may have been acting like a hot-tempered fool, but he pulls up short at the last second!

Thanks to Abigail!

Now, I want to come back to that when we get to the end of the story and do some application together.

David is here is a marvelous example of repentance, of turning away from foolishness.

David shows evidences a heart for the heart of God.

Yes, he can be foolish! But he doesn’t love foolishness.

But the other fool in this tale does love his foolishness. V.36

“When Abigail went to Nabal, he was in the house holding a banquet like that of a king. He was in high spirits and very drunk. So she told him nothing until daybreak. [You can’t talk to this guy, especially when he is drunk.] Then in the morning, when Nabal was sober, his wife told him all these things, and .... his heart failed him and he became like a stone. About ten days later, the LORD struck Nabal and he died.”

I don’t know exactly what got him the most.

Was it that he found out just how close he had come to getting killed by David?

Or was it that he found out that Abigail had gone behind his back and given a gift to the person he had just insulted?

Whatever it was, Nabal got something like a stroke and became like a stone.

And ten days later, the Lord just took his life.

Just like that.

From rich man feasting like a king to invalid to dead in just 10 days.

And it was a judgment. There’s no question about it. It was the judgment of God.

Solomon said, “There is a way that seems right to a man [a fool], but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 16:25).

But the other foolish person in this story now has no regrets. And he gets the girl. V.39

“When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, ‘Praise be to the LORD, who has upheld my cause against Nabal for treating me with contempt. [Justice!] He has kept his servant from doing wrong and has brought Nabal's wrongdoing down on his own head.’ Then David sent word to Abigail, asking her to become his wife.

His servants went to Carmel and said to Abigail, ‘David has sent us to you to take you to become his wife.’ She bowed down with her face to the ground and said, ‘Here is your maidservant, ready to serve you and wash the feet of my master's servants.’

Abigail quickly got on a donkey and, attended by her five maids, went with David's messengers and became his wife. David had also married Ahinoam of Jezreel, and they both were his wives. But Saul had given his daughter Michal, David's wife, to Paltiel son of Laish, who was from Gallim.”

So, that’s how Abigail came to be paired with David.

Unfortunately, David has multiple wives. In the Bible, while it that is sometimes permitted, it is always a bad idea and always spells trouble for the family.

Ahinoam will give him a son named Amnon.  Michal has already been trouble for him and will be again. Just wait.

But Abigail is a good match for him. And she may even bring all of Nabal’s fortune  with her. She is his widow, after all.

It’s even possible that David is acting here as a kinsmen redeemer, like Boaz with Ruth, and their son Kileab might have been reckoned as Nabal’s. It’s possible.

The point, however, is that David wins and without doing something foolish.

He has turned from his foolishness and into wisdom.

And it has paid off–big time.

David says (v.39), “Praise be to the LORD, who has upheld my cause against Nabal for treating me with contempt. He has kept his servant from doing wrong and has brought Nabal’s wrongdoing down on his own head.”

A tale of two fools.

One who was a fool from beginning to end.

One who started to go foolish and then pulled up before it was too late.

David is presented here, again, as having the qualities needed for a king after God’s own heart.

David is not perfect. Not by a long chalk. And we’re going to see in following chapters just how imperfect he is.

But David has a heart for the heart of God, and it shows.

Let me point out 3 heart qualities of David here that are wise and not foolish.

Three qualities that we would do well to cultivate ourselves.


David has a discerning heart.

He sees what’s going on, spiritually, in his situation. Go back up to verse 32.

“David said to Abigail (after her big speech), ‘Praise be to the LORD, the God of Irsael, who has sent you today to meet me.’”

David realizes that this was no coincidence that Abigail was so wise to run to between him and Nabal.

It was a God-thing.

He discerned that God was restraining. God was hindering him from going to far. V.39 “He has kept his servant from doing wrong...”

One of the commentators I read this week summarized what David was discerning here this way:

“The text then teaches us how Yahweh rescues his servants from their own stupidity, how he restrains them from executing their sinful purposes, how sometimes he graciously and firmly intercepts us on the road to folly...What loving hands construct the roadblocks to our foolishness!” (Dale Ralph Davis, pg. 260).

David discerns that here.

God’s hand is holding him back.

Have you ever been thwarted by God and been frustrated that He’s hindering you?

Have you seen that as God’s loving care, holding you back from doing something you’ll regret later?

Waiting is hard. Especially when you’re hurting.

And David has been constantly on the run and now insulted.

But he realizes, in the nick of time, that the LORD is holding him back.

He sees God’s hand at work in Abigail.

He’s discerning?

How are you and I doing at discerning what God is doing in our own situations?

A fool just rushes in, but a wise man looks for God’s hand, even in his hardships.

“What loving hands construct the roadblocks to our foolishness.”


David exhibits an entreatable heart.

That’s an old-fashioned word. It means someone who will listen to an appeal.

We might use the word “teachable,” but it’s more than just open to being taught, it’s open to being shown where we are wrong.

Approachable for rebuke.

You couldn’t tell Nabal anything. Especially bad news.

But David listened to Abigail. A woman!

And he recognized her good judgment (v.33), “May you be blesed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day...”

And he repented of his brash, rash, foolishness!

David was entreatable.

Are you entreatable? Am I?

So often, we are sure that we are right.

And that everyone else is wrong.

But are we willing to be persuaded? To be shown otherwise?

To be shown where we need work?

That’s wisdom.

Proverbs 9:8 says, “Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you.”

Do you love those who rebuke you?

Several times this week, I needed my wife’s gentle rebuke.

She has an amazing knack for putting her finger right on where I’m wrong and need adjusting.

Yesterday, she said like two sentences, and it totally sent me in a new direction.

She told me that I might be listening to Satan and letting him get me off track in a certain area.

And (boom), I was headed in a new direction.

Now, the good part of that story (beyond the fact that she loves me enough to rebuke me) is that I was entreatable enough to not dig in my heals and not listen.

“La, la, la, la, la, I’m not listening!”

Entreatable.  (I don’t always handle it that well!)

I think it’s good to just be open to the word!


Are you open to a life-giving rebuke?


David was patient.

He wasn’t at first! He was hot-headed at first.

But by the time Abigail had finished her speech, he was patient again. He was not rash. He was not unrestrained but restrained. He was not out of control, he was self-controlled again.

David remembered who he was and Whose he was.

And he was able again to take the long-view.

As people, we love instant gratification.  The short view. The quick payoff.

But followers of Christ believe in delayed gratification. Taking the long view. Investing in something that will come later in God’s timing.

Followers of the God of the Bible know that God has given us great and precious promises, but they aren’t immediate. We have to be patient. We have to wait.

That’s the main point of this part of David’s story, isn’t it?

Chased but not caught. Chased, chased, chased.

Waiting, waiting, waiting.

Last week, we saw David tempted to cut the corner. And we didn’t blame him. His life stinks and a quick little sword-work and it would all be over.

But that’s not God’s way.

His way includes waiting. It includes patience. It includes trusting in the promises yet to come.

Two chapters ago, Jonathan reminded David of the promises.
Last chapter, it was actually Saul who assured David of the promises.

And in this chapter, Abigail does. V.28

“...the LORD will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my master, because he fights the LORD’s battles...the life of my master will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the LORD your God.”  V.30, “[T]he LORD [will do] for my master every good thing he promised concerning him.”

Abigail reminds David of God’s promises.

And David believes and waits patiently for them to come true.

Even though it hurts.

Even though that dirty dog Nabal has insulted his name and returned evil for good.

David trusts in the justice of God.

David trusts in the promises of God.

And David turns away from foolishness and into patient wisdom.

How about you and me?

Are we living patiently, trusting in God to bring the blessing He has promised His  in His timing? Or are we cutting the corners and trying to get things going our own way?

Are we living impatiently, foolishly, like Nabal?

Or are we waiting patiently for our Lord to come through?

Waiting is hard, but it’s worth it.

Our Lord Jesus endured even more than David did.

He dealt with worse than Nabal. He patiently endured the attacks of sinful men that eventuated in His death on the Cross for you and me.

Hebrews 12 says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

We can cultivate patient endurance as we fix our eyes on Jesus.


A Heart for the Heart of God

01. Hannah's Prayers
02. Those Who Honor Me I Will Honor
03. Speak, LORD, for Your Servant Is Listening
04. God In A Box
05. Who Can Stand in the Presence of the LORD, This Holy God?
06. Be Careful What You Ask For
07. "Go and Look for the Donkeys."
08. From Here On
09. Who Knows?
10. How to Grieve the Lord
11. The Lord Looks at the Heart
12. The Battle Is the Lord's
13. May the LORD Be With You
14. The Fugitive