Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Women of the Bible: Abigail

1Sa 25:18  Then Abigail made haste and took two hundred loaves and two skins of wine and five sheep already prepared and five seahs of parched grain and a hundred clusters of raisins and two hundred cakes of figs, and laid them on donkeys. 

How a woman who was very beautiful and discerning came to be married to a man who was harsh and badly behaved, or as his name signifies a 'fool', magnificently escapes me. It is often true in love that there is more irrationality than sense. But a man with much money and power, even though a fool is at times providently blessed with a beautiful and discerning wife. Or we can say that such a union was perhaps due to family ties, namely wealth marrying into wealth, or the rich man having so much fortune was able to tempt her father into giving her away with him becoming rich in the transaction. Such was the sorry lot for Abigail, that the man to whom her father dispensed her too, was not one who was trained in the school of wisdom, nor in sobriety, although he owned much worldly shrewdness to make him the successful man that he was.

Abigail is introduced to us to contrast her with the bankrupt character of her husband. She was very beautiful and discerning. This is also to say that she was a woman of great principle, and God-fearing as we would later discover in her plea to David to forsake his anger towards her household. Abigail is the archetype that we are presented with in the book of proverbs on the happy wife. She is the excellent wife. The frame more precious than jewel and one who rises while it is yet night to provide food for her household. In Abigail's case, she provides delivery from death. What a godly woman, what a rarity, kind and sublime in every way, and as we shall later see, also full of humility as that to which we are all exalted to follow.

Proverbs 14:1 communicates that the wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down. This almost became true with Abigail due to Nabal's foolishness, but Abigail's quick decisiveness remedied the situation. Her husband's own hands almost destroyed every living thing in their household by arousing David's anger when foolishly Nabal returned evil for good. He belittled David and railed at his messengers when they had only done good towards him. Thus, David strapped on his sword like every zealous man overtaken with anger and sought to utterly wipe out Nabal and all his household from the face of the earth.

Abigail caught wind of this coming disaster by being informed by one of the young men in their household. This young man told Abigail because he knew what we already knew, namely that Abigail was a wise and discerning wife. If anyone can salvage the situation, the young man must have thought then it must be Abigail. Circumstances always tug out the best and worst in a soul, or we can say that situations which happens upon us often serves to display what lies deep in our heart. And what lay deep in Abigail's soul was prudence, yes, wisdom which must have been cultivated during her years of marriage despite being married to a fool. Wealth had not injured her wisdom. She did not condescend to her husband's ways but maintain that vital principle of discipline in the areas of discernment and wisdom.

She at last constructed a plan of deliverance and the manner in which she executes it ought to cause us to arise and praise the God in whom all her faith depended. Notice that the text says that she took haste. This was no hour to linger and engage in womanly trifles or sit inactive waiting for man to deliver. Nay, she was a woman of substance and took the action of salvation into her own evely hands. She prepared an offering to appease David and the portion she commanded was that of great liberality. All these things she kept from her foolish husband. O this is another trait to be adored, let every woman who loves the Lord be generous in their given. Let them keep away wise decisions from foolish men for they will be scorned at last if revealed. Speak to them in parables if needs be like our Lord Jesus did to the stiffened of his generation that had no ears to ear.

After commanding her young men to go, she assured them that, after, she would come also and meet with David. And in meeting with David there is much caveat the women from this generation can peruse. She saw David and immediately fell at his feet and said words which were utterly destitute of any selfishness. Even though the guilt is entirely to be put upon the hard neck of her husband, yet she took it on herself and entreated David to grant her a listening ear. She rightly confesses that her husband was a fool. This is not to cast a mean eye upon her husband as to forsake that instruction for wives to respect their husbands, but it is to speak the plain truth, namely that her husband is a fool and that folly is with him. Perhaps some might say that she went too far in saying that her husband was a worthless fellow but I shall let you judge in the bosom of your own hearts. Christ often spoke the truth about the conditions of people's heart, he called the Pharisees a hypocrite, he denounced his generation as unable to discern the times, and was not afraid to label the evil man as being evil. Likewise we must not be afraid to speak clearly of the lazy man or of our times which has clearly exchanged the truth of God for the lie. And although many of us are worthless, especially me, when it comes to things pertaining to eternal life or holiness, yet we must not beat ourselves but exalt in the towering fact that Christ has made us worthy.

Were you a sinner, are you a Nabal, then there is heavenly grace for you.

Returning this pen back to Abigail, we must say that words alone cannot praise adequately her noble deeds and high character of heart. For David was entirely impressed with her plea and understood that she was an instrument used by the Lord to keep him from such a guilty act of murder. Abigail had affirmed that God will make a sure house for David. What a remarkable faith, namely that she was entirely sure that the promises of God made to David will come to pass. What a sweetened bright candle that flourishes in the darkness. What a woman found in Israel. What an Abigail and I pray that many women in our churches today may follow after her likeness.

A good woman knows that to plea with a godly man, one must include God in the conversation and remind him of the ways of God and that the man should act accordingly. Such a talk will persuade the godly man if he is in error to forsake his ways and so it was with David. David was clearly blinded in his rage and Abigail had been God's voice, yea God's beautiful hand and feet, or we can say here, mouth, to stop David in his blood thirsty tracks. Abigail ended her plea by asking David that he should remember her when God has dealt well with him. And David did. For when Nabal was instructed of this discourse had between David and Abigail, he was as the scriptures say, 'became as a stone and his heart died within him.' This I believe came about due to the awakening of his conscience to his wrong and more so, to the terror that would have collapsed upon him. And about ten days later he died because God struck him. Omnipotent hands finally rose to grant him his judgement. O how this is deserving of us all were it not for grace. O Lord, I do pray, lift your hands of mercy against the Nabal's of this world, rise not yet in judgement until they come unto repentance. But I say, that you are God of heaven and you do that which pleases your soul.

Abigail had secured peace for her household and through her wisdom and discernment she had spared the lives of many. She providentially had been the instrument to prevent the anointed of the Lord in committing a wicked act. God used her to stop the feet of David. And through this encounter with God's anointed she became his wife after David learnt of the demise of Nabal. He remembered her when God has dealt well with him.

And when she is approached to be the wife of the future King of Israel by David's servants, her mannerisms are to be exalted. She bowed with all humility and submission and uttered that she is merely a 'handmaid to wash the feet of the servants of my lord'. This was no easy utterance; for a woman of her status would have been accustomed to being looked after for she was the wife of a rich man, even though he was a fool. She did after all possessed five young women who were hers to be directed as she pleased. And to now wash the feet of the servants of David would have been a mean thing, but she cared not for position or status but was altogether ready to do the lowliest job.
O Abigail, what a woman to be celebrated. Would you be so humble ladies as to put yourself forward to wash the feet of your husband's friends or of your father's friends? Would you have such hearts to descend so low, leaving your heaven for earth?

Many woman today I say may benefit by taking on Abigail's characteristics by being discerning and full of humility. And although external beauty is a gift given by God that makes one appear aesthetically beautiful before all eyes, yet it was not external beauty that saved the day, no. It was those inward qualities, those fruits from heaven which can be the possession of all women if they would let the Spirit be their teacher and guidance.


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