David and Abigail

this is part of a continuing sermon series on the stories of David.

The text for this sermon is 1 Samuel 25.

Let’s just begin by saying that this is *not* a great way to meet your wife. It certainly isn’t a love story, or at least, it doesn’t appear to be one.

I mean, how many of you, if I asked you the story of how you met your beloved, would start with a story like this? “well, I was shaking this guy down for a few sheep to feed my troops while we were on the run from the king who is trying to kill me, and then this WOMAN emerges from nowhere and gives me a whole bunch of food, calls her husband an idiot, and…well… it was love at first sight.


So what is the point, then, of stories like this? Why are they here?

Well let’s start with what we can see.

First off, we know that David has been on the run. Last week, we heard of how Saul was trying to pin David to the wall with his Javelin.  David has wisely left Saul. And now he is wandering about with a pack of warriors, on the run from Saul and his army.

And here, in our reading today, he seems to be running a protection racket. Perhaps he would have preferred that people think of him as a “Great, Good Shepherd,” taking care of the sheep, but the truth is that he is a shepherd nobody asked for here.

And when it comes time to enjoy the harvest, like any good shepherd, or any king, David wants his share of the harvest.

David seems to invite conflict: He greets Nabal with peace, but his words are a threat. His men practically swagger into the shearing grounds as they promise: we haven’t hurt your flock….yet.

Here David reveals himself as a threat to the people who maintain and care for the land, the heritage of God.

Now I am sure that you have heard the phrase before: we don’t negotiate with terrorists.

But David knows the cardinal rule that every parent learns: never make a threat that you can’t back up with action. In our house, if I start counting to five, my kids better believe that there is something on the other end of those numbers. And David is no different. He has an army to feed, after all. A few hundred disillusioned, angry young men, and he is not afraid to use them to get what he needs.

That’s really what this is about, when you get down to it. It is a parable about kings, and power, and corruption, a story about how that power inevitably pushes down on the people of God and takes and takes and takes.

But that is not all that this story is about, thank God.

It is also a story about how the people push back against those who wield the sword. 

Because if you read this as a parable about power, and corruption, then who is the hero? Who comes out on top?

Why, Abigail of course.

She is the one who sees David for the danger that he is. If her husband Nabal is foolish (for that is what his name means), if he is foolish in his refusal to give David what he has demanded, then Abigail is wise for seeing the situation for what it is. She is able to understand that just under the surface of this man who is “called by god” is a potential for violence that seethes and threatens everything and everyone around him. Look how quickly he reaches for his weapons. How quickly he resorts to force.

She can see this, and so in her wisdom she uses that to her advantage. She gathers up what is necessary to keep David happy, but she also makes certain to secure a promise for herself. “Remember your Servant,” she says. Remember your servant who sees the king that you may one day be. Remember the woman who talked sense to you when you were breathing violence.

In that way, she is alot like David. Cunning. Creative. Determined. Wise. Willing to put her body in the path of violence and put up her hand to stay it.

Nobody expects Abigail to be the hero. And yet, she manages not just to save her family, but to save David, too. 

I think that is part of the point, actually. Nobody expects anything from Abigail. And yet she uses what she has—her brains, her resources, her creativity—to exact peace from a dangerous and uncertain moment. 

It reminds me, actually, of a story from a few years back. This woman, Antoinette Tuff, was working as a bookkeeper at her local public school when a young man walked in the door with an ak-47. He was breathing violence, and pain, and hurt. And over an hour, Antoinette talked to the young man about her own life, about her struggles, her pain, her fear. She gave him something valuable—no parched grain, or raisin cakes, but the gift of shared suffering, shared struggle. In her wisdom, she saw what he needed: he needed to be reminded who he was: someone beloved in God’s sight.

Don’t we all need that? To be reminded who and whose we are? To be recalled—out of our separateness, our pain, our struggle, our anger, even our violence—and brought nearer to the wisdom of God?  Let us strive to be those who breathe the wisdom of Abigail into the world, and when we are not, let us be like David, who was open to receive it and be changed.


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