Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Dannah Gresh: All of us face crises. Here's Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth with wise advice for those times when everything seems out of control.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: In the crisis situation of life, you and I need to be women of discernment. How do you get discernment? You ask God for it. Ask God for it before you get in the crisis.

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Adorned, for Tuesday, January 21, 2020.

We read in 1 Corinthians 13 that love is not provoked (v. 5). It’s easy to understand until a two-year-old asks you the five hundredth question of the day, or someone cuts you off in traffic, or your husband forgets to pay the bills on time . . . again.

Well, today we’ll hear about a righteous man who let his guard down. He was so provoked he was ready to kill the person who offended him. Here’s Nancy in the series, "How to Live with the Fools in Your Life."

Nancy: We’re looking at a story in the Old Testament in the book of 1 Samuel, chapter 25. If you have your Bible, let me ask you to open to that passage. It’s a story with three main characters. We see first a man named Nabal, who was a wealthy businessman, but he was a harsh, mean, ill-behaved, ill-mannered man who acted like his name, Nabal, which means fool.

Now as we come to verse 4 today, we see that David heard in the wilderness—David and his 600 men, who are fugitives with him from King Saul, are fleeing from Saul. They’re out in the wilderness. David, verse 4, heard in the wilderness that Nabal was shearing his sheep. Nabal is a rancher. He’s a herdsman. He has a lot of sheep and a lot of goats.

Verses 5 and 6:

So David sent ten young men. And David said to the young men, "Go up to Carmel, and go to Nabal and greet him in my name. And thus shall you greet him: 'Peace be to you, and peace be to your house, and peace be to all that you have.'"

Here’s David wanting to be a peace-loving man and being gracious and kind in the way he approaches this man who has the heart of a fool and David’s going to reap some consequences from that.

Verses 7 and 8:

[Say to Nabal] "I hear that you have shearers. Now your shepherds have been with us, and we did them no harm, and they missed nothing all the time they were in Carmel. Ask your young men [your workers], and they will tell you. Therefore, let my young men [my servants, my workers] find favor in your eyes, for we come on a feast day. Please give whatever you have at hand to your servants and to your son David.”

Now let’s unpack that passage a little bit and see what’s happening here. David had treated Nabal and his herdsmen honorably. In this passage we see, and we’ll see even more later in the chapter, that David and his army of 600 men had provided protection out in the wilderness for Nabal’s men and Nabal’s herds. Protecting them from thieves, from bandits and marauders.

Now David was coming back and merely asking for what was his rightful due: compensation for services rendered. It was like a tip. This was the way things operated out in the wilderness. David and his men provided protection. They made sure that marauders stayed away from Nabal’s sheep and his herdsmen. Now they’re saying, "There’s a feast day coming. Would you provide compensation for my men?" It was a reasonable thing to ask.

Verses 9 and 10:

When David’s young men came, they said all this to Nabal in the name of David, and then they waited. And Nabal answered David’s servants, "Who is David? Who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants these days who are breaking away from their masters.”

Now right off the bat, Nabal accuses David of having been disloyal to King Saul. “You’re just a servant who’s run away from his master. You’re a runaway slave. No way am I going to help you.” He goes on in verse 11,

Shall I take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers and give it to men who come from I do not know where?

Now it’s not surprising that a man who is harsh and badly behaved, as we saw in the previous session, should speak in a way that is harsh and badly behaved because as Jesus said, “Out of the depths of your heart you speak” (Matt. 12:34 paraphrased). What’s in your heart comes out in the way that your respond to people in life.

So Nabal is a foolish man. He’s a harsh man. He’s a badly behaved man. When David’s men come to him in peace just wanting what is their rightful due, he says, “No way.” Now in his response to this request, Nabal’s real heart motives come out. He’s selfish. Look at all the my's in verse 11. My bread. My water. My meat. My shearers.

Here’s a man who had a lot more than he needed and could well afford to share with these who had provided protection for him. But he refuses to share. He gives David’s men a slap in the face. I mean, this is a huge insult to David who is one of the most powerful men in the region and the man who was going to be the king.

Nabal is foolish. He’s a foolish man. He has much more than he needs, but he refuses to share. Sometimes wealthy people are extremely generous, and you can probably think of some that fall into that category. But wealthy people can also be the most stingy. Sometimes those who can afford to give the most end up giving the least.

Then you’ll notice in your church or you’re involved in a ministry in some way, sometimes it’s the little widows who can least afford to give who sometimes give the most. They’re generous. But sometimes those of us who have the most can hold most tightly onto what we have, and we see that in Nabal.

We see a man who’s controlling. “I don’t mind giving if it’s my idea, but not if it’s your suggestion. Not if it’s your request. No one is going to tell me what to do with my stuff.” That’s the attitude here. Here’s a man who’s suspicious. In verse 11, he says, “These are men who come from I do not know where.” Suspicious of their motives. Suspicious of what they’re up to.

He assumes negatively. He jumps to conclusions. He makes false accusations. Here’s a man, Nabal, who is insensitive to the needs of others. He couldn’t care less. “So what you guys are hungry. Go find food somewhere else.” He is utterly, absolutely unconcerned about their welfare.

You know why? Because he’s utterly, absolutely obsessed with his own welfare. “My stuff. How can I get more? How can I hold on to what I have?” I think this really is a man who just has this drive to have the upper hand. “THE BOSS” in big letters is what he wants on his mug. “I’m in charge. I’m in control.”

Now we’re going to learn even more about Nabal as the chapter unfolds, but first in the next verse we get a look at David’s initial response. Verses 12 and 13:

So David’s young men turned away and came back and told him all this. And David said to his men, "Every man strap on his sword!" [It’s war time!] And every man of them strapped on his sword. David also strapped on his sword. And about four hundred men went up after David, while two hundred remained with the baggage.

Now, in this account we’re going to see two very different ways to respond to provocation. Two very different ways to respond to the foolish people in your life. David’s way and Abigail’s way. How did David respond? His natural reaction was what? To get even. Vengeance. It was an impulsive reaction. I’m sure that David did not stop to think.

Isn’t that when we get in trouble. Somebody provokes us. Somebody irks us. Somebody’s rude to us. Somebody cuts you off in a lane of traffic. You don’t stop and think. You just react. You get right up on the backend of their car. In some bigger, more significant issues of life, what’s our natural reaction? Get even. Strap on your sword. We’re going to war. "You want to fight? We’ll fight."

But what you see here is that David’s initial response to Nabal was to act just like Nabal. Nabal is a harsh man. He’s badly behaved. He’s a warrior. He’s contentious. David says, “You want to be that way? Two can play that game. I’ll be that way.”

Isn’t that what our natural response is when we’re provoked? We may not strap on literal swords, but don’t we do it with our words? We pick up swords. Don’t we do it even sometimes without a word, just with our eyes? You can do it to your children. You can do it to your mate. You might do it to somebody who’s in the next office at work. Just our demeanor can communicate that we’ve picked up a sword. “You have hit my button, and I’m going ballistic.”

Nabal had returned evil for good to David, and now David determines to return evil for evil. Now in all fairness to David, let me say that humanly speaking, I think this is a very understandable response. David is vulnerable. You’ve probably heard the acronym—I think I’ve shared it on Revive Our Hearts before—H-A-L-T.

If you’re:

  • hungry
  • angry
  • lonely
  • tired—you need to halt before you speak. Halt before you act.

David certainly had reason to be all of those things at this point. He was hungry. He was saying our men need food, and it’s not just David who is hungry. It’s 600 of his men that he’s responsible to feed. He was angry. His rights had been violated. He was perhaps lonely. Samuel had died. He may have felt abandoned. He could have been tired easily. He’s running through the wilderness from Saul.

If you are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, you need to HALT before you speak.

He should have halted but instead he let himself respond in a Nabal-like way. His response was impulsive. It was impetuous. It was passionate. It did not demonstrate the quality of self-control.

Proverbs 25, verse 28, tell us, "A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” If you lose self-control even in responding to the Nabals, the fools, in your life, then you become like a city that is defenseless. You become vulnerable to attack from the evil one if you lose control.

There’s another verse in Proverbs that it would have been good for David to heed in this situation. Proverbs 26, verse 4, says, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him” (NKJV). So Nabal responds in a foolish way to David’s request. Here comes David answering a fool according to his folly, strapping on his sword. What does Proverbs say? You will become like him.

The very person who drives you the most crazy—do you ever look in the mirror and say, “I am becoming that person”? That may be because you’ve been answering a fool according to his folly and you’re becoming harsh and ill-behaved and mean-spirited and mean-tempered in reacting to a person who acted foolishly.

Proverbs says, “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.” That’s Proverbs 15:18. So here David has a chance to avoid contention, and instead he stirs up strife.

Now we see the entrance of a woman who says, “That’s not the right way to deal with this situation.” She’s going to demonstrate a very different way to respond. We see in verse 14 that one of the young men, one of Nabal’s servants, comes to Abigail, Nabal’s wife, and tells her the situation.

Now, apparently this young man knew that Abigail would respond differently than her husband. I mean it was obviously common knowledge that this woman was not like her husband. She was beautiful and discerning the Scripture says. He was harsh and badly behaved. This young man apparently knew that Abigail was approachable. She was someone you could talk to. You could reason with her. She would listen.

By the way, in a tension or a conflict, do people know that you’re a woman who can be reasoned with? Or do they stay away from you and say, “No, she’s just going to fly off the handle. She’ll just get emotional.” Or do they know that you’re a woman that they can go, they can talk to, they can explain their story and you will know what to do in the situation?

That’s the kind of woman we need to be. That’s the kind of woman we want to be. You may have a great, godly husband, but you’re going to find yourself at times, whether with that man or with others in your life, in a bad situation, an intense situation where there’s conflict coming and you get drawn into the middle of it. Do people know that you are a wise woman that they can go to, and you will know what to do because you’re following the Spirit of God in that situation?

So verse 14: “One of the young men told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, ‘Behold, David sent messengers out of the wilderness to greet our master, and he railed at them.’” Now that word railed literally means "he flew at them." One translation says he hurled insults. He reviled them. “You want what?! No way!” Nabal was abusive—verbally abusive—to David and his men. We can only assume that if he was this way with strangers, he was not an easy man to live with at home. He railed at them.

So here again we see more about Nabal’s character. He’s an arrogant man. He humiliates these men. He attacks them—David’s men. He’s easily angered. He flies off the handle. Those are characteristics of a fool. If you find yourself responding that way in the midst of life’s circumstances, you need to stop and say, “I’m acting like a fool.”

Proverbs 14:17: “A man of quick temper acts foolishly, and a man of evil devices is hated.”

Proverbs 29:22: “A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression.” Anger is a deadly thing in a marriage, in any relationship, in the body of Christ. It causes much transgression.

So here’s a man, Nabal. He’s out of control. He railed at them. He flew at them. His tongue is uncontrolled. His spirit is out of control. Now this is a totally unfair and unwarranted reaction on Nabal’s part. Nobody has done anything to deserve this kind of treatment. This was not a response that was provoked. There’s no good reason.

In fact, the servant telling Abigail what happened says in verse 15,

The men were very good to us [David’s men] [they treated us well], and we suffered no harm, and we did not miss anything when we were in the fields, as long as we went with them.

Nabal and his men had been protected by David and his men. David did not do anything to incite this response from Nabal.

[The servants said] They were a wall to us both by night and by day, all the while we were with them keeping the sheep.

So Nabal has returned evil for good. David has treated Nabal and his men well and Nabal has returned evil for good.

Now therefore know this and consider what you should do, for harm is determined against our master and against all his house.

Remember David had put on his sword and said, “We’re going to war.” He took 400 men with him. We’re going after Nabal and his men.

Harm is determined against our master. [That’s Abigail’s husband. Harm is determined against him.] And he is such a worthless man that one cannot speak to him (vv. 16–17).

That phrase worthless man is a phrase that literally is the son of Belial. Does that ring a bell with you? Belial is one of the names in Scripture for Satan. It’s a name for the devil. It means "worthlessness" and what this servant is saying, “Our master, your husband, Abigail, is acting like the devil.”

It means "a hellion." It’s a scoundrel. It’s translated sometimes "corrupt man or perverted man or a rebel." It’s somebody who is absolutely, utterly wicked. He’s a son of Belial. He’s a worthless man. So again you see these characteristics of fools.

  • They refuse to listen. No one can speak to him.
  • They’re unapproachable.
  • They won’t listen to reason.
  • They’re stubborn.
  • Their mind is made up.

Now as I describe Nabal, does it remind you of anyone you know? Maybe you’re thinking of someone that you go to school with or you work with. Maybe someone in your own household.

We’re going to see from Abigail some tips, some insights about responding to a person who is a hellion, somebody who is a worthless man, somebody who is a son of Belial, somebody who’s acting like the devil.

But there’s another question we need to ask and that is, does this ever remind you of you? This kind of behavior. Now your behavior may not be this extreme. You may not fly off the handle and throw things and scream at people and rail on them.

But what about when your child comes and asks you a question that they’ve already asked seventeen times that morning, and you’ve been interrupted, and you’re irritated; you’re impatient. You go, “No way! Go to your room!” And you speak harshly. The child didn’t do anything to deserve that. You didn’t provoke the child. You speak without thinking. You’re easily provoked, irritated, angry.

You ever find yourself reacting that way? We need to learn from Abigail how to respond in a way that is unlike Nabal, to diffuse the anger, to protect the family in this situation.

Now if you’re thinking about someone that you know who is like this Nabal, you may be asking, “What can I do? How do I respond to this kind of person?” I think of the woman who wrote to us and said,

Can you help me know how to deal with an angry husband? I get so depressed and I want to know how God wants me to handle this. My husband would never abuse me physically, but he gets angry about so many things, and I’m growing weary of being the peacemaker.

I know that woman speaks for a lot of our listeners, not just in regard to husbands but in regard to other fools in our lives.

So here is Abigail caught between two proud, angry men—Nabal, her husband, and David, who is going to be the next king of Israel. Abigail is a contrast. Verse 3 already told us that she was discerning and beautiful. Beautiful speaks of her appearance, but discerning speaks of her heart. That word discerning means "intelligent." It’s a woman of good understanding, a woman who has common sense in a crisis.

Now you compare her with Nabal who was harsh and these are polar opposites. Abigail’s name, by the way, means "the joy of my father." She was a daddy’s girl. She was a girl whose father delighted in her but she ended up married to a Nabal, a fool. Now I think this must have been an incredibly difficult marriage. Though the Scripture doesn’t tell us what it was like inside the four walls of their home, you can just imagine.

Rather than getting a man like her father who delighted in her, probably through no fault of her own, in an arranged marriage, she had ended up married to a man who was impossible to live with. Proud, angry, unreasonable, stingy, controlling.

So what does Abigail do? Well, we’re going to see in the next session that she responds differently to Nabal than David did. She doesn’t become a Nabal in responding to the fool, the Nabal in her life. She acts in a way that is consistent with her wise and discerning character. Her behavior, the way she handles this crisis, reveals that this woman has a wise heart.

So I want to just say even before we see how Abigail responded, that in the crisis situations of life, you and I need to be women of discernment. How do you get discernment? You ask God for it. Ask God for it before you get in the crisis. Single women, before you get married, ask God for discernment to show you who you should marry.

Most of us today don't live in arranged marriages. You have some choice in the matter. Ask God for wisdom. Don’t just marry the next guy who comes along because he showed an interest in you, or he bought things for you. Ask God for discernment and godly counsel and wisdom. Once you’re in a situation, pray for discernment.

Then remember that you can respond differently than Nabal. You don’t have to become a Nabal. Remember that how you respond is what makes all the difference. You may never change your Nabal. We’ll see that Nabal never changed. But you can be a secure, confident, godly, courageous, winsome woman even in the midst of a crisis.

I’m reminded of what my dad often told us and that is, you’re not responsible for how others act or what they do to you. All you’re responsible for is how you respond to others. By God’s grace, we can respond in a way that is full of faith, that is appropriate, that is discerning and wise. That may make all the difference in the outcome of the situation.

You’re not responsible for how others act. You’re responsible for how you respond.

Dannah: When you’re in the middle of a difficult personal situation, it’s easy to loose perspective. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been helping you think wisely about those times when other people hurt you or let you down. She'll be right back in a moment to pray with us.

One way you can develop the kind of discernment we see in Abigail is to study what the Bible has to say about her life. We want to help you do that. We developed a Bible study that will help you dig into the story of Abigail. It will also ask questions and lead you through some prayers to help you apply what you learn to your life.

Here during the month of January, we’ll send you the Abigail study as our way of thanking you for a gift of any amount. Along with the study, we recommend that you listen to a conversation from our Women of the Bible podcast. There’s more information at our website. To find out more or to donate online, visit, or call us at 1–800–569–5959.  When you make your donation, make sure you mention the study on Abigail when you contact us.

When a husband makes a very poor decision, one that puts lives in jeopardy, what’s a wife supposed to do? We’ll look at that tomorrow. Now let’s pray. Here’s Nancy.

Nancy: Father, how I pray that You would make us discerning and wise and godly women. We live in a fallen world, and there are a lot of Nabals in this world. Some of the women I’m speaking to today are living with a Nabal. It’s a tough situation. It’s hard. It seems impossible.

Lord, thank You that You have grace. There is wisdom in your Word to know how to respond in that situation—not just to make our lives easier, but mostly so that You can be glorified and Your kingdom can come and Your will can be done on this earth as it is in heaven. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you be discerning. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.