Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Diffusing the Situation

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss reminds you that you’re not responsible for others’ behavior—but you are responsible for yours.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Your husband may lose his cool at times or do foolish things. Your boss may lose his cool or be hard to work for. Your children may do foolish things . . . will do foolish things. But that doesn’t mean you have to act like a fool in the midst of the crisis.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, August 20.

When a husband makes a very poor decision—one that puts people's lives in jeopardy—what is a wife supposed to do? All week we’ve been looking at a woman in that situation, and today we’ll see what action she decided to take. Here’s Nancy in a series called, "How to Live with the Fools in Your Life."

NancyWe’re talking about how to deal with the fools in your life. There may be somebody who comes to mind when you hear that term.

If you haven’t heard the first part of the series, you’ll want to go to 1 Samuel 25 and read the story we’ve been following for the last several days of Nabal, who was a foolish man. His name means fool, and he acted just like his name.

We’ve been talking about his wife, Abigail, who was a wise and discerning woman.

The third character is David, who is going to be the king of Israel; but he’s not the king yet. He’s a fugitive fleeing from King Saul out in the wilderness.

Nabal has antagonized David, and David is now on the warpath getting ready to go destroy Nabal and all his family. Abigail, the wife of Nabal, hears about this and helps to diffuse this tense situation between these two angry men.

So Abigail is married to an angry man, and she sees this brewing conflict between her husband and David. Now, at the moment, both these men are acting like fools. But Abigail responds in a different way.

Her life is such a powerful reminder to me that just because there’s a fool in your life doesn’t mean you have to act like a fool. You can act differently.

Your husband may lose his cool at times or do foolish things. Your boss may lose his cool or be hard to work for. Your children may do foolish things . . . will do foolish things. But that doesn’t mean you have to act like a fool in the midst of the crisis.

Abigail’s behavior, her response, reveals her wise, discerning heart. Let me point out two things that she does not do.

The servant of Nabal has just come to her and said, “Abigail, you’ve got to do something. David’s on the warpath. Nabal has acted foolishly, and this is a bad situation brewing here.”

One thing she does not do is cower in fear of Nabal or of David. She doesn’t just curl up into a fetal position and say, “I don’t know what to do. I’m so scared.” There’s no evidence that this woman has fear.

My guess is that there was fear in her heart, but she didn’t let that fear keep her from doing the wise and the right thing. She didn’t cower in fear.

Another thing she does not do is sit at home and do nothing. She is not passive in this situation. She takes action.

Now, I want to be very clear that if you are living in a situation with an abusive husband—if there is physical violence going on in your home—God does not expect you to sit there and do nothing.

We have some resources available, someone who would like to pray with you if you want to call. If you write or email us, we’ll share with you some resources that will help you know what to do to protect your family in that crisis situation.

But we see in this story that even though Abigail’s life is not threatened at this moment, she does not sit at home and do nothing. She’s not passive.

What does she do? She does listen to the warning from her servant, from her employees. Unlike her husband, who wouldn’t listen to anything or anybody, she listens. Then she takes action. She moves quickly, wisely, calmly, and decisively.

Look at verse 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.

It says she did this quickly. She’s a woman who’s prepared for an emergency. She looks to me like a woman who’s organized. She knows where things are, knows how to get them when she needs them.

Verse 19,

She said to her young men, "Go on before me; behold, I come after you." But she did not tell her husband Nabal.

Here’s a woman who knew what to do and took action to diffuse this hostile situation. Let me remind you that a woman who walks with God will be prepared to act wisely in a crisis.

But don’t expect that once you get in the crisis you can take a crash course and become a wise woman overnight. If you’ve not been becoming a wise, discerning woman all along, when you get in the crisis you’ll get caught off guard and you won’t know what to do.

Here’s a woman who knew when to speak, and she knew when not to speak. In this case it says, “She did not tell her husband Nabal.” She knew that at the moment he was in no position or frame of mind to listen to her. So she wisely refrained from saying anything to him at the moment. She knew it would only further incite him.

She did go and speak to David. She knew when to speak and to whom. She knew that he had a heart for God, and she believed that he could be reasoned with, that he would listen to this appeal.

So verse 20:

As she rode on the donkey and came down under the cover of the mountain, behold, David and his men came toward her, and she met them.

Now remember, what is David’s frame of mind right now? He has put on his sword, and his 400 men with him have put on their swords. They are on the warpath.

And here comes this little, beautiful, discerning (thankfully) wife to this army of 400 men with their swords going after her husband. I mean, she gets right in the middle of this situation between these two angry, foolish men.

She’s courageous. She goes to face David. She knows that he’s armed and that he’s angry.

Verses 21–22:

Now David had said, "Surely in vain have I guarded all that this fellow has in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that belonged to him, and he has returned me evil for good. God do so to the enemies of David and more also, if by morning I leave so much as one male of all who belong to him.”

David is on the warpath. Watch out!

Let me point out that David’s response to Nabal, in my opinion (let’s see if you agree), is disproportionate to the offense. All Nabal had done—he’d been rude; he’d been ugly; he’d been mean—but all he’d really done was just refuse to feed David and his men.

This was not a capital offense. Not to speak of killing Nabal and all the men in his family and all his sheepherders. David is out of control.

I want to point out, too, that this is out of character for David. In just the previous chapter, chapter 24, David had been in a cave running from Saul. Then Saul came into the cave with his soldiers, and David was able stealthily, while Saul was not watching, to slip over and cut a piece off of Saul’s robe (see v. 4).

His men said, “Here’s your chance to take Saul’s life!” But David refused. The Scripture says his conscience smote him that he had even cut this piece off of Saul’s robe (v. 5).

He said, “I can’t do it. I can’t touch the Lord’s anointed.” David had exercised extraordinary control in that situation because he was essentially a man after God’s own heart.

But he got caught off guard in this situation—hungry, angry, lonely, tired—and he acts in a way that is not characteristic of him. He’s way out of control.

Proverbs 29:11 says, “A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back.” (NKJV)

Proverbs 19:11 says, “Good sense makes one slow to anger.” You see, David lacked good sense in this situation. He was quick to retaliate. Then it says, “And it is his glory to overlook an offense.”

That’s probably what David should have done in this situation. This was not a capital offense. This was not deserving of a war. David made it into a battle. It didn’t have to be. It’s the glory of a man to overlook an offense.

Now, 1 Samuel 25:23 tells us,

When Abigail saw David, she hurried and got down from the donkey and fell before David on her face and bowed to the ground.

Here’s a woman who is humble. She approaches David humbly. She’s not acting like her foolish husband, Nabal, and she’s not acting like out-of-control David. She’s quiet, but she is direct and clear. She makes her appeal to David.

But as you read this speech, and we’ll look at it over the next couple days, it’s not a tirade. She’s calm. She’s composed. She’s controlled. I imagine her heart was probably about to beat out of her chest, but when she speaks, she’s controlled; she’s clear; she’s firm.

She goes to the one that she knows can be appealed to, and she appeals to David to listen to reason. In her appeal she’s respectful. She’s dignified. She’s earnest and sincere, but she’s humble.

Verses 24–25:

She fell at his feet and said, "On me alone, my lord, be the guilt. Please let your servant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your servant. Let not my lord regard this worthless fellow, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he. Nabal is his name [the word means fool] and folly is with him. [He’s acting foolishly, she says.] But I your servant did not see the young men of my lord whom you sent.

“I wasn’t there when this happened, and I’m sorry that it happened. Please forgive us.” She’s trying to diffuse the situation.

Notice that Abigail does not cover or make excuses for her husband. She’s honest about the offense, but she does it, I think, in a respectful way. Her goal is not to tear her husband down. Her goal is not to get somebody on her side. Her goal is to insert the voice of wisdom and reason into this tense situation.

  • Was she showing a lack of respect or reverence for her husband in the way she spoke about him?
  • How do you justify, some will ask, Abigail countermanding her husband? He said, “No, you can’t have food,” but she brings food.
  • Was she being unsubmissive?

Well, a couple things to keep in mind. Number one, Abigail did not have the advantage we have of the New Testament. She didn’t have all that expanded teaching. So she is not necessarily a perfect example of how women in a New Testament sense should act.

But I want to say, as I study this passage, I really believe that she was actually protecting her husband, sparing his life from David’s vengeance. She was doing what was in his best interests.

She was doing what she knew her husband would have wanted her to do if he had been thinking straight, if he hadn’t been so angry. If he had been thinking clearly, she knew this is what would be in the best interest of her husband and what he would have chosen.

Submission doesn’t mean that you automatically do everything that an authority tells you to do. It doesn’t mean that you enable him to sin. The obvious example of that in the New Testament is Ananias and Sapphira, where they agreed together to lie about what they were giving to the church.

So Ananias came in. “Did you give the whole amount?”

“Yes. It’s the whole amount.” He drops dead.

Sapphira comes in behind her husband, not knowing what’s just happened, and the apostles ask her, “Is this the whole amount?”

She now makes a choice to lie. She didn’t have to lie. She didn’t need to enable or empower her husband to sin in order to be a submissive wife. (see Acts 5:1–11)

We’re picking up at verse 26 in 1 Samuel 25, where Abigail is speaking to David. She’s speaking humbly, but directly and clearly. She knows that David is a man who has a heart after God and who will listen to reason, even though David and his 400 men are on the warpath after her husband.

She’s acting in Nabal’s best interests. She wants to preserve his life and to diffuse this tense situation.

So she says in verse 26 to David,

Now then, my lord, as the Lord lives and as your soul lives, because the Lord has restrained you from bloodguilt and from saving with your own hand [some of your translations say, “from avenging yourself”], now then let your enemies and those who seek to do evil to my lord be as Nabal.

Abigail speaks respectfully to David. She calls him “my lord.” She calls herself “your servant.” And she brings the Lord (capital L) into the picture. She brings God into the situation. She knows that David, unlike her husband, has a heart for God, and she appeals to David to see this situation from God’s point of view.

In verse 27 she says,

And now let this present that your servant has brought to my lord be given to the young men who follow my lord.

Nabal, her husband, had refused food and provisions to David’s men. She comes loaded up with food and provisions. They have plenty to spare. She’s not hurting her husband in any way by doing this. She is doing the thing that she knows he would do if he were thinking straight. She brings this peace offering to pacify David’s anger.

Verse 28:

Please forgive the trespass of your servant. For the Lord [Jehovah God] will certainly make my lord [David] a sure house [a kingdom, a dynasty], because my lord [you, David] is fighting the battles of the Lord [Jehovah], and evil shall not be found in you so long as you live.

She challenges David to look at the big picture of God’s plan. “David, God has something in mind for you. God has promises He has given to you. God is going to fulfill those promises. God is going to do good to you. You can survive the evil that Nabal has done to you. You don’t need to avenge yourself. You don’t need to take matters into your own hands.”

She challenges him not to respond to evil with evil. She affirms him in fighting the Lord’s battle. “David, there are lots of big battles God has given you to fight. Stick to those battles.”

Then in verse 29 she reminds David of God’s protection and care for those who belong to the Lord. She reminds David of the fate and the judgment that await those who oppose God and His servants. You see both those themes not only in verse 29 but all throughout the Word of God.

It’s something that will give you perspective when you get in a dilemma or you get in the middle of a conflict. Keep in mind that in the long run, God rewards those who are faithful to Him, and God judges and ultimately destroys those who resist Him. Not always in the short term do we see that outcome, but always in the long term.

Look at verse 29. This is a rich verse. She says to David,

If men rise up to pursue you and to seek your life, the life of my lord [you, David] will be bound in the bundle of the living in the care of the Lord your God. And the lives of your enemies he shall sling out as from the hollow of a sling.

Now, let’s unpack that verse because there’s so much there. She encourages David and says to him, “David, even if men pursue you and try to kill you,” which you’ll remember was true for much of David’s life—I mean, if it wasn’t Saul it was Nabal. If it wasn’t Nabal it was Absalom. I mean, always somebody.

She says, “No matter who’s trying to kill you, no matter who’s after you, your life is safe, and you are in God’s care.”

She says to him, “The soul of my lord, the life of my lord (you, David) will be bound in the bundle of life with the Lord your God.”

That phrase “bound in the bundle of life” is a word picture that refers to the practice of taking your valuables or your prized possessions and wrapping them up in a bundle to keep them safe. “Your life,” she says, “shall be bound in the bundle of life with the Lord your God.”

Listen, if you are a child of God, that verse describes your position in Christ. Your life is bundled in the care of the Lord your God. He’s put you into a special place. He has wrapped you up. You are in Christ. You are safe if you are in Christ. Your life is under the protection of divine providence.

You see that theme in places like Psalm 91:1–4, that very familiar passage:

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
  shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; 
  My God, in Him I will trust.” . . . 
He shall cover you with His feathers, 
  and under His wings you shall take refuge. (NKJV)

I think Abigail was a woman who knew what it was like, living in this difficult marriage, to have her life bundled up in the life of the Lord her God. She couldn’t escape her harsh, difficult circumstances, but she knew that her inner person was safe.

So she could say to David, “No matter what Nabals come into your life, your life is bundled up in the life of the Lord your God.”

Psalm 121 talks about the Lord being our keeper. According to one commentary that I read, the Hebrew title for Psalm 121 actually refers to this circumstance with Abigail and Nabal and David. What does that passage say?

The Lord is your keeper. [He has you bundled up.] The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore. (vv. 5–8 NKJV)

Here’s the challenge, ladies: Let the Lord preserve you in His bundle, whether you’re in David’s shoes and someone has insulted you falsely, attacked you, done harm to you, or whether you’re in Abigail’s shoes trying to stand between these two angry men. Remember that your life is bundled in the place of refuge that you have in Christ.

There is not anything that can touch your life, if you’re a child of God, that does not first get filtered through the permission and the will of God for your life. You’re bundled.

Now, there may be steps you need to take in a situation where there’s a physical threat to your life. That doesn’t mean you just sit there and let that man beat up on you. There are steps you need to take when the law is being broken—the law of God or the civil law—to get pastors, elders, law enforcement officials involved.

But you can still in your heart have this security of knowing that you and your heart are safe with God. He is your refuge. He is your fortress.

Not only does this verse tell us that you will be safe. At the end of verse 29, Abigail says to David, “The lives of your enemies [God will] sling out as from the hollow of a sling.” What a reminder to him this was, that God’s enemies will be judged!

God will deal with the Nabals in this world, whether you’re married to one, whether you’re a mother of a Nabal, you’re the neighbor, you’re the employee of a Nabal, you’re in the same church as a Nabal. Remember, God will deal with the Nabals in this world.

Proverbs 11:21 says, “Be assured, an evil person will not go unpunished, but the offspring of the righteous will be delivered.” Safe in the bundle.

So here’s the challenge: Knowing that God will deal with the Nabals in the world, make sure you don’t become a Nabal, or you can be sure that God will have to deal with you. God will deal with the Nabals. You can count on it.

Now, you may have been married to one for thirty-seven years, and your heart is crying out, “God, when?” Isn’t that what we hear in the book of Revelation as those in heaven cry out and say, “Lord, how long will it be until you avenge the blood of the martyrs?” (see Rev. 6:10)

We don’t know how long. But we know that in God’s way and in God’s time, He will sling out, He will discard, He will toss out, He will destroy all those who are evildoers. In the meantime you can know that your life is “bound in the bundle of the living in the care of the Lord your God.”

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Maybe you feel like you’re living with a Nabal. Maybe you need to learn from Abigail how to stay faithful to a difficult person, how to promote peace through your words.

Our team has written a booklet to help you examine Abigail’s story more closely. It will take you to the Scripture and help you find some practical ways to put God’s words into action.

We’d like to send you this booklet that goes along with Nancy’s teaching, “Abigail: How to Live with the Fools in Your Life.” 

We’d like to send you the Bible study booklet along with the series on CD. When you use them together, I think you’ll find this to be a meaningful study on how to handle difficult personal problems.

We’ll send you the teaching on CD and the study guide when you support Revive Our Hearts with a donation of any amount. Your gift will help us to continue bringing Revive Our Hearts to you.

When you donate at ReviveOurHearts.com, you’ll find a place to indicate you’d like the booklet and CDs of "Abigail: How to Live with the Fools in Your Life," or ask for it when you donate by phone. The number is 1–800–569–5959.  

Tomorrow, Nancy will show you how to keep a helpful attitude when you need to say difficult things.

Nancy: When you have a heart full of love, you can say a lot and be a lot more effective than if you’re just being a contentious, domineering, controlling woman. 

Leslie: Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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

 

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