Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Keeping Your Head in a Time of Violence

Leslie Bennett: In contentious days, a person with wisdom will really stand out. Here’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Listen, wisdom isn’t just sitting in your study at home having your quiet time. That’s a great thing! Do it! Read your Bible, pray! But wisdom gets used when you go out into the rough-and-tumble of everyday life and everything is going into flames around you. 

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, for Tuesday, August 27, 2019.

Nancy’s finishing up a series called “The Wise Woman of Abel.”

Nancy: If you weren’t with us for Revive Our Hearts yesterday, before you listen to today’s program, you might want to go back and listen to yesterday’s program, because it sets the stage for all we’re going to talk about today. It’s a complex, convoluted story hidden in 2 Samuel chapter 20. That’s the passage we’re looking at. I’ll give you a little bit of the context now, but to get the full context, you’ll want to go back and read that passage and listen to yesterday’s program at 

What we’re looking at in a very tense situation is the impact of one wise woman who, in effect, takes on a whole mob of men who are hell-bent on destruction. It’s a conflict that seemed irreconcilable. And God uses one wise woman. We’re not even told what her name was. But because of the way she acts, because of her demeanor—her spirit, her initiative, her calm, her level-headedness with all these hot-headed guys who were going to war against each other—God uses her to be a rescuer in that situation.

Let me just give you a little context here. Remember that David is the king. His son Absalom has rebelled, and David was exiled. But then Absalom was killed by Amasa (that name is going to come back in this chapter). Absalom’s rebellion was stopped and David was brought back to Jerusalem. So he’s been gone, now he’s come back; he’s being restored as king.

But the conflict isn’t over. There are seeds of what is going to become the divided kingdom, the north and the south. And the men of Israel (the ten northern tribes of Israel) and the men of Judah (which is the southern tribe that David came from) they’re vying for influence with David and for control. 

Where there is pride, there is contention and strife. And that’s what we see in chapter 19. Then we come to 2 Samuel chapter 20. I’ll just read the opening here: “Now there happened to be there a worthless [or “wicked” as in CSB] man, whose name was Sheba, the son of Bichri, a Benjaminite” (v. 1).

Benjamin was the tribe of Saul, who was David’s predecessor. There were still people who were loyal to Saul (even though he was now long gone) and who were not crazy about having David as king. So you have some dissension and disloyalty there.

This wicked, worthless man named Sheba, “. . . blew the trumpet and said, ‘We have no portion in David, and we have no inheritance in the son of Jesse’” (v. 10). That was probably a derogatory term: “Jesse! David’s father. He was just a common ordinary shepherd; he’s not royalty!” So it was a demeaning term, “the son of Jesse.”

“. . . every man to his tents, O Israel! [Here comes civil war!] All the men of Israel withdrew from David [they deserted him] and [they] followed Sheba the son of Bichri. But the men of Judah followed their king [David] steadfastly from the Jordan to Jerusalem” (v. 2). So now we have conflict, civil war.

Beginning in verse 4, let me just summarize this next section there. Absalom is now gone and David has promoted Amasa over Joab, who had been his general. These men are all angry, hot-headed men. And so David sends Amasa to gather the men of Judah together.

In three days, he’s going to send them out to stop this rebellion of Sheba. But Amasa takes longer than the three days. David is impatient. He says, “We can’t wait any longer! Sheba has to be stopped!” And he decides to send Abishai and his brother Joab—who had been David’s general—and tells them, “Go get Sheba! Stop this rebellion, and stop it now!”

So while they’re on the march, Amasa returns. He tries to join them. Joab says, “Oh, hello friend. Good to have you with us for the ride.” But he pulls out a sword and kills Amasa there in the middle of the highway, and they have to throw his body into the land on the other side of the highway. 

So you have this murder and then these two brothers, Joab and Abishai—along with David’s men—keep pursuing after Sheba, who is the target. So the whole thing of Amasa getting killed, that’s a gory sideline there. So then we come to verse 14 of chapter 20. 

“Sheba [that’s the one they’re after; he’s the one who’s stirring up this rebellion, this insurrection; he’s going north, he] passed through all the tribes of Israel to Abel [a city] . . . and all the Bichrites assembled and followed him in.” 

So this is his relatives. He gets the people who are favorable to him, the people who like him, the people who want to follow him and they go into this city that has a wall around it. They hunker down in the city thinking they’ll be safe and they’ll have a refuge there.

Verse 15: “And all the men who were with Joab came and besieged him in Abel [they surrounded city!] . . . They cast up a mound against the city, and it stood against the rampart, and they were battering the wall to throw it down.”

They said, “We’re going to knock down the walls of this city so we can kill Sheba!” Well, what happens when they knock down the walls of that city? It’s not just Sheba who is going to die. It’s a whole lot of other people who were just kind of standing there minding their own business when this insurrectionist comes into town—and now they’re all going to die, too! So it’s a really tense, intense situation!

And then we have verse 16 against all the hubbub, all the chaos, all the yelling things at each other. And by the way, when I talk about that, does that kind of remind you of the Internet today? Does it remind you of our divided political environment? Does it remind you sometimes of our divided church environment—on whatever topic: sexism, racism? 

You just have people flinging barbs and “grenades” at each other. If you follow some of these things on Twitter or Facebook, it can be so angry, so hostile. And you start to say, “I don’t know what to believe; I don’t know who to believe! Should I side with him? Should I side with them?” Well here comes, in verse 16, a wise woman in this city.

She basically says, “I’m not picking sides! But I want to see this crisis averted.” Now it’s not to say that there aren’t right and wrong things to stand for or opposed, but everything is way out of proportion now. The conflict has escalated, and everybody’s going to get killed! And this woman of wisdom says, “It doesn’t need to be that way. Something needs to be done to avert this disaster.”

So, “A wise woman called from the city, ‘Listen! Listen! [She calls to the people outside the city—that’s Joab and his men.] Tell Joab, “Come here, that I may speak to you”’” (v. 16). She wants to speak to Joab. She knows that he’s the leader. He’s the one people are following, and she knows whatever he says, people will do.

If he says to stop the conflict, then it’s going to stop. “[So] he came near her” (v. 17). Why in the world did he listen to her? I don’t know—except there had to be something about her demeanor, something about her spirit, something about the way she spoke that was different than the way everybody else was yelling at everybody.

So here’s intense conflict, but here comes this . . . I picture her as just a quiet, little, wise woman. Maybe she yelled down from the wall, I don’t know. But there was something in her manner that was different. Maybe it’s the fact that she was a woman who dared to put herself up on the city wall with all these men battering down the wall. Maybe Joab saw her courage.

He saw something that made him willing to talk with this woman. When you stop screaming and yelling and you get together and you look at each other face to face and you start to talk—whether it’s in your marriage or in your church or between political parties, or whatever—progress can be made!

For sure, progress is not going to be made as long as people are just screaming and yelling at each other and battering down their walls. So, this “[wise] woman [says to him], ‘Are you Joab?’ He answered, ‘I am.’ Then she said to him, ‘Listen to the words of your servant.’ And he answered, ‘I am listening.’”

I mean, this is remarkable! This man is listening to this woman when he wouldn’t listen to anybody else! Then she said, verse 18: “They used to say in former times, ‘Let them but ask counsel at Abel,’ and so they settled a matter.” 

So she said, “This place has been the scene of some other conflicts being settled. It’s happened before. Maybe it could happen again.”

Verse 19: “I am one of those who are peaceable and faithful in Israel.”

Like, “I don’t hate you. I’m not your enemy.” Sometimes you might need to say that to a son or daughter, to a mate: “I don’t hate you! I’m not your enemy, and you’re not the enemy. Let’s talk. Let me use your name. Let me just say to you I’m a peaceable and faithful person.”

But here, “[You’re seeking] to destroy a city that is a mother in Israel. [There are families that live here, there are innocent people that are going to be destroyed in this carnage.] Why will you swallow up the heritage of the Lord?” (v. 19).

So she gets in his face. She’s bold, but she tells the truth. And she’s saying, “You’re trying to destroy this whole city? Why are you doing this?!” Well, of course Joab wasn’t trying to destroy the whole city. He just didn’t realize, “If I don’t stop the way I’m going about this, I’m going to end up destroying the whole city!”

So she asks questions and makes penetrating comments to make him stop and think about what he’s doing. And she proposes a solution that would keep the peace. She makes an appeal that is actually based on God’s Word and the law of God.

If you were to go back to Deuteronomy chapter 20 (which she and Joab would have been familiar with), there are laws of warfare. See, the laws of God are given for the good and the flourishing of His people. God’s not for people going out and just knocking each other’s heads off! 

So Deuteronomy 20:10 says, “When you draw near to a city to fight against it, offer terms of peace to it.” That was one of God’s laws! And so, in an oblique way, she’s referencing: “God has ways of doing this. Let’s do it God’s way, and let’s see if there could be a resolution that would be peaceable. Let’s see if we can do this without everybody getting killed!”

So the law was, when you lay siege to a city (which is what Joab had just done to the city of Abel), first offer peace. Now why was that? Because God was concerned for the inhabitants of the city, and He wanted His people to be concerned. God was compassionate, and He wanted His people to be compassionate. The goal is to preserve life, not take lives.

Here’s a wise woman who helps Joab to . . . It’s not that he didn’t know this. It’s just that in the heat of the moment, he’d forgotten what really mattered. She reasons with Joab from a godly and a wise perspective, and she helps him see things from a different point of view. She shows him that his strategy is going to have unintended consequences. 

She assumes, “This is not what you really want to do. You don’t really want to kill all the people in this city, do you?” Of course, that’s not what he was setting out to do. That’s just what was going to happen if he attacked Sheba the way he was going about it. He was just going too fast, and he was too angry, and he’s being impetuous and hot-headed. 

She’s saying, “Let’s just settle down a moment.” She exercises diplomacy; she uses honey instead of vinegar. We have some diplomacy going on with different countries in our world today. Sometimes it works better than others. This is not like just being all sweet and honey. She’s also direct and bold. It took a lot of courage for this woman to do this! And it works!

Verse 20: “Joab answered, ‘Far be it from me, far be it, that I should swallow up or destroy!’” He stops, he pauses. Sometimes in the heat of an argument, if everybody will just stop and tone it down! Tone down the incivility, tone down the rhetoric and just talk a little more calmly, people can realize, “I didn’t mean that! I wasn’t trying to kill this whole city!”

“Far be it from me . . . that I should swallow up or destroy! That is not true. [That’s not what I’m wanting to do.] But a man of the hill country of Ephraim, called Sheba the son of Bichri, has lifted up his hand against King David. Give up him alone, and I will withdraw from the city’” (vv. 20–21). Now, why didn’t Joab say that in the first place? Why did he start battering down the city walls?

We don’t know, but that’s sometimes what people do when they’re upset, when they’re angry. So here’s a woman of wisdom who says, “Let’s find another way to accomplish the goal and save the city.” 

“Then the woman [now here’s where it gets a little crazy] said to Joab, ‘Behold, his head shall be thrown to you over the wall.’ Then the woman went to all the people [the people in her city] in her wisdom” (v. 22).

I love this! She’s a wise woman. She’s trying to avert disaster for her people. Maybe she had a family who lived there and friends. She has wisdom. Even before this crisis she apparently was known by the people who lived with her and knew her best to be wise. They knew she was a woman of reason, a woman who was not hot-headed, but was clear-headed.

She must have been respected in that city; otherwise, why would they have listened to her? Remember, things are really tense now. There’s a lot of screaming and yelling and fighting going on. When this woman goes to maybe the city council, maybe the town elders, she speaks to the people. She speaks in her wisdom.

Wisdom is a heart attitude and a way of seeing that affects the way that we talk and the way that we make decisions. So her wisdom came from the inside. It expressed itself, and she goes to the people of the city. In her wisdom she says, “Look! If we give him Sheba, the city will be spared and all this hostility will stop and Joab will withdraw with his troops.”

And so (these are the parts of Scripture you don’t know how, sometimes, to teach to your five-year-old!), “They cut off the head of Sheba the son of Bichri and threw it out to Joab” (v. 22). Can I just say, “Don’t try this at home!”? (laughter) Extreme to be sure! 

But remember the big picture here. Again, this is not recommended under the era of grace in which we live. Sheba was a wicked and worthless man (we’ve already been told that). He had set out to oppose the man appointed by God to be king, and so in the end he received the justice he deserved. But also in the end, innocent lives were spared because of the wisdom of this woman.

“So he blew the trumpet, and they dispersed from the city, every man to his home. And Joab returned to Jerusalem to the king” (v. 22). Now that’s the end of this account, as we have it in Scripture, but I want to take the last few moments here to reflect some about this woman and her wisdom and how we can use that same kind of wisdom.

In the face of her wisdom Joab was slowed down, the standoff was defused, war was averted, and innocent lives on both sides were spared. Here’s a woman who was able to apply wisdom to real-life issues, real-life crises. Listen, wisdom isn’t just sitting in your study at home having your quiet time. That’s a great thing! Do it! Read your Bible, pray!

But wisdom gets used when you go out into the rough-and-tumble of everyday life and everything is going into flames around you. People are throwing grenades and barbs and there are lines being drawn, and there are tensions. It’s when you walk into your office or the place where you work or into your school or your classroom or your marriage or a conversation with your child. 

It’s when people are yelling and they’re shouting. That’s the tone today. It’s loud; it’s uncivil. It doesn’t matter whether you’re conservative or liberal or on whatever issues, people are screaming and yelling at each other. I just believe that some wise women could really make a difference! I think wise women could make a difference on the Internet, which is aflame most of the time.

But you have to be willing to step out into real-life circumstances and situations in the heat of the moment and exercise wisdom. Say the wise thing, take the wise course—in your family, in your workplace, in online issues. Here’s a woman who’s courageous. She risked her life to intervene, to intercede on behalf of her people.

There are lives around you that are going to be destroyed. There are marriages that are going to fall apart. There are churches that are going to be split. There are workplaces . . .There is civil war brewing in like everywhere in this country, in some senses. I’m not saying that the issues don’t matter or that they don’t need to be addressed, but they need to be addressed by clear-headed, wise men and women! 

You tend to think that whoever yells the loudest, whoever has the most force is going to win. Not necessarily. Maybe in the short run, but sometimes it’s the quiet wise voice of somebody who doesn’t have any forces, doesn’t have any force, doesn’t have any brute power, but has wisdom who actually wins the day. 

There were undoubtedly capable men in Abel, but here’s a woman who—for whatever reason—rose to the challenge. She used ingenuity; she used interpersonal relational skills. We need those in the middle of conflicts, don’t we? 

Some of you need this right now in your marriage. You need God to make you a wise woman to help defuse a situation that is about to blow up. How can you be wise? 

But here’s, also, a woman who wasn’t afraid to take drastic measures as needed. She’s a woman of wisdom and action and courage. And by the way, those are not just manly qualities; those are godly qualities.

At the same time, she encouraged the men to be men—to be true men—not just men blowing off each other’s heads. She wanted them to be wise as well. And so, you see the contrast between Joab and Sheba and these hot-headed men . . . and this wise women. That gives us insight for the crises we face.

I’ve been thinking about some verses in the Old Testament that illustrate the difference between these two kinds of people. Proverbs 16:32 says, “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” That applies here, doesn’t it? Here’s a woman who proved to be more powerful than either Joab or Sheba.

They could use their military might to knock down the walls of the city or to overthrow the government. But here, through her wisdom, this woman held off an army. War was averted and the city was spared! 

Proverbs 15:1: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Verse 18 of Proverbs 15: “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife [we’ve seen that a lot in this chapter!], but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.” It can be a man or a woman; that’s wisdom! 

Proverbs 14, verse 29: “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.”

Which are you, in the middle of conflicts? Are you of a hasty temper or are you slow to anger? By the way, you see a lot of that hasty temper—again, I’ve said it, but I’m going to keep saying it—on the Internet . . . online. People just dash off such angry comments—coming from Christians! Listen, “[Whoever] has a hasty temper exalts folly.”

Proverbs 18:6: “A fool's lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for [blows]” ([KJV).

Proverbs 29:22: “A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression.”

Ecclesiastes 10, verse 4: “If the ruler’s anger rises against you, don’t leave your post, for calmness puts great offenses to rest” (CSB). Isn’t that what we’ve just seen here?

Maybe the better part of wisdom in your marriage—or in your workplace or in that conflict in your church—is not to stand up and be one more of the yelling people. Maybe it’s to be one of the few calm people. It makes a difference. 

And then James 1:19: “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” 

Isn’t that the goal in every conflict, to see the righteousness of God prevail? It’s not “my way versus your way versus their way.” It’s not who wins, it’s not, “How do we get rid of this enemy?” It’s how do we exalt Christ? How do we get His righteousness and His wisdom to prevail? 

So . . . how can we become wise women?

Well, Scripture tells us that wisdom comes from God. Deliverance comes from the Lord, not from mighty armies. not from force, not from anger. Wisdom and deliverance come from the Lord. And let me just remind you that wisdom does not equal, necessarily, advanced education, schooling. You don’t have to have a PhD to be wise.

If you have a PhD, you may be wise, but you may not be. It doesn’t require genius. You could be brilliant but not be wise. It doesn’t even require superb natural gifts and abilities. Wisdom is a gift of the spirit; it’s a gift from the Lord that He sometimes gives to simple, weak people that you would not expect would be the ones God would use.

Wisdom is to be humble, it’s to be teachable, it’s to walk and live in the fear of the Lord. And then in James 3:14 . . . James has a lot to say about wisdom. We read that the wisdom that is not from above is that which is bitter and jealous and has selfish ambition. That’s not the wisdom that comes from above.

That kind of wisdom is “. . .earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice” (vv. 15–16). Isn’t that what we see so much around us today?

“But the wisdom from above”—God’s wisdom, the wisdom we want to have—“is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.”That’s the kind of wisdom we want to have! “And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (vv. 17–18). Peace, righteousness, and wisdom: they go together!

So this nameless (to us) wise woman of Abel proved, ultimately, to be a part of the grand plan and span of the redemption story, leading all the way through David to Christ—the Greater Son of David—and beyond! God uses wise women—and men—in significant ways in redemptive history.

If you’re facing a tense conflict, environment at work, in your home, in your church, don’t join sides. Ask God how He may want to use you to bring godly wisdom to bear in that situation.

Lord makes us wise women, I pray, for Your glory. Amen!

Leslie: That’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth sharing words of wisdom about how to be wise, from 2 Samuel chapter 20. 

The Bible has a lot to say about women who used their power—some of them wisely, and some of them foolishly. In fact, author and speaker Mary Kassian tells about a group of women in ancient Ephesus. These would have been considered wealthy and strong, yet the apostle Paul called them weak. It’s something Mary writes about in her new book, The Right Kind of Strong: Surprisingly Simple Habits of a Spiritually Strong Woman. 

The book is our thank-you gift to you here in August when you support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts with a donation of any amount. To give, just go to, or call us at 1–800–569–5959. When you contact us with your donation, be sure to ask for The Right Kind of Strong, and we’ll send you a copy. 

One area of life where we need lots of wisdom is when it comes to our relationships with others. Tomorrow, Kelly Needham will help us recognize counterfeit friendship and know what to do about it. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is pro-wisdom. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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About the Speaker

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 …

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