Yom Shishi, 27 Tammuz 5777 — יוֹם שִׁשִּׁי כז תַּמּוּז ה' תשעז Friday, 21 July 2017
Abigail — Model of Servanthood

INTRODUCTION:

Perhaps being a woman myself I have always enjoyed reading about the lives of famous women in the Scriptures.

• Of Ruth, the Moabite woman who became the grandmother of King David.

• Of Esther, whose boldness and bravery saved our people.

• Of Deborah, a true leader who was the judge of Israel for 40 years.

• And, of course, turning to the New Testament, we read of Miriam the mother of Y'shua and countless other woman of faith.

But somehow I managed to overlook another very special lady in the Scriptures. Her name is Abigail. And this evening I would like us to take a look at her life. Abigail was a woman of tremendous qualities and abilities. Perhaps in studying her life we can reflect upon our own lives and be challenged to be just a little more like her.

And guys. lest you fear that I may have prepared this message with only the female gender in mind, the life and quality traits of Abigail stretch not only beyond time and geography, but certainly across gender too. This account of Abigail is the account first and foremost of A Servant of the Lord.

READING OF PASSAGE: 1 Samuel 25

1 Now Samuel died, and all Israel assembled and mourned for him; and they buried him at his home in Ramah. Then David moved down into the Desert of Maon.

2 A certain man in Maon, who had property there at Carmel, was very wealthy. He had a thousand goats and three thousand sheep, which he was shearing in Carmel.

3 His name was Nabal and his wife's name was Abigail. She was an intelligent and beautiful woman, but her husband, a Calebite, was surly and mean in his dealings.

4 While David was in the desert, he heard that Nabal was shearing sheep.

5 So he sent ten young men and said to them, "Go up to Nabal at Carmel and greet him in my name.

6 Say to him: 'Long life to you! Good health to you and your household! And good health to all that is yours!

7 " 'Now I hear that it is sheep-shearing time. When your shepherds were with us, we did not mistreat them, and the whole time they were at Carmel nothing of theirs was missing.

8 Ask your own servants and they will tell you. Therefore be favorable toward my young men, since we come at a festive time. Please give your servants and your son David whatever you can find for them.' "

9 When David's men arrived, they gave Nabal this message in David's name. Then they waited.

10 Nabal answered David's servants, "Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days.

11 Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where?"

12 David's men turned around and went back. When they arrived, they reported every word.

13 David said to his men, "Put on your swords!" So they put on their swords, and David put on his. About four hundred men went up with David, while two hundred stayed with the supplies.

14 One of the servants told Nabal's wife Abigail: "David sent messengers from the desert to give our master his greetings, but he hurled insults at them.

15 Yet these men were very good to us. They did not mistreat us, and the whole time we were out in the fields near them nothing was missing.

16 Night and day they were a wall around us all the time we were herding our sheep near them.

17 Now think it over and see what you can do, because disaster is hanging over our master and his whole household. He is such a wicked man that no one can talk to him."

18 Abigail lost no time. She took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five seahs of roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins and two hundred cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys.

19 Then she told her servants, "Go on ahead; I'll follow you." But she did not tell her husband Nabal.

20 As she came riding her donkey into a mountain ravine, there were David and his men descending toward her, and she met them.

21 David had just said, "It's been useless-all my watching over this fellow's property in the desert so that nothing of his was missing. He has paid me back evil for good.

22 May God deal with David, be it ever so severely, if by morning I leave alive one male of all who belong to him!"

23 When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed down before David with her face to the ground. 24 She fell at his feet and said: "My lord, let the blame be on me alone. Please let your servant speak to you; hear what your servant has to say.

25 May my lord pay no attention to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name-his name is Fool, and folly goes with him. But as for me, your servant, I did not see the men my master sent.

26 "Now since the LORD has kept you, my master, from bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hands, as surely as the LORD lives and as you live, may your enemies and all who intend to harm my master be like Nabal.

27 And let this gift, which your servant has brought to my master, be given to the men who follow you.

28 Please forgive your servant's offense, for the LORD will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my master, because he fights the LORD's battles. Let no wrongdoing be found in you as long as you live.

29 Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my master will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the LORD your God. But the lives of your enemies he will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling.

30 When the LORD has done for my master every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him leader over Israel,

31 my master will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself. And when the LORD has brought my master success, remember your servant."

32 David said to Abigail, "Praise be to the LORD , the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me.

33 May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands.

34 Otherwise, as surely as the LORD , the God of Israel, lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak."

35 Then David accepted from her hand what she had brought him and said, "Go home in peace. I have heard your words and granted your request."

36 When Abigail went to Nabal, he was in the house holding a banquet like that of a king. He was in high spirits and very drunk. So she told him nothing until daybreak.

37 Then in the morning, when Nabal was sober, his wife told him all these things, and his heart failed him and he became like a stone.

38 About ten days later, the LORD struck Nabal and he died.

39 When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, "Praise be to the LORD , who has upheld my cause against Nabal for treating me with contempt. He has kept his servant from doing wrong and has brought Nabal's wrongdoing down on his own head." Then David sent word to Abigail, asking her to become his wife.

40 His servants went to Carmel and said to Abigail, "David has sent us to you to take you to become his wife."

41 She bowed down with her face to the ground and said, "Here is your maidservant, ready to serve you and wash the feet of my master's servants."

42 Abigail quickly got on a donkey and, attended by her five maids, went with David's messengers and became his wife. 43 David had also married Ahinoam of Jezreel, and they both were his wives. 44 But Saul had given his daughter Michal, David's wife, to Paltiel son of Laish, who was from Gallim.

BRIEF HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

• Samuel the spiritual leader of Israel has just died.

• Saul is still king over Israel. But God's favor has departed from him and

• God has anointed David to be the future King of Israel

• But Saul in his anger and jealously against David has spent almost 15 years hunting down David in an attempt to kill him.

• So David is essentially on the run

• And this chapter we have just read takes place in the midst of David's flight from Saul. He is desperate and in need of Nabals' help.

• David and his men are hungry and are asking for the basics. They ask Nabal to please give them "whatever he can find."

• And of course Nabal is cruel and heartless and says, "No way!"

• In fact Nabal's true character comes out in his response to David's messengers when Nabal uses the words "my" and "I" a total of eight times in one sentence. The MT reads:

"Shall I then take my bread, and my water and my flesh that I have killed for my shearers, and should I give it unto men, whom I know not whence they be?"

Unbelievable!

What characterized Nabal was a life focused on no one else but himself. He was a me, myself and I kind of guy. It was all about him. His food, his needs, his life. Nabal was truly self-seeking and self-centered.

And not only was he going to suffer the consequences of those actions but his entire household was at risk of being killed.

But into the picture steps Abigail, the total opposite of her selfish husband, Nabal. Abigail, as we are about to see is characterized as totally selfless and completely other centered.

Let's systematically take a look at her character traits:

QUALITIES OF ABIGAIL

1. Abigail was beautiful and intelligent
Verse 3 describes Abigail as both intelligent and beautiful. The Hebrew word used here for intelligent literally meant someone of good understanding. The same Hebrew word is used in Psalm 111:10:

" The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise."

2. Abigail was approachable.
Part of Abigail's sense of good understanding was the fact that she was approachable. This was in contrast to Nabal who was not approachable at all. Not only David's servants unable to approach him but Nabal's own servants were so terrified of him that even in this life and death situation they feared approaching him and instead went straight to Abigail. In justifying why he had come to her instead of Nabal, the servant explains:

"Now think it over and see what you can do, because disaster is hanging over our master and his whole household. He is such a wicked man that no one can talk to him."

3. Abigail was assertive
How did Abigail respond to this servant's plea? The text says, "She lost NO TIME" Now while some of us might suffer from procrastination this was not Abigail's problem. She acted at the speed of lightning. She understood that the life of her entire household was at stake and she needed to act with haste.

4. Abigail was prepared
In speaking of being ready to always share the gospel scripture says to "be ready in reason and out of season." But this principle applies to every aspect of our lives doesn't it? We are to be ready at all times, both in season and out of season for every situation life throws at us. And that was Abigail. She was ready. Her storehouse was definitely well stocked and ready for a rainy day.

I couldn't help but think of what Abigail might have thought of those of us who were scrabbling around the day before last week's snowstorm. I went to the grocery store to get some supplies and the place was a mad house. I have never seen so many people in Stop and Shop. People were grabbing things off the shelves like crazy, including last minute snow supplies. It was insane. Now I know with confidence that Abigail would not have been there. This woman was prepared. Her pantry was well stocked.

5. Abigail was also generous
We also see that not only was Abigail prepared but she had abundance, and she was more than willing to give away what she had. Take a look at what she took along for David and his men:

• two hundred loaves of bread

• two skins of wine

• five dressed sheep

• five seahs of roasted grain

• a hundred cakes of raisins and

• two hundred cakes of pressed figs

Now how is that in contrast to her stingy, scrooge like husband Nabal? He was not even willing to give away the basic necessities of bread and water.

It's actually hard to wrap ones mind around these quantities that Abigail took. Now I think I can wrap my mind around 200 loaves of bread and 5 prepared sheep.

But 2 skins of wine? Well a skin of wine is roughly 10 gallons. So we are talking about 20 gallons of wine!

5 seahs of grain? A seah is about 37 liters.

And then a hundred raisin cakes and 200 fig cakes. According to one commentator "Cakes of raisins" and "cakes of pressed figs" were especially prized, not only for their sweetness and nutritive value, but also because they could be kept for some time without spoiling.

That was a ton of food! No wonder Abigail tells her servants to go on ahead of her while she saddles her donkeys and makes her way to David with this heavy load ........

6. Courageous
And what must she have thought when she finally neared David and his army. There they were approaching her ready for a battle, riding on their horses in full force, 400 men strong with swords in hand. As we see in verse 20:

"As she came riding her donkey into a mountain ravine, there were David and his men descending toward her, and she met them."

I don't know about you but I would have been absolutely terrified! But not Abigail. What a contrast we have here. David descending upon her with horses ready for a battle and ........ little ol Abigail riding along rather slowly with her jam-packed donkeys following. This was one courageous woman! ..........

7. Shows reverence and respect
And how does she respond to David? With reverence and respect.

Abigail was a woman of high esteem. She was the wife of a very wealthy man and yet she quickly got off of her donkey and bowed low before David with her face to the ground. And then she falls to her feet and pleats for David's mercy ......

8. Takes the blame
But more than pleading for mercy Abigail actually apologizes to David and takes the blame. Now that's rather big of her don't you think? After all she had nothing to do with Nabal's selfish refusal to help David out.

I have to be honest with you and say that I know full well how I would have responded. I mean I find it hard to even accept the blame of something that is my fault, let alone take the hit for something I am totally innocent of. But not Abigail. She says "My Lord let the blame be on me alone." ......

9. Rousing speech of diplomacy
And by this point Abigail has certainly captured David's attention and he allows her to speak. And in verses 26-31 we see a heartwarming and compelling speech. This speech could no doubt serve as a lesson on diplomacy for our American presidential candidates.

What a winsome and persuasive speaker Abigail was. Says one commentator:

"Abigail's speech is a masterpiece of rhetoric, appealing not only to reason and the emotions, but also to her own credibility"

No wonder she is called a woman of intellect.

There we have it. Abigail, the servant of the Lord who was

Intelligent and beautiful

Approachable and assertive

Prepared in season and out of season

Generous

Courageous

Reverend and respectful towards David

• Willing to take the blame fully

• And a diplomatic and winsome speaker

When you put all these qualities together its hard not to think of the woman of noble character described by Solomon in Proverbs 31.

BENEFITS OF ABIGAIL'S ACTIONS?

That was Abigail. A woman of remarkable character.

And we ask ourselves what were the benefits of Abigail's actions?

Well very briefly:

1.) Her household was spared. That day they would have all been wiped out. Abigail saved their lives.

2.) David was spared from committing murder that day. To quote David's words to Abigail:

"Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands."

And though it's only my speculation I believe David was not only spared from killing Nabal and his household that day but he is also spared from murdering Saul in the very next chapter. I find it interesting that this story of Nabal is couched right between 2 passages where David has the opportunity to kill Saul and he refrains from doing it. I believe Abigail's master crafted words must have run through David mind as he stood right next to Saul who was fast asleep with a spear right beside him. What a soft target and yet David refrains.

3.) And thirdly not only is Abigail's household spared and not only is David spared from committing murder but Abigail herself is spared from a horrible marriage. Nabal dies of a heart attack and so Abigail becomes the wife of the future King of Israel. (I am not sure who benefited more from this marriage. But something tells me David did well to marry Abigail. )

APPLICATION

Sounds like quite the love story. But I think there is a little more to this story than just a story book romance. What are we to learn from Abigail's life, you think? Well I believe Abigail was a woman of character. And I believe that is what God is looking for in each of us. He is looking for believers of true character.

And what characterized Abigail's life more than anything else was the fact that she was servant hearted.

And in reflecting on this wonderful trait of Abigail's;my mind flashed back to this past weekend's snowstorm. Just yesterday someone was telling me of her daughters wedding which was last Saturday. Can you believe getting married in that snowstorm! But my heart was warmed when she told of how she came back home after that long exhausting day to find her neighbors shoveling her huge drive way all by hand. And I had to wonder for a moment if I had been her neighbor if I would have done that? I wish I could say a convincing yes, but I must be honest I had to think twice as to what I would have done in that situation. - - - -

But I do know what servant-hearted Abigail would have done. Even when David sends his servants to Abigail to ask her if she would be willing to marry David -- her response is admirable. Take a look at vs 41

Vs 41: She bowed down with her face to the ground and said, "Here is your maidservant, ready to serve you and wash the feet of my master's servants."

Since foot-washing back then was normally a self-administered act Abigail demonstrates her joyful willingness to be servant hearted even towards David's servants. Quite something.

But what is servanthood?

• Well I believe servanthood starts with humility. To hold others in a higher esteem than we hold ourselves.

• And secondly we need to treat others not in accordance with how they deserve to be treated but serve them as unto the Lord. To love people through the Lord's lens.

And in trying to understand better what servanthood really is we can certainly turn to to our Savior Y'shua, whose whole life defined servanthood. From the very beginning, to the end of his life, Y'shua exemplified was devoted to serving others.

And of course Y'shua taught us what servanthood is in that well known account where he demonstrated true servanthood by washing his disciples feet. Reading from John 13:

After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand." "No," said Peter, "you shall never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me." "Then, Lord," Simon Peter replied, "not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!" Jesus answered, "A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you." For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" he asked them. "You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (John 13:5-17)

What a challenging passage! How the King of all kings and Lord of all lords who most certainly had every right to be served did the very opposite, he came to serve us.

AND the ultimate may he came to serve you and I was to die on the cross for us. He gave up his life, he laid down his life for us.

Scripture says "Even as the son of man did not come to be served but to serve and to give himself as a ransom for many."

Friends, servanthood is a high calling, but, may God grant you and I the strength and resolve to walk in the footsteps of not only Abigail but far more so to follow in the footsteps of our Savior who said to his disciples:

Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Let's pray:

Scripture calls us to "bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance" (Matt 3:8)

And what is that fruit? Well Gal 5:22 reminds us that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;

9 For this reason also, since the day we heard [of it], we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,

10 so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please [Him] in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;