Abigail: From the House of a Fool
to the Heart of a King

Christian women are not exempt from marital difficulties. We need restored faith in a God that can work in the most stubborn of hearts and difficult situations!

So once again, I'm featuring articles from my series "Six Women in the Bible with Challenging Marriages". Over the next few weeks, we'll draw insight and encouragement from the lives of Leah, Sarah, Abigail, Hannah, the Shunammite and Hagar--extraordinary women who trusted God in marriages from taxing to troublesome to terrible!

Are you living with a difficult, often mean man? So did Abigail. But regardless of how bad he was, she wouldn't let him steal her beauty or sanity.

Abigail was married to a fool. Even his name, Nabal, means "foolish, wicked, vile, and impious"--and he was all of these! The Bible records that his household servants considered him to be a "son of Belial" (the devil) and no one could reason with him. (I Samuel 25:17)

More than likely this was an arranged marriage from Abigail's childhood. Nabal was a very wealthy shepherd who lived in Maon, a town in the hill country of Judea surrounded by desert. (1 Samuel 25:2)

After describing Nabal, the Bible writer makes sure to record that Abigail was beautiful and wise (1 Samuel 25:3). One would think that after years of being the object of Nabal's misery, she would show signs of wear and tear. I'm not referring to make-up or fashion, but the graying face, the forgotten smile, and the eyes that no longer twinkle with laughter.

Yet, Abigail was known for both her beauty and her mind! In fact, her name means, "source of joy". Nabal was NOT her source for happiness. Outward conditions did not define her. An abiding joy came from within...a place so secret and sacred no man could enter.

The Bible says we are "saved by grace through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God." (Ephesians 2:8). Being saved from the nature to sin is just the beginning of our salvation experience; we need to be saved daily from all sorts of things and in the same way--by grace through faith. It does not come through the strength of our own resolve to survive a tough situation. It is a gift from God.

This divine grace is called "sufficient" in 2 Corinthians 12:9. The Greek is arkeo, and it means, "able to raise a barrier, ward off; avail". It also implies, "satisfactory, enough." In this definition we see that grace carries the enabling force of the Holy Spirit--bearing down, into, and around our lives.

Since Abigail could not isolate herself from Nabal, perhaps she tapped into a supernatural grace that insulated her, and that became the barrier she needed against Nabal's cruelty. This same grace is now abounding much more to us through the new and living way of Jesus Christ, and is exceeding abundantly above anything we can ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).

David, on the run from King Saul, hid out in the desert. Wherever he and his men camped, the local residents were well protected against marauding bands. In return, the men were freely compensated at harvest and shearing time.

After lodging outside of Moan for a season, David sent a delegation to Carmel to greet Nabal where he was shearing his sheep. They reminded him that during this time, no sheep were lost. Therefore, they asked to share in a portion of his good fortune. (1 Samuel 25:4-8)

Nabal was insulted. The Biblical account uses the phrase "railed against them", which in our modern vernacular means: "he flew all over them"! Nabal asks, "Who is David? Who is the son of Jesse?"  It was not a question of ignorance, but insult.

Next, Nabal went on a sarcastic tirade about "men who break away from their masters"...an obvious reference to David and King Saul's prior relationship. He also implied that he was not sure if the men who stood before him were truly of David's camp or just self-seeking rogues.

But these were mere excuses. The greedy man gave himself away with his final statement: "Shall I then take my bread, and my water, and my meat that I have killed for my shearers…" (This was quite an unusual statement for a man whose culture prized hospitality!)

Living with a judgmental man who has no respect for others is disheartening, particularly if having a form of religion serves his selfish purposes. (Nabal was from the lineage of Caleb, a mighty man of God.)

The Church is full of "Nabals". They may regularly attend services, but are motivated simply to promote their reputation in the business world. Many are on committees because of their wealth, not their character. They are like Jekylls and Hydes--charming in public, but cantankerous at home!

Their Abigails get earfuls of criticism on the way home, as the sermon is picked apart and the pastor is the main entrée for lunch. They usually mock preachers on TV and their mannerisms. It is nothing for them to place a cynical judgment on someone moving in the gifts of the Holy Spirit or laugh at a soul at the altar encountering God in a dramatic way.

David was enraged over Nabal's refusal to feed his troops, and readied his men to attack. However, a servant in Abigail's household learned of David's intentions and warned her that the entire family was in danger, as he had heard that orders were not to leave any man alive, while women were to be taken as spoils of war.

We pick up the dramatic intervention in 1 Samuel 25:18. Abigail wasted no time. She orchestrated the preparation of an enormous amount of food and the donkeys to carry them. Cleverly keeping her plans from Nabal, she sent the servants on ahead.

She rode fast, taking a short cut in order to run directly into David. His men quickly surrounded her. Undaunted, Abigail dismounted, bowed her face to the ground, and fell at David's feet.

What she said astounded the seasoned warrior and all of his men! Abigail pled for the punishment of what Nabal had done to fall upon her and her alone, not upon him or his household. Abigail's courage checked David's anger, and mercy and compassion prevailed.

Amazing! Abigail should have grabbed her goods and servants and headed for the high hills, leaving Nabal to eat the fruit of his own ways. Why do we find this woman putting her own life at risk for that abusive scoundrel? Was she out of her mind?

What Abigail did was one of the highest and most sacrificial forms of prayer called intercession. It's when you're not only willing to represent someone before God for a blessing, but you're also willing to unflinchingly stand in the gap against destruction.That's what Jesus did at the Cross. He represented us before the Father and placed Himself between us and the forces of darkness.

We are reminded that the "natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:14).

Their understanding is darkened by sin. Iniquity has them twisted and under its control. But God loves them, and desires that none should perish. "Wherefore He is also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them." (Hebrews 7:25)

That verse is better translated from the Greek as, "makes intercession available for them".

In other words, Jesus readily makes available to us His finished work on the Cross as we come before Heaven on someone's behalf. Think of the word "intersect" and you'll get the idea. A person is traveling one way, but then they cross paths with you, like Abigail did with David. The word also means "meeting".

You are the intersecting point for God's blessing to come to earth. Conversely, you can also be the stop sign against the oncoming hell.

You've probably heard the phrase "standing in the gap" for someone. It was an ancient military term. Most fortified towns had two walls with a small gap in between. When threatened with attack, the bravest warriors would go down into that imposing area and stand ready to face the enemy if the outer wall were to fall.

Just praying for someone's needs is not necessarily intercession. True intercession takes on a sacrificial nature of one willing to stand FOR the blessing and AGAINST the curse.

Maybe you've sat by the bedside of a very sick child and in your panicked distress, asked God to place the disease on you and let the child go free. This is exactly what Abigail was asking. She wanted to be punished on behalf of Nabal's offense.

Today, however, the good news is that Christ already willingly took the place of every sick and sinful man, woman, and child. He bore all of our pains, sicknesses and sorrows; Jesus was thoroughly bruised for the iniquities of the whole world.

Therefore, when we stand in the gap today, we literally stand clothed in Christ and upon His finished work of intercession. We ask that what Jesus already took upon Himself for that person will be released under the power of the Holy Spirit to become a reality in his or her life!

One of my favorite examples of intercession involves Aaron and his censer, which the Bible records in Numbers 16:41-50. It ties right in with Abigail's story.

The children of Israel were running their mouths again against Moses and Aaron, accusing them of killing people. (Those who died had been unrepentant, and willingly chose wickedness in the face of God and its consequences.)

The congregation's invectives activated a plague that began to spread among the camp. God has warned Moses and Aaron to get out, but instead they stayed in the thick of things to help the very people that had spoken against them.

Moses instructed Aaron to take a censer, fill it with fire from the altar and with holy incense, then go quickly into the congregation and make Atonement (intercession) available for them. Verse 47 says he RAN into the congregation (that's the heart of a true intercessor).

"And he (Aaron) stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed (stopped)." Verse 48

Abigails and Aarons look beyond the malicious people responsible for the immediate problem. They see the threat to households and even future generations, and are jealous for God and His goodness to triumph.*

Abigail's appeal is recorded in 1 Samuel 25: 24-31. Notice that the substance of her appeal was not about Nabal's wickedness, but David's honor. She affirmed his goodness and coming kingdom. What do you focus on in intercession? The bad person you're praying for or a good God?

Abraham's focus in his bold intercession for Sodom and Gomorrah was how many righteous souls could be found, not how many sinners were there (Gen. 18:16-33).

Notice than Abigail sent gifts ahead of her intercession. What gifts delight the Lord? Our praise and gratitude, and a heart full of "no strings attached" worship that precedes our petitions. It also speaks of faith, as reciprocal hospitality was a very important part of Middle Eastern culture. If you came with pleasing gifts for your host, you would leave with gifts! Abigail was loaded down!

David was profoundly moved by Abigail's brave appeal for her household. The attack was canceled. "So David received of her hand that which she had brought him, and said unto her, 'Go in peace to thine house: see, I have hearkened to thy voice, and have accepted thy person (or your intercession)" 1 Samuel 25:35

When Abigail arrived home, Nabal was throwing a great feast and was very drunk. She held her peace until the next morning. When she told him what she had done, Nabal had a heart attack and died ten days later.

Oh, let's not forget. Abigail's last words to David were "…but when the Lord shall have dealt well with my lord, then remember thine handmaid" (1 Samuel 25:31). In other words, "I don't know how the Lord is going to work this out with Nabal, but when He does please, remember me."

God dealt with the fool, for sure. And the future king remembered his promise.  As soon as David got word of Nabal's death, he sent messengers to fetch the beautiful and wise woman as his bride. The Bible says she rose immediately, packed a few things, and she and five damsels headed towards a joyous wedding feast.

I don't know what God is going to do in your situation. No woman should stay in a marriage where she is battered physically or verbally; no woman should be victimized or forced to participate in her husband's illegal or immoral behaviors.

It is perfectly acceptable for a Christian woman to temporarily separate from her husband for safety and sanity while intervention and counseling is attempted.

But each of us is given free will. Paul's excellent advice in 1 Corinthians 7 is comforting in that "…but if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God has called us to peace." (Verse 15).

Abigail stood in the gap and made herself the intersection from which God could work in Nabal's life. As hard as it was, she relied upon grace to help her keep that path unclogged from bitterness. In a desperate time, she chose blessing rather than cursing. Her heart was clear before God.

I don't know how God is going to deal with your Nabal. That man may choose to take advantage of the mercy that flows from God through your intercessory covering, or he may openly defy it. He may  have a change of heart tomorrow or next year or never. He may depart or you may have to separate. It may be temporary or permanent. But through it all, God grants you His peace.

In the meantime, let God preserve you, beautiful lady. The Hebrew children were thrown bound and fully clothed into a fiery furnace (Daniel 3:1-30). Maybe you feel that way about your marriage: you're bound and in a fire that's getting hotter with the passing of time.

But don't think help is to only be found one day outside the furnace. Look around, and you will see that Somebody else is in it with you. In fact, He got there ahead of you.
King Nebuchadnezzar peered into the furnace, expecting to see devastation. Instead, he saw the Son of Man (Jesus) and the three men freely walking around in the fire without being consumed.

When they were called out from the furnace, not a hair on their heads were singed, "neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them" (Daniel 3:27). The king acknowledged before all that the fire had NO POWER over these men!

You are fully clothed in Christ. He is with you and if you so allow, He will loose you IN the fire before you walk OUT of the fire! The one who put you there will be amazed because you are walking unbound and are not consumed.

The day you finally step out, you will be a living testimony that the fire of man had no power over you. You will not live the rest of your life scarred. You will come forth without a singe, a burn, or even the lingering smell of where you've been. People will marvel at your beauty and wisdom.

Abigail, be encouraged! Man cannot hold you hopelessly captive if Christ has first captured your heart.

* After her marriage to David, Abigail gave birth to a son, Daniel, meaning  "God is my judge". Truly, Abigail allowed God to be her protector, sustainer, and vindicator.

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