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1 Samuel 25:1-27:12
Key Verse: 26:9

We thank God that he disciplines those whom he loves. Thank God for his training for David for his great purpose that he might be moulded into a man who knows God’s heart, depends on him wholly and truly fears God, and so he might serve God’s purpose in his generation. His external circumstances consisted of desert, cave and stronghold, in which he could not help calling out to God and be deepened in his trust in God’s unfailing love. In today’s passage God further trains David.

First, God helps David through Abigail (25). In 25:1 “Now Samuel died, and all Israel assembled and mourned for him; and they buried him at his home in Raman.” The death of Samuel, the last of the judges, brought Israel to end of an ear. Samuel was a servant of God’s word and prayer for Israel. The LORD revealed himself to Samuel through his word, and Samuel’s word came to all Israel. He prayed for his people until he could say to them, “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you” (12:31). He engaged in prophets’ disciples-raising throughout his life. And he was a good shepherd for Saul and David. His life was truly beautiful, influential, and blameless. At his death all Israel assembled and mourned for him. Nonetheless, his burial was like that of an ordinary man, being buried at his home in Ramah.

On hearing of Samuel’s death David’s heart must have gone to him. However, nothing is written about what David could do for Samuel at that time because of his own life situation. Surely, David could not do what he wanted to do. Verse 1b says, “Then David moved down into the Desert of Maon.”

Then what happened there? In the desert of Moan David was involved in Nabal and his wife Abigail at Carmel. Carmel was located about 11 kilometer south of Hebron and 1.5 kilometer north of Maon. This was the same spot where Saul erected a monument in his own honour (15:12). Nabal was a descendant of Caleb and lived in Caleb’s tribal holdings (Josh. 14:13; 15:13), but did not possess the spiritual qualities of his illustrious forefather. Nabal was a wealthy fool; Abigail was an intelligent and beautiful woman. In the desert David and his men protected Nabal’s servants and their flock of sheep like a wall around them night and day. David’s men did not mistreat them at all although they were like nomads with no shelter and no regular food. While David’s men were there, nothing of Nabal’s shepherds was missing. So at a festive time David sent ten young men in his name to Nabal to get anything available for their survival in the desert. He may have done this that they might collect the rightful compensation for the good they had done to Nabal and his men.

But 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. 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?” (10-11) Here we see Nabal, “Fool”, was an appropriate name for him in view of his foolish behaviour. He showed his senselessness to discern David, who truly David was. He did not seem to know what was going on around him, not to mention what God was doing at that time. What he could see was only many servants breaking away from their masters. In short he was living in his self-centred world, concerned only with his own, saying, “…my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers.” It was unthinkable for him to give his belongings to others, especially those from whom he had received much benefit. We are reminded of Jesus’ parable of the rich fool. At the time of producing a good crop what he could think of was, “I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my good.” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you.” (Lk 12:18-21).

David’s men returned and reported every word. Then David and his four hundred men armed with their swords were coming to deal with Nabal and destroy his whole household. Meanwhile one of Nabal’s servants told Abigail that David’s men were very good to them while they were herding their sheep, and really helped them, protecting them like a fortress wall enclosing a city which was total security to them, but Nabal hurled insults to David’s messengers, and as a result disaster was coming. And the servant advised Abigail to do something to prevent this disaster, since Nabal was a wicked man that no one could talk to him.

At this Abigail lost no time. We will see how she prepared and what she did to appease David’s seemingly justifiable/rightful anger and vengeful spirit. She first prepared a gift and sent it ahead to him. In coming to meet David, she took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five seahs (37 liters) of roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins and two hundred cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys. Abigail knew that David needed these things for his men, and that that had been why he had sent his messengers to Nabal. Later when she met David, she said, “Let this gift, which your servant has brought to my master, be given to the men who follow you” (27). A timely and necessary gift works well. Proverbs 8:16 says, “A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great”, and 21:14, “A gift given in secret soothes anger, and a bribe concealed in the cloak pacifies great wrath.” When she met David in a mountain ravine, David had determined not to leave alive even one male of all who belonged to Nabal for having paid him back evil for good. In speaking to David, she first indicated that she was ready to take the blame upon herself, saying, “My Lord, let the blame be on me alone.” Then in her long apology she reminded David, her master, that the LORD had kept him from bloodshed and from avenging himself with his own hands. Offering the gift, she said, “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.” Unlike her husband Nabal, she knew who David was and what God was doing at that time and what he would do. In other words she had keen insight to see David who fought the LORD’s battles while all others kings had fought human battles, and to see David’s future kingdom which would be established by the LORD. She could see beyond herself, understanding the time from God’s viewpoint. And then she said, “Let no wrongdoing be found in you as long as you live”, and she assured David that his life would be secured in any situation by the Lord his God, while God would fling his enemies away like a stone in a sling.

Then she said in verses 31, 32, “When the LORD has done for my master every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him leader over Israel, my master will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself.” Here we see that Abigail’s consideration of David was deep and very persuasive. She thought of the time when David’s kingdom would be firmly established in God’s good will. In such a beautiful and peaceful kingdom, the king David himself should not have any guilty feeling on his conscience for whatsoever, even over needless bloodshed like killing a Nabal-like person, who was seemingly worthless to all. Any bloodshed or avenging himself for any matter would be staggering burden on the king’s conscience, and she did not want such a thing to happen in David’s heart and life. People might think killing a Nabal was okay, but his conscience would not be completely free from it. One can cheat others, but not his or her own conscience. Even such a smallest fault would be a needless mar on David’s life and kingdom. Her appeal was truthful and insightful for David’s future life and kingdom. Even David himself had not been able to see this, but she saw it and brought it out. Finally she said, “And when the LORD has brought my master success, remember your servant.”

At this David said 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.” David was humble enough to listen a woman Abigail’s good and timely advice. David recognized that God sent her to him at the right time so that he might be protected from needless bloodshed and from avenging himself. David admitted that even needless bloodshed would be bloodshed and avenging himself with his hands even toward Nabal was also a personal vengeance in anger, which were doing wrong before God. Later on when Nabal’s heart failed him after hearing all things from his wife Abigail and ten days later, the LORD struck Nabal to death, David confessed that the LORD has kept his servant from doing wrong (39). In the end David did not let needless blood shed or avenge himself with his own hands, but God dealt with the matter. In this way David’s heart and his future life and kingdom was protected from even the slightest stain, which might not have been considered a problem in people’s eyes, but would have been a blemish on his conscience before God. David must have learned the importance of how to deal with Nabal kind of person as well as with Saul kind of person, the LORD’s anointed. Both were related to fearing God.

It is an amazing grace that in Christ Jesus our conscience has been cleansed by his blood. Whenever we come to him with a sincere heart for any sin we commit, our Lord and Savior Jesus who shed his blood on the cross for our sins cleanses our consciences. Now because of this grace we are living a new life forming new life records. Then it will be good decision that I should not avenge myself at any reason toward any person. God wants us to show respect not only toward the LORD’s anointed and those who are due our respect but also those whom we think we can handle easily under our control. The Lord Jesus does not want us to have any stain or blot whether in word or act in our new life and our own new kingdom in Christ Jesus. So Paul said in Ephesians 5:2, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity.” He also said, “Be completely humble and gentle” (Eph 4:2). Even in order not be a burden to others in any situation, Paul worked night and day, labouring and toiling (2 Thess 3:8). We remember Samuel’s farewell speech, “Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these, I will make it right.” In 1 Timothy Paul said about the qualification of being oversees and deacons that “the overseer must be above reproach (3:2), and he must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap” (3:8), and Deacons must keep hold of the deep truths of faith with a clear conscience” (3:9) As we studied in 2 Peter, Peter said in 3:14, “So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.” May we also live such a life with a clear a direction not to have on our conscience any staggering burden whatsoever in Christ Jesus, as we strive to be rooted and built up in Christ.

When Nabal died, Abigail became David’s wife. David had also married Ahinoam, and they both were his wives. The Bible does not condemn David for this. Yet, throughout the Bible the crystal clear teaching of marriage is one wife and one husband for a clear mission to God’s glory. Jesus confirmed the truth saying, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh” (Mt 19:5; Mk 10:7-8).

Second. David honoured the LORD’s anointed again (26, 27). Now the story goes back to Saul and David. The Ziphites went to Saul at Gibeah and said, “Is not David hiding on the hill of Hakilah, which faces Jeshimon?” So Saul went down to the Desert of Ziph, with his three thousand chosen men of Israel, to search there for David. We see that Saul’s heart changed again after being moved by David’s resistance of the opportunity to kill him, permitting himself only to cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. He again was pursuing David with his three thousand chosen men in his murderous spirit.

Saul made his camp beside the road on the hill of Hakilah facing Jeshimon, but David stayed in the desert. After learning that Saul had definitely arrived, David set out and went to the place where Saul had camped. He saw where Saul and Abner son of Ner, the commander of the army, had lain down. Saul was lying inside the camp, with the army encamped around him. Then David and Abishai went to the army by night, and there was Saul, lying asleep inside the camp with his spear stuck in the ground near his head. Abner and soldiers were lying around him. Abishai said to David, “Today God has delivered your enemy into your hands. Now let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of my spear; I won’t strike him twice.” What a temptation! David had already saved Saul’s life one time. But soon after, Saul was desperate again to kill him. If David missed this chance, who might know he would be killed by Saul. So Abishai did not want to lose this probably last opportunity. David seemed to have enough reason to rationalize the situation. It seemed that David endured enough and waited too long. It would be a common sense in that situation to let Abishai strike Saul with just one thrust of his spear as he had said.

But how did David respond? David said to Abishai, “Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed and be guiltless? As surely as the LORD lives, the LORD himself will strike him; either his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. But the LORD forbid that I should lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed.” David clearly knew what the LORD has forbidden him to do. He had said in 24:6, “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the LORD.” We remember that in the Garden of Eden God allowed men to do everything but forbade one thing, saying, “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Ge 2:17). It is the matter of honouring God as God. David truly honour God as God by not laying his hand on the LORD’s anointed, even two times. It implies that he honoured and respected God as God to the end.

David did not harm Saul at all but just took the spear and water jug near Saul’s head, and they left. Spear and jug, like the corner of Saul’s robe (24:4), these were taken as proof that David had Saul’s life in his hand (cf. v. 16). When David took Saul’s spear and water jug, no one saw or knew about it, nor did anyone wake up. They were all sleeping, because the LORD had put them into a deep sleep. This shows that the LORD was in complete control to protect David, even making three thousand soldiers sleeping and so powerless to do anything to David who was right there passing through them.

Then David crossed over to the other side from Saul with a wide space between them. When Saul recognized David’s voice, David defended himself again with a disappointment at Saul’s attitude, saying, “Why is my lord pursuing his servant? What have I done, and what wrong am I guilty of?...The king of Israel has come out to look for a flea—as one hunts a partridge in the mountains.” The flea represents something that was worthless and the partridge something that was impossible to catch. This expression is very interesting. We know that David was so precious in God’s sight. But since to Saul David was just an object of his pursuit, in that sense he was worthless like a flea. So Saul was pursuing a worthless one, not pursuing like the general of an enemy’s army. Yet because of God’s protection, Saul’s pursuit of David was impossible like trying to catch a partridge in the mountains. So his pursuit was worthless and useless. David knew that his value and worth was only in God and no one can harm him, who was in God’s hand. Saul was only wasting his time and energy in his pursuit of David.

Then Saul said, “I have sinned. Come back, David my son. Because you considered my life precious today, I will not try to harm you again. Surely I have acted like a fool and have erred greatly.” Saul had been foolish in his actions toward David, as had Nabal. In today’s passage we see two kinds of fools, Nabal and Saul. In fact, fools are of one kind: those who do not fear God. With no fear of God human beings do only foolish and erroneous things. There are many people who end their lives as fools.

David had one of Saul’s young men come and get the king’s spear. He continued to say, “The LORD rewards every man for his righteousness and faithfulness. The LORD delivered you into my hands today, but I would not lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed. As surely as I valued your life today, so may the LORD value my life and deliver me from all trouble.” We see that when I value other’s lives, the LORD value my life. Then Saul said to David, “May you be blessed, my son David; you will do great things and surely triumph.” David went on his way, and Saul returned home. This would be the last conversation between Saul and David and the last encounter. Later on Saul would be killed in a war.

Yet, in chapter 27, there was again fear of Saul in David’s heart. David thought to himself, “One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul. The best thing I can do is to escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will give up searching for me anywhere in Israel, and I will slip out of his hand.” In light of this we see that it was humanly not possible for David not to raise his hand against Saul at the opportune times, but possible only because of the fear of God in his heart as he honoured God as God.

David and the six hundred men with him left and went over to Achish king of Gath. David and his men were allowed to settle in one of the country towns, Ziklag, a city located about twenty kilometer northwest of Beersheba. David lived in Philistine territory a year and four months. He remained there until after Saul’s death when he moved to Hebron (2 Sam. 1:1; 2:1, 2). There raided the Geshurites, the Girzites and the Amalekites, enemies of Judah, without notice of anyone even Achish king of Gath. Even in that situation David was preparing for the future.

Thank God for this study. May we be able to see our time beyond ourselves and discern what God is doing in and around us and serve his purpose. And in the grace of our Lord Christ Jesus may we not have on our conscience any staggering burden for our new life and the life of service for his kingdom, as we grow in honouring God as God.

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