Abigail Persuades David from Wrongdoing
Voluntary redirection refers to an intervention whereby God provides a person opportunity to re-evaluate and choose to abandon planned wrongdoing. We discuss an example from David, when he set out intending to attack Nabal for refusing with ignominy a request for food assistance. David expected Nabal to honor the request in gratitude for guarding Nabal’s shepherds and flock in the field. He reacted angrily by promising to attack Nabal. Alerted to the potential attack by a quick-thinking servant, Abigail judged David and his men deserved the food they requested and intercepted them with generous supply and an appeal to David’s reputation. David recognized Abigail as a manifestation of God’s intervention, showed appreciation, and confessed and repented from his initial plan.
The life of David as king in waiting includes two event sequences during which he appeared to proceed toward actions inconsistent with his God-fearing reputation and responsibility as God anointed king in waiting. However, both event sequences terminated with David withdrawing from the initial plan. We discuss each of the event sequences as representing God’s intervention to provide a person opportunity to abandon a path to wrongdoing. The intervention could present the person with freedom to choose to abandon the path or compel him/her to a different path.
In voluntary redirection, the person is free to respond to the opportunity as he/she chooses. The intervention presents him/her with the opportunity and freedom to re-evaluate and voluntarily abandon the planned course of actions. In coercive redirection, in contrast, developments beyond a person’s control compel him/her to abandon the planned course of actions. Both types of redirection represent God’s intervention to provide a person opportunity to pull back from planned wrongdoing and seek a path to Godliness.
We discuss examples from the life of David as king in waiting. The examples are in fact manifestations of God’s intervention in David’s life to guide him away from actions inconsistent with keeping “the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just” [Genesis 18:19] so that God will fulfill his promise to David. God’s guidance may manifest the same way for any person, providing the person opportunities for voluntary or coercive redirection from a course of actions that would violate Godliness. The example on coercive redirection will be discussed in a future bible study. The current study focuses on the example of voluntary redirection.
Plan for Wrongdoing—
David Set to Attack Nabal
David was set to launch a tit-for-tat attack against Nabal in return for refusing with ignominy a request from him that he felt Nabal should have honored. He had sent the request to Nabal during sheep shearing festival and expected Nabal to honor the request because he and his men had protected Nabal’s shepherds and flock when they shared an area of the wilderness with them [1 Samuel 25:7–8]: “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. Ask your own servants and they will tell you. Therefore be favorable toward my men, since we come at a festive time. Please give your servants and your son David whatever you can find for them.”
Not only did Nabal refuse, but he also insulted David and his men for making the request [1 Samuel 25:10–11]: “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?” When David was told about Nabal’s response, he was enraged. He decided to go and attack Nabal, destroy everything that belonged to him, and take the food by force [1 Samuel 25:21–22]: “It’s been useless—all my watching over this fellow’s property in the wilderness so that nothing of his was missing. He has paid me back evil for good. May God deal with David, be it ever so severely, if by morning I leave alive one male of all who belong to him!”
David’s resolve to attack Nabal appears driven by anger and motivated by selfishness. The ignominy of Nabal’s response was a likely source of anger for David. Furthermore, he appeared motivated to extract “payment in blood” for service he and his men provided to Nabal. They provided the service with an expectation of quid pro quo and were justifiably disappointed when Nabal refused their request to “reap where they sowed.” However, an expectation of quid pro quo does not define a contract or entitlement and, thus, not enforceable by a fair judicial process. However, David was not seeking fair adjudication. He had the power to extract “payment in blood” from Nabal and was driven by anger to pursue the attack [1 Samuel 25:13]: “David said to his men, ‘Each of you strap on your sword!’ So they did, and David strapped his on as well.” He set out with about four hundred men to attack Nabal.
Response versus Reaction
The account of David’s reaction to the dispute with Nabal provides enough detail for understanding how such dispute may escalate, in contrast with the alternative approach of allowing enough time and prayer to seek a measured response. David apparently did not invite God’s guidance, quite in contrast with his approach in previous situations. For example, he prayed for God’s guidance as he considered an attack against Philistines in Keilah [1 Samuel 23:1–4]. In contrast, he reacted angrily in the dispute with Nabal and apparently did not give himself time to evaluate the dispute carefully. A person faced with an apparent injustice or other kinds of provocation from another should first allow enough time for his/her anger to subside. Then, evaluate the apparent injustice carefully to assess how to seek justice without escalating potential violence. The outcome of David’s case did not involve violence because of a distance between him and Nabal that allowed time for Abigail’s intervention.
Persuades David from Wrongdoing
Abigail intervened to resolve the developing dispute between David and her husband Nabal. A quick-thinking servant had alerted her to the dispute. She judged that David and his men deserved what they requested and she could persuade David not to attack her household by appealing to his Godliness while providing the food assistance he requested. As we discuss in a previous study under Authority to Represent Family, Abigail acted quickly to intercept David and his men on their way to attack Nabal. Her intervention was successful. Therefore, we can surmise that God worked through Abigail and her servant to provide David an opportunity to re-evaluate the dispute and determine an attack against Nabal would be inconsistent with “right and just.”
The servant recognized that Nabal’s response to David’s men was rude and unjust and had the potential to elicit a violent reaction from David and his men [1 Samuel 25:14–17]: “David sent messengers from the wilderness to give our master his greetings, but he hurled insults at them. 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. Night and day they were a wall around us the whole time we were herding our sheep near them. Now think it over and see what you can do, because disaster is hanging over our master and his whole household.” His report to Abigail was effective as she took steps immediately to intervene.
Judgment by Abigail
Abigail agreed with the servant that David and his men deserved the food assistance they requested. She quickly gathered enough food supply to provide them a generous assistance. However, she also judged that David would have been enraged by the response from Nabal. She knew enough about David to understand how he interacted with people (including Saul, the current king of Israel), his commitment to worship and serve God, and mission as future king of Israel.
As we discuss in a previous study under Foundation for Love and Marriage—Courtship of Abigail and David, Abigail appealed to David that an attack against Nabal would blemish his reputation with a record of self vengeance and needless bloodshed [1 Samuel 25:30–31]: “When the Lord has fulfilled for my lord every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him ruler over Israel, my lord will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself.”
David Accepts Redirection
Abigail’s appeal struck a chord of appreciation and admiration in David. She not only provided him a generous food supply but also helped him understand that an attack against Nabal would be inconsistent with his reputation as a God-fearing man and future king of Israel. He appreciated her for being an “angel” that God placed in his path to redirect him from wrongdoing.
Abigail based her appeal on a recognition of right from wrong. She understood David’s positive reputation in his interactions with people and believed an attack against Nabal would blemish the reputation. Therefore, her appeal was based on persuading him against “wrong and unjust” but in favor of “right and just.” Furthermore, she was respectful of David, his mission, and Godliness. David recognized her attempt at redirecting him as a manifestation of God’s intervention, confessed and repented from his prior intention, appreciated God for sending her, and appreciated her for intercepting him. “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. 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.”
After showing his appreciation, confession, and repentance, he accepted her redirection. Abigail returned to her home and husband while David and his men returned to their base.
Summary of What We Learned
Voluntary redirection refers to an intervention whereby God provides a person opportunity to re-evaluate and choose to abandon planned wrongdoing. This study discusses an example from David, when he set out intending to attack Nabal for refusing with ignominy David’s request for food assistance. David expected Nabal to honor the request in gratitude for guarding Nabal’s shepherds and flock in the field. He reacted angrily by promising to launch an attack against Nabal.
A quick-thinking servant alerted Abigail to the potential attack. She judged David and his men deserved the food they requested and intercepted them with generous supply and an appeal to David’s reputation. David recognized Abigail as a manifestation of God’s intervention, showed appreciation, and confessed and repented from his initial plan.
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