1 Samuel 24
This chapter displays the softness of David's heart. David has every reason to end Saul's life. He has been wrongly accused and unjustly targeted by Saul; he has been relentlessly pursued even after fleeing by Saul; his life is under constant threat because of Saul; and he is the anointed king who would inherit the throne should Saul die. Still, David is compelled by the Lord to honor the position and authority of Saul, and he refrains from taking into his own hands what is firmly within God's hand. This is waiting on God's timing and trusting in God's sovereignty and faithfulness, rather than asserting control. It's really remarkable.
The thing about Saul that stands out to me is how even he recognizes and acknowledges the distinctiveness of David's character. He is, in the moment, exposed, convicted and broken over David's mercy. But within a short time he is actually pursuing him again.
This reflects our own experiences and the difference between true repentance and worldly sorry over our sin. True repentance goes beyond an emotional moment, a humiliating and painful experience of exposure, to ongoing change and transformation. True repentance adopts change and puts away the sinful practice that is exposed. We separate ourselves from it and begin to give ourselves to a new pattern and new direction.
Many of us have moments of emotional upheaval when we're caught, suffer consequences, see our brokenness, feel the weight of our wrong, etc. But like Saul, many of us stop at worldly sorrow, a sort of disappointment in ourselves and surface level wishing to be better. We are frustrated by our failure to live up to our self ideal, but not genuinely pained by the grief we've caused others and the guilt we bear before God. Thus, like Saul, as soon as we get some distance from the emotional moment, whether in a day or a week or whatever, we resume our sinful patterns and willful self-deception. Repentance is short-circuited and it's largely because we only go so far as to feel how our sin has adversely affected us or disordered our lives and internal world. We have never explored or felt the gravity of our rebellion against God, our assault on his glory and the impact on others. If our grief over our sin is still primarily about us, then we are not repentant.
This passage is a great example of false repentance, or qhat 2 Corinthians calls worldly sorrow, that leads to death.
1 Samuel 25:1-22
The first three short verses here are brief and matter of fact but communicate so much.
First, as it relates to Samuel. This is a man of profound importance in Israel’s history. He is the one who oversaw and made this peaceful transition of government, from the Judges to a monarchy. He was the one at the highest seat of authority in Israel, who, in obedience to God and in compliance with the will of the people, not only identified and anointed Saul to be king, but also took a more diminished position and lent his wholehearted support to Saul in the transition. That’s massive. He was a godly and influential man, strategically and sovereignly used by God in redemptive history. And yet, his death is recounted with such brevity. “Now Samuel died. And all Israel assembled and mourned for him and buried him in his house at Ramah.” That’s it. It’s nothing. It’s a footnote.
I point this out just to highlight the smallness of our lives. Our years are a blip. Our lives come and go and the world keeps spinning. None of us are likely to play as significant a role as Samuel and yet he only got two short sentences dedicated to his passing. This is not to cause us despair over our insignificance, but rather to put our lives in perspective. God doesn’t need us to legitimize him. We need God to legitimize our lives. Life is vanity and chasing after the wind and we are easily and quickly forgotten as Solomon points out in Ecclesiastes. The only thing that brings real value and real lasting impact is living for a transcendent purpose, and specifically for God’s redemptive purposes and ultimate glory.
Second, in v. 2-3 we get this introduction to Abigail and Nabal, and a description of a sweet, wise, beautiful woman who is abused and oppressed by a cruel and spiteful man. This is all to common throughout history and the abuses and misuses of male strength to the suppression and suffering of women across the world. It’s a tragic commentary which too many women can relate to and too few men are aware of and sympathetic to. This is an indictment on ungodly, evil forms of patriarchy which runs rampant throughout the world and it’s a reality God’s people should be aggressively seeking to undo and root out.
Not only should we men seek to aggressively put to death these abusive, indulgent and exploitative impulses in our hearts and lives, but we should also be committed to expose and fight against any such patterns in the lives of those around us and in the cultures in which we live. This is an affront to God, an assault on his image bearers, and a tragic dehumanizing of those men who actually perpetrate such abuses. God’s men are to be those that stand up for the vulnerable, not subjugate them. We must be those that protect the weak, not prey upon them. And we must be those that oppose oppressors, not empower them.
We’ll look more at the narrative tomorrow.
1 Samuel 25:23-44
I’ve been preaching through a series at Generations on interpersonal conflict and so part of what I appreciate in this text is the wisdom and, as David acknowledges, the discernment of Abigail. Her husband is an arrogant low life with no integrity that treats, apparently, everybody horribly. And Nabal is responsible for a developments that are about to precipitate an attack from David and his men. And in hearing about it, Abigail, without defending one ounce of Nabal’s corruption and guilt, is willing to search for and take responsibility that she bears in order to make peace with David. She is wise, humble, courageous and sacrificial. She is really is a great example of, when conflict is exploding around you and you have almost no part to play in it, how even then you can legitimately and sincerely take responsibility for whatever small role you may have in the conflict.
For Abigail, it was just to acknowledge that she wasn’t aware of David and his men, and how they served Nabal’s workers and protected his possessions, and in not being aware, she also neglected to appreciate them in any way. She easily could have gone to David and said, “this has nothing to do with me, it’s my jacked up husband who did this, please spare me…” And she would have been justified at some level. But instead she doesn’t look to blame or dishonor anyone. She takes responsibility, sucks the hostility out of the room, makes peace with David, who allows God to sovereignly deal with Nabal on his own terms, and Abigail is released from her oppression by her husbands death. Obviously, not every situation works out favorably. But Abigail is a great example of how to handle conflict in a direct, personal, humble and production way that makes room for resolution in a peaceful way.
And I guess let’s just acknowledge David’s being persuadable to put away his anger and trust Nabal to God instead of taking matters into his own hands.
1 Samuel 26
1 Samuel 27