Summary: A crisis, created by two men who behaved badly, was averted by a woman who behaved wisely.
In this chapter, we read about how a crisis was created because of two men behaving badly; but how that same crisis was averted because of one woman who behaved wisely. Let’s read about it.
1. Two men behaving badly - David & Nabal.
A. Nabal’s reaction of arrogance - vs. 10-11
David sends men to Nabal with a request. He had learned that Nabal was sheering sheep. When that was done, there would be a celebration for the workers, to which would be invited the Levite, the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow (Deuteronomy 14:28-29; 26:10-13). Since David and his men were “foreigners,” for David to make this request was in keeping with the law of Moses and the traditions of Israel.
But also, David’s men had contributed to Nabal’s wealth (vs. 7-8; 16; 21). In fact, Nabal’s servants said that David’s men were “a wall around us all the time we were herding our sheep near them.”
The request David made was appropriate according to the law, according to tradition, and according to what was reasonable to expect in return for the security David’s men had provided to Nabal’s servants. But Nabal’s reaction was anything but reasonable.
Nabal’s response to David’s request is rooted in arrogance (vs. 10-11). Nabal thought himself better than David by virtue of his . . .
1) Pedigree - v. 10a We are told that Nabal was a Calebite (v. 3). A direct descendant of Caleb, who along with Joshua, spied out the promised land and eventually led the people of Israel into the land. But Caleb was sent to spy out the land as a representative of the tribe of Judah, and David was of the tribe of Judah, which ironically, made David a distant cousin of Nabal.
2) Position - v. 10b Nabal speaks of David as a “servant of Saul,” who is “breaking away from his master.” Nabal speaks only of David as a servant who has fled from his master, as though he were a mere runaway slave.
3) Possessions - v. 11 Nabal was apparently aware of the kid of folks who had flocked to David, as described in 1 Samuel 22:2 - “All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented.”
What is at the root of such attitudes of arrogance as those displayed by Nabal? Improper perspective. Nabal lacked God’s perspective on things. If he’d had God’s perspective, he would have realized the truth: 1) that David and he had the same pedigree - both were sinners; 2) that David and he shared the same position - both were nothing; and 3) that both David and he possessed nothing apart from God’s grace.
All this points to the fact that Nabal did not have a right relationship with God. If he had, then, like his wife, he would have recognized God had a plan for David and had made promises about David that would soon come to pass. Nabal just saw things from a human point of view. God was not factored into the equation at all. This led to his attitude of arrogance. Instead of recognizing David as Israel’s future king, Nabal arrogantly set himself up as being like a king (v. 36).
When one lacks God’s perspective, he will see himself in ways that are inaccurate. Instead of measuring self in light of God’s truth, he will measure himself in light of other things.
“It is often supposed that when people stop believing in God, they believe in nothing. Alas, it is worse than that. When they stop believing in God, they believe in anything.” - G.K. Chesterton
Without God the only standard left is what appeals to you. And that’s a shifting standard. It all depends on what I want, like, or accept - what pleases me. Our standards of truth are warped because our perspective of things is impure. Without God’s true perspective on things I’ll believe anything, and eventually that leads me to destruction. Sadly, many today who reject God’s standards of truth are living a life of arrogant self-indulgence and self-reliance. And like Nabal, they are oblivious to the danger living in such a way has placed them in.
Oblivious to the stupidity of his actions, and how close he has come to death, Nabal feasts like a king in his house. He is drunk. The next day, Nabal awakens with a clearer head and Abigail informs him of all that happened. The color drains from his face as he begins to recognize his folly. Our text says “his heart failed him, so that he became as a stone.” He had a heart attack. Ten days later, he dies.
One has a choice when it comes to living according to what God says. We can either choose to humble ourselves in light of God’s truth; or we can choose to ignore God’s truth and one day be humbled. Nabal chose the latter; but David made a different choice when confronted with the truth about himself.