Monday, October 15, 2012

How to Live With a Fool

There's a remarkable story recorded in 1 Samuel 25:2-42, about a woman, a fool and a king. The woman was Abigail, the fool was her husband, Nabal, and the king was David.

The scripture makes it clear that Nabal is a fool. He's called "surly and mean in his dealings," he's described by one of his servants as "such a wicked man that no one can talk to him," and Abigail herself tells David that "he is just like his name -- his name is Fool, and folly goes with him."

Nabal was also rich. He was in Carmel, shearing a thousand goats and three thousand sheep, when David sent ten of his men to him with a message. Since David and his men had protected Nabal's shepherds in the past, he requested that Nabal make some provision for David's company. (It was a festive time and David was requesting the hospitality that was expected in his day.) Nabal, however, refused to share anything with David and his men and, instead, hurled insults at David.

"Put on your swords!" David told his men when he heard Nabal's response.

One of Nabal's servants went to Abigail and told her what had happened. He concluded his report with, "Now think it over and see what you can do, because disaster is hanging over our master and his whole household" (17). We are told that Abigail was intelligent, and this servant knew she was their only hope.

I wonder how Abigail was able to endure living with a fool. When I try to put myself in her place -- married to an arrogant, ill-tempered, selfish and spiteful man -- I think I would have either shriveled up or become bitter. Where is the breathing room when you live with a fool? Yet she was a clear-minded and decisive peacemaker. Here's what she did:

She took action. "Abigail lost no time" (18). And then it goes on to describe the food she gathered to take to David and his men, "enough to feed an army," as they say.
She took courage. She went directly to David, even though she knew that David was on his way to bring disaster to her whole household (23).
She took the full responsibility. "My lord, let the blame be on me alone" (24). This may seem strange to us, but a dreadful wrong had been committed and someone had to take responsibility.
She told the truth.There's a difference between taking responsibility for something and making excuses for the person who is really at fault. I don't believe she was making excuses for Nabal. She clearly acknowledged that he was a fool, but she could not allow his foolishness to bring destruction on so many. She left Nabal to God's judgement (and we see later that God was quite capable in that department.) (24-25)
She gave God glory. She recognized God's intervention in keeping David from shedding blood (26).
She sought forgiveness on her husband's behalf (28).
She gave a blessing. "May your enemies and all who intend to harm you be like Nabal"(26).
She gave wise counsel. "Let no wrongdoing be found in you as long as you live" (27-28).
She exercised good judgment. She didn't tell Nabal about her plan when he was angry (19) or when he was drunk (36-36).

How could she demonstrate such grace and wisdom? She held on to the truth. She accepted the reality of her husband's foolishness and God's faithfulness. She did not let her extremely difficult circumstances dictate her actions. She remained true to what she knew to be true.

But there is also something else. Her name, Abigail, means "My Father is Joy." If your Father is joy, you can endure hardship and still thrive. Maybe Nehemiah had Abigail's example in mind when he wrote, "...the joy of the Lord is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10).

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