05 July 2014

Lessons from Abigail

I know that trying to cram the entire Old Testament into about 45-48 Sundays means that things are going to be left out. But the unfortunate part is that sometimes some of the best bits seem to fall by the way side. I went to read the lesson for this week, expecting it to be 1 Samuel 25--one of my most favorite chapters in all of the OT--only to find that the curriculum skips entirely over Abigail and goes directly to Bathsheba and immorality.

While I think the lessons we learn from David and Bathsheba are equally as important, I LOVE Abigail, and the lessons I've learned from studying this chapter have greatly impacted my life for the better. So since none of you will be getting this lesson in Sunday School, below are some of my favorite parts of 1 Samuel 25. But really, you should all go read and study it for yourselves!

First though, here's what's happening in the chapter:

David (whose just made peace with Saul after being chased all around the country) hears of a wealthy man named Nabal in Carmel from some of Nabal's shepherds that David and his men helped protect. David then sends some of his men in peace to Nabal's house seeking provisions... not unreasonable given their assistance to Nabal's servants, the Israelite culture of hospitality, Nabal's wealth, David's celebrity--albeit an impoverished one--status, not to mention that he was still technically a captain over King Saul's army. 

A view from Mt. Carmel, which is a limestone mountain that runs about 30 miles long in the NW of Israel, near the Mediterranean. A few other favorite OT stories took place here, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to visit for myself while I lived in Israel.
However, when Nabal speaks to David's servants, he feigns ignorance, saying "Who is David? and who is the son of Jesse?" He refuses to give them food, which is a blatant slap in the face to David and a complete disregard of social rules and religious laws practiced at the time. No bueno. David is offended and reacts in anger. He and 400 of his men go up to fight against Nabal and his household.  

Meanwhile, Nabal's wife, Abigail, is told what her husband did to David's men. In her infinite wisdom she decides to intervene immediately, hoping to diffuse the situation before anyone gets hurt. 

She gathered as many provisions as she could (200 loaves, 2 bottles of wine, 5 sheep ready dressed, 5 measures parched corn, 100 clusters of raisins, and 200 cakes of figs--no small feat to gather all of this so quickly, either!), and sent them with her servants to intercept David and his men, with her following behind them. 

In my opinion, this is when the story really starts getting good, and where I really start drawing all the life lessons from.

While this is a statue depicting Elijah killing the 400+ priests of Baal on Mt. Carmel, the image seemed appropriate  to help depict the story of David and Abigail and the lessons we learn from them. Call it creative license.
vs20: "David and his men came down against her; and she met them."

  • When I find myself in the middle of a conflict (of any type or size), Do I 'come down against' or 'meet' the other person(s)?
  • My attitude, or the way in which I say something, is often much more important than what I say. Even when I'm upset, afraid, hurt, or insecure, I can be kind. This is still something I constantly have to work on. But I've found a personal mantra to help remind me of this: "Never let a problem to be solved get in the way of a person to be loved." -President Monson 

vs.23-24, 28 "And when Abigail saw David, she hasted, and lighted off the ass, and fell before David on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, And fell at his feet, and said, Upon me, my lord, upon me let this iniquity be: and let thine handmaid, I pray thee, speak in thine audience, and hear the words of thine handmaid. ...I pray thee, forgive the trespass of thine handmaid: for the Lord will certainly make my lord a sure house; because my lord fighteth the battles of the Lord, and evil hath not been found in thee all thy days."

  • In everything she does, Abigail acts quickly. She doesn't allow time for the offense to fester and the situation to escalate. Definitely something I need to work on.
  • Though the wife of a wealthy man, she bows herself to the ground before David in the ultimate demonstration of humility. Abigail chooses to be completely meek and humble, not worrying about who is right or wrong. She doesn't try to justify her husband, but merely acknowledges David's point of view. Here's that whole subject of empathy again...
  • In this moment, Abigail is a type of Christ. Though completely innocent, she asks to take upon herself Nabal's sins, and then seeks David's forgiveness.
  • David does forgive her. How could he not? She was completely innocent and offering him everything she had. If he had refused her offering, it would be like refusing to forgive someone because the Savior's Atonement isn't good enough for their sins. Do I ever do this?

vs.32-34 "And David said to Abigail, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me: And blessed be thou, which hast kept me this day from coming to shed blood, and from avenging myself with mine own hand. For in very deed, as the Lord God of Israel liveth, which hath kept me back from hurting thee, except thou hadst hasted and come to meet me, surely there had not been left unto Nabal by the morning light any that pisseth against the wall." 
  • David was intending to kill every male member of Nabal's household, and he surely would have if Abigail had not intervened.
  • Abigail did not only save her house, but she also saved David from staining his hands without a cause. She helped him be able to repent and humble himself, which then made it possible for the Lord to step in, serve His justice, and fight David's battles for him. [A few verses later, Nabal is stricken by the Lord and dies, and Abigail marries David.] 
  • Do my actions during a conflict invite/allow the other party to be repentant and humble? Or do my responses encourage defensiveness and pride? 
  • Do I give the Lord a chance to fight my battles for me? 
  • Do I invite and apply the Atonement in all aspects of my life and my relationships with others?
Still on the top of Mt. Carmel, looking over the Jezreel Valley. It was SO WINDY that day!
I've always been a strong advocate for communication in relationships, but this story demonstrates the importance of HOW we communicate, and the potential for a "soft answer to [turn] away wrath", as my previous post discussed. It also teaches us about engaging in conflict, kindness, forgiveness, and applying the Atonement personally and in our relationships. Perhaps now you might understand why this chapter is one of my favorites. And why I think it's such a shame to skip over it in SS class.

I'm not sure why these topics keep coming up... Since I don't really see or talk to anyone these days, I don't have much communication with others, let alone conflict. But either the Lord is reminding me of all these lessons about empathy, love, and communication for something in my own life I'm not yet aware of, or He's preparing me to help someone else. Either way, I'm grateful for the Spirit and the lessons He teaches me, and I pray that I can do better at giving heed and applying them.

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