Then David received from her hand what she had brought him; he said to her, “Go up to your house in peace; see, I have heeded your voice, and I have granted your petition.”
Abigail came to Nabal; he was holding a feast in his house, like the feast of a king. Nabal’s heart was merry within him, for he was very drunk; so she told him nothing at all until the morning light. In the morning, when the wine had gone out of Nabal, his wife told him these things, and his heart died within him; he became like a stone. About ten days later the Lord struck Nabal, and he died.
When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Blessed be the Lord who has judged the case of Nabal’s insult to me, and has kept back his servant from evil; the Lord has returned the evildoing of Nabal upon his own head.” Then David sent and wooed Abigail, to make her his wife. When David’s servants came to Abigail at Carmel, they said to her, “David has sent us to you to take you to him as his wife.” She rose and bowed down, with her face to the ground, and said, “Your servant is a slave to wash the feet of the servants of my lord.” Abigail got up hurriedly and rode away on a donkey; her five maids attended her. She went after the messengers of David and became his wife. 1 Samuel 25:35-42 (NRSV)
On one level this narrative is a cautionary tale regarding natural law, or of “what goes around comes around.” It is human nature to find it rewarding to see someone reap the natural consequences of his or her actions (or of his or her failure to act.) It is a bit more humbling to realize that as much as we would want to always be an Abigail or a David in this story, we are also Nabals. Save by the grace of God, we could all be considered selfish, short-sighted and possibly even drunken fools, just as deserving to be struck down as Nabal was.
There is peace to be found in having the courage to do the right thing. Not only did Abigail avert the sure wrath of David and his men by making provision for them, but she also got God’s attention. God responded to her dilemma and rewarded her faithfulness by improving her situation. As cruel as it may sound, Abigail and her household likely had great peace when Nabal dropped dead. No more drunken ravings. No more offending all the neighbors and putting up with loud parties in the middle of the night and slogging through the inevitable clean up in the morning. No more having to cover for someone too drunk to think rationally. Those who have lived with alcoholics or those addicted to other drugs know what it is to always be walking on eggshells, not knowing what will trigger the next drunken, destructive rage. Living with someone who is not in their right mind for whatever reason is a stressful and soul killing way to live.
It is true that the reward for being courageous is not always readily apparent, and the consequences for foolishness are not always so swift or obvious. Sometimes we do not see our reward while we live on this earth, even though in Christ we can be confident that He is storing our treasures in heaven. We live under God’s grace, and He knows that we fail and don’t always succeed at doing the right thing. He gives us many chances to repent (to turn around and go the opposite direction) when we are headed the wrong way. If we were left to the harsh reality of natural law apart from the grace of God, none of us would be able to stand on our own merit.
The wisdom to be found here is in listening to the voice of God, and in appreciating (and extending) the grace and mercy of God. Do we heed the warnings of others like David did when Abigail approached him and apologized for her husband’s surliness and inhospitality? Do we extend grace even in situations in which it would be justifiable to lash out?