The Signs of the Times


October 26, 1888

The Work of a Peace-Maker


While David and his men were in the Wilderness of Paran, they protected from the depredations of marauders the flocks and herds of a very wealthy man named Nabal, who had vast possessions in Carmel. Nabal was a descendant of Caleb, but his character was churlish and niggardly. ST October 26, 1888, par. 1

David and his men were in sore need of provisions while at this place, and when the son of Jesse heard that Nabal was shearing his sheep he sent out ten young men, and David said unto the young men, “Get you up to Carmel, and go to Nabal, and greet him in my name; and thus shall ye say to him that liveth in prosperity, Peace be both to thee, and peace be to thine house, and peace be unto all that thou hast. And now I have heard that thou hast shearers; now thy shepherds which were with us, we hurt them not, neither was there aught missing unto them, all the while they were in Carmel. Ask thy young men, and they will show thee. Wherefore let the young men find favor in thine eyes; for we come in a good day; give, I pray thee, whatsoever cometh to thine hand unto thy servants, and to thy son David.” ST October 26, 1888, par. 2

David and his men had been like a wall of protection to the shepherds and flocks of Nabal as they pastured in the mountains. And he courteously petitioned that supplies be given them in their great need from the abundance of this rich man. They might have helped themselves from the flocks and herds; but they did not. They behaved themselves in an honest way; but their kindness was all lost upon Nabal. The answer he returned to David was indicative of his character. “And Nabal answered David's servants, and said, Who is David? and who is the son of Jesse? there be many servants nowadays that break away every man from his master. Shall I then take my bread, and my water, and my flesh that I have killed for my shearers, and give it unto men, whom I know not whence they be?” When the young men returned empty-handed, disappointed and disgusted, and related the affair to David, he was filled with indignation. “Surely,” he said, “in vain have I kept all that this fellow hath in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that pertained unto him; and he has requited me evil for good.” David commanded his men to gird on their swords, and equip themselves for an encounter; for he had determined to punish the man who had denied him what was his right, and had added insult to injury. This impulsive movement was more in harmony with the manner of Saul than with that of David, but the son of Jesse had yet to learn lessons of patience in the school of affliction. ST October 26, 1888, par. 3

One of the servants of Nabal hastened to Abigail, the wife of Nabal, after he had dismissed David's young men, and told her what had happened. “Behold, David sent messengers out of the wilderness to salute our master; and he railed on them. But the men were very good unto us, and we were not hurt, neither missed we anything, as long as we were conversant with them, when we were in the fields. They were a wall unto us both by night and day, all the while we were with them keeping the sheep. Now therefore know and consider what thou wilt do; for evil is determined against our master, and against all his household.” ST October 26, 1888, par. 4

Without consulting her husband, or telling him of her intention, Abigail made up an ample supply of provisions, and started out to meet the army of David. She met them in a covert of a hill. “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.” Abigail addressed David with as much reverence as though speaking to a crowned monarch. Nabal had scornfully inquired, “Who is David?” but Abigail called him, “My Lord.” With kind words she sought to soothe his irritated feelings. She did not reproach him for his hasty action, for she felt assured that a little time and reflection would work a change in his purpose, and that his conscience itself would condemn the violent measure which he was about to take. She pleaded with David in behalf of her husband. With utter unselfishness of spirit, she desired him to impute the whole blame of the matter to her, and not to charge it to her poor, deluded husband, who knew not what was for his own good or happiness. What a spirit is this! With nothing of ostentation or pride, but full of the wisdom and love of God, Abigail revealed the strength of her devotion to her household. Whatever was her husband's disposition, he was her husband still, and she made it plain to the indignant captain that the unkind course of her husband was in nowise premeditated against him as a personal affront; but it was simply the outburst of an unhappy and selfish nature. Nabal was naturally unreasonable and abusive, and when aroused he knew not what he said or did. ST October 26, 1888, par. 5

“Now therefore, my lord, as the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, seeing the Lord hath withholden thee from coming to shed blood, and from avenging thyself with thine own hand, now let thine enemies, and they that seek evil to my lord, be as Nabal,” Abigail did not take to herself the credit of this reasoning to swerve David from his hasty purpose, but gave to God the honor and the praise. She then offered her rich provision as a peace-offering to the young men of David, and still pleaded as if she herself were the guilty party who had so stirred the indignation of David. “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.” Abigail presented by implication the course which David should pursue. He should fight the battles of the Lord. He was not to seek revenge for personal wrongs, even though persecuted as a traitor. She continued: “Yet a man is risen to pursue thee, and to seek thy soul; but the soul of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of life with the Lord thy God; ... and it shall come to pass, when the Lord shall have done to my lord according to all the good that he has spoken concerning thee, and shall have appointed thee ruler over Israel; that this shall be no grief unto thee, nor offense of heart unto my lord, neither that thou hath shed blood causeless, or that my lord hath avenged himself; but when the Lord shall have dealt well with my lord, then remember thine handmaid.” ST October 26, 1888, par. 6

These words could only have come from the lips of one who had partaken of that wisdom which cometh down from above. The piety of Abigail, like the fragrance of a flower, breathed out all unconsciously in face and word and action. The Spirit of the Son of God was abiding in her soul. Her heart was full of purity, gentleness, and sanctified love. Her speech, seasoned with grace, and full of kindness and peace, shed a heavenly influence. Better impulses came to David, and he trembled as he thought what might have been the consequences of his rash purpose. An entire household would have been slain, containing more than one precious, God-fearing person like Abigail, who had engaged in the blessed ministry of good. Her words healed the sore and bruised heart of David. Would that there were more women who would soothe the irritated feelings, prevent rash impulses, and quell great evils by words of calm and well-directed wisdom. “Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God.” ST October 26, 1888, par. 7

A consecrated Christian life is ever shedding light and comfort and peace. It is purity, tact, simplicity, and usefulness. It is controlled by that unselfish love that sanctifies the influence. It is full of Christ, and leaves a track of light wherever its possessor may go. Abigail was a wise reprover and counselor. David's passion died away under the power of her influence and reasoning. He was convinced that he had taken an unwise course, and had lost control of his own Spirit. He received the rebuke with humility of heart, in harmony with his own words, “Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness; and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil.” He gave thanks and blessing because she advised him righteously. ST October 26, 1888, par. 8

There are many who, when they are reproved or advised, think it praiseworthy if they receive the rebuke without becoming impatient. But how few take reproof with gratitude of heart, and bless those who seek to save them from pursuing an evil course. ST October 26, 1888, par. 9

Abigail rejoiced that her mission had been successful, and that she had been instrumental in saving her household from death. David rejoiced that through her timely advice he had been prevented from committing deeds of violence and revenge. Upon reflection, he realized that it would have been a matter of disgrace to him before Israel, and a remembrance that would always have caused him the keenest remorse. He felt that he and his men had the greatest cause for gratitude. He had had a horror of bloodshed, and had prayed that he might be delivered from blood guiltiness; and yet, when his feelings were injured, he had planned to avenge himself with his own hands. In this he had taken it upon himself to act in the place of God, who has said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” ST October 26, 1888, par. 10

David had taken an oath that Nabal and his household should perish; but now he saw that it was not only wrong to make such a vow, but it would be wrong to keep it. If Herod had had the moral courage of David, no matter how humiliating it might have been, he would have retracted the oath that devoted John the Baptist's head to the ax of the executioner, that the revenge of an evil woman might be accomplished, and he would not have had upon his soul the guilt of the murder of the prophet of God. ST October 26, 1888, par. 11

When Abigail returned to her home, she found her husband and his guests participating in the enjoyment of a great feast. Nabal thought nothing of spending an extravagant amount of his wealth to indulge and glorify himself; but it seemed too painful a sacrifice for him to make to bestow compensation which he never would have missed, upon those who had been like a wall to his flocks and herds. Nabal was like the rich man in the parable. He had only one thought,—to use God's merciful gifts to gratify his selfish animal appetites. He had no thought of gratitude to the giver. He was not rich toward God; for eternal treasure had no attraction for him. Present luxury, present gain, was the one absorbing thought of his life. This was his God. ST October 26, 1888, par. 12

Abigail found her husband in a state of intoxication, joining in the drunken revelry of those around him. She knew it would be useless to tell him of what had happened when his reason was dethroned; but the next morning she related to him the occurrence of the day before. Nabal was a coward at heart, and his excessive indulgence of appetite, both in eating and drinking, had affected his physical and moral powers, and when he had realized how near his folly had brought him to a sudden death, his entire energy and power seemed smitten with paralysis. Fearful that David would still pursue his purpose of revenge, he was filled with horror, and sank down in a condition of helpless insensibility. After ten days Nabal died. The life that God had given him had only been a curse to society. In the midst of his rejoicing and merry-making, God had said to him, as he said to the rich fool of the parable, “This night thy soul shall be required of thee.” ST October 26, 1888, par. 13

When David heard the tidings of the death of Nabal, he gave thanks that God had taken vengeance into his own hands. He had been restrained from evil, and the Lord had returned the wickedness of the wicked upon his own head. In this dealing of God with Nabal and David, men may be encouraged to put their cases into the hands of God; for in his own good time he will set matters right. ST October 26, 1888, par. 14

David afterward married Abigail. This was not according to the original plan of God; it was in direct opposition to his design, that a man should have more than one wife. David was already the husband of Ahinoam. The gospel condemns the practice of polygamy. The custom of the nations of David's time had perverted his judgment and influenced his actions. Great men have erred greatly in following the practices of the world. The study of everyone should be to know what is the will of God and what saith the word of the Lord. The bitter result of this practice of marrying many wives was permitted to be sorely felt throughout all the life of David. ST October 26, 1888, par. 15