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DAVID KEPT FROM AVENGING HIMSELF ON NABAL
1 Samuel 25:32-33. And David said to Abigail, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me: and blessed be thy advice, and blessed be thou, which hast kept me this day from coming to shed blood, and from avenging myself with mine own hand.
THE fidelity of the sacred historians is observable in every part of the divine records. A partial friend, or a person who was unduly concerned about the honour of religion, would have cast a veil over the facts which are contained in this chapter. They are, it must be confessed, extremely humiliating, and constrain us to exclaim, “Lord, what is man!” In the general we behold “the man after God’s heart” acting with a holy consistency, and meriting the character of a most exalted saint: but here we see him rushing to commit the most horrid iniquities, and restrained only by the special intervention of God’s providence.
In contemplating the history before us, we shall see,
What evils men would commit if left to themselves—
We wonder not at the churlishness of Nabal: such characters are common; men, who, in point of temper, are “such sons of Belial, that a man cannot even speak to them [Note: ver. 17.];” and whose every act constrains you to associate with their names the idea of folly [Note: ver. 25.]. They are worthless in themselves, yet contemptuous towards others: they are profuse and intemperate in convivial entertainments, but hard-hearted and niggardly in reference to the indigent and distressed But,
We are amazed at the cruel resentment of David—
[The provocation which he had received was certainly great. He had been the greatest benefactor to his country. He was persecuted only for righteousness’ sake. Though driven to great straits, he had never suffered his soldiers to relieve his wants by plunder. He had afforded a protection to Nabal’s property and servants, without any remuneration whatever. He was peculiarly in want of necessary provisions at this time: and from the preparations which Nabal had made for his feast he might have been supplied without any material inconvenience. His message to Nabal was most courteous and kind: yet was Nabal’s answer insolent in the extreme.
This however did not justify such fierce resentment as David manifested. He might justly have complained of of Nabal; perhaps in his circumstances he might have been justified in demanding as a right what had been refused him as a gift: but to think of murdering Nabal, of murdering also every male belonging to him, was as atrocious a design as ever entered into the heart of man. Who would have conceived that such a thought should ever enter into the mind of him, who had so recently spared his most malignant enemy, and had been condemned in his own conscience for even cutting off the skirt of his master’s garment?]
It shews however what corruption there is in the human heart—
[Truly the heart of man is “desperately wicked.” Even though renewed by divine grace, we are no longer able to stand, than whilst we are upheld by God himself. However long we may have persevered in holy obedience, we are yet liable to fall; and however great the temptations which we have withstood in times past, we have no security but that we may be overcome by the smallest. Yea, there is nothing so vile, but we may be led to commit it, if we be not every moment strengthened from on high. Who can contemplate the fall of Noah after his deliverance from the Deluge, and of Lot after his exemplary piety in Sodom, and not tremble for himself, lest he be overcome in an unguarded hour? “Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.”]
The subject further leads us to notice,
How much we owe to God for his providential restraints—
David expresses his obligations to God for delivering him from this temptation—
[A servant of Nabal, fearing the effects of his master’s message, informed his mistress of the whole transaction; bearing testimony at the same time to the kindness and integrity of David’s conduct: and Abigail immediately adopted the most prudent methods of pacifying David’s resentment. Without loss of time she took a liberal portion of the provisions that had been prepared for the feast, and went with them herself to meet David. Happily she met David in the way; and by her consummate address completely disarmed his wrath, and averted the calamity which would have speedily ruined her whole family. Instantly David recognized in her the divine interposition; and, whilst he blessed her for her advice, he blessed God for sending her to obstruct his bloody and vindictive purposes. It is worthy of observation, that David took scarce any notice of her liberality which supplied his present wants, but fixed his whole attention on the deliverance which he had experienced from his own relentless fury: and well might he bless God for that interposition, whereby he was preserved from the blackest crime he could have perpetrated, and possibly too from the penal consequences of it to all eternity.]
And have not we also reason to adore our God for similar restraints?
[Let us reflect on our past experience, even in relation to revenge. Have we never had our minds so irritated and inflamed, as to feel a readiness to avenge ourselves? And are we sure, that if a murderous instrument had been at hand, we should not have used it? Have not others yielded to that temptation, who were to all appearance as little exposed to it as we: and can we be certain that a little further provocation would not have produced the same effect on us?
But let us inquire also in reference to other sins. Have criminal desires never risen so strong in our hearts, that we have owed it rather to some providential restraints, than to our own abhorrence of iniquity, that they were not actually fulfilled? We have witnessed often enough the falls of others: and to whom must we ascribe it if we ourselves have not fallen in like manner? Must we not say with the prophet, “Thou, Lord, hast wrought all our works in us [Note: Isaiah 26:12.]?” Truly, if we would call to mind the various temptations which we have at any time experienced, and the various methods which God has used for our deliverance, we should behold such evidences of his paternal care, as would fill our hearts with wonder, and our mouths with praise.]
Such are the reflections arising from a general view of our subject. From a more particular inspection of it we may learn,
What a dreadful evil is revenge—
[There is nothing so cruel, but a vindictive spirit will impel us to it. Whilst under the influence of revenge, we overlook all consequences: we think nothing of the misery which we may entail on persons that are innocent. David was not content with murdering Nabal, but would murder also every male belonging to him, though not one of them was a partaker of Nabal’s fault. Thus the incendiary, or the duellist, contemplates not for a moment the miseries he may inflict on others; the welfare of a whole nation would be of no account in his eyes, when compared with the gratification of his revenge [Note: Preached on May 14, 1812, being three days after Mr. Perceval’s assassination.]. O let us guard against the first risings of this malignant passion [Note: Proverbs 19:11.]! let us bear in mind, that vengeance is not our prerogative, but God’s [Note: Romans 12:19.]: and let us seek rather that noblest of all victories, “the overcoming of evil with good [Note: Proverbs 24:29; Proverbs 25:21-22.].”]
What a blessing is a faithful monitor—
[David could scarcely express the obligation he felt to Abigail for her heavenly counsel [Note: Thrice he blesses her, and God for her.]. And what reason have we to be thankful for the instructions of our parents, the counsels of our friends, and the admonitions of our ministers! We shall never know from what evils we have been preserved by them, till the whole book of God’s remembrance shall be opened to us. In the same light we may view those various circumstances of our life which may have appeared most calamitous. The loss of our health or property may have been thought afflictive at the time; but who can tell what he might have perpetrated, if these messengers of mercy had not been sent to arrest him in his course? Let us then receive as from the Lord all those persons or events, which may lead us to reflection. Let us in particular be thankful for reproof; and bear in mind, that almost any other person is a more competent judge of the propriety of our conduct, than we ourselves can be under the impulse of any strong passion. If our friend possess the wisdom and address of Abigail, let us value him the more; but, if not, let his advice be nevertheless welcome to our mind; and let him be highly esteemed by us in proportion to his fidelity [Note: Proverbs 9:8-9; Proverbs 25:12; Proverbs 28:23.].]
What need have we all to pray against temptation—
[We may, like David, have withstood the greatest trials, and yet fall, like him, by those which are comparatively light. We are far from being at all times alike. We have not a stock of grace at our own command: it is not the light of one hour, or of one minute, that will suffice for the next; nor is it any measure of grace already received, that will enable us to stand fast in the Lord. We must receive fresh communications every moment, and look continually to the Lord for guidance and support. Let us then beg of God to “hedge up our way with thorns [Note: Hosea 2:6-7.];” and, if preserved by him from falling, let us acknowledge him as the only source of our stability [Note: Psalms 26:12; Psalms 41:12-13.].]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 25". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany