Series: Abigail: How to Live with the Fools in Your Life
Leslie Basham: When your husband sins against you, it’s natural to want to get him back, but you don’t have to. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: You don’t have to let a harsh, badly behaved man turn you into a harsh, badly behaved woman.
Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, August 26th.
When you hear a story, you identify yourself with the hero. But do you realize how often we are tempted to act like a villain? Nancy is going to tell us about a godly woman and her foolish husband. If we’re honest, we’ll find ourselves in each of them. Here’s Nancy.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: As I mentioned in our last time together, I’m so appreciative of the women who write to Revive Our Hearts, send email or letters, and tell us how we can pray for them. We have a team that does pray through those requests, and I want to encourage you, if you’re involved in a situation like one we’re talking about in this series, How To Live With The Fools In Your Life, we want to pray for you. So let me encourage you to write or email us, and let us know how we can pray for you.
Some of those emails and letters are particularly heart-rending. I think of one woman who wrote and said, “I get so frustrated in this thirty year plus marriage. My husband is an angry man. I can’t talk to him. He won’t listen or talk, and he gets angry if I bring up counseling. I feel like my hands are tied, and I’m stuck in a no-win situation. I love the Lord, and part of me says, ‘Get a grip! God will bring the joy and strength I need in this and all circumstances.’ But part of me says, ‘I wish he’d die, suddenly in an accident, so I could just be alone and start over.’ Anything but putting up with this day in and day out.” And then she says, “I know I should be trying to work on it and love him and all that, but I have no desire to do so. My emotions just want out.” And then in big capital letters, NOW, exclamation point!
In this series we’re going to meet a woman who was married to just this kind of man. We’re in 1 Samuel, chapter 25. Let me ask you to turn there in your Bible. We saw in the last session that Samuel died and David, who has been anointed by God to be the next king of Israel, is currently fleeing for his life from King Saul, “David rose and went down to the wilderness of Paran” (verse one).
Now verse two tells us, “There was a man in Maon whose business was in Carmel. The man was very rich; he has three thousand sheep and thousand goats. He was sheering his sheep in Carmel. Now the name of the man was Nabal” (verses two and three). We said in our last session that that word Nabal is the Hebrew word for fool.
His name means fool, and we’re going to see that this is a man who really was a fool. “The name of the man was Nabal, and the name of his wife Abigail. The woman was discerning and beautiful, but the man was harsh and badly behaved; he was a Calebite” (verse three).
Now, most likely this marriage between Abigail and Nabal had been arranged by her parents. She was beautiful; he was rich. Her father may have thought he was really doing her a favor by marrying her into this rich man’s family, thought he was doing a good thing for her. A beautiful woman and a rich man, you’d think that was a great combination. But the problem was that beauty and wealth are only external characteristics. What really matters when it comes down to real life is the heart, the character, not the outward appearance or the material wealth.
Now in the case of this couple, the difference between their hearts and their character could hardly have been more extreme. It was like night and day. One author has called this story of Nabal and Abigail, Beauty and the Beast. That’s really what it is. It’s a tale of beauty and the beast. This is a totally mismatched couple when it comes to matters of the heart. He was a foolish, ungodly man; she was a wise, godly woman.
Now we don’t know if he’d always been that way, maybe she thought he was a great man when they got married. And is true of many women that I’ve heard from, they had no clue until years into our marriage what kind of man he was going to turn into.
Now, there are a couple of points of application that are pretty obvious to me already in this chapter. First is the fact that if you are godly does not necessarily guarantee that your mate will be godly or that others in your life will be godly people. Neither does it guarantee that they will change.
Sometimes people who write into us about our program say, “You know, you give me the feeling that if I just live a godly life, my husband will become a godly man.” I want to just make it clear. We are not saying that because the Scripture doesn’t say that. Now the Scripture does teach that a godly mate can have a powerful influence on an ungodly mate, but there’s no guarantee that your choosing to live God’s way will change the people around you who are fools. They may never change.
Now there’s a second application here, and that is that you don’t have to let a harsh, badly behaved man turn you into a harsh, badly behaved woman. One of the things that I love about this story is by the time we enter into it we don’t know all of what had preceded it, but we know that Abigail has been living with this harsh, badly behaved man. We know that had to affect her, she was living with the man. But it’s obvious that she has not let Nabal destroy her.
She was still a discerning, wise, godly, beautiful woman. She had not let his behavior control hers. She was still winsome, courageous, gracious, and most important, she had not lost her faith in the promises of God. Just because she was living with this wicked man who, as far as she knew, never would change and in fact, he never did change.
Now, we’re first introduced to Nabal in this story and then to David and then to Abigail. Verse two tells us that this man was very rich. He was a business man, a wealthy business man. He was influential. As you read this story, and this will unfold over the next few sessions, one of the things that is really obvious is some of the potential pitfalls of wealth. These things don’t have to be true of wealthy people, but they often are. And by the world’s standards, we are all wealthy.
So these are qualities we need to watch out for in our own lives. People who are wealthy can become independent spirited. Others need them, others are dependent on them, but they don’t need anybody. Sometimes with people who are very rich in the world’s standards and material goods, it’s hard for others to be honest with them.
In verse 17 the servant said about Nabal their master, “One cannot speak to him.” He won’t listen to anybody. No one can tell the truth to him. He’s powerful; he’s influential; he’s wealthy, and people are scared to death of him. Nobody will really speak the truth to him.
We all need mirrors in our lives. We need people who will be honest with us, who will love us enough to speak the truth, but here’s a man who, partially because of his wealth, had gotten into a position where no one would be honest with him. People were afraid to tell him the truth–afraid of losing their job. What if one of his employees spoke up and said, “Nabal, you’re wrong. You’re acting like a fool.” People were afraid of him.
Sometimes when you have a lot of wealth by the world’s standards, it’s easy to assume the worst of others, to assume negatively of others as we’ll see that Nabal did of David. Now, not only was he very rich, but verse three tells us that he was harsh. If you’re using the King James Version, you’ll have there the word churlish. It’s a word that in the Hebrew means hard, unyielding, unbending, uncontrollable. It means severe, unfeeling, cruel, inflexible, obstinate, deliberately stiffened.
Do you get the picture of this man? He’s a harsh man; he’s an abusive man. There are those men in this world, and sometimes you have to live with a fool. We’re going to see from this study that there is a way to deal with the fools in your life, and there’s a way not to deal with the fools in your life.
The Scripture says not only was he harsh, but he was badly behaved. The NIV says in that verse that “he was surly and mean in his dealings.” He was corrupt. Chances are he had gotten some of his wealth by cheating others. He was a badly behaved man. And then that phrase, “He was a Calebite.”
Now that may mean that he was a descendant of Caleb, who was a godly man from the tribe or Judah. But the word Caleb in Hebrew means dog. Some commentators suggest that rather than being a descendant of Caleb, what it’s really saying is that it’s an adjective to describe his behavior. One translation renders that, “He was snappish as a dog.” I think of a pit-bull there. He’s just going after people. He’s rough. He’s an ugly man.
His character is best described, as we’ve seen, by his name Nabal, fool. Now when we see the word fool in the scripture we need to remember that a fool is not somebody who is mentally deficient, it’s someone who is morally deficient. “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There’s no god'” (Psalm 14:1).
It’s a person who wants to live his life as if there were no God. He has no fear of God, no fear of man, no regard for what is moral, no regard for what is spiritual, and as a result he acts stupidly, foolishly, disgracefully.
Isaiah 32 verse six says “A fool speaks nonsense, and his heart inclines toward wickedness, to practice ungodliness and to speak error against the Lord, to keep the hungry person unsatisfied and to withhold drink from the thirsty” (New American Standard). And we’re going to see that Nabal the fool lived up to that description of a fool. He kept back food and water from those who were hungry and thirsty. He was a foolish man.
Now let me just say as we look at Nabal, and we’ll see more of his character in the sessions to come, but I think you can see already that your heart determines your character and your behavior. And your character and your behavior reveal your heart if you are acting foolishly, in foolish, ungodly ways, that reveals that you have a foolish heart.
Now all through this series it’s going to be easy for us as we read about Nabal to think of someone we know. But I want us as we examine this passage to let God shine the spotlight of His Spirit and His Word into our hearts and say, “Could any of this be true of me? Am I sometimes impossible to deal with? People can’t be honest with me, or I’ll blow up. I’m arrogant, proud, harsh, assume negatively of others, assume the worst of them. I answer roughly, rather than graciously.” If I act in those ways, if I speak in those ways, that tells you something about the condition of my heart. The Scripture says we’re all born fools. That’s why we need a heart transplant.
We’re born fools. We’re born going our own way, disregarding God, disregarding others. We don’t all act as foolishly as we could, but everyone one of us is born with the capacity to be a Nabal. It’s only the grace of God if there’s anything in us that’s gracious and kind or sweet-spirited in our homes, in our other relationships. That’s why we desperately need God’s grace. Apart from the grace of God everyone of us would be a Nabal, and that’s why we desperately need the grace of God.