• “Satan is so much more in earnest than we are–he buys up the opportunity while we are wondering how much it will cost.” – Amy Carmichael

Provoked by Nancy Leigh DeMoss

Series: Abigail: How to Live with the Fools in Your Life

Leslie Basham: We naturally want to trade evil for evil. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Is there someone in your life who has provoked you to anger, someone who’s acting foolishly, someone who’s being cruel, harsh and ill-tempered, mean-spirited in your life? Do you want to become like that person? If you do, then keep right on your war path.

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, August 29th.

The Bible says, “Love is not provoked” (1 Corinthians 13:5). That’s easy to understand until a two year-old asks you the five hundredth question of the day, or someone cuts you off in traffic, or your husband forgets to pay the bills on time . . . again. Today, we’ll hear about a righteous man who let his guard down. He was so provoked he was ready to kill the person who offended him. Here’s Nancy.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We’re looking at a story in the Old Testament, the book of 1 Samuel 25. If you have your Bible, let me ask you to open it to that passage. It’s a story with three main characters. We were introduced to them over the last couple of days. We see first a man named Nabal who was a wealthy businessman, but he was a harsh, mean, ill-behaved, ill-mannered man, who acted like his name, Nabal, which means fool.

Now, as we come to verse four today, we see that, “David heard in the wilderness.” David and his six hundred men, who are fugitives with him from King Saul, are fleeing from Saul. They are out in the wilderness. “David,” verse four, “heard in the wilderness that Nabal was shearing his sheep.” Nabal is a rancher. He’s a herdsman. He has a lot of sheep and a lot of goats.

Verse five, “So David sent ten young men. And David said to the young men, ‘Go up to Carmel, and go to Nabal and greet him in my name. And thus you shall greet him: Peace be to you, and peace be to your house, and peace be to all that you have'” (verses five and six). Here’s David wanting to be a peace-loving man and being gracious and kind in the way he approaches this man who has the heart of a fool. David is going to reap some consequences from that.

Verse seven, say to Nabal, “I hear that you have shearers. Now your shepherds have been with us, and we did them no harm, and they missed nothing all the time they were in Carmel. Ask your young men, (Nabal, your workers) and they will tell you. Therefore let my young men (my workers) find favor in your eyes, for we come on a feast day. Please give whatever you have at hand to your servants and to your son David” (verses seven and eight).

Now, let’s unpack that passage a little bit and see what’s happening here. David had treated Nabal and his herdsmen honorably. In this passage we see, and we’ll see even more later in the chapter, that David and his army of six hundred men had provided protection out in the wilderness for Nabal’s men and Nabal’s herds, protecting them from thieves, from bandits and marauders.

And now, David was coming back and merely asking for what was his rightful due, compensation for services rendered. It was like a tip. This is the way things operated out in the wilderness. David and his men provided protection. They made sure that marauders stayed away from Nabal’s sheep and herdsmen, and now they are saying, there is a feast day coming, would you provide compensation for my men? It was a reasonable thing to ask.

Verse nine, “When David’s young men came, they said all this to Nabal in the name of David, and then they waited. And Nabal answered David’s servants, ‘Who is David? Who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants these days who are breaking away from their masters'” (verses nine and ten). Now, right off the bat Nabal accuses David of being disloyal to King Saul. “You’re just a servant who has run away from his master. You’re a run-away slave. No way am I going to help you.”

He goes on in verse 11, “‘Shall I take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers and give it to men who come from I do not know where?'” Now, it’s not surprising that a man who is harsh and badly behaved as we saw in the previous session should speak in a way that is harsh and badly behaved because as Jesus said, “Out of the depths of your heart, you speak.” What’s in your heart comes out in the way that you respond to people in life.

So Nabal is a foolish man. He’s a harsh man. He’s a badly behaved man. When David’s men come to him in peace just wanting what is his rightful due, he says, “No way!” Here’s a man who had a lot more than he needed and could well afford to share with these who have provided protection for him, but he refuses to share. We see a man who’s controlling. “I don’t mind giving if it’s my idea, but not if it’s your suggestion, not if it’s your request.”

Here’s a man who is suspicious. Verse 11, he says, “These are men who come from I do not know where.” He’s suspicious of their motives, suspicious of what they’re up to. He assumes negatively. He jumps to conclusions. He makes false accusations.

Here’s a man, Nabal, who is insensitive to the needs of others. He couldn’t care less. He is utterly, absolutely unconcerned about their welfare. You know why? Because he is utterly, absolutely obsessed with his own welfare. “My stuff. How can I get more? How can I hold on to what I have?” I think this really is a man who just really has this drive to have the upper hand. THE BOSS in big letters is what he wants on his mug. “I’m in charge. I’m in control.”

Now, we are going to learn even more about Nabal as the chapter unfolds, but first in the next verse we get a look at David’s initial response. Verse 12, “So David’s young men turned away and came back and told him all this. And David said to his men, ‘Every man strap on his sword!'” (It’s wartime.) And every man of them strapped on his sword. David also strapped on his sword. And about four hundred men went up after David, while two hundred remained with the baggage” (verses 12 and 13).

Now in this account we are going to see two very different ways to respond to provocation, two very different ways to respond to the foolish people in your life: David’s way and Abigail’s way. How did David respond? His natural reaction was what? To get even, vengeance. It was an impulsive reaction. I’m sure that David did not stop to think, and isn’t that when we get in trouble?

Somebody provokes us, somebody irks us, somebody’s rude to us, somebody cuts you off in a lane of traffic. You don’t stop and think. You just react. You know you strap on your sword. “We’re going to war. You want to fight? We’ll fight.”

But what you see here is David’s initial response to Nabal. It was to act just like Nabal. And isn’t that what our natural response is when we are provoked? Now we may not strap on literal swords, but we do it with our words. We pick up swords. Don’t we do it sometimes without even a word? Just our eyes? You can do it to your children. You can do it to your mate. You might do it to somebody who’s in the next office at work. Just our demeanor can communicate that we’ve picked up a sword. “You have hit my button, and I’m going ballistic!”

Nabal had returned evil for good to David. And now David determines to return evil for evil. Now in all fairness to David, let me say that, humanly speaking, I think this is a very understandable response. David is vulnerable. You’ve probably heard the acronym. I think I have shared it on Revive Our Hearts before–H.A.L.T. If you are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, you need to halt before you speak. Halt before you act.

David certainly had reason to be all those things at this point. He was hungry. He said, “Our men need food.” It is not just David that is hungry, it is six hundred of his men that he was responsible to feed. He was angry. His rights had been violated. He was perhaps lonely. Samuel had died. He may have felt abandoned. He could have been tired, easily. He’s running through the wilderness from Saul. He should have halted.

But instead, he let himself respond in a Nabal-like way. His response was impulsive. It was impetuous. It was passionate. It did not demonstrate the quality of self-control. Proverbs 25:28 tells us, “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” If you lose self-control even in responding to the Nabals, the fools in your life, then you become like a city that is defenseless. You become vulnerable to attack from the evil one if you lose control.

There’s another verse in Proverbs that it would have been good for David to heed in this situation. Proverbs 26:4 says, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him” (New King James). So Nabal responds in a foolish way to David’s request. Here comes David answering a fool according to his folly, strapping on his sword. And what does Proverbs say? “You will become like him.”

Isn’t it amazing how we can tend to become just like the people we’re reacting to? Proverbs says, “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.” That’s Proverbs 15:18. So here David has a chance to avoid contention, and instead he stirs up strife.

You know, as I have lived with this passage over the last several weeks, and I’ve tried to put myself in David’s shoes, I’ve realized it is so much easier to see someone else’s wrongdoing than your own. That’s why David needed a wise person to come into his life as Abigail does. But in the meantime, I think David is justifying his behavior as we often do with our responses. “I wouldn’t be acting this way if this person hadn’t done this foolish thing and treated me in this way.”

Is there someone in your life who has provoked you to anger? Stop before you strap on your sword. Or if you have already strapped on your sword, stop, think about what you are doing. You want to become like that person? If you do, then just keep right on your war path. But if you want to be different, if you want to be God’s person in that situation, then stop and think and remember that “the anger of man,” according to the book of James, “never brings about the righteousness of God” (James 1:20).



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