The Life of David, Vol. I.
by A. W. Pink
His Marriage to Abigail
1 Samuel 25
"Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner" (Prov. 11:31). This is a most appropriate verse with which to introduce the passage that is to engage our attention, for each of its clauses receives striking illustration in what is now to be before us. The closing verses of 1 Samuel 25 supply both a blessed and a solemn sequel to what is found earlier in the chapter. There we saw the wicked triumphing, and the righteous being oppressed. There we saw the godly wife of the churl, Nabal, graciously and faithfully befriending the outcast David. Here we behold the hand of God’s judgment falling heavily upon the wicked, and the hand of His grace rewarding the righteous.
"Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner." Of all the hundreds of Solomon’s inspired proverbs this is the only one which is prefaced by the word "Behold." This at once intimates that a subject of great importance is here in view, bidding us fix the eyes of our mind upon the same with close and admiring attention. That subject is the providential dealings of God in human affairs, a subject which has fallen sadly into disfavor during the last two or three generations, and one concerning which much ignorance and error now widely prevails. Three things are clearly signified by Proverbs 11:31: first, that God disposes the affairs of all His creatures; second, that He pleads the cause of the innocent and vindicates His oppressed people; third, that He plagues and overthrows evildoers.
Practically all professing Christians believe that there is a future day of retribution, when God shall reward the righteous and punish the wicked; but comparatively few believe God now does so. Yet the verse with which we have opened expressly declares that "The righteous shall be recompensed in the earth." It is impossible to read the Scriptures with an unprejudiced mind and not see this truth exhibited in the history of individuals, families and nations. Cain murdered Abel: a mark was set upon him by God, and he cried, "my punishment is greater than I can bear." Noah was a just man and walked with God: he and his family were preserved from the flood. Pharaoh persecuted the Hebrews, and was drowned at the Red Sea. Saul thirsted for David’s life, and was slain in battle. Of the Lord we must say, "Verily, He is a God that judgeth in the earth" (Ps. 58:11).
And now comes one with this objection: All that you have said above obtained during the Old Testament dispensation, but in this Christian era it is not so; we are shut up to faith. How ridiculous. Has God vacated His throne? Is He no longer shaping human affairs? Is His governmental justice no longer operative? Why, the most signal example in all history of God’s "recompensing" the wicked and the sinner in the earth, has transpired in this Christian dispensation! It was in A.D. 70 that God publicly executed judgment upon Jerusalem for the Jews’ rejection and crucifixion of their Messiah, and the condition of that people throughout the earth ever since, has been a perpetual exemplification of this solemn truth. The same principle has been repeatedly manifested in the establishment of Christianity upon the ruins of its oppressors. As to Christians being "shut up to faith," so were the Old Testament saints just as much as we are: Habakkuk 2:1-4.
But let us notice a more formidable objection. Have there not been many righteous souls who were falsely accused, fiercely persecuted, and who were not vindicated on earth by God? Have there not been many of the wicked who have prospered temporally, and received no retribution in this life? First, let it be pointed out that God does not always respond immediately. The writer has lived long enough to see more than one or two who traded on the Sabbath, oppressed widows, and despised all religion, brought to want. Second, there is a happy medium between denying (on the one hand) that God is not now acting at all in the capacity of Judge, and insisting (on the other hand) that every man fully reaps in this life what he has sown.
Here, as everywhere, the truth lies between two extremes. If God were to visibly reward every righteous act and punish every evil-doer in this life, much of the work pertaining to the great Day of Judgment would be forestalled. But if God never honors in this world those who honor Him, or punishes those who openly defy Him, then we should be without any pre-intimations of that Great Assize, other than what is revealed in those Scriptures of Truth which very few so much as read. Therefore, in His providential government of the world, God wisely gives sufficiently clear manifestations of His love and righteousness and hatred of unrighteousness, as to leave all without excuse concerning what may be expected when we stand before Him to be fully and finally judged. While there are sufficient cases of godliness apparently passing unrewarded and examples of evil-doers prospering, as to leave full room for the exercise of faith that the righteousness of God shall yet be completely vindicated; nevertheless, there are also a sufficient number of clear demonstrations before our eyes of God’s vengeance upon the wicked to awe us that we sin not.
"And Abigail came to Nabal; and behold, he held a feast in his house, like the feast of a king; and Nabal’s heart was merry within him, for he was very drunken: wherefore she told him nothing, less or more until the morning light" (v. 36). Recall the circumstances. Only a little while previously Nabal had offered a gross insult to one who was in dire need, and who had several hundred men under his command. Measured by the standards of the world that insult called for retaliation, and so felt the one who had received it. David had sworn to revenge himself by slaying Nabal and every male member of his household, and verse 23 makes it plain that he was on his way to execute that purpose. But for the timely intervention of his wife, Nabal had been engaged in a hopeless fight to preserve his life; and here we see him feasting and drunken!
As Abigail furnishes a typical illustration of a needy sinner coming to Christ and being saved by Him (see close of last chapter), so Nabal affords us a solemn portrayal of one who despised Christ and perished in his sins. Let preachers develop the leading points which we here note down in passing. See the false security of sinners when in dire danger: Ecclesiastes 8:11. Observe how one who grudges to give to God for the relief of His poor, will lavishly spend money to satisfy his lusts or make a fair show in the flesh: Luke 16:19-21. O how many there are more concerned about having what they call "a good time," than they are in making their peace with God: Isaiah 55:2. So sottish are some in the indulging of their appetites that they sink lower than the beasts of the field: Isaiah 1:3. It is adding insult to injury when the sinner not only breaks God’s laws but abuses His mercies: Luke 14:18-20. Remember people are intoxicated with other things besides "wine"—worldly fame, worldly riches, worldly pleasures.
Yes, the fool Nabal vividly portrays the case of multitudes all around us. The curse of God’s broken law hanging over them, yet "feasting" as though all is well with their souls for eternity. The sword of divine justice already drawn to smite them down, yet their hearts "merry" with "the pleasures of sin for a season." The Water of Life neglected, but "drunken" with the intoxicating things of this perishing world. A grave awaiting them in a few days’ time, but flirting with death during the brief and precious interval. In such a benumbed and giddy state, that it would be the casting of pearls before swine for the godly to speak seriously unto them. O how securely the devil holds his victims! O the beguiling and paralyzing effects of sin! O the utterly hopeless condition of the unbelieving, unless a sovereign God intervenes, works a miracle of grace, and snatches him as a brand from the burning!
"But it came to pass in the morning, when the wine was gone out of Nabal, and his wife had told him these things, that his heart died within him, and he became as a stone" (v. 37). The day of danger had been spent in reveling, the night in intoxicated stupefaction, and now he is called, as it were, to account. The sacred narrative records no reproaches that Abigail made: they were not necessary—the guilty conscience of Nabal would perform its own office. Instead, she merely told her husband of what had transpired. Her words at once dispelled his dreams, shattered his peace, and sank his spirits. Most probably, he was overcome with fright, that notwithstanding his wife’s kindly overtures, David would swiftly take vengeance upon him. Filled with bitter remorse, now it was too late to repent, giving way to abject despair, Nabal’s heart "became as stone." See here a picture of the poor worldling when facing death, and the terrors of the Almighty overwhelming him. See here the deceitfulness of carnal pleasures: overnight his heart merry with wine, now paralyzed with horror and terror. Yes, the "end of that mirth is heaviness" (Prov. 14: 13); how different the joys which God gives!
"And it came to pass about ten days after, that the Lord smote Nabal, that he died" (v. 38). What a fearfully solemn termination to a wasted life! Nabal’s course was one of folly, his end was that of "the fool." Here was a man "very great" (v. 2), who had boastfully spoken of "my bread, my flesh, my shearers" (v. 11); who had scorned David, and spent his time in excessive self-gratification now arrived at the close of his earthly journey, with nothing before him but "the blackness of darkness forever." He seems to have lain in a senseless stupor for ten days, induced either by the effects of his intoxication, or from the horror and anguish of his mind, and this was completed by the immediate stroke of the power and wrath of God, cutting him off out of the land of the living. Such is, my reader, the doom of every one who despises and rejects Christ as Lord and Saviour.
"And it came to pass about ten days after, that the Lord smote Nabal, that he died." Not only is the case of Nabal a solemn example of a careless, giddy, reckless sinner, suddenly cut off by God whilst giving himself up to the indulgence of the flesh, when the sword of divine judgment was suspended over his head; but we also see in his death an exhibition of the faithfulness of God, an illustration of Romans 12:19: "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." Not only is it sinful for the saint to avenge himself when unjustly insulted and ill treated, but it is quite unnecessary. In due time Another will do it far more effectually
"And when David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, Blessed be the Lord, that has pleaded the cause of my reproach from the land of Nabal, and hath kept His servant from evil: for the Lord hath returned the wickedness of Nabal upon his own head" (v. 39). It is not that David was guilty of unholy glee over the wretched end of one who had wronged him, but that he rejoiced in the display of God’s glory, of the exercise of divine justice, and the triumphing of piety over iniquity. Therein lies the real key to a number of passages which many of our moderns suppose breathe only a vengeful spirit: as though God erected a lower standard of holiness in Old Testament times than is now given to us. Such was not the case: the law, equally with the Gospel, required love for the neighbor.
As this subject has been so sadly wrested by "Dispensationalists," let us add a few words here. Take for example Psalm 58:10, "The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked." Superficial people say, "But that is altogether contrary to the spirit of this dispensation!" But read on: "So that a man shall say. Verily there is a reward for the righteous: verily He is a God that judgeth in the earth" (v. 11). It was not the exercise of a spirit of malice, which took delight in seeing the destruction of their foes: no indeed: for in the Old Testament the divine command was, "Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth" (Prov. 24:17). Instead, it was the heart bowing in worship before the governmental dealings of God, adoring that Justice which gave unto the wicked their due. And where the heart is not completely under the dominion of maudlin sentimentality, there will be rejoicing today when some notoriously wicked character is manifestly cut down by the holy hand of God: so it will be at the end of this era: see Revelation 18:20; 19:1, 2.
Ere passing on to the next verses, let us take notice of David’s thankful acknowledgment of God’s restraining grace: "Blessed be the Lord, that hath pleaded the cause of my reproach from the hand of Nabal, and hath kept His servant from evil" (v. 39). If we carefully reviewed the details of each day, we should frequently find occasion to admire the sin-preventing providences of God. We may well adopt the language of the Psalmist at the close of a beautiful illustration of the divine mercies: "Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the Lord" (Ps. 107:43). Let us never miss an opportunity of praising God when He graciously keeps us from committing any evil we had premeditated.
"And David sent and communed with Abigail, to take her to him to wife. And when the servants of David were come to Abigail to Carmel, they spake unto her, saying, David sent us unto thee, to take thee to him to wife" (vv. 39, 40). The stroke of God’s judgment had freed Abigail from a painful situation, and now the workings of His providence rewarded her righteousness. God gave her favor in the eyes of His anointed. David was charmed not only with the beauty of her person and the prudence of her character, but also with her evident piety—the most valuable quality of all in a wife. Abigail being now a widow, and David’s own wife living in adultery, be sent messengers with a proposal of marriage to her. This line in the type is strikingly accurate: the Lord Jesus does not court His wife immediately, but employs the ministers of the Gospel, endued with the Holy Spirit, to woo and win sinners unto Himself.
"And she arose, and bowed herself on her face to the earth and said, Behold, let thine handmaid be a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord" (v. 41). Very beautiful is it to see the great modesty and humility with which such a wealthy woman received the advances of David, deeming herself unworthy of such an honor, yea, having such respect for him that she would gladly be one of the meanest servants of his household. She accepted his proposal, and thereby added still another line to this typical picture of conversion: note how in the margin of 2 Chronicles 30:8 faith is represented as to "give the hand unto the Lord"!
"And Abigail hasted, and arose, and rode upon an ass, with five damsels of hers that went after her; and she went after the messengers of David, and became his wife" (v. 42). Most blessed is this. At the time, David was an homeless wanderer, outlawed; yet Abigail was willing not only to forsake her own house and comfortable position, but to share his trials and endure hardships for his sake. Nevertheless, she knew it would be only for a brief season: she married in faith, assured of the fulfillment of God’s promises (v. 30) and confident that in due course she would "reign with him"! And this is what true conversion is: a turning of our back upon the old life, willing to suffer the loss of all things for Christ, with faith looking forward to the future.
"David also took Ahinoam of Jezreel, and they were also both of them his wives. But (or "for") Saul had given Michal his daughter, David’s wife, to Phalti the son of Laish, which was of Gallim" (vv. 43, 44). Polygamy, though not in accord with either the law of nature or the law of God, was a custom which prevailed in those degenerate days, which some good men gave in to, though they are not to be commended for it. In taking Ahinoam of Jezreel to wife (and later several others: 2 Sam. 3), David followed the corruption of the times, but from the beginning it was not so, nor is it permissible now since Christ has ushered in "the times of reformation" (Matthew 19:4-6).