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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:Sent from the Lord to Be a Blessing
Text:1 Samuel 25:1-44 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Comfort in a World of Pain

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Song selections from the 1976 Psalter Hymnal, unless otherwise noted:
374 - This Is My Father’s World 
239 (Red) - God Hath Spoken by His Prophets  
249  - Thy Word Sheds Light Upon My Path   
277:1,3,4 Gracious Lord, Remember David              
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Pastor Ted Gray
“Sent from the Lord to Be a Blessing”
1 Samuel 25:1-44
If this chapter was acted out as a play there would be three main characters, each one distinct and unique from the others. The setting for the chapter is in Maon. Samuel has died, and as the nation of Israel mourned his death, David went further from Saul, into the desert of Maon, perhaps fearing that Saul would be more intent on killing him than ever before now that the chief prophet of God, Samuel, had died.
While David was in the desert, he came across a man with a name none of us would want. His name was Nabal, which means “fool.” It was undoubtedly a nickname as none of us can imagine a set of parents looking at a newborn baby and saying, “What shall we name him?” “Let’s name him ‘Fool!’”
Nicknames were frequently used in Biblical times, just as they are today. And undoubtedly this man came to be known by the name “Nabal” as people realized that he was a fool of the worse kind. Nabal had disregarded his godly heritage.  He was a Calebite, a descendent of a man who stands with Joshua as one of only two faithful men who spied out the land of Canaan and brought back a good report. Joshua and Caleb brought a report to Israel based on their belief in the power of Almighty God to give Canaan into Israel’s hand.
But there is no indication that Nabal had the faith of his ancestor Caleb. Instead, Nabal’s life is a reminder that each successive generation, if the individuals in it are not careful, will slide further and further from the Lord, even though they have been blessed with godly ancestors.
We see that in the Biblical record. Judges 2:7 describes how “The people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work that the Lord had done for Israel." But after that generation died, Judges 2:10 describes how “There arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel." And we see that truth in our culture today, as many in the younger generations don’t express the faith and commitment of their ancestors.
We also see in Nabal’s life that wealth and pleasure, which are good things in themselves, gifts from the Lord, can be used to a person’s destruction. Nabal was exceptionally wealthy, with one thousand goats and three thousand sheep. Yet he did not acknowledge that the wealth he had was from the Lord. He certainly cared nothing about good stewardship or helping those in need.  He wasn’t even willing to help David and his men after David and his men had been of great help to him.
Often shepherds were robbed and taken advantage of by others, but David’s men had looked out for Nabal’s shepherds. Now it was sheep shearing time, which was a festive time; it was celebrated in the way Christmas is often celebrated by many people today. Gifts were given away and received. It wasn’t an unusual request for David to make, and it wasn’t an overly large request either.
But in verse 10 and 11 Nabal gave a sarcastic reply to David’s men. He wasn’t about to help anyone out. He was totally self-centered. In verse 36 we read how he used his wealth to throw a great banquet, like that of a king; and he proceeded to get drunk. Yet, even in the life of such a fool, the Holy Spirit teaches wisdom to God’s people.
The second main character in the chapter is Nabal’s wife, Abigail. We have all heard the expression, and have met couples about which this expression is true: “She – or he – is my better half.”  That familiar expression certainly applied to the marriage of Nabal and Abigail. Just as Nabal set a terrible example, his wife set an excellent example. 
Abigail was intelligent and beautiful, verse 3 tells us. We also see that she was resourceful and hardworking. Verse 18 and 19 describe how she quickly prepared a large amount of food to present to David and his men. When Abigail met David, she showed that she was diplomatic and polite as she reasoned with him and dissuaded him from going through on his plan to kill Nabal and all the men who were with him.
Abigail was the complete opposite of her husband Nabal.  She was certainly the better half in that marriage! Her life is recorded by the Holy Spirit’s inspiration to give wisdom to God’s people, and to be an example, as we see that she was sent from the Lord to be a blessing to David, restraining him from sinning violently.
The third main character in the chapter is David. When his men went back to David and reported to him what Nabal had said, David was overcome with anger. Anger can get such a deep hold on all of us. Anger causes us to do things that we later regret deeply. David was at the brink of doing something he would have truly regretted. His anger was ready to explode into bloodshed.  In verse 13 David said to his men, “Put on your swords!”
Later on, in verse 34, David said to Abigail, “...As surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak.”
If that would have happened, David would have deeply regretted it. He would have been no better than Saul who had commanded his troops to kill the priests at Nob. David realized he was responsible for the massacre of the priests. It happened after David had gone to Ahimelech looking for supplies, and told Ahimelech that he was on a secret mission of the king. Ahimelech gave David the consecrated bread and Goliath’s sword. But Doeg the Edomite reported to king Saul what Ahimelech had done. Saul retaliated by allowing Doeg to slaughter Ahimelech and his family. David’s grief was great. He said to Abiathar, the only priest who escaped, “I am responsible for the death of your whole family.” (1 Sam. 22:22) It was painful enough to know that he was responsible for the bloodshed at Nob.  Killing Nabal and all his men would have only added to that grief.
Tested by God’s Providence
In this chapter we see, then, three separate individuals, each one distinct and unique from the others. But above them all we see God’s hand of providence. It is God, working through the situations of this chapter, who allowed Nabal to be a test for David. In verse 10 and 11, when Nabal gave his sarcastic reply to David’s men, and refused to help them, David was faced with a test. Back in 1 Samuel 24:12, when he spared Saul’s life, he had said to King Saul, May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you.”
At that time, David had clearly seen that the Lord is the righteous Judge who repays evil with perfect equity and justice. At that point, David understood the teaching of Romans 12:19 long before it was written: Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”
But now, a short time later, another test came. David had done so well back in the cave. His men had urged him to take Saul’s life.  Saul was, in a hunter’s terminology, a “sitting duck.”  It would have been a simple matter to end his life. But David refrained. He left judgment with the Lord.  But now it was a new test, and David was ready to fail in a big way, as David said to his men, “Put on your swords!”  (13)
Isn’t that just how it is in life? We get through one circumstance, a test of our faith and reliance on God, just fine. But then down the road, the next day or week, or maybe in the next ten minutes, we face another circumstance, and our faith is tested again. And then, like David, we are ready to fly off the handle and take matters in our own hands instead of giving the circumstances, and our feelings, over to the Lord.
The Lord will never tempt us, for as James says, “God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone.” (James 1:13) But God will test us, for again, as James says: “...You know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:3-4)
David certainly would have failed this test from the Lord had not God, in gracious providence, used Abigail as His instrument to refocus David’s vision onto God’s promises. In verses 28 to 31 Abigail repeatedly used God’s covenant name as she reminded David that He who had said, “I am who I am” (Exodus 3:14), would certainly be true to the promises He had made to David concerning provision for the men. 
In the process she focused both on the promises of reward that God has given, as well as the promise of judgment on David’s enemies. In verse 29 she said, “Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my master will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the Lord your God. But the lives of your enemies He will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling.”
By focusing David on the promises of God, Abigail was used as an instrument of the Lord to keep David from murder. David himself acknowledged this. In verse 33 and 34 he said to Abigail, May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands. Otherwise, as surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak.”
As we have already seen, David would have “failed the test” had God not in gracious providence sent Abigail to him. I suppose the skeptic would say that Abigail was only trying to spare her own life. But the text brings out clearly that she knew the Lord by faith and wanted to advance His kingdom by keeping David from bloodshed regarding Nabal and his shepherds.
God’s Restraining Grace
By way of application we, like David, are to praise God for His restraining grace and providence in our lives.
As a soldier, David had killed many enemies of Israel, beginning with Goliath and moving on through a great number of others. Because he had killed so many in the line of duty at war, he may have been quicker, and certainly more able, to kill Nabal and his helpers if Abigail had not intervened and pointed him again to God’s promises.
Perhaps, then, it seems as though David’s situation wouldn’t be yours or mine.  But actually, it is, especially when we look at the sixth commandment, “You shall not murder” through the lens of Matthew 5:21-22. It is there that Jesus says, You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’  But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment...”
In that passage we are forcefully reminded that all of us have committed murder. But we have committed murder where other people usually don’t see it. We commit murder in our heart by our hatred for someone else, or by the refusal to forgive someone who has wronged us.
I don’t know about you, but I know that I have murdered many people by my thoughts, and often by my words.  Even a look can kill. The murder isn’t just internal, and totally unknown to others.  Often it spills out of the recess of our heart through words, looks and actions, all of which can kill.  We deeply regret those situations as the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin. We want to take back what we have done or said, but we can’t.
That has happened to us all, I’m sure. But also, by God’s grace, how often have we been restrained from lashing out? As we grow in grace – in that life-long, slow moving process of sanctification – have you seen where by God’s grace you have learned to hold back? To give judgment over to the Lord?  To leave matters in His hands?
And when you have failed, have you turned in repentance and saving faith to Christ? He alone can cleanse and forgive. David would find that out dramatically after his sin with Bathsheba. He was cut to the core by the convicting power of the Holy Spirit working through Nathan the prophet. David confessed his sin and found forgiveness that only the eternal Christ can offer.  The same is true for you and for me. No matter what sins are in our lives, they can be cleansed and washed whiter than snow only through the redeeming work of Jesus Christ.
After Abigail confronted him, David realized that God had used her to intervene, sparing him from sinning greatly. David praised God for that deliverance; he realized that God in gracious providence had sent Abigail to him, keeping him from committing grievous sin. No wonder he exclaimed, in verse 32, Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me.”
In the same way, when we have overcome temptation to retaliate, when we have come to have the wisdom to give a matter to the Lord, then we, like David, are to praise God for His restraining grace and providence in our lives.    
A second application is that we, like Abigail, are to make every effort to be a blessing from God in the lives of others. As an old familiar hymn puts it:

Make me a blessing,
Out of my life…May Jesus shine;
Make me a blessing, O Savior, I pray,
I pray Thee, my Savior,
Make me a blessing to someone today.
(“Make Me a Blessing”, Ira B. Wilson, 1909)
Just as Abigail was a wonderful blessing to David, we are to search for opportunities to be a blessing to others – to be God’s instrument in their lives the way Abigail was to David. To be used by the Lord to be a blessing to others involves growing in grace and knowledge of God’s name (2 Pet. 3:18) so that we are, by God’s grace, “a letter from Christ… written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” (2 Cor. 3:3) It also involves taking a personal interest in the lives of those around us, those whom we have influence on. It involves going the second mile (Matt. 5:41), and it involves not growing weary in doing good things for others.
In Galatians 6:9-10 Paul writes, “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” And in 2 Timothy 2:20-21 he adds: In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble.  If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.”
May that describe your life and mine! As God graciously sanctifies us, may you and I gain wisdom from the warning of Nabal’s foolish and sinful life. May we learn not to retaliate, but to leave judgment with the Lord, as David ultimately did. And may we follow the good example of Abigail, seeking to be “an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” Amen.
Bulletin outline:
David said to Abigail, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent
you today to meet me. May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping
me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands.”
                                                                                                     1 Samuel 25:32-33
                         “Sent from the Lord to Be a Blessing”
                                           1 Samuel 25:1-44
I.  The drama of this chapter involves three main characters:
     1) Nabal, whose life shows us the danger of wealth and pleasure (4-17;
         36-38) as he disregarded his godly heritage (3; Josh. 14:6-15)
      2) Abigail, who was intelligent and beautiful (3), resourceful
           and hardworking (18-19), diplomatic and polite (23-31) 
      3) David, who in a moment of anger (13) was ready to commit the same
          type of killing as Saul had authorized at Nob (34; 1 Sam. 22:17-22) 
II. God’s hand of providence is seen throughout the chapter as He:
       1) Allowed Nabal to be a test for David (10-11; 1 Sam. 24:11-12) 
       2) Used Abigail as His instrument to re-focus David’s vision onto God’s
            promises (28-31), and to keep David from murder (26, 33-34)
III. Applications:
      1) We, like David, are to praise God for His restraining grace and providence
           in our lives (32-34), as well as His cleansing power when we fall
      2) We, like Abigail, are to make every effort to be sent from the Lord to be
           a blessing to others (32, 2 Tim. 2:20-21)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2012, Rev. Ted Gray

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