Seward United Methodist Church
Friday, May 25, 2018

Beauty

August 24, 2014
 
King David Series- 7
 

1st Samuel 25:1b-13 and 14-35

 In chapter 25, we find David, still in the wilderness, still hiding out from King Saul, still with his band of merry men.  But you know what?  Hiding out is not an occupation, and certainly not a full time one.  It’s not as if King Saul, who also had country to run, could spend every waking minute out in the wilderness looking for David.  When he heard a report about where David was, he seemed eager to run out there looking for him, but for the most part he was busy with other things.

 So David and his men also busied themselves with other things.  David seems to have become something of a precursor to Robin Hood:  a “good” outlaw, hiding out from the powers-that-be, and ordering his men to go about doing good deeds, protecting the innocent and such.  

 Some of those who came under the protection of David and his merry men were the shepherds of a certain rich man from the town of Carmel, named Nabal.  And it’s a good thing, too.  Shepherding was a rather risky occupation.  The wilderness was mostly a lawless place.  There were wild animals:  Wolves, bears, lions, oh my!  There were thieves and robbers.  And foreign raiders would often sneak into the grazing areas and find easy pickings there.  But by the testimony of Nabal’s own shepherds, no harm came to them.  David and his men did no harm, and they did not allow anyone else to harm Nabal’s men.  

 At the end of the grazing season, it was shearing time.  The sheep were brought back into the folds for the winter.  They were sheared.  The shepherds were paid.  It was a time of generosity and feasting.  

 Since David and his men had done a service for Nabal, and since there wasn’t a whole lot to eat in the wilderness, David sends some of his men to Nabal to ask for generosity.  And instead they received insult.  Nabal calls David and his men a bunch of criminals and implies that David is a runaway slave, who has deserted his rightful master.  

 Nabal lives up to his name:  Fool.  It begs the question, was this fellow really named “fool.”  Doesn’t seem very nice of his parents to do that.  Well, there are two possibilities.  One is that Nabal was a derogatory nickname given to him by others.  The other, which is more likely, is that Nabal had a second meaning that wasn’t so negative, and through the years, the second meaning was lost.

 But he sure acts like a fool.  And David is rightly outraged.  Nabal is a vulgar, ugly fool.  And the easiest thing to do with ugliness and vulgarity is to respond in kind!

 Well, that’s the easiest thing to do in the face of foolishness, but it’s not the best thing.  There are plenty of fools in this world, and if every time we encounter one, we set out to set them straight, instead we find that we enter into their foolishness.  I think it was Mark Twain who said, “Never argue with a fool.  If you do, people who are watching might get confused about which one of you is the fool.”  

 But David is not inclined to think that way.  He is outraged.  He’s furious.  He’s out for blood.  He sets out with 400 armed men, bent on killing Nabal, and not just Nabal but also murdering every single male in his house:  Every son and every male servant.  That’s hardly proportional to an insult, is it?  Of course, when we’re mad, when we’re out for revenge, we hardly ever stop to consider proportionality, do we?  

 David has forgotten who he is.  He is God’s anointed one, chosen by God to be king and to lead the nation in godliness.  He is filled with God’s Holy Spirit, so that he might serve God and God’s people.  He has forgotten who he is, and as a matter of fact, he’s starting to act like King Saul, isn’t he?  He is out to get anyone that he thinks has insulted or demeaned his status or his role.  

 He has become ugly.  He is empty of God, and empty of God, we are ugly people.  And he is going to do a very ugly thing.  Or at least he would have, if it were not for a beautiful woman:  Abigail, Nabal’s wife.

 Abigail is described to us as a beautiful woman.  But I think the Bible makes it clear to us that her beauty was more than just that she was good-looking.  It was an inner beauty.  An inner beauty of courage, wisdom, thoughtfulness, integrity.  Verse 3 describes her as a “sensible woman,” and she proves it correct.

 One of Nabal’s servants does the very thing that Nabal accused David of doing; he goes behind Nabal’s back to try to protect him from his own foolishness.  He goes to Abigail and tells her all about Nabal’s insults.  And Abigail springs into action.  She anticipates how David might respond.  She gathers food for David and his men, and she sets off alone to meet David.  

 As it just so happens, she meets up with David and his armed men in a narrow ravine in the wilderness, a place where escape would be difficult.  She’s a courageous woman.  She is risking the wrath of both David and her husband by standing between them.  Here she is, a

woman alone and unarmed, face to face with 400 angry, armed men.  But her beauty and wisdom prevail.  

 She makes her plea to David.  Nabal is a fool.  Don’t pay any attention to him.  There are plenty of fools in this world.  The best thing we can do is that once we determine that someone is a fool is to put some distance between us and them, and then get on with God’s work.  

 She reminds David of how God has already kept him once from committing a rash deed of vengeance.  This would be the episode we looked at last week, where David did not harm King Saul when he had an easy chance to do so at the cave of En Gedi.  

 She goes on:  You have been doing God’s work.  And God will reward you if you keep doing it.  You are safe in God’s care.  But your enemies will be like slung away, like a stone shot out of a sling.  Hint, hint, David:  Remember how God took care of you in the Valley of Elah, when you faced Goliath.  Trust him to take care of you now!  

 Don’t let this be a blemish on your record.  Who would want a murderer for a king?  And don’t burden your conscience.  It’s easy to do the wrong thing when we are mad.  But it’s hard to forget that we have done the wrong thing after we come to our senses.  

 David’s ugliness, his anger, his wrath, his bloodlust, is turned away by Abigail’s beauty.  

 Theologians have long recognized that beauty is a witness to God.  We can’t quantify beauty.  We have no equation to determine it.  There is no definition of beauty.  But we know it when we see it.  And so it is with God.  We can’t define him or quantify him, but we know him when we see him at work.  

 God is beautiful; worthy of our love and praise and devotion.  And if we are made in God’s image, then we are made to be beautiful people.  And the experience of beauty can restore us to what we were meant to be.  

 Twice in his years in the wilderness, the beauty that David saw there allowed him to see beauty in a very unlikely place:  King Saul.  And twice David spared Saul’s life because he was able to see beauty in him.  And now the beauty that David sees in Abigail allows him to see beauty in himself, and as a result, he spares Nabal.  

 And he becomes himself again.  He becomes God’s anointed servant again.

 
 
 
 

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