I AM the Good Shepherd

  I.      Introduction

Sheep aren’t the smartest animals.  Have you ever seen a sheep act at a circus?

Now, they aren’t completely dumb.  I read about one study that shows they can recognize faces and voices.  They have excellent hearing but very poor eyesight, so they tend to mindlessly follow wherever the sheep in front of them goes.

Sometimes they’re stubborn and won’t budge.  Usually they’re peaceful, but sometimes they try to bump into you with their head when they’re mad.  But usually they’re afraid and timid, so they prefer groups of sheep for protection. 

They’re defenseless.  They can’t outrun predators.  They have no fangs or claws, so they’re only defense is their pitiful head-ramming. 

And they get lost if not penned, they can’t find they’re way home.  While they’re lost, they tend to fall into rivers and bogs.  Even when rescued, they might fall back into the same river.

And God says we are like His sheep.  That’s not exactly a compliment.  Sometimes we’re stubborn, won’t budge, bump into each other when we get road rage.  We don’t have any teeth or claws to defend ourselves, so we usually have to resort to name-calling.  And even when the Lord rescues us from our stupidity, sometimes we fall right back into the same stupidity.

I know you can relate.  I certainly can.

II.      Ezekiel

We’ve been going through the 7 “I am” discourses of Jesus.

  1. I AM the Bread of Life
  2. I AM the Light of the World
  3. I AM the Door
  4. I AM the Good Shepherd
  5. I AM the Resurrection and the Life
  6. I AM the Way and the Truth and the Life
  7. I AM the True Vine

Each discourse from Jesus is meant to bring us a deeper understanding, both of Jesus’ relationship with the Father and our relationship with Jesus, and each statement echoes the “I AM WHO I AM” statement God said to Moses.  This week, we’re going to examine Jesus’ statement from John 10:11a that begins with His statement, “I AM the good shepherd.”

The imagery of sheep goes back a long, long way.  Probably the most famous of those is Psalm 23, and I’m going to read the whole psalm because it’s so amazingly applicable to our study today in John 10 –

The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

We may be sheep, but we have a shepherd that loves us, protects us, comforts us, gives us joy and eternal life.  Our cup should overflow every day because of this amazing promise.  We’ll come back to Psalm 23, but first, let’s back up to the beginning of John 10, when Jesus begins,

“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.”

To appreciate the message of Jesus, it’s important to understand who Jesus is speaking to.  He’s not talking to Israelites or His followers.  He’s speaking to the Pharisees, the religious leaders of the people.

And I know already this is going to be a stern message.  Jesus is full of lovingkindness and mercy, but He often had a stern word for the Pharisees.  The Pharisees enriched themselves at the expense of the people.  The Pharisees imposed rules on others that they themselves did not follow.  And the Pharisees misrepresented God to the children of God.  I don’t recall ever where Jesus rebuked Jews, His followers, or even the gentiles.  But He had hard words against the religious leaders.

God’s words against bad religious leaders goes back a long, long way.  Here’s Ezekiel 34:1-4 –

The word of the LORD came to me: Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock?  You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock.  You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally.

What happened in the days of Ezekiel continued through the days of Jesus, and indeed, still happens today.  God’s people can be led astray by false shepherds who are not about preaching the justice and mercy of God, of preaching the gospel, of preaching the only way to salvation.  These false shepherds enrich themselves.  They only care to the extent that they’re able to take more.  And 2 Peter 2:1-3 puts in this way –

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves.  Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.  In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

Jesus says these aren’t even pastors, they’re just hired hands.  And God promises in the same book of Ezekiel that He would send a solution, v 11-16 –

“‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them.  As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.  I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land.  I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel.  I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord.  I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.”

One of the many ways you can identify a false pastor is listen to how many times he says “me me me me” or even “you you you you.”  In this verse from Ezekiel, God says it’s not you, it’s me.  God says I will look after, I will tend, I will rescue, I will gather, I will search and I will bind and I will shepherd.  If the pastor’s message doesn’t continually point back to the saving gospel of Jesus Christ, he’s not a pastor.  He’s not a shepherd.  He may be a wolf.

Then God says in Ezekiel that He will send and place one Shepherd over all, verses 23-24,

I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd.  I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the Lord have spoken.

In contrast to the many false shepherds, this will be the one true good shepherd.  In Israel’s history, David was a good shepherd, a man after God’s own heart.  But David lived around 1000BC, and Ezekiel writes this nearly 400 years later around 590BC.  So Ezekiel is not speaking of David himself, but the root and offspring of David.  This is the coming messiah that the Jews were expecting.

III.      John

Ok, I know what you’re thinking.  We’re supposed to be studying the book of John.  So let’s get back to John 10:11a,

I am the good shepherd.

This is the English, but it wasn’t really written this way in the Greek.  A more literal translation would be “I am THE shepherd, the good one.”  Jesus is saying, “I am THE Shepherd you have been waiting for.”

And not even the word “good” here is a thorough translation of the Greek.  The word in Greek is “kalos” and it means beautiful, excellent, surpassing, precious, magnificent, praiseworthy, noble, preeminent, morally good and honorable.  I’m guessing that putting all of that in front of the word “shepherd” doesn’t roll off the tongue nearly as well as “the good shepherd.”

So John 10:11a, Jesus says “I am the good shepherd,” but the Pharisees heard, “I am THE shepherd, the coming Messiah, the preeminent beautiful magnificent and honorable shepherd that has come to rescue His flock… from the likes of you.”

And that is why, later in this passage in John 10:20, the Pharisees responded,

Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?”

Jesus continues by telling the Pharisees how the Messiah differs from all those who came before Him and how He differs from the Pharisees, John 10:11-13,

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it.  The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.”

The religious leaders that misled the people are like hired hands.  They’re paid by the hour.  When times get tough, they abandon the sheep.  It’s because they do not own the sheep, the sheep do not belong to them.

Jesus is different.  He has purchased the sheep.  He owns the sheep.  He has invested in the care and well-being of the sheep.  If one sheep is lost, Jesus will leave the 99 to seek the one that is lost.  He is the good shepherd, the preeminent beautiful magnificent and honorable shepherd that has come to rescue His flock.

IV.      Not Just Israel, But Gentiles

When we looked at Ezekiel, the prophecy of the coming messiah was for Israel.  The same prophecy, by the way, is in Jeremiah 23:1-3,5,

“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord.  Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the Lord.  “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number… The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.”

This promise is for Israel, God’s chosen people.  But many Old Testament prophecies, such as Isaiah 6, foresaw that Israel would reject the coming Messiah due to spiritual blindness.  For thousands of years, Israel had been the one nation that looked to God while the Gentile nations generally rejected the light and chose to live in spiritual darkness.  Israel and the inspired prophets revealed the one true God who was personally interested in mankind’s destiny of heaven or hell, the path to salvation, the written Word with the Ten Commandments.  Yet Israel would reject the prophesied Messiah, and the promises of the kingdom of heaven were postponed.  Paul tells us in great detail from Romans 9 through 11 about this hardening on the part of Israel led to the blessing of the Gentiles who would believe in Jesus and accept Him as Lord and Savior.

Jesus makes one of the first references in His ministry that this is occurring, that the promised Messiah would not be limited to Israel in John 10:14-16,

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father — and I lay down my life for the sheep.  I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”

We are those sheep that are not of this sheep pen.  We are the gentiles that are not part of the nation of Israel.  And the preeminent beautiful magnificent and honorable shepherd laid down His life to rescue us.  He rescued us while we were but sinners.

The Pharisees responded by saying Jesus was demon possessed.

Some time passes; Jesus has been speaking during the time of the Feast of Tabernacles, and John 10:22 says now is the time of the Feast of Dedication, or Hanukkah, so about 2 months have passed.  These Pharisees and other Jews have probably had time to ponder the words of Jesus that He is THE shepherd, the good shepherd, and now they ask in verse 24,

The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

Jesus responded in v 25-26,

Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.”

Amazing.  Jesus has been doing miracle after miracle, healing the lame and the sick and bringing the dead back to life, all the while saying, “believe in the miracles that you may know that I am in the Father and the Father is in me,” quoting the Old Testament prophecies and demonstrating the fulfillment of those prophecies, and then saying directly to their faces, “I am THE shepherd, the preeminent beautiful magnificent and honorable shepherd that has come to rescue His flock,” and the Pharisees response is…

Um… what are you trying to say?  I don’t get it.

It reminds me a few years ago when I was teaching apologetics, and it seems to me that untruths spread rapidly and non-Christians believe the lies, and the truth spreads far more slowly.  One year it’s “there is no such thing as truth.”  Of course, the proper response to that is, “is *that* true?” 

Another year, the untruth spreading was “Well, Jesus never said He was God.”  I’ve heard this repeated by non-Christians, that Jesus never made that claim.  It’s baloney.  Jesus made it perfectly clear that He and the Father were one, that he was the only begotten son of God, and that He is God.  Jesus said, “I did tell you, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.”

If you seek Him, you will find Him.  Is it any wonder that if you don’t seek Him, you won’t find Him?

  V.      The Sheep

Jesus continues with His response in verses 27-30,

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.”

One thing I’m really starting to appreciate after these bible studies over the years is the shear amount of information that Jesus can impart in just a few words.  Let’s start with this first statement –

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

Who is a Christian?  Here’s a complete theological explanation.  Christians listen to Jesus.  Jesus knows a Christian intimately.  Christians follow the instructions of Jesus.

There are many people today that claim to be Christian but are not.  I would also hazard to guess that many of them don’t even know they aren’t Christian. 

So who is a Christian?  Do they follow Jesus?  Do they know what Jesus says?  Do they read the bible?  I don’t know any other way to hear the voice of Jesus.  Do they have a personal relationship with Jesus so that Jesus knows them intimately?  Do they follow Christian, biblical principles?

Now, I don’t want to swerve into a political swamp, but often I read a news article about Christianity that I know is false.  These people will paraphrase one word Jesus said out of context and use it to leverage an entire heathen livestyle.  True Christianity follows Christ, we’re good citizens until the state infringes on the church, we love our neighbors in service and words but not to the point were we’re enabling them to jump off a cliff of non-believers.  Far left is definitely not Christianity.

But neither is far right, judgmental Christians, setting rules and laws for other people.  We may know the law and we may know what Jesus says, but instead of telling people who Jesus is, we tell them what to do.  We become judgmental hypocrites because we are all sinners, too.  We become the Pharisees.  We become just like the hired hand who cares nothing for the sheep, and we only care about the pen they’re kept in.

No, a Christian listens to the voice of his savior and develops a relationship with Jesus, and does their best to live a way pleasing to God but not man.  That’s what I believe this verse means.

Verse 28,

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.

Eternal life is a gift.  Every religion in the world is the story of man trying to earn his way to God.  But Christianity is God working His way to man.  No one is worthy of God, no one can earn his place in heaven.  We have all sinned, each and every one of us, and fallen short of God’s glory.

This rescue is freely available, but we have to admit we need it.  I was thinking this week it was like walking down to Galveston Beach and saying, “You know, I think I’ll swim to Australia.”  And then I walk into the waves and start swimming, having no idea how far away it is.  The Coast Guard will send a boat to rescue me, but I just keep swimming.  I keep telling myself, I can do this, I don’t need any help.  I’m only rescued if I recognize I can’t make it on my own and then get in the boat.

And then I imagined the Coast Guard asking me, “Where were you going?” And I answer, “Swimming to God.”  And they say, why are you swimming to Australia?  You should swim toward the sun.

Jesus says if you’re seeking the Son, you will find the Son, and He will give you eternal life and you will never perish.  And your eternity is secure, never to be lost.  No one will be able to snatch you out of the hand of Jesus.  Not the devil, not the riots, not road rage, not even yourself.  We can’t be partially saved.  Either we get in the boat, or we drown.  And once we’re rescued, we are rescued forever.

Does that mean there won’t be challenges?  Of course not.  Even Psalm 23, which we read earlier, recognizes we walk through a valley of death and we are surrounded by evil and enemies.  But our eternal salvation is the one thing we don’t have to earn, we receive it as a gift, and we never have to fear losing.

Verse 29,

My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.

Jesus has been given all authority, and He has always had all authority.  In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  And our eternal security in Jesus is secure in the Father as well.  There is no higher power, no higher authority.  God is the Alpha and the Omega, and He holds our eternal life in His hands securely.  If God is for us, who can be against us?

And verse 30,

I and the Father are one.

If someone ever tries to claim that Jesus never said they were God, then then haven’t studied the words of Jesus.  The Pharisees say, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

A Christian who listens to the voice of Jesus and has an intimate relation with Jesus and follow Jesus, knows that He is the great I AM.  He is the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, the Door, the Good Shepherd, the Resurrection and the Life, the Way and the Truth and the Life, the True Vine.  He is THE shepherd, the coming Messiah, the preeminent beautiful magnificent and honorable shepherd that has come to rescue His flock.

VI.      Conclusion

Psalm 95:6-7a –

Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.

To God be the glory.

A Harsh Word, A Gentle Word

   I.      Introduction

Once upon a time, a very long time ago, there lived a husband and a wife named Nabal and Abigail.  This is a story of their lives in the land of their king, King David.

II.      Nabal

Now Nabal was a very wealthy man.  He had a thousand goats and three thousand sheep.  I’m not exactly sure what one does with 1000 goats; make tons and tons of goat cheese, I guess.  I am not rich like Nabal; I myself do not have 1000 goats, nor would I want 1000 goats.  The closest I have to that is 1000 goat jokes. Slide2

Like, “What do you call a goat with one ear?  Vincent Van Goat.”

Or this one: A farmer found out his pig had been murdered in the barn.  The only witness was a rabbit.  The farmer lined up all the suspects, the cow, the horse, the goat, the rooster.  The farmer asked the rabbit who did it, and the rabbit stared right at the goat.

The goat said nervously, “I didn’t do it!”  And the farmer said, “Hare’s looking at you, kid.”

So I’m not a wealthy man like Nabal with his 1000 goats and 3000 sheep.  Thank goodness.

All this wealth did not make Nabal a happy person.  In verse 1 Samuel 25:3 – oh, I forgot to tell you this is a bible study, so open your bibles to 1 Samuel 25.  In verse 3 in the NIV, Nabal is described as “surly and mean in his dealings.”  The NASB calls him “harsh and evil.”  The King James calls him “churlish”, whatever that is, but I’m guess it’s surly and mean and harsh and evil.  Or it means he owns goats.Slide5

Historians aren’t sure that Nabal is his real name.  The word “Nabal” occurs 42 times in the Old Testament.  Twenty-two occurrences are in this chapter, describing this man.  The other 20 times the word “nabal” is translated “stupid, foolish and wicked”.  As in Jeremiah 17:11,

Like a partridge that hatches eggs it did not lay
are those who gain riches by unjust means.
When their lives are half gone, their riches will desert them,
and in the end they will prove to be fools (nabal).

Slide6So it’s possible that the writer changed the name of the man to “fool” because he didn’t want to honor this man throughout history.

Then I went on a rabbit trail.  Who *was* the writer of the books of Samuel?  Was it Samuel the prophet?  Let’s look at the first 3 words of this chapter, 1 Samuel 25:1,

Then Samuel died.

I’m thinking if Samuel wrote this entire book, then Samuel had help.  Most scholars believe that chapter 1-24 were indeed written by Samuel the prophet, but starting in 1 Samuel 25, Nathan, the son of Saul, probably completed the books.

In says in verse 2 that Nabal was shearing his sheep in Carmel, and I don’t believe for a moment that Nabal was shearing the sheep himself.  I think he ordered his servants to shear the sheep.Slide8

Carmel was a small town in the hill country of Judah, about 10 miles south-southeast of Hebron, near the bottom of the Dead Sea.  Remember 3 weeks ago when we heard of Saul’s partial obedience in killing the Amalekites, but he spared the best of the cattle for himself and then build a monument to himself to proclaim how good he was?  That was at Carmel.  Saul is still nearby; Saul sometimes proclaims how great David is and other times tries to kill David, and right now there seems to be peace between them.  The point is that Nabal would know everything going on at this point since he’s living and working at the heart of this conflict.

Nabal is also a distant relative of David, because verse 3 says Nabal was of the house of Caleb.  He was a Jew, though his parents aren’t mentioned anywhere in scripture.  Caleb, you might remember, was one of the 12 spies representing the tribe of Judah, and David, too was descended from the line of Judah.

III.      Abigail

Now Nabal the fool was married to Abigail the beautiful and wise.  I know she was beautiful and wise because in verse 3 it says Abigail was beautiful and wise.   Abigail, too, was a Jew, though it’s not clear in the passage.  Her lineage is real confusing.Slide10

2 Samuel 17:25 Abigail is listed as the daughter of Nahash, whose name means “serpent.”  It’s not exactly clear who this Nahash is; there is a Nahash, king of the Amorites in 1 Samuel 11 who routs Jews at the city of Jabesh-gilead and threatens to put out the right eye of every male Jew until Saul, recently appointed king, kills all the Amorites and possibly Nahash.  I say possibly because 40 years later, Nahash, king of the Amorites, is a friend to David in 2 Samuel 10.

As if that wasn’t confusing enough, in 1st Chronicle 2:1-16, we find out that Abigail is a sister of David.  Some scholars think Nahash and an unnamed woman had a daughter, when Nahash died, Jesse married her and adopted Abigail.  Others think this is a completely different Nahash and might even be a woman, the name of Jesse’s wife.  Still other scholars think that Nahab might even be another name for David’s father Jesse.Slide13

I spent way too much time on this.  Let’s just say Abigail was beautiful and wise and David already knew her.

 

IV.      David

Then there’s David, son of Jesse, King of Israel if Saul would quit horsing around, slayer of Goliath, and a man’s after God’s own heart.  And it’s that last description that makes this passage so crazy.  David wants to kill Abigail’s husband, Nabal.  And like a good CSI:Israel show, let’s review the plot and motive to see how a man’s after God’s own heart went into a murderous rage.

See, while Nabal was in Carmel, he had his 3000 sheep with him and it was sheep-shearing time.  No doubt this was long hard work.  Sheep wool is thick and difficult to cut, and they had hand tools, so I’m certain it took days or even weeks to shear all the sheep.  Unless you’re Matt Smith from New Zealand and you set the world record for sheep shearing, 731 sheep in 9 hours averaging one every 44 seconds, like this:

Some days I have trouble staying focused on the lesson.  Let’s just say that shearing Nabal’s 3000 sheep took a lot longer than 44 seconds.  It was such hard work, but apparently it’s also a festival time, because 1 Samuel 25:8 says it’s a feast day.

What has David been doing lately, besides hiding out from Saul?  Among other things, David and his soldiers have been near Nabal’s flock of sheep, and since they’re armed fighting men, nobody dares attack Nabal’s herd.  Nabal’s getting free protection.  Now that the sheep-shearing feast day has arrived, David and his men are hungry, and, well, here’s 1 Samuel 25:4-8,

When David heard in the wilderness that Nabal was shearing his sheep, David sent ten young men; and David said to the young men, “Go up to Carmel, go to Nabal, and greet him in my name.  And thus you shall say to him who lives in prosperity: ‘Peace be to you, peace to your house, and peace to all that you have!  Now I have heard that you have shearers. Your shepherds were with us, and we did not hurt them, nor was there anything missing from them all the while they were in Carmel.  Ask your young men, and they will tell you. Therefore let my young men find favor in your eyes, for we come on a feast day. Please give whatever comes to your hand to your servants and to your son David.’”

Basically, David’s saying, hey, we’ve been guarding your flock for free, and now that you’re having a feast for those who have been helping you, how about a little something for me and my men, whatever you can spare.  We like BBQ lamb.

Nabal’s response is mean, verse 10-11,

“Buzz off, Goat-breath.”

Slide17

And in the NIV translation,

Then Nabal answered David’s servants, and said, “Who is David, and who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants nowadays who break away each one from his master.  Shall I then take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers, and give it to men when I do not know where they are from?”

The response is both mean and a lie.  If Nabal doesn’t know who David is, how does he know he’s the son of Jesse?  He’s saying that David is just a runaway slave and Nabal is not even going to provide bread and water.

When David’s men return and tell David, David goes ballistic.  Not literally, because they didn’t have bullets back then, but you know what I mean.  David tells 400 of his men to grab their swords, they are going to slaughter Nabal and every male that belongs to him.  So sayeth the man after God’s own heart.  We’re going to come back to that in a moment.

One of the men approached Nabal’s wife, and says, “Dear Abby, King David asked for a little food during the sheep shearing feast, and Nabal was verbally abusive and insulting to David.  Now David wants to slay every male here, including me.  What should I do?  Signed, Confused in Carmel.”Slide19

I’m certain that I’ve mentioned that Abigail was beautiful and wise, and she demonstrates her wisdom this night.  Abigail gathers a feast of bread and wine and lamb and raisins and figs, and meets David who is in full battle mode.  And Abigail dismounts off of her donkey, falls at David’s feet and says,

Dear Confused,

My husband is an idiot.  Please don’t kill us.  Here, have a sandwich.

Slide20

This is from Michael’s paraphrased edition, of course.  The longer version says Abigail fell on her face before David, and she said her husband matches his name, he is ignorant and he is a scoundrel.  But I, Abigail, didn’t know you needed help, I didn’t see the men you sent, please forgive me.  I know that the Lord is with you and will defeat your enemies.  If you spare us, then the Lord will remember your goodness, and then when the Lord has dealt well with you, please remember me.

And David listens and blesses the Lord for Abigail convincing David to stay his hand and from coming to bloodshed.  And he accepts her sandwich.

Abigail has done both a good thing and a bad thing; she has definitely disobeyed her husband, but her disobedience is outweighed by the good.  She’s avoided bloodshed and she’s obedient to David the future King of Israel.  But now she has to go home and tell her husband Nabal why they’re out of mayonnaise.  She’s made sandwiches for King David and all of his men, despite her husband saying they should be sent away hungry.  Her husband is mean and an idiot, what shall she say to him?

In verse 36,

Now Abigail went to Nabal, and there he was, holding a feast in his house, like the feast of a king. And Nabal’s heart was merry within him, for he was very drunk; therefore she told him nothing, little or much, until morning light.

Ok, she’ll wait until the morning to tell him, after he’s slept off his drunken gluttonous stupor.  Verse 37,

So it was, in the morning, when the wine had gone from Nabal, and his wife had told him these things, that his heart died within him, and he became like a stone.  Then it happened, after about ten days, that the Lord struck Nabal, and he died.

Um, I guess that’s good news.  This sounds like Nabal first had a stroke and then died 10 days later.  This was certainly good news for David, who then gave thanks and praise to the Lord for protecting David from doing evil, verse 39,

So when David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Blessed be the Lord, who has pleaded the cause of my reproach from the hand of Nabal, and has kept His servant from evil! For the Lord has returned the wickedness of Nabal on his own head.”

And in the remaining verses in 1 Samuel 25, David sent for Abigail and then proposed to her.  She accepted and became David’s wife, and they all lived happily ever after.

  V.      Various lessons

I enjoyed studying for this lesson, and I hope you enjoyed today’s story.  However, trying to find an application of this particular story to our daily lives was a challenge.  There is not a single, coherent theme that runs through this chapter.  Instead, I found a great many smaller lessons.

And isn’t that the way our lives go?  In my own life, I often don’t see God’s Grand Plan being lived out through me day to day.  Instead of being called to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, I’m asked to love my neighbor.  Instead of building an ark and saving all animals and humanity from the flood, I’m asked to love my enemy.  Instead of facing my giant with nothing more than a sling, I’m asked to trust in the Lord for my daily bread and know that He will provide for my needs.

Nabal is the least likeable person in this story, and for good reason.  Besides being mean-spirited, he’s not smart, and he’s given to overeating and overdrinking.  And all of this brings about Nabal’s destruction.

I think Proverbs 15:1 illustrates all 3 people very well,

A soft answer turns away wrath,

But a harsh word stirs up anger.

Slide24

Nabal has a harsh word for David.  David gets furious and wants to kill Nabal.  Abigail provides gentle words for David, and David’s wrath is calmed.  Perfect illustration of this proverb.

Nabal’s not a likeable character.  I mentioned a moment ago about loving our neighbor and loving our enemy, and Nabal illustrates the opposite.  Even though David and his men had been guarding Nabal’s sheep and men and lands, David’s request to Nabal was pretty reasonable, I thought.  “Hey Nabal, you’re having a feast, can you spare a bite to eat?”

And rather than give David a little of his surplus, Nabal thumbs his nose at David.  Harsh words stir up anger, and David is mad.  David probably had a right to demand some of the food; after all he was the future king of Israel.  But his anger is stirred not by righteous anger for the Lord, but by personal  selfish anger.

And Abigail is disobedient to her husband, but obedient to the Lord.  It is righteous submission to the Lord’s will, and her soft answer turns away David’s wrath.

And did they live happily ever after?  David proposes and marries her, but David was already married.  When David defeated Goliath, Saul gave his daughter Michal to David as his wife.  David went on to marry Abigail, and then later married Bathsheba, after having an affair with her and sending her husband to the front lines of a battle in order to kill him off.  And then David married Ahinoam.  And Maacah.  And Haggith and Abital and Eglah.  We know David had at least 8 wives, and in 2 Samuel 5:13 we are told David has other wives in Jerusalem.  Also there were concubines.Slide25

It’s important to remember when we are studying the bible that everything recorded in the bible is not approved in the bible.  Polygamy may be recorded in the bible, but it’s clear from Genesis that says the “two will become one flesh,” not more than two.  And thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife from Exodus 20:17, not thy neighbor’s many wives.   It’s clear from scripture that God’s plan is for man to have a single wife.  God seemed to allow it in the Old Testament sort of the way He allowed divorce – because men’s hearts were hard.

And in David’s life, these multiple marriages came back to cause all sorts of grief later, family infighting, greed and jealousy, and murder.  One could only imagine how David’s life would have gone if he was not only a man after God’s own heart, but also a man after God’s own will.

VI.      Conclusion

Our story today was the story of the fool who was also gluttonous and a drunkard.  It was the story of the beautiful and the wise with a soft word that turns away anger.  And it was the story of a man after God’s own heart who demonstrates his own flaws, his own anger, and his own mistakes.Slide26

Somewhere in our story, we may also find our own story.  We are flawed, we make bad decisions sometimes.  As Christians, our goal is to live according to the will of God despite our circumstances.  If we are not invited to a feast, we don’t assemble an army to kill them, of course not.  We let the Lord’s will prevail in our life and in theirs, leaving justice to the Lord and practicing forgiveness and gentleness.

And, regardless of our flaws or our actions or our emotions, there is a happy ever after for those who place their faith and trust in Christ the Lord.

To God be the glory.