By Sarah Cornwell
A Reading from 1 Samuel 25:23-44
23 When Abigail saw David, she hurried and alighted from the donkey, and fell before David on her face, bowing to the ground. 24 She fell at his feet and said, “Upon me alone, my lord, be the guilt; please let your servant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your servant. 25 My lord, do not take seriously this ill-natured fellow Nabal; for as his name is, so is he; Nabal is his name, and folly is with him; but I, your servant, did not see the young men of my lord, whom you sent.
26 ”Now then, my lord, as the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, since the Lord has restrained you from blood-guilt and from taking vengeance with your own hand, now let your enemies and those who seek to do evil to my lord be like Nabal. 27 And now let this present that your servant has brought to my lord be given to the young men who follow my lord. 28 Please forgive the trespass of your servant; for the Lord will certainly make my lord a sure house, because my lord is fighting the battles of the Lord; and evil shall not be found in you as long as you live. 29 If anyone should rise up to pursue you and to seek your life, the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living under the care of the Lord your God; but the lives of your enemies he shall sling out as from the hollow of a sling. 30 When the Lord has done to my lord according to all the good that he has spoken concerning you, and has appointed you prince over Israel, 31 my lord shall have no cause of grief, or pangs of conscience, for having shed blood without cause or for having saved himself. And when the Lord has dealt well with my lord, then remember your servant.”
32 David said to Abigail, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who sent you to meet me today! 33 Blessed be your good sense, and blessed be you, who have kept me today from blood-guilt and from avenging myself by my own hand! 34 For as surely as the Lord the God of Israel lives, who has restrained me from hurting you, unless you had hurried and come to meet me, truly by morning there would not have been left to Nabal as much as one male.” 35 Then David received from her hand what she had brought him; he said to her, “Go up to your house in peace; see, I have heeded your voice, and I have granted your petition.”
36 Abigail came to Nabal; he was holding a feast in his house, like the feast of a king. Nabal’s heart was merry within him, for he was very drunk; so she told him nothing at all until the morning light. 37 In the morning, when the wine had gone out of Nabal, his wife told him these things, and his heart died within him; he became like a stone. 38 About ten days later the Lord struck Nabal, and he died.
39 When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Blessed be the Lord who has judged the case of Nabal’s insult to me, and has kept back his servant from evil; the Lord has returned the evildoing of Nabal upon his own head.” Then David sent and wooed Abigail, to make her his wife. 40 When David’s servants came to Abigail at Carmel, they said to her, “David has sent us to you to take you to him as his wife.” 41 She rose and bowed down, with her face to the ground, and said, “Your servant is a slave to wash the feet of the servants of my lord.” 42 Abigail got up hurriedly and rode away on a donkey; her five maids attended her. She went after the messengers of David and became his wife.
43 David also married Ahinoam of Jezreel; both of them became his wives. 44 Saul had given his daughter Michal, David’s wife, to Palti son of Laish, who was from Gallim.
Abigail chooses two different approaches with the men in this story. With David, she comes to speak with him in haste, begging that he might hear her. Amazingly, he does hear her and more amazingly still, he blesses her for turning him away from his vengeance. But Abigail waits to tell her husband, Nabal, that she has gone behind his back and sought pardon for his grave offense. Why? She has the perfect opportunity to tell him immediately upon her return home. Nabal is drunk and merry, and more likely to be in a forgiving mood. He is also be more likely to forget by the time he wakes in the morning that she has undermined his authority. But Abigail waits to speak with him until the next day, when he is possibly nursing a hangover. Yet Nabal’s reaction is equally as amazing as David’s. After Abigail tells her husband what transpired, “his heart died within him; he became like a stone.” All of the bravado and self-importance are gone. Perhaps this reaction can even be read as an acknowledgement of culpability and maybe even repentance. Perhaps in his heart, Nabul recognizes that he has sinned against God’s anointed and, were it not for Abigail’s swift intervention, his actions would have resulted in massive bloodshed.
Abigail’s correct discernment of when to make haste and when to wait are shown in the outcomes of her determinations. The one who was ultimately justified was brought to a calmer state of mind to act appropriately. The one in the wrong was in a clearer state of mind to repent. As we know in today’s gospel, Jesus calms the seas and wind, and the storm swiftly passes, but he does not do so right away. If we are to follow Abigail’s example, we must desire those outcomes: calm, clear minds rather than minds roiled like a stormy sea. Only then can we rightly discern when to make haste and when to wait.
Sarah Cornwell is a laywoman, ballet teacher, and an associate of the Eastern Province of the Community of St. Mary. She and her husband have six children and they live in the Hudson Valley north of New York City.
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Today we pray for:
St. George’s Church, Dayton, Ohio
The Diocese of Damaturu (Church of Nigeria)