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Father’s Joy

When we are left in the dark, we react. In different ways, according to how we are as persons. We try to find things that make that darkness disappear; take things in our own hands; find things with which we can bring some light to us again, things that have the effect of a torch, switched on, handled and controlled by us, so we don’t feel lost anymore. But what we have learned, this year, is that we don’t have control. We lost the control we thought we had; that we assumed we had. Without having control of our lives, we feel lost. Last week we saw how David was lost, because he had lost the voice of Samuel, the prophet. The prophet who had anointed David king, when he heard God’s voice, saying to him, ‘Arise, anoint him, this is he.’ (1 Samuel 16:12) ‘Hearing’, particularly in the name of the book called Samuel is essential as you can hear in the name Samuel, ‘sama’, which means to hear. In the bible, names are not just names. Their meanings are reflected in the person’s personality, so here, ‘hearing’ is reflected in Samuel as prophet, and in Samuel as bible book. However, through Samuel’s death, there is no prophetic voice to be heard by David anymore. That direction is lost. That is the darkness David finds himself in. And while that is so, David is hurt, unappreciated, scoffed at by Nabal. But in fact, it is God Himself who is mocked by Nabal. For David had been chosen, set apart by God, for His purpose: to be Israel’s king. The way David reacts to Nabal is uncontrolled, he loses his temper, is overwhelmed by anger and aggression, and he lets that aggression determine what he is going to do. He will, with his men, kill Nabal and his men. So war is declared. In this dire situation, one of Nabal’s men thinks of Nabal’s wife Abigail. He goes to her and says to her what he doesn’t dare say to Nabal, his master, …one of the young men told Abigail, Nabal's wife, “Behold, David sent messengers out of the wilderness to greet our master, and he railed at them. Yet the men were very good to us, and we suffered no harm, and we did not miss anything when we were in the fields, as long as we went with them. They were a wall to us both by night and by day, all the while we were with them keeping the sheep. Now therefore know this and consider what you should do, for harm is determined against our master and against all his house, and he is such a worthless man that one cannot speak to him.” (1 Samuel 25:14-17) This servant of Nabal tells Abigail what has happened and what is about to happen. When Abigail hears what the servant is saying, there’s no sign of solidarity with her husband. She doesn’t say anything about the fact that the servant calls her husband a worthless man. Instead, she takes action, immediately. She does what Nabal should have done, when he was asked to give David something of the abundance he had, of his wealth.  For it was also thanks to David’s care for Nabal’s shepherds, that Nabal was able to make the profit he had made. But then, the name Nabal, means ‘fool’. Consistent with what his name means, he is of course only full of himself and when you’re full of yourself, you don’t see and hear anything else. Abigail reacts quickly and takes two hundred loaves, two skins of wine, five sheep, grain, raisins and cakes. With all that she is on her way to David, on a donkey, but she says nothing to her husband. Abigail and Nabal, they are not a happy couple. In last week’s reading it was said specifically that Abigail was discerning and beautiful. Discernment comes with wisdom. That is what we have in Abigail as opposed to what we have in Nabal. In this couple we have wisdom versus foolishness. When Abigail saw David, she hurried and got down from the donkey and fell before David on her face and bowed to the ground. She fell at his feet and said, “On me alone, my lord, be the guilt. Please let your servant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your servant. Let not my lord regard this worthless 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. Now then, my lord, as the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, because the Lord has restrained you from bloodguilt and from saving with your own hand, now then let your enemies and those who seek to do evil to my lord be as Nabal. And now let this present that your servant has brought to my lord be given to the young men who follow my lord. (1 Samuel 25: 23-28) Here we see how tact, wisdom and grace come David’s way through this woman. She sees, discerns David’s temptation and prevents David from giving in. David may have lost sight of his call, but Abigail hasn’t. Samuel’s prophetic voice is no longer there, but God uses Abigail’s voice. Abigail stands firm in the promise, in the purpose that God has for David. Her encounter with David, is immersed in her faith in the Lord, and we can hear it in how she, like Mary, spells out God’s power and so magnifies God. She says, 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 so long as you live. If men rise up to pursue you and to seek your life, the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living in the care of the Lord your God. And the lives of your enemies he shall sling out as from the hollow of a sling. And 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, my lord shall have no cause of grief or pangs of conscience for having shed blood without cause or for my lord working salvation himself. And when the Lord has dealt well with my lord, then remember your servant.” (1 Samuel 25: 28-31) Abigail’s wisdom and humility come to David, while he finds himself in the darkness of his anger. Through her, he is reminded of who he is: God’s anointed one. Through this story, Abigail’s wisdom comes to us too. It can be received by us and remembered, when we find ourselves in the darkness of our anger, impatience, our criticism. A change of shift of focus, within us, from ourselves to God, just as we see that happening in David, that is what makes room in our hearts for Christ’s arrival… Because David understood Abigail, he could say: ‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me!’ How receptive are we to reminders of who we are, children of the one Father? How receptive are we to God’s call to open up to His wisdom, wisdom that is immersed in His love and to let that wisdom shape our thinking? Thanks to Abigail who, through her strength and humility, was indeed her Father’s joy, David’s plan to wage war; to insist on his way of taking revenge, didn’t happen. Instead, it became peace. And from within his own peace he said to Abigail, ’Go up in peace to your house…’ Abigail did tell Nabal. God took his revenge, that’s why David didn’t have to do it. Let that so be for us. Let us realize, be reminded, like David, that God’s purpose for us is peace. And from within that peace, let us be, our Father’s joy. Amen