Thursday, February 27, 2003

Now that's a rebuke.

Been spending a fair bit of time with the stories of David and reading Eugene H. Peterson's Leap Over a Wall, and I was stuck by the power of how Abigail rebukes David.

Let me set the sceen. David has been living in the wilderness, with a following of 600 men. In a break with tradition David and his band of outlaws have been protecting the local shepherds and their flocks. At shearing time the owner of a large herd, Nabal, throws a feast, David send some of his men to ask Nabal to share some of the festive food with David and his Men. Nabal blows them off treating them like common thugs.

David looses it, and swears to Kill Nabal and every man in his service. Mean while Abigail, Nabal's wife has heard what Nabal has done, and heads out with a ton of food to meet David.

As she came riding her donkey into a mountain ravine, there were David and his men descending toward her, and she met them. David had just said, "It's been useless-all my watching over this fellow's property in the desert so that nothing of his was missing. He has paid me back evil for good. May God deal with David, be it ever so severely, if by morning I leave alive one male of all who belong to him!"

When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed down before David with her face to the ground. She fell at his feet and said: "My lord, let the blame be on me alone. Please let your servant speak to you; hear what your servant has to say. May my lord pay no attention to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name-his name is Fool, and folly goes with him. But as for me, your servant, I did not see the men my master sent.

"Now since the LORD has kept you, my master, from bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hands, as surely as the LORD lives and as you live, may your enemies and all who intend to harm my master be like Nabal. And let this gift, which your servant has brought to my master, be given to the men who follow you. Please forgive your servant's offense, for the LORD will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my master, because he fights the LORD's battles. Let no wrongdoing be found in you as long as you live. 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. When the LORD has done for my master every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him leader over Israel, my master will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself. And when the LORD has brought my master success, remember your servant."

- 1 Samuel 25: 20-31

What got me excited was noticing how Abigail structure her rebuke of David. She starts by addressing David's grievance. She does this in three ways, one by taking the responsibility on herself, admitting that Nabal is a fool, and by brining the food Nabal had refused to give.

Next she addresses David in terms that draw from his life, she ties together his anointment by God, his victory over Goliath and being on the run from Saul. Abigail knows David well enough to put her rebuke in a powerful context. Peterson explains that Abigail helps David reconect with his Identity in God.

I deeply respect that while she pleads with David, she never compromises, she makes it quite clear if David proceeds he would have "the staggering burden of needless bloodshed" on his conscience.

My prayer is that I might have some of Abigail's wisdom and artfulness when I feel the need to rebuke someone in love. Cause most of the time I fall quite short.


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