Abigail: No Victim of Circumstances
The ancients were amazed and mystified by the gospel, and so are people today: it says that God treats His bitterest enemies as friends. Jesus addressed Judas Iscariot as “friend” and forgave His own murderers. He actually took their guilt upon Himself, being “made … sin for us, who knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21). The reason is something that the Bible calls “justification.” The Father treated His own Son as an enemy so He could treat us as friends. One half of the process of the atonement is God being reconciled to His enemies (us). This was accomplished by the sacrifice of His Son, so that He has “reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, … reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them” (2 Cor. 5:18, 19). The other half is our being reconciled to God, which is accomplished by our understanding and believing the gospel—the truth of His reconciliation to us by someone preaching the message, “Be ye reconciled to God.”
There is a strange, unearthly love involved in this reconciliation-justification process—agape. It “never faileth” (1 Cor. 13:8), but neither is it naive, or foolish. It recognizes immediately that beneath the revolting exterior, the other person may have some decency or self-respect left which will respond to “grace” and “justification.”
Can “the kings of the earth” benefit from this Bible idea? Many will say, No; national interests are too valuable and complex to be influenced by any idea associated with “grace.” But a “king-to-be” was once saved from a terrible mistake of unnecessary violence by a woman who spoke words of common sense inspired by the idea of justification by faith—the story of Abigail and David is in 1 Samuel 25:2-42.
How can one find happiness in a marriage where one feels his or her spouse is less than satisfactory, in fact, downright ornery? There is a fascinating case history of a woman trapped in a marriage probably worse than any you have ever heard about.
Abigail was intelligent and beautiful. For some reason, she married Nabal, a cantankerous, ill-mannered boor who turned out to be extremely ornery. Many a woman would have walked out on him. Yet, she found her niche in history by holding on.
If a prince charming had visited Abigail’s village, she doubtless would have become a princess. But none came along, and it seems that her parents encouraged her to go with Nabal. She could have consoled herself with the thought that he was steady and solid. At least he knew how to make money. Perhaps mom and dad encouraged her to believe that she could either change him or learn to love him. She shouldn’t pass him up. He was the scion of a prominent family, destined to wealth and influence. With her warm, winsome ways, Abigail would impart to his lordly ranch a touch of grace.
Soon after the wedding, Abigail realized she was bound for life to someone who was a perfect fool when it came to human relations. Neighbors and the hired hands avoided him whenever possible. To make matters worse, he took to drinking, and Abigail learned that no problem can be so bad but what alcohol can make it worse. The hired help could leave, but Abigail felt chained in a marital dungeon “till death do us part.”
Covering for Nabal’s boorish ways developed in Abigail qualities of grace and diplomacy. She learned how to pour oil on the troubled waters her husband had roiled up. The irritating grain of sand produced in her soul the legendary pearl. She developed expertise in managing men who had trouble managing themselves. This eventually led to a new chapter in her life.
She remained faithful to Nabal, believing that God in His own good time and way would transmute her pain into happiness. To the end of her marriage, she kept her conscience clear, holding the ranch together, winning the love of the hired help and the neighbors, and in the process carving out for herself a special niche of distinction in female history.
Nabal’s drinking problem finally did him in, and believe it or not, when Abigail was free, a prince did show up who married her. David, Israel’s rightful heir to the throne, happened on the scene. In an unpleasant encounter, Nabal rubbed him the wrong way and David in a rare fit of anger decided to avenge the insult with violence. But for Abigail’s intervention, David’s rash act would have haunted his royal conscience for the rest of his life and could have ruined his reputation as a fair and compassionate ruler. Abigail’s well-developed skills in diplomacy and exquisitely tactful finesse saved David from himself. Her hastily composed but eloquent speech pointedly reminded him that his rashness could be the undoing of his royal honor. Never has a woman averted tragedy so skillfully.
Unlovable as Nabal was, Abigail was protective of her unworthy husband. She assumed his guilt: “On me alone … be the blame.” “Please forgive the transgression of your maidservant” (verses 24, 28, NASB). She implied that Nabal’s faults were hers as well as his, for were not the two “one flesh”? For all time to come, Abigail demonstrated the oneness implicit in marriage!
In due time, following Nabal’s demise, David married Abigail (see verse 42). The king-to-be not only loved her; he felt she would help him manage his own weaknesses. According to Ellen G. White, “The Spirit of the Son of God was abiding in her soul. Her speech, seasoned with grace, and full of kindness and peace, shed a heavenly influence. Better impulses came to David, and he trembled as he thought what might have been the consequences of his rash purpose” (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 667).
The story of Abigail reveals that God Himself undertakes to help the unlucky spouse who is getting the bad end of a bargain. He or she can find happiness in fidelity, through unexpected ways. God never went to sleep on Abigail, nor did He abandon her. To Him who sees when the sparrow falls, Abigail and her unhappy marriage were important. God took the trouble to delineate her story as an encouragement to millions of people since and even for eternity to come.
—Excerpted from the writings of Robert J. Wieland