In the previous chapter David has the opportunity to avenge the wrongs that King Saul has done to him, but he trusts God to avenge and lets Saul go free.
May the LORD judge between you and me. And may the LORD avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you.1 Samuel 24:12
In this chapter we find David and his men doing what they do best. They become a protection force for the shepherds and sheep in the wilderness where they are hiding. They are not employed by the owners of the sheep but provide a valuable service to them. David knows sheep and how to shepherd. The owners of the sheep could not have hired a better shepherd had they tried.
This sets up an interesting situation for David. There are three main characters in this drama: David the future king of Israel, Nabal a wealthy and foolish rancher, and Abigail the beautiful and wise wife of Nabal. It is the time of year when the sheep are to be sheared and as a part of this process a great feast is hosted by Nabal to which his shepherds are invited. David makes a simple request that he and his men be invited to share in the feasting. They have been protecting the shepherds and living off the land and David feels they deserve to share in the bounty that has resulted.
Nabal does more than say no to David’s request. He sides with King Saul and accuses David of being a rebel. David does not receive this well. He and his men strap on their swords and set out to destroy Nabal and the men of his household. Meanwhile, Nabal’s wife Abigail has been informed by the servants of the insult Nabal has delivered to David. She quickly prepares a peace offering and sets off to intercept David and his men. When they meet, we can see that David responds very differently to Nabal than he had to King Saul.
As she came riding her donkey into a mountain ravine, there were David and his men descending toward her, and she met them. 21 David had just said, “It’s been useless– all my watching over this fellow’s property in the wilderness so that nothing of his was missing. He has paid me back evil for good. 22 May God deal with David, be it ever so severely, if by morning I leave alive one male of all who belong to him!”1 Samuel 25:20-22 NIV
Abigail owns the situation and convinces David to reconsider the violent and vengeful path he is on. David thanks Abigail for saving him from this sin and God exacts vengeance on Nabal resulting in his death. God even gives Nabal ten days to think about what he has done before He strikes Nabal and kills him. David is so impressed with Abigail that he takes her for his wife.
What about us?
God’s instruction to us in the New Testament is clear.
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.Romans 12:19 NIV
Regardless of the hurt revenge is never an appropriate response for the Christian. We might think that this is not a serious temptation for us because we would never think of doing what David was thinking of doing. Then again, we do not have the power at our disposal that David had. I think our temptation is different and just as dangerous. Gossip, especially sharing a truth that hurts the person who hurt us, can destroy the person who is the object of our vengeance as well as harming all the people who participate in the gossip.
The opportunities we have to exact revenge are endless. Social media has given us powerful new means for destroying reputations. If we are really creative, we can seek out ways to sabotage the ministry of a fellow believer. We might find temporary satisfaction in seeing our tormentor hurt, but how will God feel about the damage done to His work and glory?
Instead of seeking revenge, God’s instruction is clear. We must forgive and work for reconciliation with the person who has hurt us. Forgiveness is always possible, but reconciliation may be frustrated by the unwillingness of the other party to acknowledge their sin and repent.
Jesus’ instruction is very direct.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Matthew 5:9-10 NIV)
Peace making is not passive acceptance. Peace making requires deep trust in God which enables the power to forgive and the power to confront the wrong that has broken the peace. God will ensure that justice is done, although we may never see it. When we trust God with justice, we are better able to work for peace.