The Pastor’s Pen

Lincoln writes to encourage and build up God’s people with God’s Word.

Hothead Nabal, impulsive David, and appeasing Abigail

1 Samuel 25:2-38 tells a short, volatile story involving David, and Nabal with his wife Abigail who were opposites in every way that mattered.

At this time, David and his men were running from King Saul’s army and moved into the wilderness  of Paran. Nearby lived Nabal, a wealthy businessman who owned three thousand sheep and a thousand goats (1Sa 25:2). Sadly, Nabal was harsh and badly behaved (1Sa 25:3) as He valued money more than people.

As the story goes, David’s men were happy for Nabal’s employees to graze their sheep in the same pastures as theirs. They got on well together with David’s men watching over the shepherds to ensure nothing bad happened to them and no sheep were stolen.

One day when Nabal was shearing his sheep, David sent ten men to greet Nabal on his behalf and request some food due to their supplies getting low. After all, thought David, my men and Nabal’s shepherds have lived and worked together happily, surely Nabal will help us out just this once.

Unfortunately, grumpy Nabal didn’t respond well. Who is David…?  Shall I take my bread, my water, and my meat that I have killed for my shearers and give it to men who come from I do not know where? (1Sa 25:10-11). David’s response was equally wrong, telling his men to strap on their swords, and about four hundred men went up after David (1Sa 25:13) to seek revenge on Nabal.

Meantime, Nabal’s servants told Abigail of everything that was unfolding. Abigail made haste and took two hundred loaves and two skins of wine and five sheep already prepared and five seahs of parched grain and a hundred clusters of raisins and two hundred cakes of figs (1Sa 25:18). Abigail was on a private peace mission without Nabal’s knowledge.

Meeting David and his troops, Abigail fell before David… and said, on me alone, my lord, be the guilt (1Sa 25:23-24). Humble Abigail was willing for David to place the blame for her husband’s insulting behaviour on her. Please forgive the trespass of your servant (1Sa 25:28). Abigail was seeking forgiveness for sins she had not committed.

She presented David with the gifts of food and acknowledged her understanding of the Lord’s blessing and sovereign protection over his life. She even understood that the Lord would one day appoint David as king.

1 Samuel 25:32-34 tells us that David responded well to Abigail’s gifts and words of appeasement, returning home without revenge upon Nabal. In complete ignorance of  Abigail’s peace mission, that evening Nabal held a feast… Nabal’s heart was merry within him, for he was very drunk. The next morning Abigail explained everything to Nabal; and his heart died within him, and he became as a stone. About ten days later the Lord struck Nabal, and he died (1Sa 25:36-38).

Nabal could have treated David kindly, which would have prevented this whole incident, but he didn’t. David could had responded to Nabal’s insults with grace, but he didn’t. It was Abigail’s extraordinary faith and courage that saved many lives and prevented David from the guilt of killing innocent men.

Left to hothead Nabel and impulsive David, this story would have ended in a mass killing. But Abigail’s peaceful integrity left room for God to work out His justice in His way. Her responsive faith in action provided a way forward for David without further guilt and bloodshed. Romans 12:18 instructs us; If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

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Behold God’s Beauty

Psalm 27:4 is a short prayer by David. It’s a response to his acknowledgement that “The LORD is my light and my salvation… The LORD is the stronghold of my life…” (Psalm 27:1). So he prays; One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple. While this one sentence prayer is rich in meaning, David’s desire has caught my attention. Of all that David could have prayed, he reaches out to God, requesting that which is of greatest importance to him, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.

David was no stranger to earthly wealth and power. Being a successful King, he was accustomed to the nicer things in life, even though he did endure some extremely painful times. However, he could have asked God for all kinds of things which would have increased his comfort and the human pleasures of life. But he didn’t. This single verse prayer shows us what had captivated the deepest recesses of David’s affections, it was the beauty of the Lord.

Living in an age and culture that is obsessed with pleasures without restraint or responsibility, our heart’s truest desires are easy to see. Now-a-days, the world applauds those who parade their passions, regardless of whether they are admirable or debased. Equally, it should be known of God’s children, like David, who unashamedly display their affection for the God who they recognise as beautiful.

But simply recognising God’s beauty falls short of what the Lord is worthy of. Again, David leads us in our understanding of that which is best. Rising above all else in his royal life, David makes this single overarching request for that which consumed his desires in life. And he wasn’t satisfied with asking then walking away and forgetting. No, David openly declared, “that will I seek after.” The value of lingering in his observations of the Lord’s beauty had transferred to his active pursuits in life. David prioritised the time and energies needed to seek after the beauty of the Lord all of the days of his life.

This pursuit of the Lord’s beauty brought David satisfaction. This place of worship was David’s place of contentment. In the flurry of the everchanging events of his royal life, worship was David’s inner sanctuary. Why, not for the sake of worship in and of itself. But in worship he witnessed the very best of Yahweh, and that was the place David desperately wanted to stay in. To always have his heart captured by and pursuing those qualities of the Lord which drown out the distracting noises of the world and life’s busyness.

This is the essence of Jesus’ bold declaration to Satan during His 40 days of temptation. And Jesus answered him (Satan), “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve’” (Luke 4:8). Priority number ONE, for all of God’s created beings, human and angelic alike, is to be locked in worship of God to the degree that our strongest affections demand we serve the Lord our God.

I pray that today, as we navigate life, the Holy Spirit will accomplish this same awakening in all our hearts as in David’s. That I (we) may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my (our) life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord. Amen.

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Remember from where you came

I’ve been reminded from Matthew 13, with the parable of the Weeds and Wheat, that the weeds (Darnel/Tares) are able to be born again spiritually into Wheat. It’s a whole-person transformation which makes us a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). Yet sometimes we forget what we have been saved from, what we were like without Jesus Christ. And in forgetting, we diminish our appreciation for the enormity of salvation.

Moses records the Lord’s instruction immediately before being given the ten commandments. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm… (Deuteronomy 5:15). Israel’s 400 years of slavery under Egypt was a vivid reminder of the enormous transformation God performed for them by delivering them from Egyptian slavery. So it is for the Christian. Through faith in Jesus Christ we have been transferred from sin’s slavery to slavery in obedience and righteousness (Romans 6:16-18). The two patterns of life are completely different because the heart’s affections have changed radically. Love for sin has been exchanged for love for Christ.

Obviously, we are not to wallow in a morbid state of remembering our past lives, but to rejoice in the work of God. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation (Colossians 1:21-22). This new standing before God in Jesus Christ has liberated us from being alienated enemies to being clean from any accusations before Holy God. We are now accepted, loved, and precious to God. The contrast is monumental and should always be appreciated as the greatest works of God’s grace.

Therefore, the Lord wants to use you and I to reach the darnel of this world who are like what we once were. This is because we remember what we were saved from and are better equipped to relate to them and communicate with understanding. We are better equipped to explain the realities of spiritual life with terminology and Scripture that highlight their need of a Saviour. This is an integral part of making disciples who will follow Christ faithfully.

It is this concept that Paul had in mind when he instructed the Corinthian church to be imitators of me, as I am of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). Paul only wanted the Corinthian’s to imitate the Jesus they saw through Paul. Similarly, Paul tells of the way the believers of Galatia responded to both Paul and the gospel. The Galatians heard that “He (Paul) who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they glorified God because of me (Galatians 1:23-24). The transformation in Paul’s life was unmistakable, people noticed it, and Paul capitalised on it for spreading the good news of Jesus.

Paul never hid what His pre-Christian life was like, although He didn’t skite about it either. But he used his past to praise God, boasting in Jesus’ gospel accomplishments (1Co 1:31), and to open a door into people’s hearts for the truth of Jesus. As Paul confessed to Timothy, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy… (1 Timothy 1:13). So, in remembering our old lives, the compassionate mercy of God is highlighted, and we are motivated to share Jesus Christ with others, some of whom are just like we used to be.

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Stone Throwing Shimei

Often the most powerful lessons come from the negative experiences and the negative people who impact us. Recorded in 2 Samual 16:5-14, is the account of one such individual, who, I suspect thought he was doing the right thing. BUT WAS HE EVER WRONG! Shimei was a hot tempered man who not only lacked insight into the events surrounding him, but utterly failed to process and execute a correct, self-controlled, and God honouring response.

The background was that Absalom was in rebellion against his father, King David. Having rallied an army to pursue and kill his father to obtain the throne, Absalom employed all the usual forms of deceit and treachery in acquiring followers of his cause. As you would have guest by now, Shimei was one of Absalom’s impetuous supporters.

As you read the account in 2 Samual 16:5-14, it’s easy to get drawn into the shocking display of bad behaviour. However, for today, I want to draw your attention to the right response of David to the bad behaviour of Shimei. While Shimei made a public spectacle of himself, threw stones at David, shouted verbal abuse and personal insults, David refused to retaliate or respond in like manner.

Firstly, David declined the well-intended offer by Abishai… “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and take off his head (2Sa 16:9). David, thinking deeper than superficial, acknowledged the possible sovereign intent of God in this foul exchange (:10). Having quickly reasoned through these bizarre events, David concluded that just as the Lord was using the rebellion of his son Absolum, so also, the Lord must be using abusive Shimei for a higher cause. Leave him alone, and let him curse, for the LORD has told him to. It may be that the LORD will look on the wrong done to me, and that the LORD will repay me with good for his cursing today (2Sa 16:11-12). Now, there’s some heavenly logic if ever I heard it.

This is amongst the most bitter lessons for us to accept. Yet, it carries with it a double blessing. First, this is the way of Jesus Christ (2Ti 1:8; 2:3; 3:10-12). Learn to suffer well for God, it’s honouring to Him. Second, in suffering, God has blessing which we can’t usually see at the time of suffering. David recognised this. Typically, God’s blessing is not the blessing we would naturally expect, but something of far greater worth. 1 Peter 4:14, If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

Throwing stones, be they literal rocks, betrayal, false accusations, or verbal abuse, is never God’s path to blessing, NOT EVER! But responding in a Christlike manner to such abuses while retaining your innocence is pleasing to the Lord and attracts blessing. Therefore, let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good (1 Peter 4:19).

Well, stubborn Shimei was relentless in his madness. As David and his men went on the road, Shimei went along on the hillside opposite him and cursed as he went and threw stones at him and flung dust (2Sa 16:13). In the goodness of God, and the wisdom of David, they travelled on, leaving Shimei to fester in his own juices. David’s group arrived weary at the Jordan. And there he refreshed himself (2Sa 16:14). What a wonderful, God appointed blessing. David moved on from the pain of the abuse and God brought him to a place of rest and refreshment. May this be true in our lives also.

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Christmas Celebrates Christ

As the year 2023 moves towards an end, I’m reminded of the preciousness of time, of relationships, and even of life itself, but most of all, of the mountainous value and worth of the Lord our God. The Psalmist puts it this way; Great is the LORD! He is most worthy of praise! No one can measure His greatness (Psalm 145:3). Mankind’s combined technical advancements cannot recognise or calculate the infinite glory and worth of our Creator God.

The glorious Lord Jesus Christ who was transfigured… and His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light (Matthew 17:2) is the same whom Mary gave birth to, her firstborn son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn (Luke 2:7). What a humbling welcome to this world. Yet, this world would never succeed in stripping Jesus of His glory, no matter what they did to Him.

Baby Jesus was God wrapped in soft human flesh. Reduced from the splendour and authority of heaven to vulnerability and physical needs, lying in an animal feeding trough which we call a manger. Talk about taking a demotion! Yet, this baby had destiny that nobody at the time could predict. Destiny that would lead Him through a life of absolute humility. Through every moment of this growing baby’s life He emptied himself, by taking the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:7-8).

For us, looking back through the blur of censored modern history, it’s easy to lose focus on Jesus’ identity. It’s easy to get caught up in the self-seeking glamour of modern celebrations and totally forget that Christmas is about exulting Jesus Christ.

I invite you to take a little time to read about this once-in-eternity event. Create time to read Dr Luke’s account in Luke 1:26-56; 2:1-21. Break it into sections if needed. Read it with someone for double blessing. And at every point where you identify a significant truth about God, about Jesus, or about the Holy Spirit, pause momentarily and give thanks to our loving God. I’m sure that this never-to-be repeated series of events is scribed in the annals of heaven as the Son of God’s most demeaning yet glorifying act.

May we remember that this baby was born a Jew, the prophesied child leading to fulfillment of Old Testament covenants. Again, Dr Luke nailed it, for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11). Years later Nathanael emphatically testified to Jesus’ face, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:49).

Today, we honour Jesus Christ by both looking back and forward at Christmas time. We look to that time as the apostle John foresaw, when the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15). So, when we think of baby Jesus, we also think of Him as King Jesus, and we say, “Come Lord Jesus and Reign!” It is this promised future reign of King Jesus that fills Christmas with anticipation for us.

As is my custom, I’m laying down my pen for a few weeks, but this time I’m preparing for my much anticipated spine surgery next week. Lord willing, I will lift my pen again, and join with you in February 2024. I pray you all have a blessed and enjoyable time with those you love over the holiday period.

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