A man bought himself a brand new GPS. He thought his wife would be impressed. Instead, she said “You men will do ANYTHING to avoid asking for directions.” I have a GPS and I must admit that I rather like that it cuts down on the amount of times I have to ask for directions. But I do have to admit that asking for directions sure beats getting off on the wrong path. It is easy to get on to a wrong path even when it very much feels to be the right one.
A while ago I went to Toronto for a conference in a church on Bloor Street. To get back to Union Station I had to take the subway. In entering the subway, I got all turned around and lost my sense of direction. I thought that south was north and north was south. I had to ask someone which train would get me to Union Station. He looked at me as if I was an idiot but he told me. I was sure I was going the wrong direction even when I was on the train. But it got me to where I wanted to go. There was a way that seemed right to me, but in the end, it led to Finch Street. If I had decided to follow my own feelings, that’s where I would have ended up and quite possibly I would have missed my GO train to Georgetown.
Applying this principle to life, The book of Proverbs says this:
There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death (Prov. 14:12)
In the end it leads to death. It makes Finch Street look quite a bit more attractive but we need to heed this warning and we need to help other people heed it too.
Have you ever wondered what to do when someone you know and love was going the wrong direction in life? Maybe you have had a friend or relative who had one time committed his or her life to Christ but began to stray. Perhaps you confronted them about it but all it did was destroy your relationship. Maybe because you feared that very outcome you didn’t say anything but ended up broken hearted when that person strayed far from God and you felt powerless to stop.
Often people go down wrong roads in life. They take courses of action that seem right at the time but in the end bring tragedy and pain. Children of Christian parents turn their backs on their parent’s faith and choose a different life. Husbands and wives act toward each other in ways that are counterproductive. Others refuse to take the Bible’s guidance in areas of conflict or sexuality or business. What do you do when someone you care about is going down a wrong road?
A woman in the Old Testament named Abigail had that problem. David, during his time in exile from Saul, decided to camp out in southern Judah. This area was an unstable region. It was a risky place to farm because bands of raiders could easily slip in and cause trouble. When David and his 600 men moved in, he actually brought a measure of protection for those who farmed there. One of these farmers was a man named Nabal. His name means “fool” in Hebrew. I doubt very much that this was his real name. I can’t see parents naming their child “fool.” However, he eventually became known by that name. David and his men ended up protecting his flocks. Nabal didn’t ask him to. David was hoping that by being good to Nabal, Nabal would be good to him. It didn’t turn out that way. When it was time to shear the sheep, David had hoped that Nabal would give him and his men a gift in gratitude. It wasn’t too much to ask. Sheep shearing time was a festive time. It got people together to do something that was profitable and contributed to the well-being of the community. And so David sent 10 men – probably his closest officers – to Nabal to request a gift. They came with a blessing and requested the gift. We read that this happened:
10 Nabal answered David’s servants, "Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days. 11 Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where?"
This was an extremely insulting thing to say. In other words, “Them’s fighin’ words!” David got very angry and told 400 of his men to strap on their swords and set out for Nabal’s house to spill a bit of blood. This was definitely a wrong path. Nabal had been foolish. Nabal had been rude. Nabal had been a tightwad. Nabal had figuratively slapped David in the face but Nabal had done nothing worthy of death according to the Jewish Law.
I. Recognize that people often go down a wrong path when they feel insulted.
We human beings are particularly good at insulting one another. Who hasn’t heard such insults as, “When you were born, you were so ugly the doctor slapped Mom.” Or “You are so ugly that mom has to tie a pork chop around your neck so that the dog will play with you.” Or “When they were handing out looks, you thought they said books and you asked for a horror story.” I even saw a book at a bookstore called 1001 insults. I have yet to see one called 1001 complements.
David felt insulted by Nabal. Nabal indeed did insult him. He implied that he was little better than a runaway slave. He showed how little he valued David’s services. He turned David’s men – probably David’s top leaders – away empty handed.
Insults – both real and perceived – can be very difficult to take. I say perceived because not everything we think is an insult actually is. A while ago someone said something about me to someone else that I perceived as an insult. After I prayed about it, I came to realize that to be Biblical about it I needed to give that person the benefit of the doubt. So I decided to go and talk to the person what was said. Turned out the person didn’t mean it the way I perceived it at all. We parted from that meeting on good terms. In David’s case, it was different. He WAS being insulted. It hurt his ego. It shattered his sense of fairness.
"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. 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!"
However, David was overreacting. In a way, the tables were turned between him and Nabal. Nabal had first acted the fool, now David was. You see, the book of Proverbs says:
Pr 12:16 A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult.
Fools do not have the capacity to overlook insults – either real or perceived. David was acting like a fool. He was going down a wrong path. Enter Abigail.
Abigail was unlike her husband. She was beautiful and intelligent. How she ended up with a husband like Nabal isn’t really much of a mystery. Nabal had wealth. Abigail probably didn’t have much say in her marriage to Nabal. Her father probably arranged her marriage to Nabal solely on the basis of his money while ignoring his character. In commenting on this, Matthew Henry, an 18th century pastor, said this:
Many a child is thrown away upon a great heap of the dirt of worldly wealth, married to that, and to nothing else that is desirable. Wisdom is good with an inheritance, but an inheritance is good for little without wisdom.
Things are different in our culture. Arranged marriages are uncommon. Yet the principle still stands – when looking for a marriage partner, character counts more than wealth.
When Abigail was told what happened, she knew her husband was in deep trouble. She knew that many people in her household that she cared about were in deep trouble. But she also knew that David would live to regret all the killing he was planning. This kind of killing was a sin in the sight of God. It would have also given Saul another reason to persecute him – and this time Saul would have legitimate grounds. Abigail herself, being a woman, probably would have escaped death. She may have even welcomed the possibility of losing her foolish husband but Abigail knew that nothing good could come out of David’s plans. She saw him going down a wrong path. She knew she had to stop David before it was too late. She had to convince him not to avenge the insult. How did she do that?
II. By looking at how Abigail confronted David and convinced him not to continue on the path he was on, we can also learn how to confront those we care about who are on wrong paths.
Be respectful. Abigail was very RESPECTFUL of David when she came to confront him.
23 When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed down before David with her face to the ground. 24 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.
Notice how Abigail bowed down before David. Notice how she fell at his feet. Notice how she called David “My Lord.” I think that David must have been very impressed by Abigail’s attitude of respect. It must have went a long way into convincing him not to exact revenge. A little R-E-S-P-E-C-T goes a long way when it comes to conflict resolution in the body of Christ. When someone is doing something we consider foolish, we are tempted to be disrespectful. We see someone committing a stupid act and we are tempted to treat them as a stupid person. Do you know the people who you are willing to take correction from? The people whom you respect and are respectful to you.
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. (Php 2)
Why? That’s the way that Jesus acted. He treated men and women with respect even though they were so far below him in Godliness. Respect goes a long way when it comes to Christian fellowship and convincing people to take the right path.
Have their best interests at heart (think win/win). Abigail did this. She supplied food.
18 ¶ Abigail lost no time. She took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five seahs of roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins and two hundred cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys. 19 Then she told her servants, "Go on ahead; I’ll follow you." But she did not tell her husband Nabal.
She gave enough food for David and his men to have a nice little party. Each man would have about 1/3 of a loaf of bread and, depending on how much the dressed sheep weighed, over ½ a pound of meat (which is the amount recommended to have when holding a party.). They would have about ½ pint of roasted grain, 1/6 of a cake of raisons and 1/3 of a cake of figs for dessert. None of the 600 men would go hungry from that! This gift would have gone a long way to calm David’s anger.
She also showed she had David’s best interests at heart by blessing him.
26 "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.
Thirdly, she pointed out how his course of action would ultimately hurt him.
30 When the LORD has done for my master every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him leader over Israel, 31 my master will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself.
Abigail wisely pointed out to David that if he did what he was planning he would merely shoot himself in the foot. When his emotions cooled, he would be sorry and his conscience would plague him.
Abigail had many reasons of her own to stop David from his raid on her household. His raid would kill any men of the household who were dear to her. It would destroy her farm and her livelihood. Yet she wisely concentrates on the problems it would cause David. She shows David that she has his interests at heart.
Gary Smalley writes about a man who was very critical of his wife. One year he wanted to take his wife on holidays but she didn’t want to go. This made him very angry. He went to Smalley for help and during the course of the conversation Smalley found out that this man had a very critical boss who was hard to get along with. Smalley had a flash of insight. He asked the man if he would like to go on holidays with his boss. The man replied, “Are you kidding? That would be the worst thing in the world. Why, he’s so critical he would even ruin a trip to Hawaii!” Smalley pointed out that he was treating his wife the same way his boss had been treating him. If HE didn’t like being treated that way, how possibly could his wife?
Smalley had this man’s best interests at heart. He wanted the man to be less critical. However, before he could get the man to change his critical spirit, he needed to convince the man that by repenting of his critical spirit he would make his wife’s attitude much more favourable to him. He needed to convince him that it was in HIS best interests to do so. This is what Abigail did. She showed she had David’s best interests at heart as well as her own. If we want to confront someone we care about, we will likely be most effective if we can point out why it is in their best interest to FOLLOW THE RIGHT ROAD.
Notice here how Abigail promotes understanding.
24 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. 25 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.
Abigail here asks for a listening ear. Once she receives it, she gives him the facts. The facts are: “David, my husband is an idiot. He is just like his name – fool. But I’m not an idiot. I would have advised him to give you what you wanted by I didn’t even know what had happened until later.
Sometimes people plan a wrong course of action BECAUSE they don’t have all the facts. Understanding needs to be promoted.
Encourage towards Godliness.
28 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.
I have pointed out that people will change if they know what is in it for them. However, it is also necessary to point out how GOD feels about their course of action. After all, His opinion is the only one that matters. Sin hurts us but if a person wants to please God like David wanted to please God, it will also matter to them what God things of their course of action.
Many years ago a pastor I knew had a nightmare scenario come upon him – a woman in his church called him on the phone and told him that she was killing herself in five minutes. She just had too many problems and had come to the end of her rope. These sorts of situations are not what most pastors are trained for. A thousand thoughts went through his head as he tried to come up with something to say that would rescue the situation. The Lord then provided him with a flash of brilliance. He said to the suicidal woman, “What are you going to tell Jesus in five minutes when He asks you why you threw away the life he gave you?” There was a pause of several seconds on the other end of the line. The lady then responded, “I haven’t thought of that.” The pastor was then able to convince her that there were better solutions to her problem than suicide.
In sharing this story I’m not trying to give a lesson on how to help a suicidal person. This is simply an example of how getting someone to think about what God thinks about an intended action might just help to turn that person to a better path. This especially works with people who have a track record of loving God like David did. That’s why Abigail’s tactic of encouraging David towards godliness worked particularly well in this situation.
Abigail encourages faith in David
29 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. 30 When the LORD has done for my master every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him leader over Israel, 31 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."
David’s planned action against Nabal was not an action of FAITH. With Saul, David was sure that God was going to look after things. Why wasn’t he so sure of this when it came to Nabal. I mean, Nabal’s insult to David was inconsequential compared to what Saul was doing. He refused to avenge himself on Saul, why was he so quick to avenge himself on Nabal? Abigail gently reminded David that God had things under control. Abigail reminded David that God was going to work things out.
When people go down a wrong road, they may think and feel deep down inside them that God does not have their best interests at heart. They may think deep down inside them that God will not come through for them. They may feel deep down inside them that God is powerless to call them to account. Do you know what this is? A lack of faith. David’s desire for revenge sprang from a lack of faith on his part.
everything that does not come from faith is sin. (Romans 14:23)
6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
Lack of faith can get us into all kinds of trouble. It got Adam and Eve in trouble. It will get us in trouble.
That is why, when someone is going down a wrong path, we may need to call them to faith.
When Abigail called David to faith, she prevented him from getting revenge. David listened to her.
12 Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is a wise man’s rebuke to a listening ear. (Prov. 25:12)
Just kind of in way of application here, I think that faith in God can really help us when we have a desire for revenge. I realize that most of us will never want to commit mass murder like David was planning here but we still try to get revenge on others who hurt us. We are more civilized about it. We do the “silent treatment.” We yell, we pout and we might tell everyone who will listen how terrible someone is. We refuse to forgive. We get our revenge. We do it because we don’t think God can look after things. Like David, we don’t have faith.
When someone is going down a wrong road, they need someone to encourage them to faith. They need someone to show them that God has their best interests at heart. They need someone t show what God can do and what He has promised. This is what Abigail did for David, and it prevented him from taking his revenge.
Someday you may be called to confront someone. You may wonder how you are going to do it in such a way s to convince him or her and keep your relationship in good shape at the same time. The way that Abigail confronted David I think is a good model to use in confronting someone who is going down a wrong path. I’m not saying that this way of confronting a person will work every time. We know that Jesus confronted the rich young ruler in this way. He respected the young man. Indeed, Mark says specifically that Jesus loved him. Jesus showed the young man that He had his best interests at heart by showing him the way to eternal life. Jesus promoted understanding. He encouraged the young man to godliness and faith by telling him to stop trusting in his riches and start trusting in God. But the man went away sad. He could not bring himself to do what Jesus said and to sell all that he had so that he would have treasure in heaven. Sometimes loving confrontation doesn’t always work because the decision is up to the person we are confronting and trying to convince. And we must remember that we don’t have to do it alone. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to work in a person’s heart as well. If we fail to turn someone back from a wrong path, at least we know that we have tried. If we win over our straying brother or sister, we will have the satisfaction of knowing that we have made an eternal difference.
C. 2010 by Rev. Steven Brown. You are free to use portions of this message but please do not pass this off as your own.