Imagine the scene: a woman on a donkey laden with food riding into a ravine facing David and 400 hostile and angry men.
Meet Abigail; a woman of quiet courage and strong devotion. Never heard of her? Until a year ago, neither had I!
But once I discovered her powerful story, I couldn’t understand why we don’t talk about Abigail more alongside spiritual giants like Moses, Joshua and Esther. Abigail is one of many prophetic women in the Bible and her speech in 1 Samuel 25 is one of the longest by a woman recorded in the Old Testament. Abigail’s leadership, courage and devotion prevented the massacre of her village and unnecessary bloodshed. Yet along with other women like Huldah and Miriam, her tremendous leadership example and story has been forgotten by us.
Described as beautiful and intelligent, Abigail was the wife of a prosperous farmer Nabal who is described as foolish and brutish.
At this time, David was on the run from Saul with 600 men and hiding in caves near Nabal’s land. As it was a festival time of feasting, David sent a messenger to ask Nabal would he share some food with David. It was a reasonable request; David and his men had been kind to Nabal’s shepherds, even providing protection for them. Nabal, however, refuses and insults David.
David’s reaction? “Strap on your swords!” David shouts, as he starts to march on Nabal’s village with 400 men; a violent reaction to an insult. Let’s pause for a second. There is a real threat of bloodshed and many lives lost over Nabal’s refusal to share food with David.
Enter intelligent and prophetic Abigail. Once she’d heard what had happened, “she flew into action” (1 Samuel 25:18) and loaded up donkeys with food from her larder. She courageously disobeyed her husband in order to protect him and her own household.
It’s hard to imagine what it must have felt like for Abigail – a woman more used to managing her household than dealing with soldiers – riding on a donkey towards David and his men. But she quietened any nerves and plugged into God as she prophesied over David. Recognising that the words were not just flattery but from God, David halted his battle march.
Many lives were saved by the leadership, courage and devotion of Abigail. Her story can teach us so much today. For example, her servant leadership; the image of her riding on the donkey reminds us of the ultimate servant leader who would later ride into Jerusalem. However it is her action in verses 18-19 that challenges me the most:
“Abigail flew into action. She took 200 loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five sheep dressed out and ready for cooking, a bushel of roasted grain, a hundred raisin cakes, and two hundred fig cakes, and she had it all loaded on some donkeys.”
Apart from the question it raises – what actually does a sheep look like dressed? – Abigail’s actions demonstrate that her storehouse was renewed, replenished and refreshed with produce. Her larder is ready for action and is full of fresh produce (not old stale food).
I view this as an allegory about our own spiritual storehouse or in other words, our intimacy with God. Just like Abigail’s fresh larder, we need to ensure that our spiritual storehouses need to also be renewed, replenished and refreshed.
Is our relationship with God fresh? Psalm 34:8 commands us to “taste and see that the Lord is good”. How fresh are our encounters with God? Are we living in a stale relationship?
As Abigail produces freshly prepared and newly baked bread from her larder, so too our own spiritual storehouses need to be filled with His newness of life.
Why? So we’re ready to serve Him whenever He calls – just like Abigail was
If you want to explore intimacy with God as well as 7 other core principles of Biblical leadership, come and join the International Leadership Institute at History Makers UK at Regent’s College from 2 – 7 July 2017. Find out more here.