ABIGAIL'S CHANCE

(to save the world around her)

by Terry Craig

©1995, 2019

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture verses are from the New International Version of the Bible.

Numbers in brackets [ ] are for the Endnotes that list either Scripture references not written out in the text or Strong's Concordance reference numbers for a word in Hebrew or Greek.

So often we hear the term “stand in the gap” when we are being asked to pray. But most of the time the request made without understanding what the term “stand in the gap” really means. Ezekiel 22:30 says God was looking for someone to “stand in the gap.” (See also Ps. 106:23.)  What for? It might surprise you to know it means to get between sinners and God, to block the punishment they have earned! To ask for mercy. (Grace is free, sin pays wages [1].)  When someone stands in the gap, they not only please God but they may buy time for sinners to repent—and possibly save multitudes who would get the “ripple effect” of the punishment God would have sent.[2]

 

In 1 Samuel 25 there is the account of a woman by the name of Abigail, her husband, Nabal, and the anointed (but not yet) King David.

 

At the beginning of the chapter, we are introduced to Nabal. Although he is a man who owns much, his name, Nabal, means "fool" [3] Nabal is also referred to in this chapter as “surly”[4], evil in his doings, and wicked (in the KJV he is called a"son of Belial”—worthlessness, good for nothing, unprofitable, base fellow, wicked [5])

 

As the season to sheer his sheep comes, Nabal has gathered all of them at Carmel.  Meanwhile, David and his army are living in the countryside surrounding Carmel and they make their living by protecting local sheepherders from robbers and marauders.  When sheering time comes, David expects an offering from the sheep owners as a payment for services rendered.

 

Nabal is drunk when David’s men arrive to make their request and the answer he gives them is intended to insult.  It's obvious from his response that he knows who David is—he knows that David is the son of Jesse and he also knows that David is running from Saul:

 

1 Sam. 25: 10-11— 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.  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?”

 

Nabal thought he was both in control and self-sufficient.  He is like many who live in abundance, who neither recognize (God’s) protection nor are they grateful for (the Lord's) blessings. Nabal sends David’s men away empty handed and has no fear of retribution.  However, one of his servants knows what will happen next and he goes to Nabal’s wife, Abigail, to tell her what her husband has just done:

 

vs. 14-17—One of the servants told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, “David sent messengers from the wilderness to give our master his greetings, but he hurled insults at them.  Yet these men were very good to us. They did not mistreat us, and the whole time we were out in the fields near them nothing was missing.  Night and day they were a wall around us the whole time we were herding our sheep near them.  Now think it over and see what you can do, because disaster is hanging over our master and his whole household. He is such a wicked man that no one can talk to him.”

 

THIS WAS ABIGAIL'S CHANCE

 

It was her fleeting chance to make a decision that could impact everyone there for generations to come.  She could have decided she was just plain tired of being married to a wicked man.  She COULD have said to herself, Let him get what he deserves for being such a fool. He’s a mean-spirited, stupid drunk.  Why should I care if David gives him what he deserves?  She could have told herself that this was her chance to exhibit "tough love" for her husband and let him experience consequences for his behavior. Or, She could have wasted valuable time trying to reason with her drunk husband and talk him into apologizing to David.  Neither of these things would have saved the people of the encampment.

 

I want to take a moment here to talk about intercession vs. enabling.  Intercession doesn't help people to walk in bad choices or continue harming others.  If you are in danger in someone's household, no one is telling you to stay there or to assist them in living out bad choices.  This is about seeking the Lord on someone's behalf—even someone whom the world would say doesn't deserve any good thing.  Sometimes you are seeking God's intervention solely for the sake of the many who will be harmed by the oncoming consequences of that person's bad choices.  Intercession is reaching beyond a person or situation and seeking God.

 

But Abigail (a true intercessor of like character as Moses & Jesus) was wise enough to realize that everyone under Nabal’s sphere of influence was going to suffer for Nabal’s actions. Including her.  Including all their servants and everyone in their camp.  She realized David and his skilled soldiers would demolish Nabal and his hired help, then take what was left as spoil. (And in truth, when David heard what Nabal said, he decided he was going to kill every male from toddler to adult in the encampment.)

 

Abigail quickly loaded up donkeys and sent servants in advance with these supplies for David.  The following is a list of things she sent before she also headed in David's direction.  The items are symbols or types of spiritual truths—valuable for those who want to walk as intercessors:

 

Vs. 18—Abigail acted quickly. She took two hundred loaves of bread…”

Bread is the symbol of the word (both the body and the spoken word) of God.[6].  In this instance, there was no time to go bake bread.  But Abigail had two hundred loaves baked and ready for use.  Some of the greatest tools and treasures, and weapons to use in intercession are in the word of God.  How often did Jesus remind his enemies of what God had said?  How often did He rely on it for spiritual sustenance and direction?  You might want to take some time to see how many times Jesus and the apostles said, "It is written. . ." or, "Isn't it written . . . ?" because they had studied and internalized Scripture.  It's a powerful tool in intercession.  How much of the Word of God is stored in you and ready for use?

 

Next, Abigail sent,

vs.18 (continued.)—…two skins of wine…

 

In Scripture, wine is linked with blood, [7] and with the filling of the Holy Spirit. [8]  It's only by the blood of the Lamb we can enter into the presence of the King.  It’s the Holy Spirit within us, the One who has searched the hearts of men, who can lead us to intercede according to the will of God.[9]

 

Next, Abigail sent,

(vs.18 continued.)—…five dressed sheep…

 

Eating spiritual “meat” is a term used to define rightly understanding/ using the written word of God—is for the mature in the Lord.  (1 Cor. 3:2, 10:3).  It is also linked with discernment.  (Heb.5:14 “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”—KJV)

Finally, Abigail sent,

(vs.18 continued.)—five seahs of roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins and two hundred cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys.

This was food that gave both sustenance and energy.  Abigail was quick to give it out of the abundance of fruit of the harvest of her household.  Romans 12:19 (quoting Deut. 32:35) “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.  (—then adds) “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Comments in parentheses are mine)  See also, 2 Kin 6:22; Prov 25:21f; Matt 5:44; Luke 6:27.


Abigail gave David provisions that could have given them the energy to make war on her camp!  Her generosity in this gift says she was trusting God to move David's heart.  Everything she'd done thus far was preparation for Abigail's intervention between her husband and what he was surely about to receive.  She was now ready to meet with David and attempt to reason with him. 

 

Just as Abigail did with David, intercessors we are called to meet with God and reason with Him.

Note this verse in the call of Isaiah.  The Lord invites the prophet to come and "reason with" Him!

Come now, and let us reason* together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet,

they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.—Is.1:18, KJV

*reason (Strongs # 3198 in Hebrew from the Blue Letter Bible)

So, according to the Lord, what was the purpose of "reasoning" with Him?

Forgiveness.  Someone being made right with Him.

Listed below are some of the justifications we have to "reason with" God for others.  Consider them advice from God and from the wise men and women in Scripture who found God's favor in prayer.  Remember that God's heart is that all would be saved.  Via intercession, there are times that we see some of this accomplished. 

Under what circumstances or for whom are we able to intercede?

#1.  We have a right to intercede for anyone God puts in our lives whether they are saved—or unsaved.  Job 20:30, says that "because of the cleanliness of my (the intercessor's) hands He will give me even the unclean." [10]. This very moment, I can hold up clean hands (washed by the Blood of Jesus) before God and ask for the souls even of the unsaved. 1 John 5:16 says that if I see my brothers/sisters committing sin, I can pull some of them from the fire via intercession. [11]

#2.  For those "in authority."  Paul says we to pray for all who are in authority—even if they would forbid it.  God is ultimately the authority over every person [12], Although we are called to obey those in authority, Scripture also says that when authority asks that we disobey God, we must stand with God. This isn’t rebellion; it’s obedience to God. [13]  Did Abigail go to Nabal (whom many would consider to be an “authority” over her) and ask for permission to intercede? No. It was already obvious he had no fear of consequences.  She skipped right over him and interceded.

 

#3.  Praying contrary to someone’s “will.”  God gave people freewill—the right to choose good or evil. Was it within Abigail’s scope to intervene for Nabal’s forgiveness when he’d already “chosen” to insult David and refuse to give him an offering and wouldn’t want her intervention? First of all, freewill is the right to choose evil in our hearts, not the right to commit an evil act. Abigail made no attempt to impede Nabal’s choice, just its consequences. Jesus said to pray this way: [14] “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth [15] as it is in heaven.” He didn’t say to pray, “Thy will be done, but only in those who walk with You."  Rather, intercession is praying for God’s will on earth (everywhere!)—and God is not willing that any should perish [16].

 

Vs. 19—Then she told her servants, “Go on ahead; I’ll follow you.” But she did not tell her husband Nabal.

 

So, without consulting Nabal, Abigail left the encampment and went out to meet David in the wilderness. She was choosing to seek mercy (what God wants) over what man wanted, and even over what she herself may have wanted.  As far as she knew, if she succeeded in stopping David, Nabal would be free to go on doing what he’d always done.

 

#4.  We have a God-given call to intercede for others.  "I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth."—1 Timothy 2:1-4

 

Let's see how Abigail did it...

 

Vs. 20—As she came riding her donkey into a mountain ravine, there were David and his men descending toward her, and she met them.

 

"The words "mountain ravine" here are "covert" [17] of the mountain [18]. Literally this means “under the covering or protection" of the mountain.  Mountains are one of the most common places we find in Scripture where people met with God and heard His voice.  (Abigail is meeting with the king in the cleft of the Rock!)  For you, this may be your prayer closet—a place where you meet with God to offer your thanks, praise, and petitions.  It was here; in this “covered” place that Abigail humbled herself before David.  Now was her chance to present her case for mercy.  She doesn’t “gloss over” Nabal’s sin or make excuses for him. She admits a mistake was made and takes some of the blame for it.

 

Vs. 23-24—When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed down before David with her face to the ground.  She fell at his feet and said: “Pardon your servant, my lord, and let me speak to you; hear what your servant has to say. Please pay no attention, my lord, to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name—his name means Fool, and folly goes with him. And as for me, your servant, I did not see the men my lord sent.

#5.  Asking forgiveness for the sins of others.

 

  • As someone’s spouse, you are viewed as “one” with them by God-you can stand and ask for forgiveness for your spouse.

  • If someone is under you in authority, then USE it to seek God on their behalf.

  • If YOU are “under” the authority of someone who has sinned, remember all authority is given by God and is under Him, [19] and that the Bible instructs us to “intercede” for all in authority over us. [20]

  • If you are under the authority of a wicked ruler, consider this:  According to Scripture, an unrighteous ruler is a punishment sent because of the disobedience in those under him/her [21] so, ultimately, WHO needs to repent when a ruler is wicked? The people under him! Give some thought to 2 Chronicles 7:14 which says, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and forgive their sin, and heal their land.”

 

#6.  True intercession consists, in part, of recalling the promises of God. 

Abigail asks forgiveness, then sets David in remembrance of the Lord's promises concerning him:

 

Vs. 28…30-31 “Please forgive your servant’s presumption. The Lord your God will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my lord, because you fight the Lord’s battles, and no wrongdoing will be found in you as long as you live. . . . 30 When the Lord has fulfilled for my lord every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him ruler over Israel, 31 my lord will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself.

 

In God's case, it’s not that He has forgotten any of His promises.  It’s kind of a test for us. Look at some of the intercessions of Moses, [22] He reasoned with God according to what the Lord had said…and saved an entire nation more than once!

 

#7 If for no other reason, we can petition the Lord on the grounds of preserving His own name and reputation.

 

Vs. 32-35 David said to Abigail, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me.  May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands.  Otherwise, as surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak.”

 

Then David accepted from her hand what she had brought him and said, “Go home in peace. I have heard your words and granted your request.”

 

Abigail hadn’t turned to legalism (“He deserves what he gets!”), or to pride (“It’s not my fault!”). She humbly went to seek forgiveness. Her offering was accepted, her voice was heard, her request was granted.

 

But the story isn't over yet. 

 

Vs. 36 “and Abigail came to Nabal; and, behold, he held a feast in his house, like the feast of a king; and Nabal’s heart was merry within him, for he was very drunken: wherefore she told him nothing, less or more, until the morning light.”

 

Abigail wisely waited until her husband was sober (in his right mind) to share these things with him.

 

Vs. 37-38 “But it came to pass in the morning, when the wine was gone out of Nabal, and his wife had told him these things, that his heart died within him, and he became as a stone. And it came to pass about ten days after, that the Lord smote Nabal that he died.”

 

Nabal still received God’s judgment, but even in this we see he had ten days to think about his life and repent before God. Although Nabal lost his life, the rest of the camp was spared the slaughter and loss of all goods that would have come without Abigail’s intervention.

James 5:16b says, "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective."

 

As we consider our families, our churches, our communities, our nation, our world, we need to be wise enough to recognize that calamity can come to ALL when we don’t stand in the gap.  We need to pray for leaders, neighbors, coworkers, friends, and family members (even the ones we think are foolish or bad). 

 

A final question for Christians who don't see the value of intercession:  What good is personal righteousness if you keep it only for yourself?

Scripture says Lot was "righteous" and he was “grieved” [23] by the sin around him, but there is no record of a single prayer before God for Sodom and Gomorrah. In the end, all he gained was his own life—at the expense of everything else.  He lost his home, his goods, and his wife—and eventually, the only other survivors of the destruction of Sodom, his daughters, got him drunk so they could have sex with him.  I would say that amounts to a loss of everything. 

The Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’ day told themselves they were keeping the temple separate from what the defilements of the world, [24] but to what avail?  The Zealots of Paul’s day were willing to use violence and die as instruments of God’s justice against infidels who were "polluting" the land and the temple, [25] but did their sacrifice make a difference?  Eventually the Pharisees, Sadducees, and the Zealots lost all they held dear. 

All of these (who considered themselves righteous) probably had at least one other thing in common: at some point, they each thought it would be “good” if God judged the sinners around them…

Other Articles on Prayer:

Targeted Prayers

Intercession (part of the Supernatural in the Church series)

Old Atheist, New Life

 

___________________

ENDNOTES:

 

All concordance numbers listed below are from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, James, S.T.D.,LL.D., 1991, Iowa Falls, IA, World Bible Publishers Inc., 1980, 1986

 

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotes are from the NIV, THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Quotes marked KJV and ASV are from the King James Version of the Bible and the American Standard Version of the Bible respectively.  Both versions are Public Domain.

 

   1.  Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.—ASV

 

   2.  Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.  But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.—2 Peter 3:3-9 NIV  (See also 1 Tim. 2:4)

 

   3.  {5037} O.T. Hebrew and Chaldee

 

   4. {7186} O.T. Hebrew and Chaldee—"hard, cruel, severe, obstinate, difficult, severe, fierce, intense, vehement, stubborn, stiff of neck, stiff-necked"

 

   5. {1100} O.T. Hebrew and Chaldee

 

   6. John 1:1, John 6:32-35

 

   7. 1Cor. 10:16, 1Cor. 11:25-27, Is. 63: 3, Rev. 14:18-20

 

   8. Matt. 9:17, Acts 2:13, Eph. 5:18

 

   9. Rom. 8:27

 

  10. Job 22:30-look this one up in the Leteral Translation and check it with Strong’s

 

  11. [2288] N.T. Greek

 

  12. Col. 1:16

 

  13. Dan. 6, Jer. 36-37, Luke 13:10-16, Acts 4:17-19 are but a few samples

 

  14. Matt. 6:9-10

 

  15. The whole world [1093] N.T. Greek

 

  16. 2 Peter 3:9

 

  17. [5643] O. T. Hebrew and Chaldee

 

  18. [2022] O.T. Hebrew and Chaldee

 

  19. Rom. 13:1, 1 Peter 2:13-15, Col. 1:16

 

  20. 1 Tim. 2:1-4, Ezra 6:10

 

  21. Deut. 28:43-48, Jer. 5:18

 

  22. Ex. 32:7-14, Num. 14:11-20

 

  23. 2 Pet. 2:7-8

 

  24. Luke 11:42, John 11:48-50

 

  25. Acts 21-22

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