Put Away Your Sword!

One night recently, I laid down in bed, and I was flipping through the Bible, not really wanting to read anything, (yes, even preachers feel that way at times!!) but knowing I needed to just get into His Word and let the Spirit of God speak to me.  So I began praying for God to direct my reading that night and suddenly a story came to mind that I hadn’t heard or read or even thought of in a long time.  It is a story found in 1 Samuel 25 with a wonderfully godly woman (Abigail) who somehow was married to an ungodly man (Nabal).  In fact regarding her husband, 1 Samuel 25:3 tells us off the bat that he “…was harsh and evil in his doings.”  That word for “harsh” is also translated in other translations as “churlish,” “surly” or “crude.”  In the Hebrew language it means “severe” or “grievous” in the sense of being “hard-hearted,” “impudent,” “obstinate,” “rough,” “stubborn” and “stiff-necked.”  The word for “evil” (in His ways) means that which “displeases God” and causes “affliction” or “distress” to others.  It means to be “mischievous” in an arrogant sense.

I am sure we all know people like this or have worked for/work with those like Nabal or worse be married to one like Nabal!  They are very unpleasant people to work with or be with because you really can’t work with them.  They live in an illusional and irrational world, where everything is everyone else’s fault, they are always “victims” (even as they victimize) and they get offended by what you do even though they are the ones causing the real offense!

Let me just say one thing though if you are around “Nabals” or even married to a “Nabal.”  You don’t have to be like Nabal!  You can be an Abigail, who did not walk in Nabal’s ways or have his character.

I have noticed over the years that there are those who excuse the sin and compromise or bad attitudes in their life because their parents were that way or because their spouse walks in those ways.  And in general, many of us have “settled” regarding certain realities in our life, excusing/justifying ourselves because that’s just “the way we are” or “who we are” or “how it’s always been.”  But if you read through the history of the Kings of Israel (1 & 2 Kings) you will find kings who may have had ungodly parents, but they chose to walk in the ways of the Lord, instead of the evil ways of their parents.  Or you will find kings whose parents were godly, but they did not chose to follow in their footsteps.  Parental influence does not dictate our lives.  Our own choices do.  You can be an Abigail even if married to a Nabal.  And we need to drive out and “put to death” these things in our lives that are rooted in us that are not of God.

Anyway, in this story Nabal mistreats David’s men and slanders David’s character, even though David and his men had done no wrong to him or his men (but actually had done good to them; meant no ill-will towards them and wished them well).  When David finds out about this, his response is like our initial response so often is:  “David said to his men, ‘put on your swords!’ So they put on their swords, and David put on his.”  (1 Samuel 25:13).  Can you not see yourself doing the same thing in certain situations?  We go into attack mode and are ready to take vengeance into our own hands when mistreated.  We pull out our swords and get ready to plunge them!  I know this is true in my life as there have been times I have prematurely pulled out the sword and even swung the “sword” and regretted doing so later.

But in this story, when Abigail finds out about what is about to happen, she intervenes and intercedes with David, calling him to put away his sword and let God deal with Nabal, so that his conscience will not later condemn him for bloodshed.  Abigail came at just the right moment, just like the Holy Spirit so often comes at just the right moment to “check us” and call us to put away our swords.  By the way, one of the things Abigail says is this in 1 Samuel 25:25, “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.”  In other words don’t even give “Nabals” (fools) the pleasure of even paying them any attention by pulling out your sword, let God deal with them!  One thing I’ve noticed also over the years is that there are those who so desperately crave attention they will do anything to provoke and create drama, even if it is “negative” or “hurtful.”  But the last thing they want is for people to not respond to them and just ignore them!

Well, David thanked Abigail for intervening and he did put away his sword.  Ten days later God dealt with Nabal and he died (read what happens in 1 Samuel 25:36-38. There is an interesting picture there that is applicable “spiritually” as those who refuse to repent, their hearts “fail them” and harden like stone, which leads to their “demise”) while God rewarded Abigail for her godliness despite her husband’s ungodliness.

That brings me to this.  Instead of taking vengeance, show mercy.  Instead of pulling out the sword, put away the sword.  Instead of becoming resentful, show kindness.  Let God deal with that person.  Romans 12:17-21 puts it this way:  “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head; do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

The other passage God has been focusing me on is 2 Timothy 2:23-26.  It says this: “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”

Only God can change a Nabal (if they are repentant and willing) or justly deal with a Nabal (if they are unwilling to change and repent).  Our job, however, is to let God be God and do what He does, while we do what He tells us to do.  And what He tells us to do is put away our swords of resentment and retaliation.  One reason for this is because anything done out of that place of bitterness and revenge will be an over-reaction to the offense that was caused.  That then makes you guilty of wrong-doing too!  Only God’s “vengeance” is just and done justly.  The reason we want to do God’s job for Him (which is what we are doing when we take “vengeance” into our own hands) is because we don’t trust that He will (so we feel we have to “defend” ourselves and our “honor”) or we are unwilling to wait for Him to do so.  God didn’t strike Nabal dead right away.  It was ten days later that Nabal died.  We have a hard time waiting for the timing of God and many believe the lie that God “doesn’t see” or “doesn’t care” or “won’t act.”  But God does see and God does care and God will act:  in His own way and timing.

Psalm 10:13-18 puts it this way: “Why does the wicked man revile God? Why does he say to himself, ‘He won’t call me to account?’ But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless. Break the arm of the wicked and evil man; call him to account for his wickedness that would not be found out.

The Lord is King for ever and ever; the nations will perish from his land. You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more.”

Trust God and put away your sword.

Proverbs 16:32 “Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.”

Matthew 26:50-54  “Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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