I’m fascinated by the story of Abigail in the Bible. If she were alive today and penned her autobiography, I’d be pre-ordering that book for sure!
When we meet Abigail in I Samuel 25, she’s married to a good-for-nothing guy. That’s not just my opinion of him! His name, Nabal, means “wicked or foolish.” He’s also called “a son of Belial,” which means worthless or lawless.
The chapter tells how David, the future king of Israel, asks Nabal to provide some food and water for he and his men. It seems like a reasonable request since they’ve helped protect some of Nabal’s interests during the sheep-shearing season. When Nabal harshly refuses, David prepares his men for an attack.
Here’s where Abigail steps in. She hears of what’s about to happen, and rapidly devises a plan. Abigail not only wants to protect her household, but also to keep David from doing something he’ll later regret. Quickly gathering provisions, she hurries out to meet David as he’s headed her way.
David receives her advice, as well as the gifts she brings, and blesses her. You know the end of the story. Nabal dies soon after, and Abigail becomes David’s wife.
Abigail handled this whole situation in such a smart way. I would definitely say she used discretion to bring a peaceful end to what could have been an ugly confrontation.
So what does that word even mean, discretion? In a world that seems to value putting it all out there, discretion isn’t talked about much.
The dictionary says discretion is “the quality of behaving or speaking in such a way as to avoid causing offense or revealing private information. Cautious or reserved in speech.”
Abigail was discreet in how she handled these two men in her life. I can certainly think of times when I could benefit from the same trait. Here are a few lessons I can learn from her story.
Timing is everything.
Verse 36 says, “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.”
Now I don’t see this as an excuse for hiding things from your husband! However,there’s nothing wrong with choosing an appropriate time to talk to him about certain things. I don’t think many men appreciate being bombarded with tales of the kids’ misbehavior or our own complaints from the day when they first walk in the door in the evening. As good as it feels to get things off our chest, there’s usually a time and a setting that are best for saying what needs to be said. If you study your husband, you can probably figure out when that time is.
This actually applies to all of our relationships. As I’m learning with my teenage daughters, not every thought or concern I have needs to be said in a particular moment. In fact, learning to control my tongue is one of the hardest parenting lessons I’m learning these days! Just as with my husband, framing my conversation in the right words and speaking them in a time when they’ll be heard and (hopefully!) accepted is vital to good communication.
Your attitude in the situation is key.
In verse 24, Abigail took the blame for David being offended. “And fell at his feet, and said, Upon me, my lord, upon me let this iniquity be…” A discreet person doesn’t want to offend, but rather seeks to bring peace.
Humility is the major factor here. This means we’re not walking in hoping to make ourselves look good, but want to do what’s going to result in the best outcome for all involved. Abigail wasn’t trying to get noticed; she was trying to diffuse a tense situation.
Again in verse 28, she says, “…forgive the trespass of thine handmaid.” If David felt the need to assess blame, she was willing to accept it.
Think about the best way to approach the people involved.
Abigail knew David was a man of God, and one who would listen to reason. She says in verses 30 and 31, “And it shall come to pass, when the Lord shall have done to my lord according to all the good that he hath spoken concerning thee, and shall have appointed thee ruler over Israel; That this shall be no grief unto thee, nor offence of heart unto my lord, either that thou hast shed blood causeless, or that my lord hath avenged himself.”
This has many practical applications. People differ in backgrounds, personalities, spiritual maturity – all of which might affect how I interact with them. Praying about how to work through a problem with another person is the best place to start! The Holy Spirit can give us wisdom and insight for any set of circumstances we face.
Let God deal with those who are doing wrong.
Abigail could have rejoiced that David was coming to deal with Nabal. Surely she’d experienced some embarrassment or witnessed poor behavior from her husband before. I doubt her marriage to him had been ideal. Yet Abigail, while openly admitting to David Nabal’s faults, goes out of her way to protect him.
While I might recognize the sin in someone’s life – and perhaps, if the relationship is a good one, even lovingly confront them about it – it’s not my place to see that they’re punished for that sin. James 4:12 says, “There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy.” God is the one who judges and corrects in His own time and in His own way.
Proverbs 2:10-11 says, “When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul; Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee:” Let’s seek wisdom from God, assess the people and situations we face, then practice discretion as we deal with our friends and loved ones.