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Midweek Devotionals

Published weekly on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays.

Midweek Devotional 7/22/2015

Robert Chen

Dear Church:

1 SAMUEL 25:23-44

23When Abigail saw David, she hurried and alighted from the donkey, and fell before David on her face, bowing to the ground. 24She fell at his feet and said, “Upon me alone, my lord, be the guilt; please let your servant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your servant. 25My lord, do not take seriously this ill-natured fellow Nabal; for as his name is, so is he; Nabal is his name, and folly is with him; but I, your servant, did not see the young men of my lord, whom you sent.

26“Now then, my lord, as the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, since the LORD has restrained you from bloodguilt and from taking vengeance with your own hand, now let your enemies and those who seek to do evil to my lord be like Nabal. 27And now let this present that your servant has brought to my lord be given to the young men who follow my lord. 28Please forgive the trespass of your servant; for the LORD will certainly make my lord a sure house, because my lord is fighting the battles of the LORD; and evil shall not be found in you as long as you live. 29If anyone should rise up to pursue you and to seek your life, the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living under the care of the LORD your God; but the lives of your enemies he shall sling out as from the hollow of a sling. 30When the LORD has done to my lord according to all the good that he has spoken concerning you, and has appointed you prince over Israel, 31my lord shall have no cause of grief, or pangs of conscience, for having shed blood without cause or for having saved himself. And when the LORD has dealt well with my lord, then remember your servant.”

32David said to Abigail, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who sent you to meet me today! 33Blessed be your good sense, and blessed be you, who have kept me today from bloodguilt and from avenging myself by my own hand! 34For as surely as the LORD the God of Israel lives, who has restrained me from hurting you, unless you had hurried and come to meet me, truly by morning there would not have been left to Nabal as much as one male.” 35Then David received from her hand what she had brought him; he said to her, “Go up to your house in peace; see, I have heeded your voice, and I have granted your petition.”

36Abigail came to Nabal; he was holding a feast in his house, like the feast of a king. Nabal’s heart was merry within him, for he was very drunk; so she told him nothing at all until the morning light. 37In the morning, when the wine had gone out of Nabal, his wife told him these things, and his heart died within him; he became like a stone. 38About ten days later the LORD struck Nabal, and he died.

39When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Blessed be the LORD who has judged the case of Nabal’s insult to me, and has kept back his servant from evil; the LORD has returned the evildoing of Nabal upon his own head.” Then David sent and wooed Abigail, to make her his wife. 40When David’s servants came to Abigail at Carmel, they said to her, “David has sent us to you to take you to him as his wife.” 41She rose and bowed down, with her face to the ground, and said, “Your servant is a slave to wash the feet of the servants of my lord.” 42Abigail got up hurriedly and rode away on a donkey; her five maids attended her. She went after the messengers of David and became his wife.

43David also married Ahinoam of Jezreel; both of them became his wives. 44Saul had given his daughter Michal, David’s wife, to Palti son of Laish, who was from Gallim.

The following you can skip over, but I present some background hermeneutical ["the art of interpretation"] notes for your information:

{From the Early Church to the Middle Ages, Biblical interpretation was pictured archaeologically: the surface, topmost layer, so to speak, was the literal or historical sense of the text. Who said what, why, when, where, how, and to whom. Layers below the surface compose the various spiritual senses of the text: the allegorical (items representing Christ and the Church, e.g.), the moral (what should I do?), and the anagogical (what's the eternal significance?). 

The "deeper" meaning of the text was to be found in these different spiritual senses. So for theologians like Origen, the fact that someone might point out a contradiction in a text did not faze him one bit. That just went to show you that there's some deep, spiritual meaning hidden behind the surface contradiction. 

Because deciphering the deeper meaning took special education and training, only the "teachers of the Church" (i.e., the teaching office of the Roman Church) were recognized and sanctioned as the Church's authoritative interpreters and instructors. All this changed with the Protestant Reformation. The "surface" meaning became more important. Studying the text in its proper context became essential. And deciding on the one, actual meaning of the text -- the "plain sense" of the text -- took precedence over other supposedly different senses. The plain sense became the main sense of the text. 

If the text itself should signal that another sense, besides the plain sense, is at work -- like the many prophetic allusions to the coming Messiah in the OT -- only then is interpreting according to the non-literal sense justified. If, however, the text presents no clues to a non-literal sense, then we are forbidden to stray away from the literal sense. Keeping close to the literal sense reduced the number of multifarious interpretations that only invited confusing chaos. And who would want that?}

In the 1 Samuel passage above, we have a straightforward literal sense of the text. You read the preceding episode and you read this episode, you'll pretty much get what the story is about. A little bit of historical and cultural background about hospitality, insult, revenge, and polygamy, you'll get a firm enough grip about the meaning of the passage. 


But what seems more interesting and enlightening is the non-literal sense. As readers of Scripture (anything, really) you'll find your mind making connections automatically. Automatic connections in no way or form legitimizes one's interpretation. A lot of automatic associations or connections are questionable. So we need to examine even our automatic connections to see whether they are OK hermeneutically.


The automatic connection -- for me -- is the intercessory role of Abigail as she pleads for the lives of Nabal and his household. Of all people, Abigail is the one who shares the least in the guilt/offense of turning David's emissaries away. Yet, she counts herself as the culprit, she takes on the guilt of the offense. Abigail pleads with David by asking that he consider her petition, that he forgive the trespass/sin of his servant, and David in response releases forgiveness as she asked. So far what I've described is the literal sense of the text. The connection is the intercessory role for us as the Church and as individuals before the Lord.


When we see people we identify with -- for example, as American citizens -- instead of just judging the wrong actions, the intercessory calling is to stand on their behalf and ask the Lord for forgiveness. Even though technically speaking we share zero responsibility in certain decisions and actions, we take those upon ourselves and plead for mercy. As soon as we stand outside the trespasses of others, especially those we identify with, we lose our priestly role of intercession. Only by counting ourselves among the guilty can we take on this most incredible of roles and see the mercies of God fall on people we have compassion.


This intercessory role of course was and is fully taken up by the Lord Jesus. Though He was without sin, He was sin for us. And even now He intercedes for us. 

We are called to do likewise.


Let's pray: Father God, give us so much mercy and compassion that we can't help but intercede for those who cannot or will not ask for forgiveness. Please widen our hearts as a people of mercy. May mercy move us in our actions and especially in our prayers. In Jesus' name, amen.