We have seen so far that Nabal refused hospitality to David and his men and he refused to consult others about his decision. What else might we learn from this story recounted in 1 Samuel 25?
Nabal refused to even recognize David. In verse 10, Nabal says, "David who? Never heard of him." Well, everyone had heard of David. People knew that David had been anointed as King and that King Saul was hunting him to kill him to prevent him from becoming king. People knew that David had killed Goliath. In fact, Abigail (v 28) acknowledges that David will become king and cleverly reminds him of his victory over Goliath (v 29). There is no way that Nabal didn't know who David was.
One thing in Nabal's favor is that he has married a woman who is both beautiful and intelligent. Actually, Abigail is the heroine of this story. With disaster for her entire household immanent (v 22), she takes action. She gathers bread and wine, sheep and grain, figs and raisins on a donkey train and sets out for David's camp. She doesn't hesitate. She leaves quickly and meets David on his way to wipe out her household. David is determined to have his vengeance.
When Abigail meets David on the path, she throws herself face-down at his feet and takes the blame for what her husband has done. Abigail, who comes riding on a donkey, with bread and wine, lamb and fruit, brings peace. She takes the blame, the sin of her husband (the refusal of hospitality, of food and drink and just payment for David's protection) on herself.
Abigail, not David, is the Jesus figure in this story. She is the one riding on a donkey, providing bread and wine, and taking all the responsibility for what went wrong on her shoulders. She is the princess of peace, if you will, offering a way out for David, a way for him to save face and not take vengeance into his own hands. It is the right of God alone to take vengeance (v 26).
For Reflection: Jesus comes to us offering peace, and everything else we need. He offers to take the blame for what others have done to us. Will we accept his gifts? Will we lay down our weapons no matter what was done to us and let him take the blame? Will we put not only our sins but also the sins of others against us onto the cross with him? Can we say, "That's enough. I'm done seeking revenge. It is finished."
Let us pray. Jesus, I've been seeking revenge for a long time. I've wanted to hear an apology. I've wanted to see them punished for what they did to me. But I see now that I have to let it go. I'm giving the hurt to you. You do with them whatever you think is right.
Jesus, I need healing for all the bad things that have happened in my life. Please meet me on the path at Calvary and heal me.
In chapter 2 of 1 Thessalonians Paul makes a defense of his ministry in Thessalonica. Possibly one prong of the persecution the church was under was a discrediting of Paul, Silas and Timothy. People may have been saying to them, "Oh, you were just taken in by their trickery and flattering ways. They are not sincerely interested in you. After leading you astray, look how quickly they left you." And so Paul reminds them of the truth. We had no impure motives; we were not trying to trick you; we didn't use flattery nor were we greedy. We shared our hearts and our lives with you. We worked alongside you while we preached to you the Gospel of Jesus. We treated you as a father treats his own children. And we are still concerned for you.
For Reflection: Paul and the other disciples did not suffer only from the physical persecution of those who wanted to kill them, but also from the slanderous tongues of those who would discredit them and their message. Although some Christians in the world today are being killed for believing in Jesus, most are not. But many suffer the whispered criticism, being thought less of or outright ignored. Jesus taught us, though, to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.
Let us pray. Jesus, we pray for all people who are persecuting Christians around the world. Touch them, Lord, with your mercy and forgiveness and let their minds be open to your truth.
We are looking at how Jesus began to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah which he read in the temple in Nazareth (Luke 4:16-21). He has been preaching the good news to the poor (financially poor and spiritually poor), he has been healing people and working other miracles. Now it is time for him to choose a team who can help him with doing this work of God.
Alone Jesus cannot cover enough ground, even in one country, to make a big difference and spread the word as far as he wants it to go. He needs help (Luke 6:12-16). His next step is to spend the night in prayer. That's a long time to pray about one thing. I don't know about you, but I don't very often spend the night in prayer. But as you read through the Gospels, you see that Jesus spent a lot of time in prayer, often late at night or early in the morning when he could get away from the crowds.
After the night of prayer, Jesus didn't choose just any 12 men. He chose from among those who had been with him consistently, who knew his basic message, and who had seen his miracles. Even with the choice of Judas, who ultimately betrayed him, I believe he selected the men his Father wanted him to name.
This short passage can teach us a couple of things: the importance of prayer before important decisions, or developing a team rather than trying to go about God's work alone. But it also causes me to think about those who were not chosen. What happened to them? Were they fine with Jesus' selection or were they jealous and disgruntled? What did Jesus say to them to smooth things over?
For Reflection: Have I been passed over, not chosen for a team before? Was I the last one chosen for a team in school? Was I turned down for a date? Was I passed over for a job? Let us forgive the person(s) who did not choose us and pray a blessing for them.
Let us pray. Jesus, there have been times when I was not chosen, when I was overlooked. I choose now to forgive that person(s) for not choosing me. And I ask you to heal the memory of the rejection in me and pour out a special blessing on that person today.
Many of us are dragging around a load of guilt. We think that we are too great a sinner for God to forgive us. Not true. God is bigger than our sin. In fact it is hubris to think that any sin of ours is too big for God to forgive or to believe that he can't take away our guilt.
Paul made this very point is his letter to Timothy. Paul considered himself the worst of sinners. He was a "blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man" (1 Timothy 1:13-16; Acts 8:3). Yet God forgave him. Jesus came into the world to save sinners. If Jesus can forgive someone like Paul (who really was a great sinner) and take on all of Paul's sin and guilt, why not ours?
For Reflection: Jesus came into the world to save sinners. I am a sinner. Therefore Jesus came into the world to save me.
Let us pray. Jesus, I have sinned. I realize that if you can forgive Paul, you can forgive me. I have . . . . I ask you to forgive me. Help me to make amends for what I have done and to not commit these same sins again.
"Good fences make good neighbors" is a famous line from Robert Frost's poem "Mending Wall." In it two neighbors walk the stony fence line in the spring putting back the rocks that have fallen over the winter. One is thinking that, "Before I built a wall I’d ask to know/What I was walling in or walling out," and mentions to his neighbor that they really don't need a fence between them. But the other automatically quotes his father who always said, "Good fences make good neighbors."
The latter part of Ephesians 2 concerns the breaking down of the wall between Jews and Gentiles who have become Christians. The wall has been broken down by Christ who has made the two into one in him thus bringing peace. The Christian world today is no longer broken down into Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians, but, nevertheless, we have lines or fences that divide us. Today we have political fences, cultural fences, economic fences, racial fences and theological fences.
But we Christians are not a people of fences. We are a people of unity. Paul says, we are "no longer foreigners and aliens" because we are all citizens of God's Kingdom, members of God's household. We are individually members and corporately members. We are individually houses or temples of God and we are corporately one house or temple of God. There is no room for a fence.
For Reflection: Jesus died for unity, reconciliation and forgiveness. What fences have I erected with other Christians? What am I walling in or walling out? What am I doing to tear down my walls and the walls in the world today?
Let us pray. Father, I thank you that through the work of Jesus we are no longer foreigners and aliens, but we are fellow citizens with all of God's people and members of God's household. We are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone. I thank you that in him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple. And I thank you that in him we are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (based on Ephesians 2:19-22)
The disciples continued to heal people as they preached the Gospel after Jesus ascended into heaven. Healing and working miracles were quite common and are well documented in the Acts of the Apostles. In Acts 3 Peter and John healed a man who had been lame all of his life. The man was not asking for healing, he was begging for food or money. So there doesn't seem to be any faith present on his part. Yet Peter and John healed him anyway. This was a very public miracle because the man begged every day at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple.
Acts 5 is even more dramatic. Beginning with verse 14 we read, "More and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter's shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed."
As with Jesus, all of them were healed. None were turned away. We could continue to heap up citations from Acts as from the Gospels. The clear fact is that the disciples continued to heal and work miracles in support of preaching the Gospel. They didn't heal people just for the sake of healing people; they healed people to show the truth of the Gospel message. And the basic Gospel message is this: Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God who became a human being, who suffered, died and rose from the dead for the forgiveness of our sins. Repent of your sins and believe this good news. Be baptized and spread the kingdom of God further.
Let us pray and meditate today on Peter's words to the High Priest and the Jewish Council: "We must obey God, not men. The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from death, after you had killed him by nailing him to a cross. God raised him to his side as Leader and Savior, to give the people of Israel the opportunity to repent and have their sins forgiven. We are witnesses to these things - we and the Holy Spirit, who is God's gift to those who obey him." (Acts 5:29-32)
In his letters, St. Paul is fond of providing lists of bad things to avoid and good things to do. He also is quite clear that our old rebellious nature died when we were baptized. Speaking for myself, it does not always seem that way. I think I'm just as temped to do things on the bad list as I would have been without baptism - but it's hard to know for sure. I've been baptized a long time.
When writing to the Colossians, Paul tells them that the old rules - don't do this, stay away from that - simply don't work and never did (2:20-23). Instead, since we have been baptized into Christ's death and raised with his resurrection, we should change our mindset. Change what we think about. Put off the old and clothe ourselves with the new ways of Christ. In baptism, this is symbolized by putting on a white garment. And what does this white garment represent? Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Forgiveness, peace and thankfulness (3:1-15).
Some years ago I asked a young boy, who had just been baptized and had on his white garment, what did it mean when the pastor told him to bring it "unstained" to the judgment seat of heaven. He said, "Don't get mustard on it."
For reflection: How is my white garment looking?
Let us pray. Jesus, would you give me a visual on how my white garment is looking today?
Photo Copyright: 'http://www.123rf.com/profile_olgacov'>olgacov / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
What do we get by forgiving and loving others? What's in it for us? Jesus actually answers those questions. "I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:44-45a). In 6:14-15 Jesus goes on to say, "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."
If we go beyond loving those who love us (Matthew 5:46), we can participate in the divine forgiveness that God the Father offers, be true sons of the Father, and have our sins forgiven also. Those promises would be incentive enough, but forgiving others sets us free from the judgments we have made (Matthew 7:1-2) and brings spiritual and (often)physical healing to our bodies.
For reflection: What lingering unforgiveness can I get rid of this week, before Easter?
Let us pray. "My prayer is not for them alone (the apostles). I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me" (John 17:20-21).
The teachings of Jesus recorded in Matthew 5 are certainly counter-cultural. They were counter-cultural then; they are counter-cultural now. That's because we have never really put his teachings into practice. "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:44) has never been easy. It may even be the hardest.
In October 2006 a man killed a number of girls in an Amish school in Pennsylvania. Then he killed himself. Some of those families buried their daughter one day and attended the funeral of the killer the next. A year later they were still helping to support the man's widow and his three children. "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."
This radical forgiveness stopped the community from being torn apart. The Amish live a counter-cultural life and they chose to follow the counter-cultural command of Jesus. Like the Rwandan people we spoke of on Friday, they took the road less traveled. They chose love rather than hatred and forgiveness rather than revenge.
For reflection: "Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals - one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, 'Father, forgiven them, for they do not know what they are doing'" (Luke 23:32-34).
Let us pray. Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.
The Rwandan genocide began 20 years ago this week. There was already a civil war going on, but now there was a government-ordered mass killing of civilians of all ages, even babies. Those being killed could offer little to no resistance. It was a horrible time.
What has happened since? The new government realized that they could not put half the population on trial for war crimes. So they chose, for the most part, to emulate the truth and justice commissions of South Africa. Neighbors faced neighbors with the facts of the murders. The guilty were asked to repent; the innocent were asked to forgive. It is hard to imagine even one of those meetings. Yet with one million people killed, how many of the face-offs had to be held?
What if the Rwandans had followed an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth (Matthew 5:38-42) instead of repentance and forgiveness? Who would be left?
For reflection: From what do I need to repent? Whom do I need to forgive?
Let us pray. "If today you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts" (Psalm 95:8). Let me hear your voice today, Lord. Grant me the grace of repentance and forgiveness.
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.