his men, sets out with 400 of his
best fighters to exact bloody vengeance. Nabal’s wife Abigail, hearing the report from her servants,
meets David along the way and
with abundant gifts and wise words
assuages his anger.
Shortly after, Nabal dies and this
too is reported to David. David and
Nabal, as far as we know, never
actually meet (see 1 Samuel 25).
Which means this story is a
classic tale of despising someone
for what they stand for, believe in,
have done or failed to do. Nabal’s
hatred for David isn’t personal. He
just hates what he represents. And
vice versa. David hates Nabal for
failing to honour a contract of sorts.
It’s a business deal gone awry.
The story itself isn’t overly edifying. But there are two stories on
either side that help us see the
whole matter in a different light.
Just before David’s conflict with
Nabal, he has a chance to kill Saul
in a cave. It’s a perfect opportunity
to kill the man who wants to kill
him. But David refuses.
His men are furious with him
andherebukesthem. “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to
my master, the Lord’s anointed, or
lay my hand on him; for he is the
anointed of the Lord” (1 Samuel 24: 6).
Then, just after David’s conflict
with Nabal, he has another opportunity to kill Saul, this time in camp
while Saul and everyone around
him sleeps. Abishai offers to skewer
Saul through the heart. David rebukes him: “…the Lord forbid that
I should lay a hand on the Lord’s
anointed” (1 Samuel 26: 11).
These two stories of David refusing to kill Saul frame the story of
his wanting to kill Nabal. But watch
how Abigail turns David back from
his bloody intent:
When the Lord has fulfilled for
my lord every good thing he
promised concerning him and
has appointed him rul-
er over Israel, my lord
will not have on his con-
science the staggering
burden of needless blood-
shed or of having avenged
himself (1 Samuel 24: 30–31).
David believes no one should
ever lift their hand against the
Lord’s anointed (no matter how
sick and bent that anointed one
might be), and lives by this convic-
tion twice. What David needs
Abigail to help him see is this: the
Lord’s anointed should never lift his
hand against anyone, even a Nabal, a
fool. Leave the matter in God’s
hands. Don’t take it into your own.
Which leads to the second story,
about Shimei. It seems, years after
Nabal, David draws upon Abigail’s
As King David approached
Bahurim, a man from the
same clan as Saul’s family
came out from there. His name
was Shimei son of Gera, and he
cursed as he came out. He
pelted David and all the king’s
officials with stones.… As he
cursed, Shimei said, “Get out,
get out, you murderer, you
scoundrel! The Lord has re-
paid you for all the blood you
shed in the household of Saul,
in whose place you have
reigned. The Lord has given
the kingdom into the hands of
your son Absalom. You have
come to ruin because you are
Then Abishai son of Zeruiah
said to the king, “Why should
this dead dog curse my lord the
king? Let me go over and cut
off his head.”
But the king said, “What
does this have to do with you,
you sons of Zeruiah? If he is
cursing because the Lord said
to him, ‘Curse David,’ who can
do you do
then said to
Abishai and all
his officials, “My
son, my own flesh
and blood, is trying to
kill me. How much more,
then, this Benjamite!
Leave him alone; let him
curse, for the Lord has
told him to. It may be
that the Lord will look
upon my misery and re-
store to me His covenant
blessing instead of His curse
today” ( 2 Samuel 16: 5–12).
Shimei raises his hand against
David, the Lord’s anointed. But
David, as the Lord’s anointed, refuses to lift his hand against him.
This is wisdom for our age.
For I am the Lord’s anointed. All
God’s people now are, by virtue of
Christ’s pouring out His Spirit (see
especially 1 John 2: 20, 27). And
that means this: we should refuse
to lift our hand against the Lord’s
anointed (so please, never join a
plot against your pastor), but we
should also refuse to lift our hand
as the Lord’s anointed against anyone. Even against fools like Nabal.
Even against haters like Shimei.
If we took this to heart, I wonder
how many of our political and
ideological and doctrinal battles
might fizzle from lack of fuel. And
I wonder how many of our current
enemies might become, if not close
friends, at least those through
whom the Lord might be speaking
to us. /FT
Mark Buchanan is associate professor of
pastoral theology at Ambrose University in
Calgary. He is author of several books including
Your Church Is Too Safe: Why Following Christ
Turns the World Upside-Down (Zondervan, 2012).
Spiritual Rhythm: Being With Jesus Every Season
of Your Soul (Zondervan, 2010) and the
forthcoming David: A Novel.
TO LIFT HIS