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6/7/07: Although I had expected a “longish” look at Esther, I discovered that for the purposes of our study on wisdom, there were only a few keys that needed to be identified and highlighted with the group. Hopefully, the group will feel the same way and be ready to move on this week.
I did do a little research which I shared with everyone…
- The Book of Esther takes place in the 5th century B.C.
- Esther, known as Hadassah in Hebrew, has several meanings, among them myrtle leaf which can look like a star, which is an alternate meaning for Esther… somewhat similar to the Greek “astara” for Evening Star. (Interesting that Jesus is the Morning Star… I wonder if there’s something there.)
- Also, Esther can mean “hidden” and thus, it can be said that the Book of Esther could really be called the “Story of Hiddenness” because it is widely known that the God is never mentioned in this story… his message is “hidden” within it.
- Esther was probably only 14 years old (like Mary, the mother of Jesus). She was an innocent, a child, and therefore, any wisdom she displayed can more easily be attributed to a God presence within.
- Esther was obedient to Mordecai, who was her cousin (her father’s nephew) and later adopted her. He was a Benjamite (like Saul/Paul). While she was in Xerxes’ household, she held close counsel as Mordecai advised. She was also obedient to Hegail, the eunuch assigned to her.
- Esther was favored in Xerxes’ household.
We chatted as a group about her character, finding her to be: innocent, gentle, naive, submissive, and poised. She had to have a certain “something” if she could carry off being with the king, alone, and come out of that situation as his favorite and ultimately, his Queen, sine Vashti was disposed.
Once in the palace, we considered Esther’s environment to be a protected one. We also thought, because of her “favored” position, that she had her own “network” of slaves and eunuchs who protected her secrets and probably knew that Mordecai was family.
When the decree of Haman comes down, it is Mordecai who makes a public statement of his sorrow through the wearing of sackcloth and ashes just outside the king’s gate. (Ch 4:1) It was her “network” that informed her and subsequently carried messages back and forth with Mordecai.
It is in these dialogs that Esther comes to her “defining moment” – her time of choice, the path of wisdom or the path of self. I believe this time is, by its very nature, a paradoxical moment when logic would dictate to act otherwise, while wisdom calls us to the other way.
And so it is, that Mordecai declares, “And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this!” (vs 4:14b) In Esther’s moment, she must look at her situation and choose. Can we? Can we look at our lives and see (or hear) that moment? For some of us, it could still be coming … for others, it has already occurred. We talked about Kathleen’s moment as she prepares to embark on their move to Zambia…. for such a time as this! … This move is not one she could have ever predicted. And she has chosen Esther’s way… despite the “voices of reason” that would clammer against her. Can we? Will we?
We talked, each of us, a small bit about our current situations… could we accept that even this situation… work or family or whatever … that our “such a time as this!” moment could be around the corner?
This was for me, the most important part of the meeting and I don’t want to muddy it with too many other things. We did talk about Esther’s speech to Xerxes being somewhat similar to Abigail’s to David, and that doesn’t surprise me, because she had, by then, already chosen, and now she was just walking out the wisdom path. She was speaking via the Spirit, directly to what the “man” needed to hear.
From Women in Judaism : “God has sometimes used armies and sometimes flashy miracles in order to rescue His People. But He is not limited to those strategies. He can just as easily use one obscure person – male, such as Joseph, or female, such as Esther – and manipulate the circumstances around them to allow them to be the agent of His salvation.” Remember, God can use us no matter where we are… it’s the old Emmaus phrase all over again, “bloom where you are planted.” But the key for me is that it’s not just blooming, but recognizing that our “wisdom moment” is also buried in this time and place, waiting to be revealed… to come out of hiding.
Prayers: For Kathleen (her last day with our group before traveling around the country to visit family one last time before leaving for Zambia in July); for Marcie and her career choices (looking to find favor); for Lily’s school and education situation; for Chris’ daughter Sara and husband. We heard a good report from Sandy for Andraya.
See you in a couple of days… June 14th, 7 – 9 pm. Bring a friend, we’ll be doing something new, as God leads.
May 24, 2007
Continuing today in Proverbs with verses 3:13… the emphasis was on verse 15, “She is more precious than…” as we did a little exercise… writing down, first, “What are the 6 most valuable things you own, (note: things!), then, “What would you save if your house was burning down (not including people)?” And lastly, write down 6 of your most valuable memories.
Interestingly, several of us found these lists to be difficult. Is it because we’re mature enough to know that our most precious items are NOT things? Apparently! But the standard answers in the midst of a house fire did result: family pictures, family heirlooms, pets, and any other items that we considered irreplaceable… but there aren’t many. The memories were interesting… usually around family again… births, deaths, adoptions… and a few scattered memories from childhood or special celebrations like anniversaries or marriages.
The most difficult question was the final follow-up… What would you want to happen in the next year? For many, it was not something they wanted to project into the future. For those who could share, we had a lively discussion about our hopes and dreams for a better 2008.
And how did all this relate to wisdom?
Because, according to verse 15… [wisdom] is more precious than rubies, NOTHING you desire can compare with her. So, nothing we have nor nothing we hope for should be more precious than wisdom. Our first desire should be for her… and if we can make that leap, the rewards will be greater than anything we could ever hope for or imagine. In today’s world, it’s tough to grasp this truth as a reality. But verse 18 adds, “…those who lay hold of her will be blessed;” or, in simple terms, “oh how lucky one is who ‘finds’ wisdom!” See Psalm 73:75.
We took verse 18 a little further and had a discussion on the “tree of life” and how wisdom is equated with it. Trees are a common figure of speech in scripture, particularly because of their value in an arid lad but also as a symbol for comfort and a “marker for water” – and water is usually a symbol for the “source of all life.” (See http://www.cresourcei.org/biblestudy/bbproverbs3.html for more on this topic.) For me, the connection has a strong visceral connection… the idea of wisdom being the tree whose presence marks the source of all life in the water. And so, if we embrace wisdom… find her… know her… we can be the same: a place (or person) who marks Christ Jesus. See me… see wisdom… see Jesus.
Truly, may wisdom be in our lives like the pearl of great price in Matthew 13:44.
In this same group of scriptures (vs 13-18), we talked a bit about the importance of the right and left hand when used as a blessing in scripture (Israel blessing Joseph’s son etc.) … and isn’t it interesting in these verses that the right hand (vs 16) carries long life while the left hand carries riches & honor. And as the Lord spoke to Solomon (I Kings 3:13), since Solomon did not ask for either of these things, but wisdom alone, the Lord gives both. We too can have the blessings of long life, riches & honor, if we pursue wisdom with a whole heart. It’s a paradox really. In the same way that we sometimes think that “taking up the cross” is only sacrifice and really, from our perspective, sacrificing these very things: long life, riches & honor… and yet, these are the very things that will come to us once we take it up.
Our time got away from us, but we did a cursory look at the closing verses of chapter three, highlighting verses 19 & 20 which touch on the creative power of wisdom (which is investigated in much more detail in chapter 8, which we’ll be studying later) while verses 21 – 25 emphasize the importance of “keeping” wisdom once found.
Lastly, the final verses, 27 – 35 are clearly part of the “instruction” that are structured with many “do not’s” with a folllow-up “motivational” statement. Most of these actually address interpersonal relationships like being generous, positive and diligent. And if we do these things, God will reward us.
Prayer requests for CYMA Praise Team, Sara & John, Sandi’s niece Andrea and Irm’s daughter, Lily.
Our next meeting is June 7th and we’ll be starting a new topic – Wisdom and Esther. See you at 7pm.
May 10, 2007
I found myself touching on a few miscellaneous discoveries that I wanted to share with the group:
Wisdom is a gift and not an achievement.
Wisdom makes an invitation … she does not wait to be pursued.
Last time, we talked about wisdom calling out in the public places. We talked a little more about this idea and asked, “Where are the “public” places in our world?” In our culture, isn’t it all those familiar places like the mall, restaurants, libraries, supermarkets, stadiums, and the list went on and on. And all along, Wisdom is calling to us, “How long?” Do we hear her? What does it look like… wisdom calling in these places? Are we missing her call because we are “pre-supposing” her something she is not? Key: Wisdom calls aloud in these places because she is competing with the “other voices” of our world. Never fear, Wisdom is perfectly capable of making herself heard. But we must be aware that there are many, many voices that are interfering with Wisdom’s voice.
We returned to the Word and slowly covered 2:12 – 3:12 … and because of my experience on a recent conference where I heard a lexocographer speak (someone who studies dictionaries and words), I found myself getting excited about the individual words in these passages.
My first discovery was that it appeared that verses 2:12 – 19 could be broken into two parts: one seemingly male-ish and the other female-ish. It’s important to remember, in my view, that both men and women can suffer at the hands of either the “male” or “female” sins. The key is that Wisdom is actually saving us… first, from “wicked men” who demonstrate their wickedness through perverse words, dark ways, rejoicing in evil, and deviousness. We talked a long time about the definitions of these words, and found a thread of “willfulness” in them, a contrariness and obstinance to do that which is KNOWN to be crooked or unacceptable.
The second group might be called “wicked women” (as in adulteresses) who, unlike the first group, are not so blatant in their attacks, but use seductive words, covenant breaking, and waywardness. Notice too that many things in our world operate out of the feminine here… seducing us away from the living God. Also, this “covenant breaking” has to do with corruption, a willful choice to disobey… See Psalm 19:13, where we hear David’s prayer, “…keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me….” Also notice, that once we go down this path of lying, it is difficult to turn back… or even turn another way. Only wisdom can help us “walk in the true way.”
Moving on to Chapter 3…
Some interesting construction is here… This chapter is actually a “literary form” called Instruction. Instruction verses or sections are usually identified by beginning with the words, “my son…” or ending with verses that have a “then…” or result written out. These instructions are actually quite repetitive as the author tries to “drive home” the point: Plant Wisdom in your Heart!!!
Chapter 3, verses 1-12 are the 3rd “instruction” and they are divided into 6 couplets of 2 verses each. Each couplet has either a command or a prohibition followed by a statement of motivation. (For more on this topic, see http://www.crivoice.org/biblestudy/bbproverbs2.html.) Our group went through each couplet set and talked about the language (the words) that were in each couplet and the keys to its messages.
As we talked abouot verses 1 & 2, I shared a bit about the Hebrew word for teaching in these verses is really torah (guidance & direction) and commands here is really Mitzvah. I was just getting ready to head to Ohio for my nephew (-in-law)’s Bar Mitzvah. And I learned that these words could literally be translated as the “son of a commandment” implying that this ritual is a time to “remember” God’s word. Also, the prosperity noted in verse 2 is really the Hebrew word, “shalom” … which reveals this prosperity as being one of peace, tranquility and abundance within … not financial.
The second couplet (verses 3 & 4) speaks of love and faithfulness, probably THE most powerful words and concepts in scripture. There is a God version (God to us), but also a human one … toward one another. As we express love and faithfulness to one another, we are imitating God.
The third couplet (verses 5 & 6) speaks of the totality of commitment needed… and doing so, in faith.
The fourth couplet (verses 7 & 8) reiterates the body-mind-spirit connection that “new agers” seem to think they have an inside track on … but really, scripture has been speaking about “holistic” relationships between the body, mind & spirit for a long time.
The fifth couplet (verses 9 & 10) speaks again of sowing and reaping by articulating the importance of our generosity … toward God and others.
And the last couplet in this group (verses 11 & 12) speaks of God’s blessings coming to us in “reproofs” … which is often very difficult. (See Hebrews 12:5-6). Our lives will always have joy and sorrow … for we need them both to grow.
Remember… the author of Proverbs does not tell us how to “get” wisdom… since wisdom is a gift of God. It is not our “seeking” that manifests wisdom in our lives, it is our “being” … being in right relationship with the Lord, with others, and with the world.
Prayer requests for Carolyn, Chris, and Judy B and her father.
Next meeting, Thursday, May 25, 7 pm… all are welcome. Email me for directions… firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes from the meeting of April 19
Special welcome to our two guests: my Aunt Gerda from Germany and Kathleen’s mom, Joneva from Minneapolis.
Reviewed the necessary conditions for “finding wisdom and understanding” in verses 1-4 & 7 of Chapter 2.
- Accepting His words (this condition reminds me so much of the works of photographer Henri Cartier Bresson, who I heard speak about responding with a “yes” in his spirit as he captured moments on film.)
- Remembering His Promises (what triggers can we use to remember what God has done; write it down!)
- Applying the heart to understanding Him (by practicing the disciplines… both formal and informal)
- Asking for help or insight from God (through prayers and petitions)
- Searching for His hidden treasures (by studying the Word)
- Walking upright and blamelessly
- Practicing faithfulness
In verses 5-11, there are a number of promises that God gives as conditions are met:
- To understand the fear of the Lord
- To get victory
- To have a shielded and guarded way (protection)
We talked about these promises … asking, which would be most significant for us. For me, the most intriguing phrases were in verse 10: “wisdom will enter your heart” (what would THAT look like?) and verse 11: “discretion will protect you.”
Do we really know what discretion means? And how might it protect you?
We talked about the word itself … it has two strong meanings, one that many people think of first, the idea of being discreet or prudent… but another meaning is stronger here: “the power or right to decide or act accoring to one’s own judgment; freedom of judgment or choice.” In the entymology of the word, “discretio,” means discernment or power to make distinctions.
Think on it: the freedom we could have in being able to make distinctions rooted in the wisdom of God in our hearts! Freedom is a gift of god.
We read these scriptures: Gen 41:30; Prov 5:1-2; Isaiah 28:26; Mark 12:34; Pov 6:8; Prov 22:3; Prov 24:27; Luke 12:33 which support our freedom to decide … to make distinctions… to choose wisely.
God is not foreign to my freedom.
Instead the Spirit breathes life into my most intimate desires,
gently nudging me towards all that is good.
I ask for the grace to let myself be enfolded by the Spirit.
This short prayer is just one of many from either one of these sites (same prayers):
Sacred Space (Daily Online Prayer) or The Quiet Space (Daily Prayer Online). The images and feeling of both sites is slightly different, but equally power.
Seek freedom. Seek wisdom. The promises await.
Notes on April 5th meeting:
I’m a little behind on reporting, so I’m sure I’ll miss a lot, but I think I can, at the least, gather the key points of our time together… now, over a month ago.
Beginning with verse 20, we investigated the “warnings against rejecting wisdom.” Unlike the first warnings against being enticed away from wisdom, these focus on a conscious choice to say “no” to wisdom calling.
The question, “Does this verse bring any kind of an experience to mind? Can you we think of a time when we “knew” God was trying to tell us something, but we consciously turned away? I told of a time many, many years ago when I was attending a church in Indiana and heard a missionary from Africa talk of God’s work there… I clearly heard a call from God that morning. It was no surprise to me when the missionary singled me out and asked me what God was saying to me. I could not say it… I was too afraid… and as a result, I turned away. Others shared that night from their own lives … of small losses… but unfortunately, my notes are incomplete.
I also talked about the fact that Wisdom is calling “aloud in the street” (verse 21) – this calling is a public event… it is not a secret transaction… everyone is invited to hear Wisdom calling. I was reminded of the many times that binding transactions took place in the gates of the ancient cities; for instance, this is where Boaz redeemed Ruth.
In verse 23, in the NIV (other translations do not emphasize this point in the same way), IF is a key word … “If you had responded to my rebuke, I would have poured out my heart to you…” The IFs in our lives are the turning points of our lives. It is in the time of IF where choices were made and directions were taken. Just think if Adam and Eve would have responded with wisdom to God’s voice.
In John 5:6, Jesus see a sick man still lying in his condition and asks him, “Do you want to get well?” It seems so obvious. Who wouldn’t want to get well? Do we want wisdom? That also seems obvious, but apparently we are not behaving in a way that telescopes our desire for Wisdom. Why wouldn’t we want Wisdom? I think because it would probably mean change! And most of us don’t want change.
(At this point, we spent some time in prayer … asking God for wisdom.)
Wisdom is based in truth: truth in actions, truth in thoughts, truth in who we are, truth in our mistakes. We must be totally honest with God and with ourselves.
Beginning in verse 24, the other part of the IF appears… BUT… here come the results of our choices… if we reject Wisdom, there is a list of what God will do. And why? because we did not “choose” to fear the Lord.
Fear of the Lord is choice. Wisdom is a choice.
And all the rest is sowing and reaping, one of the most foundational laws in scripture. (See Galations 6:7-10, II Corinthians 9:6 and Luke 6:38)
The only rescue from the results of our choice is in verse 33 (another but) “…whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.”
We discussed at some length about listening … it’s a weighty subject… I even found a book on the Internet on the topic of listening to God’s voice – it’s only 320 pages!!! Why is it so difficult to hear God’s voice?
At this point, we had a great time with a “listening” exercise – listening to various “everyday” sounds, but discovering how hard it is to recognize them. The lesson here was simple: we are hearing, but we do not recognize God’s voice. We do not recognize Wisdom’s voice either.
I felt it was important to step back in our discussion of wisdom to investigate further the “fear of the Lord” which is both the “beginning of knowledge” and the “beginning of wisdom.”
Clearly, the Lord wants us to know wisdom. In Prov. 1:20, he says, “Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares…” and so forth. She is calling out to us… again and again. It is we, who are not listening, who are not discerning her call.
We are all at a tension point… with wisdom before us… calling out and behind, the enticements of the world. If we do not “consciously” choose wisdom, we are rejecting her by default and slip backwards into the world.
Even the secular world is interested in wisdom. An interesting definition appears here on a website about systems thinking. Here it says that information answers the questions of who, what, when & where, while knowledge is the application of information and answers the question, “how?” Understanding is the appreciation of “why?” but wisdom is “evaluated understanding.” Isn’t God calling us to “evaluative understanding?” But before you can move into this type of wisdom, you must pass through the other levels: you must GET information, knowledge, and understanding.
And apparently, the first place to “get” them, is in the Fear of the Lord. Let us remember that the Hebrew for Fear in this passage (transliterated) is “yirah” – piety or holy fear… or reverence. Other words that have been used in translating this verse (for understanding) are respect, devotion, awe, and honor.
Here is my question for you… What does “fear of the Lord” or “reverence for the Lord” look like for you? How do you know YOU are experiencing reverence? What does it feel like… smell like… sound like… look like?
For the rest of our session, we created poster images of what reverence might look like and then shared our posters. Although I cannot share them here… I have chosen a few graphic elements to give you a feeling for what was shared that night.
One person shared that she feels like a speck surrounded by a universe of God’s love.
Another person felt that her devotion was wrapped up in feelings of safety and warmth. She drew a picture of herself on a swing with Lord holding the ends.
Although this picture does not capture fully, another person drew a picture of a heart filled on one-half with tears… but tears that changed colors from her early years of what she thought “fearing God” was to what she understands it to be now… full of colors. Her reverence for God has always been inside her heart.
Another sister shared her poster and safety was one aspect of her reverence of God.. along with a river of life, the devotion that a pet shows for her master, and many more images that reflect her expectation that God will take care of her.
One sister shared her reverence of God in nature and symbolized it with an image of mountains… with a song in her heart, “Oh Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name…”
Two of the women captured their reverence with the light of God shining down on them, filling almost the entire page with the rays of his Light.
We ended the evening with several scriptures:
2 Corinthians 7:1
I Peter 2:17
I Peter 1:17
God created wisdom when the earth was made and only God can teach us the way to wisdom.
Prayer requests: for K’s workshop for Leading Kids to Jesus; for Irm’s daughter’s school issues; and for the visiting African girls from the Children of Zion Village.
Next meeting: Thursday, April 5th… continuing in Proverbs. Please email me if you need directions…
Note: Need a decision about meeting on May 3rd as I will be out of town.
Our meeting brought some new faces. I just want to remind everyone again that this bible study is a low-stress affair. Come when you can… read here what you missed. Add your thoughts through the comments or just lurk. This is God’s time no matter how you slice it.
We began our wisdom study in earnest, having been introduced to wisdom first through the character of Abigail. we began a review of wisdom with Proverbs 1.
Wanting to get some introductory material together, I was intrigued to discover a few “facts” that I shared with the group. But before I share those, I want to remind you all that Solomon received wisdom because he asked for it. Throughout this process, we must remember, daily, to ask God for wisdom. God is faithful and He will deliver!
The Hebrew word for wisdom is in the feminine tense and as such, is translated throughout Proverbs as “she.” Some years ago, I know there were some gnostics who took the idea of a “holy feminine” or “Sophia” or “goddess worship” much further afield that I intend to go. But that’s not to say that the feminine isn’t important. Let us not fearfully throw the “baby out with the bath water.” We are women and we need to champion that which IS feminine in the bible and to continually find meaning. We must be willing to look outside the box… to think creatively… to fulfill our own destinies in Christ… like Abigail, choosing courage to act under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
In ancient cultures, wise men and women came from a group of people who had developed life skills. They were the precursors to our modern day social and natural scientists. They were observers of life… of people… of nature. Wisdom could be learned. Soon, these wise ones expanded their observations about life and began making observations about wisdom itself. It is in this spirit, that many of the proverbs were written. The literary form of the proverbs is a specific type called parallelism. Proverbs were intentionally created to succeed in a verbal society … to be spoken and remembered and passed down. The proverbs are really a “collection of a collection” of proverbs and should be read in groups topically. They might “save us from a lot of trouble” but remember, the better part of wisdom is knowing how to live in the “midst” of difficult circumstances. For more background on the Proverbs, see http://www.cresourcei.org/biblestudy/bbproverbs1.html
When I asked in what areas we were looking for wisdom, the resounding theme was relationships: children, husbands, extended family, colleagues at work, neighbors… the list went on. And in these relationships, we are looking for better decision-making, wise words, and insight.
In actuality, the first 8 chapters of Proverbs are the instructions and speeches that summarize the entire book. The proverbs themselves are the detail. In chapter one, the purposes for studying the Proverbs are laid out: wisdom, discipline, insight, prudence, right-living, fairness, knowledge, discretion, understanding, and the “fear of the Lord.”
We talked a lot about the “fear of the Lord” – this phrase has been around for a long time and we have all learned various interpretations of it. Some of the definitions include awe, reverence, and respect. I believe, this respect, or reverent acknowledgment of God … a sovereign God… is the beginning of wisdom. As little children before God, we have much to learn and we must remember that God is God… and there are no circumstances that are not under his will.
I was fascinated by verses 8 & 9 which referred to the “garland for the head” and the “chain about the neck” as symbols of instruction received. What is interesting to me is that these objects can symbolize victory and beauty, but if we rebel against the instruction, they can feel like the chains of a prisoner.
The next 10 verses leap into the warnings of enticement away from instruction. This is an important point. Clearly, wisdom has a high value and once we begin this journey, the enticements will come quickly. But what are the enticements for a 20th century middle class woman? One very good suggestion was “gossip.” Remember, if we are seeking wisdom in relationships, what better way to “ruin” that path than to twist those relationships through the wringer of gossip, backbiting, and judgment? We also discussed other enticements like the love of “stuff” and worldly pleasures or things the world advertise as important.
One question I did not remember to ask was, “What is the most powerful temptation in your life?” and as a follow-up, “What would you lose by yielding to it?” and “What would you GAIN by yielding to it?” Think on these things this week.
Our next meeting is March 15th. Email me if you need directions. We will continue in Proverbs 1:20-33. I plan to continue through Chapter 4 and then move to another character to apply what we’ve learned.
Prayer requests: For Mark’s mother, Dorothy; Kathleen’s daughter Kristina; Marcie’s daughter traveling; Chris’s husband’s retiring.
Praises: Marriage on an upswing for MaryC.
I Samuel 25:1-18
Before we could really start to dig into Abigail’s story, we did a quick review of the immediate circumstance, time period, and history. David had already been anointed to be king and Saul had been chasing him, but they came to a truce over the matter of the cut robe and David passed up the opportunity to kill Saul. (I Samuel 24). We talked about the Wilderness of Paran and circumstances that might have brought Abigail to marry Nabal, a cruel and evil man. We wondered why being a “calebite” had become a negatively charged term … something to pursue another day. From Brian Morgan (Peninsula Bible Church, 1994), we learned that Nabal is a “composite’ of the grouping of 5 kinds of fools recognized by ancient Hebrews. Above all, “He is the fool who believes there is no God.” Nabal is the selfish, self-centered one, married to Abigail, known for her beauty and intelligence. What WAS it like to live under his roof?
Caught in the culture of arranged marriages and dowries exchanged by “deputies,” Abigail probably had no choice in the matter. We theorized that Abigail may very well have come from further afield, a different community, where the “true” nature of Nabal was not known. In any case, she was married to a man that no one could abide… not even his own servants. He was a wealthy man, but perhaps his wealth was but a show… within, he was miserly and poor of spirit.
And so, this marriage we understand, but what of modern times when women of today can “choose” and yet they enter marriages with extremely difficult partners. Through our discussion, we captured a few of those reasons such as youthful foolishness, wanting to be needed, believing that the man would change after marriage, believing his home situation is causing his bad behavior and once out of that situation, all will be well; or just choosing the familiar because of the woman’s own past or family unit being dysfunctional.
The time of sheep shearing is a festive time. I was surprised to discover that meat is primarily eaten during “festive” times such as a sheep shearing or holiday. As a result, it made more sense why David would choose this time to ask for provisions from Nabal’s household. And he was expecting plenty, since he (David) sent 10 men to make the request. The request was generlaly humble, although there are several writers who have speculated that his request was almost a “mafia-esque” racket of provisions for protection. I think it was common back then nonetheless.
Nabal’s response was unexpected. First of all, the mean were asked to “wait” even before an answer was made. This waiting was an immediate slap on the face. I was reminded of another group that were forced to wait, Joseph’s brothers (Gen 42) which caused them much consternation. Culturally, it was known what it means to make them wait. Once Nabal does come on the scene, his answer is totally insulting. Does he know that David has been anointed? None of us were sure, but it certainly seems implied that Nabal does not “recognize” David’s claim to the throne calling him a “runaway.”
How does David react when he hears this response? Daivd “reacts” in his typical “hotheaded” way. Interesting, that once Samuel has died and David and his 600 men begain their sojourn in the Wilderness (the same wilderness where the Israelites wandered for 40 years), that David did not receive prophecy or Godly direction. This was a time for David’s character to be tried. This is often the way that God seems to operate. We are given a gift, a blessing and then, I believe God gives us opportunity to operate within that gift or blessing and discover its impact on our lives. I would not say that David is responding well here. He is “over-reacting.” Despite the fact that Nabal is a jerk and refuses aid, this cannot warrant the plan to destroy Nabal’s entire household. David is taking 400 men with him… this is to be a complete slaughter.
We discussed all this because it’s important to put Abigail’s response in perspective.
When Nabal’s servants come to Abigail, clearly they are afraid and even more amazing, they EXPECTED that Abigail could do something about this situation. But what? We discussed that, more than likely, they expected Abigail to intervene with Nabal himself. Perhaps she has calmed him in the past…
Instead, Abigail takes action.. and this is where we will take up the story next week. My parting thoughts to the group were that this story has many lessons, but certainly, among them is that Abigail was ready and “knew what to do.” She was able to act quickly, because she was, undoubtedly, in relationship with God… she knew the law, she was intelligent and could read the signs… she knew what would happen if she did NOT act. Can we say the same? No matter WHAT our situations are at home, we need to be ready. We live in precarious times. We live in a time of terror and evil. If tragedy threatens, if our families are threatened… will we know what to do?
Here are some questions to think about for next week:
- Why did Abigail withhold her plan from her husband?
- How would you describe David’s mood? How would you feel about confronting someone in this state of mind?
- What about doubts?
- Why does Abigail take the blame for Nabal’s behavior?
- Is Abigail’s story a tale of submission, obeisance, or something else?
- What does the Bible say about Revenge?
- Did Abigail calculate her chances? What in David’s character was on her side?
- What does David recognize about Abigail?
- Why didn’t Abigail tell her husband once she was successful?
- Was it God who acted “for” Abigail?
- What does this story tell you about YOUR situation, whatever it may be?