David, the would be 2nd king of Israel, is on the run from Saul, the reigning 1st king of Israel. Rightfully, David should already be on the throne, but Saul will not relinquish his seat of power. As a matter of fact, Saul is doing all that he can to kill David. So David is running and hiding from place to place trying to evade Saul and wait on God’s sovereign timing to assume the throne. While David is hiding in the wilderness, he provides protection to a band of shepherds who are tending the sheep of a very rich man. When David and his men become hungry, he sends a delegation to this wealthy man to request food. The man, Nabal, refuses to provide anything for David and his men. In his arrogance, Nabal refuses to recognize the protection that David has afforded the shepherds. And he also fails to recognize David’s plight, but instead accuses David of being a runaway slave. David decides to take action and intends to slaughter Nabal, his household, and all of his servants. This is where Abigail, the wife of Nabal, steps in. One of Nabal’s servants reports to Abigail the foolish decision made by her husband.
In these circumstances we see three character traits that would serve any leader well in pressing circumstances.
1. The inclination to take action. Leadership is influence. But leadership is also active, not passive. Leadership clearly sees the situation at hand, determines a course of action, and moves ahead properly. Abigail decides to intercept David and his troops and offer them the provisions that Nabal withheld. There is no way that she could be sure of the outcome. A woman trying to stop a king bent on vengeance usually does not stand a chance. But she threw off convention and cultural custom to intervene on behalf of a foolish husband and his household. This was bold action.
2. The ability to demonstrate sincere humility. Humility leads to boldness and pride often lives in fear. It not only takes a clear sense of the situation for a leader to act, but it also requires a great sense of knowing who you are, and who you are not, to be able to act correctly. Abigail confronts David and his men on the road. When she does, she immediately falls down before David on her face in a powerful demonstration of humility and reverence for David. She clearly understands the possible consequences that confront her, unlike her husband, Nabal. She knows the protection that David and his men have provided for the shepherds of Nabal. And she rightly knows the nature of her husband’s folly. But rather than flee and save only herself, she pursues David, and out of humility seeks his favor.
3. The fortitude to claim corporate responsibility. Good leaders take responsibility. Good leaders take responsibility for mistakes made and give credit for successes gained. Before David even has time to address Abigail, she claims corporate responsibility for the sin of her husband and asks for forgiveness. Abigail was completely ignorant of Nabal’s folly when it occurred. She wasn’t to blame. But one person stood in the place of a whole household to seek salvation. Sound familiar?
The end result is that David relents of his quest for revenge because of the courage and leadership of Abigail. David views Abigail’s intervention as divine and grasps the nature of her substitutionary act. He realizes that Abigail has kept him from committing a transgression himself. When Nabal finally dies, David remembers Abigail and makes provision for her by taking her as his wife. This was an act of generosity on David’s part since a widow in the Ancient Near East would have had no way to provide for herself. One strong act of kindness was met by another.