David heard in the wilderness that Nabal was shearing his sheep.
So David sent ten young men. And David said to the young men, “Go up to Carmel, and go to Nabal and greet him in my name. And thus you shall greet him: ‘Peace be to you, and peace be to your house, and peace be to all that you have. I hear that you have shearers. Now your shepherds have been with us, and we did them no harm, and they missed nothing all the time they were in Carmel. Ask your young men, and they will tell you. Therefore let my young men find favor in your eyes, for we come on a feast day. Please give whatever you have at hand to your servants and to your son David.’ ”
When David’s young men came, they said all this to Nabal in the name of David, and then they waited. And Nabal answered David’s servants, “Who is David? Who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants these days who are breaking away from their masters. Shall I take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers and give it to men who come from I do not know where?”
So David’s young men turned away and came back and told him all this. And David said to his men, “Every man strap on his sword!” And every man of them strapped on his sword. David also strapped on his sword. And about four hundred men went up after David, while two hundred remained with the baggage.
But one of the young men told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, “Behold, David sent messengers out of the wilderness to greet our master, and he railed at them. Yet the men were very good to us, and we suffered no harm, and we did not miss anything when we were in the fields, as long as we went with them. They were a wall to us both by night and by day, all the while we were with them keeping the sheep. Now therefore know this and consider what you should do, for harm is determined against our master and against all his house, and he is such a worthless man that one cannot speak to him.” 1 Samuel 25:4-17
In ancient Hebrew tradition, sheep-shearing became a spring festival to celebrate a sheep-herder’s plenty. It became a significant celebration in the Old Testament characterized by feasting, heavy drinking, and the settling of old scores. The shearing of sheep reminded everyone of their excess and their vulnerability, and in David’s narrative sheep-shearing seemed to correspond with avenging a wrong in the pursuit of establishing a royal dynasty (see Genesis 38, 1 Samuel 25, 2 Samuel 13).
Although this is simply the backdrop of Abigail’s story, the detail is worth mentioning because in this moment, all characters in the story are metaphorically stripped down and the core of their character is exposed much like the sheep’s skin. As we will see in the rest of the story, the true source of abundant flourishing is made glaringly evident – righteousness, not folly.
During COVID-19 quarantine, many of us were also stripped down from the abundance of our lives and truth was revealed. We couldn’t hide behind our busy schedules or our numbing practices or our normal daily rhythms anymore, and our true character became more glaringly evident. My guess is many of us are now seeing the ways we have fallen short in God’s story. However, God has already redeemed righteousness for us so we can receive his righteous way and learn from his example.
What has been revealed to you about your character during this season of shearing sheep? What one step could you take today to choose righteousness over folly to course-correct (e.g. ask for forgiveness, step out in love, call a godly friend, book a session with a wise counselor)?
By Yvonne Biel