1 Samuel 25:32 David said to Abigail, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who sent you to meet me today! 33 Blessed be your good sense, and blessed be you, who have kept me today from bloodguilt and from avenging myself by my own hand! 34 For as surely as the LORD the God of Israel lives, who has restrained me from hurting you, unless you had hurried and come to meet me, truly by morning there would not have been left to Nabal so much as one male.”
Abigail’s husband Nabal (a wealthy man) had insulted David by refusing to provide David and his men with food – despite the fact that David had protected Nabal’s shepherds and flocks outside the village. It would have been easy for David and his men to have simply taken several of Nabal’s sheep for food, but David thought to ask permission instead. It was the right thing to do. Nabal refused anyway. Bad move. So David and some of his men were on their way to kill Nabal when Nabal’s wife Abigail met them on the way. She had brought with her plenty of food for the men hoping she could appease David and avoid the death of her husband and other family members. It worked. In the passage above David praises Abigail who kept David from “avenging myself by my own hand”.
I recently did some study on the biblical concept of forgiveness. It’s obvious from even a cursory reading of scripture that forgiveness is a very important practice in the Kingdom of God. The Lord’s Prayer even says “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”. But what does it mean to forgive? Does it mean to let someone off the hook for their actions? Does it mean staying in relationship with someone who is hurting/abusing you? Does it mean ignoring destructive behavior and allowing it to continue?
In my study I realized that forgiveness means none of these things. Forgiveness is, in essence, returning to God the right and responsibility to mete out justice to an offender – in this case, Nabal. One could say, after encountering Abigail and hearing her out, David determined to “forgive” Nabal. He didn’t forget what Nabal had done. But he did not take justice into his own hands. He let go of the offense and trusted God to take action in God’s time. Which is exactly what happened.
This morning I’m wondering where I might need to forgive someone who has hurt/offended me. Lord, give me grace to do as David did – to trust your justice rather than taking matters into my own hands. Amen.