Retaliation after an offense creates a small gap between you and God that turns into a chasm. Do not retaliate under any circumstances. God will give you peace.” – Betty Ryan
David exercised extreme restraint each time he spared King Saul’s life, even though Saul was completely obsessed with killing David. David did not do this out of respect for the man, but out of respect for the anointing of kingship that the Lord had placed upon Saul.
Thus, David and his 600 men were forced to move about southern Israel to escape Saul and his 3,000 elite troops.
At one point in their journey, they spent an extended amount of time in fields alongside shepherds who were tending vast flocks of sheep belonging to a very wealthy man. Over the course of their time there, David and his men provided the shepherds with a strong defense against Philistine raiders, thieves and predators.
When sheep-shearing time came, there was the customary feast for the shepherds, with much eating and drinking and merriment. David had 600 hungry men and wanted some small acknowledgement of their contribution with a sharing of food and drink from the feast.
David sent ten young men to go to the owner of the sheep to ask for a portion of the bounty. The owner, named Nabal, which means “Fool”, treated the men with disdain and deeply insulted David, pretending he did not know who he was, though he revealed that he knew quite a bit about the son of Jesse and his flight from Saul. Nabal flatly denied their request for provisions.
David was enraged when his men returned with the bad news. This man of divine restraint toward Saul was suddenly compelled to respond to this insult with great personal wrath, determined to wipe out not only Nabal, but all of his men.
God got word of David’s wrath to Nabal’s wife, Abigail. Unlike Nabal, she had great wisdom, and quickly took matters into her own hands.
18 Then Abigail made haste and took two hundred loaves and two skins of wine and five sheep already prepared and five seahs of parched grain and a hundred clusters of raisins and two hundred cakes of figs, and laid them on donkeys. 19 And she said to her young men, “Go on before me; behold, I come after you.” But she did not tell her husband Nabal. 20 And as she rode on the donkey and came down under cover of the mountain, behold, David and his men came down toward her, and she met them. 1 Samuel 25:18-20 NKJV
Abigail providentially met David as he was on his way to carry out vengeance, and presented his men with her gifts from the feast. She treated David with great respect, and also reminded him of his divine position as the anointed future king of Israel. This helped David to cool down and to realize that if he committed mass murder in response to a personal insult, it would be entirely contrary to God’s plan and purpose for him and the nation.
32 And David said to Abigail, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! 33 Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodguilt and from working salvation with my own hand! 1 Samuel 25:32-33 NKJV
David recognized the hand of the Lord in this matter, and that Abigail’s heart was open to God’s guidance. He respected and admired her, received the offering, and sent her back to her home in peace.
Whenever our pride is hurt, there is a natural inclination to want to lash out in return. But that is not what God wishes us to do. He wants to restrain us from reacting in the heat of anger and passion.
There is a time and a place for vengeance for true evil, and God has authority over the judgement. He will provide the means and opportunities to respond if He wills it and He, not our pride, will direct the response.
Where have I failed in restraining my angry response to an offence? In so doing, have I created an open chasm between my heart and God’s?
While there is often a need for action, it is easy to follow wrong motives and take the wrong actions. When we pause to listen to God before retaliating, it allows Him to guide us in the direction we need to take.
Lord, I confess my sin in the matter of personal retaliation. Help me to make amends for any wrong actions I have taken, and to keep my anger and pride in check as new tensions arise.
Lead me to Your peaceful pause to resist an impassioned response. Help me to cool down and consult with You about the situation and Your will in the matter. Guide me and strengthen me as I seek to make progress in this difficult area.
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.