When we respond impulsively with anger to an offense, we create a new havoc that can cause great personal damage to us and to all involved, with both physical and spiritual consequences.
“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, and the pursuit of God’s will in this difficult matter.
Thus, David and his growing band of 600 men were forced to continually move around in 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 by a sharing of the abundant 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 wrath, determined to wipe out not only Nabal, but all of his men.
The Lord sent word of David’s wrath to Nabal’s wife, Abigail. Unlike Nabal, she was a person of great wisdom, and quickly took the matter 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 she presented him and his men with 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 greatly cool down, and he realized that if he had committed a mass murder in response to a personal insult, it would be completely contrary to God’s plan and purpose for him and the nation. He would in the end be no better than King Saul.
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 the matter, and that Abigail’s heart had been open to God’s guidance. He respected and admired her, received the offering, and sent her back home in peace. It would not be the last time they would meet.
Whenever our pride is hurt by an offense or lack of respect, there is a natural inclination to want to lash out in return. But that is not what God wants us to do. He wants us to pursue restraint whenever we are tempted to react sinfully in the heat of anger and passion, and to lean on Him to resolve the conflict.
There is a time and a place for vengeance for true evil, and God has authority over all judgment. He will provide the means and opportunities to respond if He wills it, and He, not our anger and pride, will dictate the proper response to bring about His righteous resolution in these matters.
Where have I failed in restraining my angry response to an offense? In so doing, I have created an open chasm between my heart and God’s, and some type of amends with the other person, no matter their role in the offense, will be required.
While there is often a need for some type of action, whenever anger and fear are involved, it is easy to follow our wrong motives and take inappropriate or even dangerous actions. If we are able to first pause and listen to God before sinfully retaliating, it allows Him to guide us towards any righteousness response we need to take. This is God’s way for us to live in peace and serenity despite being faced with disturbing conflicts.
Father God, 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. Teach me to take a peaceful pause with You whenever tempted to make an impassioned response to an offense. Help me to cool down first 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. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.
And may God help us all to walk in His peace and serenity, and to have a wonderful, blessed day today.