Abigail


1 Samuel 25:17  

Now think it over and see what you can do, because disaster is hanging over our master and his whole household. He is such a wicked man that no one can talk to him.

David and his men had been a protective force around Nabal’s men who were keeping sheep near them. Some time after that, David sent men to Nabal’s area and asked for similar kindness, but Nabal didn’t have the same attitude with David’s men. When David heard the report that Nabal had insulted him, he took four hundred armed men with him to straighten things out. David was sure that Nabal and his men would all be dead by morning.

But Nabal’s wife, Abigail, heard about the situation from one of their servants. She was a quick-thinker. Knowing that her husband had probably enraged David, she put together a generous gift of food that would be plenty for David’s men and sent the food on donkeys. When Abigail came to meet David, she got off her donkey and bowed before him. Her respectful body language and word choices let David know that she and her husband were not in agreement about how to treat people.

Most of the time, married couples should display a united front and let others know that they agree on most basic issues. However, this was a good time for Abigail to stand up for herself.

Because Abigail showed enough wisdom and strength of character to bow before David (and sent his men loads of food), she saved the lives of her husband’s male servants.

David saw such strength in Abigail that, waiting until after he heard her husband was dead, he sent for Abigail with the request that she become his wife.

Esther

Esther 5:4

“If it pleases the king,” replied Esther, “let the king, together with Haman, come today to a banquet I have prepared for him.”

During the time of King Xerxes, Haman and Mordecai were enemies. They were opposites in their character and in their goals. When all the royal officials at the king’s gate knelt down before Haman because the king was honoring him, Mordecai, a Jew, wouldn’t kneel. Haman decided not to make Mordecai pay for his refusal to honor him. Instead, he’d make all of the Jews pay with their lives because of Mordecai.

Queen Esther sent a servant to find out about the rumor that Mordecai was in mourning, and she sent him clothes to wear instead of sackcloth. Mordecai refused the clothes and sent a message back to her. The only one who could save the Jews was the king. Esther would have to plead with him to save her life and the lives of all the Jews because she, being a Jew, would also die if the destruction of the Jews wasn’t stopped.

Mordecai advised her to speak to the king about this. Esther knew she would be risking her life by going to the king without being summoned, but she did it anyway. However, she didn’t explain the terror her people were facing. She simply invited the king and his right hand man, Haman, to a banquet to honor the king. She was able to show strength in a life and death situation.

If Esther had emailed or texted her request to the King, she might have put a winky-smile emoticon in there for good measure. But that would’ve given away the fact that she had something up her sleeve. At the first banquet, she invited them to a second banquet, where she would reveal her connection to the destruction of the Jews. Can you imagine having the patience to set up two banquets and rehearsing what to say to the king so that he could understand exactly what the problem was?

She wasn’t arrogant or vengeful. Esther knew the king would be able to stop the impending disaster, but she had to bring up the issue the right way.  It was clear to the king that she wasn’t just trying to save herself, but her people and the people of Mordecai, the man who had already proven himself a huge asset to the king when he exposed an assassination attempt by two of the king’s officers.

Esther’s patience paid off. When she told the king of Haman’s plot to destroy her and her people, the king left the room in anger. Haman ran to where Esther was reclining to beg her to change the king’s mind. The king came back into the room to find Haman falling on the couch beside Esther, and he remembered that Haman had set up a pole on which to impale Mordecai and display his dead body. The king ordered that Haman be impaled on the pole he set up for Mordecai.

The king saved Esther’s life, but also allowed Mordecai to write an edict in the king’s name that would override the edict to kill all the Jews.

I love this story because of the example Esther gives to all women. Being beautiful is nice, but it’s not enough to stop a massacre. If a woman wants to change the world, she has to be strong, patient, and wise enough to listen to the good advice of others.

 

Jael

Judges 4:22

Just then Barak came by in pursuit of Sisera, and Jael went out to meet him. “Come,” she said, “I will show you the man you’re looking for.” So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera with the tent peg through his temple – dead.

Jael was a strong woman who accepted the opportunity that came right to her door. She’s famous because she killed a runaway who was an enemy of the Israelites.

Last week, I highlighted the efforts of Deborah, who encouraged Barak to lead 10,000 men into battle against Sisera as the Lord had commanded. Barak was able to succeed in battle. He and his men killed all of Sisera’s men. But Sisera fled on foot.

Where did Sisera go? He thought he was safe at the door of Jael’s tent. She greeted him with kindness, covered him with a blanket, and let him go to sleep in her tent. What a nice woman. Right?

Not so much. She knew who he was and who would be looking for him. She let him fall asleep and then found a tent peg and a hammer. According to Judges 4:21, “She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died.”

This is not a woman you want to mess with.

The woman was mentally and emotionally strong enough to plan it out and decide to do it. Then she was physically strong enough to pull it off. She didn’t worry about the what ifs that plague many people. “What if I miss his temple and he wakes up and kills me? What if I can only get the tent peg to wound him instead of going all the way into the ground?”

She went for it. Her boldness and resolve to get the job done gave her the honor that would’ve gone to a man if Sisera hadn’t escaped from Barak.

When Barak came looking for Sisera and asked Jael if she’d seen him, she was proud to show him her work. He walked into the tent and saw Sisera dead on the ground. Immediately, he knew that this was the one of whom Deborah had spoken when she said the honor Barak had forfeited would go to a woman.

When God drops an opportunity into your lap, go for it. He knows who can accomplish the task. He knows your strength. Our job is to be aware of God’s opportunities and obey quickly.

Deborah

Judges 4: 9   

“Certainly I will go with you,” said Deborah. “But because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.”

The Lord spoke through Deborah to Barak and commanded him to lead 10,000 men to a specific place where God would give his enemy into his hands. Deborah was willing to go with Barak to be a source of encouragement for him when Barak told her he wouldn’t do it without her. When Barak obeyed God, all of the enemy had been killed except their leader, Sisera, who fled on foot.

Barak had been warned of the consequences of not accepting God’s command as it was without asking a woman to go with him. He was told that the honor would go, not to a man, but to a woman.

Deborah was not that woman. She had to deal with Barak, so running after a fugitive was not on her To Do List. I’ll share in next week’s blog post about which woman received the honor that Barak didn’t get.

Last year, I wrote about Deborah because she was a standout woman in the Bible. The verses about her showed she was available, obedient, and caring. Today, I want to focus on the boldness it took to do what she did.

Her goal was peace. She wanted to bring the disputes of the Israelites under control. They came to her at the Palm of Deborah where she held court. Can you imagine a shingle with her name on it nailed to the palm tree that gave her its shade? Maybe she had a gavel. Maybe there was a bailiff.

This woman knew about their enemy who had 900 chariots fitted with iron and who had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years. She had heard her people crying out to the Lord for help. So when the Lord answered their cries by commanding Barak to go into battle against their enemy, Deborah was sure there was a victory ahead of them. Whenever the Lord tells you he’ll give your enemy into your hands, there is certain victory ahead.

But Barak somehow was uneasy about going into battle without Deborah.

It made Deborah dig deep into her reserves of patience with the man, but she went with him to the place God had commanded. She had to remind him on the day of battle, “Go! This is the day the Lord has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the Lord gone ahead of you?”

This was an important win for Barak and his men. When he led his 10,000 men into battle, I’m sure Deborah watched him go and then let out a sigh of relief. She knew as long as Barak did what God commanded, her people would be spared. I can imagine that she was slightly annoyed that she had to go with him to make him do what he could’ve easily done without her.

Deborah was not some mousy little people pleaser. She was bold enough to stand up for what God said. How many in our day would stand up for God’s commands? How many of us would rather not stand out like that?

It took her guts and boldness to bring about the victory God had planned for her people. Can God use us like he used Deborah?

We’re not all judges, but we can all stand up for what we know God wants.