Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
As always, there is precedent in the biblical narratives for the myriad ways God delivers his people from evil. Here is one such story, that of the biblical Abigail, that comes to mind just now for days such as this in the U.S. when–at the moment–every effort by good people to counter the forces of evil seems to fail.
Whereas we don’t know the outcome yet, on this very last day of 2020, of the attempted political coup against the foundation of our nation and how it will play out (for it may not be God’s timing yet to lead and guide us out–see previous post on thoughts about the timing factor), but in due time, deliverance will occur, one way or another, temporal and spiritual, if not both at the same time.
Abigail’s story is an old one. But I feature it today because in addition to its historical value, I view it as archetypal, providing both temporal and spiritual types of “battle plans” for God’s people of all eras in that it reveals the same-old, same-old tale of the dirty tricks and hubris of our real enemy using a man named Nabal, back then. Today’s useful players bear many names and nationalities.
I write of the same, real enemy, who, ever since the crust cooled, has been trying to conquer and destroy God’s creation through God’s creation (men and women, frequently rich and powerful, but not always).
And–much more importantly–considering the hot political mess we’re in today in the United States, this story is a model for us as to how to access the highest level guidance and wisdom from He Who is above all and greater than all.
Some parallel notes on the temporal military genius Sun Tzu are also included, below.
See what you think.
But above all, be encouraged, strengthened, and about “your Father’s business,” be it at home, work, school, in your family, neighborhood, or other groups; be it on the front lines (spiritually, physically, or both) or in support capacities (see the previous post on this topic, too).
I’ll see you there.
Abigail, Nabal, and David
The reader may know that I am ever inspired and guided by Abigail who was married to Nabal (his name literally means “fool”). Her story appears in the first book of Samuel, chapter 25. I have featured her in several prior posts.
In a nutshell, here’s the story:
- Abigail is a godly, wise, beautiful, beloved woman married to a belligerent alcoholic.
- He is working his many fields and pastures one day and King David’s men who have been guarding Nabal’s considerable properties free of charge ride up, extending good tidings and peace, and ask for food.
- He refuses their request with a snarky response. “Who is this David?” He says. “Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days. 11 Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where?”
- The impetuous young David, foolish in his own right just now, responds by announcing his plan to kill Nabal and all the male members of his household the next morning.
- Nabal’s servants run to Abigail with this horrifying news knowing she will figure something out.
- After Nabal has partied hard that night and passes out, Abigail gathers food and drink and travels into the hills to David’s camp to plead with him to save her household.
- Not only that, she urges David to save himself and his kingship lest, in the future, had he followed through on his vengeful scheme, it would prove a stain on his reputation and efficacy–something Satan could exploit.
- He recognizes her as a messenger of God.
- “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me,” David says. “33 May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands. 34 Otherwise, as surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak.”
- David sends her home in peace.
- Abigail tells Nabal what she did the next morning (when he sobers up) and Nabal’s “heart fails him and he (becomes) like a stone” (has a stroke?).
- He dies ten days later.
- David, recognizing her beauty and wisdom, marries Abigail…
(Side note: her challenges didn’t stop there, but that’s another story.)
On Temporal Deliverance
I wrote more extensively on how the temporal deliverance element played out in Abigail’s story here. But in another short summary:
- Abigail knew the enemy, i.e., Nabal, i.e., that he was an alcoholic, hot-tempered fool. That is to say, in this case, she knew her male servants’ enemy, and although by not doing anything she would have rid herself of her foolish husband, she chose the higher calling even though at great risk. She did so because…
- She also knew her God (see this post for more discussion on that topic) and submitted to His authority.
- She knew her cultural status as a woman and a wife back then gave her few options, but she exercised her greater options as a believer (and took matters into her own wise hands).
- She bided her time as she made her plans (quietly gathered the goods, waiting until her husband was out for the night).
- She solicited the aid of trusted servants (note: she had already earned their trust).
- She, trusting God, set out to plead for her household–and for the integrity of David’s kingship.
- In short, ABIGAIL RISKED ALL for the greater good and by trusting God’s guidance, which in certain ways defied man’s laws regarding women in those days, she facilitated God’s deliverance for not only her household but also for King David, for his future.
I am reminded here of another famed military strategist (for Abigail’s mission was not only a spiritual battle but also physical, her husband’s foolishness putting many in serious harm’s way). This strategist was Sun Tzu.
Parallel Battle Plans: Abigail and Sun Tzu
Strategies of Sun Tzu as discussed in his ancient soldier’s field manual, so to speak, The Art of War in some ways parallel Abigail’s. His are categorized below (in his chapter headings), with notes on several of Abigail’s, where needed, that are similar:
- Laying Plans (Abigail: gathering food and waiting until Nabal had passed out from drinking, to proceed)
- Waging War (Abigail’s was more of a “silent” war, waged by waiting, and gathering goods and servants for the mission. Note: as a woman of God, Abigail undoubtedly also prayed for His “plan” in great earnest)
- Attack by Stratagem (see “plans,” above, and add Abigail’s wisdom from her obedience to God’s higher laws)
- Tactical Dispositions (prayer, personal precedent, and patience)
- Strategic Military Power (the power of God, His inspiration and guidance)
- Illusion and Reality (Nabal may have been the sole head of his household in that era and culture, but Abigail bowed to a greater “Master”)
- Engaging The Force
- Variation of Tactics
- Maneuvering the Forces
- Situational Positioning
- The Nine Battlegrounds (Abigail had two, both temporal and spiritual)
- Incendiary Attacks (in the spiritual battle, Abigail did so in the figurative sense by–to cite a New Testament metaphor–taking up her “shield of faith, with which (she)…(extinguished) all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16).
- The Use of Intelligence: the servants’ report and, likely, in another sense, from past experiences of her own dealing with Nabal who seemed to have little regard even for the King and who had probably put the family in harm’s way in other situations in the past.
To add to the parallels of both “famed military strategists,” Abigail in her battles and Sun Tzu in his, to inspire and strengthen us in our both temporal and spiritual battlegrounds today in the United States, these quotes from The Art of War:
Thus we may know that there are five essentials for victory:
1 He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.
2 He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces.
3 He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks.
4 He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.
5 He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.
On Spiritual Deliverance–The Believer’s Field Manual
From the most ancient of all texts on “military strategies” and useful even today in the U.S. for what wickedness our way comes–and seems to be prevailing so far–we have the following reminder and advice from the Believer’s Field Manual, the Bible, this time from the New Testament:
The Armor of God
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
Carry on in the knowledge, wisdom, strength. and courage of the the Lord, tending to His business and His strategies.
After all, He has kept this planet–ever under siege by evil–spinning so far.
Besides, He knows the end from the beginning*.
And the end is good. Very good–though it will have its challenges between now and then, here on terra firma...
*Here’s some insight.