Leadership and Ethics
Paper One: Biblical Leader
May 4, 2009
Sometimes leaders are not as well known as Billy Graham, Princess Diana, or George Washington. There are leaders in the Bible that have become household names; such as, Jesus, Noah, Moses, and David. My focus is on a Biblical character whose name is not heard as much as many others. Her story does not take many verses, and certainly does not occupy an entire book of God’s word. God did include her though, and I believe for a grand purpose. This female leader exemplified leadership through discernment, strength, beauty, and hope. Her name is Abigail.
Abigail was a leader of great discernment. Her story is found in 1 Samuel of the Old Testament. Abigail was the wife of a rich man named Nabal. Not only is Abigail not a very well-known character, but her husband is also not a common name to us. Even though they may rank as uncommon, their story is one that must be told. It begins with an actual statement about the character of both Nabal and Abigail in verse 3 of 1 Samuel “The woman was discerning and beautiful, but the man was harsh and badly behaved; he was a Calebite”. Nabal’s character traits of harshness and bad behavior were not hidden. Nabal is a very rich man and is asked by David to provide whatever excess food he might have. Nabal refuses David’s request. He certainly behaves very badly as explained in verse 3. David sets forth with 400 men to destroy Nabal and his household.
Abigail learns of the planned attack and her character is revealed.
As Abigail learns of the planned attack by David and his army, she begins to show her discernment. It was unthinkable for a woman to approach a man in Bible times, especially a man of David’s accomplishments and status. Yet, through her God-given discernment, Abigail realizes her husband made a grave mistake. Abigail uses wisdom equal to that of Solomon. In Proverbs 15:28 Solomon writes, “The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil” (ESV). Abigail knows that her husband radiates evil and quickly weighs her options and makes a wise decision. She easily could be killed by David, but knows that if she sits back and waits they will all die.
Abigail shows strength in a mighty way. She bows before David and confesses that her husband is wrong. She tells him she would have given to David if she had known. She asks David to forgive her husband. Abigail even asks to carry the blame for Nabal when she states “On me alone, my lord, be the guilt” (1 Samuel 25:24, ESV). She is strong and courageous enough to ask for forgiveness for her husband, and to also ask that the blame be put on her back. David could accept her plea and kill her on behalf of Nabal. She had to know she would be taking a tremendous risk in approaching David and an army of 400 men. Abigail has faith that David is a man of the Lord and that faith provides hope.
Abigail tells David that she knows he is fighting for the Lord our God. In verse 28 she states to David “For the LORD will certainly make my lord a sure house, because my lord is fighting the battles of the LORD, and evil shall not be found in you so long as you live” (1 Samuel 25:28, ESV). Abigail believes in the one true God. Through her belief in God, and the knowledge that David is a man of God, she has hope that her effort to save her household will be fulfilled. She sees a difference in David, a Godly man, and her husband who was an ungodly man. Abigail’s belief and hope prove true because “… David said to Abigail,” Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodguilt and from avenging myself with my own hand!” (2 Samuel 25:32-33, ESV). David is pleased and thankful to Abigail that she has wisdom even when the men who are suppose to be leading are against one another.
Abigail shows wisdom once more as she returns home to find Nabal holding a feast. Nabal is not the least bit concerned about his harsh attitude toward David, but instead hosts a celebration. Nabal is selfish and does not share his wealth which causes his demise. Abigail shows discernment once more and watis. She does not immediately tell him how she saved them all. I think human nature would have been to immediately tell someone of such a triumph. Abigail is wise and slow to speak. She waits until morning when her husband has sobered. When she tells him of what happened with David and “his heart died within him, and he became as a stone. And about ten days later the LORD struck Nabal, and he died” (1 Samuel 25:37, ESV). God struck Nabal to his death for his evil actions and attitudes. Abigail’s discernment, strength, and hope reward her because David hears that Nabal is dead and takes Abigail as his wife. David realizes that Abigail has the discernment to recognize Nabal’s evil and the strength to warn David that it would be wrong for him to kill Nabal. She saves her household from death and David from the guilt of murder.
Abigail is not a typical leader who led armies, became a queen, or a prophet of God. She is a leader in which we can all model our ministerial positions. In Empowered Leaders Finzel lists the “Ten Biblical Ways to Diffuse an Attack: keep silent, think before you react, really listen, respond gently, agree (with whatever is true, in principle, and with the possibility of truth), give caring feedback, ask for more, avoid quarreling, offer to help, and ask for forgiveness” (pg. 79). Abigail exemplifies these ten principles and diffuses an attack that would have been her death and the death of her entire household. She keeps silent and does not tell Nabal what she is going to do because he would not have allowed her to do it. She thinks about what has happened and what will happen. She realizes the severity of the situation. She listens and believes the messenger who gives her the news of what David is planning. She responds gently by asking David to listen to her, bowing before him, and by accepting all blame. She agrees with David that her husband has wronged him. She shows caring by not only caring about the lives of her household, but also about the guilt and repercussions that will come to David if he follows through with his attack. She asks for more by asking David to change his mind and go against what he feels is right. She avoids quarreling by bowing and having a humble attitude. She offers to help by approaching a man of power herself, instead of waiting and hoping her evil husband will change and do the right thing. She asks for forgiveness on behalf of her husband. Abigail accomplishes each item on Finzel’s leadership list to diffuse an attack. Her leadership characteristics are astounding.
Abigail’s characteristics listed as “discerning and beautiful” (1 Samuel 25:3, ESV) are completely correct. Her discernment in the situation is obvious and I believe her beauty is included in scripture for a reason. It is recorded in the Bible that a woman’s beauty can be a benefit. Esther is chosen and promoted to the top of King Ahasuerus’ harem. Her status gave her the right to be heard and power to save the Jewish people. Jacob notices Rachel as she works for her father (Genesis 29) and he marries her. Jacob and Rachel become the parents of Joseph through this attraction and union, and the result is a son who is a great and mighty leader. Abigail, Esther, and Rachel all have an outward beauty which causes to be noticed and heard when needed, but they also carry a beauty that Peter talks about. “But let your adorning be the hidden beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (1 Peter 3:4, ESV). Abigail certainly is the prime example of this inward beauty. She has the gentle and quiet spirit in her discernment, yet is strong to stand for what she believes to be holy, acceptable, and right. Abigail proves to be an accomplished leader for us to model ourselves.
Our churches can benefit from the type of leadership Abigail demonstrates. She heard what both sides had done and that is one of the best qualities of a leader. Our perception is our own reality. We can only judge circumstances based on what we perceive the situation to be and react accordingly. As a leader, you must patiently listen to all sides of a situation, realize everyone has their own perception, and look ahead at what the outcomes could be for everyone. She also takes action. As church leaders, we cannot sit back and teach once per week. We must take action and be active leaders. We cannot expect our sheep to follow a sedentary shepherd. We must be moving so that the sheep will be able to follow. We must lead by doing and by example. As Abigail shows us, we also must not be afraid. Sometimes the path we choose may be the most difficult and the most untraveled. Abigail could have hidden or she could have ran and saved herself. If she had done either of these things many people would have died and David would have had guilt. David could possibly have been killed himself and that would have ended the life of a great leader. As a leader, there will be many times we will have to choose a challenging path. Abigail did what she felt was right in the Lord’s eyes. In the end, she is proven right because the Lord strikes down Nabal for his evil and rewards her by allowing her to marry David. It is in her obedience during a frightening time that her choices become blessings.
I personally try to remember Abigail when I have to make leadership decisions and also in my personal life. I often find myself in situations where the people who are suppose to be my leaders are not making Biblical decisions. It is in these times that I want to run or quit, but in remembering Abigail I am encouraged to have strength. As long as we communicate and interact with other people, we will have disagreements, disappointments and even complete defiance from others. This is when we can remember Finzel’s “Ten Biblical Ways to Diffuse an Attack” (Empowered Leaders, pg. 79) and the discernment, beauty, strength and wisdom of Abigail.