Max relates the story of Ernest Gordon who was a prisoner of war in World War II. Ernest was held in the Death House of Chungkai, Burma is known for the extreme cruelty of the Japanese guards. Life was “every man for himself” amongst the Allied prisoners. They stole food from one another, robbed the dying men and generally acted like barbarians.
Max states: “Selfishness, hatred, and pride-you don’t have to go to a POW camp to find them. A dormitory will do just fine. As will the boardroom of a corporation or the bedroom of a marriage or the backwoods of a country. The code of the jungle is alive and well. Every man for himself. Get all you can and can all you get. Survival of the fittest.”
David had the same experience with Nabal, an extremely wealthy man, who lived in the desert of Maon where David had lead his people. Nabal was a complete jerk and never had a thought of sharing with anyone. Max says of David and Nabal: “They cohabitated the territory with the harmony of two bulls in the same pasture. Both strong-headed. It was just a matter of time before they collided.”
David and his men provided protection for Nabal’s crops and flocks of sheep from the Bedouins and other robbers. At harvest and shearing time Nabal threw a huge party and David felt that his men deserved to attend. When David sent ten of his men to make his expectations known, Nabal acted as though he did not know any David. Of course, this infuriates David, so he takes four hundred of his men to enforce his will. Before he can arrive, Abigail, the very beautiful wife of Nabal intercepts David carrying meat and bread for his men. She agrees that Nabal is a jerk and asked David to leave Nabal’s fate to God. David agrees to her request and returns to his camp.
Abigail returns to Nabal to let him know how she saved his life from David’s anger. Upon hearing this, Nabal has a heart attack and dies ten days later. When David learned of Nabal’s death he could not forget how beautiful Abigail was and marries her. Max analyzes the story of David and Nabal: “Meekness saved the day that day. Abigail’s gentleness reversed a river of anger. Humility has such power. Apologies can disarm arguments. Contrition can defuse rage. Olive branches do more good than battle-axes ever will.” Soft speech can crush strong opposition. Proverbs 25:15
Max continues: “Abigail teaches so much. The contagious power of kindness. The strength of a gentle heart. Her greatest lesson, however, is taking our eyes from her beauty and set them on someone else’s. She lifts our thoughts from a rural trail to a Jerusalem cross. Abigail never knew Jesus. She lived a thousand years before his sacrifice. Nevertheless, her story prefigures his life.”
“Abigail placed herself between David and Nabal. Jesus placed himself between God and us. Abigail volunteered to be punished for Nabal’s sins. Jesus allowed heaven to punish him for yours and mine. Abigail turned away the anger of David. Didn’t Christ shield you from God’s?”
Jesus is our mediator, the one who stands between God and us. Max points out: “And what did Christ do but stand between God’s anger and our punishment? Christ intercepted the wrath of heaven.” God has piled all our sins, everything we have done wrong, on him, on him,” Isaiah 53:6 MSG
Max finishes this chapter: “Do you find your Nabal world hard to stomach? Then do what David did: stop staring at Nabal. Shift your gaze to Christ. Look more at the Mediator and less at the troublemakers.”
Max opens this chapter by describing what he calls a “slump gun”. “It fires, not bullets, but sadness. It takes, not lives, but smiles. It inflicts, not flesh wounds, but faith wounds.” Nothing seems to go right. For every step forward, you take at least two back.
David feels as though Saul is using a “slump gun” on him. David is constantly on the run hiding from Saul in the hills, sleeping in caves and trying to care for six hundred men and their families. David says: “One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul. The best thing I can do is to escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will give up searching for me anywhere in Israel, and I will slip out of his hand.” I Samuel 27:1 NIV
Max’s comment: “Confused? David talked to God. Challenged? He talked to God. Afraid? He talked to God…. most of the time. But not this time. On this occasion, he talks to himself. He doesn’t even seek the counsel of his advisors. When Saul first lashed out, David turned to Samuel. As the attacks continued, David asked Jonathan for advice. When weaponless and breadless, he took refuge among the priests of Nob. In this case, however, David consults David.”
David forgets that God has been his strength during this whole ordeal, and he seeks comfort with the enemy. This only brings about temporary relief from Saul. Max’s observation: “Stop resisting alcohol, and you’ll laugh---for a while. Move out on your spouse, and you’ll relax---for a time. Indulge in porn, and you’ll be entertained---for a season.” He offers Proverbs 14:12-13 MSG: “There’s a way of life that looks harmless enough; look again-it leads straight to hell. Sure, those people appear to be having a good time, but all that laughter will end in heartbreak.”
The Philistines decide to attack Saul and David leads them to believe he is on their side. He and his men turn and fight the Philistines. When David’s warriors return with him to their village, they find that everything has been burned and the Philistines have kidnapped their families. David’s men turn on him with threats of stoning him to death. The “slump gun” has hit David again.
Max offers this: “How we handle our tough times stays with us for a long time. How do you handle yours? When you are tired of trying, tired of forgiving, tired of hard weeks, or hardheaded people…. how do you manage your dark days?”
“With a bottle of pills or scotch? With an hour at the bar, a day at the spa, or a week at the coast? Many opt for such treatments. So many, in fact, that we assume they reenergize the sad life. But do they? No one denies that they help for a while, but over the long haul? They numb the pain, but do they remove it?”
If these things are not the solution, then what is? Prayer! Max says: “Be quick to pray, seek healthy counsel, and don’t give up. God is never downcast, never tires of your down days!”
Max closes with I Samuel 30:6 NIV - David found strength in the Lord his God.
Facing Your Giants - Max Lucado - 2006 - Thomas Nelson Publishing