Learning to Forgive Relies on This One Bible Story
If you’ve ever been hurt by someone else and found it almost impossible to forgive them, there is an often-ignored story in the Bible you need to hear.
Once upon a time, during the reign of King Saul in Israel, there was an incredibly smart and incredibly beautiful woman named Abigail.
She lived in the countryside with her fool of a husband, Nabal, who was wealthy, wicked, and disliked by just about everyone.
During this time David (of David and Goliath fame) had gathered an army of 600 men who all lived in the southern part of Judah near Nabal’s household. David and his men took it upon themselves to protect Israel’s southern borders from invasion, as well as protecting the flocks that grazed there.
Throughout one particular grazing season, David helped to protect the sheep and shepherds of Nabal’s household. They stood almost like a “wall” between them and the threat of theft or attack, keeping every single one of Nabal’s shepherds and sheep safe.
Nabal vs. David
At the end of the grazing season, during a time when Nabal was likely preparing a celebratory feast, David sent 10 of his men to request a gift in return for the protection of Nabal’s sheep and men.
Now a typical Israelite would have quickly responded with an invitation to the feast that was being prepared. In fact both the cultural customs of the Israelites and the laws of God required it!
But Nabal was a greedy man who did not want to share his bounty with outsiders. And so, despite the kind humility with which the request for a gift was made, Nabal sprang up and immediately rejected David’s servants with offensive and sarcastic rudeness. David’s 10 servants returned to camp empty handed.
When David heard about Nabal’s insult he responded immediately, gathering 400 of his men and vowing that they would get revenge by killing every single male in Nabal’s household.
Abigail's Bright Idea
At the same time, one of Nabal’s young servants who knew all that had happened ran to Abigail to explain Nabal’s insult and the injustice of it all. He told her how much David and his men had helped to protect Nabal’s flocks and how very rude Nabal had been in rejecting their request for a compensatory gift. Abigail, with her quick intellect, realized that David would likely retaliate and so she made a plan to avoid both Nabal’s and David’s destruction.
Without delay, Abigail and her servants prepared a feast of:
- 200 loaves of bread
- 5 roasted sheep
- 20 gallons of wine
- 10 gallons of grains
- 100 clusters of raisins
- and 200 fig cakes
In other words, she prepared a feast grander than the one David and his men likely had hoped to receive.
She had all of this food packed onto the backs of donkeys and sent ahead of her to greet David and his men on their way to kill Nabal and the men of his household.
Imagine David’s surprise when he first smelled and then saw the feast not only prepared for him but being delivered on donkey-back as well.
Abigail the Hero
Already slightly taken aback, Abigail soon came into sight of David and his men. As soon as she saw him, Abigail jumped from her donkey, bowed to the ground at David’s feet and said,
בִּי־ אֲנִי אֲדֹנִי הֶֽעָוֺן
Or as we would say it in English,
“Upon me, my lord, upon me let this iniquity be. . .”
Even though Abigail had done nothing wrong, even though she was completely innocent, she accepted the responsibility for Nabal’s wickedness. She paid the physical price through her offering of the feast, and then took on herself the emotional and mental price as well by asking David to blame her and not Nabal for what had happened.
In the face of such abject humility the fire of David’s anger was extinguished and Nabal’s household was delivered from danger.
That day Abigail saved two unwise men. She saved Nabal from physical destruction because of his refusal to be grateful, and she saved David from spiritual destruction because of his injured pride.
The Atonement Saves Everyone
Though this scripture story only takes one small chapter, it teaches us a big, life-changing lesson: because of Jesus Christ we can forgive when it feels impossible.
Like David, you may have been unfairly hurt and had your life negatively changed by the selfish actions of someone else. And in such situations it can feel almost impossible to forgive that person. After all, they have done you a great wrong and should pay for it, right?
However, when we are tempted to think that way it is important to remember Abigail and what she teaches us about Jesus Christ.
When you are hurt by others, Christ not only runs to help the sinner seek repentance, He also runs – like Abigail – to you, the one who was hurt. He comes to you in absolute humility and says, “Upon Me let this iniquity be” or in other words, “I’ve already accepted this sin and born it on my shoulders. Please forgive this iniquity so you don’t have to carry a burden on your shoulders as well.” Christ has already paid the spiritual price of sin so it can be easier for us to forgive that sin.
Like Abigail He also brings repayment that is far greater than what we would even imagine we wanted. He brings peace, He brings hope, He brings new opportunities, He brings growth, He brings empathy, and so much more. Christ has already paid the emotional, mental, and physical price of sin so He can give us gifts that will make forgiveness easier.
The KEY to Forgiveness
Do you see how Christ’s atonement isn’t just for sinners? It is for those who have been sinned against so that they can more easily forgive.
So the next time you are struggling to forgive, picture in your mind the Lord acting as Abigail did. Imagine Him – your Savior, kneeling at your feet and begging you to let the sin of whoever has hurt you rest on His shoulders.
Can you forgive the iniquity when it is the Lord who is carrying it? Even though it will still be hard, forgiveness will no longer be impossible. Because through Christ, ALL good things — including forgiving the unforgivable – are possible!