1 Samuel 25:41
Then she arose, bowed her face to the earth, and said, “Here is your maidservant, a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord.”
Let me tell you about a servant of the Lord named Abigail.
David was still on the run from King Saul, but some people saw that the Lord had abandoned Saul and so they favored David and helped him when they could. David eventually came to Carmel, where a rich man named Nabal was having his thousands of sheep sheared. David and his men guarded Nabal’s workers from the warfare around the area, but when David asked Nabal for a freewill offering of food for his men, Nabal scornfully refused. David got angry, and he intended to attack Nabal and take some food. But even as David assembled his men to go down and kill the proud merchant, Nabal’s wife Abigail heard about David’s initial kindness to Nabal’s workers and about his need of supplies for his men, and so she herself put together food and drink for them and took it to David. (1 Samuel 25:2-23)
In her conversation with David, Abigail praises him for his service to the Lord, and tells him that he shouldn’t have the guilt of Nabal’s death on his hands when he becomes king over Israel. David in turn praises her for keeping him from taking vengeance upon Nabal. Finally, as they are about to part ways, Abigail says to David, “But when the LORD has dealt well with my lord, then remember your maidservant.” (1 Samuel 25:31b) Sure enough, ten days later, the Lord Himself “struck Nabal, and he died.” (1 Samuel 25:38) As Abigail had requested, when David hears of Nabal’s death, he sends servants to Abigail to ask her to become his wife.
Abigail’s response to David’s servants is recorded in today’s verse. As I was reading this verse yesterday, it reminded me of two other women.
37 And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil,
38 and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil.
1 Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead.
2 There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him.
3 Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.
We may look at Abigail and her offer to wash the feet of David’s servants who had come to get her, and we may think that her offer of service is different from these anointings seen in the Gospels. But I would ask us to consider this:
12 So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you?
13 “You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am.
14 “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.
15 “For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.
16 “Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.
17 “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”
You see, Abigail’s willingness to serve David is reflected in the example Jesus gave. She was willing to serve even the servants of David–who himself was a servant of the Lord God. Abigail’s faith and humility, and her willingness to do what was right and even defy her husband to do it, those were qualities that appealed to David. They also plainly appealed to the Lord Himself, because God then arranged for her to be free to marry David.
It is Abigail’s and Mary’s and the sinful woman’s servants hearts that endeared them to the Lord and that set the example for us all to follow. Just as our Lord Jesus was willing to wash the feet of His own disciples, so ought we be willing to serve the servants of the Lord–our fellow believers, our teachers and preachers, those who minister for the Lord, and especially those on missions to evangelize and bring the gospel to all corners of the earth. And more than that, we have to be like Abigail, willing to do what is right even if it means defying the normal order of our household.
22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.
24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.
But Abigail wasn’t subject to her husband! Quite right. Since Nabal did not subject himself to the Lord, Abigail took it upon herself to be subject to God, who in Jesus is head of the church and the true head of every household of believers. Because her husband Nabal was proud and unwilling to help David, Abigail went beyond the normal “chain of command” to serve the Lord God herself, to humbly serve the servants of the Lord. And just as Mary and the sinful woman both defied the normal order to anoint their Lord with expensive perfumes and one to even wash His feet with her tears, so, too, ought we all be ready to serve and to worship our Lord with whatever we have, with a true heart to serve the Lord our God and all His own servants.
Abigail did not think herself more worthy or more faithful than her husband Nabal, she just did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. She served as she could, and all she asked was to be remembered for her service.
“Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will be told as a memorial to her.”
Let us so remember Abigail, who did not think it wrong to serve the servants of the Lord. Let us remember Mary, who gladly sat at the feet of her Lord even as Martha complained that she wasn’t doing her part for the household. (Luke 10:38-42) Let us remember the sinful woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with her own tears while a Pharisee sat there judging her and ignoring the opportunity to serve the Lord. (Luke 7:39) Let us remember the twelve men who dropped everything they knew or owned to follow their Lord and Teacher. Let us remember all those who have not thought it robbery to humble themselves in complete subservience to the Lord their God, those who became the martyrs (literally “witnesses”) of God’s grace in Christ Jesus. And as we remember this Abigail and all those others, let us follow their example and prepare ourselves to do as Christ has done for us, serving the faithful believers of the Lord our God.
Holy Father, how unexpected is all this talk about footwashing and service! Too often, Lord, we seek Thee in prayer to ask Thee to serve us, to bless us, to anoint us, to lift us up. Today, Lord God, I bow down and serve Thee. How may I exalt Thee? How serve Thee? Whose feet shall I wash for Thee? Who is Thine anointed but only Jesus Christ my Lord? The only blessing I ask of Thee this day is to be allowed to serve Thy servants and believers, Lord. So bless me this day I pray. Amen.