I’ve met many beautiful women over the years – I mean physically attractive, stunningly gorgeous, and just downright pretty. They are the kind that make you look in the mirror and wonder, “What happened to me?” or “How can I be more like her?” I’ve also met several women who are both beautiful and intelligent. Still others are beautiful, intelligent, and extremely talented. All women no matter how physically attractive they are have special worth and significance to their Creator. There is one quality, however, which is more desirable than beauty, intelligence, and talent. It is a quality we are instructed in Scripture to seek after, to ask God for, and to treasure – wisdom. This is an attribute which makes any woman who possesses it the most beautiful of all. In case you think I have anything against physical beauty, I don’t, but there are many ways to define beauty in a woman.
In James 1:5 we read, “If any of you lacks wisdom he (she) should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him (her).” Later in chapter 3:13,17-18 it says, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him (her) show it by his (her) good life, by deeds done by the humility that comes from wisdom…the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.”
That’s the kind of woman I want to become! But it doesn’t come easily, as many of you know. This kind of wisdom comes through years of trial and error, successes and failures, tears and laughter, broken-heartedness and joy, disagreements and reconciliation, harsh words and kindness, stubbornness and a willingness to learn. And isn’t it reassuring to know we’re not left on this earth to figure it out alone?
I read the story of a woman this week that I hadn’t paid much attention to before. Maybe because it’s not the kind of narrative that you would tell to an audience of children, which is whom I have spent so much of my life devoted to teaching. So, it was refreshing to come across the life of a woman who embodied so many of the qualities the apostle James talked about. Her story is found in I Samuel 25.
Abigail is described as being “an intelligent and beautiful woman” (NIV), “a woman of good understanding” (AMP), “sensible” (CEV), of “beautiful countenance” (Darby), “discerning” (ESV), “beautiful in appearance” (NASB), “wise” (NIRV), and “of fair form” (YLT). WOW! What husband would not rise up and call her “blessed”!?[i]But nothing could be farther from the truth. Her husband had no idea what a gem he had. In fact, the Bible’s description of him couldn’t be more opposite – “surly and mean in his dealings” (NIV), “hard and evil in doings” (YLT), “crude” (NLT), “harsh” (NASB), “bad-tempered” (GNT), and “rough” (CEV). To top it all off, his name was “Nabal” which means “fool”. It’s not clear whether this was his actual given name (can you imagine tagging your son with such a name?) or perhaps that’s how he had become known – a nickname of sorts. And yet Abigail stuck with him. Likely, as most woman of her time and culture, she had no choice. I’m not suggesting for one moment that a woman remain in any relationship that endangers her physical health and well-being (or that of her children), but Abigail shows how a woman can be in a difficult relationship or situation and exercise great wisdom and poise while retaining her sense of dignity and self-worth.
|Shearing sheep in Scotland|
To summarize the story, Nabal was a wealthy property owner who owned thousands of goats and sheep. As was common in those days during shearing time, his hired men were often protected from animal predators and thieves by warriors who took it upon themselves to perform such duty without pay. As a sign of appreciation and courtesy, the landowner would normally compensate them by providing whatever he could for their needs.[ii] So, when David (who eventually became king) and his warriors had completed this task for Nabal and his men, he sent word to Nabal asking for “whatever you can find for them.”[iii]
What was Nabal’s response? “Who is this David...this son of Jesse?...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?”[iv] How selfish, demeaning, and thankless was that!
Well, I’m sorry to leave you wondering what happened next and how Abigail wisely handled the impending crisis, but it will just have to wait until next week…(I used to tease children with this story-telling tactic and delight in hearing their woeful, “Ooohhh, do we have to?”)
So, until next Sunday,
P.S. For those who read my blog last week you may be interested in knowing they recently caught 3 coyotes in our community. Unfortunately, they had to be put down due to their physical condition and habituation to humans.