The Christian cyberworld is inundated with articles on femininity and women's roles. At times I feel we've been reduced to the debate of complementarian versus egalitarian. Not that these aren't important issues to discuss, but sometimes I wonder if we get so caught up in rhetoric that we lose sight of Scripture. Lord, save us from that trap!
In preparation for the ladies' theology reading group I am blessed to lead, I revisited the story of Abigail found in 1 Samuel 25. Abigail is explicitly praised for some of her attributes, but there is much more to observe and glean from this story. In fact, as I poured over the account of her meeting with David I realized it is a primer on God's design for women.
Abigail was discerning (v. 3). Scripture draws a stark contrast between Abigail and her husband, Nabal. Verse 3 tells us that she was "discerning and beautiful", but he was "harsh and badly behaved" (ESV). The Oxford English Reference Dictionary defines discerning as "having or showing good judgment or insight". Abigail knew that her husband was a fool (v. 25), but she did not allow his folly to affect her good judgment or to keep her from pleasing God. She was wise enough to realize that if David followed through with his plan to destroy Nabal, it would also be detrimental to David (v. 31). By approaching David, she saved both her household and the future king's conscience.
Abigail was beautiful. (v. 3) A truly beautiful woman will be discerning (see Proverbs 11:22). While the author of 1 Samuel is referring to her physical appearance, this passage clearly indicates that Abigail had "the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit". (see 1 Peter 3:3-4)
Abigail was respected. (v. 14). One of Nabal's servants approached Abigail when he realized that Nabal had incurred David's wrath. Obviously, the servants knew that Abigail was discerning and could be trusted to handle the situation wisely.
Abigail protected her husband and his household (v. 24). Even though Nabal was a fool, Abigail quickly took action to persuade David not to carry out his plan. She accepted the blame for a wrong she didn't commit. She admitted that her husband was foolish, but she did not leave him to face the consequences of his actions.
Abigail was discreet (v. 33). David recognized her tact, her trustworthiness, and her ability to avoid disgrace (see Oxford English Reference Dictionary). She spoke to David candidly, but tactfully. Her behavior may have brought honor to Nabal, as the future king of Israel praised her.
Abigail was humble (v. 41). After Nabal's death, David wanted to make Abigail his wife. He recognized her value. He knew that she would be a woman to be praised, that she would bring him honor. Even though she had single-handedly saved their household, she bowed to David's servants and declared she would be a servant to wash their feet. She did not assume an air of authority or presume to be entitled to anything as David's wife.
Sometimes labels are important. They let people know exactly what we stand for. Yet sometimes labels can do more harm than good. A woman who possess the qualities of Abigail needs no label to bring honor to her husband and to God.