The dictionary definition of "shrewd", as it is used today, is: "Penetrating in mind; astute, sharp-witted, sagacious; having sound practical common sense". The word appears to have gained respectability over the years and, although it may be regarded with suspicion when used in the sense of someone being, say, "a shrewd businessman", the following Bible story shows how one woman displayed shrewdness in the very best way possible.
Her name was Abigail. She is described as being both beautiful and of "good understanding". Her husband, Nabal, was extremely wealthy, but was uncouth, an arrogant bully and given to drink.
David, the former shepherd boy marked out by God as the future king of Israel, was on the run from King Saul. With him were six hundred fighting men. At the time of this story they were in an area where Nabalís shepherds were working. They treated the shepherds well, and gave them their protection.
When David sent ten of his young men to Nabal with a courteous greeting and a request for food for his men, Nabal sneeringly pretended not to know who David was, and sent them away empty-handed.
The young men reported back to David who, unsurprisingly, lost his cool! In no time at all, four hundred armed men, with David at the head, set out for Nabalís property to avenge the insult.
Fortunately, one of Nabalís servants, realising the grave danger they were in, told Abigail what had happened. Without consulting her husband, this courageous woman immediately organised provisions sufficient to feed all Davidís men and, sending these on ahead, went out to met the oncoming force, thus putting her own life at risk.
When she came face to face with David, she fell down at his feet. There follows one of the most beautifully argued supplications for mercy that could be found in any literature.
In her first words to David, Abigail took upon herself the guilt of the wrong done to him. By so doing she shifted his focus away from her husband, whom she called that "ill-natured fellow". She explained that she had not seen the young men David had sent, implying that, if she had, things would have been very different.
Abigail then asked David to accept the gifts she had brought, and begged his forgiveness, boldly asserting that God had restrained him from taking vengeance and shedding blood Ė this in spite of the fact that David himself might not yet have reached this conclusion!
She said a good deal more, and as she spoke, Davidís anger evaporated, and the confrontation was averted. David praised God for sending Abigail to him, and praised her for the advice she had given.
Back at home, Abigail found Nabal rolling drunk. Wisely, she told him nothing of his narrow escape from death, until the next morning. When he heard what she had done he appears to have suffered a heart attack, or perhaps a stroke. He died ten days later.
Look at how this wonderful woman approached David. Her plea for mercy was not on the ground that Nabal should be excused Ė his action was inexcusable Ė nor was it on the ground of her own innocence. No, she appealed to him in the way most calculated to reach his heart Ė that of his responsibility to God. Yet this was no cold-blooded argument designed to save her own skin. She honestly desired that David should not commit a wrong which he would later bitterly regret.
That David recognised Abigailís integrity is supported by the fact that, when he heard she had been widowed, he courted her and asked her to be his wife.
Abigailís shrewdness was a God-given application of wisdom and understanding to a potentially explosive situation Ė one which could have had repercussions not only on one manís household, but on a future kingís reign.
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