“But it came to pass in the morning, when the wine was gone out of Nabal, and his wife had told him these things, that his heart died within him, and he became as a stone. And it came to pass about ten days after, that the Lord smote Nabal, that he died.”1 Samuel 25:37-38
Nabal the Jezreelite was a selfish, worldly man. He lived for only himself. He had people around him constantly serving and sacrificing for his well being, yet he remained stubbornly unthankful.
David, the anointed, uncrowned king found solace in shepherding the roaming flocks belonging to Nabal. His intentions were altruistic and noble. He and his men were a wall to the unarmed keepers and the lambs through the cold winter months.
Spring rolled around, and David knew he would have to mobilize his men from the fresh pursuit of Saul, the madman king. He sought a favor from the owner of the herd; for some provisions for his small band of men.
Nabal was very modern in his mindset: thanks for your sacrifice, but no thanks. He looked at David as a runaway slave, and he called David’s men criminals. Nabal never stepped up while David risked his life to defeat Goliath for their nation. He himself never spent the night chasing away wolves and robbers from his own flock. Hence, when beseeched for aid, the foolishness in Nabal’s heart came out his mouth.
(This is a very condensed recap of the story. Read the full drama in 1 Samuel 25)
To save her idiot husband’s life, Abigail risked her own life to appeal to David’s shepherding instincts. She obtains mercy for her household, and then brings word back to her drunken husband. At the news, his heart died. Ten days later, his body follows his heart to the grave.
The Scriptures disclose an eerie vision of how a man can continue to live with a dead heart.
Dying Before Your Time
Nabal met an early death due to a life of self-indulgence. He was his own master, yes, but he still had to pay “the wages of sin.” (Romans 6:23) Nabal’s early death came as a shock to no one but him; they all saw it coming. He was blinded by pride. “Pride goeth before destruction and an haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverb 16:18)
Nabal’s exposing was his undoing. When Abigail explained how he insulted David, how his own servants agreed, and how she had to excuse him for the fool he was, his heart sputtered, then stopped. Everyone was ashamed of his character.
In light of the truth, Nabal was embarrassed, too.
Dying Before You’re Dead
But Nabal’s body persisted in functioning for ten days after his heart was gone. Many such ‘heartless’ people roam the earth. They’re too busy moving to notice they’re dying.
Nabal didn’t have a care in the world… until he was confronted by his conscience. Just the night before he was partying and happy. “And Abigail came to Nabal; and, behold, he held a feast in his house, like the feast of a king; and Nabal’s heart was merry within him, for he was very drunken…” (1 Samuel 25:36) Merriment is the mask of meaninglessness.
The Bible says, “But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth” (1 Timothy 5:6) Pleasure is the artificial substitute of an empty life for purpose. It’s the symptom of a dying heart.
The Bible says, “These are spots in your feasts of charity… trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots.” (Jude 12) A man who cannot love anyone but himself is doubly dead. The Bible doesn’t call the selfish man alive; it coldly refers to him as a dying death. Nabal was cursed with dying twice.
I’ve watched at the bedside of dying men and women. In the hours before death, there is this restless delirium that forces the breath and clutches the sheets and blankets. It’s as though we believe that by moving, we can convince ourself that we are not dying.
I saw an illustration recently that spoke a thousand words. It was a man ‘taking in’ the world thru his eyes, his ears, his mouth, and his mind, trying to be fulfilled. But all he took in was draining from a gaping hole in his heart- his emptiness mocking his soul’s cry for satisfaction.
Poor I was, and sought for riches, Something that would satisfy But the dust I gathered 'round me Only mocked my soul's sad cry.
Dying More Each Day
What Nabal experienced in 10 days is often stretched into years. Selfishness and materialism have drained the heart without Christ. It is already dead, waiting for the body to follow.
“He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”John 3:18
Alas, poor Nabal! For you see, it was the word of her that saved him that also slayed him! King David was on the war path, his rage had boiled over, his patience had ended. Abigail his graceful wife, had interceded for her husband- is not this love at its finest? She moved the King to spare him; he had a second chance at life!
But his heart couldn’t accept the love of the truth. Abigail’s prayers, the love. His own vileness, the truth. Nabal got sober at the truth. Then he got hardened to the truth. He became “as a stone.”
Ten days later, God smote him.
His life wasn’t shortened because of the truth. It was extended by grace for more than a week- enough time to repent and make things right with his wife, his servants, his king, and his Lord. I also believe God would have smitten him within 10 days, regardless. It was God’s mercy that gave a warning.
Learn this lesson of the dying heart! If it will not turn when the Lord calls NOW, it will turn NEVER.
What will you do when God reveals the truth about you? Oh, that God would quicken our dying hearts!