David: The Illustrated Novel by Michael Hicks Thompson

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The Art of Diplomacy

Illustration by Dean Zachary“When the Lord has done to my lord according to all the good that he has spoken concerning you, and has appointed you prince over Israel, my lord shall have no cause of grief, or pangs of conscience, for having shed blood without cause or for having saved himself. And when the Lord has dealt well with my lord, then remember your servant." David said to Abigail, "Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who sent you to meet me today! Blessed be your good sense, and blessed be you, who have kept me today from bloodguilt and from avenging myself by my own hand!” —1 Samuel 25: 30-33

David's men have served as a shield. All the while that the flocks of Nabal, the wealthy landowner, have been pastured near David's camp, no harm has come to them. The fugitive troops have been "very good" to the shepherds and their sheep. Yet when David sends messengers to Nabal asking for food during the shearing feast, the oafish landowner refuses, dismissing David’s envoys with an arrogant rebuff. Nabal is shortsighted, greedy and mean-spirited, and his selfish decision puts his entire household at risk. David’s response  is immediate: He straps Goliath’s sword around his waist and advances on Nabal with 400 armed men.

Salvation lies, as it does so often in the stories of scripture, in the most unexpected places. Nabal’s wife Abigail wisely perceives the severity of the situation and swiftly acts to quell the danger. She is savvy, astute, resourceful and brave, quick to employ diplomacy to right the wrongs committed by her rash and stupid husband.

When we consider that in David’s time (as has been the case for most of human history), women were assigned to subservient roles, expected to follow the directives of the men in their lives, Abigail’s character and actions become even more extraordinary. In the face of the impetuous and violent impulses of David and Nabal, she maintains a clear-headed grasp of what has happened and uses her own wit and others' counsel to devise a plan. Loaded with loaves, figs, raisins and sheep, she runs to meet the advancing troops, soothes David’s anger and keeps him from revenging his bruised honor through violence. She speaks in a prophetic voice, addressing David as the Lord’s appointed, reminding him of his destiny. In addition to saving her husband’s life and the lives of all his men, she saves David as well.

Abigail alone is the hero of this precarious situation. Though she has limited influence, she knows how to sidestep social constraints and successfully acts to calm the impending storm. Her example leads us to question our own role in explosive situations: Where can we serve as peacemakers? Even when it appears that we have no power, how can we use our innate wisdom to extinguish the sparks that can burst into flames?

The answer to why we need reconciliation goes deeper than our own self-interests, deeper even than what we individually settle upon as justice. We need reconciliation because without it we are unable to see God's intended reconciliation. To practice the presence of God requires the practice of reconciliation—whether we want to be reconciled or not. Herein was Jesus' earthly work: to show us this truth.

Michael Battle
from Practicing Reconciliation in a Violent World


He who excels as a soldier is the one who is not warlike; he who fights the best fight is not wrathful; he who best conquers an enemy is not quarrelsome; he who best employs people is obedient himself. This is the virtue of not-quarreling, this is the secret of bringing out other men’s ability, this is complying with heaven. —Lao Tzu


How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. For there the Lord ordained his blessing, life forevermore. —Psalm 133


Now more than ever, the world needs the contribution of those who are gifted in healing the rifts between us. This is a work that carries risk, for it requires both humility and vulnerability. To be a reconciler is to put away ego and pride, and to focus on our common humanity as children of God. This doesn’t mean that there will never be times when we have to make a stand.... What it does mean, however, is that we have chosen not to sever our ties or to write the other off; we may have agreed to disagree on an issue, but the relationship remains intact. In following this path, we are taking a step into the Kingdom of God, acknowledging that the one who made us loves and treasures us all. O God, deliver me from the burden of having to be “right,” and help me to become a reconciler, a healing presence in the world.Susan Hanson


Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding. 
—Ralph Waldo Emerson


The power of love builds communities that can exert great force in a society. It takes great strength to build community. To enable community means to set aside one's own agenda and allow the needs and concerns of the entire community to set the agenda. To nurture community means to accept blame without becoming so defensive that one's reaction becomes destructive. You know one problem with community—there's always someone who just irritates the fool out of us. Nurturing community means learning to tolerate and ultimately to appreciate that irritating person. To nurture community means to give lots of praise to others, to share tasks with others when you could really do better, and to express thanks to others for their contributions.

Ward B. Ewing

Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. —Psalms 34:14


If I can understand something of myself and something of others, I can begin to share with them the work of building the foundations for spiritual unity. But first we must work together at dissipating the more absurd fictions which make unity impossible.

Thomas Merton
Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. —Isaiah 32:17

Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice. —Baruch Spinoza