She’ll be coming ‘round the mountain when she comes. She’ll be coming ‘round the mountain when she comes . . .
You’re probably familiar with this sing-along melody. You’ve sung it on school buses headed to picnics and during big fat Indian family vacations. The “she” in question seems brazenly audacious. She rides six white horses and sings “Ay, ay, yippee, yippee, ay.” There’s nothing remotely tame about her or her equestrian skills.
Funnily enough, this is the song that came to mind when I was recently reading 1 Samuel 25. Now, don’t start judging me. I don’t regularly pick music from the ‘Children’s Picnic Favourites’ playlist when I worship or read the Word.
But the song fit so perfectly.
Why? Because the “she” in the chapter was a fierce-hearted woman who rode her donkey swiftly down a mountain ravine.
The heroine of the story is Abigail. When you think about strong female characters in the Bible, you don’t automatically jump to Abigail. But, perhaps, it's time to give her story a second glance.
Let me quickly recap the story. Abigail was a gorgeous woman who was caught in a classic beauty-and-beast plot. Her husband, Nabal, is described as “surly and mean.”
Now, nasty Nabal was also a wealthy man with thousands of sheep and goat. The backstory goes like this: When Nabal’s men were grazing their sheep in Carmel, King David and his men ensured their well-being. They protected Nabal’s servants from enemy danger and were a “wall around them” (2 Samuel 25: 16).
Sometime later, when David’s men are in need of food and supplies, it is only fitting that they turn to Nabal for help. But Nabal, being Nabal, feigns amnesia and pretends like he doesn’t have the faintest inkling about David’s past kindness. “Who is this David?” he asks offhandedly, refusing to help him.
Of course, when David hears of Nabal’s offensive remarks, he plans retribution. He gathers 400 men, orders them to grab their swords and off they go to wipe out every man in Carmel.
Now, where is our heroine in all this? So far we’ve only heard about the men duking it out. But the beautiful Abigail was not brushing her long locks in a palace somewhere.
As soon as she hears of her husband’s folly and David’s imminent retaliation, she swings into action. This wasn’t a woman who sat by forlornly wringing her hands.
She gathers a boatload – actually, several donkey-loads – of food and rides down a mountain ravine, headed toward David and his gang.
Let’s stop a minute. This was the Old Testament times – about one thousand years before Christ. This was a lone woman riding on a donkey to meet some really angry, sword-bearing men. She had at her disposal two hundred loaves of bread, a hundred cakes of raisins and a whole lot of spunk.
Abigail meets the advancing army and bows down before David. She pleads her case and urges him to spare her people.
David has a change of heart. He retreats, leaving Nabal and his men in safety.
When we unpack Abigail’s story, there are some takeaways for our own 21st-century lives:
I doubt Abigail was singing, “Ay, ay, yippee, yippee, ay” when she rode down that mountain. But I do think she had a prayer on her lips as she braved incredible odds and encountered the greatest warrior of her time.
She allowed her remarkable resourcefulness to be at God’s disposal.
As you face your advancing battle, what is your stance? Are you despairing or trusting? Are you paralysed by anxiety or acting in faith? Are you depending on your own resources or trusting God to use them as He wills?
Father God, even as I step out in faith today, I pray for courage and resourcefulness. But most of all, I pray that I’ll never lose sight of You and Your Kingdom. Amen.