Born Foolish, But Why Would One Die Foolish?


Sermon Text: 1 Samuel 25:36-38
Rev. Dr. Kwangho Song

Main Points:
I. The fool
II. The fool’s heart is merry within him
III. The fool hears the news
IV. The fool’s heart dies within him
Conclusion: Born foolish; but why would one die foolish?

I’d like to begin today with tombstone. The only information any tombstone gives is about who lived and died at a certain time. That’s all it says. People live and die. Every tombstone that stands tells us this reality.

Our text passage for this morning sounds quite like a tombstone. We’ve read v. 38 which says, ‘Nabal died,’ and it began in 1 Sam. 25:2 and 3 which says, “there was a man in Maon … [whose] name was Nabal.” Putting them together, we hear, ‘Nabal lived and died.’ In a word, it’s a tombstone inscription for Nabal. Like every human being, Nabal lived and died.

But Nabal’s life and death is not one of the billions of lives lived and disappeared; Nabal in fact is a type or example of everyone else in mankind. Moreover, his human nature and characteristics typify that of all men and women on earth. I say this because of two general qualities he shows – first, his drunkenness in self-love and, second, his stupidity of rejecting any truth and all truth. And every one of us in humanity share the exactly same nature with Nabal.

Reading Nabal’s ‘tombstone inscription,’ we hear God’s message for us, that is, all men and women are born foolish, live in such stupidity of rejecting all truth – exactly like the way of Nabal. However, none should die as a fool, but live as a wise and beautiful. Only condition for this change is to hear God’s message of saving grace and come to Jesus in repentance and faith. Listen to this message and live than reject this truth and die as a fool – this is God’s message through Nabal’s tombstone inscription.

So, let us consider Nabal and his life, and contemplate the Lord’s great message of saving grace.

First of all, let us begin from considering his name, Nabal. In Hebrew language, it means ‘fool’ associated with an idea of scorn and contempt. So, his name is Nabal ‘the fool.’ Consider whether this were the case for Nabal in his birth; His parents named him ‘fool.’ When he was born, his mother embraced him and named him ‘my dear fool’; and his father, raising him up in his arms, said, ‘I’ll call him fool, that is my son’s name.’ Do you think this could’ve been what happened at his birth? Could that be why his name was Nabal the fool and everyone called him fool? I think that’s most unlikely. No one in the world would name his or her child ‘fool.’ So, surely, his original name received at or soon after his birth was not Nabal, the fool.

Unfortunately, we don’t know his real name because the Bible is silent about it. It is most likely that people around him didn’t even know his real name. His wife called him Nabal and so did his servants. And this man had no problem with this name, ‘fool’ – Nabal the fool. It seems that his original name no longer fits him. In a sense, it’s weird and even sad, yet, Nabal the fool didn’t seem to be bothered.

This is, in fact, a small-scaled miniature of man’s loss of his original name. I mean, man has lost his original nature as God’s image bearer and his original status as His steward over His creation. Fallen in sin, man has forgotten that name he once had in the Garden of Eden. It’s gone away from people’s mind and no one misses it, no one cares about it. Instead, all in humanity like to have this name, ‘fools,’ as they all reject God and say in their heart, ‘There is no God,’ as Ps. 14:1 and 53:1 point out as the typical sign of fools. Originally born as God’s delight, but man in his sin has lost that delight and become a ‘fool.’

Now, being a fool and living a fool’s life, man’s thought is not on either righteousness or goodness, but on something else, that is, being drunk with the wine of self-love. This is the next point I’d like you to consider together with me.

We examine Nabal the fool once again for this point. We find him holding a feast in his house and enjoying it greatly when Abigail came back home. And our text says that his feast was ‘like the feast of a king.’ V. 36 says that Nabal’s heart “was merry within him.” His heart was carefree, cheerful, entertained, glad and joyful within him as he was very drunk with wine.

Looking at this, we see a stark contrast between Nabal and Abigail. While Nabal the fool was very drunk, having a feast in his house, Abigail ‘the wise and beautiful’ – as described in v. 3 – had intervened between David and Nabal, and cancelled the execution of a judgment. I believe you know what had happened shortly before this to all parties, such as Nabal, Abigail and David. David asked some help from Nabal as he was shearing his sheep. According to the then Jewish practice, on shearing day they used to share food with their neighbours and even foreign sojourners in the region. In addition to that, Nabal owed David and his men for their protection over Nabal’s herd in the fields from bandits. But, Nabal derided David and rejected his humble ask. So, it triggered anger in David’s heart, and he was going to slaughter all male in Nabal’s house. But Abigail the wise and beautiful hurriedly went out to meet David and his men and intervened between David and her foolish husband. She cooled down David’s burning rage against Nabal, making him and his men to withdraw from a bloodshed. Now she’s back, probably with her heart and body still shaking, and finds her husband in the midst of a feast, his drunken heart is merry within him. What a contrast!

Nabal is so drunk and she can’t say anything to him because his intoxicated mind would never grasp the gravity of the situation. She could’ve had some previous experience with her husband that whenever he was drunk, no one could stop him, nothing could draw his eyes and heart away from his folly and wake him up to the reality. So she keeps it to herself, remaining in silence, waiting for a time for revealing the whole account of it.

When his heart was ‘merry within him,’ his heart was filled with joy that was unsavoury, loathsome – a kind of pleasure in self-love which surely is sin. No wonder why someone defines ‘sin’ as ‘an overriding concern for the self’ – in other words, ‘sin is devotion to self.’

Talking about ‘self-love,’ we all are the experts of it. Man’s heart is merry within him when he concerns only for himself. In such a moment, he gets drunk with self-love. Nabal the fool was not a king, but the feast he held for himself was like that of a king. And he was glad and drunk with the wine of self-love. In fact, all in mankind are like him; each of us loves to be a king because a king could attain his self-love to the highest level. This is the very nature of sin, elevating man to king’s throne to declare his autonomy, complete rejection of God’s sovereignty, which is the highest form or goal of self-love. So, sinful man – in another word, man drunken of self-love – dethrones the true King, God, taking God out of his life, referring glory not to God who alone deserves, but to himself.

When man’s heart is drunk with this wine of self-love, no one can wake him up with any word. Nothing travels through his eardrums and nothing passes through his heart coated and saturated with self-love. That’s the reason for Abigail the wise and beautiful to shut her mouth and remain in silence.

But, there’s a moment in every fool’s life on which he suddenly hears the news. Sooner or later, every man and woman face a moment of truth and that’s the moment their foolish heart hears the news of truth! And that truth is about ‘no one is a king himself, but there’s a true King, God the Lord; also, the fool’s feast of self-love has an end and when that feast is over, there will be a judgment because the fool has rejected the true King and Lord.’

This moment of waking up from the wine of self-love comes just like the case of Nabal. He woke up the next day, as v. 37 says, when the wine had gone out of him. When that merriment in his mind suddenly runs out, when that craving for self-love suddenly departs as his bodily strength weakens, as his wealth diminishes, as his fame disappears, the fool wakes up and faces the reality.

People who suddenly wake up from their self-love, the sin of rejecting God and declaring autonomy, say things like these: ‘I am an empty shell; I don’t know who I am anymore; there’s no hope.’ Someone particularly said that anyone who had never faced it would never be able to imagine a life of complete hopelessness, emptiness and fear. Although the fear for coming judgment is not evident in their brief comments, we can easily sense their deep frustration with their life’s emptiness and hollowness; we can almost picture their wide open eyes staring fearfully at that imminent judgment.

Let me tell you this in brotherly love and respect, if any of you are still drunk in the wine of self-love, if any of you seek not God and Christ, but worldly pleasure, there’ll surely be a moment in your life that all things get cleared away and your eyes will see the void and hollow end. That’s what happened to Nabal the fool – he woke up and heard the news.

Hearing this news, the fools of this world hear about their sins – that is, their rejection of God the King, their scorn, mockery and indifference to Him, their Creator. The Day of Judgment becomes clearer to their eyes and their instinct endorses it as true. Then, the heart of the fools dies within them!

Nabal’s case illustrates this. He woke up when the wine of self-love had gone out of him, and heard from his wife Abigail the wise and beautiful about his mockery and what it incurred. He heard and realised the gravity of the doom that could’ve laid upon him. So his heart died within him. His bodily death happened in ten days’ time was just the confirmation of the death of his heart within him.

What shocks me the most is his foolishness! I say this because of his sheer stupidity in rejecting the truth delivered to him by his own wife. Consider this; he didn’t have to suffer death at all. His sin, his dreadful and foolish derision was vindicated by a mediator – his wife, Abigail. As Abigail petitioned, David heard it and cancelled his anger and withdrew his sword from Nabal. He announced peace and that’s what Abigail brought to the ears of Nabal. But the fool, Nabal, missed it altogether; he heard what he liked to hear; he once again rejected that invitation of Abigail the wise and beautiful to live in peace! And his heart died within him! What a fool he was!

This is a truly important challenge for all men and women of this world. All people are born foolish; stupidity is our innate nature. Men and women altogether deny God and His kingship from birth. Ps. 53:1 is again clear about this, saying, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good.” About this point of ‘no one does good,’ Rom. 3:10-11 explains, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.” Not knowing what is good, nor having any understanding of what our rejection of God would bring, we all are born in this way as ‘fools.’

But there’s a way for each and every fool to escape from their stupidity. Like the way Nabal heard the news of Abigail’s mediation, the news of Jesus’ mediation for our salvation is delivered to our ears. Jesus’ mediation was already made for any and every fool in the world. We no longer need to fear for the end of our life, nor for the sure judgment. God’s wrath has already been cancelled when His Son, Jesus Christ, paid the penalty in our stead. And based on what He has done, Christ mediates for all fools who used to deny, thus, reject God, but now hear this news of Jesus’ death for us and come to Him in faith! Abigail told her husband the same news of salvation, cancellation of wrath and judgment. But Nabal the fool rejected it and died! No one should follow his path; no one should reject this news of Jesus’ salvation. He has already died in our stead! Would anyone here block his/her ears and not hear this news, so, follow Nabal’s path? No, none should follow him, but all should say, ‘I see; Jesus is the Son of God and He died for me so that I may have His eternal life by believing Him as my Saviour!’

What a simple message this is, but what a powerful message of salvation for all sinners who hear it and come to Jesus in faith! And believing in Jesus, you’re no longer a fool, but a child of God, wise and beautiful in God’s eyes. We were born foolish, but no longer are we fools but the wise and beautiful in Jesus’ righteousness and holiness. We’re the members of God’s household!

Therefore, no one needs to die as a fool in sin. God’s invitation for salvation is right before everyone to hear and grab that invitation. You believe in your heart that Jesus is your Saviour and Lord and confess your faith with your mouth. Then, as Rom. 10:9 assures, you’ll be saved! Born foolish, but, through repentance and faith in Jesus, all will be made wise and beautiful children of God! ***

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