A Worthless Mind

A Worthless Mind
Robert Wurtz II

Now therefore, know and consider what you should do, for evil is plotted against our master and against all his household; and he is such a worthless man that no one can speak to him. (1 Samuel 25:17 NASB)

I have chosen this insightful text to introduce an important incident that took place just prior to David becoming king of Israel. It is relevant to our times because it is a picture of the mentality many people are moving in today. The story deals with a man whose behavior was so evil that he was called Nabal, the Hebrew word for fool.  

Now there was a man in Maon whose business was in Carmel; and the man was very rich, and he had three thousand sheep and a thousand goats. And it came about while he was shearing his sheep in Carmel (now the man’s name was Nabal, and his wife’s name was Abigail. And the woman was of good understanding and beautiful in appearance, but the man was harsh and evil in his dealings, and he was a Calebite). (1 Samuel 25:3 NASB)

You will notice that he is contrasted with his wife who was of good understanding and beautiful in appearance. Nabal was a very rich sheep-master on the confines of Judea and the desert. His ranch was on the southern Carmel, in the pasture lands of Maon. It was the custom of the shepherds to drive the sheep into the wild downs on the slopes of Carmel. While on one of these “pastoral excursions” they encountered David and his mighty men who protected them day and night. Nevertheless they did not take or receive anything from the shepherds in return for their services. (1 Samuel 25:7, 15, 18) 

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When David heard in the desert (cf. v. 1) that Nabal was shearing his sheep (which was generally accompanied with a festal meal), he sent ten young men up to Carmel to him. He told them to wish Nabal peace and prosperity in David’s name, and having reminded him of the friendly services rendered to his shepherds, ask for a gift of food for himself and his men. (see Keil and Delitzsch) Though exceedingly rich, he refused to share anything with David and his men– who had risked life and limb protecting his shepherds and flock. We read, Then Nabal answered David’s servants, and said, “Who is David, and who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants nowadays who break away each one from his master. Shall I then take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers, and give it to men when I do not know where they are from?” (1 Samuel 25:11 NKJV) This response shows the level of madness this man was moving in. In order to justify his own covetousness, he posited David as a vagrant slave who had run away from his master! 

Nabal totally dismissed what he had been told about David’s kind protection of his sheep and shepherds. The information went in one ear and out the other so fast that it’s as if his mind was made up before the conversation began. Why? Because he was making all of his thoughts serve covetousness. The man had money on the brain. Everything is being spun to serve mammon. Was it reasonable? No, but that didn’t matter to Nabal. His twisted mind refused to see the wisdom of giving David and his men some basic food rations for their services. He was not asking for the farm; he just wanted something to eat and to get by on. 

A Warped Mind

This is an example of what theologians call “the noetic effects of sin.” Sin turns a decent mind into an utterly obstinate and irrational one. Nabal was covetous and therefore an idolater (Colossians 3:5). This was just one of the obvious sins that corrupted his thinking processes. Think about it. Would it not be common sense to give David and his men some “gift” for the services rendered? Nevertheless, this man could not see the sense of it. We can be reasonably certain that if it was Nabal in David’s place he would expect compensation; but this is how the mind corrupts itself into treating others in ways they would not want or accept being treated. 

A good rule of thumb is that if you would not do it, don’t expect someone else to. Nabal wanted something for nothing, but he certainly would want to be paid. In fact, he got angry and acted out because they asked! This is sin making its effect on the reasoning.

Deadly Repercussions

When word gets back to David, he is furious, and rightfully so. And David said unto his men, Gird ye on every man his sword. And they girded on every man his sword; and David also girded on his sword: and there went up after David about four hundred men; and two hundred abode by the stuff. (1 Samuel 25:13) Things are about to go bad for Nabal. David could slay this man and his whole house as if it were a light thing. A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rages, and is confident. (Proverbs 14:16) Nabal went running headlong into mortal danger. A wise man would have had the good sense to know that David and his men deserved “something” — especially in light of how nicely they asked for it. Had David and his men been a band of thugs they would have just taken what they wanted and defied anyone to say something. Nevertheless, Nabal’s foolish heart was darkened to this fact.

A wise man would have been careful, thoughtful, self-mistrusting and reserved; a disposition which flows from the reverential awe of God (fear of the Lord). The fool, on the contrary, is self-confident, regardless and secure. While a wise man will avoid evil and carefully goes out of its way, the fool has no sense of the situation he or she is in. Death was at the door and he just kept being himself. 

Utterly Irrational 

Now therefore, know and consider what you should do, for evil is plotted against our master and against all his household; and he is such a worthless man that no one can speak to him. (1 Samuel 25:17 NASB)

Talking to a person like Nabal is like talking to the wall. They simply cannot reason about moral and spiritual issues and will even act out so that no one can speak to them. This is the carnal mind at full enmity with God. But why? We have a few clues from the Psalmist, The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. (Psalm 14:1 KJV) Here is our word Nabal again, only it is translated as fool in English. 

The word for fool in Hebrew comes from a root nabel and it means “to wilt.” We have this word used in the negative sense concerning those that delight in the law of the Lord. 

And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. (Psalm 1:3) 

Here wither is nebal. The Law is the revelation of God; that is to say, it is light. It is reduced to the two great commandments. Those who walk in the light as He is in the light will not wither. If we love God as He has commanded and our neighbor as ourselves; that is, if we will simply walk in the revelation of truth that God has provided us and delight in His word we will not wither. We would never behave like Nabal behaved towards David. Moreover, the word “wither” implies that the withering ones were once healthy.

Wilting Minds

Wilting in plants can be caused by either lack of water or sunlight. If this condition progresses, wilting becomes withering. Plants typically need water and light to maintain water pressure internally. When the pressure drops, wilting occurs. This is explained on a spiritual level in Romans 1:22, professing themselves to be wise they became fools. They became vain (emataiōthēsan) in their imaginations, etc. The word “became” implies that this was not the person’s original state. It took place through a process. As the old Greek proverb goes, “Empty persons think about empty things.”

Evil For Good

Now David had said, Surely in vain have I kept all that this fellow hath in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that pertained unto him: and he hath repaid me evil for good. (1 Samuel 25:21)

Let us observe another facet of the mentality of a fool; they reward evil for good. Such dastardly behavior ought to smite the conscience, but not Nabal. His mind had been darkened until he could not make the most obvious moral judgment in providing for David and his men’s needs. Nabal refused to acknowledge that David had done good towards him. This is what a fool does. That is to say, they will not acknowledge the goodness of God, as coming from God, so as to acknowledge Him and repent. It is the goodness of God that leads men and women to repentance. If this goodness can be attributed to something other than God, then the person can pretend they don’t have to acknowledge. The problem for those that are bent on denial of God is that a day of reckoning is coming.   

A Closer Look 

Sin impairs the moral judgment by three things: 

1. His/her own personal sin and refusal to walk in known truth (Hebrews 5:12-14). 

2. The devil that blinds their minds (2 Cor. 4:4) 

3. God that sends strong delusion to those that have pleasure in sin. (2 Cor. 3:14, Romans 11:7, John 12:40, Matthew 13:11-15) 

When a person is moving in these three things, their judgment is totally out of calibration. They are self-deceived, and invite more deception. This is how Nabal can reward evil for good as if it was normal behavior. Everyone around him is in distress; David is nearly in a rage over his behavior; nevertheless, Nabal looks on as if it’s another day in paradise. Sin had pickled his mind. What a fearful thought! 

When God Chooses the Delusion

We read in Isaiah, Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations. I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not. (Isaiah 66:3b, 4) He continued in sin; Satan blinded him; and now God has come to serve judgment in choosing the delusion. The mind bent on sin and rebellion simply cannot see the truth no matter how much evidence is brought forward. The understanding is impaired. This ought to alarm us so that we are ever careful to make sure we follow the light of truth. We must hear His voice and hearken unto Him when He calls. 

Understand that the problem is progressive. It can subtly take over the mind. However, Nabal’s wife Abagail went to David and brought a large gift and pleaded with him to have mercy on the “scoundrel” (as she called him 1 Samuel 25:17). Though he had not the good sense to see the danger he was in, his wife interceded with the “soon to be king” for him. David spared Nabal for her sake. He received a short-lived reprieve. 

The Finality of the Fool

So it was, in the morning, when the wine had gone from Nabal, and his wife had told him these things, that his heart died within him, and he became like a stone. (1 Samuel 25:37) 

Nabal was not only drunk with wine, but he was staggered in the strong drink of sins’ intoxication. Somehow in the morning he sobered up. Once he realized that he narrowly escaped death for himself and his whole house, his heart died. What a terrible way to go. Perhaps Matthew Henry summed up his life best when he wrote; “His heart overnight merry with wine, next morning heavy as a stone; so deceitful are carnal pleasures, so soon passes the laughter of the fool; the end of that mirth is heaviness. Drunkards are sad, when they reflect upon their own folly. About ten days after, the Lord smote Nabal, that he died. David blessed God that he had been kept from killing Nabal. Worldly sorrow, mortified pride, and an affrighted conscience, sometimes end the joys of the sensualist, and separate the covetous man from his wealth; but, whatever the weapon, the Lord smites men with death when it pleases him.”

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