And there was a man in Maon, whose possessions were in Carmel; and the man was very great, and he had three thousand sheep, and a thousand goats: and he was shearing his sheep in Carmel. Now the name of the man was Nabal . . . [who] was churlish [rude] and evil in his doings; and he was of the house of Caleb. -1 Samuel 25:2-3
Here’s quite a character: his name is Nabal. You might say he’s the stereotypical rich jerk. It wasn’t that he was simply rich, but as the Bible says, he was churlish, that is to say, he was rude and lacked civility, and most likely treated those around him poorly. By all accounts he was arrogant, and probably abused his authority and used his riches in an oppressive way.
But worst of all, Scripture goes on to say that he was hard-hearted. One of his servants said of him: “for he is such a son of Belial [the devil], that a man cannot speak to him” (1 Samuel 25:17).
Imagine that: that there would be a man with such a sore and unpleasant demeanor that no one could even so much as speak to him. But I don’t think this simply means that he was ill-tempered, but that he was also stubborn, and couldn’t be reasoned with. That is, if by chance he would stop and listen to another’s counsel, he would not be dissuaded from doing evil, or be convinced of any wrong-doing.
Simply put, Nabal had a hard heart. And shortly thereafter, God gave him a reward that was fitting of his heart.
In the Bible account of Nabal, David comes and watches over Nabal’s sheep and provides protection for his workers. Then afterward David sends messengers to Nabal asking for a favor, and Nabal’s reply is so rude and offensive that David is then determined to wipe out all that Nabal has because of his ignorant lack of gratitude in all that David had done for him.
Luckily, Nabal’s wise wife takes gifts and apologies to David, and saves Nabal’s entire estate from certain destruction—a destrcution that Nabal was still entirely unaware of, given his hard heart and inability to listen to those around him. But when his wife explained what had happened, God finally rendered to this man what he deserved:
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
The one with the hard heart himself became as stone, and only a few days later he perished.
A fatal flaw
A hard heart is a fatal flaw. It is basically arrogance and pride, to the extreme. But the trouble is, pride causes blindness, and most people who have a hard heart don’t know that they are proud. We would call it something other than pride: we would say that we’re “principled,” or “focused,” etc.
But the key is seeing the situation from God’s perspective, and what He sees is pride, plain and simple. “An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin” (Proverbs 21:4). When we look at ourselves from God’s vantage point, our pride seems vile; and not only that, but God seems much more holy: He’s much bigger than He is in our simple minds, and we should seem much smaller.
This lifting up of God, and lowering of ourselves, is the very principle behind worship. Worship helps us to see God from a divine perspective, and helps us to see ourselves from a more unbiased and unflattering perspective: from the viewpoint of God.