When I let this corpse out
He will bite your soul
It will make you bleed
When I let this corpse go
Will you do the same,
will you let him go?
-Blindside “Bring Out Your Dead”
There comes times in life where vengeance is wanted.
The need for revenge is so strong you can taste it, feel it, smell it, touch it, see it. In the song lyric above, something evil is released on another person. The metaphor used is a corpse – a zombie. A dead thing that seeks to kill and destroy. This corpse will bite and devour its victim. The victim will bleed and die, unless the victim can do the same as the first person and let it go.
The zombie attacks.
The corpse is a metaphor for sin, for the evil we inflict on our fellow man. When we inflict this evil, it’s like a force animated of it’s own ill-will. It now seeks to destroy and tear apart the victim. The sick thing is that the victim holds on. Not to hope, or to life, but to that sin. The victim may want to escape, but the damage is so great that they may grab out of shock, out of fear or perhaps even out of confusion. The victim themselves are now embracing the sin and allowing it to feed on the healthy tissue that remains. Zombie fans know that when this happens, the victim is “turned”. The victim now becomes a zombie and starts the cycle anew with a fresh victim.
In 1 Samuel 25, we have a story of (not yet King) David who is faced with such a problem. He is angered by insults and greed, and sets off to take vengeance on his own. This is from the New Living Translation (NLT)
The Death of Samuel
25 Now Samuel died, and all Israel gathered for his funeral. They buried him at his house in Ramah.
Nabal Angers David
Then David moved down to the wilderness of Maon.[a] 2 There was a wealthy man from Maon who owned property near the town of Carmel. He had 3,000 sheep and 1,000 goats, and it was sheep-shearing time. 3 This man’s name was Nabal, and his wife, Abigail, was a sensible and beautiful woman. But Nabal, a descendant of Caleb, was crude and mean in all his dealings.
4 When David heard that Nabal was shearing his sheep, 5 he sent ten of his young men to Carmel with this message for Nabal: 6 “Peace and prosperity to you, your family, and everything you own! 7 I am told that it is sheep-shearing time. While your shepherds stayed among us near Carmel, we never harmed them, and nothing was ever stolen from them.8 Ask your own men, and they will tell you this is true. So would you be kind to us, since we have come at a time of celebration? Please share any provisions you might have on hand with us and with your friend David.” 9 David’s young men gave this message to Nabal in David’s name, and they waited for a reply.
10 “Who is this fellow David?” Nabal sneered to the young men. “Who does this son of Jesse think he is? There are lots of servants these days who run away from their masters. 11 Should I take my bread and my water and my meat that I’ve slaughtered for my shearers and give it to a band of outlaws who come from who knows where?”
12 So David’s young men returned and told him what Nabal had said. 13 “Get your swords!” was David’s reply as he strapped on his own. Then 400 men started off with David, and 200 remained behind to guard their equipment.
14 Meanwhile, one of Nabal’s servants went to Abigail and told her, “David sent messengers from the wilderness to greet our master, but he screamed insults at them. 15 These men have been very good to us, and we never suffered any harm from them. Nothing was stolen from us the whole time they were with us. 16 In fact, day and night they were like a wall of protection to us and the sheep. 17 You need to know this and figure out what to do, for there is going to be trouble for our master and his whole family. He’s so ill-tempered that no one can even talk to him!”
18 Abigail wasted no time. She quickly gathered 200 loaves of bread, two wineskins full of wine, five sheep that had been slaughtered, nearly a bushel[b] of roasted grain, 100 clusters of raisins, and 200 fig cakes. She packed them on donkeys 19 and said to her servants, “Go on ahead. I will follow you shortly.” But she didn’t tell her husband Nabal what she was doing.
So David was a very powerful man by this point, with a small army of his own. He was training for war, and his he and his men were hungry. He had been keeping watch over the people in the wilderness, not because he was King, not because it was his job, but because he was honorable and kind. He was hiding out from Saul because Saul wanted to kill him. David and his men were protecting the shepherds and servants of the rich men in the area from bandits and thieves and other such scoundrels. In return for this service, he politely asks one of the local rich men (Nabal) to offer some food to his troops. Nabal reacts… poorly. He hurls insults at David’s men, and insults David and David’s whole family. While it isn’t technically illegal to insult someone, it was not wise. David gets pissed and gets his men ready for war. They are now going to go in and kill Nabal and take whatever they want. Also, not legal and not wise. See how this zombie plague is spreading? Good thing there was a sensible person involved here, Nabal’s wife Abigail.
20 As she was riding her donkey into a mountain ravine, she saw David and his men coming toward her. 21 David had just been saying, “A lot of good it did to help this fellow. We protected his flocks in the wilderness, and nothing he owned was lost or stolen. But he has repaid me evil for good. 22 May God strike me and kill me[c] if even one man of his household is still alive tomorrow morning!”
Abigail Intercedes for Nabal
23 When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed low before him. 24 She fell at his feet and said, “I accept all blame in this matter, my lord. Please listen to what I have to say. 25 I know Nabal is a wicked and ill-tempered man; please don’t pay any attention to him. He is a fool, just as his name suggests.[d] But I never even saw the young men you sent.
26 “Now, my lord, as surely as the Lord lives and you yourself live, since the Lord has kept you from murdering and taking vengeance into your own hands, let all your enemies and those who try to harm you be as cursed as Nabal is.27 And here is a present that I, your servant, have brought to you and your young men. 28 Please forgive me if I have offended you in any way. The Lord will surely reward you with a lasting dynasty, for you are fighting the Lord’s battles. And you have not done wrong throughout your entire life.
29 “Even when you are chased by those who seek to kill you, your life is safe in the care of the Lord your God, secure in his treasure pouch! But the lives of your enemies will disappear like stones shot from a sling! 30 When the Lord has done all he promised and has made you leader of Israel, 31 don’t let this be a blemish on your record. Then your conscience won’t have to bear the staggering burden of needless bloodshed and vengeance. And when the Lord has done these great things for you, please remember me, your servant!”
32 David replied to Abigail, “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you to meet me today! 33 Thank God for your good sense! Bless you for keeping me from murder and from carrying out vengeance with my own hands. 34 For I swear by the Lord, the God of Israel, who has kept me from hurting you, that if you had not hurried out to meet me, not one of Nabal’s men would still be alive tomorrow morning.” 35 Then David accepted her present and told her, “Return home in peace. I have heard what you said. We will not kill your husband.”
David has to make that decision to let go at this point. He has already committed resources fueled by his anger and rage to go and destroy a settlement and kill at least one guy. He can taste his anger and he is calmed not by violence, but by kindness. Abigail offers a soft word and gifts to David and his men. She takes blame for the situation and diffuses it rather quickly. David thanks her for helping him see the evil that was about to take place. He lets his anger go and gives it up to God to deal with. Which God does in the next part:
36 When Abigail arrived home, she found that Nabal was throwing a big party and was celebrating like a king. He was very drunk, so she didn’t tell him anything about her meeting with David until dawn the next day. 37 In the morning when Nabal was sober, his wife told him what had happened. As a result he had a stroke,and he lay paralyzed on his bed like a stone. 38 About ten days later, the Lord struck him, and he died.
39 When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Praise the Lord, who has avenged the insult I received from Nabal and has kept me from doing it myself. Nabal has received the punishment for his sin.”
This all may seem harsh… but how many times have you been angered by someone’s words or actions? Probably more than you would like to admit. How many times have you wanted to take vengeance for something that may seem trivial later? In the car perhaps? Somebody cuts you off, or goes into the HOV lane when they only have themselves in the car? We seem quick to judge and want to extract the vengeance ourselves, if in the right situation. I have thought to myself many times whilst driving “ooh, if only I were a cop right now…” of course I’m not, and of course I have probably made some bonehead moves where I’m glad there WASN’T a cop around to see me.
Of course we don’t want to think about those times when we are angry about something. In the words of the Doctor: “Stop talking to me when I’m cross!”
Now how many times have you wanted to take vengeance for something more serious? Something actually deserving of vengeance? This gets harder, doesn’t it? What if you are actually justified in your anger? What if you were wronged in a way that seems to demand an act of retribution?
I guess my answer to that is this: By who’s eyes are you justified to take action? Yours? That seems really selfish. What if the action you take is worse than the cause? Is it still justified? Is it illegal? Just because you have been made a victim, does that give you the right to make a victim into someone else?
Please understand that I find it hard to write these words, because I have felt deep pain. Pain that I think will be soothed by extracting revenge. Nothing would feel sweeter, it feels like to me.
But that’s just the sin talking.
That’s the zombie looking for another victim.
Are you going to let the plague spread? What if David had killed Nabal? That probably wouldn’t have been the end of it. One of Nabal’s sons or other family members may have come looking for David, to extract their own revenge… and the zombie gets another victim. David may have not even made it to be King, if he had killed Nabal. What a change of history that would have been.
I’m encouraging you to stop spreading the infection.
I’m here fighting to stop it, and I need your help. I need you to be steadfast as well. Stand up and take your place among the brave, not among the common. Everybody gets to be common by birth. I am nobody but a man that has made a choice. You can be extraordinary by a choice.
I suppose you have a better thought on the subject?