The Bundle of Life
"If men rise up to pursue you, and to seek your life, the life of my Lord shall be bound up in the bundle of the living in the care of the Lord your God; and the lives of your enemies shall he sling out as from the hollow of a sling." (1 Sam. 25. 29 RSV).
The "bundle of life"; rather a strange phrase! What does it mean? The story tells how Abigail, wife of the boorish Israelite Nabal, came with urgency to David, not yet king of Israel; only a free-booting chieftain of outlaws, to dissuade him from his purpose of revenge for Nabal's discourtesy and enmity. The gist of her plea was that since David was avowedly a man trusting in God he could well leave the question of vengeance to God rather than embroil his own hands in blood. David listened to her entreaty, accepted her advice and turned from his purpose. Eventually, Nabal died from natural causes and later on Abigail became the wife of David.
This verse is the core of Abigail's assurance. "The soul of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of life with the Lord thy God" . Leeser translates "the bond of life". The RSV (above) points more clearly to Abigail's meaning than the AV. The life of David was bound up in the purposes of the Most High and therefore in His care and supervision. The word "bundle" is tseror, which means something bound up or enclosed in a bag for safety. "A bundle of myrrh is my beloved unto me" sings the bride in Song of Solomon 1.13; an object of love and devotion to be clasped and held closely. Jacob's sons had "bundles" or "bags" of money in their sacks. The same word is translated "bag" on occasion. The good man "has taken a bag of money" with him on his journey (Proverbs 7. 20). The transgression of Job "is sealed up in a bag" (Job 14.17) and God "binds up the waters in the thick clouds" (Job 26. 8). The 'testimony' of God is said to be "bound up" among the disciples in Isa. 8. 16. From these and other occurrences it is plain that the meaning of "bundle of life" is that of a thing most precious to God which He is preserving carefully and holding close to Himself.
Ignoring Saul, who was deposed for disobedience, David was the first of a long line of Israelite kings who "sat upon the throne of the Lord". Taking no account of their personal failings and misdemeanours, David himself was far from an ideal character, they symbolized the Divine rule of the Most High over the Sons of men. God made a covenant, a formal compact, with David to the effect that of his seed would come the king that should fulfil the original promise made to Abraham, that all nations of the earth should ultimately be blessed. In a rudimentary kind of way this was a promise of the banishing of evil, the establishment of a righteous rule among men, the kingdom of God upon earth and the reign of the Messiah. That is how Israel always understood the matter and how Christians familiar with the prophetic Scriptures normally understand the matter today. Speaking to a later generation through the prophet Isaiah, God says "Incline your ear, and come unto me; hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David" (Isa. 55. 3). The sure mercies are the things that fulfil the promise to David and the setting of the chapter shows that the time is that of the Messianic Kingdom, when Christ reigns as king. The life of David, therefore, was bound up in the purposes of God and under the protection of God in order that the promise might be fulfilled. How much Abigail knew of this, or whether, being at least a woman of faith, she was led by the Holy Spirit to speak thus, it is impossible to determine. The truth of her declaration is evident to those who know about the Divine promise to Abraham through Jacob and David which culminated in Christ. Peter made this clear in the first Christian sermon to be preached. "David . . . knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ. . .. . . This Jesus God raised up . . .let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified" (Acts 2. 29-36 RSV). And in his second sermon he went on to speak of this same Christ coming again at the times of restitution of all things to bring to a climax the blessing of all nations. the basis of the original promise, that points clearly to the world-wide conversion of mankind under the Messianic kingdom. All this was involved in the preservation of the life of David in "the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living in the care of the LORD your God".
An important aspect of the character of God and the principles by which He governs is illustrated in this matter. Apart from his reverential faith in, and fierce loyalty to, his God, David was not a particularly attractive individual. A dispassionate consideration of his recorded history shows much to be deplored in the story of his life. He was very much like all men, a mixture of good and bad. Yet God had bound up his life with Himself that he might be preserved to better things and used in a significant manner in the out-working of His plan. That is true of all mankind. God created man with a purpose in view and will not lightly relinquish His hold on any man until it is abundantly clear that the purpose can never be fulfilled purely on account of the man's own irrevocable opposition. The sin of David in the matter of Uriah the Hittite was forgiven after he had sincerely repented even although that sin had to involve retribution first, in the death of the child David loved. His deeds of blood were forgiven after he had confessed his guilt and unworthiness and come to a better understanding of the ways of God, even though he suffered the irrevocable consequence in not being allowed to build the Temple, a project upon which he had set his heart. So it is with man. The life of every man is precious to God and is bound up in the bundle of the living in His care. It will be an obdurate and determined heart indeed that withstands to the end all that God brings to bear upon it, of persuasion and encouragement to repentance. The Apostle Paul, writing to the Colossians, says of Christian believers who are utterly and completely dedicated to their Lord and altogether surrendered to the transforming influence of the Holy Spirit that their "life is hid with Christ in God" (Col. 3. 3). This is precisely the same idea that Abigail expressed when she told David that his soul was bound up in the bundle of the living in the care of God. The fundamental difference is that the believers whose lives are thus hidden with Christ in God have been reconciled with Him by a living and vital faith in Christ and on that basis have given themselves in unreserved dedication and consecration of life to God for His service. They have entered, willingly, voluntarily, into their place in His purpose. All the remainder, those who have not yet come to that point of repentance and conversion and have not yet become thus reconciled, are still outside their place in God's purpose. However they are definitely bound up in His bundle of life and will remain so until it has been demonstrated beyond all shadow of doubt that their rejection of Christ and all for which He stands is final and irrevocable.
No man can say how many or how few of such there will be. We only know that nothing that defiles or is unclean will ever be permitted to enter the Holy City at the end (Rev. 21. 27). After the final work of God with mankind, whosoever is "not found written in the book of life he" will be "thrown into the lake of fire" (Rev. 20. 14-15). That latter imagery is based upon the fiery valley of Gehenna outside Jerusalem where the city refuse was burnt and thus signifies the utter destruction of all that is evil. That which is good remains eternally; that which is evil ceases to exist: and there is no escape from this Divine law.
But all the emphasis in the Bible is on the triumph of good. The soul of every man is preserved in the bundle of life in order that he may have every possible opportunity to free himself from the dominion of evil and enter into the "glorious liberty of the children of God" (Rom. 8. 21). The confidence of Abigail is justified in a sphere and on a scale that never entered her own mind. The instinct that told her God was guiding David and preserving him for a great purpose is the same that tells us in no uncertain terms that God is steadily bringing to pass in history the elements of an all embracing Plan. Its object is the reconciliation to Himself, and the ushering into an everlasting inheritance of "whosoever will" from amongst mankind. "The Spirit and the Bride say 'Come'. And let him who hears say 'Come'. And let him who is thirsty come. And let him who desires take the water of life without price" (Rev. 22. 17 RSV). The Apostle Paul told the Athenians that "In him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17. 28). That statement may very well be more, far more, than a figure of speech. We may yet find, when we pass into the "glory that excelleth", where knowledge of things now hidden is possible to us, that in a very real and literal sense our life is indeed bound up in Him and that without Him we cannot have life. Such an understanding makes it much easier to appreciate why it is, in an equally literal fashion, that "the wages of sin is death", the antithesis of life, "but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord".