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Wise Counsel

By Pastor William R. Cunningham
For Sunday October 30, 2005

Introduction

I recently (at the time of this writing) had a serious accident.  I ruptured my quadriceps tendon, which required surgery to repair.  I had never experienced something as serious as this.  Therefore, I took the counsel of others very seriously.  I listened to my father when he warned me about gaining weight (as I would be very inactive for the next several months).  I listened to my mother when she counseled me about being careful and taking care of myself.  I took seriously the promptings of my wife in regards to overdoing it and the like.  I listened to others as they gave me bits of advice in regards to proper healing.

Now you are moving in a particular task as you have been doing for several years now.  Things are going smoothly or so you think.  The affects of your religious persistence have taken a toll on you, but it has been so gradual that you aren’t conscious of it.  You have a routine and it works for you.  You have a way of doing this thing and all is well.

Then one day someone comes along and makes a suggestion to you.   He asks, “Why are you doing it that way?”  Why don’t you do this and then that instead of the way you are doing it?  He goes on to say, “The way you are doing it seems very inefficient and you are doing much more work than you have to.”  Now here is where one of two things take place.  First you can totally reject the counsel or suggestion in favor of your own routine.  Secondly you could accept the counsel and at least consider it and make a decision later.  Basically, you could reject or accept the counsel and then adjust what you are doing accordingly.

I’m sure that this scenario is very familiar.  I’m sure that you have experienced a situation where someone gives you a suggestion based on what he or she saw you doing.  You either rejected or at least considered that suggestion.  However, what do you do when someone counsels you?  Do you accept the counsel and move forward with it or do you reject for something more favorable perhaps?  How do you know if you should accept someone else’s counsel or not?

Well the Bible does provide some instruction that we can use in regards to counseling that we receive.  We are going to address the concept of wise counsel in this discussion.  There are many examples of counseling situations that we could glean from. I am going to present to you the following counseling scenarios from the Bible so that we could analyze them and learn from them.

  1. Jethro’s counsel to Moses
  2. Daniel’s counsel to Nebuchadnezzar
  3. Counsel to Pontius Pilate from his wife
  4. Gamaliel’s counsel to the Sanhedrin
  5. Jesus’ counsel to the rich young ruler

We are also going to examine various other scriptures pertaining to wise counsel.  So let’s get started.

Examples of Wise Counsel

Let’s look at some examples of counseling situations and try to gain insight into not only the counsel, but what surrounds it in principle.

Moses and Jethro (Exodus 18:17-24)

Read the entire chapter of Exodus 18.

Exodus 18:17-24 (NKJV) -- {17} So Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you do is not good. {18} Both you and these people who are with you will surely wear yourselves out. For this thing is too much for you; you are not able to perform it by yourself. {19} Listen now to my voice; I will give you counsel, and God will be with you: Stand before God for the people, so that you may bring the difficulties to God. {20} And you shall teach them the statutes and the laws, and show them the way in which they must walk and the work they must do. {21} Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. {22} And let them judge the people at all times. Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves shall judge. So it will be easier for you, for they will bear the burden with you. {23} If you do this thing, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all this people will also go to their place in peace.” {24} So Moses heeded the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said.
This is a very interesting situation to me.  The counsel was wise as we are probably familiar with the basic business and operation guidelines that he reveals.  One person shouldn’t take the entire load if there are others available to spread that load.  Delegation of responsibilities along with proper training is the basic advice that Jethro gives to Moses.  This will preserver both Moses and Jethro in the long run.

There is something else here that we should notice and that I think is quite significant.  Consider the following points.

  1. God had talked directly to Moses about many things regarding the deliverance of the Hebrews
  2. Moses had experienced great acts of God regarding the Egyptians
  3. Moses along with the Israelites experienced God’s preservation during the plagues on Egypt

Moses had a very unique relationship with God in that it was personal and up close.  He spoke directly with God and experienced God’s wondrous works first hand.  However, the whole situation with Jethro seemed strange to me.  Why?  After reading the situation, I had asked myself, “Why didn’t God tell Moses directly what to do in regards to judging the people?”

God went to give Moses many laws regarding the Israelites.  Why didn’t God tell Moses how to effectively judge the people in such a way that he wouldn’t wear himself or the people out, as Jethro said?  Then it dawned on me.  What if God was speaking to Moses through Jethro?  Of course we could also argue that God had told Moses what to do, but because of ego or whatever he just didn’t listen.  However, there is no data from the scriptures that suggests this nor would it seem plausible that Moses would all of a sudden give more credence to Jethro than he would have to God considering the experiences he just had with God concerning the Egyptians.

So I suppose that we could say that God simply spoke to Moses this way, that is, through another person.  Jethro gave Moses wise counsel that was obviously accepted by God and of course by Moses.  We could also say that Moses would have known if something were from God or not or at least he would have been in a much better position of properly discerning such than we.

We can therefore glean that wise counsel from God can indeed come through someone else.  However, there is another angle to this that I would like to suggest.  I don’t personally believe that God is in heaven dictating our every move and decision.  He influences us, He commands us, and He teaches us.  However, we are not puppets of God and therefore can make our own decisions based on our own decision making processes.  These I do believe can be godly programmed so to speak.  In other words, our decision making processes could be trained in such a way that we do follow the way of God naturally.

So sometimes we can gain insight into a situation from the experiences relayed to us by others.  It’s not that God is talking to us from heaven or anything like that.  It’s not as if God gave us a dream to instruct us what to do, though I am not one who gives much credence to dreams.  However, the wisdom of another can induce wisdom in us.  Basically, we can learn from each other.  The Bible says that wisdom comes from God, but it didn’t say how this wisdom would come (See James 1:5).  We see here, and in other scriptures that we will analyze, that wisdom can come from God, but through someone else.

This is the same principle in regards to blessings or probably for anything for that matter.  If we have a financial need for example then we depend on God, but the money may come as a gift from someone else.  Sometimes we are saved by the efforts of another person though we recognize that ultimately the salvation came from the LORD.  OK.  Let’s look at another example of wise counsel.

Counsel to Rehoboam (1 Kings 12:6-11)

Read I Kings 12:1-24 to get the context of what was happening.

1 Kings 12:6-11 (NKJV) -- {6} Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who stood before his father Solomon while he still lived, and he said, “How do you advise me to answer these people?” {7} And they spoke to him, saying, “If you will be a servant to these people today, and serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever.” {8} But he rejected the advice which the elders had given him, and consulted the young men who had grown up with him, who stood before him. {9} And he said to them, “What advice do you give? How should we answer this people who have spoken to me, saying, ‘Lighten the yoke which your father put on us’?” {10} Then the young men who had grown up with him spoke to him, saying, “Thus you should speak to this people who have spoken to you, saying, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but you make it lighter on us’—thus you shall say to them: ‘My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s waist! {11} And now, whereas my father put a heavy yoke on you, I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scourges!’ ”

King Rehoboam received counsel from two sources.

  1. The elders of Israel who had served his father, King Solomon
  2. His peers whom he grew up with.

Evidently the people felt as though they were oppressed and had asked King Rehoboam to ease the load so to speak.  King Rehoboam sought the counsel of the Elders who advised him to take away the yoke from the people and basically make their lives easier.  Rehoboam rejected this counsel and instead sought his peers as to what he should do.  His peers basically told him to oppress the people even more for what appears to be a lust for more.  Rehoboam accepted this counsel instead of the one from the elders.

Rehoboam’s lack of judgment caused a schism in the Israelite nation.  It split into two.  There was the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the southern Kingdom of Judah.  I should also point out that God was still in control even after this major event in Israelite history (See 12:22-24).

Rehoboam chose to accept the counsel that was seemingly based on material lusts.  Oppressing the people more would provide more wealth for the king.  Accepting the counsel of the elders would have seemingly led to less wealth, but it would have appeased the people and not led to a split.

We should likewise consider the motive that we use when we accept counsel.  Do we accept the counsel that we want to hear or are we really seeking the truth and the best advice?  We will discuss this aspect shortly.

Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar ( Daniel 4:27)

Now let’s look at the situation involving Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar and his dream.

Daniel 4:24-27 (NKJV) -- {24} this is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king: {25} They shall drive you from men, your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make you eat grass like oxen. They shall wet you with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses. {26} “And inasmuch as they gave the command to leave the stump and roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be assured to you, after you come to know that Heaven rules. {27} Therefore, O king, let my advice be acceptable to you; break off your sins by being righteous, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. Perhaps there may be a lengthening of your prosperity.”

Daniel interpreted a dream that Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, had (See 4:4-5).  No one could interpret the dream except Daniel.  The dream basically dealt with the results of the pride of King Nebuchadnezzar.  Daniel asked the king to accept his advice and be righteous and show mercy to the poor.

Nebuchadnezzar at least didn’t accept the counsel in practice since what Daniel had told him, in regards to his dream, did come true (See 4:28).

Nebuchadnezzar appeared to have not been able to get over his pride, which the prosperity of the Babylon nation fueled.  Perhaps he did agree to do what Daniel said, but in practice he definitely did not.  Let me say, though it is not necessarily the case here, that sometimes we can accept an ideal without incorporating that ideal into practice.

Perhaps we can accept the fact that we should eat right and exercise and overall take good care of our bodies.  However, that doesn’t mean that we actually practice that.  We hear it time and time again on the television, radio, books, etc.  However, consider the fad diets, pills, and gimmicks to get people to lose weight or otherwise be healthy without doing what we know is true, namely eat right and exercise.  Likewise, we may know what the Bible teaches us, but that doesn’t mean that we put it in practice.  These are two separate things.

So anyway Nebuchadnezzar didn’t necessarily outright reject Daniel’s counsel, but he did reject it in regards to his lifestyle and practice.  He was prideful and paid for it.

Counsel to Pontius Pilate (Matthew 27:19)

Matthew 27:19 (NKJV) -- {19} While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, saying, “Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him.”
Pontius Pilate received counsel (a warning) from his wife to have nothing to do with what happens to Jesus of Nazareth.  However, Pilate appeared to be too swayed by the whim of the crowd.  He appeared to be a people-pleaser and therefore had a lot to do with what happened to Jesus Christ.

Have you ever received counsel from you wife or mother men?  Do you think that men have more knowledge and intuition about certain things than women?  Wives, have you received counsel from your husband and rejected it.  Now I’m not suggesting that this happened with Pilate, but it is common for us to reject the counsel of those closest to us.  We may reject the counsel of our parents thinking that we know more about modern things than they.  We may reject the counsel of our spouse thinking that he or she has no clue about such things.  In the end we accept the counsel of a stranger.

We shouldn’t discredit counsel solely based on the identity of the counselor.  We should weigh each counsel objectively and of course we should give our spouses and especially our parents respect in counsel.

Counsel of Gamaliel (Acts 5:35-40)

The Jewish Sanhedrin arrested the Apostles for preaching the gospel to the people.  However, Gamaliel spoke to them and advised them to leave the Apostles alone.  He argued that if the Apostles were operating according to God’s will then the religious leaders would be fighting against God by fighting against the Apostles.

The Sanhedrin accepted Gamaliel’s counsel and let the Apostles go after beating them a little more.  This brings to mind the fact that the counsel we accept could facilitate our objective to be on the path that God wants us to be on and rejecting this counsel could contribute to losing our way.

Jesus’ Counsel to the Rich Ruler (Matthew 19:21-22)

Matthew 19:21-22 (NKJV) -- {21} Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” {22} But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

We can surely say that the rich ruler did not want to hear what Jesus told him.  Give away his possessions seemed like something that simply would not happen.  Do we reject counsel because it deals with something that we do not want to do or is contrary to what we would rather do?  Do we let something else cloud our judgment even when we receive godly counsel?  We should be careful not to reject counsel solely on our own personal desires or perhaps lusts.

Other Scriptures Regarding Counsel

Let’s look at some other scriptures that deal with the concept of wise counsel.

Proverbs 1:5 (NKJV) -- {5} A wise man will hear and increase learning, And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel,
Proverbs 9:9 (NKJV) -- {9} Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; Teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.
Proverbs 19:20 (NKJV) -- {20} Listen to counsel and receive instruction, That you may be wise in your latter days.

Receiving and accepting wise counsel is a trait of a wise person.  Wisdom comes in part from the counsel of others.  So we can see the importance of wise counsel in our lives.  It leads to wisdom and is a trait of one with understanding.

Proverbs 12:15 (NKJV) -- {15} The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But he who heeds counsel is wise.
It seems natural to think that whatever we decide to do is wise.  We would all love to believe that we will always make the right decisions.  This implies that we know it all when in fact we do not.  Therefore, the counsel of others could go a long way in helping us reach our goals.  A wise person would heed the counsel of others whereas a fool would assume that he or she knows it all and therefore do not need counsel.

Proverbs 15:22 (NKJV) -- {22} Without counsel, plans go awry, But in the multitude of counselors they are established.
We can make plans and think that we have covered everything.  However, as we stated previously, we do not know everything nor have we experienced everything.  Someone else will have a different perspective and therefore be able to see something that we would not see.  She may be able to point out a problem with our plan that we would not have considered.  Therefore, our plans have a much better chance of succeeding if we receive counsel from others.

Considerations Regarding Counsel

There are some things that we should consider when we receive counsel from someone.

  1. The source of the counsel
  2. Objectivity towards truth and reality
  3. Being honest with ourselves and deal with the situation truthfully
  4. Credibility of the one giving counsel

We do not know it all therefore we should be willing to receive counsel from others.  However, how do you know from whom to accept counsel?  It is very unlikely that you would accept counsel from a stranger unless that stranger can produce credentials that would lead you to believe he or she knows what he or she is talking about.

We accept the counsel of our doctors, lawyers, and mechanic for example because we believe they are proficient in their respective fields.  They have established a certain degree of credibility.

However, I believe that there are other very important points to consider when considering the counsel from someone else.  We should most of all be honest with ourselves.  This is very necessary because the very thing that we should do may not be something that we want to do.  We should be honest with ourselves and deal truthfully with ourselves so that we would accomplish whatever we hope to accomplish.  Do not reject counsel because of fear, lust, or appeasement (or lack thereof).  We should consider things objectively and thereby increasing our chances of doing the right thing (nothing is 100% certain).

Rejecting Wise Counsel

Consider the following scripture.

Proverbs 1:24-33 (NKJV) -- {24} Because I have called and you refused, I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded, {25} Because you disdained all my counsel, And would have none of my rebuke, {26} I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your terror comes, {27} When your terror comes like a storm, And your destruction comes like a whirlwind, When distress and anguish come upon you. {28} “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me. {29} Because they hated knowledge And did not choose the fear of the Lord, {30} They would have none of my counsel And despised my every rebuke. {31} Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way, And be filled to the full with their own fancies. {32} For the turning away of the simple will slay them, And the complacency of fools will destroy them; {33} But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, And will be secure, without fear of evil.”
Haven’t you ever told yourself that you should have listened to someone?  We should have accepted their counsel.  However, for whatever reason we did not.  However, there are still those who reject counsel as a matter of course.  They refuse to listen to what anyone says.  They inherently believe that they know it all and therefore don’t need anyone’s advice or help.  These people are fools according to the Bible.  Be careful not to reject godly counsel when it comes to you.

Conclusion

Be wise and accept wise counsel.  Don’t reject counsel because of your own lusts, but rather abide by wise counsel that comes to you from those whom God speaks through.  Yes God does speak to us and many times His words are heard through someone else by counsel.

Another thing that I should point out is that accepting and practicing wise counsel will help us obtain the wisdom that we so desperately need in life.  Accepting wise counsel is the trait of a wise person so why not receive it.  After all, how can a fool recognize what is wise.  Therefore, wisdom will enable us to recognize wise counsel.  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10).

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