Seeking Wise Counsel
By Dot Bowen
Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime. “How would you advise me to answer these people?” he asked. 1 Kings 12:6 (NIV)
There are times when someone will ask my advice concerning a particular situation and when this happens, I immediately begin to pray! I’m not praying because I’m so godly, I’m praying because I’m so human! My first thought is, “What do I know about God’s desire for their life?” Certainly, everyone’s situation is unique and in my opinion God doesn’t give group therapy. I find myself feeling very insecure, and if anxiety doesn’t overwhelm me, I reflect on God’s response to Job’s friends when Job’s life was falling apart. Have you read the story of Job when his friends tried to make sense of his situation? They were actually criticized by God for giving Job advice! Just thinking about this makes me break out in a cold sweat!
The problem with Job’s friends was not that they didn’t love Job nor did they lack wisdom. The problem was that they didn’t have the book of Job to know what not to say because they were living the story! Obviously, they didn’t have the advantage of reading Job 2 to know Satan had asked God to sift their friend as if he were a sack of flour! Maybe they should have asked God before giving advice?
I can relate to Job’s friends more than I want to admit. When someone I love has a very difficult decision to make or is going through a hard time, I often try to figure out what God is doing. When will I learn that I do not have the complete mind of God and I do not know what the future holds? What makes me think that I can speak into the life of someone concerning what God is doing in her life? How should we advise friends? I believe we must pray before speaking. It’s hard not to immediately begin to talk; I’m learning I need to talk to God first and encourage them to do the same. I think the story of Rehoboam may help us as well.
Rehoboam was the son of Solomon and even though Solomon is known as the wisest man, he did some really unwise things. For instance, he married 700 women that God specifically told him not to marry. God warned Solomon that these women would turn his heart to worship other gods and that is exactly what happened. Solomon also increased taxes to the point where the average citizen was near financial ruin and His disobedience cost him his kingship and was handed over to his son Rehoboam.
According to 1 Kings 12, Rehoboam was asked by the people to take away the burden of taxes that his father had placed on them. Being young and a new king, he sought the advice of some elderly men who were experienced counselors and administrators that had served his father Solomon. The elderly men advised him not to have the mind of being served but to serve the people by encouraging them with words. I think this sounds like great advice. But Rehoboam wasn’t as keen on this advice so he asked his friends what they thought. His friends had quite the opposite opinion and advised him to put harder restrictions on the people and make it so difficult that if they did not obey his leadership, they would be whipped with scorpions. This forced Rehoboam to decide if he would be a servant hearted leader or a slave master.
We are told in 1 Kings 12 that Rehoboam took the advice of his peers and Israel became a divided nation and has remained divided ever since. Hindsight is always 20/20 and if we take a moment to look back in history, we can learn from the mistakes of Rehoboam and his father. Had Solomon obeyed God, the kingdom would not have been torn from him nor would he be known as the wisest man who made some very unwise decisions! Had Rehoboam listened to the people with experience in leadership, he would have known that their advice lined up with the truth of God’s word. God is known for his love, not His demands, and had Rehoboam taken the advice of those in leadership all of Israel would have benefited.
What about you? When you look for counsel, do you look for someone who gives Godly wisdom? We are often more comforted by people who make us feel better than by the people who will share truth with us. I like to say, “If I’m drowning, I don’t want my small group jumping in and holding my hand and telling me that they understand how I feel. I want Michael Phelps swimming to get me out of the water!”
What advice is better? To say “I understand” or to lead another to the One who knows completely and truly understands? I believe the difference between these two responses is being self–centered or God–centered. When we give advice we need to be God–centered. If you have a friend who will lead you to the truth of God, praise Jesus and call them immediately when you need help! But if your friends just want to make you feel better, go shopping and get coffee with them but don’t listen to their advice. Experience has shown me that the word of God is the safest advice you can receive and when in doubt, ask God!
Further Reading 1 Kings 11:43-14:31, 2 Chronicles 9:31-13:7, Job 2