Receiving Counsel and Trusting in God

Appendix to CCPC’s Studies in Proverbs
Proverbs 15:22
Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.

In our study of Proverbs, we have noted that many factors go into receiving counsel. We must consider the wisdom of the counselors. Are they wise? Do they tend to make wise decisions? Do they tend to offer wise counsel? Secondly, the one seeking counsel needs to consider his own motivations in seeking particular counselors. Why that one over the other? That is, are you seeking a particular person’s counsel because he or she tends to support your decisions and outlook? Thirdly, does the person who seeks counsel himself possess wisdom? A fool delights in folly (15:21) and he often cannot recognize good counsel when it is offered to him on account of his own foolishness.

There is still another important factor. It is one that forces us to reckon with our finitude and God’s sovereignty. We learn in Ps. 33:11, “The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.” When seeking counsel, we must acknowledge the mysterious and secret sovereign plan of God. We read of several incidents where good counsels are thwarted on account of God’s sovereignty and His desire to inflict discipline.

One of the first ones we read about is Pharaoh’s heart. He hardened his heart (Ex. 8:15, 32; cf. 7:13) and we read that God also judicially hardened it (Ex. 9:12). When this happens, we will never heed good advice or counsel. In 2Chron. 10:15, we read that Rehoboam did not take the counsel of the elders (10:8, 13) but instead took the counsel from his friends (“took counsel from the young men who had grown up with him and stood before him”). All this was a way to fulfill God’s plan. 2Chron. 10:15 (cf. 1K. 12:15) states, “So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of affairs brought about by God that the LORD might fulfill his word, which he spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.” On this one it is not clear that the intent was to discipline Rehoboam per se (cf. 2Ch. 11:4). One thing we learn from this, we are not in control of the way we receive counsel!

Sometimes we deliberately refuse good counsel on account of our wickedness as in the case of Ahab (against Micaiah’s counsel) in 2 Chron. 18. Ahaziah made what seems to be good choices for self preservation but his decision was “ordained by God” for his downfall (2Chron. 22:7). Israel’s enemies were allowed to act unwisely against Israel because God had ordained their destruction (Josh. 11:20). Even the sinful desires of Samson were used by God to punish God’s enemies and his parents were unaware of all this as they witnessed their son’s sinful ways (Judges 14:4).

David prays for the good counsel of Ahithophel to fail (2Sam. 15:31) and sends Husahi for that purpose (2Sam. 15:33). In 2Sam. 17, we see how this unfolds. Ahithophel’s counsel was better but Absalom chose what would be to his own undoing: “For the LORD had ordained to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, so that the LORD might bring harm upon Absalom.” (v. 14)

In these passages, we see that wise counsel is needed but we also recognize without wisdom we will not perceive it and most importantly, if God has ordained to discipline us, we will heed foolish counsel or make foolish choices that will be to our harm. Proverbs notes this tentative nature of our decisions and plans.

We think our plans are well thought out but they may undo us. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” (16:25) Our plans should be maintained with all humility and deference to the Lord. We learn, “The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.” (16:1); “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” (16:9); “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.” (19:21) We should counsel, seek counsel, and plan, etc. but realize that the Lord’s purpose alone will be accomplished. “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.” (21:1) There is simply no resisting God. “No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the LORD.” (21:30) We can use all our might to accomplish our purposes but still, it is in the Lord’s hand. “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD.” (21:31)

When we read, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.” (16:33) — we are tempted to say “Why bother or plan?” The point of these verses is to teach humility and dependence and not inactivity and despair. We depend upon our heavenly Father to direct us through His Word. The future is not in our hands; we plan by praying. We seek counsel while trusting in the Lord. We act while depending on our Father’s grace. We seek out many counselors but even there, there is no safety. We must depend upon our God alone. We should seek counsel, receive counsel and with all humility, act on good counsel. Yet, we must trust in our God for the success of our plans and with all humility defer to our good heavenly Father should He interpose to accomplish something entirely different from what we purposed. Again, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.” (19:21)

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