WA I T I N G O N H I S
C O U N S E L
Is Our Human Wisdom and Experience Sufficient?
F. Wayne Mac Leod
Light To My Path Book Distribution
Copyright © 2015 F. Wayne Mac Leod
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without the
written permission of the author.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing
ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved. ESV Text Edition: 2007
A Special thanks to the proofreaders: Diane Mac Leod, Lee Tuson
CONTENTS
Title Page
Copyright
Preface
1 - The Need of His Counsel
2 - The Command to Seek His Counsel
3 - The Dangers of Ignoring God's Counsel
4 - The Counsel of Scripture
5 - The Spirit of God and the Scripture
6 - The Counsel of the Spirit
7 - The Law and the Specific Leading of God
8 - The Blessing of His Counsel
9 - Moses and the Counsel of God
10 - Joshua and the Counsel of God
11 – Saul and the Counsel of God
12 - David and the Counsel of God
13 - Jesus and the Counsel of the Father and the Spirit
14 - Paul and the Counsel of God
15 - Some Final Words
Internet Resources on this Topic
About The Author
S
PREFACE
ome time ago I was reading Psalm 106. As I read, verse 13 seemed
to stand out and speak to my heart:
But they soon forgot his works;
they did not wait for his counsel.
The context of the Psalm speaks of the wonderful work the Lord God had
done for Israel in taking them out of bondage in Egypt and delivering them
from the hand of their enemy. This was a time of great rejoicing for the
people of God. In those days they "believed His words; they sang His
praise" (Psalm106:12). This rejoicing and praise did not last, however, for
the very next verse tells us that they soon forgot what God had done for
them and did not wait on His counsel.
What does it mean to wait on the counsel of the Lord? In an age of
education and knowledge, why do we need to seek this counsel? The Bible
has much to say about this matter. In fact, it may be that one of the greatest
problems in the church of our day is that we have become like Israel those
days and no longer seek His counsel.
Judges 17:6 says:
In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was
right in his own eyes.
Could this describe the church of our day? Have we abandoned the counsel
of God to do what is right in our own eyes?
The purpose of this brief study is to examine what it means to seek the
counsel of God and to see what the Scriptures teach about trusting in our
own wisdom and understanding. I pray that this study will open our hearts
to see the purpose of God for our lives in a new way.
F. Wayne Mac Leod
A
1 - THE NEED OF HIS
COUNSEL
s I mentioned in the preface, the motivation for this study comes
from Psalm 106:13. Speaking of his own people the psalmist
says: "But they soon forgot His works; they did not wait for his
counsel." I was struck by the phrase: "they did not wait for His counsel." I
wondered as I reflected on this if this could be said about me and my
society.
We place a high value on education and experience in our day. While this is
admirable, I wonder if we have somehow lost our sense of need. Some
years ago, I was at a conference where the speaker shared an illustration of
his young son. His son was playing when he fell down and hit his head
against a hard object. The result was that he was knocked unconscious.
Seeing his son in this condition the father gathered him up and brought him
immediately to the hospital. Only when he had committed his child into the
hands of the doctor did he realize that he had never prayed about this.
Convicted of this, he confessed his sin and placed his son in the Lord's
hands.
The point this speaker was making was that his temptation at that time was
to trust the doctor more than God. I wonder how often we do this. Have we
become so educated that we no longer see our need of the counsel of God?
Do we trust our abilities more than we trust God? Have we forgotten the
work of God's Spirit? Have our programmes and experiences replaced our
need for God? Have we been blinded by the degrees behind the names of
our Christian leaders? Could it be that the reason we struggle in the church
today is because we have become so focused on our own ability that we no
longer wait for or sense the need of God's counsel?
As we begin this study, it is important that we recognize our need for the
counsel of God. Let's begin by taking a moment to examine what God says
about us as human beings. A Biblical understanding of our nature, heart,
and mind is essential if we are to understand our need of God's counsel in
everything we do.
What God created was pure and holy. Genesis 3, however, recounts the
story of mankind's fall into sin. Notice how sin entered the world. Eve and
Satan spoke together in the Garden. She knew that God had told them that
they were not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, but
Satan challenged that command, telling Eve that if she ate of it, she would
have her eyes opened. In fact, he told her that she would become like God,
knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:5). Eve listened to the argument of Satan
and thought about it. In Genesis 3:6 we read:
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it
was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make
one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her
husband who was with her, and he ate.
What does this tell us about Adam and Eve? It shows us that even before
sin entered the world there were many things they did not understand. They
listened to Satan and his argument and were deceived by the beauty of the
tree, the taste of its fruit and the potential in eating from it. This disregard
for the counsel of God concerning the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and
Evil had tremendous implications. Sin entered the world and from that point
onward it would ravage the earth and the mind of every human being.
What is important to note here, is that even before the entrance of sin into
this world, Adam and Eve needed the counsel of God. They did not have in
themselves the ability to live independent of God. They needed His advice
and wisdom even in a perfect world. In fact, it was their refusal to walk in
obedience to that counsel that brought their downfall.
In the days of Noah, God looked on the earth and described the thoughts
and intentions of humankind:
The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was very great in the
earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only
evil continually. (Genesis 6:5)
There are some very strong words used in Genesis 6:5. Notice that the
wickedness of man was "very great." Notice also that "every" intention of
the thoughts of his heart was "only evil continually." Every intention of
man's heart was evil before the Lord. In fact, God tells us here that every
intention was completely evil all the time. Can this possibly be true? Do we
really believe what this verse tells us? How could the thoughts and
intentions of human beings be only evil all the time? Had this not come
from the lips of God, would we not have trouble believing this statement?
Yet this is how God saw mankind in the days of Noah. The thoughts of his
heart were influenced by the sin that had taken over his nature. Every
intention and every thought were stained by sin.
Isaiah the prophet describes the spiritual condition of humankind in the
following terms:
We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous
deeds are like a polluted garment. (Isaiah 64:6)
This "uncleanness" affects every part of our life. Jeremiah describes the
human heart in these terms:
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who
can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
Have you ever had someone counsel you to "follow your heart" in the
decisions you make? The problem with this suggestion is found in how
Jeremiah describes our heart. The heart is "deceitful" and "desperately
sick." Can we follow a deceitful heart? Can we listen to the counsel of a
heart that is desperately sick?
Listen to what the Lord Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 15:19-20 about
the heart:
19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual
immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a
person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.
(Matthew 15:19-20)
What would happen if we did whatever was on our heart to do? Jesus tells
us that all kinds of sin originate in the human heart. Our heart is not
something we can trust. If we follow our heart, without being guided by the
counsel of God, we will soon find ourselves in sin.
Listen to what the apostle James has to say about the desires of our heart:
14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his
own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin,
and sin, when it is fully grown, brings forth death. (James 1:14-15)
These are not easy verses to accept. James tells us that we are tempted by
our own desires. These desires give birth to sin and ultimately destroy us.
The apostle John spoke of the same thing when he said:
16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the
desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is
from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its
desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John
2:16-17)
Notice what John says here. He tells us that the desires of our eyes are not
from God but from this world. All those desires will pass away from us—
they are temporary and fleeting.
In Joshua 7 we read of how Achan's desire led to the defeat of Israel. God
told Israel that when they conquered Jericho, they were to take no spoil.
They were to destroy everything. Achan saw a beautiful cloak, 200 shekels
of silver and a bar of gold and coveted (desired) them. He followed the
desire of his heart and took these articles, hiding them under his tent. His
actions led to the death of thirty-six Israelites and their humiliating defeat at
Ai. His sin was to follow the desire of his heart.
Listen to the testimony of the apostle Paul in Romans 7:18-19:
18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.
For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry
it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want
is what I keep on doing.
Paul's statement here is very powerful—"nothing good dwells in me, that is,
in my flesh." This is a truth we have a hard time accepting. Somehow, we
believe that there is good in us. Somehow, we believe that we can serve
God in our wisdom and human ability. We feel that all we need to do is to
tame our flesh and control it and we can serve God as we should.
Paul would go on, however, to say:
7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does
not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the
flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:7-8)
Paul tells us quite plainly that the mind of the fleshly man is hostile to God
and cannot submit to God or please him. In fact, the only thing we can do
with our flesh, passions, and desires according to Paul, it is to crucify them:
And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with
its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:24)
We get the distinct impression from Paul that there is nothing good in the
flesh. It is hostile to God and will not submit to His law. The only thing we
can do to it is to crucify it. If we want to follow the Lord Jesus we must
learn to die to the desires, thoughts, and impulses of the flesh and seek His
counsel and purpose.
How can we, as mere humans, understand God and His purpose? God's
ways are not our ways.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher
than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9)
Human reason is insufficient to understand the purpose of God. He works in
ways we can never understand. Job had to learn this as he sat in the ash
heap after losing everything that was precious to him. As Job looked over
the events that had taken his family and possessions from him, leaving him
sickened and helpless, he failed to see the purpose of God. Human reason
was not enough to make sense of what God was doing. In the end, all he
could do was trust God and His purpose. How can I possibly understand the
all-knowing mind of God? I do not have the intellectual capacity to grasp
even a portion of His infinite wisdom. I cannot imagine how He will unfold
His purpose. I could never comprehend how He can use tragedy to
accomplish good. These things are too complicated for me to understand.
All I can do is trust in this infinite wisdom and rest in His purpose.
Not only is human wisdom insufficient to understand the mind of God, but
Scripture tells us that our nature has been so affected by sin that our
thoughts, desires, and intentions are distorted. To follow our heart and our
desires will lead to death and separation from God.
Where does this leave us? Our mind is not capable of understanding God
and His ways. Our heart and our desires are untrustworthy. How are we to
live the life God requires if we cannot trust our mind, heart, and desires?
All we have left is the counsel of God. If we are to live the life God
requires, we will need His counsel and wisdom in all that we do. We must
learn to bring Him into every decision and every action. We must allow
Him to shape our understanding and teach us what is right. We must learn
to trust God's leading and direction more than our own understanding. This
is an affront to our human ability and intelligence. The fact of the matter is
that much work is done for God but not enough is done in His way. We
busy ourselves serving God but have all too often failed to obey Him and
walk in His counsel and leading.
If we are to become what God intends us to be, we will need far more than
what our human wisdom, heart, and desires can bring. We will need the
counsel of a wise and all-knowing God all along the way. We will need to
be a people who distrust human wisdom and planning and rely more fully
on God, His Word and His Spirit. May the Lord teach us to wait on His
counsel
For Consideration:
Have you ever found yourself trusting in your own wisdom and experience
rather than in God? Explain.
Is it possible for us to fully understand the mind of God and His ways?
What caused the fall of Adam and Eve into sin in the Garden of Eden?
How does the Bible describe our heart? Can we follow our heart?
What is the nature of our fleshly desires? Can we trust them to be our
guide?
How important is it that we seek the counsel of God? Can we expect to
become all God intends us to be in our own reasoning?
For Prayer:
Ask God to help you accept what He says about the human heart and
desires. Ask Him to forgive you for the times you have trusted in them
more than in His counsel.
Ask the Lord to help you to be more willing to seek Him in all you do. Ask
Him to teach you what it means to wait on His counsel.
Thank the Lord that He wants to lead and guide you. Thank Him that His
counsel is available to all who will seek it.
I
2 - THE COMMAND TO SEEK
HIS COUNSEL
n the first chapter, we spoke about the reason we need the counsel of
the Lord–first, because our limited understanding cannot possibly
grasp the fullness of God's mind and purpose, and second because our
heart, passions, and thoughts have been affected by sin and lead us away
from God and His purpose.
As we continue in this study it now falls on us to examine the specific
command of Scripture to seek the counsel of the Lord. Let's begin with a
passage from Psalm 10:4:
In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his
thoughts are, "There is no God."
What is significant for us in this verse is the statement: "the wicked does
not seek Him." While there are many ways to understand this verse, it is
clear that one of the characteristics of unbelievers is that they do not take
God or His will into account. They do things their own way without seeking
the purpose or counsel of God. God calls this wickedness.
Listen to what Job says about the wicked in Job 21:14:
They say to God, "Depart from us! We do not desire the knowledge
of your ways."
One of the central characteristics of the wicked person is that he or she does
not desire to know or seek the counsel of God and His ways. What is at the
very heart of sin? Is it not a desire to do things our own way without
seeking the counsel of God? This is not just the sin of the unbeliever but of
the believer as well. Even believers can live in this wickedness of not
seeking God's heart and straying from the path He has laid.
Listen to what the prophet Jeremiah has to say in Jeremiah 10:23:
I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in
man who walks to direct his steps.
Consider what the prophet is saying in this verse. He tells us that "the way
of man is not in himself." In other words, if we want to know the way we
are to live we cannot look inside ourselves and do what is in us to do. We
must look outside ourselves—to our Lord God. It is not for us to direct our
own steps. We are to be obedient to a higher authority. We are to live as
God determines. To do this we must be willing to die to our own ideas and
plans.
This runs against the philosophy of the world that tells us to follow our
dreams. The world tells us to follow our heart. It tells us that we can do
whatever we set our minds to do. Jeremiah challenges this attitude and calls
us rather to submit to the counsel and guidance of God. He challenges us to
stop looking for what we want in life and to seek what God wants. The
interesting thing about this principle is that it brings more satisfaction and
joy in life than anything we seek for ourselves. God knows what is best for
us and as we seek His counsel, we can be fully satisfied in Him. The
temporary pleasures we seek for ourselves fade into insignificance in
comparison to the purpose of God for our lives.
One of the clearest commands of Scripture about seeking God's counsel
found in Proverbs 3:5-6:
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own
understanding. 6 In all your way acknowledge him, and he will
make straight your paths.
This verse has often been a very strong challenge in my personal life. There
is a very clear command in these verses—"do not lean on your own
understanding." It could not be any clearer than this. God is commanding us
not to trust our own understanding. Instead, we are to "acknowledge Him."
To acknowledge God is to bring Him into every part of our lives and the
decisions we make. We are to place every decision before the counsel of
God and do what He would have us to do. As we do so, the Scripture tells
us that "he will make straight your paths." He will bring clarity and
direction when you acknowledge Him and seek His purpose.
Repeatedly, in the Scripture the Lord commands His people not to trust in
the wisdom of man but to seek Him and His counsel:
Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is
no salvation (Psalm 146:3)
This verse is a command. The believer is not to trust in princes for his
deliverance from trouble. The implication here is that instead of trusting in
human leaders the believer is to seek God and His counsel in their day of
trouble. This same thought is repeated in Psalm 118:8-9:
8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in man.
9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in princes.
What are we to do in the day of our trouble? The Psalmist tells us that we
are to run to the Lord for refuge. We are to seek Him, His wisdom and His
comfort. How easy it is for us to trust in our own plans and ideas to sort
through these problems. How easy it is for us to turn to someone else for
the help we need. The psalmist reminds us of how foolish it is to trust in
man when all the wisdom and counsel of God is available to us. Run to God
in your day of trouble. Take refuge in Him and in His counsel. This is the
challenge of the psalmist to all believers. Make God your first thought in
your day of trouble.
Isaiah takes this a step further when he says:
Stop regarding man
in whose nostrils is breath,
for of what account is he? (Isaiah 2:22)
Isaiah challenges us to stop focusing on human beings for the help and
direction we need in life. Isaiah tells us not to put our trust in human
wisdom and strength.
If we are not to trust in man and his wisdom, where are we to turn in our
time of trouble? Psalm 37:5 gives us the answer:
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will act.
Writing in Psalm 55:22 the psalmist adds:
Cast your burden on the LORD,
and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
the righteous to be moved.
Solomon was one of the wisest men of his day. Listen to his advice in
Proverbs 16:3:
Commit your work to the LORD,
and your plans will be established.
Even wise Solomon challenges us to commit our plans to the Lord. To
commit our plans to the Lord is to surrender them to His purpose and
wisdom.
What we have seen in these Old Testament passages is also clearly revealed
in the New Testament. Jesus tells us that we are to be a people who seek His
kingdom:
29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink,
not be worried, 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these
things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek
his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. (Luke 12:29-31)
What is clear from these verses is that the Lord Jesus is challenging us to
seek the things of His kingdom more than the things of this world. Our
hearts and focus are to be on the purpose of God for our lives. We must be a
people who are seeking His will and His counsel.
The apostle Paul tells us that whenever anxieties come our way, we are to
cast them on the Lord:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and
supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to
God. (Philippians 4:6)
As we cast these worries and anxieties on the Lord, we come to Him and
surrender to His purpose. We recognize Him as a sovereign God who
promises to counsel and guide us in whatever trouble comes our way. We
surrender to Him and to His purpose in this trial.
In Philippians 4:6 the apostle Paul says:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and
supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to
God.
He told the Philippians that "in everything" they were to let their request be
made known to God. In other words, they were to bring God into every
aspect of their lives. They were to go to Him for wisdom and guidance in
everything that caused them anxiety or trouble. They were to seek His
counsel in everything.
The apostle Peter repeats the same thought when he reminds believers:
Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter
5:7)
Let me summarize what we have seen in the verses we have examined so
far. Wickedness can be defined as not seeking the counsel of God in what
we do (Psalm 10:4). Scripture commands all believers not to lean on their
own understanding but to acknowledge God in all things (Proverbs 3:5-6).
We are to stop looking to man for help and guidance (Isaiah 2:22; Psalm
118:8-9). Instead, we are to commit our way, our work, and our anxieties to
the Lord (Psalm 37:5; Proverbs 16:3; 1 Peter 5:7). In everything we do, we
are to bring our requests to God, seeking His guidance and counsel
(Philippians 4:6). We must recognize that it is not for us to determine our
steps (Jeremiah 10:23).
The command of Scripture is quite clear. We are to be a people who
constantly seek the counsel of the Lord in all we do. We are to willingly die
to our own ideas and plans to seek God's heart. This requires that we be in
regular communication with God. It requires that we submit all our ways to
Him. Could it be that the reason for the weakness of the church of our day
has to do with the fact that we have never truly learned this lesson? Have
we come to believe that we have, in ourselves, the wisdom and strength
necessary to accomplish the work of God? If we are to become all that God
intends of us, we must obey what God says here. We must stop trusting our
own wisdom and experience and seek His counsel in all our ways.
For Consideration:
What is the connection between wickedness and not seeking God and His
counsel?
Jeremiah tells us that the way of man is not in himself. What does he mean
by this? How does a man determine his way?
What does it mean to acknowledge God in all our ways?
What is the difference between asking God to bless our human ways and
committing our ways to the Lord?
Jesus tells us to seek first His kingdom. What is the implication of this in
the decision and actions we take every day?
To what extent has the church of our day been successful in teaching people
to seek the counsel of the Lord and not trust in their own wisdom and
understanding? What is the result of seeking our own understanding?
How much of what you have done today have you committed to the Lord?
Have you acknowledged God in the decisions you have made today?
For Prayer:
Ask the Lord to help you to seek His counsel in all that you do today.
Ask God to forgive you for the times you have not sought His will but have
chosen to do things your own way.
Ask God to teach you more about what it means to seek His counsel and not
lean on your own understanding.
A
3 - THE DANGERS OF
IGNORING GOD'S COUNSEL
s we continue our study on the need to seek the Lord and His
counsel, it falls on us now to examine some of the warnings of
Scripture to those who choose not to listen to God and seek His
counsel. There are some very strong warnings in the Scriptures to those
who would ignore the counsel of God.
Let's consider the example of King Amaziah of Judah in 2 Chronicles
25:14-16. Amaziah had gone to war against the Edomites. He prepared
300,000 of his men and hired another 100,000 from Israel. God warned
him, however, that He would not be with the soldiers he had hired from
Israel. Reluctantly, Amaziah let them go and went to battle without them.
With his 300,000 soldiers Amaziah slew 20,000 Edomites in an
overwhelming victory. 2 Chronicles 25:14, however, tells us that when he
returned from this battle, he brought the gods of Edom with him and
worshipped them.
God was angry with Amaziah and sent a prophet to speak to him about his
sin of idolatry. Amaziah refused to listen to the prophet God sent, saying:
"Have we made you a royal counselor? Stop! Why should you be struck
down?" (2 Chronicles 25:16a). Amaziah refused to listen to God and to His
counsel. As a result, the prophet of God spoke these final words to the king
before he left his presence that day:
"... I know that God has determined to destroy you, because you
have done this and have not listened to my counsel." (2 Chronicles
25:16b)
These are very strong words spoken against the king of Judah. God had
determined to destroy him because he had not listened to His counsel
through the prophet He sent.
Later in 2 Chronicles 33, we read about King Manasseh. 2 Chronicles 33:9
describes this period of Judah's history:
Manasseh led Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem astray, to do
more evil than the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the
people of Israel.
What is significant for us in this context is what 2 Chronicles 33:10-11 tells
us about Manasseh:
10 The Lord spoke to Manasseh and to his people, but they paid no
attention. 11 Therefore the Lord brought upon them the commanders
of the army of the king of Assyria, who captured Manasseh with
hooks and bound him with chains of bronze and brought him to
Babylon.
Notice particularly that while the Lord spoke to this evil king, he and his
people paid no attention to the counsel of the Lord. The result of refusing
the counsel of the Lord was that the whole nation was taken from them and
given over to the Babylonians. This was a direct result of refusing the
counsel of the Lord.
The book of Psalms also contains striking warnings about those who
ignored the counsel of God. In Psalm 81:11-12 we read:
11 But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit
to me. 12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow
their own counsels.
The apostle Paul says a very similar thing in Romans 1:28-31:
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave
them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They
were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness,
malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness.
They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty,
boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish,
faithless, heartless, ruthless.
As God gave Israel and the people of Paul's day over to their own counsel,
their society deteriorated. Crime, violence and all sorts of evil flooded in
and destroyed them. Notice the reason for this evil in their land. God's
people did not listen to His voice (Psalm 81:11) and they did not see fit to
acknowledge Him (Romans 1:28).
The writer to the Proverbs warns us that human wisdom and understanding
is insufficient when he says:
There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end is the way of
death. (Proverbs 14:12)
To ignore the counsel of God for our society and personal life is to follow a
path that leads to moral decay and death. If we want our society to be
healthy and blessed, we need to seek God's purpose and heart for that
society.
It is a fearful thing to be given over to our own ways. Our newspapers
report, on a regular basis, stories of men and women who choose to ignore
the counsel of the Lord and do things their own way. The implications of
their actions and decisions are devastating. Often these individuals destroy
their own lives by their decision to ignore God's counsel. Listen to what the
writer of the book of Proverbs tells us about those who ignore God's
counsel:
29 Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the
Lord, 30 would have none of my counsel and despised all my
reproof, 31 therefore, they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have
their fill of their own devices. 32 For the simple are killed by their
turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them.
(Proverbs 1:29-32)
Those who "would have none" of God's counsel and despise His reproof
will eat the fruit of their own ways—death and destruction lie ahead for all
who will ignore the correction and counsel of God.
Scripture does not stop there. It goes on to say that God will ignore those
who refused His counsel in the day of their calamity. Listen to the words of
Proverbs 1 again:
24 Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched
out my hand and no one has heeded, 25 because you have ignored
all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, 26 I also will
laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you, 27
when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a
whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. 28 Then they
will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently
but will not find me. 29 Because they hated knowledge and did not
choose the fear of the Lord, 30 would have none of my counsel and
despised all my reproof.
In the midst of the terror and storms of life, when these people were
distressed and crying out in anguish to God, He would refuse to listen to
them. The reason for this is because He had offered them His counsel, but
they refused it. Their anguish was the fruit of their own refusal to seek God
and His wisdom.
Speaking about those who refused the counsel of God in his day, the
prophet Jeremiah said:
9 The wise men shall be put to shame; they shall be dismayed and
taken; behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord, so what
wisdom is in them? 10 Therefore I will give their wives to others and
their fields to conquerors, because from the least to the greatest
everyone is greedy for unjust gain; from prophet to priest, everyone
deals falsely. (Jeremiah 8:9-10)
Those who were wise in their own eyes rejected the word of the Lord. As
wise as they were, they would be destroyed. Their wives and their fields
would be given to others, as a direct result of their refusal to seek the Lord's
counsel and walk in His ways.
Probably one of the most powerful statements about trusting in our own
wisdom and strength is found in Jeremiah 17:5-6:
5 Thus says the Lord: "Cursed is the man who trusts in man and
makes the flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord.
6 He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an
uninhabited salt land.
Notice what the Lord tells us through Jeremiah about the man who puts his
confidence in his own strength and wisdom?
First, he would be like a shrub in the desert. A shrub in the desert does not
receive the water it needs to grow tall and flourish. It is small and often
fruitless. It will never reach its potential without the life-giving water it
needs. In a similar way, we can never reach our full potential outside of the
life-giving purpose and counsel of God.
Second, he will not see any good come. The blessing of God will be
removed from his life. He cannot experience this blessing outside the
purpose of God. He cannot live in rebellion and ignore the counsel of God
and expect to see ultimate good come his way. He may prosper in this life,
but true good can only be found in the purpose of God and in His counsel.
Finally, He will dwell in parched places. We can accomplish many things in
our own strength and wisdom. We can grow our business and become rich
and famous. We can have everything this world has to offer us but still live
in a parched place. The living waters of God's abundance are found in His
counsel. This does not mean that life will be easy. I have met individuals,
whose life on this earth has been trying and difficult but whose heart is glad
because they are walking in the fullness of God's purpose and counsel for
their lives. Don't be fooled by the exterior. Only in the counsel of God can
we be fully satisfied.
What do we see from the warnings contained in this chapter? Let me
summarize what these passages of Scripture have told us. We have seen
examples of kings who refused to seek the counsel of God. Amaziah chose
to ignore God's counsel to his own destruction. Judah, under Manasseh,
rejected the counsel of God and this resulted in the nation of Babylon
invading and taking everything they had. For seventy years they were held
in bondage to a foreign power. The writer of the book of Proverbs tells us
that there is a way that seems right to our human reason, but that way
ultimately leads to death. God turns His back on those who have rejected
His counsel so that in the time of their terror and anguish, they are left to
their own wisdom to fend for themselves. Jeremiah warned the "wise" of
his day that their wisdom would lead to their wives and their land being
stripped from them. He would go on to tell his readers that as long as they
rejected the counsel of the Lord God, they would never reach their full
potential or experience the good that God wanted to bring. Instead, they
would live parched and empty lives.
We have read these warnings, but what will we do with them? Do we really
believe what these Scriptures teach us? Do we believe that we desperately
need the wisdom of God? Or do we somehow still feel that we can make it
on our own? Do you still believe that your human wisdom is able to cope
with anything life has to throw at you? Do you still feel that your training
and discipline will enable you to find the answers you need?
In these three chapters we have examined the fact that our human mind will
never truly be able to understand the mind of God—His ways are different
from ours and His thoughts are different from ours. His ways do not always
make sense to us. We have seen that our minds and thoughts have been
affected by sin and this distorts our experience of God and His purpose. We
have examined the command of Scripture to seek God in all our ways and
to refuse to lean on our understanding. We have seen the curse on those
who fail to take this command to seek His counsel seriously. Ultimately the
question is, what will we do in response? Will we seek the counsel of God
and listen to what He is telling us in these Scriptures, or will we persist in
doing things our way? The decision is up to us, but the consequences of
choosing to ignore God's counsel may be devastating.
For Consideration:
What was the result of ignoring the counsel of God in the lives of Amaziah
and Manasseh?
What would your society be like if it were not governed by the counsel and
ways of God? What would it be like if everyone did whatever they wanted?
Jeremiah describes the person who does not seek the Lord to be like a
desert shrub that does not see good but lives in a parched and salted land.
Can those who do not seek the Lord prosper in this life? What does
Jeremiah mean when he says that these people will live in a parched land?
Do you feel that Christians really see the need to seek God and His
counsel? Are we tempted to trust in our own ways and methods?
What particular warning do you take from the passages quoted in this
chapter? How will this change how you do things in the future?
For Prayer:
Ask the Lord to forgive you for the times you have not really sought Him or
His counsel but have chosen to do things your own way.
Take a moment to pray for your leaders. Ask that they would truly seek the
Lord and His purpose in the decisions they make.
Ask God to teach you what it means to seek His counsel and to
acknowledge Him in all your ways.
Ask God to show you if there is anything you are doing apart from His
purpose. Ask Him to forgive you. Ask Him to help you to make things right
and get back on track with Him and His purpose for your life.
I
4 - THE COUNSEL OF
SCRIPTURE
n the first three chapters, we have examined what the Scriptures tell us
about the importance of seeking the counsel of God in all that we do.
The question we need to ask ourselves now is: Where do we find this
counsel of God? To answer this, let's begin with Psalm 119:9:
How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according
to your word.
The psalmist pictures before us a young man at the prime of life looking
ahead to a great future. As the psalmist looks at this young man with all his
potential, he also realizes the temptations on the path before him. The
journey he is about to embark on is filled with dangers and detours. There
are many enemies on the road he is about to take. How does this young man
live the life God requires and reach his full potential? How can he avoid the
temptations and snares along the way? What will keep him safe until he
arrives at his destination? The answer to these questions is found in the
Word of the Lord. It is the Word of God that will protect this young man on
the road of life. It will open his eyes to what is right and wrong. It will
expose the temptations along the way and show him the right path to tread.
As he walks according to the clear counsel of God as found in the
Scriptures, he will keep his way pure.
In Deuteronomy 17:14-20 we read of God's requirement for the kings of
Israel and Judah. The role of a king was a very important role. How was the
king to make wise decisions for the nation? Listen to the command of God
in Deuteronomy 17:18-19:
18 And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for
himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical
priests. 19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the
days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by
keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing
them...
One of the most basic requirements for every king of Israel and Judah was
that he was required to read the Law of God every day of his life. In a day
when people did not have a physical copy of the Law of God, a special
copy was made for the king. This copy was approved by the Levitical
priests as being an exact copy of the original. This law would be the king's
guide in all matters of state. By studying and reading the word of God, he
would be guided in the decisions he made. All his decisions were to be in
accordance with the counsel of God as found in the copy of the Book of the
Law prepared especially for him.
Joshua 1 tells us that story of the people of God preparing to cross the
Jordan to possess the land God was giving them. Imagine what it would be
like for these men and woman who had spent the last forty years in the
desert wandering as nomads. The land before them was inhabited by
nations prepared to fight for their land. After many battles, Israel was to
settle in this land and become a nation. Consider the responsibility that lay
on the shoulders of Joshua as he led these people. Where was he to find the
wisdom necessary to accomplish this task? Listen to God's advice to Joshua
as he prepared to lead his people:
6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to
inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be
strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the
law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to
the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success
wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your
mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may
be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you
will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good
success.
Notice what God tells Joshua in this passage. In order to be successful in
this undertaking, he would need to be careful to do all that was in the law
that Moses had given them. He was never to turn from that law. It was to
influence all that he spoke to the people. He was to meditate on it day and
night. This written law would be his counsel and guide. It would reveal to
him the purpose of God for his life and the lives of his people.
It is quite easy to see the significance of the Word of God in the lives of
those God had chosen to lead His people. This law was to be their guide.
They were to make it a priority every day to spend time in this Word to
understand it and walk in its ways. This would guarantee success in their
leadership and in their nation.
The psalmist understood the value of the Word of God when he wrote:
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm
119:105)
The Word of God is a lamp to our feet. Picture an individual walking in the
forest at night. He doesn't know what he is going to step on or what is going
to trip his feet. The Word of God, as light, shows us the obstacles on the
path of life that can trip us or make us stumble. It is a light for our feet
warning us of the dangers that lie on the path before us. This Word is also a
light to our path. It not only reveals the dangers at our feet but shines on the
path ahead to show us the direction we are to take. It is our guide and
protection on the path of life.
The Scriptures we have today are not the thoughts of mere humans, but the
words God spoke through them to us:
20 knowing this first of all that no prophecy of Scripture comes from
someone's own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever
produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were
carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20-21)
This is why the Scriptures can be a sure guide in life. The Scriptures are the
words of God to us. They reveal God's purpose for our lives and the
direction He wants us to take.
Speaking to Timothy, the apostle Paul would say about the Scriptures:
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching,
for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness, 17 that
the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2
Timothy 3:16-17)
There are some very important details in these words of the apostle Paul we
need to underline here. Notice, first, that all Scripture is from God. He is the
author. Second, notice that these Scriptures are useful for teaching, reproof,
correction, and training in righteousness. In other words, they teach and
train us in how God wants us to live. If you want to live life to its full, you
will need to be a student of the Scriptures. In these Scriptures, we find the
counsel of God in how to live the life He requires. Notice, third, that Paul
tells us in these verses that by allowing these Scriptures to counsel and
guide us, we will be "complete" and "equipped for every good work." This
shows me that there is nothing lacking in these Scriptures to form me into
all God wants me to become. They will equip me for every task that God
has for me to accomplish.
This means that everything I need to know to walk in righteousness can be
found in the counsel of God found in the Scriptures. Everything I need to
know to see my church become all God intended is found in the Word of
God. Nothing is missing. God inspired the writing of the Scriptures in such
a way that by following them, not only will they make us complete, but
they will also equip us in anything we undertake in His name.
This does not mean that everything in life will go smoothly if we follow the
counsel of Scriptures. Men and women who remained faithful to these
Scriptures often found themselves in difficult situations. The apostle Paul
was persecuted for his obedience to the Word of God. The apostle John was
sent into exile for preaching the truth of these Scriptures. Even in these
difficult times, however, these Scriptures come to our aid. Listen to what
Paul said about the comfort of Scriptures in times of adversity:
4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our
instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement
of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4)
What do we do when everything seems to be crashing in on us? Where do
we find the encouragement and counsel we need in difficulty. Paul tells us
that the Scriptures will bring us the encouragement we need in those times.
Through their counsel, we will have hope.
The wisdom and counsel of God as found in the Scriptures provides us a
solid foundation on which to build our lives and ministries. They give us
stability and a clear direction in life. Writing to the Ephesians Paul says:
19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are
fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus
himself being the cornerstone... (Ephesians 2:19-20)
Notice how Paul told the Ephesians that they were built on the foundation
of the apostles and prophets. That is to say, the faith of the Ephesians was
founded on the teaching of the apostles and prophets as found in the
Scriptures. These men wrote as they were inspired by God. This foundation
was secure and solid.
One of the keys to the success of the early church in the book of Acts is
found in Acts 2:42:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and the
fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Notice that one of the key devotions of this early church was to the apostle's
teaching. This teaching is now written down for us in the New Testament
Scriptures. This devotion of the church to the teaching of the apostles gave
them strength and influence in their community. Lives were radically
impacted in those days. Why was the work of God so powerful in those
days? In part, it was because the church was devoted to seeking the counsel
of God as found in the Scriptures. The believers lived as the Scriptures
taught. They sought God's heart as found in the Scriptures. The result was a
powerful work of God in their society.
What do we see from these passages? We see that the counsel of God is
found in the Scriptures. God has given us His word to be our guide and
direction. This Word shows us what we need to know about God and how
to live under His blessing. This was so important that God commanded
kings and leaders to read and meditate on the Scripture every day so that it
would be their guide in matters of state and church.
How easy it is to be always looking for something outside of the Scripture.
God is telling us that we are to be faithful to the teaching of His Word.
Consider for a moment what would happen if believers made this their
lifelong goal—to know God's Word and walk in absolute obedience no
matter the cost. What would be the result in our church and in our
community? Would our society not be changed?
In the Scriptures, we can know the counsel of God. To walk in that counsel
is to know the blessing of God and to experience life as He intended.
For Consideration:
What is the role of Scripture?
How important were the Scriptures to be in the lives of the kings of Israel
and Judah? What did God expect of these kings in regard to the Scriptures?
How is the Word of God a light to our path? Give an example of how the
Word of God was light to your path.
Who is the true author of the Scriptures? What, according to Paul in 2
Timothy 3:16-17 was God's intention in giving us these Scriptures?
What difference do you think there would be in your church or your society
if every believer made it their priority to seek the counsel of God as found
in the Scriptures?
For Prayer:
Take a moment to thank the Lord for giving us the Scriptures to counsel and
guide us on the road of life.
Ask God to help you to be more faithful in your study of the Scriptures.
Ask Him to reveal His purpose through those Scriptures to you.
Ask God to make you more willing to walk in absolute obedience to the
teaching of His Word.
Ask the Lord God to stir up a deeper thirst for the truth of God's Word in
your church and society.
Ask God to forgive us for not taking His Word as seriously as we ought.
I
5 - THE SPIRIT OF GOD AND
THE SCRIPTURE
n the last chapter, we examined the counsel of God as it is found in the
Scriptures. In this chapter, we will examine the counsel of God as
given by the Holy Spirit.
In the history of the Christian church, Scripture has often been misused and
misapplied to suit the needs and sinful desires of its interpreters. Scriptures
have often been taken out of context and used to justify wars and cruelty of
all kinds.
Consider for a moment what the Scriptures meant to you before you came
to know the Lord Jesus as your Saviour. How much of the Bible could you
really understand? Were not many of its truths hidden to you? A quick look
at the disciples of Jesus in the Gospels reveals that over and over again they
failed to understand what Jesus was telling them in His teaching. Listen to
Mark's account of the disciples' response to Jesus' teaching:
30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee, and he did not
want anyone to know, 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them,
"The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they
will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise." 32 But
they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him. (Mark 9:30-
32)
Notice particularly how the disciples did not understand what Jesus was
teaching. This is not an isolated incident. These disciples often did not
understand what Jesus was telling them (see Mt. 16:11; Mk. 6:52; Lk. 2:50;
9:45; Jn. 8:27; 10:6; 12:16).
Notice what John 20:8-9 tells us about the disciples who went to the tomb
after Jesus had risen from the dead:
8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went
in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the
Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
The disciples did not understand the Scriptures. They had the Old
Testament Scriptures available to them, but many of the truths about Jesus
were hidden from their eyes. They simply could not understand what God
was saying in His Word. How can sinful human beings, with a limited
understanding, ever truly expect to be able to grasp and apply the truth of
God's Word? Often His word runs contrary to our own understanding and
logic.
Before Jesus left to be with the Father, He made a promise to His disciples.
25 These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my
name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance
all that I have said to you. (John 14:25-26)
Jesus told His disciples that the Father would send the Holy Spirit to them.
The Holy Spirit of God would teach them and bring the teachings of Jesus
to mind at the right time. They would not have to fend for themselves. God
would send the Holy Spirit to explain to them what Jesus had taught and
helped them to apply that truth to their lives.
Later on, in the Gospel of John Jesus would tell His disciples:
12 I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them
now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the
truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he
hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to
come. (John 16:12-13)
As Jesus ministered and taught His disciples, He understood that at that
time they did not have the capacity to understand the truth He was trying to
communicate. His words did not make sense to them. They needed the Holy
Spirit to reveal these truths in a way they could understand.
Writing to the Corinthian church the apostle Paul said:
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God,
for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them
because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14)
There is a great divide between God and humankind. The ways of God do
not make sense to us. God is not governed by human ideas. He defies logic.
He pushed back the walls of the sea so His people could walk across on dry
land. He made the sun stop so his servant could defeat their enemy. He
brought water from a rock to quench the thirst of His people in the desert.
He defeated giants with a young boy and a sling slot. He shut the mouths of
hungry lions so that they would rest quietly with his servant. None of these
things make sense to our human mind. We have trouble believing the things
God does—they are "folly" to our human understanding.
One night a Pharisee by the name of Nicodemus came to Jesus to listen to
His teaching. Jesus told Nicodemus that evening that unless he was born
again, he could not see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). Nicodemus was
totally confused by what Jesus told him that day.
Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old?
Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?"
(John 3:4)
Jesus went on to tell Nicodemus that there were two births. The first was
the birth by water and the second was birth by Spirit. "That which is born of
flesh is flesh is flesh, and that which is born of Spirit is spirit," Jesus told
him (John 3:6). This teaching of Jesus was too much for Nicodemus. "How
can these things be?" he asked (John 3:9). In response, Jesus answered:
10 ... "Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand
these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know,
and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our
testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not
believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?
Nicodemus was incapable of fully understanding what Jesus was saying.
Jesus' teaching did not make sense to him. If he was to grasp the
significance of the teaching of Jesus, he would need an understanding that
was beyond his human ability. He would need spiritual understanding.
In Luke 10:21-22 Jesus prayed to the Father. His prayer is significant in
what it reveals to us about our need for the work of God's Spirit to
understand spiritual truth.
21 In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, "I
thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden
these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to
little children; yes, Father for such was your gracious will. 22 All
things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one
knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except
the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him."
The spiritual truth of God is hidden from the wise. This is because this truth
is not understood with human logic. The truths of God are revealed to those
who are willing to accept what God says even though it does not make
sense to their human mind just as a child will accept the word of their
parents.
We have in our day elevated human logic and science so that it has become
the measure of all truth. However, God is above this. He is not restricted by
science and logic. God’s ways cannot be learned by human skill. They
must be revealed to us. God has chosen to reveal Himself and His purpose
by means of the Scripture, and He has given us His Spirit to guide us into
these spiritual truths.
As Jesus prepared to go to His Father, He told His disciples:
15 If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will
ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you
forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive,
because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he
dwells with you and will be in you. (John 14:15-17)
There are several important details we need to notice in these verses.
Notice, first, that Jesus tells His disciples that if they loved Him, they would
keep His commandments. In other words, they would walk in the counsel of
God as revealed in the Word of God. How were these disciples to walk in
obedience if they did not understand what Jesus was teaching them? The
answer comes in verse 16 where Jesus tells them that He would give them a
Helper who would be with them always. This Helper was the Holy Spirit,
who would live in them and teach them what God required.
Notice also in these verses that Jesus taught the disciples that the Holy
Spirit could not be known to the world because He could not be seen.
Human wisdom accepts what it can see, smell, touch or taste. The work of
the Holy Spirit was not of that nature. We cannot see the Holy Spirit. He
generally does not speak to us in a human voice; He quietly speaks to our
spirit. The world cannot believe what it cannot see. By faith, however, the
believer can accept the work of God's Spirit and experience the reality of
His presence and guidance.
The world around us does not understand the work of God's Spirit. I would
even go as far as to say that many Christians have failed to understand the
work of God's Spirit. There are those who feel that they are able to
communicate the truth of the Scriptures without the ministry of the Holy
Spirit. They rely on their human reason and understanding to communicate
spiritual truth. What we see in this chapter is that the role of the Spirit of
God is to open our minds to the truth of the Scriptures in a way that we
could never understand in human wisdom.
The truths of Scripture have been around for thousands of years. Many
people have read and studied Scripture but have never been changed by it.
Some have even preached the Scripture from pulpits or taught it to others
without ever experiencing the reality of the words they teach. What is
missing in the lives of these individuals is the ministry of the Spirit of God,
making the truth alive and real to them. Truth in itself will not change
people, but truth empowered by the Spirit of God is life-transforming.
If we are to understand the wisdom of God revealed in His Word, we will
need the ministry of the Holy Spirit to guide and teach us. As we confess
our need of the Spirit and open our heart to Him, we will see Scripture in a
new light. God's Spirit will teach us things in the Scriptures and show us
applications of truths we had never before understood. All too often we
have failed to see our need of the Spirit to understand and apply the truths
of Scripture. We have pushed Him aside in our reading, interpretation, and
preaching of His Word. If we are to understand the truths of God, we must
first recognize our need of His Spirit's guidance and teaching.
This chapter calls us to study God's word in a way that may be different
from what we have been used to. We need the Holy Spirit’s guidance and
teaching because our human reason and understanding are not enough to
grasp the fullness of the truth God has revealed in His Word. The Lord
Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to be our guide in the understanding of truth. We
must open our heart to Him and let Him show us the wonders of the Word.
We must humble ourselves and recognize our need of Him as we open the
pages of the Word. There is no teacher like the Holy Spirit. His instruction
is life- changing.
For Consideration:
Did the disciples of Jesus fully understand what He was teaching them?
What did Jesus teach would be one of the key roles of the Holy Spirit?
Is human wisdom sufficient to understand and apply the Scriptures?
Explain.
Does the counsel of the Lord always make sense to our human minds?
Why is it important that we understand the teaching ministry of the Holy
Spirit? Can we truly understand God's ways and counsel without the Holy
Spirit?
How much do you recognize your need for the guidance of God's Spirit
when you read and study the Word of God? Do you try to understand the
Scriptures in your own mind, or do you seek the guidance and direction of
the Spirit of God?
For Prayer:
Thank the Lord that He has given us His Holy Spirit to guide us into the
truth of God.
Ask God to help you to rely more on what the Spirit of God reveals to you
than on what you learn in your own human wisdom.
Ask God to forgive you for thinking that you could understand spiritual
truths in your fleshly wisdom.
Ask the Lord to open your heart to the work of His Spirit in teaching you
the truths of Scripture.
I
6 - THE COUNSEL OF THE
SPIRIT
n chapter 5 we examined the role of the Spirit of God in opening the
Word of God to us. He reveals the counsel of God as it is contained in
the pages of Scripture. What we need to understand is that it is the role
of the Holy Spirit not only to reveal the truths of the Scriptures but also to
enable us to apply those truths to the situations we encounter each day. In
fact, the Holy Spirit will actively lead us into situations where we can
demonstrate and apply the truth, He is teaching us.
In Ezekiel 8 we read how the prophet was in his home with the elders of
Judah sitting before him. Obviously, they had come to hear the counsel of
the Lord. As they sat together that day, the hand of the Lord fell on the
prophet and he saw a vision of a man who, from the waist down, appeared
to be on fire, and from the waist up was as bright as "gleaming metal"
(Ezekiel 8:2). Listen to what happened as Ezekiel describes His vision:
He put out the form of a hand and took me by a lock of my head,
and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and brought
me in visions of God to Jerusalem, to the entrance of the gateway of
the inner court that faces north, where was the seat of the image of
jealousy, which provokes to jealousy. (Ezekiel 8:3)
That day God revealed hidden things to Ezekiel about the state of Israel's
faith. In that vision the Lord showed the prophet the idolatry that was taking
place in Israel and just how angry God was about it. He told the elders
present that day that He would not listen to them or hear their cries to Him
because of this terrible sin in that land. God revealed the hidden sins of His
people to Ezekiel.
What is true of the prophet Ezekiel was also true for the apostle John in the
New Testament. The book of Revelation is filled with references to the
work of the Spirit in revealing the purposes of God to the apostle.
I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud
voice like a trumpet saying, "Write what you see in a book and send
it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to
Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to
Laodicea" (Revelation 1:10)
Notice the reference in Revelation 1:10 to John being "in the Spirit". What
we need to understand from this is that it was the Spirit of God that was
revealing these truths of God to John. He told Him to write down what He
would show him for the benefit of the seven churches. This phrase "in the
Spirit" is repeated different times in the book of Revelation. It is an
important phrase because it shows us that the visions of John were not from
his own imagination but revealed to him by the Holy Spirit of God.
We see clearly in the life of Ezekiel and John that the things they saw were
revealed to them by the Spirit of God. The apostle Peter tells us that all
prophecy of Scripture has its origin in the Spirit of God:
20 Knowing this first of all that no prophecy of Scripture comes
from someone's own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever
produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were
carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20-21)
The Spirit of God led His servants, the prophets, to speak the mind and
heart of God. He revealed to them things that could not be seen with human
eyes. He imparted to these prophets the wisdom of God.
What was true for the prophets who wrote the Scriptures was also true in
the lives of the more ordinary people of Israel. In Luke 2:25-26 we have the
account of a devout man by the name of Simeon. Luke 2:26 tells us:
And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not
see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ.
Notice clearly again that it was the Spirit of God who revealed to Simeon
that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. While he knew from
the pages of Scripture that the Messiah would come, these Scriptures did
not tell Simeon that he would personally see the Christ. This was a personal
revelation from the Spirit of God to him. That day when the Lord Jesus
came into the temple with His parents, Simeon took Him in his arms and
blessed the Lord God for sending the Messiah and giving him the privilege
of seeing Him.
Philip the evangelist was in the midst of a great revival in the region of
Samaria. An angel of the Lord appeared to him and told him to leave
Samaria and go to the desert region of Gaza. Philip obeyed the angel and, as
he traveled, a chariot carrying an Ethiopian official passed by. Listen to
Acts 8:29-31:
29 And the Spirit said to Philip, "Go over and join this chariot." 30
So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and
asked, "Do you understand what you are reading?" 31 And he said,
"How can I, unless someone guides me?" And he invited Philip to
come up and sit with him.
That day Philip had the opportunity to share the truth about Jesus with this
Ethiopian man. Notice how all this came about. An angel told him to go to
the desert of Gaza. The Spirit of God that told him to go over and join the
chariot. God specifically led Philip to minister to that Ethiopian so that he
could come to understand the prophecy of Isaiah and accept the Lord Jesus.
It is easy to focus our attention on the specific leading of the angel and the
Spirit of God and forget how Philip was also being led by the written word.
You see, the words the Ethiopian was reading were the words of Scripture.
The words Philip explained were the words of Scripture. It was when that
written word was opened up to the Ethiopian by the Spirit of God using
Philip that the Ethiopian finally came to accept the Messiah. The specific
leading of God and the counsel of God's Word worked hand in hand to
accomplish the purpose of God in the life of this confused official. The
Spirit of God led Philip to open up the Word of God to a man seeking the
truth as he traveled through the desert of Gaza.
Acts 11:28-30 speak about a prophet by the name of Agabus. Verse 28 tells
us that "by the Spirit" he foretold that there would be a great famine over all
the world. The Scriptures, themselves, did not speak of this famine. It was
specifically revealed to Agabus. Notice the result of this in Acts 11:29:
So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to
send relief to the brothers living in Judea.
It was the purpose of the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth about this famine so
that the church could apply the teaching of Scripture in showing
compassion and generosity to their brothers and sisters in Christ.
In the early days of the church, the believers ministered only to the Jews.
They were not convinced that salvation was also for the Gentile. To correct
this, the Spirit of God began to reveal to them the heart of God for the
Gentiles also. On one particular occasion, Peter was resting on the roof of a
house when the Lord gave him a vision of a sheet filled with unclean
animals coming down from heaven and a voice calling him to rise up and
eat. Peter was perplexed about this vision and as he pondered it, the Spirit
of God spoke to him:
19 And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him,
"Behold three men are looking for you, 20 Rise and go down and
accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them." (Acts
10:19-20)
The men who had come to see Peter took him to the home of Cornelius, a
Gentile. This man also had a vision leading him to send for Peter, who
would tell him what he needed to hear. That day Peter shared the message
of the gospel with Cornelius and his family. They received the Lord Jesus
and the Spirit of God fell on them in such a way that Peter understood that
God had accepted Gentiles into His family.
This leading of the Holy Spirit would shake the entire church. Some
believed that if a Gentile was to be a follower of Jesus, they also needed to
become a Jew and follow the Law of Moses. In fact, there was such a
disagreement over this issue that a meeting was called in Jerusalem to