The Scripture that heads this paper has only a few words but it really deals with the critical issues of our daily living in a very extensive way. A simpler and more exemplary rendition of this verse in the New International version translation of the Bible reads: “Happy are those who reject the advice of evil people, who do not follow the example of sinners or join those who have no need for God. Instead, they find joy in obeying the LORD and they study it night and day”. Every day we live in this world we are faced with the task of making choices of the course of action to take in many varied situations. In this new year, we have another 365 days to live and definitely so many decisions to make in the course of this year. Some situations may be complex and the decisions we make can impact our lives positively or negatively for the rest of our lives. Moreso, our decisions do not only affect us, they affect those around us, our families, our friends, our business associates and countless number of other people directly or indirectly. The consequences of our choices could also affect generations after we have died and gone from the world. With such great importance of decision making comes the need to get it right or risk negative consequences. It is in the bid to make the best decision over the issues confronting us that we seek the counsel and advice of people. The inputs of people in our decision making process has a value that could boost our chances of getting it right. However, there are situations that some inputs we receive from people can do so much damage and bring damning consequences if we followed it. It is therefore important for us to seek for and take counsel from the right people in order to make the right decisions. The man who will be successful in life in this world and also step on the celestial shores must take the words in Psalm 1:1 very seriously.
It is boldly and clearly stated in the verse above the persons we do not need to walk with, stand with or sit with. In a word, these are the people we must not keep company with. These people for which we are warned not to keep company with are the ungodly, the sinners and the scornful, and these may all be described with the general name “the wicked”. In reality these group of people abound in the world and are all around us, hence the need for us to carefully avoid their company and their input in our lives this year. The evil counsel of wicked counsellors has led many people into troubles, sorrows and regrets. Many were not so lucky to survive following such counsellors. The havoc of evil counsels are not limited to individuals; the society at large is greatly impacted negatively by evil counsel. Businesses thrive or fail depending on the counsels that run it. Governments stand or fall based on the advisers that advice it. Marriages blossom or break apart based on the counsels the partners heed to. I am certain that this is true if you consider the experiences of people around you, but let us consider a few examples in the guide of life, the Bible.
King Nahash, king of Ammon, had a good relationship with King David, the king of Israel. When Nahash died and his son succeeded him, King David sent emissaries to condole with Hanun, the Son of Nahash. On receiving these emissaries, Hanun consulted with his advisers to know what to do with David’s message. These advisers raised skepticism over the intent of David’s action, and convinced the king that these emissaries were spies sent by King David to spy out their kingdom. This counsel of the king’s advisers made him to treat David’s men with great contempt. He had their beards shaven in half, their garments cut off in the middle to show off their buttocks and they were driven out shamefully. When the news of these ill treatments of these emissaries got to King David, he was angered by it and this latter led to a war between the two countries where Hanun’s armies were completely defeated and his kingdom overthrown. Hanun’s downfall came about by receiving this evil advice of his counsellors. A friendship that would have continued for generations between the two countries was cut short and thousands of lives were lost in the land of Ammon. To underscore the importance of this story and the lessons we learn from it, we have this account first recorded in the book 1st Samuel 10: 1-19 and repeated in 1st Chronicles 19: 1-19.
Another example suffices in the story recorded in 1st Kings 12:1-6. Rehoboam the son of King Solomon had just come to the throne succeeding his father, and the people sought to have him lighten their burden of taxation they were subjected to during his father’s reign. He requested to have three days to consult with his advisers and give them a feedback, a request which was granted by the leaders of the 12 tribes of Israel. Rehoboam sought the counsel of the elders and wise men who told him to listen to the people and grant their request, but he abandoned this counsel and took the counsel of young men who had grown up with him. They told him to reply the people with these harsh words: “My little finger is thicker than my father’s thighs. And now, whereas my father laid on you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions” (1 Kings 2:10-11). This harsh answer from King Rehoboam infuriated the people and a revolt broke out which caused Israel to split; ten tribes deserting Rehoboam and forming their government. Rehoboam was then left with two tribes who only remained with him for the sake of his grandfather, King David. Rehoboam’s folly stands out as one of the most conspicuous recorded in the Bible. Again to reinforce the importance of the lesson in this story, the account is repeated in 2nd Chronicles 10:1-19. Let us never forget that King Rehoboam’s downfall came about by his heeding the evil counsel of ungodly people.
Many more examples abound in the Bible for which we may see the consequences of evil counsels. Amnon raped his sister Tamar, acting on the evil plot put forth to him by his friend Jonadab, a crafty man (2 Samuel 13:1-29). Amnon lost the chance of succeeding his father’s throne by this dishonorable and abominable act and also lost his life, cut off at youth as a result of this act. Ahab stole Naboth’s vineyard and had him put to death following the counsel of his wicked wife Jezebel. and thereby brought a curse of shameful and untimely death upon himself and his generations (1 Kings 21:1-24). Ananias and Sapphira heeded the evil counsel of Satan who entered their hearts, to keep back part of the sales proceeds of their land while presenting the rest to the Church claiming it was the whole and trying to deceive the Holy Spirit. They both died instantly at the revelation of their folly (Acts 5:1-11). I could speak also of men like Achan, who took the accursed properties of Jericho against God’s commandment following Satan’s counsel and lost his life and those of his family (Joshua 7:10-26), Gehazi who ran after Naaman’s wealth following Satan’s counsel and went down with incurable leprosy till death (2 Kings 5: 15-27), Judas Iscariot who sold the Lord Jesus Christ following Satan’s counsel and committed suicide afterwards (Matthew 26:14-16,Acts 1:15-19), Adam sharing in the sin of his wife Eve who heeded the serpent’s counsel to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree in the garden of Eden was driven out of the paradise garden and spent the remaining years of his life in laborious toiling and sweat. These examples all show the consequences of following the counsel of evil counsellors. Let these examples warn us to reject ungodly counsel no matter who may be suggesting it to us in the course of this year.
I have heard the story of a family which was split consequent on the wife acting on the evil counsel of a tale-bearing friend. She listened to the counsel of her single(unmarried) friend who kept reporting seeing her husband with some woman in some place or driving past with some woman in his car. Following these tales about her husband, she became hostile to him, and even resorted to diabolical means at the suggestion of her friend in order to control her husband. Things eventually fell apart leading to a divorce. Alas, the allegations of her friend were never established. Now she is suffering while her tale-bearing friend has gotten married and is keeping her family. She now regrets following her friend’s evil counsels. Another story of two friends who went out to rob a grocery store has it that one of them was an innocent young man who had never stolen but was convinced by his armed robber friend to join him, assuring that all they would do was just to point a gun at the store attendant and dispossess him of all monies and escape without having to shoot or kill anyone. Things did not turn out as planned as the attendant tried to resist the robbers who fired at and killed him. Now the armed robber friend knew how to run away but the other who was only following along was arrested and sentenced to many years imprisonment on charges of robbery and manslaughter. Dear young man and young woman, heed the Bible’s warning: “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, ‘Come with us let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason, like sheol let us swallow them alive, and whole, like those who go down to the pit; we shall find all precious goods, we shall fill our houses with plunder; throw in your lot among us; we will all have one purse’ – my son, do not walk in the way with them; hold back your foot from their paths, for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood” (Proverbs 1:10-16). Are you studying in the higher institution and hanging around with people who are urging you to join a secret cult to be famous in the campus and have protection? Be quick to reject such counsel and cut off from such companions for they will lead you in the path of destruction.
I had also suffered the consequences of evil counsel. I was a run-away from home as a teenager. I left home because I felt I had outgrown being scolded by my parent when I did wrong. I sought for “freedom” from parental guidance and a song I listened to at that time, which says : “No matter what they tell us. No matter what they do. No matter what they teach us. What we believe is true”, urged me on in this path of rebellion. On the night I left home, it was the only song on my mind; I felt I was right after all and I did not need anyone to tell me what to do, but I was unaware that I was following the counsel of this song. Friends, there are countless means through which we may meet evil counsellors, ungodly people, and receive their evil counsels. It may be through songs as it was in my case. It may be through the various social media platforms with their countless posts, tweets and chats. It may be through the movies. It may be through the reality shows, the fashion shows, etc. It may be through associations and parties. Be careful to scrutinize these avenues and reject the ungodly counsellors and their counsels. You will be very blessed if you deliberately refuse to walk in the counsel of wicked people, and do not follow the example of sinners, or join in with those who have no need for God.
Are you a Christian? Then you are privileged to have the best counsels for success in life. Your Bible was particularly inspired by God and written for your instruction and guidance. It is the only book fully loaded with counsel for all of life’s affairs. It is this fact that Psalm 1:2 tells us that those who delight in meditating on the word of God day and night will be blessed because they will have the right counsel to act upon for all of life’s endeavours. You will find the best counsel to keep your marriage and home flourishing in love and bliss. You will find the best counsel for financial prudence and investment. You will find the best counsel for social relationships; to forgive those who wrong you, to care for the poor and needy, to do good to all men. Take time to read and study the Holy Bible this year. Meditate on the scripture and put it into practice. Again, you have the Gospels which have the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, The Counsellor, and He taught the way of life and all you need to do to live at peace with God and your fellow men. Furthermore, you have the Holy Spirit to counsel you every day on all of life’s matters. When you pray about any matter, wait and listen to the Holy Spirit. He will guide you and give you the right counsel (John 16: 12-15). Will you have these blessings of being counselled and guided by God? You need to be born again and a genuine follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, devoted to holy living and obedient to God in all things. If you have never surrendered your life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, please do so today so you can enjoy God’s blessing and counsel this year and throughout the rest of your life. Pray to God now and tell Him you are a sinner and you need Him to forgive you and make you His child from today. Ask the Lord Jesus Christ to be your lord and vow to follow Him in the path of holiness and righteousness all the days of your life. I like to congratulate you for making this decision and I assure you that God’s salvation will be yours in Jesus Christ name. Amen.
God has also committed wisdom for counselling on His servants for the benefit of those who desire godly counsel. Seek the counsel of pastors and ministers of the gospel. They will guide you in the way to do the right thing. You can also seek the counsel of Christian brothers and sisters who are devoted and well grounded in the faith. Seek the counsel of elderly people who have a wealth of experience to give you guidance, but be careful to see if their counsel aligns with God’s commandments and His will. Young men and young women, live in obedience to the counsel and guidance of your parents, because God has committed unto them the wisdom to guide you aright. I am certain that if you will surround yourself with godly counsellors, you will make a success of your life in this year 2017, and make it to heaven at last.
Finally, take this matter about whose counsel you follow very seriously and let God lead you. A president’s major task is to look for and appoint men of credible character to constitute his team of advisers. He does this knowing that if he will govern his country well, he needs the right counsel in all matters. I believe much more than a president would need the right counsellors to run a government that has a limited tenure, we need the right counsellors to make a success of our lives.
Gerald Inyang Is Our Sunday Columnist