Kings 22:14 – “As surely as the Lord lives, I can tell him only what the Lord tells me.”
Uncompromising counsel is a rare thing to find in the world we live in today. You can find a lot of people who will tell you what you want to hear, but very few who will tell you what you need to hear. In I Timothy 4:2, the Apostle Paul warned that the time would come when men would not put up with sound doctrine, but instead, to suit their own desires, they would gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears wanted to hear. Those who desire to be the arbiter their own morality will always reject truth. You can attempt to counsel people apart from telling them the truth, but you must be willing to lie to them to do so, because to encourage someone in any behavior that is not in line with the principles of God’s word, is to encourage them in a lie. Jason Henderson (Not I, But Christ), writes, “It is a lie to comfort someone apart from the truth; to present someone with a solution that is separate from the truth, to encourage someone in anything that has no place in Christ.” T. Austin Sparks wisely observes, “You can’t blunt the sharp edge of the truth of God’s word.” Only counsel that agrees with the principle of God’s word is wise and reliable counsel. Everything else is just a tickling of the ears.
The Word of God encourages us to speak the truth in love in all things that we might grow up into him who is the head, even Christ. (Ephesians 4:15). To sympathize with the nature of Adam and aid in its existence is to oppose the new nature of Christ being formed in us. A person’s soul cannot be filled with the light of Christ’s life if they continue to walk in darkness. That is the harm of not speaking the truth in love. Proverbs 10:17 warns, “Whoever ignores instruction leads others astray.” To counsel others in anything that is in opposition to the instruction of God’s word, is to lead them astray. Contrary to popular belief, we can’t just “love people into the kingdom.” That might sound nice, but it isn’t very realistic. We can love people straight into judgment if we are not careful. A. W. Tozer writes, “It is altogether possible to practice deceit upon our own souls and go deceived into judgment.” That is why the Apostle Paul encouraged the church not only to love, but to speak the truth in love. Granted, it is much easier talking to people about the forgiveness of sin than it is talking to them about the forsaking of sin. Counseling with both conviction and compassion takes a lot of courage, but giving in to fear when speaking the truth only leads to accommodation; never transformation. God didn’t send Jesus just to have our backs, he sent him to have our hearts. Just like truth and love, forgiveness of sin and forsaking of sin go together. Proverbs 20:5 says, “Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out.” A wise counselor, one of understanding, will not excuse your behavior but will dive into the depths of your heart to help you draw out the truth of it.
In I Kings 22, God’s word records that King Ahab, who was said to have been more wicked than any other king of Israel, asked King Jehosphaphat to join him in battle against Remoth Gilead. Jehosphaphat’s reply was, “First seek the counsel of the Lord.” King Jehosphaphat gave Ahab the best advice one person can give to another. King Ahab, however, consistently chose to follow the majority opinion of the false prophets who surrounded him. He “listened only to the prophets that gave good news and surrounded himself with people who encouraged him to do whatever he wanted.” (NIV Life Application Study Bible). Jehosphaphat knew the difference between these pagan prophets and God’s prophet, so he asked if a prophet of the Lord was available. A prophet named Micaiah was the only prophet who remained true to the Lord at that time, but King Ahab said of him, “But I hate him, because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad.” King Ahab didn’t want to hear the truth, he wanted his ears tickled. The messenger who was sent to summon Micaiah tried to influence him to compromise speaking the truth, saying, “Look, as one man the other prophets are predicting success for the king. Let your word agree with theirs, and speak favorably.” To Micaiah’s credit he replied, “As surely as the Lord lives, I can tell him only what the Lord tells me.”
We can follow the lead of the false prophets who counseled Ahab and speak favorably to people, letting our words agree with the majority opinion, or we can follow the wisdom of Micaiah and tell others only what the Lord’s word says. Those who counsel in the name of the Lord would be wise to follow Micaiah’s lead, however. In the end, the false prophets that Ahab followed ended up being instrumental in leading him to his ruin, as well as their own. Seeking counsel from those who will tell us “only what we want to hear” will end up being instrumental in ours as well. Jason Henderson writes, “The great false gospel in the days of the prophets was: “‘Peace, peace”‘, when there was no peace. It is the great false gospel today as well. It is a gospel that tries to make peace with the wrong man, instead of experiencing Christ’s crucifixion and killing of that man, so that true peace is found in the absence of him and the soul’s freedom from sin that is contrary to God.” That’s wise words and good counsel! Those who are in Christ are not called to make peace with the nature of Adam that still tries to influence their behavior. True peace can only be found in the absence of the adamic nature ruling in us, and walking in the freedom from that nature which is contrary to God. Any counsel that suggests otherwise is unwise counsel. T. Austin Sparks righty observes, “We must present Christ in totality, not just Christ in love, but Christ in purity, Christ in holiness, Christ in truth.” As surely as the Lord lives, I can only tell you what the Lord tells me.
ARBITERS OF MORALITY
I once sought out counsel because my conscience was bothering me
I heard it loud and clear but didn’t want it’s voice to heed
I spoke to many counselors and their words rang in my ears
Until at last I found the one who said what I wanted to hear
Someone who would be sympathetic to what I had to say
Someone who would compromise and let me have my way
I knew all along the words I wanted to hear
I just needed to find someone to scratch my itching ears
I knew that what I wanted was the right thing for me
but from a guilty conscience I needed to be free
So I just needed to find someone who would agree with me
And now I am at peace with who I am within
Even though I know I have traded truth for sin
But I can live with that so long as I am free
To be the arbiter of my own morality
(Proverbs15:12 – A mocker resents correction; he will not consult the wise.)