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Lessons From the Old Testament for Today: Taking Advice

Johan Smulders has a . B.A, B.ED and M.A in Education, Theology and Counselling. Works as an evangelist and counsellor.

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Lessons from the Old Testament for Today: Good Advice

The strange thing about advice is that it is often freely offered, but seldom taken seriously. We humans tend to want to do our own thing. The world that people lived in during the Old Testament times is no exception to this basic rule of human behaviour. Everyone knows exactly what others need to do but often are not good at discerning what the best path is for them personally, to take.

Another problem with advice is that, while it is often offered in good faith, it is not necessarily always good advice. People often see things from a different perspective and so what may be good for one situation might not be good for another. Advice also often comes with impure motives and so needs to be considered carefully. The Old Testament is full of examples of people who gave and took good advice but also of those who gave and accepted bad advice, resulting in poor outcomes.

When Moses was judging the new nation of Israel, as recorded in Exodus 18, he was kept busy from dawn till dusk and many people waited patiently, or perhaps not so patiently, for their turn. When his father-in-law Jethro arrived for a visit, he saw what was going on and asked Moses why he was doing things in this way (vs.14). Jethro then in his wisdom, gave Moses some good advice. He suggested that Moses delegate the responsibility to a team of counsellors while being available for the more challenging and difficult cases only. Moses took this advice from Jethro and this resulted in a better situation for all involved.

Not all advice is good advice and in considering the situation as recorded in the book of Job, there is a good example of this. Job lost everything and did not understand what had happened to him. His wife and friends came with dubious, if not really bad, advice. His wife suggested “curse God and die”, hardly helpful to her suffering husband! (Job 2:9). His friends, with limited insight and faulty thinking, gave Job loads of advice as recorded in much of the rest of the book. This caused more harm than good, even if their concern and presence may have helped Job through these extremely difficult times. It was only when Job really “saw God with his own eyes” (Job 42:5) that he was restored to his previous situation. One thing is certain and that is that Satan is always close at hand to give very bad advice as he did to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

One of the saddest examples of bad advice was the advice given to Rehoboam by his young friends when he came to power after his father Solomon died. The people approached him and asked him to soften the heavy load that his father had imposed on them. The elders advised him to do that but he rejected their advice and followed the advice of his young friends. This lead to the breaking away of the Northern Kingdom from the Southern Kingdom (1 Kings 12:1-17). Sometimes wisdom comes with age and experience! His father Solomon made some really bad choices during his own life but at the end of his life gives good advice as recorded in Ecclesiastes “Fear God and keep His commandments for this is the whole duty of man”. (Ecclesiastes 12:13 – NIV used with permission)

An interesting situation occurs in the book of Ruth, where Ruth chooses to ignore the advice of her mother-in-law Naomi, to return to Moab. Ruth then makes the famous pledge that she would go with Naomi and that Naomi’s people would be her people and Naomi’s God, her God (Ruth 1:16). Here the advice of Naomi seemed to make practical sense, but God had other plans for Ruth and her choice was obviously the correct one. Ruth became the wife of Boaz and in so doing became part of the dynasty of David (Luke 3:33; Matthew 1:5). Sometimes human common sense is outweighed by faith and trust.

Some lessons on advice from the Old Testament:

1. Everyone will be subjected to advice at times in their life. Some will be good and some will not be good at all.

2. Listen carefully and determine if it is good or bad advice. The source may be important in evaluating it.

3. Often age and experience bring wisdom that is valuable.

4. Always weigh any advice against God’s inspired word and do what God says. Then you cannot go wrong!