Last week we looked at 1 and 2 Kings as a graphic record of the need for godly leadership. These same two books also show the ongoing need for godly counsel, especially to leaders who were wayward or felt stuck. In biblical times the Lord provided this counsel by the increased ministries of His prophets who re-emphasized His revealed character, commands, and associated promises or judgments. Of course, the prophets of biblical times were much more than counselors. Many of the prophets also brought divinely inspired revelation of the same that became part of Scripture, namely the books of Isaiah through Malachi.
God’s Word was completed by these and His other mouthpieces whom He confirmed by their testimonies of public miracles and lives faithful to His revealed Word (Exodus 4:1-9, 1 Kings 18:36-39, 2 Kings 1:10, Matthew 12:28, John 3:2, Acts 5:12, 14:3) or by the support of other clearly inspired men such as the Apostle Peter’s support for Mark and the Apostle Paul’s support for Luke. Thus, Scripture was finalized long ago, founded on the teachings of His publicly confirmed apostles and prophets who centered on His Son, Jesus (Ephesians 2:19-21). Anyone who claimed to add to God’s Word, yet lived inconsistently with His character or made predictions that failed to come true or taught in conflict with God’s clear commands was proved to be a false prophet (Deuteronomy 13). The aforementioned qualifications are still the litmus tests for anyone who claims to have new revelation to add to Scripture. For an immediate clarification, Scripture often distinguishes between some as a prophet or man “of God” or “from God” and others as merely “a prophet” implying they were not from God and, therefore, not to be trusted. We’ll see an example of that in a moment. Because Scripture is now complete, godly counsel today points to the whole of God’s Word – the bad news of our sinfulness and the good news of Christ – in order to join together as fellow believers to adore and serve God through Christ in faith and holiness (Acts 20:26-27).
There is so much unbiblical counsel in our world and unbiblical references to people today speaking a “prophetic word”, so we need biblical clarity on both. Godly counsel is much more than experienced opinions or even expert advise on how to achieve the American dream. And the prophets did much more than tell the future. They emphasized and clarified God’s will and His promises to the faithful, but more they often called the rebellious to return to the Lord and warned of pending judgment. Most specifically, the books of Isaiah through Malachi show God sending the prophets to restore faith and obedience in love for Him when the priests were wayward, love for each other when the kings were wayward, and when there were false prophets misreading both (Isaiah 28:7, Jeremiah 6:13 and 18:18, Ezekiel 7:26 and 32:1ff, Amos 7:10, Zechariah 10:2, etc.). Of course, each of the three directly effects the other, and all must be founded on God’s Word.
We can see, for example, that the prophet Nathan only appeared when David asked for clarity on God’s will or when he was clearly in the wrong and needed to hear the hard truth of repentance and discipline. And there is no record of any prophet counseling Solomon. Maybe his initial unsurpassed wisdom precluded any need of others’ counsel, or maybe his later foolishness would not have received others’ counsel anyway. His own testimony in Ecclesiastes may show both.
The most often mentioned prophets in 1 and 2 Kings are Elijah and Elisha. But during this same time the Lord also sent all of the commonly called “major and minor” prophets: Isaiah through Malachi. Although Elijah and Elisha were clearly significant prophets, too, the Holy Spirit did not inspire them to record whole books of the Bible like those listed above. Rather, they seem to be included among the horizontal (earthly) histories of the kings to intensify the comparison and contrast between the faithful and unfaithful under the Lord’s covenant blessings and curses, respectively. God even made this point vividly by working through the prophets as instruments of God’s blessings on foreigners who had faith when Israelites did not. Compare the king of Israel with the widow of Zarephath in 1 Kings 17:1ff and Namaan the Syrian leper “on whom the king rested his arm” versus his Israelite counterpart the lepers in Samaria in 2 Kings 5:18 and 2 Kings 7:2-20. Isaiah through Malachi seem to focus more on the vertical (heavenly) story of God intervening because of His covenant with His people. The books of 1 and 2 Kings seem to focus on more of the prophets’ personal struggles against ungodly kind versus the books of Isaiah through Malachi which focus on more of the nations’ struggles against God. And while Elijah and Elisha emphasized the “here and now” of faith and obedience, the major and minor prophets focused more on the future of God’s people based on their real repentance or continued rebellion revealed over time.
Almost every one of the passages on the prophets in 1 and 2 Kings are marked by incredible miracles and other strange events. These striking true stories demand that we slow down to wonder what God is doing and even who He is, probably because the wayward leaders were in full auto-pilot mode: going with their greedy gut, mindlessly seeking personal pleasures for their supposed kingdoms. There are too many such passages in 1 and 2 Kings to list and explore in this relatively short article. Instead, I will only summarize one exceptionally odd passage that conveys some of the key messages and applications regarding godly counsel for you and I today. Let’s take a look at 1 Kings 13.
Jereboam had just set up the golden calves in Dan, a town in northernmost Israel, and Bethel, a town in southernmost Israel. The calves were reminiscent of the idol that Israel demanded Aaron to forged shortly after God had delivered them from Egypt. And the one in Dan was only a few miles from Jerusalem where the Lord had established His only true temple with its detailed imagery of sacrifice, mediation, thanksgiving, and praise to God Almighty by His priest to be fulfilled in the Lord Jesus. Jeroboam’s sin led all Israel to abandon the only true supernatural way to the Lord for idolatry of those golden calves and the ensuing natural appetites that would make any young bull proud. It’s no wonder that we hear God’s repeated condemnation of Jeroboam’s for its impact on all of Israel in 1 Kings 13:34, 14:16, 15:30-34, 16:2-31, 21:22 and 52, 2 Kings 3:3, 10:29-31, 13:2-11, 14:24, 15:9-28, 17:21-22, and 23:15. This extreme wickedness is the context. Enter two prophets.
The first is clearly sent by God from Judah, the kingdom under God’s covenant promise to David. He makes the short trek into Israel’s territory to Bethel (which, ironically, means “house of God” named by Jacob for his dream of the Lord’s angel’s descending and ascending on him in Genesis 28:10-22). The prophet of God obeys the Lord and predicts a disastrous judgment against the false altar. Jeroboam tries to flex his muscles and pointed at the prophet to be seized. God immediately withers his hand; at Jeroboam’s plea the prophet graciously heals him to show the Lord’s power and mercy and to prove his authority to speak such a judgment. And, again, per God’s command, the prophet of God doesn’t accept even bread or water from anyone and returns home by a different route.
The second was an older prophet from Bethel (which probably should’ve been a sign) who came to trick the first who, so far, had done all that God commanded. The older man claimed that God gave him a new revelation that contradicted the Lord’s original command. “And he said to him, “I also am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘Bring him back with you into your house that he may eat bread and drink water.’” But he lied to him. (1 Kings 13:18) Suddenly, God does speak to the older prophet and tells him to declare God’s judgment on the first for disobeying Him.
Soon after the first prophet leaves, a lion mauls him. And when the older prophet heard about it, he saddled his donkey and went to retrieve the body. When he gets there, the lion hasn’t eaten the man and pays no attention to the second prophet or his donkey. The beast just sits there by the donkey and the other prophet, all stayed by the sovereign hand of God. The formerly deceptive prophet grieves over the younger prophet and says to his sons, “When I die, bury me in the grave in which the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones. 32 For the saying that he called out by the word of the Lord against the altar in Bethel and against all the houses of the high places that are in the cities of Samaria shall surely come to pass.” (1 Kings 13:31-32)
It’s one of the strangest stories in the Bible. Yet, when we reflect on its context, some of the key messages about godly counsel are pretty clear.
- God is serious about His Word and His people who bring His Word to others. Whoever ignores or abuses either will face the Lord’s wrath.
- God’s consistent message is His call to be in covenant relationship of holiness and blessing with Him by His grace, and He powerfully delivers those who trust in Him – no matter who they are or what they’ve done.
- The Lord will only bless others who come to Him through His mediating Priest, Jesus. Therefore, when we counsel others, we must call them to faith and obedience to Christ.
- God’s people must warn the wayward. If the Lord will severely discipline His own prophets who do not fully obey His word, how much more will He judge unbelievers who stubbornly refuse to obey Him at all. (2 Peter 2:4-10)
- It’s not enough to start well in our counsel to others. If we start pointing to the Lord but later trust in others who contradict His Word, He will severely discipline us.
- But, just as the Lord is completely holy and to be feared, He is incredibly gracious and can even change the most wicked of deceivers hearts to become His godly counselor with a tender for God’s glory and His people.
- And the Lord is sovereign over all things to ensure that His people rest in His power, grace, and plan for His glory and their joy in Him. If He can put a ferocious lion, a stubborn donkey, and formerly deceptive prophet together in complete peace, He can guide, protect, and provide for you and me as we counsel others for Him.
If you’re interested in reading other posts from this series, “Satisfaction Sundays”, you can refer to the menu above. You can also click on the following links for Understanding and Applying the Bible, inductive Bible studies on Philippians, or devotional videos on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
Unless otherwise indicated, Jeff Dillard is the author of all posts in this blog, the goal of which is your greater joy in Christ through leadership and counseling. Jeff and his wife, Lauren, have been married since 1995. By God’s grace, they have four wonderful children and two grandchildren. Jeff was ordained by the Presbyterian Church in America and commissioned as an Army Chaplain in 1998. He has Master’s degrees in Divinity, History, and Counseling. Since 1998, he’s had the privilege of equipping and encouraging others’ faith and service to the Lord Jesus by leading congregations and counseling in multicultural settings across the United States. Seven of those years have been in Germany, Korea, and Iraq. For leisure, Jeff enjoys simple time with his family, exercise, playing guitar and trumpet, and trying foreign foods with friends.
Please note that the contents of tools4trenches do not necessarily reflect specific beliefs or practices of organizations in which Jeff works or worships.