Good Advice or Bad Advice?

Bible Reading: 1 Kings 12; 13:1-32; 2 Chronicles 11:13-17

Today's reading has several stories of people following bad advice.

After Solomon's son, Rehoboam, took the throne, he consulted his father's advisors, who encouraged him to be a servant to his people. He didn't like their advice, however, so he turned to his peers. Following their bad counsel, which must have appealed to his sense of pride and power, Rehoboam declared that he would rule his kingdom with an iron fist. The resulting rebellion divided the kingdom in two and Jeroboam was crowned as his rival king.

God had told Jeroboam, through the prophet Ahijah, that if he would do what was right in the eyes of God, he would build for him a dynasty as enduring as David's (1K 11:38). Despite God's promise, Jeroboam became worried that the people might return their allegiance to Rehoboam if they went to Jerusalem to worship. So "after seeking advice" (1K 12:28), he made two golden calves for the people to worship, built shrines on the hills and instituted festivals for idol worship. The Bible doesn't tell us who he sought advice from, but it was clearly contradictory to God's counsel.

The next story is rather bizarre. A "man of God" was returning home after declaring judgment against the altar to the golden calf that Jeroboam had built at Bethel. An "old prophet" chased after him and invited him to his home. The man turned down the invitation, explaining that the Lord had specifically told him, "You must not eat bread or drink water there or return by the way you came" (1K 13:17). The old prophet then deliberately lied to him, saying that an angel had told him to bring him home and feed him. Without even consulting the Lord for clarification, the man of God returned to Bethel with the prophet, ate and drank with him, and then went on his way again. Because he "defied the word of the Lord" (13:21), believing the word of the prophet over the word of God himself, he was met and killed by a lion on the road. Why the prophet lied and why God's judgment was so severe, I do not know. The man's instruction from the Lord, however, was very specific and was clearly disobeyed.

How can we discern between good and bad advice? Do we listen objectively to challenging views or do we seek only opinions that agree with our own? Is our goal to broaden our perspective or to rally support? Do we disregard advice that clearly contradicts the Bible or are we looking for ways to rationalize our sin? Do we seek the Lord's advice through prayer and Bible study and wait for him to speak to our hearts or do we talk to everyone else to try to figure out what God might want to say to us? Can we assume that the advice of pastors, teachers and "old prophets" comes from God? Should we trust their advice above the moving of the Spirit in our own hearts?

We are wise to seek counsel from reliable sources and to consider the spiritual maturity and discernment of our advisers. "Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise" (Pr. 19:20; cf. Pr. 12:5; 12:15; 13:10). "Make plans by seeking advice" (Pr. 20:18; cf. Pr. 11:14; 15:22; 24:5-6). "The advice of the wicked is deceitful" (Pr. 12:5; cf. Ps. 1:1; Is. 47:13). "The pleasantness of one's friend springs from his earnest counsel" (Pr. 27:9).

While the advice of friends and counselors can be helpful, we must "first seek the counsel of the Lord" (2 Chron. 18:4). Jesus is the "Wonderful Counselor" (Is. 9:6); his spirit lives within us if we have received him into our hearts. "The Counselor, the Holy Spirit... will teach you all things" and "guide you into all truth" (Jn. 14:26; 16:13). If we will quiet our hearts before him and ask him to reveal his wisdom, he will lead us with his counsel and help us accurately evaluate the advice we receive.