One of the most important aspects in receiving the guidance offered by another is taking ownership of the decision to act, or to seek another course of action.
Some attempt to fabricate a scenario in order to get the advice they desired in the first place, but needed the “go ahead” from another to relieve them of responsibility.
Others simply run with the first piece of advice thrown at them. In either case, whether it is poor advice or good advice, one cannot escape personal responsibility for the course taken. Here we conclude our series.
Good Counsel Taken
(A) Naomi and Ruth
One of the tenderest moments in Old Testament history is the relationship between Naomi and Ruth. After being widowed in the land of Moab, she gave her sons into marriage only to lose them over the course of a decade (Ruth 1.1-5). The only daughter-in-law to remain with Naomi is Ruth, and she joins Naomi on her return to Israelite land (1.6-22).
Being a stranger in another culture is difficult, but thankfully for Ruth she was blessed by a kind man (Boaz) who knew her story. Boaz cautioned her to stay on his land and among his servants and the young women.
When she returns to Naomi’s abode, Naomi reinforces Boaz’s counsel so that she is not assaulted by men in another field (2.22).
Naomi then counsels her to remarry with Boaz – a “redeemer” (2.20; 3.1-17). A redeemer is “one who frees or delivers another from difficulty, danger, or bondage”. And Naomi provides the love, direction, and mentorship to give Ruth a chance at a good life with Boaz after enduring all the hardship of being a widow.
While Boaz works out the details with the extended family of Naomi’s husband, Ruth returns home and explains the situation to her. In a mark of wisdom, Naomi tells Ruth:
Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest but will settle the matter today. (Ruth 3.18 ESV)
The outcome was a marriage that would be central to the lineage of King David (Ruth 4.13-22), and ultimately the ancestral beginnings of Jesus (Matt 1.5-6, 16).
(B) Mordecai and Esther
When Esther replaces Vashti as queen of Persia, in the days of King Ahasuerus her relationship with her cousin Mordecai results in the protection of the Jewish population in exile.
A plot had emerged to genocide the Jewish population of the Persian Empire orchestrated by Haman. When Mordecai becomes aware of the plot, he impresses upon Esther with counsel to go to the king to stop it:
And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this? (Esth 4.14b)
The results where an intercession so dramatic that Haman’s plot is foiled, he is punished by death, the Jews are delivered, and the Feast of Purim is inaugurated to honor this great event (Esth 5.1-9.32).
(C) Samuel and Eli
In those transitional years when Israel settled into the land of Canaan, the Lord raised “judges” to deliver the people from oppression and led them to faithfulness. The last of the judges is the prophet Samuel. His beginnings are miraculous (1 Sam 1-2).
When he was a very young boy, Samuel’s mother Hannah lends him to the Lord’s service for the entirety of his life (2.21-28). Samuel is placed into the care of the high priest Eli.
When Samuel grows to be “young man” he is found serving under Eli. On one occasion, when Samuel was sleeping “the Lord called Samuel” (3.4); it was during a unique time when “the word of the Lord was rare” and there “was no frequent vision” (3.1b). Consequently, Samuel – and Eli – did not understand what was happening when the Lord began to call Samuel for service.
Samuel initially arose from bed and presented himself before Eli, “Here I am”. Three times it occurred, twice Eli responded, “I did not call; lie down” (3.4-7). On the third time, Eli “perceived” that Samuel was being called by the Lord (3.8).
Eli counsels Samuel on how to respond to the Lord’s call (3.9): “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears” (ESV). That one moment of guidance set the groundwork for one of the greatest prophets of biblical history. Samuel led Israel faithfully, set up kings (Saul and David) and deposed another (Saul).
Where would we be without mothers who guided our futures by their powerful faith? How would we make those important life-changing decisions without the passionate pleas from our friends? Or, how would we see the Lord calling us to do great things for Him if not by trusting in the wisdom of a good friend?
“No man is an island”; neither are our decisions. “What would “_” have done” has helped us on many occasions. Let us apply wisdom prayerfully, in the end it is all on us.
- Ronald F. Youngblood. Editor. “Redeemer.” Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, Tenn.: Nelson, 1995), 1073.