ELDER NEIL PHELAN JR.
"THY TESTIMONIES ALSO ARE MY DELIGHT AND MY COUNSELLORS."
When was the last time you considered the word of God to be your "counsellor"? According to the language of the Psalmist the scriptures were not only his counsellors but they were also his delight. Scriptures reveal to us the mind of God and His will for us in our lives. The word "testimonies" literally means "advice, plan, purpose and consult." What beautiful language to describe the Bible! The Bible gives us advice, it contains a plan to live by, it unfolds our purpose in life and is constantly there to consult for information to live and die by. The word of God counsels the spiritual mind. Not only does the Bible counsel and guide us in this life but it is also a perpetual record of the promises of God and His plan and purpose to rescue the Elect. These are indeed reasons to delight in the scriptures. God's children can be burdened and led by His spirit that dwells within but we must not forget the importance of the written word to test these feelings. Many times our personal feelings can lead us astray and for this very reason John admonishes us to "try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world." -IJohn 4:1b. "Try" means to test or examine; test every thought; examine every idea; test every suggestion; examine every principle; test every philosophy. How can we test and examine the many winds of philosophy and doctrine that blow around us? By the "counsel of God". Our feelings should be adjusted to agree with God and His word regardless of the subject material. When we read God's word we are consulting God for direction and guidance in this life. God counsels us by His word.
Why does the Psalmist place such heavy weight upon the "testimonies" of God and consider them as his counsellors? Because they are the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. When we want our cars repaired we want the truth immediately. We want a mechanic that can be trusted and one that knows what he is doing. Even though at first we may not want to know the truth of the problem nor the cost of the solution to repair it, ultimately that is what we are after. When we select a doctor we want one with knowledge of the human body. Who knows more about the vessel of clay than the very potter who first spun it on the wheel? Who knows more about soul-ology than He who created the soul. Yes, if we want accurate and truthful information on living and existing in this life there is no better information available to mankind than the "testimonies" of God "Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counsellors."
Worldly counsel and advice are easy to obtain. Every-one has an opinion or some piece of advice to give out. Advice is cheap! As a matter of fact, our lives are full of cheap advice and opinions. It is becoming more and more difficult to avoid it! We get it from the radio, the television set, magazines, newspapers, through songs, stories, news reports and it is surprising to notice how readily people receive it without questioning its accuracy but "Every purpose is established by counsel: and with good advice make war."-Prov 20:18. All advice, opinions and counsel should be examined under the light of God's word; "try the Spirits". If the information is in harmony with the word of God it is profitable and good; if it contradicts the word of God it is clearly dangerous.
There is a lot of dangerous counsel in the world today. Satan is implementing areas that are very difficult to define. It seems that parents must closely scrutinize every piece of material that comes before their children for fear of ungodly principles being set forth in their minds. There is a war raging about every one of us today and whether we want to recognize it or not we are engaged in it. There is a war against the home, against our children, against the family unit, against marriage, against God in our government, and against every principle of truth that is found within the word of God. Most of this war is fought with words, ideas, philosophy and counsel, after all, the mind is the gateway to the soul. One subtle suggestion can change one's whole course of life. The power of suggestion (evil counsel) is one of Satan's most powerful weapons and he knows it. This is exactly the strategy he used on Eve in the garden. The suggestion was made (evil counsel), Eve entertained the idea and then acted upon it. Ungodly thoughts and ideas are suggested to God's children every day but "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly"- Psalms 1:1a.
How is the child of God supposed to fight in such a battle? "For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in the multitude of counsellors there is safety." -Prov 24:6. Yes my beloved, we have a dictate from our commander in chief to wage our battle with "wise counsel" and the more of them we know (multitude of counsellors) there is the greatest safety. Where are these multitude of counsellors? "Thy testimonies are my counsellors". Again, the word of God is the answer. Powerful information is at the fingertips of every child or God who possesses a Bible. This is a most dangerous weapon! The written word of God is referred to by the Apostle Paul as the "sword of the Spirit". Eph 6:17b. A child of God that lives apart from the word of God lives without a sword. I believe that we are living in a day in which many of God's people have forgotten the magnificent power of the word of God, the testimonies of God.
One of the reasons the psalmist found them to be his delight is because there is great freedom found in truth "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."-John 8:31b-32. Even though the truth may be painful at first, it is the "strait gate" to spiritual freedom because "strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." That is why the Psalmist spoke of them as his "delight". Everyone is delighted with freedom. These "testimonies" set God's people free from the pernicious ways of Satan. How easy it is for God's children to be captive to Satan in one or more concepts of life. Life is full of ideas, concepts, beliefs and attitudes.
Where else should a darkened world look to find truth and wisdom but "in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."- I Tim 3:15b. Isaiah prophesied of the church in the gospel dispensation as a "city of righteousness" where God's children could find counsel whether in a mixed multitude or reasoning one on one "and I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city."- Isaiah 1:26. John Gill, a learned Biblical scholar of the Baptist denomination, 1697-1771, commented upon the "counsellors" in this text, recognizing them to be the gospel ministers of the New Testament dispensation: "the apostles at Jerusalem gave advice and counsel in matters of difficulty, and were consulted on special occasions, of which there is an instance in Acts 15, and ordinary ministers of the word are qualified, and especially will be in the latter day, to give advice both to sensible sinners, inquiring the way of salvation, and to saints when under desertion, and have lost their beloved, or have any matters of difficulty upon them, whether with respect to faith or practice."-Gill. The word "counsellors" as found in Isaiah 1:26 means "to advise, consult, counsel and guide". Is this not indicative of an under shepherd, to guide the sheep, and if necessary, leave the ninety and nine to find and minister to the one.
Paul referred to preachers as "stewards of the mysteries of God". The overseers of the word of God would be qualified to put these testimonies to their proper use but it needs to be remembered the power is not in the man but in the God the man represents. God honors His word and the mind and heart that receives and obeys God's testimonies receives the promise "And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him."-Acts 5:32. The Holy Ghost, the comforter, is given to those who are receptive and obedient to God's counsel. It is not the man's counsel, but God's.
Using God's testimonies for counsel has a broad scope of application. Fathers are to bring their children up in the "nurture and admonition of the Lord". I look at this as teaching my children the testimonies of God. I am literally counselling them from God's word. The word "admonition" means "calling attention to". Parents are to call their children's attention to the Word of God, to God's testimonies, to God's counsel. It is not dad's philosophy, but rather God's. As Gill mentioned, counsel from God's word is most effective for a child of God who has strayed from the paths of righteousness and lost their "beloved". It is not only appropriate for dealing with sin in our lives but also for dealing with sorrows and heartaches not necessarily a result of personal sin. God's testimonies counsel our every facet of life; relationship between husbands and wives; children and parents; employers and employees; pastor and flock; man towards his fellow man; and man's proper relationship with God. There is great delight, joy and peace found within the word of God. We can all receive counsel from God by personally reading God's word or we can be directed to particular areas of scripture by another for "Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel."- Prov. 27:9. A wonderful test for us all is to examine our own hearts and determine whether we are alive to the joy that is found within the reading and study of God's word. How submissive are we to God's counsel? How eager are we to change our lives to conform to the plan that God has revealed to us in his word? How serious are we at leading sinners to Jesus by the power of the word?