A Tale of Two Paths and a Case for Biblical Counsel
Author: Margaret Ashmore
“They heal the brokenness of the daughter of My people superficially, saying, 'Peace, peace,' But there is no peace.” Jeremiah 8:11
Psalm 1 is the gateway to the whole of the Psalms. 5th century theologian St. Gerome called this the “psalm of psalms and the Christian handbook on the whole of the bible.” In light of its clear and life altering implications the simplicity is striking. In a few short verses the
reader will learn more about obtaining a deep-seated contentment and joy than all the philosophies, all the worldly promises of wealth and power, all the pleasure and amusement the world has to offer – and its going to do so by telling us three things not to do and one thing to do. (I will add that the following are all under the auspices of counseling.)
“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked nor stand in the path of sinners nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord and in His law he meditates day and night.”
The first thing not to do? Don’t listen to those who have no light to govern. Secondly, don’t even consider going their direction because the beguiling nature of counsel without a call to personal responsibility will become so captivating, you’ll end up in that third and final digression of sitting with scoffers, those who have decided they are smarter than God. The one thing to do? Open the bible and ponder with rapturous delight the words of the Living God Whose light will reach the deepest pits of depression, give direction in the midst of profound confusion and Whose sovereign grace will grant solace for a broken heart as well as a balm to heal it.
In the Hebrew language, order means something in that the first statement is the most potent and formidable in the text. In the Beatitudes, the opening (and literal) exclamation is, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” without which, none of the blessedness found in the following Beatitudes is possible. There, humility is the keynote of the passage and from it flows a river of God’s blessing. Similarly, this Psalm’s opening is the single most important and cogent salvo: “How blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked.” Were one to spiritually appraise and heed this verse, its defense against a crafty enemy, its fortress against a bewitching world system, indeed seeing it as the Maginot Line between a blessed life and one heading to destruction, that “man”, that individual would not have to redress the consequences of turning his back on the Wonderful Counselor for the sensual wisdom of this world. They would stand at the crossroads of life with one sign pointing to Life and the other Death then like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress cry out, “Life, Life!” never needing the wrecking ball of discipline God in His ever redemptive and pursuing love might use to break a scoffer’s hardened heart.
Walk: A Hebrew word for “direction” used 1,550 times in the OT alone because God knows the path we take determines the entire destiny of our lives. Counsel: Means “to influence and convince”. “Wicked” is a legal term meaning, “those who have been officially pronounced guilty.” And of those guilty, Psalm 5:9 says there is nothing reliable in what they have to say. So, what is the glaring alarm, the flashing red light from a loving God to protect His people? Don’t guide your life by those who are lost! The Greek word for a false teacher is planeros, where we get our word for planet, a wanderer without a fixed point and those who follow them will wander into humanistic darkness.
For the deeper answers to life, marriage, raising children, handling conflict, obtaining real hope in despair, discovering light in the midst of depression, having an immoveable anchor in the gales of life, finding relief from the debilitating effects of guilt and shame as well as the remedy for soul destroying anger and bitterness – and ultimately to have the greatest fear, that of death, assuaged by the cross of Jesus Christ – I will be guided by the North Star of God’s Word and the counsel of His people. I am not going to listen to what the newest crop of experts are publicizing, what a liberal college is pontificating or what some talk show is postulating. Amen to John Piper when he says, “God, turn ten thousand women from Oprah to Esther with five magnificent words: “If I perish I perish.’”
Indeed, the godly man or woman determines not to let the principles that govern the ungodly, govern them. Colossians 2:8-9, “Beware, lest anyone cheat you (of a blessed life!) through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells the fullness of the Godhead.” In HIM! And in Him alone.
Please note what we do not read; “He does not walk in the error or folly of the wicked rather the counsel of the wicked. John Calvin comments, “The Psalmist begins with COUNSEL, by which term I understand the wickedness which does not as yet show itself openly.” If when we are seeking help a counselor says to us, “Now I just want to say up front that what I am going to tell you is based on Freud’s “ethic of non-responsibility” which means we won’t deal with your heart’s pain, we’ll just blame everyone else for it, and oh, by the way, it will just be a temporary band-aid but won’t offer any real healing” – we would know it was the wrong path! That’s why the gateway to the Psalms opens with, “be careful of COUNSEL!” The psalmist is admonishing us to guard with all diligence against what appears to be right in that not all counsel is good counsel! (Did I put in enough exclamation marks to make my point?)
C.S. Lewis said, “There is no neutrality in the universe. Every square inch and every split second is claimed by God and counter-claimed by Satan.” In counseling, when hurting, broken and confused individuals are standing at the nexus of two paths, the bible offers a narrow one and sometimes rough but it leads to restoration and hope. The only other path is a wide one, “smoothed by millions of feet”. It offers neither.
Yes, the handbook on the whole of the bible.
“And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.” Mark 5:25-29
Posted on September 1, 2013