Following Counsel

There is no better example of a people as a whole ignoring divine counsel than that of ancient Israel. The Lord predicted Israel’s rebellion, which was the direct result of their failure to heed divine counsel.

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Behold, the days approach when you must die; call Joshua, and present yourselves in the tabernacle of meeting, that I may inaugurate him.’ So Moses and Joshua went and presented themselves in the tabernacle of meeting. Now the Lord appeared at the tabernacle in a pillar of cloud, and the pillar of cloud stood above the door of the tabernacle. And the Lord said to Moses: ‘Behold, you will rest with your fathers; and this people will rise and play the harlot with the gods of the foreigners of the land, where they go to be among them, and they will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them. Then My anger shall be aroused against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide My face from them, and they shall be devoured. And many evils and troubles shall befall them, so that they will say in that day, “Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?” ’ ” Deuteronomy 31:14–17

Why was God not among them? Because they refused to heed His counsel.

Just before ascending Mt. Nebo where he was destined to die, Moses recounted the history of God’s people and made his final attempt to make them realize their true condition.

“Moses closed his last instructions to the people by a most powerful, prophetic address. It was pathetic and eloquent. By inspiration of God he blessed separately the tribes of Israel. In his closing words, he dwelt largely upon the majesty of God, and the excellency of Israel, which would ever continue if they would obey God, and take hold of His strength.” The Story of Redemption, 172

But as he was recounting the history of God’s people, he also noted, “For they are a nation void of counsel, nor is there any understanding in them.” Deuteronomy 32:28

We can presume from that description that those who have counsel from the Lord do indeed have understanding—when they obey that counsel. We can further assume that those who fail to heed counsel lack understanding.

It is evident from an analysis of Moses’ recounting that ancient Israel had lost its way. Considering that the “past is prologue,” we need to look at today’s situation within the church to see if history is repeating itself, and inquire: Is the Seventh-day Adventist church veering from the plainest counsel that the Lord has so lovingly supplied, just as ancient Israel did?

It can indeed be asserted that as a people, Seventh-day Adventists have disregarded explicit instructions provided by our Creator, just as the Israelites did more than 3,000 years ago.

Consider this: The Catholics are operating many Adventist medical institutions. Broad-road preachers are invited to speak in Adventist churches. For many years representatives of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists have not only attended ecumenical counsels, but actively participated in the ecumenical movement. There is little, if any, difference between the Adventist educational system and that of the world. The General Conference more than once has filed lawsuits against fellow believers.

In Deuteronomy 5:32, 33, after having reviewed the ten commandments with the Israelites, Moses concluded, “Therefore you shall be careful to do as the Lord your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. You shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you shall possess.”

In other words, “If you heed My counsel, it will be well with you.”

Then in Deuteronomy 6:5, Moses gives what has come to be known as the greatest commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”

Christ emphasized the significance of this commandment when a Pharisee questioned Him. “Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’ Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:35–40

We can assume that since the questioner was a lawyer, he was undoubtedly familiar with the law and knew the answer to his question before he asked. Clearly, he was “testing Jesus” to see if He was really who He claimed to be. Note, too, that the lawyer refused to acknowledge His divinity, addressing Him merely as “Teacher.”

Turning back to Deuteronomy 6, Moses repeats the counsel he had just given in chapter five: “You shall diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, His testimonies, and His statutes which He has commanded you.” Verse 17

This is advice that it would be well for Seventh-day Adventists to heed today, especially with regard to “His testimonies.”

This is a repeated fulfillment of the Lord’s prediction against ancient Israel found in Deuteronomy 31. How can God’s people expect to receive divine blessings if we refuse to heed divine counsel?

The book of Job provides some excellent examples of counsel heeded and counsel ignored. After a bit of badgering by his “miserable counselors,” Job expresses his faith in God: “With Him are wisdom and strength, He has counsel and understanding.” Job 12:13

After much back and forth between Job and those counselors, Elihu, who had remained silent while Zophar, Eliphaz, and Bildad had condemned Job, spoke extensively and somewhat eloquently on God’s justice, goodness, and omnipotence.

Then beginning in chapter 38, it seems that God had had enough of all the debate and self-justifications and turned directly to Job. “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said: ‘Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge?’ ” Job 38:1, 2

After a thorough grilling by God in a series of questions and statements that provide amazing insight into God’s character, “Then Job answered the Lord and said: ‘I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, “Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?” Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, “I will question you, and you shall answer Me.” I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes.’ ” Job 42:1–6

Thus ends one of the many lessons we can learn from Job’s experience.

We also learn from the book of Job that there is both good and bad counsel. This is made plain in the opening verse of the book of Psalms.

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful.” Psalm 1:1

A more contemporary way to state this verse might be “Blessed are those who don’t listen to bad or unrighteous advice, who disregard the efforts of the enemy of souls to lead them astray, and who do not engage in ridicule and mockery.”

It can be stated that all who expect to reside on the far side of the Jordan must reject bad advice, ignore Satan’s efforts to lead them astray, and must not engage in ridicule.

“I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel; my heart also instructs me in the night seasons.” Psalm 16:7

We bless the Lord by heeding His counsel, by doing exactly what Moses instructed the children of Israel to do in Deuteronomy 5 and 6.

“The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations.” Psalm 33:10, 11

The truth of this passage is very evident when we see all that is happening in the world today. In spite of the fact that there are regular, high-level meetings among the leading nations of the world to try to resolve one problem after another—poverty, homelessness, climate change, regional and global conflicts—time and events continue to careen onward toward the fulfillment of prophecy.

Look at David’s recap of the history of God’s people found in Psalm 106.

“Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your wonders; they did not remember the multitude of Your mercies, but rebelled by the sea—the Red Sea. Nevertheless He saved them for His name’s sake, that He might make His mighty power known.

“He rebuked the Red Sea also, and it dried up; so He led them through the depths, as through the wilderness. He saved them from the hand of him who hated them, and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy. The waters covered their enemies; there was not one of them left. Then they believed His words; they sang His praise.

“They soon forgot His works; they did not wait for His counsel [adhere to His advice], but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tested God in the desert. And He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul.” Verses 7–15

The remainder of the chapter tells us what occurred because of that failure.

So, we should ask ourselves if we are doing as ancient Israel did. Are we ignoring the counsel we are given in God’s word—whether it is in the Bible or in the testimonies so lovingly provided through God’s prophet to the remnant?

For example, we are told, “The effect of cheese is deleterious.” Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, 47

“Cheese should never be introduced into the stomach.” Testimonies, Vol. 2, 68

Cheese “is wholly unfit for food.” The Ministry of Healing, 302

Even with this decisive counsel regarding the perils of eating cheese, many Adventists persist. Note that cheese is one of the very few foods that counsel definitely and unequivocally says not to eat.

In 2003 and 2004, I attended a conference Adventist church for the first time. At one of the first fellowship meals, one of the members had brought a cheese pizza from a national pizza chain. Being familiar with the inspired counsel regarding cheese, I was surprised and mentioned to one of the members of the church what Sister White said about cheese. He was shocked and said he had never heard that before. This from a life-long Adventist!

A few months later, the church was assigned a new pastor. To introduce himself to the church board, he hosted an informal dinner for them. The main course was cheese pizza, again from a national chain. When the church leaders are ignoring the plainest counsel we are given, how can the church members be blamed if they do likewise? This is why we are to know and heed the counsel in God’s word, looking to it for guidance and not to our fellow man—even if that fellow man is the pastor!

Another example of counsel that is frequently ignored is contained in Sister White’s response to a letter she had received from someone who was struggling to overcome.

“I have just read your letter. You seem to have an earnest desire to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. I encourage you to do this. I counsel you to discard everything that would cause you to do halfway work in seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Put away every indulgence that would hinder you in the work of overcoming. Ask for the prayers of those who can comprehend your need of help.

“There was a time when I was in a situation similar in some respects to yours. I had indulged the desire for vinegar. But I resolved with the help of God to overcome this appetite. I fought the temptation, determined not to be mastered by this habit.

“For weeks I was very sick; but I kept saying over and over, The Lord knows all about it. If I die, I die; but I will not yield to this desire. The struggle continued, and I was sorely afflicted for many weeks. All thought that it was impossible for me to live. You may be sure we sought the Lord very earnestly. The most fervent prayers were offered for my recovery. I continued to resist the desire for vinegar, and at last I conquered. Now I have no inclination to taste anything of the kind. This experience has been of great value to me in many ways. I obtained a complete victory.” Counsels on Diet and Foods, 484, 485

During Sister White’s third visit to England in 1887, she made the following diary entry:

“I had presented much more upon general principles, but that did not set things right. The idea was so riveted in their minds that their own way was perfect, that the very ones who need to reform did not take hold of the matter at all. I was obliged to say decidedly, as did Nathan to David, ‘Thou art the man.’ It made a decided stir in the camp, I assure you. I told them that the preparation of their food was wrong, and that living principally on soups and coffee and bread was not health reform; that so much liquid taken into the stomach was not healthful, and that all who subsisted on such a diet placed a great tax upon the kidneys, and so much watery substance debilitated the stomach.

“I was thoroughly convinced that many in the establishment were suffering with indigestion because of eating this kind of food. The digestive organs were enfeebled, and the blood impoverished. Their breakfast consisted of coffee and bread with the addition of prune sauce. This was not healthful. The stomach, after rest and sleep, was better able to take care of a substantial meal than when wearied with work. Then the noon meal was generally soup, sometimes meat. The stomach is small, but the appetite, unsatisfied, partakes largely of this liquid food, so it is burdened.

“The salads are prepared with oil and vinegar, fermentation takes place in the stomach, and the food does not digest, but decays or putrefies. As a consequence the blood is not nourished, but becomes filled with impurities, and liver and kidney difficulty appear. Heart disturbances, inflammation, and many evils are the result of such kind of treatment, and not only are the bodies affected, but the morals, the religious life, are affected.

“I told them that unless they should change their diet, physical, mental, and moral degeneracy would surely be the result. Plain, good, substantial food must be given to our bodies, else there will be a poverty of the blood.” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 2, 143, 144

It can readily be acknowledged that these are hard sayings. Giving up cheese and anything and everything with vinegar in it—mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, salad dressing—indeed makes us peculiar people, but that is what God wants us to be, isn’t it?

There is a passage that speaks directly to the attitude of a person facing this decision. Speaking of new Christian converts, Inspiration says, “… But they faint beneath the fiery test of temptation. They cannot bear reproach for Christ’s sake. When the word of God points out some cherished sin, or requires self-denial or sacrifice, they are offended. It would cost them too much effort to make a radical change in their life. They look at the present inconvenience and trial, and forget the eternal realities. Like the disciples who left Jesus, they are ready to say, ‘This is an hard saying; who can hear it?’ John 6:60.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 47, 48

There is another hard saying that can be considered a clear example of the circumcision of the heart that Paul writes about in Romans 2:29: “But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.” This “heart circumcision” refers to the giving up of those things that you cherish in your heart that impede your Christian growth.

Matthew 10 begins with a census of the twelve apostles. Then beginning in verse 5, we have a record of Christ’s instructions to them as He sends them out to begin their work in the vineyard. He tells them to begin with the “lost sheep of the house of Israel.” He tells them to have faith that their needs will be supplied while engaging in this work. He warns them that they will experience persecution and to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. He encourages them that though they may experience threats, “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” Verse 28, first part

Then He states what may be considered one of the hardest sayings in all Scripture:

“ ‘Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to “set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law”; and “a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.” ’ ” Verses 34–36

If that isn’t hard enough to accept, He adds, “ ‘He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.’ ” Verse 37

This is indeed a hard saying. Making the decision that this counsel requires is a decision that is faced by anyone who is the lone Adventist in their family. Placing the love and requirements of God before the claims of family members is extremely trying and difficult. In fact, many find it impossible and make no concerted effort to do so, thereby perhaps losing eternity.

I’m sure that the apostle Paul loved his family as any husband and father would. Inspiration tells us that he was a member of the Sanhedrin. One of the qualifications for membership in that group was that any member had to be a family man—married with children. Yet, in all of his writings, Paul makes not a single mention of, nor the faintest allusion to, his family. He even went so far as to say to the Philippians, “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:8

How can that be? How can we have the joy that the Christian experience is to provide when we have given up those who are nearest and dearest?

The fact of the matter is that we cannot experience the joy of the Christian walk unless we fully claim the promises in God’s word, having faith that what He promises, He will deliver.

There are a couple of inspired passages that provide insight into how a Christian can successfully face life’s challenges and the demands of the Christian walk.

“Shortly before His crucifixion Christ bequeathed to His disciples a legacy of peace. … This peace is not the peace that comes through conformity with the world. It is an internal rather than an external peace. Without will be wars and fightings, through the opposition of avowed enemies, and the coldness and suspicion of those who claim to be friends. The peace of Christ is not to banish division, but it is to remain amid strife and division. …

“The peace that Christ gave to His disciples, and for which we pray, is the peace that is born of truth, a peace that is not to be quenched because of division. Without may be wars and fightings, jealousies, envies, hatred, strife; but the peace of Christ is not that which the world giveth or taketh away.” Our High Calling, 328

“Sanctification, unity, peace—all are to be ours through the truth. The belief of the truth does not make men gloomy and uncomfortable. If you have peace in Christ, His precious blood is speaking pardon and hope to your soul. Yes, more, you have joy in the Holy Spirit, through accepting the precious promises. Jesus says, ‘In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.’ John 16:33. Therefore the world shall not overcome you if you believe in Me. It is a world that I have conquered. Because I have overcome, if you believe in Me, you shall overcome. …

“All that Jesus has promised, He will fulfill; and it is greatly dishonoring to Him for us to doubt Him. All His words are spirit and life. Accepted and obeyed, they will give peace and happiness and assurance forever. … Christ declares that He has given us peace; it belongs to us. And He has spoken these things, that in Him we may have that which through infinite sacrifice He had purchased for us—what He holds as ours. This peace we need not seek in the world, for the world has it not to bestow. It is in Christ. He will give it, in spite of the world, notwithstanding its threats and decrees, its alluring, deceiving promises.” Ibid., 329

“All that Jesus has promised, He will fulfill.” He will wipe away all tears, including those we shed when we “suffer the loss of all things and count them as rubbish,” even when “all things” include our loved ones.

“The compassionate Saviour, who treated with tenderness the very chief of sinners, who never spurned true meekness and penitence, however great the guilt, uttered the most scathing denunciations against those who did not appreciate the light from heaven; who neither walked in the light themselves, nor extended its cheering influence to those in darkness. Will He be better pleased with us if we neglect our heaven-sent blessings and responsibilities?” The Youth’s Instructor, September 24, 1896

“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.” Matthew 19:29

John R. Pearson is the office manager and a board member of Steps to Life. He may be contacted by email at: