Holding my speed, two miles per hour is appropriate for passing a moored boat. Doing everything right as far as I can tell. The bridge ahead is flanked by trees and the shade of the evening light casts darkness beyond the bridge’s far side, but I can see well enough to know there are no boats coming the other way. I am doing it right, and cruising unawares into certain humiliation, if not outright disaster.
How many times can we be set on our course, casually confident that our own way ahead is the right one, unaware of the bigger picture: destined for a fall. It happened to David when he set his eyes on Bathsheba. It happened to Peter when he visited Antioch, and gave in to peer pressure from the Jews (Galatians 2:11-14). In fact, poor Peter has an entire catalogue of moments when he thought he was right, spoke up or squared up, and had to be set straight.
Proverbs 15 verses 31 and 32 teach us that “He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise,” while “He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.” In other words, listening to sound advice – even if it’s hard advice – is the hallmark of wisdom, not of weakness. David was fortunate to have Nathan, a man who was able to reveal to the king the bigger picture of his sinful infatuation with another man’s wife. Peter was fortunate to be challenged on his hypocrisy by Paul at Antioch (and of course several times by the Lord Himself). The wise response to good advice is to listen and consider carefully whether you are blinkered or blinded in your approach. No-one sees the full picture all of the time, so it’s good to get a better perspective and avoid making a foolish mistake.
One classic example of a stubborn refusal to listen to sound advice follows on from David’s reign, as his grandson Rehoboam makes moves to establish himself as a strong king (2 Chronicles 10:1-11). Bear in mind that Rehoboam’s father Solomon had been invested with extraordinary wisdom by God (1 Kings 4:29-31), and Solomon’s elders and counsellors were there at the young heir’s side. Rehoboam apparently believed that their hard-won wisdom could be overridden and overruled. Ignoring the voice of experience, which lobbied to lighten the load of the population, he chose instead to follow the naïve counsel of his young friends. His move split the kingdom, which would never again be united under a Davidic king until Christ’s return. This one brash, ignorant decision changed the course of Israel’s history. Pay attention to the voice of experience, look for the other perspective, and don’t be so arrogant as to think you can see all the consequences of your actions.
My “Nathan” turned out to be called Ernie. Even though I was doing everything right in my own mind, Ernie knew what I couldn’t see. That mossy-leafy darkness beyond the bridge was in fact a tall, shaded lock-gate, not a shady bank of trees! Ernie waved me down; we stopped short of an embarrassing collision, and we made some new friends in the process. Ernie and Sandra live year-round as missionaries to boaters on their own boat the “Maranatha.” Thanks for the timely warning Ernie, and thanks for the tea.