For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in multitude of counsellors there is safety.
War is serious! Losing has enormous consequences; even victory can cost too much. Anger, fear, pride, public opinion, and revenge all combine to make decisions difficult. Solomon warned his son that such decisions must have wise counsel, and lots of it. Here is a rule for prudent men, who want to advance in the sight of God and men (Pr 24:5).
The book of Proverbs was written by Solomon “to give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion” (Pr 1:4). God inspired Scripture and gave it to His children to make them wise in the earth (Deut 4:6). If you want to avoid the pitfalls of life, achieve a high level of success, and be honored by others for wisdom, obey this rule.
Young men are impulsive and headstrong. Though only removed from diapers and rattles by a few years, they believe they know a lot and want to fight. Youth assumes invincibility. Rehoboam, Solomon’s son who should have known this proverb, followed the advice of young friends and lost ten of the twelve tribes of Israel (I Kgs 12:1-19).
Young men are impulsive and headstrong. Though only removed from diapers and rattles by a few years, they feel invincible and want to fight. Old wise men know better. Consider the Japanese Imperial Navy’s conflict among admirals and fleet commanders before and after Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Midway. Young officers wanted to wage a hopeless war with America, while the older men knew better. Wise counsel is strength!
There are two parts to this proverb – wise counsel, and lots of it. Not just any advice will do. You must use wise men, which means you consult cautious, experienced, grave, successful, and God-fearing older men. It is not prudent to ask aggressive, ambitious, and foolish young friends. Their thoughts are worthless on any subject. Go to the men you are afraid will nix your plans. Shame on you for already knowing you are wrong.
And asking just one or two wise men is not enough. The proverb teaches that wisdom is in a multitude of counselors. By taking the time to hear many sober opinions and weighing them carefully, young men would be saved from foolish and hurtful decisions. The delaying effect and combined wisdom raise the probabilities of success very high.
Why is the rule hard to follow? Pride keeps man from humbling himself to the criticism of others. Impulsive haste resents any delay for what the heart desires. Ambition seeks all the glory for itself by making solitary decisions. Rebellion and stubbornness choose to do their own thing anyway. Emotion creates passionate zeal for a thing whether it is valid or not. These obstacles to seeking counsel are the marks of fools. Despise and reject them!
What decisions deserve wise and numerous counselors? Most men do not make decisions about war. But there are other life-altering decisions like a wife, a career, a specific job, a church, a promotion, a house, an investment, a business, a friend, a move, a problem with a child, a problem with health, and so forth. Do you seek wise counsel from many?
Many men wish someone had stopped them from marrying an odious woman (Pr 30:21-23; Eccl 7:26). How did they make their decision to marry? Did they objectively and unemotionally ask a number of wise married men about the character of their prospect and her family? Not a chance! Her fluttering eyelids, smooth words, and young body were too much. They went down like sheep to the slaughter for fifty years of marital hell.
The greatest wisdom from numerous counselors is found in the Bible, which contains the writings of about 40 men inspired by the Spirit of God. It is the crucible to which every decision should be brought to test it by the hammer and fire of Holy Scripture (Jer 23:29). Let every man tremble before the Word of God, esteem all its precepts to be right on every subject, and hate any contrary opinion, even if it is his own (Is 66:2; Ps 119:128).