Charismatic Characters: The Advisor

“My son, keep your father’s commands and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Bind them upon your heart forever; fasten them around your neck. When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you. For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light.” (Proverbs 6: 20-23)

King Arthur would probably still be trying to fit his knights around a square table without Merlin. Harry Potter would still be languishing with the Muggles without Dumbledore. Luke Skywalker would still be trying to turn on his light saber without Obiwon and Yoda. We need wise counselors to advise us in life and biblical characters are no exception.

The Patriarchs of Genesis and Exodus had a direct divine connection to help them through. God appeared to Abraham many times to establish the covenant of blessing to the Hebrew people and then reconfirmed that covenant with Jacob, Joseph, and Moses. Moses in particular would go to God for counseling sessions as he tried to control an unruly group of ungrateful followers through the wilderness. God provided a detailed set of both ceremonial and ethical laws and the means for carrying them out. In the Kingdom period of Israel, advisors like Samuel, Nathan, and Isaiah counseled kings, often with tough love (we’re crossing over to the Prophet role here, but boundaries are fluid: we all play multiple roles in life.)

The Old Testament figure I want to focus on, though, is Solomon. Much of what we call the “Wisdom Literature” of the Bible is directly or indirectly attributed to him: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and some Psalms. Even if he himself didn’t write every word, it is the inspiration of the Wise Man that comes through these books, which function as an advice column to us even today. Proverbs is full of admonitions about the proper use of money, the control of the tongue and sex drive, the treatment of the poor, and the importance of a peer group. Ecclesiastes warns us not to hold on the things of this world too closely since they all pass away. Though not of Solomonic origins, the wisdom book of Job deals with undeserved suffering. As God reminds Job when God finally appears, “I’m God and you’re not.” The common strands of Old Testament wisdom are timeless: Humans are mortal and fragile and our happiness lies in worshipping God and treating our fellow humans decently. Good advisors remind us of these truths constantly.

New Testament Advisors include Barnabas, who takes the newly converted Paul under his wing, introduces him to the Jerusalem elders, and accompanies him on his early missionary journeys. Paul himself becomes the great Advisor to the Church through his letters to the early congregations that we still read with profit today. From great theological treatises such as Romans to the specifics of getting along as a community, Paul is full of good advice.

The New Testament Adviser that might not come to mind is Elizabeth, Mary’s older relative and mother of John the Baptist. We have to infer a bit here, but Luke tells us that after the Annunciation, Mary “went with haste” to visit Elizabeth. Here was a young girl with an unexpected (and socially unacceptable) pregnancy. How valuable would the counsel of an older relative be? And, sure enough, Elizabeth, inspired by the Holy Spirit, confirms the angel’s message that Mary was to be the bearer of the Messiah. That kind of affirmation must have been just what Mary needed.

How lost would Dante have been without his guide, Virgil? The colonists without Ben Franklin?! And how hard would life be for us without our parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, and the wisdom of the Bible? Advisors give us the encouragement, perspective, direction, and correction we need on our paths.

Prayer: Dear God, our greatest Advisor: Help us to be grateful for all the people who have poured their wisdom into our lives. Help us to provide counsel when asked or needed with words inspired by the great Advisors of scripture.

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