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Proverbs 20:18

“Plans are established by counsel; by wise guidance wage war.”

June 6, 1944, was one of the most important days in the twentieth century, indeed, in world history. On that day, known more famously as D-Day, the Allied forces began their invasion of Normandy with the aim of liberating France from Nazi occupation and defeating Adolf Hitler. More than 160,000 troops landed on the beaches of Normandy, suffering heavy losses. In the end, the invasion proved successful. The Allies were able to establish a foothold in Western Europe from which they proceeded to eventually defeat the Axis powers and achieve victory in World War II.

The invasion, which the Allies long anticipated even before plans for it began, was the result of months and months of careful deliberation. Top strategists from the various countries that made up the Allies were consulted, intelligence was gathered, supplies were procured—in sum, it took much counsel in order to plan and execute the successful invasion.

Those who know their military history understand that great victories on the battlefield have always been preceded by plans formed through much counsel. This demonstrates the wisdom of the biblical proverb that we have chosen for today’s study. Proverbs 20:18 tells us that “plans are established by counsel” before expanding on the thought by commanding people to wage war “by wise guidance.” Since in the ancient Near East it was primarily the king who waged war (Gen. 14:1–12), the proverb is borrowing royal imagery and applying it to disciples who read the instruction of the book. Since the book of Proverbs was composed originally as lessons from wise parents to their son (Prov. 1:8), we know that we are not to take the royal imagery too literally. That is to say, while the proverb definitely applies to kings and the waging of military battles, that application does not exhaust the text. It is meant to be applied to a wide variety of leaders who will face a variety of different conflicts. In the midst of great struggles, leaders must not go it alone. This is true whether the leaders are business owners, clergy, government officials, managers, or even parents. Wise leaders will always seek the counsel of others.

Certainly, Proverbs 20:18 does not exhort us to heed just any counsel. Wise, godly counsel that is grounded in the fear of the Lord is what should guide us (1:7). Consequently, we must take great care in choosing our counselors and mentors. Wise, godly counsel will lead to great success, but foolish, ungodly counsel will lead finally to defeat.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

There are few decisions in life that are more important than one’s selection of mentors, friends, and advisers. Having the right people around them make otherwise average leaders into great ones. Even if we never become leaders ourselves, godly and wise friends are invaluable for helping us become successful parents, employees, and laypeople. Let us take care in choosing the company we keep, and may we always heed wise, godly advice.

For Further Study
  • 1 Kings 12:1–24
  • Psalm 107:10–11
  • Proverbs 12:5
  • Acts 12:20–24

Timely Payment of Vows

Praying for the King

Keep Reading Doctrine for All of Life

From the May 2015 Issue
May 2015 Issue