Sounds like: yah’atz, etzah
It seems like this world is full of counsellors… people trying to give advice. There are infomercials advising us to buy the right products, gossips advising us not to be like “that person”, well intentioned friends advising us to add a certain vitamin to our daily routine or to avoid a certain food, magazines offering relationship advice, banks offering financial advice… It seems like everyone has advise to give, but not as many people want to receive advice. To take counsel from someone means putting your trust in them, and its up to us to be careful with the advice we are given. Some counsel given by friends and family is great advice… but we also regularly receive terrible counsel.
YHWH, the Great Counsellor
The only counsel that we should consider 100% reliable is the counsel give to us by the Creator who genuinely cares for His creation. In the Bible YHWH is the Great reliable Counsellor. Jeremiah described YHWH as “great in counsel [gadol ha-etsah] and mighty in deed” (Jeremiah 32:19).
Job also saw that YHWH was the embodiment of good counsel:
“With Him [YHWH] are wisdom and might; to Him belong counsel [etsah] and understanding.”
YHWH was the epitome of wisdom; He was the epitome of might; He was the epitome of understanding; and he was the epitome of good counsel. And because God was eternal and unchanging, so was the counsel that He gave:
Let all the earth fear YHWH; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.
YHWH nullifies the counsel of the nations [a’tsat goyim]; He frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of YHWH [a’tsat YHWH] stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation.
As the One Eternal God who never changed, whatever counsel He gave stood as it was, always and the same. God’s counsel was unchangeable, immoveable, unshakeable.
Listen to counsel [sh’ma etsah] and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days. Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the counsel of YHWH [wa-a’tsat YHWH] will stand.
YHWH didn’t just give random, blanket, advice. He watched and lovingly customized his counsel for each person:
[YHWH:] I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you [ee-a’tsah] with My eye upon you. Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check, otherwise they will not come near to you.
Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but he who trusts in YHWH, lovingkindness shall surround him. Be glad in YHWH and rejoice, you righteous ones; and shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart.
Who Counsels YHWH?
YHWH gave good counsel, but there were many who did not. When Job wondered why his life was filled with so much suffering, his friends took it upon themselves to tell Job exactly what his problem was. Most of their advice was wildly misguided. Eventually Job had had enough and he verbally lashed out at his friends:
Then Job responded, “What a help you are to the weak! How you have saved the arm without strength! What counsel [ya’ats’ta] you have given to one without wisdom! What helpful insight you have abundantly provided! To whom have you uttered words? And whose spirit was expressed through you?”
Job was quite snippy with them, and sarcastically pointed out how unhelpful they had been. But then YHWH turned the tables onto Job and, with sarcasm, pointed out how weak his own counselling was. Do you think you’re so superior? Well then, how about you instruct Me!
Then YHWH answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, “Who is this that darkens counsel [etsah] by words without knowledge?
Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you instruct Me!
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding, who set its measurements? Since you know. Or who stretched the line on it? On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
Job very quickly realized that his error and he humbled himself in the presence of God:
Then Job answered YHWH and said, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge [etsah b’li da’at]?’
Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me. I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You; therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes.”
Giving counsel without knowledge is a dangerous thing, and yet we do it all the time. In fact, we sometimes tell God how we think things should be done.
Why don’t You consider stopping this pandemic, God?
Perhaps you should just wipe out evil all at once!
If you’d just make your presence a little bit more obvious on earth You’d have a lot more followers!
Things would go much better for us if you’d just put an end to global warming.
Isaiah, in his writings, pointed out the ridiculousness of humans counselling the Creator. We have no right to consider ourselves worthy of counselling God. We can certainly question God, but we cannot advise Him.
Who has directed the Spirit of YHWH, or as His counsellor [a’tsatoh] has informed Him? With whom did He consult [noh’ats] and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge and informed Him of the way of understanding?
Who counsels YHWH? Answer: nobody. There is nobody for Him to look up to; He is the top. Our best course of action is to look up to Him and seek out His counsel.
Rejecting God’s Good Counsel
Our Creator kindly wanted to be a counsellor for each of his people, but for the most part humans have rejected YHWH’s desire to help and guide us:
Deuteronomy 32:18-20, 28-29
[Moses’ song to the people:] “You neglected the Rock who begot you, and forgot the God who gave you birth. YHWH saw this, and spurned them because of the provocation of His sons and daughters. Then He said, ‘I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end shall be; for they are a perverse generation, sons in whom is no faithfulness.’
…they are a nation lacking in counsel [etsoht], and there is no understanding in them. Would that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would discern their future!”
Over and over humans have turned their backs on God’s counselling. They have relied on their own advice. But regardless of their insolence, He still chose to save them:
Psalm 107:10-14 (see also Psalm 106:10-14, 40-45)
There were those who dwelt in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in misery and chains, because they had rebelled against the words of God and spurned the counsel of the Most High [wa-a’tsat Elyohn].
Therefore He humbled their heart with labour; they stumbled and there was none to help. Then they cried out to YHWH in their trouble; He saved them out of their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death and broke their bands apart.
They were enslaved physically and spiritually, and even though they rebelled against Him, YHWH freed them from the shadow of death.
The Counsel of Ahithophel
There were many human counsellors throughout Biblical history. Moses’ father-in-law gave him counsel (Exodus 18:18-27); Balaam counselled Balak (Numbers 24:14); Zechariah was a “counsellor with insight” (1 Chronicles 26:14); Nathan gave counsel to Bathsheba (1 Kings 1:12); David’s uncle Jonathan was “a counsellor, a man of understanding, and a scribe” (1 Chronicles 27:32). People counselled people all the time, whether for good or bad.
Ahithophel, was a chief counsellor to king David (1 Chronicles 27:33), but he betrayed David and joined forces with David’s rebellious son. Absalom tried to take kingship from his father. It broke David’s heart to be in opposition to his son:
2 Samuel 15:30-31
And David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, and wept as he went, and his head was covered and he walked barefoot. Then all the people who were with him each covered his head and went up weeping as they went. Now someone told David, saying, “Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom.” And David said, “O YHWH, I pray, make the counsel [et a’tsat] of Ahithophel foolishness.”
David prayed that Ahithophel would give foolish counsel to his son, so that he would not prevail against him. He also put a plan in place so that he could overhear the counsel that Ahithophel would give to his son. David spoke with Hushai the Archite and asked him to “thwart the counsel [et a’tsat] of Ahithophel for me” (2 Samuel 15:34).
So Hushai pledged his fake allegiance to Absalom (2 Samuel 16:15-19) in order to find out the counsel of Ahithophel, for he was still regarded as the greatest counsellor to the leader of the Hebrew people (2 Samuel 16:23). And so Ahithophel gave counsel (2 Samuel 17:1-4) to Absalom, suggesting that he take 12,000 troops and immediately pursue David through the night and attack while David was weary, and his followers unsettled.
Although Absalom was pleased with the advice, something made him seek out a second opinion:
2 Samuel 17:5-7
Then Absalom said, “Now call Hushai the Archite also, and let us hear what he has to say.” When Hushai had come to Absalom, Absalom said to him, “Ahithophel has spoken thus. Shall we carry out his plan? If not, you speak.”
So Hushai said to Absalom, “This time the advice [ha-etsah] that Ahithophel has given is not good.”
Hushai went on to explain that Ahithophel’s counsel underestimated David and his troops. He suggested they be more blatant in their attack of David and more relentless (2 Samuel 17:11-13). Absalom favoured Hushai’s suggestion:
2 Samuel 17:14
Then Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The counsel [a’tsat] of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel [meh-a’tsat] of Ahithophel.”
For YHWH had ordained to thwart the good counsel [et a’tsat] of Ahithophel, so that YHWH might bring calamity on Absalom.
Hushai then warned David about Ahithophel’s counsel and his own false counsel (2 Samuel 17:21-22), so that David could take the right action to save himself and his troops.
Although Ahithophel’s counsel was good (as far as defeating David was concerned), his counsel would not be put into action because YHWH needed Absalom to be defeated. Ahithophel did not take the rejection well:
2 Samuel 17:23
Now when Ahithophel saw that his counsel [a’tsatow] was not followed, he saddled his donkey and arose and went to his home, to his city, and set his house in order, and strangled himself; thus he died and was buried in the grave of his father.
Ahithophel’s self worth was so tied up with his job as a king’s counsellor that it only took one instance of failure (when they did not take his advice) for him to lose all his confidence as an advisor and as a human. He took his own life as a personal punishment for what he considered his failure.
Choosing the Wrong Counsellors
Ahithophel’s advice was right for the circumstances (how to beat David), but wrong when you considered what was right and good in the eyes of God. Ahithophel’s life was devoted to giving advice to kings. Kings surrounded themselves with advisors; making decisions that would affect an entire kingdom was important. But many kings either failed to take sound advise, or readily acted on terrible advice:
- Rehoboam, king of Judah, took the counsel of his childhood friends over the counsel of the elders. He chose to rule with an iron fish rather than being a benevolent king, as the elders suggested (1 Kings 12:8, 10-11). Rehoboam’s decision to accept the counsel of his childhood friends would devastate the kingdom, and he dragged his people down under the advice of dreadful counsel.
- Athaliah poorly counselled her son king Ahaziah of Judah (2 Chronicles 22:2-4) to reject YHWH. He died fighting alongside his uncle Jehoram, king of Israel, against the mutinous army general, Jehu. Ahaziah was succeeded by the mother who counselled him in the ways of wickedness.
- Amaziah, king of Judah, rejected the counsellor sent by YHWH (2 Chronicles 25:14-16). As a result he was overwhelmed in battle, taken captive, the Temple was looted, and part of Jerusalem’s walls fell in the attack. Eventually Amaziah was assassinated at Lachish.
Humans who rejected the counsel of YHWH did not bode well. They cherished their own counsel, and the counsel of their friends, over anyone else, including God. Not listening to the counsel of YHWH was dangerous business.
“Woe to the rebellious children,” declares YHWH, “Who
execute a plan take counsel [la-a’soht etsah], but not Mine, and make an alliance, but not of My Spirit, in order to add sin to sin.”
Even the very first line of the book of Psalms was a warning to not follow the counsel of the wicked:
How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel [ba-a’tsat] of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of YHWH, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
Following the right counsel meant everything. Bad counsel was a token for disaster. In Babylon, a culture that did not connect to YHWH, many of the chief counsellors were astrologers. But these astrology-counsellors had no power to save anyone:
“Stand fast now in your spells and in your many sorceries with which you have laboured from your youth; perhaps you will be able to profit, perhaps you may cause trembling.
You are wearied with your many counsels [a’tsa’tayik]; let now the astrologers, those who prophesy by the stars, those who predict by the new moons, stand up and save you from what will come upon you.
Behold, they have become like stubble, fire burns them; they cannot deliver themselves from the power of the flame; there will be no coal to warm by nor a fire to sit before! So have those become to you with whom you have laboured, who have trafficked with you from your youth; each has wandered in his own way; there is none to save you.”
There was no one in their culture to save the Babylonians. Who would save the nations? Even when YHWH searched through Israel he found nothing but false counsellors. They too would need saving:
“Formerly I said to Zion, ‘Behold, here they are.’ And to Jerusalem, ‘I will give a messenger of good news.’ But when I look, there is no one, and there is no counsellor [w-en yoh’ets] among them who, if I ask, can give an answer. Behold, all of them are false; their works are worthless, their molten images are wind and emptiness.”
God could not find one good counsellor in the bunch. He wanted to give good news to the whole world through His people, but there was no one worthy.
The people clearly needed saving, but from what?
Bad counsel could be a death sentence… and death separated the people from their Creator. Job pondered the fact that he was surrounded by wicked people, but the wicked seemed to live good, easy, lives:
“They spend their days in prosperity, and suddenly they go down to Sheol. They say to God, ‘Depart from us! We do not even desire the knowledge of Your ways. Who is the Almighty, that we should serve Him, and what would we gain if we entreat Him?’
Behold, their prosperity is not in their hand; the counsel [a’tsat] of the wicked is far from me.
The grave was holding us back from reconnecting with YHWH in the Garden. Eden was a place of purity and goodness, and when Adam and Eve invited sin into the garden, they made a covenant with death and death could not be allowed to exist in God’s good Kingdom. So Adam and Eve were exiled out of the garden by their own doing, but it was not God’s plan; it was not what YHWH wanted. So He put together a great plan of salvation. YHWH would find a way to conquer death and reunite with His people with Himself:
Isaiah 28:14-18a, 29
Therefore, hear the word of YHWH, O scoffers, who rule this people who are in Jerusalem, because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol we have made a pact. The overwhelming scourge will not reach us when it passes by, for we have made falsehood our refuge and we have concealed ourselves with deception.”
Therefore thus says the Lord YHWH, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, a costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed. I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the level; then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies and the waters will overflow the secret place.
Your covenant with death will be canceled, and your pact with Sheol will not stand…
…This also comes from YHWH of hosts, who has made His counsel wonderful [hee-p’lee etsah] and His wisdom great.
I will bless YHWH who has counselled me [y’atsani]; indeed, my mind instructs me in the night. I have set YHWH continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will dwell securely. For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
YHWH would find a way for His people to escape Sheol. But how would people avoid the grave?
YHWH would send a Saviour, someone who would rescue His people from the finality of death. He would send His Sons to be our redeemer.
The only way to defeat death was to succumb to it and then rise above it. Yeshua’s (Jesus’) life was ransomed to cancel our ticket to death. Although YHWH would not allow His Holy One to undergo decay, He would still face death, die, conquer the grave, and then live to set His people free.
Messiah, the Counsellor
There are many indications of the Saviour-Messiah in the Tanakh. Isaiah told us He would be a child, a son:
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful, Counsellor [pele yoh’ets], Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
This is a verse that consistently gets pulled out at Christmas time. And it’s a beautiful verse that points to the coming Messiah and gives us a list of His names which are beautiful and thought provoking. He would be a counsellor… a divine advisor! There is some valid debate as to whether this baby was called Wonderful, [comma], Counsellor, or Wonderful Counsellor, but either way this little child would grow up to be an excellent counsellor… the kind who cared for, listened to, and gently guided His people.
This child, a wonderful Prince of Peace, would be born to us, here on earth, and and He would come from the royal line of David, son of Jesse:
Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit. The Spirit of YHWH will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel [ruakh etsah] and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of YHWH.
And He will delight in the fear of YHWH, and He will not judge by what His eyes see, nor make a decision by what His ears hear; but with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; and He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked. Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins, and faithfulness the belt about His waist. And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child will lead them.
The Messiah, symbolically named the Branch, would come as a child prince and grow to be a priestly King, crowned and enthroned, and His advice would be one of peace.
“Take silver and gold, make an ornate crown and set it on the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Then say to him, ‘Thus says YHWH of hosts, “Behold, a man whose name is Branch, for He will branch out from where He is; and He will build the temple of YHWH. Yes, it is He who will build the temple of YHWH, and He who will bear the honour and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace [wa-atsat shalom] will be between the two offices.”’
But Yeshua was a king like no other. He was crowned with thorns and His throne, upon which He was elevated, was the cross. His message would not be the destruction of His enemies, rather the counsel of peace would be His message. Full peace would be reuniting with God, and for that to happen He would have to save us from death. There was no stopping God’s plan for salvation:
“Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘
My purpose will be established My counsel shall stand [a’tsati taqum], and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’; calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of My purpose counsel [a’tsati] from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it.
Listen to Me, you stubborn-minded, who are far from righteousness. I bring near My righteousness, it is not far off; and My salvation will not delay. And I will grant salvation in Zion, and My glory for Israel.”
YHWH’s plan would come to fruition as He promised. His counsel would stand firm. Yeshua came to earth, had a short but abundantly effective ministry for three years, and then was executed on a Roman cross at the hands of the religious elite. According to the gospel of John, at the end of suffering He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit (John 19:30b).
Following His death, Mary Magdalen went Yeshua’s grave and found that His body was not there. The tomb was empty.
But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”
Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher).
Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her.
Yeshua’s first act as the resurrected Messiah was to counsel Mary. He compassionately commissioned her to go to God’s family members and share the good news of His return.
YHWH had worked wonders and fulfilled His promise. Yeshua made the sacrifice so that we could live in peace, knowing that at our end we would not be sent to the depths of the grave, but back to the presence of God.
O YHWH, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; for You have worked wonders,
plans counsel [etsoht] formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness.
In our life, YHWH is the perfect counsellor. He loves us, He cares for us, and more than anything He wants us to return from exile. With Yeshua’s sacrifice death can no longer hold us back from God; instead Heaven awaits us where we can reunite with our Creator, and see Him face to face. Let YHWH be your guide, pointing you the way home.
Psalm 73:24-26 (Psalm of Asaph)
With Your counsel [ba-a’tsat’ka] You will guide me, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Next week: LAMP