When to Listen–and When Not To

Note these contrasting proverbs:

“Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days” (Proverbs 19:20).

“My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent” (Proverbs 1:10).

One proverb says listen; the other says not to. They are both right.

There were times when David was wise not to listen:

  • When Saul suggested that David was too inexperienced to fight Goliath (1 Samuel 17:33).
  • When his men on two occasions tried to persuade him to kill King Saul (1 Samuel 24, 26).
  • When some said that the ones who could not go into battle should have no share in the spoils (1 Samuel 30:21-25).

Then there were times when David was wise to listen:

  • When Abigail persuaded him not to take vengeance on Nabal and his men (1 Samuel 25:18-34).
  • When Nathan the prophet rebuked him for his sin of adultery and murder (2 Samuel 12:1-13).
  • When Joab urged David to relate to his people in spite of his grief over Absalom’s death (2 Samuel 19:7-8).

In these cases David shows himself to be a man of restraint (Abigail), of penitence (Nathan), and prudence (Joab).

Steve Singleton pointed out to me one occasion when David should have listened, but didn’t. Joab tried to persuade David not to take a census of his people, but David insisted. He and Israel paid dearly for his refusal to listen (2 Samuel 24).

It takes a humble person to be willing to listen when he should, and a strong person to refuse to listen to those who would lead us astray. It is a foolish person who listens to those who would lead him away from God’s will, and a stubborn, prideful person who will not listen when the truth is spoken.

“A man who hardens his neck after much reproof will suddenly be broken beyond remedy” (Proverbs 29:1).

Let’s learn when to listen—and when not to.


Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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