1. This proverb makes a comparison between sweet ointment and counsel from a friend.
2. The Hebrew scholars all point out the difficulty in translating because some of the Hebrew expressions have no exact English equivalent.
a. There is no verb in the second part and it must be inserted.
b. As a result, the second part of the proverb has been translated variously.
3. However, the overall meaning of the proverb is clear: hearty counsel from a friend is sweet.
1. Ointment and perfume are pleasant to the smell.
a. They have an agreeable effect on the senses and make you feel good.
b. Pleasant smells are always desirable.
c. No one would choose unpleasant smells. They drive you away. Pleasant smells are attractive and appealing. They draw you in.
2. John 12:3 – The ointment that was applied to Christ filled the room with a pleasing odor. The odor extended far beyond the immediate point of application. Ointments have a grand effect.
3. Rejoices the heart
a. Rejoice: Make merry; cheers up; makes glad.
b. Sweet odors cause a person to be glad; to experience pleasure; to have joy.
c. The opposite might be illustrated by what happens when you walk down the street and come across a dead animal. The smell of rotten flesh does not cause one to rejoice but to recoil in displeasure.
d. Ointments have even been used as therapy – aroma therapy. They can have a calming effect.
Counsel of a man’s friend by heart counsel
1. Counsel: Advice; sharing wisdom; guidance; instruction; suggesting a course of action or a plan to pursue.
a. Psa. 33:10 – God nullifies the counsel of the ungodly but His counsel shall stand!
b. Not all counsel is the same.
c. The counsel of the ungodly is to be avoided. Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly.
2. Hearty counsel
a. “Hearty” counsel is counsel that comes from the soul.
b. It is heart-felt counsel.
c. In other words, it is not merely intellectual. It is more than the cold hard facts.
d. Heart counsel comes from the heart of a friend.
e. It may include instruction; it may include guidance; it may include reproof or rebuke… but it comes from the heart.
f. It is not cold hearted scolding from a drill sergeant.
g. It comes from the heart of a friend and is sympathetic.
h. Because it comes from the heart, it is caring. The friend offering the counsel puts himself in the shoes of the one being counseled.
i. It is possible to give good advice without any heartfelt concern for the one receiving the counsel.
j. I suppose a software program could be created such that if you plug in all the variables, it might tell you what course of action to take. It might even offer the correct course of action. But it could hardly be called “hearty counsel.”
k. The software package doesn’t know you and doesn’t really care if you follow the advice or not.
l. Sometimes human beings can give counsel that way too—cold, heartless, and uncaring.
m. Rom. 12:15 – Brethren are to counsel one another.
• But they are also to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.
• This results in heartfelt counsel!
• It involves love; concern; care for the spiritual well-being of the one counseled.
• Even if the brother needs to be reproved, it is not cold hearted scolding, but is done with sympathetic care.
n. Our proverb states only HEARTY counsel (counsel that is heartfelt) comes across as sweetness to the soul.
o. Psa. 66:16 – “Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul.” A brother is concerned about the SOUL of his brother—and will share helpful things he has learned from the Lord with others. That’s heartfelt counsel.
3. But this proverb says: Blessed is the man who walks in good counsel – the counsel of a friend who offers godly counsel.
a. There is a sweetness that comes with hearty counsel from a friend… it is likened to sweet ointment or perfume… sweet odors.
b. It is refreshing – like being anointed with sweet smelling ointment. (Think of being parched in the hot sun in a desert.)
c. It is satisfying.
d. It is for your good… and you know it. That makes it sweet.
e. Just as ointment refreshes the body and senses of the inner man, so counsel refreshes the soul of the inner man.
4. Sometimes counsel from a friend is like medicine.
a. It may come in the form of correction or reproof.
b. Medicine doesn’t always go down very easily. It is often foul tasting and foul smelling.
c. As a teaspoon of sugar helps the medicine go down, so too counsel and guidance and correction is often easier to swallow when it comes across as “heartfelt” counsel.
d. It adds a sweetness to the medicine (counsel) and makes it easier to swallow and digest.
e. Two men can offer the same effective medicine to a young patient that will cure their ill. If one is sweetened so that the child swallows it, then while the medicine is identical, the sweetened one is actually more effective: because the child took it and rejected the one without the sweetness.
f. This proverb states that the same is true in giving counsel or advice.
• When counsel comes from a friend (a trusted person; a person the one receiving the counsel knows is on his team) then it is easier to swallow… and more likely to be taken.
• A person is less likely to follow the advice of someone who offers good advice in a bad manner.
• Bedside manners with a doctor; so too manners matter in giving counsel and advice.
• Good counsel should “rejoice the heart” like ointment.
g. Psa. 133:1-2 – When brethren dwell together in peace and unity, it too is like a sweet ointment.
• In that environment, guidance and advice also takes on that sweet aroma.
• Sweet aromas tend to affect everyone and everything in that environment.
• By the way—so do foul odors. Have you ever driven in a car with smokers? You end up smelling like smoke.
• In a sweet environment – the sweetness seems to linger and affect all in its atmosphere… even those giving and receiving counsel.
5. The counsel Jethro offered to Moses was like ointment.
a. Jethro offered to Moses an organizational plan and advised him how to carry out the administrative responsibilities for ruling and judging his people.
b. Jethro gives counsel from wisdom attained by age and/or experience.
c. He saw that Moses was wearing himself out and would not be able to continue like that indefinitely. He needed help.
d. Moses may have grown accustomed to doing it all himself and this counsel might have been a bitter pill if given heartlessly.
e. However, Jethro was his father in law and offered this counsel from his heart. He genuinely wanted the best for Moses and his daughter. It came from an interested father… not a distant, uninterested, uncaring third party.
f. Jethro wasn’t talking down to Moses. He wasn’t scolding. Rather, he offered a plan—advice—counsel.
g. His counsel was heartfelt AND it was wise.
h. Moses followed his advice… it was sweet like ointment.