PROVERBS 12:26: “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, For the way of the wicked leads them astray.” NKJV
OBSERVATION: How important is it to choose our friends carefully? Do the friends we surround ourselves with really determine the direction of our lives? Isn’t it only those who are weak in character that falls prey to the wrong crowd? The startling reality is…
EVEN THE STRONG CAN BE RUINED BY CHOOSING THE WRONG FRIENDS!
This morning, during my devotions, I read this verse in Proverbs immediately after I had read the account of three strong men who chose the wrong friends. They had everything in front of them. Their future could have been filled with brightness and promise. However, each one found their lives and dreams dashed upon the rocks of friendships that led them astray.
The first one was the wisest man who ever lived. The irony of his life is that it was Solomon who wrote this exhortation in Proverbs. However, later in his life, he failed to heed his own advice and God-given wisdom. At the end of his life, we read this account of Solomon.
- “And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David.” I Kings 11:3-4 NKJV
The closest friend that you can have is your wife. She is to be the one you share your life with and open your heart to. Not only did Solomon allow his earthly appetites to cause him to acquire over 1000 wives, which boggles the mind of most, he also disobeyed God’s covenant by marrying foreign wives who did not worship the Lord. The richest, wisest, and most powerful man in the world did not end up influencing them to become worshippers of the Lord. Solomon was influenced by these intimate friendships to turn his heart away from the Lord.
The result of Solomon’s disobedience was that the Kingdom of Israel was to be divided. Solomon’s great kingdom would be diminished to just two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, along with the Levites. A new king would be raised to rule over the 10 Northern Tribes. This introduces us to two people who also chose their friends unwisely.
The first was Rehoboam, the son of Solomon. When Solomon died, Rehoboam was anointed King of Israel. Jeroboam, a mighty warrior from the Northern Tribes, and the one whom God said would rule over the 10 tribes of Israel, approached Rehoboam. This is what he said to Rehoboam.
- “…Your father made our yoke heavy; now therefore, lighten the burdensome service of your father, and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you.” I Kings 12:3-4 NKJV
Rehoboam had a real opportunity before him to consolidate the kingdom under his rule. Faced with this request from Jeroboam and the 10 Northern Tribes, Rehoboam asked for counsel. First, he asked the older advisors who served under his father. They advised Rehoboam to comply with Jeroboam’s request. They saw the wisdom in what he said and knew that it would lead to the continuation of the united kingdom of Israel.
Rehoboam then gathered those around him, those of his same age who he had grown up with, and asked their counsel. They dismissed the advice of their elders and told Rehoboam to double down on Solomon’s heavy hand of rule over the 10 Northern Tribes. Faced with a choice of whose friendship and advice he would take, Rehoboam aligned himself with his young friends and doubled down on their bad advice!
- “…And he spoke to them according to the advice of the young men, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scourges!” I Kings 12:14 NKJV
The result of listening to the wrong friends was the division of the kingdom. The 10 Northern Tribes broke away from Judah and Benjamin and anointed Jeroboam as their king. Rehoboam had squandered the one chance of solidifying the kingdom because he surrounded himself with the wrong friends! Jeroboam now had a clean slate before him and the promise of God to build upon.
- “So I will take you, and you shall reign over all your heart desires, and you shall be king over Israel. Then it shall be, if you heed all that I command you, walk in My ways, and do what is right in My sight, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as My servant David did, then I will be with you and build for you an enduring house, as I built for David, and will give Israel to you.” I Kings 11:37-38 NKJV
Jeroboam had the opportunity of seeing God establish through him an enduring rule. He had the clear choice before him that David and Solomon were given. If he heeded God’s covenant and walked in His ways his kingdom would be blessed. It would be imperative for Jeroboam to surround himself with godly friends who could help him stay true to the Lord and fulfill the Lord’s calling upon his life.
Yet, like Solomon and Rehoboam, Jeroboam chose his friends unwisely. As he began to rule, rather than trusting in the promises of God, he began to fear that his people would defect to the Southern Kingdom because it was in Jerusalem that they were traveling to worship the Lord and offer their sacrifices. So Jeroboam consulted his friends – the wrong friends!
- “Therefore the king asked advice, made two calves of gold, and said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt!” And he set up one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. Now this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one as far as Dan. He made shrines on the high places, and made priests from every class of people, who were not of the sons of Levi.” I Kings 12:28-31 NKJV
These are the pivotal words in each of these three stories – “…the king asked advice…”. The advice of Solomon from his wives turned his heart from true worship to the worship of idols. The advice from Rehoboam’s young friends resulted in the division of the Kingdom of Israel. The advice from Jeroboam’s friends caused him to set up golden calves and introduce the Northern Tribes to the very idolatry that would eventually be their downfall.
As I look over my life I can see the difference between healthy and unhealthy friendships. The healthy friendships have always encouraged me in my walk with the Lord and to become all that God has called me to become. These healthy friends have at times corrected me but they have always done so only out of love and to redirect me to the pathway of life.
Unhealthy friends bring out the worst in us. They feed our fears, validate our doubts, and try to drag us down the same path that they are sliding down. If we join ourselves with them we will find ourselves sliding down the same slippery path.
If Solomon and two kings could not alter this course of events then who am I to think that I can change my friends and not be changed by them instead!
We need to choose our friends wisely and understand the difference between friends and acquaintances. A friend is someone you open your life to and share in partnership with. You share in each other’s dreams and encourage each other in your faith. An acquaintance is someone you know but keep a safe distance from. You may work with them, and see them at family events, but you do not invest your life in them. Acquaintances do not share your values or your faith. How do you handle aquaintances?
You love them, pray for them, and share the Gospel with them – but you do not have fellowship with them.
This becomes increasingly challenging in the life of the church. There are people who proclaim their faith in Jesus Christ. However, you don’t have to be a Christian long to discover – Some will challenge you to become stronger in Christ and others will gladly join you and wallow in your defeat. Even in the church, you need to choose your friends wisely. While we love everyone, we must be discerning regarding those we invite into the inner chamber of close friendship!
Let’s look at the words of wisdom once again that Solomon wrote but failed to follow himself.
- PROVERBS 12:26: “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, For the way of the wicked leads them astray.” NKJV
Father, I want to thank you for the friends you have given me who have challenged and encouraged me in my walk with Jesus. I pray that you will continue to give me discernment in choosing my friends wisely. I also pray that you will allow me to be a true and faithful friend to others who will always point them to Jesus and encourage them to reach their full potential in Jesus Christ!
In Jesus’ Name!