“Ointment and perfume delight the heart, and the sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by hearty counsel.”
King Solomon was not a psychologist but he knew something that psychologists have since confirmed – our sense of smell has a direct and powerful link to the memory and emotion centers of our brains. Odors and fragrances can trigger emotional reactions, and the fragrance of a good perfume can actually make us feel happy.
This morning’s Proverb reminds us that like perfume, but far more powerfully, friendship can also give us delight. But the friendship spoken of here is not the friendship to which we have become accustomed. It is not casual or lighthearted. It’s not a “we’re friends on Facebook” type of friendship. What is described here is true friendship, a deep friendship in which there is concern for the condition and prosperity of each other’s soul.
Such concern is demonstrated in the giving of hearty counsel. Hearty counsel, as Matthew Henry describes, is “counsel of the soul, counsel that comes to the heart, counsel about soul-concerns.” It could be advice or encouragement or even admonishment. Whatever of these it may be, it is hearty counsel when it is grounded upon the truths of God’s Word, clothed in humility, spoken in sincere love, and solidified by an intimate knowledge of the friend to whom it is spoken.
Counsel like this gives delight because we desperately need it. Day after day, the devil, the world,, and sin rail against our souls. Time after time we encounter the bitter consequences of a fallen world. We fail, we get discouraged, we get off track, we get scared. This is true of all of us! We must recognize it and see that we cannot make it on our own. Friendship is a gift from God. We need the sweetness of friendship and the nurturing power of hearty counsel that a friend can give.
But here is where we may have fallen short. Have we let our pride prevent us from seeking out true friendship or from humbly receiving the wise counsel of a friend? Have we been so self-centered that we have not been a true friend to others or failed to be prepared to give hearty counsel when it is needed?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes then we must repent. Repent and then seek to develop deeper friendships with others. Repent and get into God’s Word. Study it so that we, as Paul told Timothy, can be “ready in season and out of season”, ready both to give and to receive hearty counsel.
At the core of all of this is love: love for God and love for others that leaves no room for self-protection or self-promotion, a love for God that longs to see His church made strong and desires to see Him glorified in the lives of His saints, a love for others that gives sacrificially of self and time and goods.
May we, the body of Christ, have such a love for God and for one another. Then we will be true friends to each other and the sweet aroma of Christ will give delight to us all.