Applying the Gleaning Principle to Human Advisers

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Not all marital advice is helpful for your marriage. Even the advice WE give may not apply to your particular circumstances. Yep, you read it right! We acknowledge that we (and other marriage educators) can sometimes give flawed advice. Flawed people can give flawed advice. So don’t try to apply everything we say to your marriage, unless God shows you it is what you can and should use. That is why it is good to apply the gleaning principle when you use human advisers.

God, Himself, is the only counselor you can trust to give you guidance which is completely dependable. God knows you and made you “fearfully and wonderfully(Psalms 139). The psalmist wrote,

O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise. And you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down. You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.

God is Our Best Adviser

From those verses, we can rest assured that God, who made us, knows best how to advise and guide us to Truth and understanding of one another. We are blessed with the Lord as our counselor. A few scriptures that affirm this fact are:

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whole leaf does not wither.(Psalm 1:1-3)

I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I have set the LORD always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.(Psalm 16:7-8)

His guidance will help us to build a marriage that is the best it can be in consideration of our uniqueness, individual and corporate giftedness, personality tendencies, and where we’re located in the world-helping us bring all of this together for the greater good of our marital relationship and for God’s kingdom work.

Our Wonderful Counselor

The Godhead is willing and able to counsel us in truth and power as we can see from the following scriptures:

And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.(Psalm 9:6)

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.(Psalm 32:8)

When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? Earth has nothing I desire besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God, I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge. I will tell of all your deeds.(Psalm 73:21-28)

I wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretion. To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech. Counsel and sound judgment are mine; I have understanding and power.(Proverbs 8:12-14)


The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him [Jesus]-the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD —and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what He sees with His eyes, or decide by what He hears with His ears; but with righteousness He will judge the needy, with justice He will give decisions for the poor of the earth.(Isaiah 11:2-4a)

All this comes from the LORD Almighty, wonderful in counsel and magnificent in wisdom.(Isaiah 28:29)

Because you and your spouse are so uniquely and wonderfully made, and because your relationship is so different from those around you it’s important that you look for what works for YOUR marriage, in the light of God’s truth:

Though rulers sit together and slander me, your servant will meditate on your decrees. Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors.(Psalm 119:24)

Gleaning Principle

Advice from any source, other than from the Lord and, as revealed in the Bible, needs to be prayerfully and carefully considered from every angle possible. It’s the principle of gleaning as the Bible talks about.

Back in biblical days the harvesters used to gather the best and leave the rest. What was left behind were either scraps that were thought to be useless, and/or scraps for others who were less fortunate to glean through and gather up for their use. But in the case of gathering counsel, you’d want to pick the best. Pick what best applies to your marriage. And leave the rest behind.

Here’s a short article written by Paul Byerly that explains a bit more on this principle:

One Size Fits All… NOT!

Now, this doesn’t apply to the counsel you receive from the scriptures. That’s because God’s word is unchanging and filled with truth. As it says in 2 Timothy 3:16-17:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

We Are to Adjust to God’s Principles

So, we are NOT to change God’s principles because of our “uniqueness.” We are to adjust ourselves to His ways of doing things. That is because the principles for loving each other in the truest sense are the principles for living as the Bible outlines. Here are a few:

Make sure we’re faithful in every way to God and to each other.

Speak the truth in love, in a respectful, honoring way “as unto the Lord.”

Be mutually submissive with Christ as our example.

As far as it is within us to live in peace with all men (which especially includes our spouse).

Allow the fruit of the Spirit to flow through us. They are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Live in such a way that our walk matches our talk. That is so that the words that come out of our mouths are not like a type of clanging cymbal.

Make sure we are not rude, self-seeking, easily angered, and keep no records of wrongs.

With the solid foundation of God’s principles as our foundation God then helps us to make our marriage work in a totally unique way. Yet it is without compromise. We can confidently petition Him to give us counsel —knowing that He understands our needs.

This is Confirmed in God’s Word:

Since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses. But we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are —yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.(Hebrews 5:14-16)

Give us counsel, render a decision. Make your shadow like night —at high noon. Hide the fugitives, do not betray the refugees.(Isaiah 16:3)

If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever —the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you.(John 14:15-18)

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.(John 14:26-27)


So, how do you stay true to God’s principles and yet not have a “cookie cutter” type of marriage so your uniqueness as individuals and as a marital team is recognized? You pray and ask God for wisdom and insight. And then keep your eyes open for what He shows you discarding what won’t apply. You don’t grab onto that which won’t mutually benefit your relationship. That includes taking advice from human counselors.

While there are many scriptures in the Bible that tell us that God is our Wonderful Counselor, He doesn’t need human counselors or advisers as we see in the scriptures, such as:

Who has understood the mind of the LORD or instructed Him as His counselor? Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten Him and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught Him knowledge or showed Him the path of understanding?(Isaiah 40:13-14)

Seek Godly Advisers

However, there are also many other scriptures that tell us that we are to also seek the advice of Godly advisers. One of them can be found in Proverbs 20:18 where it says,

Make plans by seeking advice. If you wage war, obtain guidance.

While we’re not advising that you wage war with each other —we ARE hoping you’ll wage war against that, which divides you from conducting your lives as a marital team.

Other scriptures that point us to the importance of getting Godly counsel are:

For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory sure.(Proverbs 11:14)

Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.(Proverbs 13:10)

The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.(Proverbs 12:15)

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.(Proverbs 15:22)

Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.(Proverbs 19:20)

For waging war you need guidance, and for victory many advisers.(Proverbs 24:6)

Only God is All Knowing

However, unlike God, human advisors aren’t all-knowing and so even if they THINK they know what’s best for you sometimes their advice can be misleading as the Bible tells us:

The plans of the righteous are just, but the advice of the wicked is deceitful.(Proverbs 12:5)

All the counsel you have received has only worn you out! Let your astrologers come forward; those stargazers, who make predictions month by month; let them save you from what is coming upon you. Surely they are like stubble; the fire will burn them up. They cannot even save themselves from the power of the flame.

Here are no coals to warm anyone; here is no fire to sit by. That is all they can do for you —these you have labored with and trafficked with since childhood. Each of them goes on in his error; there is not one that can save you.(Isaiah 47:13-15)

The LORD SAID TO ME, ‘Son of man, these are the men who are plotting evil and giving wicked advice in this city.‘”(Ezekiel 11:2)

God is in Control

Sometimes, for reasons we may not ever understand this side of heaven, God thwarts the efforts of those who are in places of authority. For this reason we need to ask the Lord to help us to be discerning. That is so we aren’t caught up into taking advice from those who are foolish.

To God belong wisdom and power. Counsel and understanding are His. What He tears down cannot be rebuilt. The man He imprisons cannot be released. If he holds back the waters, there is drought. If He lets them loose, they devastate the land. To Him belong strength and victory; both deceived and deceiver are His.

He leads counselors away stripped and makes fools of judges. He takes off the shackles put on by kings. And He ties a loincloth around their waist. He leads priests away stripped and overthrows men long established. He silences the lips of trusted advisers and takes away the discernment of elders.(Job 12:13-20)

The officials of Zoan are nothing but fools. The wise counselors of Pharaoh give senseless advice. How can you say to Pharaoh ‘I am one of the wise men, a disciple of the ancient kings’? Where are your wise men now? Let them show you and make known what the LORD Almighty has planned against Egypt.

The officials of Zoan have become fools, the leaders of Memphis are deceived. The cornerstones of her peoples have led Egypt astray. But the LORD has poured into them a spirit of dizziness. They make Egypt stagger in all that she does, as a drunkard staggers around in his vomit.(Isaiah 19:11-14)

And sometimes God leaves us without HUMAN counsel:

He silences the lips of trusted advisers and takes away the discernment of elders.(Job 12:20)

God is God

It’s difficult for many of us to understand why God would do allow this. But it comes down to allowing God to be God. And even though we don’t understand in our finite human minds, we need to bow down to a God who is all-knowing.

One of the many reasons it may be that God withdraws human advisers from us is to narrow our world in such a way that we look only to Him for a time. It may be that we’ve become so dependent upon human advice that God decides to take all human advisers away from us for a period of time so we learn to primarily look to God. We are to use human counselors as a supplement to gaining wisdom.

And sometimes God appoints a human adviser to help us. Yet they don’t take the assignment God gives them seriously and we are left without any human being to help us:

I was the first to tell Zion, ‘Look, here they are! I gave to Jerusalem a messenger of good tidings. And I looked but there is no one —no one among them to give counsel, no one to give answer when I ask them.(Isaiah 41:27-28)

Something else that happens to us is that God even appears to withdraw His apparent presence from us. (We know that Biblically, He is still near us. That is because the Bible tells us that He would never forsake us. Yet He can make it APPEAR that He has left our side.) This is ESPECIALLY puzzling to us.

But something to consider is that the Bible tells us we are to walk by faith and not by sight. Sometimes God may draw far enough away from us to stretch our faith so it grows. Oswald Chambers wrote on this subject in the book, My Utmost For His Highest.

He wrote:

“A saint’s life is in the hands of God like a bow and arrow in the hands of an archer. God is aiming at something the saint cannot see. He stretches and strains, and every now and again the saint says, ‘I cannot stand any more.’ God does not heed. He goes on stretching till His purpose is in sight, then He lets it fly. Trust yourself in God’s hands. …Maintain your relationship to Jesus Christ by patience of faith. ‘Though He slay me, yet will I wait for Him.’

Faith is not a pathetic sentiment, but robust vigorous confidence built on the fact that God is holy love. You cannot see Him just now, you cannot understand what He is doing, but you know Him.”

Another Truth

Another thing that Oswald Chambers said may help you to better understand why God withdraws His counsel and stretches our faith-walk:

“God frequently knocks the bottom board out of your experience if you are a saint in order to get you into contact with Himself. God wants you to understand that it is a life of faith, not a life of sentimental enjoyment of His blessings. Your earlier life of faith was narrow and intense, settled around a little sun-spot of experience, full of light and sweetness. Then God withdrew His conscious blessings in order to teach you to walk by faith.

…Faith by its very nature must be tried. And the real trial of faith is not that we find it difficult to trust God, but that God’s character has to be cleared in our own minds. … Faith in the Bible is faith in God against everything that contradicts Him. I will remain true to God’s character whatever He may do.”

From this we may be able to better imagine that God has our greater good in mind as well as the greater good of all of the Kingdom of God.

Draw First to God

Through all of this we want to encourage you to first draw near to God. Look to Him for the counsel you need. Beyond that look for human advisers that God wants to use in our lives. But ask God for a spirit of discernment in your thinking. And apply the principle of gleaning to the advice they give you. This is because some of them THINK their advice is suited to be the type that is “one-size-fits-all.” But don’t just automatically grab onto it.

However, before you apply the principle of gleaning what’s best for your marriage you might want to pray something like this from Psalm 139:

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Ask God to show you anything within yourself that is wrong and needs confessing. And also look for any contrary spirit within that might tempt you to filter advice in a self-serving way. You want to make sure your heart is pure, unbiased, and your eyes are focused, looking for truth. And then keep your eyes open to what God brings your way. Make sure it is consistent with God’s Word —that which will fit in with what will work for your marriage.

Our Hope

We hope you’ll seek advice from those who can help you with whatever problem you’re experiencing. But we also hope that you’ll prayerfully sift through it and use what applies for your lives together and discard the rest. Draw close to God and listen to Him with both ears attentive. Remember that sometimes His presence comes in a whisper (as Elijah experienced in 1 Kings 19) rather than in a bold way.

Listen to what He teaches and apply the principle of gleaning when it comes to marriage advice from others who counsel you. THEN you will TRULY gain the wisdom you’re seeking because it says in the Bible in James 1:5,

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

This article was written by Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International.

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Filed under: Marriage Counseling & Mentoring

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One response to “Applying the Gleaning Principle to Human Advisers

  1. (UGANDA)  Every bride to be needs to know about gleaning marriage advice- I remember I got an information overload, and in the end I was anxious, confused; I just did not know what to expect. Thank God for this article