Author Archives: Anthony Baker

About Anthony Baker

Husband, dad, pastor/preacher/teacher, musician, and Time Magazine's Person of The Year in 2006 (no joke!). Loves coffee (big time), good movies, and sarcastic humor. Currently pursuing a Doctorate of Ministry. Most importantly, a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. All glory belongs to Him!

Flimsy Green Walls

Proverbs 18:11

“The rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and as an high wall in his own conceit.”
“The rich think of their wealth as a strong defense; they imagine it to be a high wall of safety” (NLT).

Money

Money is a strange thing. One day it can be worth a lot of, well, money. Then, at the turn of clock, it can become worthless. So many have seen fortunes disappear at the sound of a closing bell.

6 Confederate States of America currency notes...

6 Confederate States of America currency notes three $10 notes 3 $20 notes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Others have seen their wealth deteriorate along with a decline in political stability. Many years ago the southern states (The Confederacy) that broke away from the Union made their own money. After 1865 it all became worthless. There used to be a saying, “Save your Confederate money, boys! The South will rise again!” Oh, well.

The thing that really makes money valuable is what backs it or insures its value. Not too long ago the Dollar was backed by gold; now it backed “by the full faith and credit of the United States government” (Yeah, right). So, in reality, the rich that feel secure in their wealth are only as secure as the government that backs it.

Flimsy Walls

Solomon was the wealthiest man in the world, yet he knew that putting one’s hope in money is foolishness of the highest degree. He calls the wealthy who consider their riches a defense “conceited.”

If wealth is one’s idea of a defense or a wall of protection, then they are flimsy walls, indeed! Ask anyone who was around Wall Street in 1929. The sound of crashing walls was deafening.

A Strong Defense

Thank God for His unfailing protection! “The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe” (Proverbs 18:10).

Money is a wall of security with no inherent strength. It’s might changes with the “full faith and credit” of sinful institutions. Those who trust in it for safety are fools.

The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower” (Psalm 18:2).

Praise the LORD!


Tasty Gossip

Proverbs 18:8

“The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.”
“The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts” (NIV)

Choice Morsels

I love good food, and considering I couldn’t fit into my new suit coat, maybe a little too much. As a matter of fact, Thanksgiving was months ago, but I’m still suffering the effects of that meal. It was just sooooo good!

pinto beans with cornbread

Pinto beans with cornbread.

However, the best tasting kind of food is what many call “comfort food.” It’s the kind of food that makes one feel good. It’s the kind of food for which a person longs. Comfort food is choice food, and every morsel is an experience worth savoring.

For many people, gossip is like comfort food; it satisfies a hunger and desire to feel better, if only about one’s self. Gossip is tasty.

Hidden Dangers

The problem with comfort food, however, is that it goes down easy, but it never wants to leave; it sticks around in the belly, the liver, the arteries, and the heart. A constant desire for it can lead to irreversible health problems.

A few years ago I saw a documentary about a man who weighed nearly 1,000 pounds. He ate all the food he wanted, but the weight he gained left him immobile. Unbelievably, when help finally came to take him to a hospital, caretakers actually found a discarded chicken bone embedded in his his leg. His choice morsels left him wounded.

Gossip Chef

Today’s proverb addresses the words of a talebearer, or gossip. Interestingly, the Authorized Version describes the words of a gossip as wounds, while other translations render the word wounds as choice morsels. Either way, the words of a talebearer have a way of sinking down deep, eventually affecting the hearer in a negative way.

One commentary says,

The juicy tidbits of gossip are eagerly devoured by persons disposed to listen to them, as a glutton helps himself freely to tempting food. The slanderous words do not make a superficial impression, but penetrate into the innermost recesses of the listener where they are thoroughly digested.*

But unlike the great chefs of the world who prepare choice delicacies for many people at a time, the gossip partakes in every meal served. Not only is the belly of the customer fattened, but also the gossip chef. Eventually both will die of heart disease.

*James E. Smith, The Wisdom Literature and Psalms, Old Testament Survey Series (Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co., 1996), Pr 18:1–8.


Got Soap?

Proverbs 18:6

“A fool’s lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes.”

Cultural Decency

There are some things we just don’t do very much in our modern, civilized culture. Things that used to be commonplace years ago are considered taboo by today’s standards.

ralphieFor instance, when I was young, children who used filthy language still got their mouths washed out with soap (remember Ralphie Parker in A Christmas Story?). Of course it was worse for those living in my parents’ and grandparents’ days than for me. Their parents used lye soap; mine used Ivory.

And long before the days of “time outs,” parents used to be able to “smack the tar” out of a kid with a “smart mouth.” I’m not talking about abuse, only what a kid would get for sticking his tongue out at his mother. Now, instead of a spanking, children who curse their parents in public get balloons and candy and a stress-free quite place to enjoy them. That’s the culturally decent thing to do.

The Warning Stands

On the other hand, even though culture changes with the current tastes of Hollywood and the most popular social scientists, God’s Word remains true. Wisdom still cries out from the rooftops.

The lips of a fool are always leading him into a fight, and his big mouth is always asking to be struck. And as long as there are people who take offense to fools who open their mouths, there will always be someone who knows how to answer a call “for strokes.”

The wise man knows it is far easier to watch one’s words than duck a punch.


Acquit or Convict?

Proverbs 18:5

“It is not good to accept the person of the wicked, to overthrow the righteous in judgment.”
“It is not right to acquit the guilty or deny justice to the innocent.” – NLT

Legal Precedent

My youngest - an aspiring lawyer - at a mock trial competition.

My youngest – an aspiring lawyer – at a mock trial competition.

It is too hard for me to go back and review the legal history of all mankind, but I would venture to say that poor legal decisions have been made even before the first judge received his mail-order diploma.

Every time we turn on the television or read the newspaper we discover another criminal who has been released, or another innocent victim who has been punished. It’s almost too depressing to watch. Who can forget O. J. Simpson?

Not long ago I read of a man who was sent to prison for 20 years all because he fired a weapon to protect his family. Every day I hear of the elderly losing their homes to pay taxes; of the criminals getting rewarded with large settlements; and of the innumerable politicians who lie and steal with impunity while the taxpayer suffers without recourse. When will it all end?

The Righteous Judge

It is wrong to acquit the guilty. It is even more wrong to punish the innocent. But even though the fools of this world continue to do such things, even bragging about their actions, God’s mercy will not endure forever. He is still the Righteous Judge who will hold all accountable.

“Let the sea roar, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. Let the floods clap their hands: let the hills be joyful together Before the LORD; for he cometh to judge the earth: with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity” (Psalm 98:7-9).

Proverbs 17:15 says, “He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD.”

There WILL come a day when the scales of justice are balanced.


What I Thought Was a Good Thing Was Not

Proverbs 18:1

“Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh [and] intermeddleth with all wisdom.”

Embarrassing

When talking through the Proverbs on one Wednesday night at church, my own wife, sitting on the front row, asked a question that caused me a little embarrassment. I had just read the above verse from the King James Version and was about to give my thoughts when she asked, “Why does my version read so differently?”

You see, I encourage my congregation to compare translations when doing a verse-by-verse study of Scripture, for, like turning a faceted jewel, a different perspective can bring out color and sparkle never seen before. It’s the same flawless stone, but from a different angle. Granted, not all translations agree on every interpretation, but where one might be off, a group of translations will clarify the proper meaning of the text.

So, my wife’s version read: He who separates himself seeks [his own] desire, He quarrels against all sound wisdom(NASB). At that, another church member volunteered her version’s take: “Unfriendly people care only about themselves; they lash out at common sense” (NLT).

I didn’t have an answer. What’s even worse, my interpretation of Proverbs 18:1 and the application I was going to make was no where even close to the idea the other two versions were conveying. What we had here was a preacher who didn’t follow his own advise and got caught not doing his homework.

My Original Thoughts

My original thoughts on Proverbs 18:1, based simply on a cursory reading of English I thought made perfect sense, went something like this:

“Through desire,” because a man has to have the desire or drive to do something worthwhile, a man who wants to learn sometimes has to get alone, push aside distractions, and “separate himself.” It’s something that takes commitment – you have to want it. But it’s not simply the “getting alone” that makes all the difference; it’s the seeking of wisdom from multiple disciplines that gives one understanding in more than one area of life. Or, you could just say that learning takes hard work, but you can’t be lazy – you have to work for it.

But that wasn’t what this verse is saying.

The Real Meaning

Please understand, the King James Version’s translation of verse 1 is not incorrect; the way we say things and how we use our words have changed, that’s all.

The other translations I mentioned rendered Proverbs 18:1 in a way modern readers, such as myself, could better understand the original text. Where I thought “desire” and “separated himself” meant something noble, the actual meaning of the original text (and the way an Elizabethan reader would have understood the KJV) was something selfish and arrogant.

Where I thought “intermeddleth with all wisdom” was saying the man checked out more than one book in the library, the word “intermeddleth” means to “to expose, lay bare,” or “quarrel with anyone, especially in dice, drinking, or in dividing an inheritance” (Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon).

So, another way you could interpret Proverbs 18:1 might go like this:

“Loners and arrogant know-it-alls think they’re in a class all to themselves and make few friends. They also have contempt for any wisdom that doesn’t come from themselves and are always trying to meddle with or subvert it to gain an advantage.”

Would you have interpreted it differently?


Stepping on Snakes

Proverbs 17:24

“Wisdom is before him that hath understanding; but the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth.”

If It Had Been a Snake

I have heard this saying all my life: “If it had been a snake, it would have bit you.” What exactly does that mean?

One time I heard it after I had been searching for a water hose in some tall grass I should have mowed earlier. My dad and I had to look for the missing hose, so when my foot slipped on the round rubber tube, my dad said, “If it’a been a snake, it would’a bit ya’.”

The meaning is that sometimes we miss the most obvious things, even though they may be right in front of our face.

It Was a Snake

800px-Copperhead05

Credit: Wikipedia

Because we lived next to the woods and near the Tennessee River when I was younger, rattle snakes and copperheads (venomous snakes) were common. One day, when a friend of mine came to visit for the evening, he walked in front of me to the front door of our house. What he failed to see stretched out on the ground in front of him, right below the door, was a 3-foot copperhead. He didn’t see it, but I did – just in time – so I threw him (my friend) off the porch and into the yard (I guess it was the adrenalin).

The reason my friend did not see the snake was because he was looking other places.

Not a Snake

Wisdom is not a snake, but you probably knew that. Yet, why is wisdom so hard for some to recognize? Solomon previously described Wisdom as even crying out in the streets (Prov. 1:20). It’s not like we can call wisdom elusive, can we?

I am reminded of what God said through Moses,

11 “This command that I give you today is certainly not too difficult or beyond your reach. 12 It is not in heaven so that you have to ask, ‘Who will go up to heaven, get it for us, and proclaim it to us so that we may follow it?’ 13 And it is not across the sea so that you have to ask, ‘Who will cross the sea, get it for us, and proclaim it to us so that we may follow it?’ 14 But the message is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, so that you may follow it.[1]

Wisdom is as close as our face, if we would just pay attention. All it would really take is for one to want to see it.

The Fool Will Get Bitten

Unlike the man with understanding, the fool has his eyes looking around for anything and everything that doesn’t matter.  Instead of recognizing what is in front of his face, he looks up to the stars and across the seas.

In the end, it won’t be wisdom that bites, but another kind of Serpent.


[1] The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009), Dt 30:11–14.


Perverted Justice

Proverbs 17:23

“A wicked man taketh a gift out of the bosom to pervert the ways of judgment.”
“The wicked accept bribes in secret to pervert the course of justice.” -NIV

What “They” Do

Bribes are bad, especially when truth and justice is perverted. That is the main point of this proverb. The wicked man takes a bribe in order to keep justice from going forward.

We’ve seen the movies, read the books, and may have even experienced the results in real life. We are all familiar with what the bad guys typically do. They take money to keep from testifying at a trial. They are given a little off the top to collect a little more from a debtor. They are paid to tell a lie in order to get another bad guy acquitted of a crime. That’s what bad guys do.

Image result for termite damage"I once knew of a pest control company that was bribed to give clearance letters. Builders who wanted to save a few hundred dollars would give fifty to the owner of the company, and in turn he would give the builder a letter stating the new property had been pre-treated for termites. Justice was perverted because the new houses were sold with no protection from termites, and when they did come, the homeowner was usually convinced to pay a large sum to the same pest control company for a termite treatment.

These were bad guys, and that’s what they do.

What “We” Do

What many fail to recognize is the wickedness in their own hearts. It is so easy to judge others, but it is very hard to judge ourselves.

Have you ever given someone money for doing a small job, but then asked the person to not report the money on his tax return? Have you ever said, “If we do this ‘under the table,’ you won’t have to report it, and we’ll both be better off“? If you did, the law was skirted, and justice was perverted. Now who’s the bad guy?

Lord, help us to do what is right at all times, even when doing what is right cost us a little more. Help us to desire justice, not pervert it.