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!

Prudent People Get It

Proverbs 18:15

“The heart of the prudent getteth knowledge; and the ear of the wise seeketh knowledge.”

What’s Good for You

I’ve heard this preface to warnings all my life: “If you know what’s good for you, you will…” For example,

If you know what’s good for you, you will…

  • pay attention
  • look before you cross the street
  • blow on that before you take a sip
  • learn to say no
  • think twice before you say, “I do”
  • put that back and buy a cheaper one
  • stay in school

Solomon was simply saying, “If you know what’s good for you, you will seek and get knowledge.

Never Stop Learning

DSC_0013

Photo Credit: Katie Baker

The older I get, and the more I study, the more I realize that there is so much I don’t know. I have more knowledge than I used to, but I am always learning.

The prudent man and the wise man know that it never hurts to “learn all you can and can what you get.” The knowledge you acquire may not seem useful today, but only God knows the future.

 

 


A Wounded Spirit Kills

Proverbs 18:14

“The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?”
“A man’s spirit will endure sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?” – ESV

Ripped from the Headlines

How was I to know that on the same day I sat down to write this entry [originally written 4/07/13], news of the tragic suicide of Matthew Warren (age 27), Pastor Rick Warren’s son, would be all over the headlines? There was no way I could know, but God did.

After a long, long battle with mental and physical illness, including debilitating depression, Pastor Warren’s son ended his own life in a “momentary wave of despair.” Saddleback Church (where Warren is pastor) said in a statement, “Despite the best health care available, this was an illness that was never fully controlled and the emotional pain resulted in his decision to take his life...”

Doesn’t “momentary wave of despair” sound a lot like “a wounded spirit who can bear?

Strong Willed

There are countless stories of people who struggled through the pain and suffering of debilitating disease and deformity. Their stories inspire us all to be thankful for what we have, even if it is only bare feet – some people have no feet at all.

Not long ago I saw a video of a man who had no arms or legs. At one point it seemed like he had no future, for it seemed impossible for him to accomplish even the most basic tasks of life. Yet, with perseverance and a strong will, not to mention the belief that he “could do all things through Christ,” he has done everything from surf to dance with his wife at their wedding. As a matter of fact, it was this man who nearly brought Rick Warren to tears on a show he appeared on with Oprah Winfrey.

Crushed Spirit

But when a man or woman’s spirit is crushed, when all hope is gone, life becomes very hard to bear. The fact is that plenty of otherwise healthy people die every day from despair.

Solomon knew what many people discover too late: one can have everything, but life without hope is no life at all. Sick people can endure pain for years, but a healthy man can die overnight from a broken, wounded heart.

Hope for the Wounded

The Apostle Paul once said that “if in this life only we have hope…”, then we are sure to be miserable (1 Cor. 15:19). Whether that hope be in Christ, or money, or relationships, or good health; if it is a hope that is only for the here and now, it is pretty much worthless in the long run. Hope that never has a hope of being realized is no hope at all.

But praise God this life isn’t all there is! Job, the most miserably treated man in the Bible, could have given up in despair, but from the ashes of his life he cried out…

“I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes–I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” – Job 19:25-27 NIV

Thank you, O God! Thank you for the Hope we have in You! Bear us up with your Spirit and strengthen our hearts. 


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?