I stand amazed, apart from its unparalleled spiritual values, how much the King James Version of the Holy Bible transformed the English Language. Many beautiful phrases or one-liners and parables became popular means of explanation of events, or characteristics in our times. One can read its influence in the writings of Jefferson or the speeches of Lincoln, Gandhi or Nehru, even Churchill. Here is an example: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Proverbs 27:6). How can a friend wound anyone and how can it be faithful?
In a way, this is not new at all. In its primitive form, we have experienced it from our childhood days. Can any guess? Once our parental red lines were crossed, there were consequences. I believe, it was Dr. Robert A. Cook, the famous Evangelistic Pastor, later President of King’s College who wrote: “Apply the board of education to the seat of knowledge.” During my school days, a small Malacca cane was standard equipment in all teachers’ desks. Occasionally, when I got home, there was a repeat application from my loving mother. For some reason, my Dad did not administer, leaving the chore to my Mom. I agree it was no wound, but plenty painful! Please do not misunderstand, I am not advocating angry and unwise “spare the rod and spoil the child” philosophy. Everything should be balanced with love and long suffering!
Have we not found the Bible, particularly the Old Testament very interesting in this regard? Let me hone in on one example of a father and son; actually a king and his son. One received the wound of a friend and the other did not. Let’s start with David. The wound was by Nathan the prophet, by way of a very strong rebuke. After giving an analogical story of a rich man unjustly snatching away the little lamb from a poor man, Nathan pointed to the king and said “You are the man.” It took much courage and was a terrible wound of a friend, but absolutely necessary. David listened and took it on the chin. God forgave the penitent King, though the consequences were disastrous.
David was at it again after defeating an uprising of the Philistines. He wanted to take a census to determine the strength of Israel’s army. Mind you, this is the same David who wrote and sang “some nations boast on their chariots and horses but we boast in the name of our God.” This time, the wound came not from a prophet, but from David’s military commander, Joab. He spoke forthrightly to the king, again a dangerous proposition in those days. He warned David “Why do you want to do this? Why must you cause Israel to sin?” Notice those powerful words – “cause Israel to sin” – another faithful wound from a friend. David at first did not listen and consequently paid a heavy price, causing unnecessary death to thousands of his people with a plague. Fortunately David repented – again. The Lord mercifully averted a further disaster, this time close to Jerusalem.
This was, however, not the case with David’s son, King Solomon. Unfortunately there was no such friend for Solomon, as far as I know. He either did not have a faithful friend to cause a wound or Solomon simply did not want to hear anyway. He neither had a Nathan nor a Joab. Consequently, Solomon who started his reign with great promise, ended up tragically as an immoral idol worshipper. Many Bible scholars wonder what was the use of building a great temple for God (which was later destroyed by the enemies), and killing thousands of animals for sacrifice, only to fall into a lifestyle of idol-worship and debauchery? God would have destroyed him but for his father’s sake.
This may lead to a difference of opinion. It was one of those lingering questions from my youth. Was Solomon’s request for wisdom the right choice? I was timid and kept this thought to myself. Perhaps there are others who feel the same way. Recently I read a book on Romans by Donald G. Barnhouse, lent to me by my friends Ed & Ann Hopkins from Coral Ridge. I found that Barnhouse had the same feeling. He wrote: “On Solomon’s wise choice, I pondered, and decided that it was not wise; that if I had been in his place, I would not have asked God for wisdom, but rather to be like Him in holiness.” In other words, he should have wisely followed his father’s footsteps, going after God’s own heart.
How do we deal with a faithful wound from a friend? The normal human reaction will be a sense of disappointment, disbelief, or perhaps rage. The disciples had to deal with this challenge on many occasions. They disagreed and had arguments between themselves. A case in point is Paul and Barnabas. They were close friends. When the Apostles were suspicious and afraid of Paul, Barnanas introduced him to the Apostles. They ministered together for years. The Scriptures say there was bitter contention between them over John Mark who, at one time, let them down. The disagreement was so sharp “that they separated asunder.” Quite a wound from a faithful friend. The beauty of it was Paul realized the pain and later wrote those beautiful words: “Only Luke is with me. Bring Mark with you when you come for he will be helpful to me in my ministry.”
Another type of wound can come as criticism from friends. What will be our reaction? Pick up the phone and give him an ear full? Will we be like David or Paul? Think it through; what is the long term consequence? Does our response glorify God? Or is there an unexpected benefit?
Just remember how one king found restoration and another did not.
God bless, Danny Paul