The last chapter of Proverbs is best-known for its section on the “virtuous wife” – that ideal woman of dreams. But she is actually the third of three sections in chapter 31.
Like in chapter 30, we know nothing of Lemuel or his mother, except that he was a king and that God’s people recognized him/them as speaking God’s truth here and kept this together with the rest of God’s Word.
Lemuel’s mother taught him three things that he would find necessary when he became king (and we find necessary in our lives, too):
1 – Keep your mind strong (31:3-7)
It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to crave strong drink, lest they drink and forget what is decreed,and remove from all the poor their legal rights. (31:3-4)
Whether they will admit it or not, everyone knows that alcohol is a mind-altering drug. No doubt it affects people in different ways – some more, some less. But those who say, “It doesn’t affect me” don’t realize the power that it has. Just ask the guy who’s 24 years sober, yet still going to AA meetings religiously.
Lemuel’s mother’s advice is right on – drink affects your mind, so don’t drink when you’re going to be needing your mind. In a king’s case (or president, governor, etc.), that could be at any time, so he shouldn’t drink at all.
Who should drink according to Lemuel’s mom? “The one who is perishing…those who are bitterly distressed” specifically for the purpose of forgetting their current troubles.
But before you go get drunk to forget your troubles, ask the guy in AA why he stopped 24 years ago.
2 – Stick up for the little guy (31:8-9)
Open your mouth on behalf of those unable to speak, for the legal rights of all the dying. Open your mouth, judge in righteousness, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.
This is a recurring theme in God’s Word. In the Old Testament Law, he set up very specific guidelines for taking care of “the poor and needy” (Leviticus 19:9-10) and the prophets took up the cause as well (Isaiah 1:17). The apostles practiced it in the early days of the church (Acts 4:34-35), and Paul commanded that it continue to be done through the church (1 Timothy 5:3-16). James even went so far to say that is the true meaning and purpose of religion as far as God is concerned (James 1:27).
What are you doing to stick up for the little guy? Need some ideas? Check out Hope Ministries and see how you can volunteer.
3 – Marry wisely (31:10-31)
Here’s the section we all know and love. Let’s spend some time together on it in my next post.