My Mom gave me a beautiful stitched pillow with these words on it, “A Mother holds her child’s hand for a little while, their heart forever.” I never realized just how true this statement was until I held my first child! We only have a few short years to teach and train these precious souls before they grow to maturity, but our hearts are always with them. A godly woman continues to pray for her child and share her wisdom with them whenever she can. That is exactly what we find as we turn to Proverbs 31:1, “The words of King Lemuel, the oracle which his mother taught him.” The whole chapter is power-packed with advice from a discerning mother to her son.
There is not a lot known about this king, which can be translated, “King of Massa,” and may be referring to the kingdom mentioned in Genesis 25:14, one of the sons of Ishmael. The important thing to focus on though, is not necessarily who it is written to, but the value of the inspired words.
Proverbs 31:2, “What, O my son? And what, O son of my womb? And what, O son of my vows?” All of these words are endearing her son to her, especially when the words are repeated like this. He came from her womb and she may be implying that like Hannah in 1 Samuel 1:11, she had asked for him in prayer. His name, Lemuel, means “dedicated to God,” and so it would seem that she also has done as Hannah did and dedicated her son to the service of the Lord. This could also mean that her son is the object of her daily prayers and vows. Listen to the beautiful words of Hannah to the priest, Eli, as she presents her son to him, “For this boy I prayed, and the Lord has given me my petition which I asked of Him. So I have also dedicated him to the Lord; as long as he lives he is dedicated to the Lord.” 1 Samuel 1:27-28. A godly woman will take her role as mother seriously, and will see that her children are taught the ways of God, Deuteronomy 6:7.
Proverbs 31:3, “Do not give your strength to women, or your ways to that which destroys kings.” Here, she warns her son to focus on the important matters that he has as king. Some cultures in ancient times had rulers whose sexual prowess was the defining factor that demonstrated their greatness. Look at both King David and King Solomon. King David set out on a path of fornication and murder after watching Bathsheba bathe in 2 Samuel 11, and King Solomon’s many foreign wives turned his heart away, in 1 Kings 11:3. King Lemuel’s mother desperately wants her son to remain dedicated to the Lord and His ways.
Proverbs 31:4-7, “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to desire strong drink, lest they drink and forget what is decreed, and pervert the rights of the afflicted. Give strong drink to him who is perishing and wine to him whose life is bitter. Let him drink and forget his poverty and remember his trouble no more.” Here now is the second warning she has for her son. This implies the act of habitual drinking. Earlier in Proverbs this point is made vividly, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise.” Proverbs 20:1. Being “under the influence” of alcohol could cause him to forget the laws, and consequently forget his responsibility also. He has a kingdom to answer to! God reminds us in Luke 12:48, “…and from everyone who has been given much shall much be required.” This also brings to mind a quote from a movie that I heard, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Peter Parker is told this by his Uncle Ben in Spiderman. Sometimes nuggets of truth can even be found in Marvel Comics! The point his mother is making is that she does not want the law obstructed in ways that the poor will be forgotten or abused. Strong drink clouds our thoughts and blurs our vision of what needs to be done, and when.
She then urges him to keep the strong drink for the dying, those in bitter distress, and the misfortunate-those who want to forget life. He has an important job to do as king, and he doesn’t have time for strong drink.
Proverbs 31:8-9, “Open your mouth for the dumb, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.” She wants him to be a “voice” for the needy and make their views heard. He should be one who judges righteously and see that justice is carried out. The legacy of a king will long be talked about-who can forget King Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, (1 Kings 14:9), or King Ahab (1 Kings 16:30) who “did more evil than all who were before him.”? You can see that she is adamant for her son’s rule to be remembered as a godly, fair, and righteous rule.
Proverbs 31:10-31 directs our attention to characteristics to look for when choosing an excellent wife. As we continue our study on this book, let us ponder the words of this wonderful proverb, as each subsequent writer takes a section of these verses remaining and discusses them. These are all things that as mothers of sons, we can teach them to look for; as mothers of daughters, aspire to imitate. If you are already a wife, implement these qualities in your life; and if you are single and looking for a husband, remember that a godly man will be watching for these traits in you!
by Robin Martin
Robin Martin and her husband Randy are members at the South Twin Cities Church of Christ in Rosemount, MN, where Randy ministers as an elder. They just celebrated their 30 year wedding anniversary! They have seven children together, four of whom have married Christian spouses, giving them eight grandchildren! Robin enjoys running her in-home licensed daycare, teaching the baby and toddler classes for the church, leading ladies’ devotionals, and has had the privilege of speaking at Ladies Days in Minnesota, South Dakota, and Iowa. She loves to sew, quilt, cook, host events, and spend time with her family and friends!