Sunday, August 30, 2009

Proverbs 31: 1-9

Proverbs 31

The Words of Lemuel
1The words of King Lemuel, the oracle which his mother taught him:
2What, O my son?
And what, O son of my womb?
And what, O son of my vows?
3Do not give your strength to women,
Or your ways to that which destroys kings.
4It is not for kings, O Lemuel,
It is not for kings to drink wine,
Or for rulers to desire strong drink,
5For they will drink and forget what is decreed,
And pervert the rights of all the afflicted.
6Give strong drink to him who is perishing,
And wine to him whose life is bitter.
7Let him drink and forget his poverty
And remember his trouble no more.
8Open your mouth for the mute,
For the rights of all the unfortunate.
9Open your mouth, judge righteously,
And defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.

Today's Thought Question:
  1. What proverb in today's passage spoke to you and why?

Who is King Lemuel? Some translations use "king of Massa" referring to one of the sons of Ishmael. 'Lemuel' means "belonging to God" and is also "a symbolic name of Solomon." [Strong's] According to ancient Jewish tradition, King Lemuel is identified as King Solomon.

What is shared with us through these verses is a poem about what a wise king is supposed to be--shared, from the perspective of a mother, who loves her son greatly.

"Do not give your strength to women" she says. According to my S.B., this phrasing refers to the taking of multiple wives, which was not uncommon at the time of Solomon. In fact, Solomon did have multiple wives, and it's a fact that his mother's prophecy was true, as this led to Solomon's downfall as a king.

Kingly reign and alcohol do not mix. I don't think I need to expand on the issues of alcohol and its influence on logic, reason, wisdom, etc., though I will say that our culture does associate people in power--not necessarily presidents of countries, but corporate honchos and celebrities--with lavish parties...and don't hold the alcohol.

Verse 6: "Give strong drink to him who is perishing." Right away, I think about Jesus on the cross in His time of pain. Remember what He was offered by the soldiers? Luke records, "sour wine." (23:36)

The last two verses of this poem highlight the good that a king should do for others: "Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all the unfortunate...judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy." I'm not sure these are things we necessarily look for in a leader today. The folks who I know who do serve in this way, sadly, I'm wondering how many others would see them as leaders.

What's so important here is compassion! And, my S.B. makes a note about this compassion: "The monarch thus mediates the compassion of God." In this way, compassion is a "brother" to wisdom, in that God must be the one to work through the heart, to generate the compassion. This is not something we can brew up ourselves, any more than we can gain understanding apart from our Father.

Who are these verses talking about? Oh, if Solomon would have heeded his mother's words! No, only One could demonstrate this kind of compassionate monarchy. But, He was misunderstood and led to the cross, and offered strong drink--which He wouldn't accept. Even then, Jesus fulfilled another part of Scripture that folks wouldn't understand in His time, but would later.

The words of this mother were truly wise. Solomon's father, David, prayed for his son upon Solomon's taking his kingly reign. In Psalm 72, we find not only wise words for Solomon, but truly, words looking to the King of Glory, God of Compassion.

"And let all kings bow down before him,
All nations serve him.
For he will deliver the needy when he cries for help,
The afflicted also, and him who has no helper.
He will have compassion on the poor and needy,
And the lives of the needy he will save.
He will rescue their life from oppression and violence,
And their blood will be precious in his sight;
So may he live, and may the gold of Sheba be given to him;
And let them pray for him continually;
Let them bless him all day long."
--Psalm 72: 11-15


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Tomorrow's Scripture Focus and Thought Question:

Proverbs 31: 10-31 (The words of Lemuel)
  1. What proverb in today's passage spoke to you and why?

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Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation, specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB). I will quote other sources if used in a post.
I also use Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (with notes from the King James Version).


T. Anne said...

8. I love to pray for those the holy spirit leads me to pray for.

Sue J. said...

T. Anne, I like your take on verse 8. There should be something for all of us to take from these verses, whether or not we are kings. And there are many who will not or cannot pray for themselves.