Proverbs 31 is of course the quintessential passage on godly womanhood. Christian women are usually familiar with at least parts of the proverb. Sadly, we often yank bits out of context and into our current moment, wielding our favorite line for defense. You want to defend the career driven mom? “She considers a field and buys it.” You’re sick of people and you want to be a hermit? “She looks well to the ways of her household.” You want to overspend your budget when you’re out shopping? “Her clothing is fine linen and purple.”
Tag lines are helpful to remember, but they should call to mind whole ideas and arguments, not become a whole idea unto itself. When I start calling smidges of a passage to mind, I try to practice looking it back up in its whole context. I have in my mind to write a few posts on this proverb. I need to think it over; and since writing and thinking are such happy bedfellows you’re welcome to think along with me if you please.
The words of King Lemuel. An oracle that his mother taught him:
What are you doing, my son? What are you doing, son of my womb? What are you doing, son of my vows?
Do not give your strength to women,
your ways to those who destroy kings.
It is not for kings, O Lemuel,
it is not for kings to drink wine,
or for rulers to take strong drink,
lest they drink and forget what has been decreed
and pervert the rights of all the afflicted.
Give strong drink to the one who is perishing,
and wine to those in bitter distress;
let them drink and forget their poverty
and remember their misery no more.
Open your mouth for the mute,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
defend the rights of the poor and needy.
Thoughts and Observations (so far):
1. Straight away we learn that this oracle is not primarily a “how to” on wife-hood. It is instead an appeal to a king to discharge his duties rightly without distraction.
2. His mother’s pleading jumps off the page. 3 times she begs the question from her son, “What are you doing?” She appeals to who he is positionally: son, son of her own womb, and son of her marriage. He is royalty. And her pleading is not primarily for his own interests, but on behalf of the kingdom he is to care for, the afflicted, the poor and needy.
3. She sees 2 major distractions to threaten the strength of her son: Women and Wine. (Depravity hasn’t changed much.)
4. Strong drink is not for the strong. To be sure, wine is elsewhere celebratory in the Scriptures (a gift I’m happy to enjoy). But here, it is a tool for the dying and for the afflicted, not fit for the everyday sustenance of those charged with authority. And why? For the sake of those under our care. If we are to speak on their behalf we had better not be at half-wit.
5. As believers we are the sons and daughters of King Jesus, the king of kings. How are we to discharge our royal duties? We are the bride of Christ. How are we to be excellent? We shall see…