Proverbsby David Cook
This final section of Proverbs is attributed to King Lemuel. We don't know much about who Lemuel was and where he reigned. Lemuel, which means ″belonging to God″, is mentioned only once in the Bible, though some scholars believe it was a pen name for another king, possibly Solomon or Hezekiah.
Lemuel's sayings are presented as a teaching from his mother and can be divided into two sections: advice for the king on ruling and administering justice (Proverbs 31:2-9), and a description of an excellent wife (vv. 10-31). Today, we look at Lemuel's mother's advice on what he should not do (vv. 3-7) and what he should do (vv. 8-9).
First, Lemuel is to avoid giving in to the temptations of unrestrained sexual gratification (v. 3) and drink (v. 4-7)-two temptations very real to a man with power and money.
The instruction not to ″spend your strength on women″ (v. 3) echoes the warning given to kings in Deuteronomy 17:17: a king must not take many wives, for they will lead him astray. This was Solomon's downfall. Immorality is not conducive to wise rule, for the king is God's representative and is to be a man of integrity; there is to be no distinction between the king's public and private life (Proverbs 5-7).
Addiction to alcohol is also not conducive to wise rule (Proverbs 31:4-5), as it will deprive the king of a clear mind needed to make wise decisions. Wine and beer can cause kings to forget or neglect their lawful duty to protect society's most vulnerable (v. 5), who have no one else to depend on. Unlike those who are suffering or in anguish, the king is not to resort to drinking to forget his woes (vv. 6-7), for he needs to be ever alert.
Second, Lemuel is to protect the poor, the needy, and the oppressed (vv. 8-9) by speaking up for them and judging fairly. The poor and the destitute cannot afford a bribe or an advocate, so the king must defend their rights (see 16:12). As his words are highly influential (16:10) and taken as law, the king has a special responsibility to look out for those with the least influence.
King Lemuel's mother's advice is just as applicable to us today, whether or not we are in a position of leadership or influence. We can also pray for our leaders to heed these wise words. As preacher Peter Marshall, a former Chaplain to the American Senate, once prayed for leaders: ″Let no personal ambition blind them to their opportunities. Help them to give battle to hypocrisy wherever they find it. Give them divine common sense and a selflessness that shall make them think of service and not of gain.″14
14Catherine Marshall, ed., The Prayers of Peter Marshall (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1985).
What influence do you have in your community, workplace, and family? Within your sphere of influence, how can you look out for the interests of the poor and needy around you?
How can you pray for your leaders in your nation, workplace, and church today?