The greatly used evangelist, D. L. Moody, said this about the influence of his mother, “All I have ever accomplished in life I owe to my mother.” I hope you can say that about your mother. Moody’s mother like all mothers was not perfect but D. L. Moody allowed her to be used of God to mold his life for ministry. The kingly author of Proverbs 31, King Lemuel, also praises his mother’s influence in his life. What the king says fits well with the message of the book of Proverbs: Wisdom for godly living.
The king gives the godly advice of his mother in Proverbs 31:1-9. Then he provides her godly example in 31:10-31. Both her words and life were powerfully used by God.
Wisdom in Proverbs is personified as a godly woman who is pursuing you and to whom you should listen as in Proverbs 1:20-26. In Proverbs 31, the virtuous woman is godly wisdom in the flesh. What is personified in 1:20-26 is a person in 31:10-31. The author is telling young men to pursue a virtuous woman like you pursue godly wisdom.
Foolishness in Proverbs is also personified but as an adulterous woman who is also pursuing you and to whom you should not listen. In Proverbs 9:13-18 the foolish woman is to be avoided and not listened to. Both Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly stand at the crossroads of your life calling to you to follow them. You must choose between wisdom and foolishness.
From this personification of wisdom we learn that wisdom is relational and social. Wisdom comes from three important relationships in described in Proverbs.
1. Wisdom comes from fearing the Lord. The author has come full circle in Proverbs. In 1:7, he records the theme of Proverbs: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” Now at the end of Proverbs he states that the crowning virtue of the virtuous woman is the fact that she fears the Lord in 31:31. The fear of the Lord is the Old Testament way of describing salvation. Even in the New Testament, Paul admonished Timothy to “continue in the things which you have learned and have been assured of, knowing of whom you have learned them; and that from a child you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus”(2 Timothy 3:14-15). Trusting Christ as your Savior is the wisest decision you will ever make.
2. Wisdom comes from obeying you parents. In 1:8-9, Solomon writes, “My son, hear the instruction of your father, and forsake not the law of your mother.” The author comes full circle again in 31:1-9 with advice reminiscent of chapters 1-9. In chapters 1-9, Solomon gives 15 “My Son” talks to his son. Here in 31:1-9, is a mother’s “My Son” talk. These “My Son” talks are full of wisdom.
3. Wisdom comes from developing godly friendships. In 1:10; 15 Solomon warns of the danger of ungodly friendships. In Proverbs 31:10-31, the author challenges each young man to choose as his lifelong friend a virtuous woman.
In Proverbs 31, the author first gives the godly mother’s advice and then her example.
First, the author gives the Godly Advice of his Godly Mother in 31:1-9.
The mother of this king reminds her leader son that she has earned her right to be heard. He is her son. She has birthed him. She also, like Hannah, prayed for him and vowed to the Lord that her son would serve the Lord. This vow reminds us of barren Hannah praying and vowing to the Lord that if He gave her a son she would give him back to the Lord all the days of his life (1 Samuel 1).
A. Her first advice was to pursue purity in 31:3.
Solomon also warned three times out of the fifteen ”My Son” talks about the wrong kind of women. Of course he later did not follow his own wisdom as 1st Kings 11 records. The tragic result was that Solomon’s exotic women brought down his kingdom. Just ask John Edwards if this advise is still true today.
B. Next, the mother of the king advises him to avoid drunkenness in 31:4-7.
Drunkenness not only impares the driving but the decision making ability of a leader. Ecclesiastes was Solomon’s last book. He wrote Ecclesiastes when he was old and reflects back over his wasted years after 1st Kings 11 when he no longer loved the Lord and before he returned to the Lord. He recounts what he did in his wasted years in Ecclesiastes 2:1-11. He pursued wine, women, and the party life. His conclusion is in Ecclesiastes 2:11, “Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labor that I had labored to do: and , behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.” Such are the regrets of those who follow Solomon’s example.
C. Finally, she advises her son, as a leader, to treat people fairly in 31:8-9.
He must open his mouth and speak up for the marginalized: the poor, the widows, and orphans. Those who have no voice or influence.
The sum of her advice is this: Don’t live selfishly for yourself as a leader but use you talents and influence for others. Jesus perfectly lived out this wisdom. He defined His God ordained mission in life: “I came not to be served but to serve and to give my life a ransom for many.” In part two we will look at the example the godly mother provides in 31:10-31.
(GBC sermon audio – May 9, 2010)