The Teachings of a King’s Mother

By Nick Westbrooks

The teachings of King Lemuel’s mother found in the last chapter in the book of Proverbs is a testament to the wisdom of our mothers, and it serves as a timely Mother’s Day message this year, and being a young man, it’s especially meaningful to me. The woman in the text gives her son a few words of advice that sons and even daughters can apply now.

First, it’s important to understand the premise under which this queen is advising her son. The king’s name tells a lot about not only his mother’s high expectations for her son, but it reveals his divine identity and the Creator’s expectations for him. The name Lemuel means, “belonging to God.”

When you’re consciously classified as property of the Most High, you have to live a particular way and not do certain things. As a man of God, Lemuel couldn’t hang out all night stumbling around town in a drunken stupor and lustfully chasing after women.

More important than the things you can’t do are the things you must do. This is an important lesson for us who identify ourselves as children of God. We have to live righteously as we represent our families, our ancestors, our God and ourselves.

What wisdom did King Lemuel’s mother impart in him? She taught him not to spend his strength on women and his “vigor on those who ruin kings” (Prov. 31:3). Commentary in the New Quest Study Bible explains that kings were susceptible to investing their time, money and energy on courting and marrying multiple women. Engaging in this type of behavior will lead to self-destruction and ruin.

In verses 8 and 9, Lemuel’s mother instructs him to practice social justice by being a voice for the voiceless and being a reasonable advocate for the less fortunate: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the right of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge; defend the rights of the poor and needy” (NIV).

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the right of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy (NIV).

Sounds familiar right? In our society, poor people are marginalized and forgotten, because they don’t have the authority and resources to influence the dominant power structure. It appears that individuals who are in positions of privilege aren’t interested in working with anyone who can’t add to their power. The lessons taught by the king’s mother in these two verses are those that everyone should apply as it’s our responsibility as human beings and as God’s people.

To conclude the mother-to-son wisdom, Lemuel learns how to choose a wife of noble character. She tells him to choose a woman that is wise, works hard and exemplifies strength and dignity. But, one of the strongest pieces of advice from this epilogue in Proverbs is to choose a woman that transcends good looks and reveres her Heavenly Father: “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

At the moment, we don’t know anything about who King Lemuel was or his kingship. But we do know that he felt it was imperative to share the wisdom that came from his mother. He probably recognized the influence and role his mother had in shaping who he was and had become. On this Mother’s Day, this scriptural passage reminds us of the role mothers can have in building character in their children, and it now may serve as a model for all parents and guardians everywhere aspiring to rear their youth in ways that are pleasing to the Creator.

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