The “virtuous woman” is the subject of Proverbs 31, perhaps the most beloved of all the Proverbs because it addresses the most central figure in life apart from our Creator—one’s mother. Like chapter 30, the authorship of Proverbs 31 has been debated down through the centuries; however, I feel there is much about this chapter that commends itself to having been authored by King Solomon. [Author’s note – A separate devotional for 1 Kings 12 is available at www.HeartofAShepherd.com]
Proverbs 31:1 – “The words [discourse; law] of king Lemuel, the prophecy[burden; tribute] that his mother taught him [instructed; discipline; chasten].”
There is no record of a king named Lemuel in ancient Israel or Judah, and many scholars believe Lemuel might have been a nickname Bathsheba gave to her son Solomon. Having lost her firstborn son in infancy, the one conceived in an act of adultery with David; one can understand why Bathsheba would dedicate Solomon to God, and in her heart, name him Lemuel (the literal meaning of Lemuel is “unto God” –lit. dedicated to God). For the sake of our devotional studies in Proverbs, I propose we view this chapter as Solomon’s memorial to his mother.
Verse 2 of Proverbs 31 records the Queen mother’s appeal to her son in a three-fold question:
Proverbs 31:2 – “What, my son? and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows [dedication to God; binding covenant between mother and God]?”
Allow me to probe the meaning of the three questions proposed by the king’s mother.
1)“What myson?”(31:2a)– i.e. – What more can I say to you my son and king?
2)“What, the son of mywomb?”(31:2a) – She reminds the king that she knew him in her womb; before he drew his first breath. She gave him life, and loves him as no one else could love him.
3)“What, the son of myvows?”(31:2a) – Like Hannah dedicated her son Samuel (1 Samuel 1:11), Bathsheba dedicated her son while he was in her womb. She remembers the first stirring of life and how she prayed for him. She had dedicated him to serve the Lord!
We are not told what moved Bathsheba to make an impassioned plea to her son. Perhaps her motherly instincts sensed the moral dangers Solomon would face. She knew all too well the temptations that beset a man of power, possessions, and popularity. The plea of the Queen mother resonated in her son’s heart, and he memorialized her virtuous qualities as an example for all women.
Someone has said: “The greatest moral power in the world is that exercised by a mother over her child.”
John Quincy Adams, the 6th president of the United States said concerning his mother, “All that I am, or ever have been, in this world, I owe, under God, to my mother.”
Closing thoughts – Read the entirety of Proverbs 31 today. It is my prayer the king’s praise of his mother will move husbands, sons and daughters to thank the LORD for loving mothers, and encourage them with words of affirmation and thanksgiving. Finally, in a day that is desperate for a moral compass, I pray there will be mothers who have been inspired from the king’s praise of his mother, to aspire to the qualities of a virtuous woman.
To the two mothers in my life, thank you for your loving sacrifices, and examples of Christ-like, unconditional love. (Proverbs 31:28-31)
The opening verses of Proverbs 30 are not as practical as the majority of the proverbs; however, with a little “gold mining” into word meanings, we find nuggets of truth that are applicable to all who seek wisdom.
The human author of Proverbs 30 is debated among scholars. Some believe “Agur” is another name for Solomon; however, the reference of “Agur, the son of Jakeh” would seem to negate that suggestion. In addition, the personal admissions in verses 2-3 and 8-9 would seem out of character for Solomon, a man renowned for his wisdom.
Proverbs 30:1 –“The words of Agur the son of Jakeh,eventhe prophecy[utterances inspired by God]: the man spake unto Ithiel, even unto Ithiel and Ucal,”
The words of “Agur” are described as “the prophecy” (30:1), thereby attributing his words to be the inspired word of God. We may be unable to identify the human author; however, there is no doubt that God the Holy Spirit is the divine author. The apostles Paul and Peter testified that the scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments were God-breathed, and inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21).
The prophecy of Agur was delivered to two men of whom nothing is known save their names, “Ithiel and Ucal” (30:1). Perhaps Ithiel and Ucal had come to Agur seeking words of wisdom and instruction. Agur, acknowledging the magnitude of his duty to speak on behalf of God, was overwhelmed with the responsibility.
Proverbs 30:2 –“Surely Iammore brutish[stupid; foolish; lacking an ability to reason]thananyman, and have not the understanding[knowledge and wisdom]of a man.”
Agur admitted his inadequacy to impart wisdom apart from God, confessing he was a “brutish man”, wandering like a beast without reasoning. In my opinion, Agur expresses the humility that should be true of every man. Apart from God’s mercy and grace, we are all sinners, brute beasts, without direction (Isaiah 53:6; Romans 1:28).
Proverbs 30:3 – “I neither learned[have not learned]wisdom, nor have[know]the knowledge[discernment; ex. between good and evil]of the holy[sacred; pure].”
Agur’s confession in verse 3 expresses the humility required of those who would seek the wisdom of God. The foolish reject God (Psalm 14:1) and the proud are unwilling to humble themselves. Before a man can acquire the wisdom of God, he must confess his woeful ignorance, and express the humility of Isaiah when he was given a vision of God’s heavenly glory and cried out: “Woe is me!for I am undone…for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts”(Isaiah 6:5).
Closing thought – Where might one find the wisdom of God?
Godly wisdom, understanding, and discernment come from trusting the LORD by faith, quietly residing in His presence, and meditating on His Word. Such wisdom is not the wisdom of this world, which “is foolishness with God” (1 Corinthians 3:19). The wisdom of God is derived from reading and meditating in His Word, and walking in obedience to His Law and Commandments.
Got wisdom? It is available to those who trust the LORD, come to Him humbly, and obey His Word.
James 1:5 – “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God [ask God for wisdom and understanding], that giveth [offers; grants] to allmenliberally [generously], and upbraideth not [does not reproach or find fault]; and it shall be given him.”
Today’s Scripture reading is Proverbs 25 and 26. As with all the chapters in Proverbs, the number of verses, and couplets of wisdom are daunting if addressed in a brief devotional. My devotional commentary from Proverbs 25will focus on Proverbs 25:6-7. This is the first of two devotional studies today.
The Internet has opened up a world of fame and/or infamy for those who want to impact the social media world. Such a platform has given opportunity to anyone who wants to be an overnight, self-made, internet sensation.
I am often amazed at the magnitude of information individuals are willing to share on social network sites. Hawking one’s self and gawking at others has become an all-consuming past time. It is estimated that 18-34-year-olds spend 3.8 hours a day social networking! The infatuation with self, reminds me of a comment my tourist guide in Israel made years ago when he observed the national pastime of Israeli youth was “to see and to be seen.”
Proverbs 25:6-7 cuts against the grain of our self-promoting society. Solomon urged his son to show discretion and humility, especially in the presence of great men. The king wrote:
Proverbs 25:6-7– “Put not forth thyself [don’t be a self-promoter; overtly ambitious; seeking vainglory] in the presence of the king, and stand not in the place of great men: 7For better it is that it be said unto thee, Come up [ascend; go up] hither; than that thou shouldest be put lower [humbled; humiliated] in the presence of the prince whom thine eyes have seen.”
Christ taught a similar lesson regarding humility inLuke 14:8-10.
Luke 14:8-11 – “When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room[place of honor]; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; 9And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. 10But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. 11For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”
Closing thoughts – Take a few minutes and inspect your social media page, and the pictures you have posted. I encourage you to be honest about the things you have written, and the photos you have posted. Forget how many “Likes” or “Comments” you have received and consider:How much of what I have posted glorifies God? Are you guilty of self-promotion?
In a day of shameless self-promotion, HUMILITY is still the quality God cherishes in His people.
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Proverbs 23 is today’s Scripture reading, and as you will see, it is rich in metaphors that illustrate spiritual principles for life and daily living. Solomon is training his son, the future king of Israel, and instilling in him life lessons. He cautions his son concerning the enticements of the rich and powerful (23:1-3), and the enslaving sin of covetousness (23:4-5). He admonished him to not fall into the company of “big bellies and booze” (23:19-21), and urged him to treasure truth, wisdom, instruction and understanding (23:23).
Today’s devotional will consider Proverbs 23:12-16 , and the subject is the spiritual benefits of Biblical discipline.
Remembering the Book of Proverbs is a compilation of a father’s loving instructions to his son, we feel Solomon’s passion for his son to respond to loving discipline with a humble, teachable spirit.
Proverbs 23:12–“Apply [take; set]thine heart[mind, thoughts; emotions]unto instruction [warning; discipline; reproof], and thine ears to the words [speech; sayings]of knowledge [i.e., knowledge of good and evil].”
Proverbs 23:12 places the responsibility of a right response to correction and discipline upon the child. We live in a permissive society that absolves its youth of personal responsibility, and condemns parents who determine to balance loving instruction with authoritative discipline. It is that misguided, unbiblical approach to parenting that has encouraged an undisciplined, lawless spirit in the youth of this generation.
Solomon challenged his son to harmonize his heart, thoughts, and emotions with what he had been taught from a child. Because we sin by nature, it follows that the bent of every son and daughter is to sin. Temperaments differ, and the degree or choice of sin are not the same; however, the spiritual reality is: “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15).
Proverbs 23:13–“Withhold[keep back; deny; refrain]not correction[instruction; chastisement; discipline]from the child: for if thou beatest[strike; punish; smite]him with the rod[staff; stick; family scepter], he shall not die.”
Solomon is not encouraging physical abuse, nor commending a parent who vents their anger and frustration on a child. Still, contrary to societal norms of the 21st century, the Word of God exhorts loving parents to recognize the bent of a child’s heart, and administer loving discipline.
Proverbs 23:14–“Thou shalt beat[strike; punish; smite]him with the rod, and shalt deliver[rescue; save; preserve]his soul[life; being; spirit]from hell.”
To avoid confusion: Solomon was not calling for, or suggesting physical abuse. He was stating a principle that is the desire of every parent who longs to see their child turn from sin and follow righteousness.
Truth–The temporal pain of physical discipline is not comparable to an unbridled, undisciplined spirit that may drive a child to an early grave, and send his soul to the punishment of eternal hell.
Proverbs 23:15-16–“My son, if thine heart[thoughts; feelings; emotions]be wise[sound; restrained from acting in an evil manner],my heartshall rejoice[be joyful; extremely happy; glad], even mine. 16Yea, my reins[figurative of the mind]shall rejoice[jump for joy; exult; shout], when thy lips[language; speech]speak[say; declare]right things[upright; honest].”
A wise son or daughter is a delight to a parent’s heart! When a child chooses good over evil, and speaks words that are true, honest and sincere, the heart of the father swells with joy and pride.
I close with a promise for every son and daughter that will embrace wisdom, and follow the path of a godly parent’s loving instructions:
Ephesians 6:1-3– “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. 2 Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) 3That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.”
The tongue, that little member in your mouth, is an instrument few men or women can harness and control(James 3:3-5). James observed, “the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity”(James 3:6). David described the tongue “like a sharp razor” (Psalm 52:2-4), “a serpent”(Psalm 140:3) and “a sharp sword” (Psalm 57:4). Such is the power and influence of the tongue; its utterances have the power of life and death, blessing and cursing!
Perhaps reflecting on his father’s wisdom, Solomon states in his own proverb the fact that the tongue has the power to bless and destroy.
Proverbs 18:20–“A man’s belly[body; bosom; stomach]shall be satisfied[filled; nourished]with the fruit[reward; earnings]of his mouth[speech];andwith the increase[gain; produce]of his lips shall he be filled[satisfied; nourished].”
When words are used righteously, they affirm, express love, edify, and comfort. Those same words, and acts of kindness, have the mutual benefit of resonating in the heart of the one who expresses them (18:20). What a delight, to know comforting, reassuring words will inevitably nourish and satisfy the soul of the one who expresses them.
Proverbs 18:21–“Death and lifearein the power[hand; authority]of the tongue[speech; verbal communication]: and they that love[like; having a strong emotional attachment]it[tongue] shall eat[devour; consume]the fruit[reward; price]thereof.”
It is sport for the wicked to slander and malign a good man’s character.; however, be forewarned: The wicked eventually eat the “fruit,” and bear the consequences of their own words (18:21).
Closing thoughts – Someone has said, “A bit of love is the only bit that will put a bridle on the tongue.” Another has observed,“Some people speak from experience. Others, from experience,don’t speak.”
Wise men would choose the latter (it’s better not to speak at all)!
Matthew 12:36-37 – “But I say unto you, That every idle[useless; unfruitful]word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. 37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.”
Proverbs 19:11–“The discretion[prudence; wisdom; discernment]of a man deferreth[i.e., patience; prolong; outlive]his anger[wrath]; andit ishis [the patient man’s]glory[honor; beauty; pride]to pass over[overlook; pass on]a transgression[another man’s sin, trespass, rebellion].”
Proverbs 19:11 certainly runs contrary to the conventional wisdom of our day that is characterized by road rage, unprovoked attacks, and the ruthless demand for revenge and “a pound of flesh.” Solomon challenged his son to exercise discretion when provoked, and to show restraint when challenged with an angry reaction.
A wise man follows the policy, “Act, Don’t React,” and that is especially true when it comes to reining in one’s emotions, and bridling the tongue! Rather than appeasing anger, words often inflame an already volatile, combative situation (Proverbs 17:20; 21:23; James 3:5-6).
Wisdom and goodwill do not respond in kind, or manner when provoked. It is the honor and glory of good men to overlook the sinful ways of another (19:11b).
Continuing the lesson on deflecting an angry man’s propensity, we close with a consideration of how wise men approach and court the favor of a leader.
Proverbs 19:12–“The king’s wrath[rage; indignation]isas the roaring[growl]ofa lion; but his[the king’s]favour[delight; goodwill; pleasure]isas dew upon the grass.”
Like the roaring of a lion, the wrath of a king will provoke fear and anxiety; however, his pleasure refreshes and encourages the soul like the morning dew on the grass (19:12). Knowing the power of executing a judgment or the pleasure of extending a blessing, rests in the hands of a leader, the wise approach them with humility, and discretion.
Romans 13:7 – Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.
The Sovereignty of God is one of the great doctrines of the Scriptures, and has been a spiritual anchor for believers who have found themselves in the midst of trials and troubles. The Word of God reveals that He is Creator, and is therefore the Sovereign Ruler of the universe, all nations and people. Solomon, because his son would be king, and men’s lives and the future of the nation would rest in his hands, stressed the importance of both planning, and trusting God. Solomon wrote:
Proverbs 16:1 – “The preparations[plans; blueprints; i.e., plan for battle]of the heart[mind; thoughts; emotions]in man[belong to; are the responsibility of man], and the answer[reply]of the tongue, is from the LORD.”
It is that man bears the responsibility of planning and preparing for each day, as well as for the future; but the final answer to man’s preparations is from the Lord, the Sovereign of all. Whether a king plans for battle, or a humble farmer plants his crops; success is dependent upon the LORD’s blessings. Wise men plan, but the wisest of men acknowledge, and accept the sovereignty of God. In the words of Solomon, “the answer” (whether the outcome is favorable or unfavorable) is from the Lord.
Closing thought – Those who lack faith, and are unwilling to accept that God is sovereign, will be overtaken by racing thoughts, and fears that will erode strength.
Remember: A wise man plans, and will then “trust in the LORD with all [his] heart” (Proverbs 3:5a).
Are You Feeling the Heat of Fiery Trials? Look Past the Flames! (17:3)
Fire is one of nature’s most valuable, yet destructive elements. The fire of a BBQ grill can stir a hungry appetite with the aroma of flame-broiled meats. Fire in a boiler can power a mighty steam engine, and turn massive electric turbines. Fire unleashed, however, can make a trail of destruction devastating everything in its path, rendering pain and sorrow.
Capitalizing on the theme of fire, Solomon compared the flames of a furnace that smelted and purified silver and gold, to the fiery trials God employs to test the hearts of His spiritual sons and daughters.
Proverbs 17:3 – “The fining pot [refining] is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the LORD [Jehovah; Self-existent] trieth [proves; examines] the hearts.”
The process of purifying precious metals required intense heat. A smelter would take a refining pot of raw silver or gold, and sit the pot in the midst of an intense fire. He would then melt the raw material, causing the dross to boil to the top, where a skimmer would remove the impurities, leaving pure silver or gold.
Comparing times of trial and trouble to a refining pot and furnace (17:3b), Solomon taught his son to anticipate the LORD would prove, test and purify the hearts of His people by fiery trials. Trials and troubles not only test the heart, but purify the motives, and humble the spirit of a man. Nearly a thousand years later, James exhorted believers:
James 1:2-3 – “My brethren, count [consider] it all joy when ye fall into [encounter] divers temptations [trials; adversity]; 3 Knowing this, that the trying [testing; proving] of your faith worketh patience [strength; perseverance].”
The singe of fiery trials can hurt and humiliate, if not received with a humble, broken spirit. Trials can also benefit us, by burning away the crutches of self-will, and independence. The betrayal of a friend, or the rejection of a loved one can benefit us when we trust the way of the LORD is perfect, good and altogether right (2 Samuel 22:31; Psalm 18:30; Romans 8:29-29).
Job, the Old Testament patriarch, confessed, “But he [the LORD] knoweth the way that I take: when he [the LORD] hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).
Closing thoughts – Are you feeling the heat of fiery trials and troubles?
I know it hurts, and you want to flee the flames of pain and disappointment. It is tempting to focus on the circumstances, and personalities who have hurt and disappointed you. My exhortation and counsel is:
Look past the flames! Trust God will take you through the pain, to the other side!
1 Corinthians 10:13 – “There hath no temptation [trouble; trial] taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer [allow] you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape [to pass through the trial], that ye may be able to bear it.”
Will you turn your hurts and sorrows over to the LORD, and trust Him?
I welcome hearing how this wonderful truth has moved your heart to let go of your pain, fears and anxieties, consciously placing your trust in the LORD. You may email me at: HeartOfAShepherdInc@gmail.com
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