An Excellent Wife – Proverbs 31:10-31

 

“An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.” (Proverbs 31:10 ESV)

“We now come to the principal part of the chapter. The wise mother of Lemuel had warned her royal son against the seduction of evil women, and its attendant temptations, and given him wholesome rules for government. She now sets before him the full-length portrait of a virtuous woman – that choicest gift, which is emphatically said to be “from the Lord.” (Proverbs 19:14)

“It is an elegant poem of twenty-two verses – like the hundred and nineteenth Psalm, artificially constructed – each verse beginning with one of the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. It describes a wife, a mistress, and a mother. All mothers and mistresses should teach the female pupils under their care to read and learn it by heart. The more deeply it is studied – provided only it be practically studied – the more will its beauty be understood and felt. Genuine simple fact without colouring or pretensions commends the character to our warmest interest.

“So rare is this treasure that the challenge is given—‘Who can find a virtuous woman?’ (Compare with Proverbs 20:6) Abraham sent to a distant land for this inestimable blessing for his beloved son. (Gen. 24:3, 4.) Perhaps one reason of the rarity of the gift is, that it is so seldom sought. Too often is the search made for accomplishments, not for virtues; for external and adventitious recommendations, rather than for internal godly worth. The enquiry also implies the value of the gift when found. Even Adam’s portion in innocence was not complete, till his bountiful Father ‘made him a help-meet for him.’ Truly her price is above rubies. No treasure is comparable to her. It is not too much to say with the prince of heathen philosophy ‘If women be good, the half of the commonwealth may be happy where they are.’” ~ Charles Bridges, Proverbs

Advertisements

An Excellent King – Proverbs 31:1-9

“Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:9 ESV)

In his providence, God takes us to a portion of scripture that deals with the character of a national ruler while we are concurrently ensnared by our own nation’s election season. We should be on guard against allowing this text to become a catalyst for politics or a subtle voters’ guide. However, this passage does inform us about God’s expectations for kings and all those in national authority.

Proverbs 31 records the words of King Lemuel. As we’ve noted concerning the identity of Agur in chapter 30, commentators have reached no consensus regarding Lemuel. Guesses range from a neighboring king to another name for Solomon himself. We will not attempt to answer this question during our messages in chapter 31, but we will be able to discern the message of this Spirit-inspired chapter of scripture despite our ignorance of the human author. Verses 1-9 provide us with the words of King Lemuel’s mother.

The most striking aspect of her counsel is that she is most concerned about the king’s character. In an age in which character takes a backseat to embellished credentials and empty promises, this emphasis is quite refreshing. In fact, it is consistent with the rest of scripture; for example, the qualifications the Apostle Paul gives for a pastor have more to do with character than anything else. Lemuel’s mother’s advice stands in stark contrast to today’s political environment and leadership industry and brings us back to what really matters.

So what really matters for the character of an excellent king? First, he is not to allow the lusts of his flesh to steal his strength needed to fulfill his noble office. His mother mentions women (v3) and drunkenness (v4-7) as examples of ways in which a king’s heart can be turned from his occupation. Second, he is to use his authority for the benefit of the needy (v8-9). Certainly, the king’s job is not limited to these two categories, but this counsel does encompass a load of responsibilities that we will unpack in our message. Furthermore we can see that these two strands of wisdom are applications of one main attribute of godly leadership: self-denial. In other words, Lemuel’s mother tells him that to be an excellent king is to deny the desires of your own flesh and give yourself entirely to those who need you most. What can be said of an excellent king can be applied to any excellent leader. And where do we look for the best example of this? Solomon certainly didn’t exemplify this perfectly. Lemuel, whoever he was, didn’t either. No king or emperor or United States President, past or future, ever has or ever will perfectly fulfill this role. The only One who is the truly Excellent King is the King of Kings, our Lord Jesus Christ!

The Sayings of Agur – Proverbs 30:10-33

If you have been foolish, exalting yourself,
or if you have been devising evil,
put your hand on your mouth.
Proverbs 30:32 ESV

We are continuing our study in the discourse given by the mysterious man identified by the name of Agur. Previously, we considered Agur’s main concern as he stared death in the mirror: the knowledge of God. In our text for this Sunday, he carries on his speech in an observational tone about things on earth. Agur seems to be analyzing creatures, situations, and human behaviors that boggle his mind. His curiosity and use of metaphor parallel the style of Ecclesiastes, which is one reason some commentators think Agur is another name for Solomon.

Whatever the case, verses 10-33 teach us about contrasts. These examples of contrasts fall in line with the overarching contrast of the entire chapter: God and man. God is wisdom and man, in his natural state, is foolish. These observations capture some of that foolishness, compare it with the way things ought to be, and hope to redirect man’s course for foolishness to wisdom.

The contrasts in verses 11-16 can be summarized as greed versus contentment. God is totally content whereas man is indulgent: “The leech has two daughters: Give and Give. Three things are never satisfied; four never say, ‘Enough.’” Agur saw this played out in a greedy generation of children and we are tragically seeing the same thing today.

Agur also highlights the good kind of contrasts, such as the “four things that are exceedingly small, but they are exceedingly wise” in verses 24-28. Here, we’re reminded of how God chooses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. In man’s attempt to buy wisdom, he winds up looking like a fool and stumbling over himself. However, as man humbles himself before God Almighty, he will find wisdom. What a contrast!

At the end of the day, Agur’s frustration is that man seems to upset the divine order. Indeed, man does with sin. The solution, according to Agur, seems to fall short, however. He proposes that man simply stop his foolishness. Such ceasing of sin cannot happen without the work of the Spirit, as God draws foolish sinners to Christ, the True Wise Son.

Deathbed Questions – Proverbs 30:1-9

Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is his name, and what is his son’s name?
Surely you know! (Proverbs 30:4b ESV)

For millennia, the impending doom of death has haunted many people. Some of gone through great lengths to avoid it while others tend to ignore it. In their quest for knowledge of the future, some people wish to know the day of their own death. Very few, however, attain this insight. The deathbed, or winding down of one’s earthly existence, is often seen as a place of misery and sorrow. But, we must also consider it a place of mercy. Why? Not everyone is afforded the opportunity to still be alive and yet see death in the near future and thus contemplate about the big issues of life. Instead, many are taken into eternity without any warning.

In Proverbs chapter 30, we encounter a man who is coming to the end of his life. He indicates in verse 1 that he was very weary, and he asks for some final requests in verse 7 before his death. Admittedly, we know very little about this man, Agur, and we can’t be sure how close he was to his actual death. However, we know that he tried to attain the wisdom spoken of in Proverbs, and as he thinks about the end, he takes inventory. We the readers are blessed to read his account, for it sets in order the priorities of life. In fact, it helps us see the most important thing about being human at the end of the day – to know God!

Agur, at the end of his life, is not concerned with things of the world. His biggest concern is that he knows God. He’s not interested in “poverty nor riches” (v8), but the knowledge of the Holy One. In fact, he repudiates anything that would cause him to deny God.

Agur also exhorts us to look to God’s word. This is not a man who believed one has to wait until death to get to know God; in fact, this passage indicates that Agur looked for wisdom in the wrong places. He then directs us to where it is found – “every word of God proves true” (v5). Nearing the end of his life, Agur realizes that the most important thing is to know God, and the primary source of that knowledge is God’s word. May that request define our lives as well, but may we not wait until the end of our lives to realize it.

A Mother’s Hope for Her Children – Proverbs 29

“The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” (Proverbs 29:15 ESV)

As a collection of sayings from a father to his sons, the Book of Proverbs contains the word “father” almost thirty times. But this father is not alone; in fact, many of the desires he has for his children are shared by their mother. The word “mother” appears about fifteen times. The mother is alluded to in several passages as well. The truth is, she is just as much a part of the rearing of children as the father is.

This Mother’s Day, we will turn our attention to the mother’s desire for her children. Proverbs 29:15 will be our springboard: “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” The rest of the chapter will be surveyed to discover specific areas of her children’s lives for which she has expectations. But we will also consider this theme topically, beginning in the Book of Proverbs and looking to other portions of scripture, particularly highlighting key mothers.

All throughout our series in the Book of Proverbs, we’ve beheld the father’s desire that his children grow to be wise, God-fearing, profitable members of the community. To fail to be this, to be foolish, is to bring shame upon the father. Proverbs 29:15 says such a child brings shame to his mother as well. Consider this mother’s heart. She bore him. She nursed him. She loved him, weaned him, sang to him, instructed him, fed him. A mother’s investment is incredibly sacrificial and it takes her entire being. Some of the most intimate, most personal and memorable moments in the life of a child involves time spent with his mother. John Wesley testified to this when he said, “I learned more about Christianity from my mother than from all the theologians in England.”

Not every believer has been blessed with the faithful presence of a biological mother. However, just as men of God step in to assume fatherly roles in the lives of the fatherless, so does God bring into our lives motherly figures to lovingly, faithfully, prayerfully invest in our lives. In particular, many Christians throughout history have seen the church as a mother in our lives. As such, the church invests in and nurtures us, disciplines us and restores us back to health. Just as a foolish son is a shame to his mother, a foolish Christian is a shame to the church. In the end the hope of a physical mother is the same as the hope of a spiritual mother, that her children find, savor, and walk in wisdom!

Blessings of Obedience – Proverbs 28

The wicked flee when no one pursues,
but the righteous are bold as a lion. (Prov 28:1 ESV)

“Now righteous men are as bold as this creature, or more so; some of them have stopped the mouths of lions, and have dwelt securely in the midst of them, as righteous Daniel: and all righteous men are or may be as fearless as the lion; fear God they do, but have no reason to fear any other; and many of them are fearless of men, of their menaces and reproaches, or of anything they can do to them; since not only angels are their guardians, but God is on their side, and Christ has overcome the world for them: they are fearless of Satan and his principalities; they are delivered out of his hands; they know he is a coward, though a roaring lion, and when resisted will flee from thorn; yea, that he is a chained, conquered, enemy: and, though they are afraid of committing sin, yet are fearless of the damning power of it; Christ having bore their sins, made satisfaction for thong; for whose sake they are pardoned; and whose righteousness justifies and blood cleanses from all sin: they are fearless of death; its sting being removed, itself abolished as a penal evil, and become a blessing, and is the righteous man’s, gain: they are fearless of wrath to come; Christ having delivered them from it, and they being justified by his blood: they are courageous as the lion in fighting the Lord’s battles with sin, Satan, and the world, and in enduring hardiness as good soldiers of Christ; knowing their cause is good, that Christ is the Captain of their salvation, their spiritual armour is proved, and they are sure of victory and of a crown.

“They are ‘confident’ as the lion, as the word may he rendered; they are confident of the love of God, of their interest in Christ, of the grace of God in their hearts, and that all things work together for their good; and that it is, and always will be, well with them, let things go how they will in the world, and so are secure. They are bold and undaunted, both before God and men; before God in prayer, knowing him to be their covenant God in Christ, having in view the blood and righteousness of Christ, and being assisted by his Spirit: and they are undaunted before men; if the righteous man is a minister of the word, he speaks it boldly, as it ought to be spoken, fearing the faces of none, knowing it to be the Gospel of Christ, the truth, as it is in him, and the power of God to salvation; and if a private Christian, he is a public professor of Christ, this word and ordinances, which he is not ashamed to own before all the world; in short, the righteous are bold in life and in death, and will be so in the day of judgment; and it is their righteousness which makes them so, from which they are denominated righteous, even not their own, but the righteousness of Christ.”

-John Gill

There Will Be Enough – Proverbs 27:23-27

“There will be enough goats’ milk for your food, for the food of your household and the maintenance of your girls.” (Proverbs 27:27 ESV)

“This declares the great goodness of God towards man, and the diligence that he requires of him for the preservation of his gifts. It is especially appropriate to a nation, whose chief riches were, in its early origin, in pastures and flocks. Their father Jacob admirably exemplified this rule. He knew well the state of his flocks and herds. Even King David, mindful of his ancient employ, kept his flocks and herds under constant inspection. Uzziah also deemed a pastoral charge no degradation to his royal dignity. Riches are a fickle possession. Even the crown might not endure to every generation.

“The Bible is thus a directory for all the diversified employments of life. It teaches that every man ought to have a business, and rebukes the neglect of practical every-day duties. God may be glorified by a single eye and purpose in every station; by-the laborer, the farmer, the servant, no less than by the master. We must ‘serve the Lord in fervency of spirit.’ But a part of this service is, that we be ‘not slothful in business.’ To retire from the burden would be to neglect ‘serving the will of God in our generation’; to ‘put our light under a bushel, instead of upon a candlestick;’ to cover it, instead of ‘letting it shine.’ Our own calling is the way of God for us and in this way, let us commit ourselves to God, and be at peace.

“His Providence extends to little things, as well as to things of greater moment. The least is under his care, as if there was nothing else. Nothing escapes his all-seeing eye. He that ‘tells the number of the stars,’ ‘numbers” also the hairs of our head.’ Sweet balm for that cankering care, which is the bane of all godliness!

“This picture also exhibits the fruits of industry, as far preferable to those of ambition. The various produce of the field–the hay and grass in the pastures; the herbage on the mountains; the suitable clothing from the lambs; the goats paying the price of the field; the sufficiency of wholesome food for the household and maidens–all is the overflowing bounty of our gracious God. ‘How excellent is thy loving-kindness, O God!’ Thus “man goes forth; unto his work and unto his labor until the evening, singing his song of praise—‘O Lord, how manifold are thy; works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.’”                                                                             ~ Charles Bridges