Proverbs 31:1

The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him.

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Here is the high calling of motherhood. There is truth in the saying, “Behind every great man is a great woman.” The greater truth is that this woman is usually his mother!

King Lemuel was indebted to his mother for advice that follows in Proverbs chapter 31. While the description and benefits of a great wife are found in Pr 31:10-31, the chapter begins with the great value of King’s Lemuel’s mother, which you should consider first.

God put His stamp of approval on this mother’s advice by inspiring and preserving its selected words for the pages of Holy Scripture. Every mother should rejoice at the opportunity to teach and form a son into a great man by considering her very practical instruction and her bold and plain declaration of it. Not every woman can raise a son to be a great king, but every woman can be better by the example of this great woman.

Who is king Lemuel? Who is Agur, the son of Jakeh (Pr 30:1)? Who were Ithiel and Ucal? What is the book of Jasher (Josh 10:13)? Since God did not tell you, their identities are not important. Do not speculate about God’s secrets and miss the revealed wisdom before you (Deut 29:29). You know the Author, even if you do not know specific writers.

Whether Bathsheba’s advice to Solomon, Abijah’s advice to Hezekiah, or the advice of a foreign queen to her son, it matters little. God inspired these words for you, since it is called a prophecy, and since it has a very godly summary of a virtuous woman (Pr 31:30).

Solomon wrote 3000 proverbs (I Kings 4:32), but the men of Hezekiah copied out only a few select ones (Pr 25:1). They likely added two appendices – the proverbs of Agur (a wise prophet) and the royal advice of Lemuel’s mother, both by God’s providence.

God inspired this woman to teach her son rules for moral protection (Pr 31:3-7), noble use of authority (Pr 31:8-9), and domestic prosperity (Pr 31:10-31). This is some of the most practical instruction in the Bible. Every woman should humbly realize it was a woman that gave the lofty description of the virtuous wife that follows (Pr 31:10-31). Every woman for whom it is not too late should examine the legacy she will give her son.

Wise women know their important role in training children, even sons. Bathsheba taught Solomon (Pr 4:3-4; 6:20), and Solomon assumed that mothers teach their sons (Pr 1:8; 6:20). But helping with homework and assigning household duties are not nearly enough. This great mother taught her son very plainly, even when grown, on real subjects like women, wine, justice, and marriage. Let every mother wisely use her time with her son.

Do not let the world, with its earthly priorities, misdirect your efforts in the few formative years you have with a son (or daughter). The devil’s diabolical ambition for your son is to love the world’s things, like sports, instead of being consumed by heavenly things for God’s glory and Jesus Christ’s kingdom (I Tim 4:7-9). The more the world entices him, the more he is God’s enemy, and you the accomplice in his horrible ruin (Jas 4:4).

Driving him daily to baseball practice and watching him shag fly balls over a ten-year youth program may give you warm feelings and an escape from housework, but what has it taught him for the moral battle of good versus evil that he will fight with numerous enemies out of your sight for the rest of his life? How will it equip him to deny his lusts, reject the world’s lies, love God, and be a tree of life to others (Eccl 12:13-14; Pr 11:30)?

Helping him daily with homework to make the honor roll is not much better; for again, what did it do to form godly character, which is much more important to God and good men, and which will guarantee future success in all areas of life (Pr 4:5-13; 22:11)? In all the hours of learning facts to regurgitate for tests the next day, most of which he will never need or use again, did you make time for daily musing in God’s book, the Bible?

Hannah clearly taught Samuel more important things, for he was well prepared for his religious life at Shiloh. We read that he worshipped God there, when she left him with the priest Eli, shortly after his weaning (I Sam 1:21-28). How could he at such a young age love and fear God without Hannah’s diligent and faithful efforts? She invested in him like King Lemuel’s mother here, and he totally outstripped all his siblings (I Sam 2:21).

Lois and Eunice, grandmother and mother respectively, communicated their sincere faith to Timothy and taught him the Holy Scriptures from childhood (II Tim 1:5; 3:15). By their diligent and faithful efforts, Paul ordained the best minister he knew (Phil 2:19-22). There are two Pastoral Epistles in the New Testament due to their faithful impartation of spiritual wisdom and truth to him during his childhood. What a glorious accomplishment!

We do not know details of Mary’s relationship to Jesus, but we know He was obedient to her, and she pondered His words in her heart (Luke 2:51). Being a virtuous woman, we know she taught Him good doctrine, and He honored her as His mother (John 19:25-27).

Let every holy woman rejoice to train sons in the fear of the Lord and vital issues of life (Pr 6:20-23; 22:6). Your zealous obsession in such a good cause is itself good (Gal 4:18). Let every son cherish, honor, and obey such a precious mother (Pr 1:8; 4:3; 31:28). He should give credit where it is due, when he recounts the excellent training he received as a child from his mother. Let this noble combination prepare more great men for God.

Mother, what have you done today to impart to your son wisdom for his life along the lines of what is in this last chapter of Proverbs? Were you neglectful of this matter? God can and will forgive you (I John 1:9), and He is able to restore years lost to neglect or chastening (Joel 2:25). Are you an older woman with sons established in marriages and professions? Then use this proverb by teaching it to younger mothers (Titus 2:3-5).