Sabbath School Lesson for March 21-27, 2015
Our journey in Proverbs began with fatherly advice: “My son, hear the instruction of your father, And do not forsake the law of your mother” Proverbs 1:8.
Mother, which may be symbolic of wisdom (often referred to in the female gender), is finally given voice in the very last chapter of the book of Proverbs. We are told these are the words of King Lemuel’s mother, but it’s not clear who he was–perhaps Solomon himself, some have thought.
“The words of King Lemuel, the utterance which his mother taught him:” Proverbs 31:1 NKJV
As a typical mother would, she boils down what a wise son should attend to, outlining just two requirements:
- stay away from alcohol (or any substance that impairs your thinking processes),
- marry a productive, spiritual person.
Both of these laws are critical for the future of any young person for any time or culture. In other words, be healthy and marry right. Mothers spend a child’s lifetime teaching them what is healthy to put in their bodies and what kind of friends they should associate with. How wise it would be for us to heed her instructions!
Key Text: “Do not give your strength to women, nor your ways to that which destroys kings. It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, nor for princes intoxicating drink” Proverbs 31:3, 4 NKJV
In essence, all the spiritual lessons the father has taught so far would be of no value if the king did not stay away from wine and women.
We’ll explore this week the impact of these two lifestyle areas. Our wisdom hinges on adherence to these rules set forth by mothers throughout earth’s history.
Sunday: A Toast “To Life”?
How ironic to hear someone offering a toast of alcoholic beverage and wishing someone a long life. Intoxicating substances have been responsible for countless deaths and ruined lives.
The reason kings are especially warned here is because “Lest they drink and forget the law, And pervert justice of all the afflicted.” Proverbs 31:5 NKJV Priests were likewise given a prohibition against drinking, because they wouldn’t be able to distinguish the holy from the unholy. See Leviticus 10:9, 10.
Daniel and his friends, who weren’t kings or priests, but captives in a foreign land, thought it necessary to take a stand against the common customs and determined not to drink wine and eat other harmful substances from the king’s table. It was a bold stand, one that could have cost them their lives.
Evidently, alcohol in our system limits our capacity to know right from wrong, which makes it very dangerous for any Christian, who has a desire to do right.
Discussion Questions: Read Proverbs 23:29-35. Although this seems to describe someone who is in the midst of a life torn apart by alcoholism, discuss how this poor wretched soul began his career as an alcoholic. How responsible is the person who served him his first drink?
Proverbs 31:5 mentioned that strong drink would make the king “forget the law”. How does it make people forget the law today, and who suffers for their forgetfulness?
Why do you think Prohibition didn’t work in the United States in the last century? Prohibition was a law that prohibited the sale or purchase of any intoxicating drink. The law was finally repealed. Was the law a wise thing to do, and why did it fail?
Monday: A Toast “To Death”
“Give strong drink to him who is perishing, And wine to those who are bitter of heart. Let him drink and forget his poverty; And remember his misery no more.” Proverbs 31:6, 7 NKJV
Is this mother sanctioning giving drink to the homeless “wino” or someone suffering severe mental depression? Most of us, including mothers, would not take that meaning, especially in the context of other scriptural passages that counsel us to avoid drinking.
Is she saying that it’s alright to drink if you are poor or depressed then? I can’t picture any godly mother encouraging that either.
Perhaps this mother is simply creating for her offspring an image of the results that excess drinking can bring. Certainly poverty and depression are increased with alcohol use over time. And as many mothers might caution their sons and daughters, she’s telling them that they don’t want to end up losing it all by riotous partying or indulging in harmful substances.
Making these hurtful lifestyle decisions are just inviting a toast “to death”.
Discussion Questions: Determine who “he who is perishing” refers to in Proverbs 31:6 by looking up the following texts: Proverbs 10:28; 11:7, 10; 19:9; 21:28; 28:28 Does this in some way show us that drinking leads to wickedness or is a wicked thing to do?
What other poisons has Satan created from natural products that have been harmful to man?
Is it necessary to defend a stand of total abstinence from alcohol and other drugs, and why?
Tuesday: A Virtuous Woman
Even though King Lemuel’s mother painted a negative picture of how wine can ruin her son, she goes to great lengths to present him with a positive picture of a virtuous woman who can be his, if he chooses his spouse well.
This mother knows how to get the attention of a teenager. So much depends on these choices made early in life. I’m sure she connected with him when she brought up the subject of women? What boy or girl isn’t willing to listen about the opposite sex?
Here are some qualities she said to look for in a spouse of either gender:
- They are precious and worth finding (Proverbs 31:10, 8:35)
- Their worth is more than rubies (Proverbs 31:10; 8:10, 11, 18, 19)
- They provide food (Proverbs 31:14; 8:19)
- They are strong (Proverbs 31:17, 25; 8:14)
- They are praised (Proverbs 31:28; 8:34)
But the culminating, critical requirement is found in verse 30: “But a woman [or man] who fears the Lord, she [or he] shall be praised.”
Discussion Questions: Look briefly at some of these verses: Proverbs 1:20-33; 3:13-20; 4:5-9, Proverbs 8 and discuss the possibility of the virtuous woman being a symbol of wisdom.
Compare the features of the woman in chapter 8 with the virtuous woman in chapter 31.
Is wisdom pictured as some lofty but unreachable ideal or as a real life companion that it is possible to have? How does realizing this accessibility seem a fitting way to close the book of Proverbs and the theme of wisdom?
Wednesday: She Works
Lemuel’s mother goes to great lengths to emphasize the active and productive life of this virtuous wife. “She watches over the ways of her household, And does not eat the bread of idleness.” Proverbs 31:27 NKJV
This quality has been mentioned several times in the book of Proverbs, and seems to show the difference in a wise person as opposed to a fool:
- “Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise,” Proverbs 6:6 NKJV
- “A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to rest; So shall your poverty come…” Proverbs 24:33, 34 NKJV
Here is how this busy wife occupies herself:
- Her hands are busy making clothes for her family (Proverbs 31: 13).
- She prepares food for the household (v. 15).
- She even has an outside business to help the family income (v. 16, 18).
- She’s involved in community volunteer work (v. 20).
- She prepares and saves for the future (v. 21).
Discussion Questions: Read the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42. Which sister sounds more like this virtuous wife so far? How does Jesus remind us that prayer and worship are needed to balance our busy lives?
Revelation 14:13 says, “…Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord…that they may rest from their labors; and their works follow them”. What kind of work and labors is this describing? Do these works earn heaven for us, as some have thought? Are works necessary in order to reach heaven?
Thursday: She Cares
Although this virtuous woman is not described as praying or having a devotional worship time privately or with her family, we have reason to believe that she is deeply spiritual and probably includes these activities in her daily schedule.
Notice in this verse that someone who fears the Lord will be praised, and the previous verses in this chapter were all about the praise this woman received from her husband, her children, and even the community, for all the charitable things she has done for others. Therefore she must have been a kind and spiritual person.
Verse 20 says she “reaches her hands to the needy”, but in verse 26 we read, “She opens her mouth with wisdom, And on her tongue is the law of kindness.” NKJV She not only gives to the poor, she obviously cares about them personally as well. She is praised for her loving kindness to all, not just for the material goods she provides for them, but for her caring heart.
Discussion Questions: There are many negative values portrayed in the media today. How are television, radio, and the Internet affecting our thinking about family life and relationships and determining some of the bad choices being made?
Read Matthew 23:37. In what ways does God have the qualities of a good father AND a good mother?
Mother’s Day is nice, but how can wives and mothers be recognized and praised throughout the year?
The last chapter in Proverbs is popular for its description of a virtuous wife or woman, which probably symbolizes wisdom itself. She is found…
- doing good, not evil
- feeding and clothing her family
- providing merchandise to sell
- caring for the needy
- receiving much praise for all her labors
- fearing the Lord
The chapter also contains more caution about drinking alcohol. We can picture a mother delivering this counsel to her beloved son or daughter. Our search for wisdom will be more likely to succeed if we heed her advice to…
- avoid any substance that hinders your reasoning ability
- stay away from illicit relationships and make an effort to marry someone who fears God in every practical and spiritual way
Think about something you can do or change about your lifestyle that will promote better health and lead to longer, more effective service to God.
Do something nice for a wife, woman, or mother in your life to let them know they are appreciated and valued.
Next Week: The Coming of Jesus (new quarter: The Book of Luke)
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