We read of older ladies being instructed to mentor the younger ladies in the New Testament Book of Titus. In fact, there are ministries today with this as their focus. So where are the guidelines to be found for the ladies? Good question. Turn back to the Old Testament, Proverbs 31.
I hear what you’re saying now, “Who in this world can ever match up with the Proverbs 31 woman? It makes me depressed to even read this!” I know what you mean and understand, completely. However, remember, this is the guidelines list not the pass/fail checklist. It is something to hold as a goal, not a tool of condemnation. Since my parents had been married close to 59 years, I thought I would use my own mother to see how the principles might be applied in today’s world. She would never say she comes up to the level of the Proverbs 31 woman; but, as I lay down just what I do know about my mother, she isn’t all that far off. I wonder, dear Reader, if you might not find the same is true for you? My mother will soon be 90 years old so has a lot of years from which to glean material to inject into the verses of Proverbs 31!
Proverbs 31:1-9 give us an introduction to just who might have come up with this material, credited to King Lemuel. No idea who King Lemuel actually is? You might be more familiar with him than you think. His name comes up only two times in Scripture and both of those are in these first verses of Proverbs 31. It is believed that King Lemuel was actually King Solomon so it was his mother, Bathsheba, who provided the material for this oracle. King Solomon was the son of King David, who may be more well-known to you than King Solomon.
“The sayings of King Lemuel—an inspired utterance his mother taught him. Listen, my son! Listen, son of my womb! Listen, my son, the answer to my prayers! Do not spend your strength on women, your vigor on those who ruin kings. It is not for kings, Lemuel— it is not for kings to drink wine, not for rulers to crave beer, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed, and deprive all the oppressed of their rights.”
(We’ll interrupt a minute here to say that Solomon’s mother had personal knowledge of rights being oppressed. King David was, normally, a straight arrow and did what was right. However, one night, when he should have gone to war with his men, he took a stroll on the roof of his palace and, inadvertently, glanced at Bathsheba bathing in the home below. He lusted after her, sent for her and she became pregnant. She could not refuse the king who had, indeed, forgotten the laws and rights of the oppressed! When Bathsheba told him she was pregnant, King David sent her husband into a position on the battle field where he would surely die. When the husband died, King David married Bathsheba. This child died in infancy, though King David repented for what he had done. Next, the Lord blessed the couple with the birth of Solomon, who was considered to be the wisest man who ever lived. These verses let us know that his mother, Bathsheba, still concerned herself with the rights of the oppressed and urged her kingly son to follow suit.)
“Let beer be for those who are perishing, wine for those who are in anguish! Let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more. Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Good advice, though her son doesn’t always heed it. Next, Solomon’s mother lays down for him what she considers to be the standard of a noble wife, encouraging him to choose wisely his lifelong mate. The fact that this is included in the Holy Scriptures tells us that God agrees with Bathsheba. Equally, we can be assured that it was God’s inspiration, since the entire Bible is considered to be the inspired Word of God. As you read and see how you might fit in each, specific, verse, remember that it is the principle not the exact fact or task/event that is to be considered.
Verses 10-11: “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.”
Bathsheba begins by pointing out that a wife has real value, unlike many in that and even the present-day cultures in the world who see their goat as more valuable than their wife. Now, his mother is going to elaborate on her qualities and just how that will help him.
Verse 12: ”She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.”
Yup, Mom did that for Dad, in his opinion, anyway. I had asked him about some nagging I had witnessed but Dad only said it didn’t bother him because Mother had so many good qualities. So, if it didn’t bother him, who was I to let it bother me, right?
Verse 13: “She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.”
Oh, yes, this is my mother! She was always knitting or crocheting something. Mom and Dad even had matching sweaters for the winter evenings at the Pop Concert Series and folks recognized the sweaters, even if they didn’t know their faces right away! Flax? Nope, no flax in our house that I know of anyway.
Verse 14: “She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.”
Hmmm, no merchants ships, though she did make us some Pavlova when she returned from visiting family in Australia.
Verse 15: “She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants.”
Oh yes, this was Mom, especially on days when the turkey needed to be in the oven for a Noon meal. In fact, when I had a chance to bake a turkey with all the trimmings myself in Africa (while staying at a friend’s house), I rose up at 4 AM, just as Mom had always done. I had to prepare the turkey and get it in the oven. I had forgotten that the guests were not coming until 4 PM so, well, it rather fell off the bone by dinner time.
But, it was not just holiday meals, it was all kinds of things… like cookies for the whole class at school or needed to get the meal in the Crockpot before she left for work herself. Portions for her female servants? Uh, well, kind of if you call us three daughters her female servants, I guess; otherwise, nope, no servants to feed early in the morning… though, I am certain she would have fed them had she had any besides us!
Verses 16-17: “She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.”
Mom never bought a field, exactly, but it was Mom who checked the real estate when she decided their growing family really needed more room. It was Mom who convinced Dad they should and could move, outlining the financial details and arranging for them to see a few houses. No vineyard, but she did use her earnings for a lot of flowers and a veggie garden, both of whom used a lot of her energy and strength. In my humble, but accurate opinion, that counts!
Verse 18: "She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.”
Mom’s lamp was burning long into most nights of our childhood, for a lot of reasons. She made a lot of our clothing, after teaching herself to sew. Mom sewed formal clothing for us as teenagers, often working long into the night to finish on time. There were no trading vessels or camel caravans from the Orient in our area of Eastern Montana but, no doubt, Mom could have made a lot of money had she wanted to sell the clothing she made for us.
(To Be Continued… as they say in the middle of a television program you had not planned would have two parts!)
****The Proverbs 31 Woman and My Mom, Conclusion… Coming Tomorrow