The words of King Lemuel. An oracle that his mother taught him:
What are you doing, my son? What are you doing, son of my womb?
What are you doing, son of my vows?
Do not give your strength to women,
your ways to those who destroy kings.
It is not for kings, O Lemuel,
it is not for kings to drink wine,
or for rulers to take strong drink,
lest they drink and forget what has been decreed
and pervert the rights of all the afflicted.
Give strong drink to the one who is perishing,
and wine to those in bitter distress;
let them drink and forget their poverty
and remember their misery no more.
Open your mouth for the mute,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
defend the rights of the poor and needy. – Proverbs 31:1-9 (ESV)
Commenting on verses 8 and 9, Andrew Steinmann writes:
These verses go beyond encouraging Lemuel to soothe the pain of the needy and oppressed to encouraging him to be an advocate for the defenseless, who will have no other defender unless the believer speaks up with conviction. Lemuel’s mother echoes Scripture’s expectations for all good kings when she states that she expects him to place a high value on justice and righteousness so that the rich and powerful may not take advantage of the poor and weak. The rich and powerful need no defenders because they have the resources to defend themselves. Yet those in high positions in government are often swayed by their friendships with rich and influential people of society. The result is government favoritism and policies that, intentionally or not, deny justice for the powerless. This saying reminds those in high office of the potentially corrupting effect of friendship with the mighty.
In modern times, abortion of unwanted children has become commonplace, and even infanticide is increasingly tolerated, as also is euthanasia and the selective denial of life-preserving care (even the basic necessities of food and water) when a person is judged to be a burden or no longer useful to society. Infants still in the womb cannot physically speak for themselves; they are wholly dependent on God and their mothers to protect their lives. Many who are incapacitated or elderly likewise cannot protest inhumane treatment. Even those who have the physical ability to speak may be deprived of due rights to defend themselves in the judicial and legal systems.
These proverbs remind those in power, and indeed all believers, that God calls them to defend the defenseless. Wise leaders are friends of God, who watches over the poor and lowly. Believers who serve as advocates reflect Christ, the righteous one who is the sole and universal advocated for sinners before God the Father (Job 16:19; 1 Jn 2:1-2).
MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 75
Q. 75. What is forbidden in the eighth commandment?
A. The eighth commandment forbiddeth whatsoever doth or may unjustly hinder our own or our neighbor’s wealth or outward estate.