Proverbs 31:4-9

In Proverbs 31:4-9 King Lemuel is warned about the potential impact of alcohol. “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.”  Kings and those who lead should avoid alcohol (intoxicating drink). This idea is repeated three times for emphasis. Though the Bible does see a potential blessing in wine it is a dangerous blessing that must be carefully managed and for many (such as kings and leaders), voluntarily set aside. The guidance then moves to the ‘why’.

The responsibilities of leaders are so great that it is essential that they not be impaired in judgment or abilities in any way. This principle is true not only for kings, but for leaders of any type, including and especially those who consider themselves leaders among God’s people today. Poole wrote “drunkenness deprives a man of the use of reason; by which alone men can distinguish between right and wrong.” If we are going to lead, we have to act responsibly and certainly how we address alcohol or other things that can be addictive and impair our judgment must be controlled and managed.

King Lemeul’s mother did share a couple appropriate places for alcohol to be provided freely. “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.” First, she thought of the condemned criminal who needs to be numbed by strong drink on his way to execution. Second, she thought of those who are bitter of heart, who could drink and forget his poverty and remember his misery no more. King Lemuel’s mother understood that strong drink, wine, and other intoxicants take away from a person’s performance and excellence which is why leaders need to avoid being impacted by it.

She then goes on to remind King Lemeul that one of his roles as a leader is to protect the defenseless. “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.” The idea is that there are those who can’t speak for themselves, to defend themselves in a court of law or in less formal circumstances. The wise and godly man or woman will speak for the speechless, and take up the cause of the defenseless. We should plead the cause of the poor and needy who have trouble properly defending themselves.

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