Open thy Mouth for the Dumb
1. We continue to consider the advice that King Lemuel’s mother gave to him.
2. So far, all of Proverbs 31 has consisted of motherly advice to a young king.
3. So far her advice has been negative: warnings concerning the dangers of wine and immoral women.
4. Tonight she gives some positive advice. She encourages her royal son to use his mouth for good. That’s good advice whether you are a king or a poor man.
A. Open Thy Mouth for the Dumb
1. Opening your mouth for the dumb is a figure of speech which means to speak up for someone who may not have a voice.
a. The term “dumb” means someone who is a mute; they are literally unable to speak.
b. The obvious usage of the term here is figurative.
c. But we take the meaning of that figure of speech literally.
d. The advice is to literally speak up for those who have no voice for various reasons.
2. Those who are poor often do not have a voice or a say in the affairs of the land. They have no voice “politically.” They don’t know the royal family. They don’t have any friends in high places in the government. The plight of the poor was usually not even considered by the aristocracy or the royals when making laws. The laws were often made to benefit the rich and the powerful.
3. Those who were poor did not have a voice “socially” either. They were the low rungs on the ladder. Nobody listened to them. The rich and the powerful ruled society and formed the society in a way that was beneficial to them… without considering the poor.
B. In the Cause of All Such As Are Appointed to Destruction
1. Here Lemuel’s mother advises her royal son to open his mouth and speak up in the cause of those who are appointed to destruction.
2. The two groups here are really one.
a. Those who are dumb and had no voice socially or politically were the same folks who were appointed to destruction.
3. Appointed to destruction:
a. This too is a figure of speech – a common Hebrew idiom.
b. Literally the Hebrew reads “sons of destruction.”
c. “Sons of” is a very common Hebrew figure of speech. It means to have the same characteristics as.
• Sons of wickedness were wicked people.
• Sons of thunder were thunderous people.
• Sons of disobedience were disobedient people; those whose lives were characterized by disobedience.
d. Thus, “sons of destruction” were people whose lives were characterized by destruction.
e. Thus, “appointed to destruction” is a good translation of this Hebrew idiom.
4. Lemuel’s mother seems to be implying that the “voiceless poor” are the ones whose lives are so often “characterized by destruction.”
a. The noun “destruction” has various shades of meaning: destruction, misfortune, destitute, etc.
b. You might translate the idiom as “sons of misfortune” or “sons of destitution.”
c. The lives of the poor are often characterized by misfortune, great needs, and lack of resources, and that often leads to destruction.
d. It is not an enviable position to be in; and evidently Lemuel’s mother understood that.
e. She wanted her royal son to speak up for those people.
f. She probably saw countless examples of the poor being trampled over and taken advantage of by the rich and powerful.
g. The poor have always been the “sons of misfortune.”
5. The voiceless have always needed someone with compassion to speak up for them.
a. Sometimes God puts people in a position where they are able to speak up for the welfare of others. That was especially so for kings.
b. David in Saul’s court was like one who was “appointed to destruction.” But Jonathan spoke up for David before his father Saul many times.
c. Esther spoke up for her people and delivered them from destruction.
d. And this isn’t restricted to royal families either.
e. We may not find ourselves in positions to speak up for others that is a life or death situation. But there will be times when we can defend someone who is being abused, mistreated, or maligned.
C. Application to a King
1. In Bible times, kings had virtually unlimited power.
a. They had the power of life and death. They were all three branches of government: executive, legislative, and judicial.
b. An evil king could make life absolutely miserable for a great number of people.
c. A good king could greatly reduce the suffering of the poor, foreigners, widows, orphans, the handicapped, and the destitute.
2. But even a good king, who wasn’t out to take advantage of the poor, could make life miserable for the poor by default – by not actively considering their plight.
a. Lemuel’s mother seemed to know that as well. She wanted her son to actively consider the plight of the poor and to speak up for them.
b. Other greedy men would naturally take advantage of the poor – because the poor had no voice and were helpless. They were easy prey.
c. But if they had the king on their side; if the king would just consider their plight, and would speak up for them, their lives could be so much better.
3. Lemuel’s mother wanted her royal son to be a compassionate and merciful king who was concerned for all segments of society.
a. Of course kings showing mercy and compassion for the poor was not always the case… in any land.
b. Politics (then and now) was often based upon the old principle: “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” You do something for me and I’ll do something for you.
c. But the poor were not in a position to really “do” much of anything for a wealthy king. They had little to contribute.
d. They didn’t then and they don’t now, have the resources to play that game of politics. They were “without a voice” – dumb.
e. A king had to step outside the norm in order to show grace and compassion to the voiceless poor – not expecting anything in return.
f. That is exactly what the Bible challenged kings (and all those in authority) to do.
g. The king was to be the advocate of the poor and needy.
h. Prov. 20:28 – “Mercy and truth preserve the king: and his throne is upholden by mercy.”
i. It was beneficial to the preservation of the king’s reign and his kingdom to be merciful. Otherwise, there could be a popular uprising and a coup.
j. Lemuel’s mother had good advice for her son.
• On the one hand, the negative side, avoid the vices of wine and immorality.
• On the positive side, speak up for the poor and needy; show mercy and compassion to them.
4. Psalm 41:1-2 – David was such a compassionate king.
a. Vs. 1a – He wrote, “Blessed is he that considereth the poor.” There is a divine blessing on all who do.
b. Vs. 1b-2 – That man could expect God’s deliverance when he himself was in trouble or destitute.
c. It is an old Biblical principle: God shows mercy to the merciful.
5. The Old Testament (which Kings were read daily) spoke often of speaking up for the voiceless poor.
a. Deut. 10:16-20 –
• Vs. 16 – This speaks of a regenerated heart – the new birth which brings us a new heart (not the old stubborn, hard heart)
• Vs. 17 – God does not judge according to appearance and does not regard persons.
• Vs. 18 – God cares for the fatherless and widow; for the foreigner; God provides for their needs.
• Vs. 19 – The Jews were commanded to love foreigners in their land because they should remember what it was like to be a stranger in a strange land. They were strangers in Egypt for over 400 years!
• Vs. 20 – The basis or foundation for all of that was to be the fear of God. Those who fear God will be concerned with the “sons of misfortune.”
b. Psalm 82:1-4 – A psalm of Asaph
• God stands in the congregation of the mighty ones.
• The “mighty ones” and “gods” refer to men in positions of political might and power.
• Vs. 2 – God is aware of injustice among the earthly judges.
• Vs. 3 – God’s counsel to these “mighty ones”: defend the poor and the fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and needy.
• God (the Judge of all the earth) is watching. Don’t you dare trample over the poor and the needy. Don’t you dare take advantage of the weak and powerless!
D. Application to Us
1. Prov. 24:11-12 – “If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; 12If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works?”
2. Job 29:15-16 – “I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame. 16I was a father to the poor: and the cause which I knew not I searched out.
3. I John 3:17-18 – “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? 18My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.”
4. Prov. 14:31 – “He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.”
5. Prov. 19:17 – “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.”
6. Prov. 21:13 – “Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.”
7. Prov. 22:22-23 – “Rob not the poor, because he is poor: neither oppress the afflicted in the gate: 23For the LORD will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that spoiled them.”