King Lemuel’s Mother: A Teacher of Wisdom (Sept. 30)

Proverbs 31:1-9


Proverbs is the oldest of the Israelite works that are considered “wisdom literature.” It shares a special theological perspective and literary and social setting with Job and Ecclesiastes. Its authors were the bureaucrats or “sages” of their society, working in court circles as counselors and educators, though the book probably also includes elements from folk wisdom that did not originate with its elite editors. These men used literary forms and theological concepts borrowed and modified from wisdom traditions of the surrounding nations, since it is probable that as diplomats they were in closer contact with their counterparts in other countries than would the average member of society.
(The Women’s Bible Commentary, Proverbs, Carole Fontaine, Westminster/John Knox Press, 1992, p. 145.)

Limuel, though not a male diplomat as described above, would have been familiar with the same wisdom traditions as mother of the king and thus a member of the elite.

Reading the Scripture

Here is a way you might read the scripture or tell the story:
•    Audio:
o    The Bible Experience: The Complete Bible (“presented by a stellar ensemble of today’s top-name actors, musicians, clergy, directors, and award-winning producers.” Available from Keith).

Teaching Suggestions

•    Wise Women of LABC: Carolyn Hammonds and Kay Floyd

Julie Dexter reflects on the life and impact of Carolyn Hammonds and Kay Floyd:

Both Carolyn Hammond and Kay Floyd were committed teachers, as well as learners, of wisdom.  The most significant lessons they ever taught were the ones they lived out, especially during their battles with cancer.
Like King Lemuel's mother, they were not afraid to speak out and take a stand.  I remember many school faculty meetings where both of these ladies did not hesitate to "speak the truth in love".  They became a firm voice for the voiceless and, as a result, were highly respected in their profession.
In the same manner, they unwittingly gave spiritual strength to worthy endeavors. Carolyn, along with her husband, was a guiding force in leading a young couples Sunday school class in the mid 1970's plus which profoundly influenced the growth of our church. Similarly,  Kay was an integral part of LABC through her faithfulness to the Mary Martha class.  Like clockwork, she was always there, always punctual, always prepared.
Above all else, both of these women were mothers, devoted to the task of raising their sons.  To know Jason and Drew Hammond and Kevin Floyd is to know of the strength of their mothers, the goodness of their hearts, and the sweetness of their souls. Truly, these sons will "rise up and call her blessed..."
Let it be known: these were real women who, during their too short life span, left an indelible mark in their sphere of influence. They had no idea that their casual comments along the way would become a "quote book" of wisdom for those of us left behind.

o    Questions for reflection:
i.    Does anyone else have a Carolyn Hammond or Kay Floyd story?
ii.    What can we learn from Carolyn Hammond and Kay Floyd story?
iii.    When you think of women teachers at LABC, past or present, who do you think of?

•    Midwife Teaching/Case Study Method: Reflect on the Bible story, or your own contemporary case study, using these questions for dialogue:
o    “What would you do?”
o    “What do you think is going on here, or what should the person have done?”

•    The Formations Commentary refers to a song, “Seein' My Father in Me” (p. 25). I have placed a music video of that song on this webpage.

•    Advocacy in a small community: The following story is a simple example of how advocacy (speaking up for the poor who have difficulty speaking for themselves) can work.

Residents of a small community were told that a government grant had been allocated to bring a much needed sewer system to the community. Some in the community had septic systems, but most still used outhouses. Despite the promise of a sewer system, the neighbors were skeptical, to say, the least. “We were promised a sewer system before,” they said, “but when the money was given to the local government, they spent it on something else.” They had resigned themselves to complaining and never having the promised sewer system, until Rhonda Abbott, Kentucky Baptist Fellowship, Associate for Missions at the time, helped give them a voice. She called a town meeting to discuss the issue. They agreed on and implemented a strategy. Another town meeting was called to which public officials were invited to discuss installation of the sewer system.

Part of the plan called for a different resident each week to send a polite email until work on the sewers was begun. Others would call periodically. Residents knew how to get angry and complain, but not always in the most productive ways. Without an adequate understanding of how political systems work, their angry criticism was often directed toward the wrong people and in a way that was too easily dismissed. So Rhonda guided them to effectively and appropriately express their concerns and ask questions. The person who promised the sewer system was seen by the community as the one who had let them down in the past. Instead of complaining, they praised this public official in advance in the newspaper for bringing a sewer system to their community.

Several months after carrying out their plan, the sewer system was installed. It's hard to say how much difference their efforts made in getting the job done, but the community was empowered and learned a little bit about how to advocate for themselves. Long overlooked, the residents of Nada now have a sewer system and fewer outhouses.

Church members who are connected and know how the system works can use that influence to help those who are treated unfairly by our public policies. This is Christian advocacy for justice.

•    The Formations Teaching Guide suggests a class project involving the destitute, poor and needy, “Words into Actions” (p. 28). Here is a list of ministry opportunities your class might consider (visit our website or contact Keith for more information on any of these opportunities for service):
o    Morocco refugee ministry: Contribute money to student scholarships, micro-enterprise projects (small businesses to help refugees provide a meager income), or emergency food and medical. A team from our church will be going to Morocco in October.
o    Soup’s On Us: Volunteer with “Soup’s On Us” Saturday, October 6. Choose a task and time slot from the schedule and make it a class project
8:30 a.m. -     Assemble boxes
9:30 a.m. -     Prepare sandwiches
10:15 a.m. -     Fill food boxes
11:00 a.m. -     Begin deliveries and clean up
o    Nada: Help plan the Graduation Celebration in Nada
o    Volunteer with one of our partner ministries who minister with the “poor and needy.”
•    Salvation Army
•    Habitat for Humanity
•    Hope Clinic
•    Pregnancy Resource Center of Central Kentucky

•    Dealing with Addiction: You can never be sure who might be struggling with some kind of addiction. Offer to help find an addiction recovery center or counselor if your class members know of someone who is struggling with an addiction or if one of you class members is struggling with an addiction. Tommy or I can help find a referral.


I have set aside a shelf in the library with resources for Sunday School teachers. I will place there resources of general interest and some specifically applicable to current lessons.

•    For additional commentary on the text see these commentaries in our library:
o    Mercer Commentary on the Bible (Mercer University Press, 1995)
o    Harper’s Bible Commentary (Harper & Row, 1988)

•    Also available in the Library
o    Women of Scripture: A Dictionary of named and Unnamed Women in the Hebrew Bible, The Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books, and the New Testament, edited by Carol Meyers (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2000).
o    The Women’s Bible Commentary, Proverbs, Carole Fontaine (Westminster/John Knox Press, 1992), p. 145.