Proverbs 31: Open Your Mouth & Defend The Unfortunate

Read the Bible in 2011Week 42: Thursday

Open your mouth for the mute,
For the rights of all the unfortunate.
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
And defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.
Proverbs 31:8–9

Thursday’s Bible reading is Proverbs 31. Derek Kidner divides this last chapter of Proverbs into two sections: the “Words of King Lemuel” in 31:1–9, and “An Alphabet of Wifely Excellence” in 31:10–311

The two sections work well together because in the first nine verses there is an excellent example of the godly woman described in the second section:

She opens her mouth in wisdom,
And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
Proverbs 31:26

B&W photograph of childWhen I came to this chapter in Proverbs I had originally planned on writing about the excellent wife, but I’ve decided instead to focus on King Lemuel’s words from his mother for a couple of reasons. One is practical; I’m waiting on some books I want to read before writing on Proverbs 31:10–31. The second is circumstantial; today I was reminded of an old pro-life post I wrote that was titled in part, Open Your Mouth For The Mute.

Bruce Waltke explains the word mute:

The description of the fading poor and needy as mute…in v. 8a is a metaphor for their lack of a voice to defend themselves in the court unless the king speaks up for them (cf. 16:10; 20:18; 25:5; 29:4a, 14; Ps. 72:12–14; Jer. 22:15–19). They are socially and economically too weak to defend themselves against the rich and powerful….the king must be accessible to the people (e.g., 2 Sam. 15:3; 1 K 3:16ff.; 2 K. 6:26ff) and champion the cause of one who cannot otherwise get a fair hearing. What is said here of the king, says Meinhold, “is valid for each person in his sphere of activity.”1

What is your sphere of activity? Who do you know who is unfortunate, afflicted or needy? Who do you know who needs a champion? Think about that— seriously think about that. We live in different circumstances and know different people. We may see our circle of influence as small when we contrast it with that of others, but our understanding of the scope of our circumstances or who or what is important is not necessarily the same as God’s. Don’t compare yourself—ask God for wisdom, sensitivity and open eyes to those around you who need a friend or helping hand. Be faithful where you are. Zechariah reminds us:

For who has despised the day of small things?
Zechariah 4:10a

Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to a man about to go on a journey who entrusted his property to three different slaves. On his return, upon learning what each had done, he said to two of the slaves:

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’”
Matthew 25:21, 23


Begin where you are. The greater battles of tomorrow find their preparation today. You must learn to run with footmen before you compete with horses.

“If you have run with footmen and they have tired you out,
Then how can you compete with horses?
If you fall down in a land of peace,
How will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?”
Jeremiah 12:5

Who needs your voice?

Open your mouth for the mute….

Isaiah 42 Photograph: – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
Black and white photograph of child, Carolineee1991GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.
Depression-loss of loved one: I can no longer find the source, but I believe this is in the public domain.
1Bruce K. Waltke, The Book Of Proverbs: Chapters 16-31, p. 509.

Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter

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