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What Lemuel learned from his mother (A Mother’s Day Sermon) May 2, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Alcohol, Proverbs, Religion, Sermons.
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TRADING RESPONSIBILITY FOR PLEASURE
Every responsibility is God-given (verses 1-2). The name “Lemuel” means “for God”. From verse two it is apparent that Lemuel’s mother, like Samuel’s mother, Hannah, had made a vow, asking for a son, and when God answered her prayer, she gave her son to the Lord.
This mother took seriously her God-given responsibility by instructing her son. Now this was the theme of last weeks message so I do not want to belabor the point except to ask this. What did you with last week’s message? Did you think about what you should change? Did your heart say, yes, I need to train my child and others more faithfully? Did you then do it? Or perhaps, you heard the words but you said, how dare he tell me how to raise my children? And that is a legitimate question. But it is the wrong question for you to ask. You need and I need to ask myself if I am truly fulfilling my God-given responsibility to train my children in the ways of the Lord. I beg of you not to shirk your responsibilities but to start today training your child to serve the Lord.
This mother not only took seriously her God-given responsibility by instructing her son but expected her son to take his God-given responsibility seriously by prioritizing responsibility over pleasure. Why? Because…
…giving ourselves to pleasure destroys our opportunity to fulfill our responsibilities (verses 3-5). There are two specific pleasures mentioned in these verses, women and wine. They are certainly not the only pleasures that have destructive qualities but they are certainly among the most common. These things are beyond culture.
Certain pleasures cost us greatly (compare verse 3 with Proverbs 5:8-11; 7:26-27). Most of this poem is directed against the pleasure of drinking but Lemuel’s mother begins by pointing out the cost of sexual pleasures outside the bounds of marriage. There is a trade-off. “Strength” here speaks of ability and the power that comes from that ability. It is in other contexts translated “army” or “wealth.” Lemuel’s mother says that if you indulge yourself in sexual pleasures you will trade in your ability to king. You might as well trade in the armies and treasuries of your kingdom. That is the cost of this pleasure.
Also, you will trade your ways for destruction. This is a specific type of destruction. The word means to wipe out, in this case, to erase from memory. You may be a king now but no one will remember you, your place in history will be forgotten if you trade your God-give responsibility as king for the pleasures of this world.
I think it is appropriate at this time to remind ourselves that we are not just talking about adultery and pre-marital affairs. This warning is also appropriate to everyone of us who is tempted to view pornography on our computer or to entertain lustful thoughts towards someone who is not our spouse. We are to guard our hearts and minds. That may mean not watching some of your favorite TV shows or switching channels when certain commercials come on. That may mean stepping back from someone in your workplace and saying, “No! The emotions that I am feeling are not worth the cost.” It may mean that you need to recommit yourself to building a strong relationship to your spouse. Whatever, it may mean, count the cost of doing nothing. You will lose your ability to exercise your God-given responsibilities and will pass into eternity, forgotten!
Certain pleasures are inappropriate in conjunction with responsibility (verse 4).
Dr. Jack Hayford once wrote that he felt there was a different standard for church leaders like pastors and the other church members. I do not know if he bases that on this passage that deals with leadership and drunkenness but this subject does present us with some difficulties. The book of Proverbs, consistent with the rest of Scriptures, seems in some passages at least to recommend total abstinence and in other passages seems to allow the drinking of wine in moderation.
Certain pleasures cloud our judgment (verse 5).
Addictions make a fool out of a person. Proverbs 23:33-35 describe the foolishness of intoxication. You will say perverse things (verse 33). You will lose touch with reality, even to the point of putting yourself unknowingly in danger (verses 34-35a). You will as an addict do it again and again and again (verse 35b). Proverbs 20:1, “…whoever is led astray by (their addiction) is not wise.”
I was speaking to one of our local state troopers recently. He mentioned how that he is finishing up his last year of running the D.A.R.E. program at Castleton Elementary School. What is sadder is that no more will there be a Vermont State Trooper anywhere in this state running a D.A.R.E. program. I am sure that there are a number of reasons for that but I wonder if this is representative of us, Christians included, who have decided as a society that fighting dangerous pleasures really does not matter.
I knew a man once who had gone to a party with his wife. He had drank a beer, had left the party with his wife, became involved in an auto accident in which his wife was killed, tested as D.U.I., and served time for vehicular homicide. Those are the facts as he told them to me. Perhaps there is more to the story, I do not know. But I saw the guilt that man lived under. I saw those three little boys without a mother. I saw the regrets of a man who traded responsibility for pleasure.
Do not ignore those for whom you have responsibility (verses 6-9)! This passage is written to kings, so there is a specific application to kings. But we also carry responsibility and there are some principles that we can apply from these verses to our lives.
Comfort the helpless (verses 6-7). Notice the contrast between verses 4-5 and verses 6-7! It is not the responsible person who needs alcohol but the man and woman who is beyond responsibility, on their death bed. We are talking about people with no hope. There is nothing left for them but to ease their pain.
Now I am not recommending that we start accompanying the hospice workers with liquor. The picture painted here is this, there are some who are beyond help. Do not ignore them. Comfort them. Paul put it this way, “Weep with those who weep!” Certainly we do not bear the exact same responsibility as our government in this area yet we do bear responsibility. When we come in contact with people who are beyond hope and beyond our help, let us not ignore them but rather love them and make them comfortable and look for some way to help.
Defend the defenseless (verses 8-9).
Kings had the power to defend the defenseless. Usually, we do not but we do have one power that is ours. It is the power of the tongue. When you hear a lie about a neighbor, gossip about that one, do you rise to defend them. As one who has listened to gossip, one who has himself gossiped and criticized, and as one who has been the subject of gossip and personal attacks, I am afraid that we as a church stand in the balances and are found wanting.
Remember the ninth commandment? Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. Zechariah 8:16-17 tells us in detail how to keep this commandment.
16 These are the things you shall do: Speak each man the truth to his neighbor; Give judgment in your gates for truth, justice, and peace;
17 Let none of you think evil in your heart against your neighbor; And do not love a false oath. For all these are things that I hate,’ Says the LORD.”
There is at least one other way in which we can defend the defenseless. Do you know the purpose of the benevolence fund? It is to help those who have need. We try to be careful and be wise stewards of those funds. We take pains to determine if the need is real. What we do not do is hold those funds over someone’s head. We do not demand that people attend service in exchange for financial help. We do not demand or even expect a thank you. What we do is this, help, no strings attached. Yes, we have priorities and policies and we follow those but the spirit of our benevolence is this, “Can we help?”
Why? Because there are almost always others who end up with a heavier load if we do not do our part to help. We do try to hold people accountable but we try to find ways to help those who cannot help themselves. We are not in the business of enabling but we are in the business of helping. After this sermon, we will again give to the benevolence fund. We will do it because we are thankful to God but if we are truly thankful, we will also do it because someone is going to need our help and we need to be there when it is time to help.
Next week: Part 2 – What Lemuel’s mother said about finding a wife.

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