Yesterday, we heard from what was likely King Solomon’s mother imparting worthy words of wisdom in the area of leadership. For the sayings of wisdom we find here are those “which his mother taught him” (Proverbs 31:1). And she now turns her attention to the search for a woman of virtue and noble character, suitable to be a wife and mother.
When considering our culture, this makes a great deal of sense. It is the place of a mother to both exemplify and be clear in her counsel about the character qualities that a young man should be concerned about when seeking a bride. So this section of characteristics is a fresh reminder to all moms reading: please winsomely share with your sons—before he starts dating, or courting, or whatever he calls it—what he should be looking for in a young lady, as he gets to know a young lady, before he falls for a young lady.
An immediate objection may be: but how can you take a list such as found here, which seems to represent a mature woman, wife and mother, and use that in comparison to a young woman? Fair question. And an important one, actually, as we look at the teaching of this wise, Godly, Spirit-inspired matriarch.
Please understand. I am aware that many in the church have too often presented this portrait in such a way that as a woman you felt you were, and always would, fall short of this representation of womanly perfection. Or it has been used rather cheaply by men to brag that they have a ‘Proverbs 31 woman’ (me: guilty). Neither are what the King’s mother have in mind.
Rather, she is presenting a portrait. In other words, it may not be an actual woman at all, but a model woman. “This lady’s standard is not implied to be within reach of all, for it presupposes unusual gifts and material resources; nor is it much concerned with the personal relationships of marriage. Rather, it shows the fullest flowering of domesticity, which is revealed as no petty and restricted sphere, and its mistress is no cipher. Here is scope for formidable powers and great achievements—the latter in the realm of the housewife’s own nurture and produce (Proverbs 31:31); and partly in her unseen contribution to her husband’s good name (Proverbs 31:23). (D. Kidner, emphasis mine)”
Do you see? We find here traits laudable and exemplary, which, in a young woman may be found in seed-form, and in a mature woman are a portrait of those to which she may still aspire, and for which she should be praised by her husband, her children, and her community.
And the reason that this portrait is so important is that it is a biblical one. When we are trying to understand, when we are trying to pinpoint—in a culture awash in confusion over femininity, identity, and womanhood—what it means to be a woman, here we find standards established by the One who brought to life and formed every woman on the planet. Wouldn’t it make sense that the One who hard-wired wisdom into the world should be the One to turn to when trying to understand and steward that which he made?
So let’s do that. Let’s turn to Spirit-inspired wisdom from a King’s mother for a portrait of the ideal. When you are finished reading, we’ll take a moment for prayer.
10 Who can find a virtuous and capable wife?
She is more precious than rubies.
11 Her husband can trust her,
and she will greatly enrich his life.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
13 She finds wool and flax
and busily spins it.
14 She is like a merchant’s ship,
bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household
and plan the day’s work for her servant girls.
16 She goes to inspect a field and buys it;
with her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She is energetic and strong,
a hard worker.
18 She makes sure her dealings are profitable;
her lamp burns late into the night.
19 Her hands are busy spinning thread,
her fingers twisting fiber.
20 She extends a helping hand to the poor
and opens her arms to the needy.
21 She has no fear of winter for her household,
for everyone has warm clothes.
22 She makes her own bedspreads.
She dresses in fine linen and purple gowns.
23 Her husband is well known at the city gates,
where he sits with the other civic leaders.
24 She makes belted linen garments
and sashes to sell to the merchants.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity,
and she laughs without fear of the future.
26 When she speaks, her words are wise,
and she gives instructions with kindness.
27 She carefully watches everything in her household
and suffers nothing from laziness.
28 Her children stand and bless her.
Her husband praises her:
29 “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world,
but you surpass them all!”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last;
but a woman who fears Yahweh will be greatly praised.
31 Reward her for all she has done.
Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.
(Proverbs 31:10-31, New Living Translation)
Oh, I love that last and most important bit. Solomon begins (Proverbs 1:7) and ends (31:30) Proverbs with the most important step in pursuing a wise and good life; namely, the first one….
The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of knowledge [and wisdom].
Wow. You are such a good, good Father. You give us vivid and beautiful portraits for what a life well-lived, in joy, can look like. Please help all my sisters this morning who are disciples of Jesus to know that, in him, you see them as perfect and complete. You have applied his righteousness, in all areas of his life, to all areas of theirs. You made them perfect, so that now, you can make them good. Give them confidence, from that place of security, to step out in faith and the power of the Holy Spirit to be all that you have made them as a woman—and maybe a wife, and maybe a mother—to be. And Father, give us as men in the church, eyes to see. To mark where we see these qualities in our sisters—our wives, our daughters, our friends in the wider church family—and to praise them in the gates, to bless them in the gatherings, to encourage them in their walk of womanhood.
Yes, and very amen, in Jesus’ name.
Pursuing the wise and good life with you,
Proverbs Thirty-One Day Reading Plan
August 14: Proverbs ch. 1
Aug. 15: ch. 2
Aug. 16: ch. 3
Aug. 17: ch. 4
Aug. 18: ch. 5
Aug. 19: Grace Day
Aug. 20: ch. 6
Aug. 21: ch. 7
Aug. 22: ch. 8
Aug. 23: ch. 9
Aug. 24: ch. 10
Aug. 25: ch. 11
Aug. 26: Grace Day
Aug. 27: ch. 12
Aug. 28: ch. 13
Aug. 29: ch. 14
Aug. 30: ch. 15
Aug. 31: ch. 16
Sept. 1: ch. 17
Sept. 2: Grace Day
Sept. 3: ch. 18
Sept. 4: ch. 19
Sept. 5: ch. 20
Sept. 6: ch. 21
Sept. 7: ch. 22
Sept. 8: ch. 23
Sept. 9: Grace Day
Sept. 10: ch. 24
Sept. 11: ch. 25
Sept. 12: ch. 26
Sept. 13: ch. 27
Sept. 14: ch. 28
Sept. 15: ch. 29
Sept. 16: Grace Day
Sept. 17: ch. 30
Sept. 18: ch. 31
We Are Calvary
To say that we live in times of rapid change may be the very height of understatement. Our culture, and its norms, is changing at an unprecedented rate, making it increasingly challenging for the church to remain relevant—and faithful—in proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God, in a way that will bring about the expansion of that kingdom.
This past Sunday we (finally) made it out of the weighty, dark, somber, and serious writings of the Prophets of the Exile, and stepped into the Return from Exile of the people of God. Our first look into this aspect of the redemptive drama comes via three courageous servants of Yahweh—Zerrubabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. There story is found in the book of Ezra-Nehemiah (although our English Bibles separate them, through the centuries the Jewish people have always treated them as one book; so we will too.)
Especially When You Don't Feel Like It
Sunday is just about my favorite day of the week (“just about”…because my day off each week, our family’s Sabbath Saturday, is a tie or really close second). I love getting up that morning, making my smoothie, sitting in my favorite chair in our fireplace room, and pulling my Bible onto my lap. I relish the time spent listening to my Father speak, and I delight in those moments spent talking with him about the morning’s ministry, the people in our gathering that I hope he will transform, as well as the eleven other pastors (and their congregations) on whom I pray his blessing every Sunday.
This past Sunday we completed our journey through the weighty, dark, somber, and serious writings of the Prophets of the Exile, focusing our study on Ezekiel. We discovered in Ezekiel a book filled with dark visions and confrontational language. And one of the visions (probably the central, controlling metaphor of the book) Ezekiel presents is Israel as a beautiful bride who turns against her bridegroom, God, and breaks all the stipulations of her covenant.
Day Thirty: Vistas of Wisdom
I am very near the end of this little writing experiment called “31 Proverbs.” While I’m unsure how helpful it has been to how ever many have read it, I know that the process of sitting down six days each week to read, ponder, and then ponder some more by plunking on a keyboard has helped me grow in my understanding of wisdom.
Day Twenty-Nine: Please—Quietly Hold Your Tongue
Anger. noun. “a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.” (New Oxford American Dictionary) As I entered day twenty-nine of Proverbs this morning, and came to 29:11, it struck me that this book has quite a bit to say about anger, strife, wrath, quarreling, fights, and rage. It is a theme that Solomon keeps coming back to, probably because he knows that it is a theme woven through humanity and history. Sometimes the best way to see a theme is to pull on that string so all the wisdom he has offered comes together for our observation. The accumulation helps us feel the weight of it.
Day Twenty-Six: A Morning Conversation With King Solomon
A conversation that happened this morning as I came upon a visitor in our fireplace room….
Day Nineteen: God Chose Her, Not You
The doctrine of God’s rule and reign in and over all things comes crashing into the human conception of the self-made man. We are tempted to think we have so much to do with our happinesses. But the wisdom found from James speaks a wakefulness into the pondering of our circumstances—the good gifts we have come not from our own hands, but by the grace and providence of our heavenly Father. And the wisdom of Solomon makes clear—one of man’s greatest gifts is something only God can give, an understanding wife.