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,
P.S. If you’d like to study some of the wisdom literature further, I highly recommend the Wisdom Series from The Bible Project, and their resources on the book of Proverbs.
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
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