THE NOBLE WIFE OF PROVERBS 31
One of the persistent myths of our generation is that of the "super mom", or perhaps "super woman", a near-perfect heroine of boundless energy and great wisdom who doesn't make mistakes. Christians have their own version of this myth, according to which the woman simply trades secular success for church ministry, an involved family schedule, and a full-orbed devotional life. When the time comes to assign blame for such an unrealistic portrayal of womanhood, a lot of fingers point to the noble wife of Pr 31. Probably every Christian woman feels that at some point she is being measured against the ideal standard of the Pr 31 woman and one may ask the question. Is that fair?
Let's have a closer look at this woman from Pr 31. It is true that in many details, this woman's life is unique. One commentator notes that this section "is clearly about a woman of position and ability in her own right. She has a large household, ample means, land and vineyard." Let's take a closer look at this text, which is an acrostic poem, meaning that each verse begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Even though this wife and mother is presented in an ideal light, the qualities for which she is praised are attainable by any woman who desires to please the Lord. In this closing chapter of Proverbs this virtuous and capable woman of high morality who chose for the best standards, in contrast to the evil women mentioned earlier in Proverbs. The first verse referring to her, v.10 of chapter 31, comes to us as a challenge: " A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies." It also illustrates to us how much a godly woman is worth in God's sight. But she must choose to build her life around Him. The secret of her success in doing so is unlocked by the words, "a woman who fears the Lord" (v.30). Through this example, we see how rich and varied a woman's life can be. God shows how a woman can be the best of all to him and to those around her. It all depends on the choice she makes. If she desires the best God has planned for her, she must begin by understanding and accepting God's plan and purpose for a woman.
In the first pages of the Bible in Gen 1 we read that both man and woman were created in the image of God. Both are responsible to fulfill his command to "be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it." A woman's responsibilities go beyond the home and raising children. Some biblical women (like Sarah, the mother of Isaac, and Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist) bore and trained sons whose lives had an impact on human history. They influenced life beyond their homes through their children. Other biblical women influenced the lives of their people by combining marriage with a personal calling to the service of God. The prophetess Deborah, who was the leader of a nation, was such a woman. She called herself "a mother of Israel" and gave the country forty years of rest after it had suffered many years of terrible oppression. There are single women in the Bible who had great responsibilities, like Miriam who helped lead a nation, and Orcas, who had domestic responsibilities. Both were highly influential in their time, and they should still encourage and influence us today. All of these women were "capable, intelligent and virtuous." They proved to us to what heights a woman can rise if she chooses to trust God. Like the woman in Pr.31, they were woman with high morals, dependability, self-discipline, and diligence. They were women who chose to know, to love and to trust their heavenly Father. The young widow Anna, who lived centuries later, made a choice to live in the house of God rather than return to her parental home. Rather than being forgotten by history, she is remembered as the first woman to tell hungry hearts about the new-born Saviour when he was brought to the temple.
In the nineteenth century, Catherine Booth cried out, "I do yearn to be made a blessing to the world." The Salvation Army which she co-founded with her husband, still functions as a blessing around the world. Corrie ten Boom chose not to surrender to the world of hatred, misery, and self pity that she found in a German concentration camp. Instead she chose to proclaim God's message of help to a needy world in a time of deepest distress. Both Catherine Booth and Corrie ten Boom, proved that women anywhere, of any nation, can choose to be their best for God and have a lasting positive impact on the world. Although they were spiritually weak at times, they got their strength from reading God's Word. Catherine read the Bible regularly from the age of three. Corrie gathered fellow prisoners around her in the concentration camp and read to them from a worn New Testament. Fellowship with God through His Word helped these two women make the right choices. It proves to us it's not who you are or how you were born, but it's what you choose that counts. It shows us that any woman who, like Corrie and Catherine, chooses to give her hearts and life to God and devote herself to His concerns, can also be a woman of noble character. She can also be worth far more than rubies as the text says in v.10. Though our lives on earth are relatively short, they can be full of meaning and have a lasting effect. It depends upon our response to the choice with which Joshua confronted the people of Israel: " Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve" (Josh. 24:15) Our well-being, happiness and productivity depends, not on our IQ or abilities, but upon choosing God. This choice cannot be postponed. It must be made now, since the present is the only time we're sure about and that belongs to us. Let's not delay because we do not know what the future holds. And besides - haven't we already wasted enough time?
When God created Eve, He saw that it was good. He had fellowship with her daily. God intended for her to stand by her husband's side and serve Him together with her husband by ruling over the living creatures. She had a feast of God's blessing, but she also had a personality and a free will. Consequently, she could either accept or reject God's love. Unfortunately, at the very time when she had an opportunity to prove her love to God and to show that she was willing to follow Him voluntarily, she failed. She rejected the one condition for God's happiness - obedience. Sin entered the world and God no longer occupies the place in the human heart He so greatly desires and which is also rightfully His. Being separated from God, Eve also suffers in other relationships - with her husband, her family and the entire world. She can no longer be what God meant her to be - a person to joyfully represent Him on earth, sharing with man in the responsibility of having authority over the earth. Since Eve's rebellion, women have attempted to fill their empty hearts with other things, none of them capable of filling the vacuum of separation from God. Jesus Christ came into the world to die for our sin and reconcile us with God. The vacuum can now be filled and true happiness is available for every woman. But, as with Eve, it's offered conditionally. The condition is faith and obedience. We must believe in Jesus Christ, accept him as our personal Saviour and live a life of obedience to Him. To become the jewel she's meant to be, a woman must completely accept God's offer of eternal life through Jesus Christ. She will enjoy happiness and true freedom in proportion to how much she yields herself to Him. Women can live each day with God, as Eve did in the Garden of Eden, because when Christ returned to heaven, He sent his Holy Spirit to live in those who believe. The Holy Spirit is their comforter, guide and the inner guarantee of our eternal life with God. It is the Holy Spirit who can develop within our lives the kind of virtues and talents presented in Proverbs 31. Paul wrote in Gal. 5:22-23 "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." Yes, a woman can be more precious than a jewel in the sight of the triune God.
We have to establish clearly in our minds firstly, the value of a woman of God. Secondly how it was that this woman was such an outstanding person. What made her like that? And then thirdly can you and I also be like her or is it just for special people? I think it is clear from Pr.31:10 that she is not easily found and when found her value is far more than that of jewels. It reminds me of the parable of the kingdom of God that is likened to a pearl of great price. The merchant went and sold everything he had and bought it. You see a woman who gave all she had to receive this treasure - which is a relationship with God - herself becomes precious like it. Have you given all to Jesus? Don't you also want to become like this woman in Pr.31, more precious that jewels? I hope it has been clear to us that each and everyone of us can be like Mrs. Proverbs 31. God makes us like that by his Holy Spirit. As Pr. 31:30 says " Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
In Part 2 we can look at what it means to fear the Lord and other aspects of the live of the woman in Pr.31.