Praise for the Virtuous Woman
May 12, 2002 | Randy Smith
Praise for the Virtuous WomanProverbs 31:10-31
Sunday, May 12, 2002
Pastor Randy Smith
Radical feminists have sold our society a pack of lies as it relates to the ideal woman. "She would work at a job and build her own career. She would refuse to submit to her husband. She would have an affair or two or three, a divorce or two or three, an abortion or two. She would definitely exercise her independence. She would make sure that she was imminently fulfilled herself. She would rely on her own resources. She would not want her husband or children to threaten her personal goals. She would have her own bank account. She would hire a maid or cleaning service. She would eat out at least 50 percent of the time with or without her family. She would make cold cereal and coffee the standard breakfast fare for the family and quick-frozen meals usual dinner fare. She would be tanned, arobicized, bulging with muscle. She would be shopping to keep up with the fashion trends and make sure she could compete in the attention-getting contest. She would put her children in a day-care center, making sure that each one also had a TV in his or her room so that when they were home they wouldn't interrupt her routine. She would be opinionated. She would demand to be heard from and eager to fulfill all of her personal ambition."
Sadly, many women since the time of Eve have been deceived by the great lie that promises them independence from God's perfect design. Particularly in the past 40 years, the statistics on child delinquency, adultery and divorce rates and a woman's overall fulfillment have revealed the tragic consequences of this sinful pursuit.
Rather than turning to society, women should turn to their Creator in search of their personal identity. For God has made the woman and through His Word has instructed her. He knows what will bring her the greatest happiness. He knows what will enable her to be an excellent wife and mother. He knows what will empower her to bring the greatest glory to Himself. The book of Proverbs has much to say to women on this account.
Throughout the book, many sinful feminine personalities appear, only to be denounced by the author. For instance, there is the adulteress, the noisy woman, the foolish woman, the rebellious woman and the quarrelsome woman. None of these women are to be emulated as their ways are dishonoring to God and their lifestyles are personally destructive.
However, in contrast, a model woman is presented in the final chapter of the book. Though she is a million miles away from the 21st century mindset, those who love the Lord, can appreciate her godliness and esteem her highly. She is invaluable, she is the ideal, she is rare, she is blessed and she is pleasing to God. She is known by many as the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31.
So in light of Mother's Day I would like to speak on behalf of every thankful child and every thankful husband and extol the virtuous woman who puts God and others above herself. Oh, we have been greatly blessed and she is greatly to be praised!
1. DESCRIPTION OF THE VIRTUOUS WOMAN
There are two points to this morning's message, each with three sub-points. The first point is the description of the virtuous woman. The second point is our response to the virtuous woman. Let's begin with the description of the virtuous woman.
She Fears the Lord
First of all, she fears the Lord. Look at Proverbs 31:30. "Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the LORD , she shall be praised". As we mentioned 3 weeks ago, fearing God is foundational to all Christian living. The God-fearing woman approaches her Lord with reverence and awe. She clings tightly to her Savior. She realizes the futility and waywardness of her own fleshly pursuits, but knows there is strong confidence in God, her Rock. She delights in meeting His approval and fears the way of sin. She rests in the shadow of His wings, depending on Him for guidance, strength and perseverance. She fears independence from God. She trusts God whereas vs. 25 says, "she smiles at the future." She yields to her Lord, and His design for womanhood asking Him to reign in her mortal body where He might use her for His greatest glory.
One author rightly said, "A woman who fears the Lord will not run away from God to satisfy her longings and relieve her anxieties. She will wait for the Lord. She will hope in God. She will stay close to the heart of God and trust in his promises. The prospect of departing into the way of sin will be too fearful to pursue; and the benefits of abiding in the shadow of the Almighty too glorious to forsake."
Now you can bet that any woman who approaches life from this perspective will be radically transformed by the living God. The Spirit will continually chip away the impurities, whereas the gem that remains is an exquisite multi-carat diamond, reflecting the beauty of God's glorious character. Let's look at 5 facets of this God-given inner beauty as they are found in our text.
She Demonstrates Inner Beauty
First she is trustworthy . "The heart of her husband trusts in her, And he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil All the days of her life" (Pro. 31:11-12). This woman does not need to simply claim her godliness because she proves her godliness through her good deeds. Verse 12 says, "She does him good and not evil all the days of her life." She is unlike Eve or Jezebel or Job's wife. Her husband knows that she is always looking out for his best interests. His mind is at ease because his wife can be trusted with the affairs of the household. There is never a doubt as to how she is spending money. There is never a doubt as to how she is relating to other men. There is never a doubt as to how she instructs and disciplines the children. There is never a doubt as to how she is speaking behind his back. There is never a doubt as to how she is using her time. The woman has demonstrated trustworthiness and therefore is trusted! In speaking of such a high level of trust for a wife, Martin Luther once said, "In domestic affairs I defer to Katie. Otherwise, I am led by the Holy Ghost." Meaning, in the ways of the home, she can be trusted as much as God!
In Titus 2:5, Paul calls women to be "workers at home." The home is the woman's stewardship from God and primary responsibility. In 1 Corinthians 4:2, Paul said, "it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy . The godly woman is free from her husband's overbearing interference and is enabled to devote herself to the stewardship to which God has called her. The man is also enabled to free himself for his work, knowing that she will be a good steward of what he provides. Both the man and woman can give their undivided attention to the work to which God has called them. And it only happens with proven trustworthiness!
In addition to being trustworthy, she is also dignified. "Strength and dignity are her clothing" (Pr. 31:25). The virtue of dignity is used often to describe godliness within the church. In 1 Timothy 3 it's expected of men desiring the office of elder or deacon. Also in 1 Timothy 3 it's expected of deacons' wives. In Titus 2 the virtue is called for among all older and younger men. Here in Proverbs 31, the godly woman displays dignity. Basically dignity carries the idea of honorable and respectful behavior. She is not caught up in frivolous, trivial or superficial pursuits. One commentator said dignity is, "that which lifts the mind from the cheap and showy to that which is noble and good and of moral worth." This excellent woman is dignified.
Third, the beginning of verse 26 says "she opens her mouth in wisdom." Naturally, this wisdom is a by-product of what? Her fear of the Lord. "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom , And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding" (Pro. 9:10). The wise and godly woman has control over her tongue. She speaks that which is in accordance with God's Word. She has a keen ability to apply knowledge.
Because of her wisdom and role as a steward of the household, she is a prolific teacher. Look at the end of vs. 26, "And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue." But even though a woman has wisdom and the responsibility to instruct her children, there is no guarantee she will conduct herself with tact. However, the godly woman presents her instruction in a spirit of kindness, our fourth facet of the diamond. Her speech is gracious, tender and compassionate.
The husband may lead the family devotional in the morning, but then he's gone for the next nine hours! Whereas the godly woman instructs the children both formally and informally in the classroom of the home throughout the day! Her instruction is continuous and without doubt, the most impacting on the children's lives. Her mouth brings forth wisdom in kindness. Her nonverbal instruction is the modeling of a godly life without hypocrisy.
Finally, the fifth facet mentioned in this account is the woman's diligence. Verse 27 says, "She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness". Simply put, this woman is not lazy. She is aware of all the needs of the house and manages her resources with a standard of excellence. Anyone who thinks that being a housewife and caring for children is an easy job has obviously never attempted the feat. I have and it's prompted me on a number of occasions to publicly confess that my wife works way harder than I do. The responsibilities for a woman seem endless! And if they are to be done right with a standard of excellence, the call for a diligent, self-disciplined woman is necessary.
These are the five facets on the diamond-trustworthiness, dignity, wisdom, kindness and diligence, all flowing from a biblical fear of the Lord.
This woman truly understands how to be beautiful in God's eyes. She knows that, (vs. 30) "Charm is deceitful and (outward) beauty is vain." Charles Bridges once said outward beauty is a "fading vanity (which) contributes little to our happiness." It reminds me of the article I read this week about Carrie Otis. Carrie Otis was among the world's top super-model receiving $20,000/day for photo-shoots. She routinely binged and purged, took laxatives and diet pills, exercised intensively and engaged in cocaine and heroine simply to maintain the perfect beauty. The result was a divorce and a destructive lifestyle that led to a mental and emotional breakdown. The article said last year, on her 32nd birthday, a friend invited her on a humanitarian mission to distribute clothes and toys to kids living in orphanages in Nepal. In response to true beauty Carrie said, "If somebody asked me, "When did you feel the most beautiful?" I would say, when I was traveling through the Himalayas in dirty clothes, dirty hair, hadn't had a shower in a week, and was giving kids clothes. That's when I felt like the most beautiful woman, and the woman I've always aspired to be."
Outward adornment is important to humans, but not to God who examines the heart. The Proverbs 31 woman's heart manifests the traits of trustworthiness, dignity, wisdom, kindness and diligence that are beautiful in God's eyes and beautiful in her sight as well. She is a diamond chiseled by the Holy Spirit reflecting the radiance of God to her family and a watching world.
She Demonstrates Practical Righteousness
As we have indirectly mentioned thus far, her inner beauty is not stagnate. Her godliness spills over to a manifestation of good deeds. Listen to the ways she demonstrates practical righteousness in providing for her family. Verses 13-19, "She looks for wool and flax, And works with her hands in delight. She is like merchant ships; She brings her food from afar. She rises also while it is still night, And gives food to her household, And portions to her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; From her earnings she plants a vineyard. She girds herself with strength, And makes her arms strong. She senses that her gain is good; Her lamp does not go out at night. She stretches out her hands to the distaff, And her hands grasp the spindle." Verse 21, "She is not afraid of the snow for her household, For all her household are clothed with scarlet. Verse 24, "She makes linen garments and sells them, And supplies belts to the tradesmen." The beginning of verse 27 seems to summarize her intentions. "She looks well to the ways of her household." Because she loves her family, she finds great joy in serving them. And the investment she makes in her household in these early years will reap dividends the second half of her life.
Not only does this woman provide for her family, but she also has a heart for those less fortunate outside her home. Remarkably, verse 20 says, "She extends her hand to the poor ; And she stretches out her hands to the needy ." She realizes that God amply supplies us not in order to be a cul-de-sac of riches, but rather to be a conduit enabled to bless others. And though this woman receives much praise, the praise is never given over to pride, for she is still willing to associate with the lowly and less fortunate.
She provides for her family, she provides for the needy and she provides for her own…physical beauty. Now, in light of all that I have said thus far, that statement sounds like a tremendous contradiction. After all, did we not read vs. 30 that says, "Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain." Are we not familiar with the verses in 1 Timothy which say, "Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments; but rather by means of good works, as befits women making a claim to godliness" (1 Tim. 2:9-10). Or how about 1 Pet. 3? "In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. And let not your adornment be merely external-- braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands" (1 Pet. 3:1-5). Doesn't all this clearly say that a woman's true beauty is her inner spirit-Namely a chaste and respectful behavior and a gentle and quiet spirit, making a claim to godliness by means of good works? Answer: Absolutely!
But these verses never teach that a woman is to ignore her God-given outward physical beauty either! The biblical writers are simply saying that a woman should not prioritize the external appearance. She should not dress in a promiscuous fashion similar to the temple prostitutes of the day. She should not flaunt her beauty in an attempt to draw unnecessary attention to herself. But she can and should still enhance her God-given beauty.
After reading Proverbs 31 and meditating on this godly woman's daily schedule, you get the impression that the virtuous woman resembles an island castaway who hasn't bathed or had a change of clothes for weeks! The text says this woman gets no sleep. She doesn't go to bed till after dark, she gets up before light, she's all over town buying things at a bargain; when she does get home, she's working with a spindle. She's got to have dirty arms, dirty hands, and her hair must be a fright. When does she ever pay any attention to herself? Yet in verse 22 we read, "She makes coverings for herself; Her clothing is fine linen and purple." Her clothing is not just linen, but fine linen. It's not just any color, but purple, a color in antiquity associated with elegance. This woman appreciates the beauty God has given her. She appreciates the fact that her husband rejoices in her beauty. She cares for herself and knows how to express her God-given beauty in a God-honoring fashion.
What a remarkable woman she is! What a beautiful portrait of godliness! What a blessing to her husband! Proverbs 12:4 says, "An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, But she who shames him is as rottenness in his bones." She is an excellent wife. She's rare. And she's invaluable. "An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels" (Pro. 31:10). And don't forget, her excellence is due to her godliness and her godliness is due to her fear of the Lord. Everything is an overflow from that!
2. RESPONSE TO THE VIRTUOUS WOMAN
Well, how do we respond to such a woman? She who is beautifully clothed with inner godliness? She who is a model of diligent labor in service to others? Her virtue cannot be hidden. The expected response is praise.
Her Praise is Expected
First of all, her praise is expected! "Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised . Give her the product of her hands, And let her works praise her in the gates" (Pro. 31:30-31). We are to be people after God's own heart. God wants His delight to be our delight. His esteem our esteem. His joy our joy. A woman who fears the Lord is beautiful in His eyes, therefore she should be beautiful in our eyes as well. As creatures created in His image we are to emulate His character and give praise where He gives praise.
Her Praise Comes Naturally
Let's go al little deeper. Though we are biblically expected (and commanded) to praise such a woman, our praise should not be under constraint or unnatural. Let me explain. Most human beings can appreciate the majesty of nature. Whether it is the Grand Canyon, a sunset over the Pacific or a moonlit night over the Atlantic, when we observe this beauty we don't have to exert ourselves to manifest praise. The praise simply comes naturally. Wow!
CS Lewis once said, "I (originally) thought of (praise) in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honor. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise." Therefore when a child or a husband or another individual, who can appreciate godliness, observes the ways of this godly woman, the natural overflow will be praise. Obviously, the woman does not seek her own praise, but rather praise naturally comes from those who observe and appreciate her behavior.
Look with me at verse 28. "Her children rise up and bless her; Her husband also, and he praises her, saying: 'Many daughters have done nobly, But you excel them all" (Prov. 31:28). Her children and her husband don't say this only on Mother's Day and her birthday. It's not a forced praise! It a spontaneous overflow of the heart from those who can appreciate righteous beauty! It comes naturally from those who have a heart like God's.
Furthermore, her praise touches the rest of the family. Fascinatingly, in a text that extols the excellent woman, the husband is mentioned as receiving praise himself in verse 23. "Her husband is known in the gates, When he sits among the elders of the land." But notice his praise is a direct result of his godly wife, simply due to his association with this woman. Her praise as it is received from the people in the town spills over to him. "Boy, you sure are one blessed man to be married to her!" "Your wife says nothing but great things about you!" "You must be doing something right as the leader of your home!"
Her Praise is Good
You may be saying at this point, "Wait a second, what's all this praise for a person!" I though we are only to praise the Lord. In our esteem for this woman are we guilty of idolatry?" That's a good question!
Let me turn again to CS Lewis. He said, "I can't hear the song of a bird simply as a sound. Its meaning or message ("That's a bird") comes with it inevitably…The distinction ought to become, and sometimes is, impossible; to receive it and to recognize its divine source are a single experience. This heavenly fruit is instantly redolent of the orchard where it grew. The sweet air whispers of the country from whence it blows. It is a message. We know we are being touched by a finger of that right hand at which there are pleasures forevermore. There need be no question of thanks or praise as a separate event, something done afterwards. To experience the tiny theophany is itself to adore." In other words, all created things are mirrors to reflect God's glory. If I praise the Grand Canyon as an end to itself, I engage in idolatry. But if I praise the Grand Canyon in response to a powerful, creative and beautiful designer, I engage in worship.
If this rule applies for nature, how much more should it apply for the apex of God's creation, those created in His likeness…humans! For instance, James 3 says that when I verbally abuse other humans, I abuse God. But on the other hand, when I can rejoice in the righteous handiwork of God in an individual's life, I indirectly praise God for His ability to create and recreate a person to His likeness.
This characteristic of God's nature is seen in all post-fall humans who still bear a marred essence of His likeness; even little ones demonstrate it instinctively. When my daughter shows me her artwork, my obligation is to praise the picture and tell her of its beauty. But never once, has either of my young daughters said, "Daddy, I don't want you to praise the picture, I want you to praise me! Don't say the picture is beautiful, rather say I'm a great artist!" No, they intuitively receive the praise for the picture as praise for their handiwork. Complimenting the artwork brings a smile. Criticizing the artwork brings heartache.
Therefore, when we observe a godly woman manifesting the traits of trustworthiness, dignity, wisdom, kindness and diligence demonstrated in practical good deeds from an overflow of a heart that fears the Lord, we know that God's mighty power is at work in her life. Our response not only must, but should, be praise from the overflow of a heart that appreciates the handiwork of God. And praise for that woman is reflected back to the One who is responsible for the work. In the end, the woman is encouraged and God is glorified!
This morning we have examined the woman of excellence. The puritan Matthew Henry said, "Proverbs 31 is the mirror against which every Christian woman must stand and face herself." There is no doubt that this is the woman that God wants, and only God can produce this woman. This is the ideal every woman should desire to be. This is the woman that every young man should seek to marry.
Husbands and children are undeserving of this woman. She is a special woman. She fears the Lord. Her is value is beyond worldly riches and she is rare. But she exists, and where she exists, she is worthy to be praised for the mighty work of God in her life.