The “Virtuous” (Strong or Valiant) Woman
NOTE: As one who really loves words, I was caught in a wonderful mistake in this sermon. I used the word “WIZENED” as one who in time has become wise. But as one astute congregant noted – the word WIZENED means shriveled or weather beaten – NOT made wise. It is always great fun (not to mention ALSO embarrassing) to get caught. But at lest I know for sure one person was listening and listening well. The faulty audio is corrected here in print.
IN THE FIRST PLACE, this passage is very plain.
With no debate of any kind, Solomon is rehearsing the “oracle” or inspired message Lemuel’s mother gave him.
We met both of them in vs. 1 of this chapter.
In this 2nd part (vss. 10-31) she helps her son realize what kind of woman he needs to look for in a wife.
She notes 1st:
SHE IS “EXCELLENT” – STRONG
A word in the Hebrew most often translated as valiant. It is used by the angel who approaches Gideon in Judges when he addresses Gideon as a “mighty man of valor” – Valor = Excellence.
This woman self-possessed, not wishy washy, obsequious or servile –
No – “whatever you say master”.
This is no brainless, un-opinionated ornament.
She is a match for him.
SHE IS “RARE” – which is what makes her so valuable.
Lemuel’s mother says: Don’t look for average, or just pretty – look for someone who can bring something to the table,
Because she has a brain and can interact with you and challenge you on your level.
You can hire a house keeper.
You can hire a cook.
You can hire a governess.
You can’t hire a true partner an “excellent wife” – you have to marry her.
In the verses following, Lemuel’s Mother sums up this EXCELLENT wife in 6 Traits:
- 11-12, 23 / GOODWILL.
- 13-16, 24 / INDUSTRY.
- 17-19, 27 / THOUGHTFULNESS.
- 20 / CHARITABLE.
- 21, 25 / FEARLESS.
- 26 / WISE KINDNESS.
So far, so good.
These things are clearly evident.
This is wise counsel to all you marriageable young men out there.
And young marriageable women – take note,
There aren’t a lot of guys looking for this much quality in a woman.
It is a rare man that does.
Neither of you ought to just settle.
But as we’ve seen throughout this study, if we stop there, we come away with good advice, but not much food for our souls, and not much by way of what this might mean to us in terms of Christ, His Kingdom and such.
For those, we need to dig a bit deeper.
But before we get there, let me make one observation about the practical application of this portion in its first setting.
A WORD OF WARNING: One of the most problematic ways Christians can approach the Scriptures – is to be wrapped up in seeing how a specific portion applies to someone else.
Nowhere is this more true than in a passage like this one, or in Eph. 5; Col. 3; Titus 2 & 1 Peter 3 – where husbands and wives are addressed.
When going to such portions – it is NEVER the province of the husband to wave those passages under the nose of their wives – NOR of the wives to wave them under the noses of their husbands.
Husbands are to read THEIR portions and submit to them – WHETHER OR NOT their wives properly deal with their portions – and vice versa.
Each must answer to GOD for THEIR OWN responsibilities.
Untold damage has been done to many a good woman who has had a boorish, selfish, self-righteous, controlling jerk of a husband turn to a passage like this & ask why their wife doesn’t measure up.
That is to ABUSE the Word of God, NOT to use it.
Sadly, due to our sinful tendencies, such a warning has to be issued.
That said, let me point out a few other key things we need to understand about the passage as a whole.
NOTE: THIS IS AN IDEAL.
Some commentators say it functions like a HEROIC POEM – giving an outsized or exaggerated portrait to stir the emotions – something like the proportions on Michelangelo’s David.
In the sculpture, David is uncharacteristically over-sized – a giant. (16’ – 11.5”)
And at that both his head and his hands are disproportionately large.
It is meant to accent his heroism, mind and ability.
So with the picture painted here of the “EXCELLENT” wife.
This is not meant to be a daunting yoke around the neck, it is meant to be INSPIRING. To say “WOW! I want to be like that!”
High ideals are always good to aspire to – if we remember perfection, while aimed at, will not be achieved in this life.
That said, I don’t believe we’ve gotten to the best application for us in our circumstances and as the Church in the New Covenant era.
For this we need to reach beyond – and I would argue that above everything else…this passage is MEANT to be…
- A STUNNING PORTRAIT of Christ’s Bride, as the Church is supposed to be to Jesus Christ in this world.
I am not alone is thinking this portion refers to church more than simply to “wives” as a whole.
Venerable Bede / John Gill / Wordsworth / Ambrosius / Augustine / Harry Ironside / Robert Hawker / Peter Lillback (Pres. of WTS) / Others.
Ephesians 5:31–32 NOTES: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
The Bride of Christ is one of the various euphemisms for the Church – and by no means the least.
Rev. 21-22 especially focus on this image of the Church as Christ’s Bride as summing up the wonder of our relationship to Him.
And these are the qualities He spells out as those He is looking for in His Bride – the Church.
These 22 verses are more highly stylized than any chapter in the Bible.
It is BOTH an acrostic AND a chiasmus
ACROSTIC: Each successive verse begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
Once again, it presents an ideal – something to which no individual woman can attain.
It seems evident then that something truly extraordinary is going on here.
As we know that all marriage is intended to mirror Christ and His Church,
And all men are to live and love as a living illustration of Christ and all women are to live and love as a living illustration of the Church –
So this highly idealized picture of the woman Lemuel ought to pursue finds its highest ideal in the Church Christ Himself pursues.
CHIASMUS: You can see the parallel thoughts if you map it out.
A: High value of a good wife (v. 10)
B: Husband benefited by wife (vv. 11–12)
C: Wife works hard (vv. 13–19)
D: Wife gives to poor (v. 20)
E: No fear of snow (v. 21a)
F: Children clothed in scarlet (v. 21b)
G: Coverings for bed, wife wears linen (v. 22)
H: Public respect for husband (v. 23)
G´: Sells garments and sashes (v. 24)
F´: Wife clothed in dignity (v. 25a)
E´: No fear of future (v. 25b)
D´: Wife speaks wisdom (v. 26)
C´: Wife works hard (v. 27)
B´: Husband and children praise wife (vv. 28–29)
A:´ High value of a good wife (vv. 30–31)
As I already mentioned – these are summed up in 6 qualities:
Let’s think through them as they apply to the Church – the Bride of Christ.
- 11-12, 23 / TRUSTWORTHY IN GOOD WILL.
Can we as the Church say that we have Christ’s good name as a priority? Remember Jesus’ priority in the Lord’s Prayer? The “hallowing” of His Father’s name.
So we read in 1 Peter 2 how it is central to the Church’s call and mission in the world to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light!”
Does Christ, having called us to co-labor with Him in His church, have confidence in us to do His cause and name good?
Can He trust is to use the gifts He has given us to be used to seek the glory of His name in making His person and work known to a fallen world?
2 TIMOTHY 1:14 By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.
JUDE 3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.
2 TIMOTHY 2:2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
This last Wednesday, Al Sabel was teaching on the parable of the “talents” in Matthew – where Jesus graphically describes His Kingdom as one where He commits His gifts and graces into our hands, and then returns to see if we’ve made good on them – honored Him in investing them and seeing them used in His best interest.
So in these verses:
- The heart of her husband trusts in her
- He will have no lack of gain
- She does Him good, and not harm
- Her husband has a good reputation because of her
This is part and parcel of what it means for us to be The Church in respect to Christ as our husband.
- 13-16, 24 / INDUSTRIOUS.
Is the Church busy in building up the household of faith?
– Preaching the Gospel / Missions (Mark 16:15)
– Training the next generation.
- 17-19, 27 / THOUGHTFUL ABOUT LIFE.
19 – Double strength yarns.
Engaging cultural issues
Thinking deeply about current issues from a Biblical worldview
1 PETER 1:13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1 PETER 4:7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.
1 PETER 5:8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
- 20 / CHARITABLE.
Do we have compassionate hearts toward the suffering that sin has brought into this world?
MATTHEW 10:8e You received without paying; give without pay.
Do we act in both the concrete and the spiritual?
- 21, 25 / FEARLESS.
Is the Church fearless in our generation?
Do we really trust Him in our dark hours, or do we cave to the Culture?
ROMANS 8:15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
How timely in light of the recent SCOTUS ruling.
Will we preach, teach and practice God’s morality, or the World’s.
Will they scare us into capitulation or silence?
Or have we prepared ourselves by looking to Christ and strengthening ourselves in His promises?
- 26 / WISE AND KIND.
Truth without compassion soon becomes MEAN
Compassion without truth soon becomes EMPTY SEMTIMENTALITY
PSALM 85:10 Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Is the Church – are we @ ECF filled with the wisdom of how God sees the world?
And are we representatives and dispensers of His great kindness in the Gospel?
Do we only stand for sound doctrine, while harboring cold or harsh hearts?
Do we have care and concern for people’s sufferings, but do so at the expense of failing to bring the truth of God’s word and the Gospel to hearts and minds for their eternal good?
We can never err on one said or the other – we are called to both in this world.
- Grateful children & husband.
When the Church is carrying out its charge, those saved and blessed under its ministry, and the Christ who is its Lord BLESS.
Worship & Commendation.
- This is an image of TRUE excellence.
It is a preventative against lop-sidedness.
- Heart beauty supersedes physical beauty.
It produces beauty in holiness of character over and above worrying about how attractive to the outside world it might “appear” though externally pleasing the World’s eye.
- She will be rewarded.
She would rather hear “well done” from Christ, than approval from society, culture or even other religious bodies. She wants to please her “Husband” above all.
Take away: It has been the tendency of every generation of serious Christians to reinvent the Church in their age and context.
What should the Church look like?
What is its mission?
How should we think about styles of worship?
But in the end, those are not the thoughts of Christ regarding how His Church ought to look and appear in society – This is.
She is to be:
- 11-12, 23 / Trustworthy in Goodwill.
The trustworthy guardian of His reputation and truths: Of His household
- 13-16, 24 / Industrious.
She is to be about the business that is dearest to His heart and the maintenance of His household.
- 17-19, 27 / Thoughtful about life.
She is to be engaged with the deep things of life, and not one with her hear buried in the sand and unaware of the world in which she lives.
- 20 / Charitable.
She is to be as generous with the mercy and grace of Christ in proportion to how she has been the beneficiary of His mercy and grace.
- 21, 25 / Fearless.
She is to be fearless in facing the days ahead, knowing the gifts and resources Christ has given her are more than sufficient to see her through, until the day when He returns and sets all right.
- 26 / Wise and Kind.
She is to be both wise in the ways of righteousness and winsome in proclaiming and living that righteousness in the world.
One last thought – we become this kind of Bride to Him, as we contemplate how He is this kind of Husband to us.
Who is more: Full of Good will toward His Own?
Unceasing in the more extreme labor for us
Full of truth about all of life that affects us
Full of grace to overflowing
Fearless to face the Cross for our salvation
The sum of all wisdom, and the infinite kindness of God incarnate
Husbands – want a wife like the Proverbs 31 Woman?
Be a Proverbs 31 Husband.
 Duane A. Garrett, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (vol. 14; The New American Commentary; Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993), 248.