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Proverbs 31: A Wise Woman Is A Great Blessing Print E-mail
Proverbs
Sunday, 10 June 2007

As we saw in last week’s sermon, the book of Proverbs has much to say about avoiding the forbidden woman.  The writer makes it very clear that men are to stay away from such a woman.  Yet, is this all the book has to say about women?  Granted, the original readers of the book were primarily young men, but does that mean that the book has nothing to say about being a wise woman?

On the contrary, the book speaks much about the importance of being a wise woman, particularly in the passage we just read from chapter 31.  The writer, again addressing young men, speaks of how a wise woman is a great blessing from the Lord.  Look at 12:4, 18:22, and 19:14.  The writer of Proverbs views a faithful wife as a great gift from the Lord.  A man may inherit great riches from his family, but a good wife is a gift of God.  Chapter 31 tells us that an excellent wife is far more precious than jewels (v. 10). 

Of course we have no problem agreeing with the text that a wise woman is a great blessing from the Lord.  The difficulty is trying to define and describe a wise woman.  Needless to say, we cannot look to the world for a definition because they do not begin with the fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of all true wisdom.  So, then, what does a wise woman, or a woman who fears the Lord, look like?  Let me answer that question with three qualities from the book of Proverbs.

First, a wise woman uses discretion with her beauty (11:22, 12:46).

We saw last week that the forbidden woman uses her beauty to lead a man down to Sheol (see chapters 5-7).  So, does this mean that beauty is forbidden for a woman in general?  No, it means that beauty is to be used with discretion.  Look at 11:22.  This is a striking image indeed.  I mean even to those of us who are not around pigs that often (myself included), the thought of a filthy pig (the most unclean animal to the original readers) with a gold ring in it’s snout is shocking.  We would never expect it for it would seem so out of place.  That ring would be as out of place as an actual pig would be in our service this morning.  If I marched in a pig, covered in mud and filth, to our service this morning, we would all agree quickly that it was out of place here.  This is the image that the author is giving us of a woman who does not use discretion with her beauty.  The word ‘discretion’ refers to making a right judgment.  Thus, a woman who does not make right judgments about the use of her beauty is as out of place as if a pig was in our service this morning.

Of course, the odd thing about this whole analogy is just how opposite it is to our culture.  The world tells women, ‘If you got it, then flaunt it.’  It seems that we have advertising agencies that are determined to sell every product that they possibly can by plastering scantily clad women anywhere and everywhere.  The world knows that men are attracted by the ‘forbidden woman,’ so they encourage women to use every means possible to get their attention.

Yet, here’s the problem: a wise woman, a woman who fears the Lord, does not want the type of man that is attracted by the ‘forbidden woman.’  Rather, she wants a man who fears the Lord himself.  And a man who fears the Lord is strictly warned against going after the forbidden woman.  So, the book of Proverbs is correcting the thinking of the men and the women.  If we begin with the fear of the Lord, then we know that physical beauty is passing.  The woman who gets a man with physical beauty alone will find out soon that she cannot keep him long.  Thus, the writer instructs women to use their beauty with discretion and instructs the man to avoid a woman who does not.  Let me take this opportunity to once again address the young girls that we have here.  Learn to view beauty in the way that the Lord views beauty and not the way the world views it.  How do you do that?  Read the text more than you read magazines or watch TV or surf the internet.  Let the Bible define beauty for you (look at passages like 1 Peter 3:1-6 and 1 Timothy 2:9-10).  In short, believe that modesty is beautiful, and such beauty makes a wise woman.

Second, a wise woman avoids quarreling, or nagging (19:13, 21:9, 25:24, 27:15-16).

If you read through the Proverbs you cannot help but notice the great difficulty associated with a nagging woman.  In 19:13 and 27:15-16 we see that a nagging woman is like continual dripping on a rainy day.  Look at those verses with me.  Dripping rain is not all that dangerous, for it does not have much physical power.  So what is the writer’s point here?  Dripping rain is a problem when it is continual.  It does have power when it is continual and persistent, not to mention how annoying it can be. 

A few years back, Glenna and I took a trip Chattanooga, Tennessee.  While we were there, we visited Ruby Falls, which is a huge underground waterfall.  As you are making your way back to waterfall, the guide tells you about all these different rock formations that are there.  I remember our guide talking about large formations formed by dripping water as well as large craters.  At first, dripping water may seem harmless, but when it is continuous, it can become very powerful and very destructive.  This is what the writer is pointing out to his readers.  He is warning the young men to avoid a quarrelsome wife.

He uses two other comparisons to drive this point home.  Look at 21:9 and 25:24.  In both verses the author of the Proverbs gives the same comparison: better to be poor and unknown in the corner of a housetop, than to be in the middle of a house with a nagging wife.  One commentator states it this way: “One is better exposed to nature than to a wife’s ‘storms.’ 1   The second comparison is found in 21:19.  Look at that verse with me.  Again, the analogy is striking.  Better to be in a desert land, wandering in the wilderness alone, than with a nagging wife. 

I think it is easy for us to laugh off these texts, but we need to hear the warning through what the writer of the Proverbs is saying, for he says it multiple times in multiple ways, namely it is extremely difficult to live with a nagging and quarrelsome wife.  Of course, a number of qualifications could and should be made (like ‘talking’ is not necessarily ‘nagging’ and men can be quarrelsome as well).  Yet, women do not miss the important point: a man will be crushed under continual nagging and quarreling.  Thus, a wise woman will avoid it.

Third, a wise woman takes care of her house and home (14:1, 31:10-27).

Before we look at chapter 31, look with me at 14:1.  It is a wise woman who takes care of her house and sees to it that she does not tear it down with idleness and folly.  This idea is expanded in the acrostic poem of Chapter 31.  The writer begins by speaking of the excellent wife.  The writer seems to summarize what is said in verses 11-12 and 26-27.  Look at those with me.  A wise woman will provide for her household through hard work and faithful preparation.  Her hard work is stressed in verses 13-14, 17, 19-20, and 24.  Her faithful preparation is stressed in verses 15-16, 18, 21-22, and 25. 

Along with her own household, she takes care of the poor (v. 20) and increases the reputation of her husband in the community (v. 23).  Because of her fear of the Lord (v. 30), she does not have to fear anything else.  The poem uses battle language and describes the woman like a warrior.  She may not go off to war, but that does not mean that she is not a soldier in a serious battle, namely the battle for the home.  Let me offer one word of caution here: this description is the ideal and is not meant to be a checklist for legalistic use.  Rather, the focus is on the wise woman and her care for her house and home.

Some might be thinking: ‘Yet, this does not really apply in a culture where women work just as much as men right?  I mean, things were different back then.  Wise women no longer stay at home and take care of household anymore.’  Well, again much could be said about this issue, but just let me make one point: the family is central in the Bible.  The real problem in our culture is not simply that too many women are in the work place.  No, the problem is that too many families emphasize materials and activities over true relationship.  Families in the Church need to make sure that their priorities are right.  This will look different from family to family, but it is something that we all need to prayerfully and biblically consider.  A wise woman, and a wise man for that matter, will look after the house and home.

As we did last week, let me close by trying to apply these verses to the different groups that we have present.  First, to the wives (and women), labor to be a woman who fears the Lord and is wise.  If you are single, then use discretion with your beauty.  As we said last week, let your father aid you in being modest.  Even now begin to learn how to not be quarrelsome and nagging by being submissive to your parents and others in authority. 

To the married women, let your husband help you with modesty and discretion.  Likewise, talk with your husband (without nagging him) about whether or not you are quarrelsome.  Encourage him to be honest with you when you are and do not be offended if he is.  Ask yourself this question: am I doing all that I can to take care of my husband, my family, and others (seemingly in that order)?  Pray for grace as you labor in the battle for the home.

For the children who are present, the final verses in chapter 31 give you some instruction.  Look at 31:28.  The text says that a wise woman is to be appreciated and praised by her children.  Find ways to rise up and call her blessed.  It does not always have to be big things, but do all that you can to let her know that she is greatly valued.

Likewise, some instructions are given for the men as well.  Look at 31:28-31.  Recognize and be thankful for the glorious gift that God has given you.  Prize her and treasure her.  Speak words of praise to her and show her much affection.  To the young men, pray for such a gift and the wisdom to recognize it.

Again, the relationship between the husband and the wife is meant to point to that of Christ and the Church.  I continue to pray that He would be rightly portrayed in our relationships for our good and His glory.  As we come to the table, may we be thankful for the greatest gift.  Amen.

1 R. C. Van Leeuwen, quoted in Tremper Longman III, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms: Proverbs (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006), p. 392.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 19 June 2007 )

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