We’re going to be going through a new look at the Proverbs 31 women through Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ 30-Day Challenge, helping us to gain more insight into the Proverbs 31 woman, the counter-cultural woman.
Where do you get your ideas about what it means to be a woman? Who has the most influence on your behavior and attitudes? Learn what the Bible has to say about being a woman!?
We want to be women who, in every area of our lives, are controlled by the Word of God. That is what will make an impact on a world that desperately needs to see Christ lived out through all of life.
As older women, we can hold up the hands of younger women. We can encourage them, and we can direct them to Scripture and help them flesh out what it looks like to be a woman after God’s own heart.
In Proverbs 31, we get a picture of this woman’s character, priorities, values, daily routine, marriage, and family life. All of this flows out of the fact that this woman has a reverence for God.
Where are you getting your ideas of womanhood? Who shaped your standard? Was it shaped by the world, or has it been shaped by the Word of God?
Well, today we come to that portion of Proverbs 31 that makes most women a little nervous. I was reading an article on Proverbs 31, and this writer said, “Does the Proverbs 31 woman have a name? I vote for Mrs. Get On Your Nerves, or Mrs. I Have No Friends Because I’m So Perfect.” And this woman went on—the article was called “Not Her Again”—she went on to tell why it was that she feels so intimidated by this Proverbs 31 woman.
And then Jill Briscoe writes in her book Queen of Hearts,
“The Proverbs 31 woman has long stood as the Statue of Liberty at the harbor of the City of Womanhood, welcoming all who flee from being anything less than perfect. But what if I have runs in my stocking? (I’m sure they were all right when I left home.) What if I consistently lose one of my husband’s socks in the washing machine, and I regularly misplace my car in the supermarket parking lot? “It’s blue, sir, I know it’s blue.”
“Is there any hope for me if I dream of writing a book about my small children called From Here to Insanity, and if I’m shaped like a pillow instead of a post? Is there any hope for a woman, if she’s not everything she ought to be, facing this description of an excellent woman?”
Well, true confessions here. When we read or hear about the Proverbs 31 woman, it’s with mixed emotions. I hear, and have thought myself, some of these words in terms of responding to this woman.
The word “tired” comes to mind as I read this chapter. You’re familiar with the passage—on and on and on about all the things this woman does. She gets up early in the morning; she stays up late at night; she just burns the candle at both ends, and she is so busy. You can read this passage and just feel tired. If you weren’t before you read it, you are after you read it!
Another word that comes to mind is the word “overwhelmed.” How does she do it all—and with no technology in her day and age such as we have today? It’s easy to feel defeated or to feel like a failure. It’s easy to look at this standard—this picture of a woman of virtue—and feel, “This is impossible!” Then the next thought is, “I guess I’d just better give up. I can never be this kind of woman.”
So we have feelings of comparison, feelings of guilt. In fact, I have to confess to you that as a young woman, I really did not like this woman. But I want to tell you that over the years—and even more recently, over recent weeks as I’ve been preparing for this series—I have learned to love this woman. And I want to tell you that you’re going to learn to love her, too.
You may hear that we’re doing a series like this that’s going to last for weeks—several—and you first might think, “I’ll tune back in after this series is over.” I want to ask you to hang in there. I believe you’re going to come away with a great sense of encouragement and thankfulness that God has put this chapter in the Bible, to help us become the women that He wants us to be.
I’m going to challenge you to jot down notes in your personal journal about what the Lord shows you by His Spirit as you open this passage.
I’m going to share with you what God’s been teaching me, but God will show you, as you read this passage, things that I haven’t caught—things I haven’t picked up. Then note how this applies to your life and how God is changing you through the power of His Word.
I’ve just got to tell you that over the last few weeks, as I have been meditating and swimming in this passage—just living in it—that God has been doing in my own heart. That’s what the Word does for us. It liberates us; it sets us free. This passage has been encouraging my heart in my pilgrimage toward Christ-likeness.
So we’re going to take our time—as we have already with the first nine verses—now, as we pick up at verse 10, this portrait of a virtuous woman. We’re not going to hurry through this passage. I can’t tell you exactly how many sessions it will take. We’ll finish when we’re finished. Even last night, as I was falling asleep . . . turned out the light, and was meditating on this passage, God was giving fresh and new insights. And I thought, “We’d better stop and teach this, or it will be a year-long series.”
You take time to look through women’s magazines to see what a beautiful woman, a beautiful home, a beautiful marriage looks like. I want to challenge you to put down those magazines. Put them away. I’m not saying they’re necessarily sinful or wrong; I’m just saying they’re what this world has to offer in terms of a picture of beauty.
Instead, pick up this picture. Matthew Henry called it a looking glass which every woman ought to look into as she dresses herself. Pick up this picture and examine it. Take time—spend time in it studying it—and then ask yourself, “Where am I getting my picture of what it means to be a woman?” Where are you getting your ideas of womanhood? Who shaped your standard? Was it shaped by the world, or has it been shaped by the Word of God?
My prayer is to raise up a whole new generation of women who look in this looking glass—who look in the mirror of God’s Word and say, “This will be my standard. This will be my ideal. This is what, by God’s grace, I will allow to be the pattern for my life.” And then, women who can teach their daughters and teach their sons, even as this passage . . .
Remember the Proverbs 31 verses are the words of a king remembering what his mother taught him when he was a young prince. She was teaching him the qualities to look for in a wife, and saying, “It’s important that you think about who you marry. You’re going to live with that person a long time, and she is going to shape and mold your life for better and for worse. So make sure that you look for a wife who has these kinds of qualifications.”
I’m sure that this mother also prayed that these would be the qualities that her son would look for in a wife. Be sure to be teaching your children by your example—but also by your instruction—teaching your sons what kind of qualities to look for in a wife.
I was with some friends recently who were telling me that when their daughter, in her early 20s, brought home the young man she was interested in (who ultimately became her husband), these parents, Tom and Jeannie, said, “We have been praying for 20-some years for our daughter’s husband-to-be, long before we knew him. We had been praying for this young man, and when we met him, is it any surprise that we knew that he was the one? We recognized him because we had been praying for him all these years.”
What a role to have as a parent!
Now, just by way of introduction to this section of Proverbs 31—and some of you will be aware of this—verses 10 through 31 form an acrostic poem. There are 22 verses, beginning at verse 10, and each of those verses begins with a consecutive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The Hebrew alphabet has 22 letters. These are really—in English we could say—the ABCs of a godly woman.
Maybe this mother taught her son in this way to aid his remembering what it was that she taught him. Mom, look for creative ways to help your children remember. This woman did it by means of, “A means . . . B means . . . C means . . . and each of these is a quality of what is a godly woman.”
Now, it’s easy, when we’re reading this passage, to focus on all the things that this woman does—all the skills that she has, all her accomplishments, all her achievements. But can I tell you, that is not the heart of this passage.
The heart of this passage is the woman’s heart. It’s her relationship with God, and out of that relationship comes flowing all the things that she does. It’s a picture of her character, her conduct, her priorities, her values, her daily routine, her marriage, her family life. But all of that flows out of the fact that here is a woman who has a reverence for God.
That reverence for God is at the core of who she is; it’s at the core of her being; it’s what defines her. And that reverence for God is what then expresses itself in all these different ways that we’re going to look at when we pick up in our next session with Proverbs chapter 31, verse 10. A virtuous, an excellent, and a noble woman, who can find?
Older Women As Mentors:
Each generation of women has to grapple with issues of femininity, and we have a burden for pointing younger women to God’s Word. A younger woman states that her peers receive a lot of conflicting ideas on what femininity really means.
Sadly, I think so many of the younger women who are the daughters of my peers have not been spiritually mothered—in the best sense of that term—to understand the ways of God, what it means to be a woman, what it means to walk with God.
My generation has not set a great model and a great example. We have tended to be much more preoccupied with our own ways of thinking and the busyness of this life—and not to have modeled what it means to have a fruitful and right relationship with God. In so many areas—marriage and family, our views of these things, our practice of these things—we have not been the kinds of examples and the kinds of teachers I think we need to be.
So now we have a younger generation of women who I think are very open, very hungry, very eager. Some of them, very honest. In fact, that’s one of the things they’re looking for: authenticity and reality—not just a message, but a message that’s demonstrated and lived out. They’re honest with their thinking, with their wrestling, and with their issues, and I think there’s such an open field there.
We’re taking a two-pronged approach: one is to train the women who are the older women—and you can decide if you qualify for that. (We’re all an older woman to someone.) It’s to get the older women not only to experience themselves what it means to have a revived heart, but to model that to others—and then to give women the tools to train their daughters, granddaughters, and the next generation.
We also, thankfully, have a lot of younger women who are actually listening to God’s words. Some of them are really willing to be radical. And I think, as older women, we can hold up their hands; we can encourage them; we can help direct them to the Scripture what it looks like to be a woman after God’s own heart.
Then if we’re living something that creates thirst in them, all the better yet. It’s kind of salting the oats for us to live the kind of life that these younger women can look up to and say, “There’s something in that woman that is not the typical stressed-out, overwhelmed, anxious, uptight woman—that so many of us can become without the Lord—but there’s a purposefulness there. There’s a freedom; there’s a fullness; there’s a sweetness; there’s a radiance; there’s something in that woman that draws me to Christ.”
So we’re speaking to both sides of that—and even to the grandmothers and the older women whose parenting job may be years past, but some of those women are getting a burden to pray and to mentor. I just was at the funeral, not too long ago, of a 90-some-year-old friend who was still mentoring a young woman—who was 20-something age range, or maybe younger 30s, but a much younger woman.
This 90-something-year-old woman was saying, “I’m not going to just sit on a shelf and be useless, but I’m willing to invest.” She wasn’t a Bible teacher; she didn’t have any special training for this, but she’d lived a long time, and she knew a lot of things about the ways of God. She took this younger woman under her wing and said, “I want to come alongside you.”
The Counter Revolution
I met a younger woman an older woman’s funeral, and this young wife was just so thankful that some older woman would take her under her wing, love her, encourage her, and teach her the ways of God. So we encourage the younger women to be pressing into the older women’s lives and asking for this, but also for the older women to be coming alongside and being available and willing to share—not only out of your successes, but out of your failures: “Here are some of the things that God has taught me…..”
That’s how we grow together. And if we don’t, I fear for what will be the next generation, the children of today’s younger women. There’s going to be a lot of confusion, a lot more dysfunction, than we’ve already bred. But I believe that tide can be reversed—at least among those who are Christian women—and that we can go a different course.
That’s the counter-revolution that we’re talking about: setting up a whole new way of thinking—it’s not new; it’s biblical; it’s old; it’s the ancient paths—but applied to 21st century living and issues.
A women after God’s own heart is knowing God, and it’s your personal relationship with Him—having one that is vital, growing, intimate, real, personal. To be a woman after God’s own heart starts in my own relationship with the Lord—having one. It’s not just what I know biblically, but a relationship that’s being lived out, pursuing God and intimacy with him.
Then, how does that affect every other area of life, and what does it look like to say, “I’m a believer in Christ; I’m a follower of Christ; I believe the gospel”? How does that affect the way that I view all of life? How does that affect the way that I respond to pressure? How does that affect the way I treat my children or my husband? How does that affect the job that I have or don’t have?
How do I make decisions? What do I give? What do I save? In my financial habits, in my moral habits, in my TV-viewing habits, in my use of my computer, in my friendships, in my use of free time . . . I mean, just diet and exercise! How does my relationship with Christ inform and affect and impact every single area of my life? Because if Christ lives in me (and if I’m a child of God, He does; His Holy Spirit does live in me), then He’s supposed to be in control of every area of my life.
People shouldn’t be seeing and experiencing me. They ought to be seeing and experiencing Jesus Christ. When I worry, when I fret, when I get steamed because somebody crossed me the wrong way, when I am frustrated because I can’t control a situation at work—or somebody is not performing according to my expectations, or somebody says something that is hurtful to me—my reactions and my responses reveal who and what is in control of my life. And far too often, it’s me.
When we say we want to be women after God’s own heart, we want to be women who, in every area of our lives, are controlled by the Word of God, by the Spirit of God, the gospel of Christ. Living that out—what it means for Christ to be in us, what that looks like—that is what makes an impact on a lost culture, on a lost world, on a world that desperately needs to see Christ in us, lived out, through all of life.
That’s the way we think, the way we feel, the way we act, the way we respond, the way we choose—everything coming under Christ’s lordship and beginning to be a reflection of Him. What does it look like uniquely to be a woman? That’s where I go to the Scripture—and I think I’ll spend from now until Jesus comes trying to unpack all of these passages. For years I have been searching through God’s Word. Whenever women are mentioned, there is instruction regarding women.
You think of some of the key passages, though there are many others: Proverbs 31, 1 Peter chapter 3, Titus 2, 1 Timothy 2, and many illustrations of the women of Scriptures. There were many examples of women in the Scriptures who were dedicated to God.
Who can you think of that are good examples of Christian women in the Bible and how do they teach us how to become women after God’s own heart?
I am always asking myself the question, Why did God make women? What is His purpose for us? How is it different from His purpose for creating men? Now, there are some purposes that are similar or the same, but there are some purposes that are unique and distinctive. Why did God create the man first, and then the woman? What does it mean for man to provide a spiritual covering and protection for a wife, and for a woman to be a responder to male initiative? Why is this a biblical way of thinking in a culture that thinks you got two heads if you talk that way, in a culture where it’s very politically incorrect to see any but the obvious physiological differences between men and women? Why are there differences? And why are they more significant than the physiological differences? What does that mean for a woman in dating, in courtship? What does it mean for a single woman who wants to be married? What is her role? What is her responsibility? Does she go looking for a husband? How does she respond, when she has a husband, to his leadership? What does it mean to be the woman 1 Peter 3 talks about who has a submissive who has a gentle and a quiet spirit? Does that mean she never talks? Well, it doesn’t. But what does it mean? Does it mean she does have an outgoing personality? Well, it doesn’t mean that. But what does it mean? What does it look like for women to reflect the image of God in ways that are distinctively feminine for us as women and for women to be women in the body of Christ? That is what we’re continually studying and trying to unpack for us as women. I hope you find a new friend in this last chapter of Proverbs.
*We are going through Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ 30-Day Challenge, helping us to gain more insight into the Proverbs 31 woman, the counter-cultural woman.