Let me just take time to read verses 10–31. Because many of us are familiar with this in some of the more common translations, I want to read from a different translation, the New Living Translation. Let me just read verses 10–31.
10 Who can find a virtuous and capable wife?
She is more precious than rubies.
11 Her husband can trust her,
and she will greatly enrich his life.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
13 She finds wool and flax
and busily spins it.
14 She is like a merchant’s ship,
bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household
and plan the day’s work for her servant girls.
16 She goes to inspect a field and buys it;
with her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She is energetic and strong,
a hard worker.
18 She makes sure her dealings are profitable;
her lamp burns late into the night.
19 Her hands are busy spinning thread,
her fingers twisting fiber.
20 She extends a helping hand to the poor
and opens her arms to the needy.
21 She has no fear of winter for her household,
for everyone has warm clothes.
22 She makes her own bedspreads.
She dresses in fine linen and purple gowns.
23 Her husband is well known at the city gates,
where he sits with the other civic leaders.
24 She makes belted linen garments
and sashes to sell to the merchants.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity,
and she laughs without fear of the future.
26 When she speaks, [And notice by the way, this is the first time in this passage that she does speak. We’ll comment on that when we get to this portion. But when she does speak, her words are wise,
and she gives instructions with kindness.
27 She carefully watches everything in her household
and suffers nothing from laziness.
28 Her children stand and bless her.
Her husband praises her:
29 “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world,
but you surpass them all!”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last;
but a woman who fears the L ord will be greatly praised.
31 Reward her for all she has done.
Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.
Now as I read that passage, maybe you have these recurring thoughts of, “Oh, this is so hard. This is so impossible. Who can imagine a woman like this?” Well, actually that’s what the passage starts out by saying. “Who can find a woman like this?” She is indeed rare.
There’s a sense in which the woman we just read about is a composite portrait of ideal womanhood. And yet, there’s another sense in which I believe she can actually be a real woman. If this woman is a real woman, if King Lemuel’s mother was describing a woman she actually knew, you can be sure of several things about this woman. Now these aren’t things you read about in the text.
—I can tell you something else—she probably sometimes feels like a real failure. Others can see and appreciate things about her that she can’t see in herself. I can tell you that sometimes this woman feels like giving up. She’s not just this perfect thing that we construct that just comes off the pages of Scripture and has no reality to her. She deals with the same issues that we do.
She has spiritual dry times, times when it seems that God is very far away from her. She’s a woman who does have virtuous character, and she does have an intimate relationship with God and her husband. But I can tell you this—she didn’t get there overnight, and she hasn’t yet arrived.
She’s a woman in process. She’s a woman who’s growing. And she’s a woman who, like most of us, often finds herself taking three steps forward and two steps back. You see, spiritual maturity is not so much where you are as the direction in which you’re headed. And here’s a woman who’s in process; she’s in direction.
So being a virtuous woman doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have the same struggles and challenges that we all have as women.
No We Can’t – Yes We Can!
Now, I want to make two statements that I’m going to repeat probably many times throughout this series because I want this to get into the fiber of your thinking. Here are the two statements. First of all, no woman can be like the woman that we read about in Proverbs 31. On your own, you cannot be; on my own, I cannot be like this woman.
Anything we do try to do on our own in our striving and efforts is not pleasing or acceptable to God. The only way we can ever please God is through the righteousness of Christ, through His excellency. He’s the only One who has ever measured up to God’s standard of holiness. So here’s the first statement: No woman can be like this woman on her own.
But here’s another statement that sounds like the opposite, and it’s just as true. Any woman who is a child of God can be like this woman. Any woman who is a child of God can be like this woman because Jesus lives in us, and He’s the One who fulfills the righteousness of God. So as we’re filled with the Holy Spirit, you and I can be a virtuous and excellent woman.
You see, the most outstanding thing about this woman as I read this passage (and I’ve read it many times over these recent weeks in particular), the most outstanding thing about this woman is not all the things she can do. As we’ve said, it’s her heart. It’s her priorities. It’s her values.
There are three bottom lines that come to me out of this passage. I’ll just touch on them here, and then we’ll come back to them throughout this series. But first is the fact that she fears the Lord. She’s a woman who reverences God. And that is more important than everything else she does.
As we’ve said, everything that she does flows out of this reverence for God. She’s seeking to please Him first and foremost. That’s at the heart of the matter. Don’t lose that when you get stuck in these things about her spinning wool and flax. Don’t get lost in all those details and forget that the big picture is that here’s a woman who reverences God.
You can reverence God. And many of you women I know personally, you do reverence the Lord. That’s why you’re reading this, because you want to be a woman of God. That’s the core of the matter.
And then I see—although the word isn’t used in this passage—here’s a woman who is a lover. She loves. She’s got the fruit of the Spirit in her life, which is love. It’s a love that’s joyful. It’s a love that’s peaceful, that’s patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle and self-controlled. All these qualities we’re going to read about—it’s the fruit of the Spirit. It’s a woman who loves God and loves her husband and loves her children. And the fruit of that love is seen in all these different qualities.
Proverbs 31 Women ~ A Servant’s Heart
Then she’s a woman who has a servant’s heart. That strikes me as I read this passage, that she’s utterly selfless. There are hardly any references to her doing anything for herself. Now our culture would tell us that makes a miserable woman. But I just read that passage. Does that sound like a miserable woman to you?
Here’s a woman who has joy. You see the world has sold us a bill of goods. It has told us that if you look out for yourself then you’ll be happy. But look at all those women out there looking out for themselves. Are they happy? It’s the women who live for God and others, who serve, who are the women who are truly joyful.
So I want you to be encouraged as we open up this portrait, as we see the picture painted. Whether you’re married or single, whether you’re young or old, you can become an excellent woman such as the woman in the portrait that we see in this passage.
I’ll say it again. You cannot become that woman on your own. Apart from Christ, you can never be virtuous or excellent. But through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, the gospel of Christ, we are able to be transformed one day at a time, one experience at a time, one step at a time into the likeness of Christ.
And the day is coming when I’m going to be like this woman, and you are too. So be encouraged. Put the next foot down. Take the next step and let God make you, make us, into this kind of woman.
We’ll see that there’s a husband involved here, very much involved. And the passage tells us that the woman who has this virtuous or noble character, that her husband trusts her, that she has her husband’s heart, and he has her heart.
And at the end of the passage we’ll see that when a woman demonstrates these qualities, these characteristics, that her husband and her children are motivated to rise up and bless this woman and to praise her not only privately but publicly as well.
Tomorrow, we want to hear from some men who are rising up and calling their wives blessed men. Listen as I read verse by verse beginning in verse 10 and then as these men share their tributes to their wives., men who are thankful for the way that their wives illustrate some of the characteristics we’re going to be seeing in Proverbs.
We described that the Proverbs of 31 women who has a servant’s heart. Today we will listen to their husbands’ praises of their virtuous wives. Their quotes will be in [ ]. We know that all husbands are not this gracious, but here are a sample of praises from men concerning the conduct of their virtuous wives with the accompanying scriptures.
“Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain” (Proverbs 31:10–11, NKJV).
[Linda, I thank God for you every day. I thank Him because you are His gift to me. He made you just for me.]
[This is to honor my wife Jeanette. She is constantly dying to herself and her own needs and desires to serve me and to serve our children. And there’s just a graciousness that is always wrapped up in the way that she treats us.]
[Theresa, my wife, Scripture asks the question: Can anyone find the excellent wife? Through God’s grace I can say I have found her, a treasure beyond any jewel. She is priceless.]
“She does him good and not evil all the days of her life” (Proverbs 31:12).
[As I look back on over 23 years of marriage, I realize that I was not always the easiest guy to live with. My wife Terri has prayed for me, encouraged me, and loved me unconditionally over these past two plus decades.]
“She seeks wool and flax, and willingly works with her hands” (Proverbs 31:13).
[Some things I appreciate about my wife are she is a hard worker. She hustles all day long, and she’s mindful that her hard labor is an asset to what I do, and so she works even harder.]
“She is like the merchant ships, she brings her food from afar” (Proverbs 31:14).
[This is for Diane. You’ve always been up for challenges, like when we moved to Sweden when we’d just been married for a month, and you had to learn the language just to be able to go grocery shopping.]
[One thing she likes to do is cook meals and have people over. Recently we had a party for the youth at our church, and she cooked for two days straight to prepare for this thing.]
“She also rises while it is yet night, and provides food for her household, and a portion for her maidservants” (Proverbs 31:15).
[Cindy just always gives of herself personally. She gets up before me. And she’ll get up and fix the lunches for our kids and for myself.]
“She considers a field and buys it; from her profits she plants a vineyard” (Proverbs 31:16).
[In the summer of 2002, my wife and I decided we were going to build, buy some property and build a house out in the woods. And my wife Christi really helped me consider the field, find the piece of property, and then begin to make plans.]
“She girds herself with strength, and strengthens her arms” (Proverbs 31:17).
[I appreciate my wife’s diligent effort to keep herself healthy and strong by eating right and exercising. She knows that if she eats right and stays fit, she will have the strength to take care of us and those in need as well. She also encourages us to do the same. I have always appreciated that encouragement from my wife.] DS
“She perceives that her merchandise is good, and her lamp does not go out by night. She stretches out her hands to the distaff, and her hand holds the spindle” (Proverbs 31:18–19).
[My wife Renee loves things are done well and done with excellence and done with creativity. She loves to find examples in nature of things that God has done with excellence. She loves to do things with excellence herself. And we won’t ever have to go back and fix anything that she’s done because she’ll make sure—whatever it takes—she’ll do it right.]
“She extends her hand to the poor, yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy” (Proverbs 31:20).
[She has Fridays off. If I had Fridays off, I would spend them completely on myself. I would go fishing, or I would sit around and read. What she does is she goes and serves in a woman’s home who has eight children, and she irons for her for about three hours. She just sits and irons for her. That just displays her servant’s heart.]
[I was amazed when we were married for a few years. She’d be wanting to fix meals or wanting to give money to people who were in need. I suppose it was the pride in my own self, maybe my own selfishness that made this stand out so much that this was something I wasn’t used to. But she has such a generous spirit about her.]
“She is not afraid of snow for her household” (Proverbs 31:21a).
[One of the great experiences that we’ve had is the recovery process from our car accident where Jennifer took on everything in the marriage, in the family, for eight months.]
“For all her household is clothed with scarlet. She makes tapestry for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple” (Proverbs 31:21b–22).
[I appreciate about my wife that she is willing to, at times; she will make clothes for the family. Either there’ s nothing that she can find in the stores that is modest enough for the girls or feminine enough, that type of thing. She still knows that it is a skill that’s valuable and helps save the family some money. She clothes our children well and herself.]
“Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land” (Proverbs 31:23).
[Her character and personality enhances my life as a minister. Your character enhances my own reputation. People respond so favorably to me when they know I’m your husband.]
“She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies sashes for the merchants. Strength and honor are her clothing; she shall rejoice in time to come” (Proverbs 31:24–25).
[Susan has trusted me in some very big decisions. Most recently, we had to move for the sake of a new job, and it meant a new city, church, family. And yet she never wavered in her trust in me, in listening to God and my trust in God. And that’s really meant a lot to me. ]
“She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness” (Proverbs 31:26).
[Actually, a year and a half after our first child was born, she got the vision for educating our children at home, which she continues to do today.]
[As far as home schooling, it’s not all academics. It’s about their foundation and relationship with the Lord. She spends a lot of her day teaching them the Bible. They’ve gone through the Old Testament.]
[We have three teenage boys at home, and she’s always thinking of ways to speak to them about God, giving Him honor and praise.]
“She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness” (Proverbs 31:27).
[Despite Mary’s chronic pain and fatigue, she’s diligent and dependable. I seldom have to be home and miss work even though she’s not feeling well.]
[She’s just such a wise person with finances, with resources. She manages our home so well, and so it makes my job as the breadwinner in our family much easier.]
[To better help her organize, she went through a year-long calendar, a full page, and she makes sure that everything is organized so that each of our girls gets to the right place at the right time and that dad does too.]
“Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many daughters have done well, but you excel them all’”(Proverbs 31:28–29).
[God gave me a wonderful wife. I love her because she leaves the Bible open on the breakfast table. She uses a highlighter to mark the good parts in the books she reads. I love her because she cries when she prays sometimes. After my wife says things like, “We should do such and so,” she actually does them.]
[I love my wife because she won’t take Holy Communion carelessly, and because she sleeps on her side so we can snuggle like spoons when it’s cold outside.]
“Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised” (Proverbs 31:30).
[When I think of my wife Tracy, she truly is the wife of my youth as we met when she was 15 and I was 16. As I think back to those days and what attracted me to her, at first obviously was her physical beauty. She just took my breath away. But over the years as we have grown together, it’s been her inward beauty that I have fallen deeply in love with. And I know that comes from her relationship with Christ.]
“Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates” (Proverbs 31:31).
[Although we know we are saved by grace, I truly notice that people would take notice of your works and be drawn to Christ through them.]
[You are an excellent lover. Your beauty will always turn my head. Your smile and the glow of your face will always attract me. You are becoming more and more beautiful on the outside as well as within. I am falling deeper and deeper in love with you. Sue, you are my wife, my gift from God, my soul mate, my lover, my partner in life; and I thank God for you. I love you.]
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been really moved as I’ve listened to these men honor their wives. Now I know that some of you have a husband who would be quick to say these kinds of things about you and to verbalize his appreciation and his admiration for you as his wife.
Yet I know that there are others who really may be seeking to live a virtuous life, and you may be thinking, “My husband doesn’t talk that way about me.” Well let me just give you two words of encouragement. One, be faithful regardless of whether you ever get praise from men. And then second, let me remind you that ultimately our greatest praise comes from God.
If you’re looking to your husband, no matter how godly he may or may not be, to be your source of identity and security and praise, chances are you’re going to end up disappointed from time to time. But if you’re looking to please the Lord and to be His servant and His daughter then you will receive your praise from Him.
And ultimately I know the greatest praise you or I could ever receive is to hear the Lord saying to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” So live for His praise even above the praise of men.
*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.