10 A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL
VERSION ®. NIV®. COPYRIGHT © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by
Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- This chapter is full of literary features (acrostic pattern, parallelism with Father in the intro and Mother in the conclusion, the bookend feature of “fear of the Lord”). How can the literary features of the text help you understand how to view this incredible woman?
- Cory taught that the woman of valor is not just a description, but also the curriculum for wisdom. What does that mean to you?
- What are some of the aspects of this woman that stand out to you as noteworthy?
- What does this passage teach you about womanhood, marriage, and family?
- What does this passage teach you about work?
- In Jewish culture, this passage is routinely recited. How might you make that a pattern in your life? What could the benefits of regular recitation be?
- Proverbs 31 gives us an example of a life of wisdom. What is a final takeaway for you from the study of wisdom?
Woman of Valor (Mother’s Day)
*This is a transcript is generated from the sermon audio. This document has not been edited for spelling, grammar, or exactness.
You and then the rest of us, if you’re able to find a Bible and there are Bibles in the book racks and chairs in front of you, if you want to find a Bible, we’re going to be in Proverbs chapter 31 in the Bibles that we have here on site. That would be on page 569, five, six, nine. I’m going to read the passage and then we’ll pray and we will get to work. Let’s go.
Proverbs chapter 31, starting in verse ten, reads like this a wife of noble character who can find she is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She’s like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it’s still night. She provides food for her family and portions for her female servants. She considers a field and buys it out of her earnings. She plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously. Her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy when it snows. She has no fear for her household, for all of them are clothed in scarlet. She makes coverings for her bed. She is clothed in fine linen and purple. Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. She is clothed with strength and dignity. She can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed. Her husband also, and he praises her. Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all. Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
Let’s pray. Lord, we thank you for your word. And we pray that by Your spirit, through Your word, you would instruct Your people. We pray, Lord, for Your ministry in these moments. We pray for moms and wives. We pray that you would encourage them, and we pray that as a community of faith we would do a good job of honoring them. Lord, we’re so grateful for wisdom. We’re grateful for the Book of Proverbs and how it has taught us and instructed us on the way of wisdom. And so, Lord, this is relevant for every single person in here and everyone who’s watching online help us to become a wise community of faith. In Jesus name, amen. Amen.
Well, there are a few things that I want to point out to you. There are actually some literary features. We have spent all of our …basically from January until recently, we have spent our time during our gatherings in the book of Proverbs. It’s a book on wisdom, and it’s teaching us how to live skillfully in this world. And so today we’re going to address the last chapter in the last section of this book. And there are some literary features that are at play here. So I just want to point this out. Having looked at the entire book altogether, now we’re able to kind of step back and go, okay, what was that about? And one of the things that’s interesting is that the way that Proverbs is constructed is there’s an intro and then there’s a conclusion. And we’re looking at the conclusion today, but the intro is actually nine chapters where a father is instructing a child. A father is speaking to a young individual saying, wisdom is commendable. Do everything that you can to get it into your life. And so those nine chapters got us ready for the body of the book. And then here we are at the end, and there’s a parallel. No longer is it a father. Now we see a mother. And the mother is the example of what wisdom looks like when it is lived out skillfully in this world. The mother is the parallel. So we have this bookend, then we have this opening section, we have this closing section, and all of it is meant to instruct us on this way of wisdom. Another literary feature that I didn’t know about until this week is that this is actually an acrostic meaning that every verse in here, the first letter of that verse in the Hebrew, the language that it was originally written in, the first letter of that verse, corresponds to the letter of the Hebrew alphabet. So it’s going from the beginning of their alphabet to the end of their alphabet outlining what wisdom is. Now, that helps us to understand that there’s more going on here than just a little note about a wife. This is significant. Alan Ross puts it like this. He says, it’s clear that Proverbs is patterned to extol the works of wisdom. In other words, it’s designed to be this fitting conclusion on this discussion of wisdom. It is a living example here’s what it would look like and feel like and behave like when somebody takes the principles of this book and lives in light of them. That’s what this is meant to do. Claudia Camp puts it like this. She says, this is describing an idealized wife in an ideal home within an ideal society. Therefore, it’s a supreme example of a woman of wisdom. Now, I bring all this up to say, as we look at this. This is something that is relevant for all of us. This is what wisdom looks like when it is applied. And so we don’t just kind of pass this one off to the women’s ministry and go, okay, this section is for you guys, and you figure this stuff out. No, this is something for all of us to consider because it’s giving us a living example of wisdom embodied. Now, one of the things that I think would be really helpful this was new to me this week. One of the things that I think would be really, really helpful is to take this and make it a feature of our ordinary lives. To make it a part of our Liturgy of the Ordinary, to borrow the title. Of a really great book to take Proverbs 31 and say, hey, we want to recite this over and over again because we believe it would be valuable for us as individuals and for our church as well. Now, liturgy, if you’re not familiar with that word, it means a form or a formula for worship. And a lot of times there are things that are taken where somebody looks at a passage or a scripture or an idea and they take that form and they say, we’re going to use that to kind of design how we do things. I’ll give you an example, John Stott. It was said when he was alive that every morning before he would get out of bed, he would pray the fruit of the Spirit over his life. So before he would even get out of the bed, he’d be praying for the fruit of the Spirit. And you’re probably familiar with these things peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self control, faith, and those sorts of things he would pray. That was the literary I’m sorry, the liturgy of his startup to the day. That was the formula that he would always use and it was useful for him. Now, we see this in other places too. How many of you guys have watched the Chosen series? A lot of us have been watching that. And you hear a liturgy in there as well. When they’re praying, they say this blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe. And then depending on what they’re praying about, they fill in the rest of that. But that startup, we hear it over and over and over again throughout the series. That idea of having something that’s a form that you keep leaning on and using repetitively is a very, very important thing. Here’s what’s interesting about Proverbs 31 that I found out this week in Hebrew culture, in a typical household, Proverbs 31 was read every Friday night. It’s called the Eschet Chayil, and I probably just butchered how you say that because I don’t know Hebrew. But it was this recitation of Proverbs 31 on a weekly basis where the family would get around the table, the scriptures would come out, the father would open the book and they would read Proverbs 31 in its entirety. And I got to thinking about it this week, and I was like, can you imagine how significant that would be for those families? Can you imagine the ability for the Scripture to form that family according to wisdom? If that were the routine every week where every week the Bible was being brought out and Proverbs 31 was being read? So the kids hear it, and the wife hears it, and the husband hears it, and everyone hears it over and over and over again. Well, for your consideration, I wonder if having that sort of liturgy would be helpful for us today. I wonder if we made a habit of routinely reading Proverbs 31 and what that would do for marriages and households and parenting. I think it could be tremendously valuable. So Proverbs 31 has some literary features that help us understand how significant it is. It has a historical usage where the people of God routinely bring it out week by week. And finally, let me just say this before we actually get into the passage. Proverbs 31 is both a description and a curriculum. It made me think about in the New Testament, there are places where people who want to be leaders. There are requirements, lists of requirements that they must be to be in a church officer, a person in an official position of leadership in the church. The Bible tells us first. Timothy three. Titus, chapter One. Here are the things that they must be. But what’s interesting about those lists, they’re not just a description of the kind of person that should occupy those positions. It’s also the training manual. It’s the curriculum. If you want to do leadership development, this is what you’re aiming at. This is what it needs. This is the kind of people you’re trying to create by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the same way that’s what Proverbs 31 is. It’s not just a description of this amazing woman. It also becomes for us the standard that we’re working toward by the power of the Holy Spirit. So it’s relevant for all of us. This is wisdom applied. Let’s get to work, then.
THE WOMAN OF VALOR’S VALUE
In Proverbs chapter 31, verses ten to eleven, we have the value of this woman of valor. Valor. In verses ten to twelve. I’ll explain what I mean there in a moment. Secondly, we have her work, the activities that she’s engaged in in verses 13 to 27. And then at the end, in verses 28 to 31, we have her praise. So let’s get after it. The woman of valor’s value verses ten to twelve. A wife of noble character who can find she is worth far more than ruby’s. It’s using an interesting word there, the wife of noble character. It’s actually the word for valiant. It’s a word that’s used in other Hebrew scriptures to describe a warrior who has come back from a campaign successfully and is saying, a wife of this sort of character who can find this sort of woman of valor, this valiant woman, she is far more valuable than Ruby’s. Proverbs 1822 reminds us, he who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord. So the Bible consistently elevates this idea of a wife being incredibly valuable. But here this woman of valor, she is exceptional in her value. Verse eleven. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life, saying that there is a value to this woman that is expressed in real time within those relationships in the household. It’s the kind of relationship where the husband joyfully comes home knowing that there he’s going to find this incredible woman who is there and bringing him good. And he is lacking in nothing of value. A woman of valor has value. I started thinking about it this week with Mother’s Day, with this message, and I came to the conclusion I would not be up here today if it weren’t for my wife Ashley. Now, I could say that at any point in my ministry, and that would be a true statement, but I’m speaking specifically about the difficulty of the last few years. I’ve told you before that Barna did a research project on pastors, and what they found was that almost half of the pastors, 42% of pastors at the time of that survey had seriously considered leaving the ministry within those last six months at the time of the survey because it was so hard. And in fact, I’ve had conversations with individuals who have stepped away from the ministry recently, and I got to thinking about how difficult it was these last few years. And I got to the point where I was thinking, if it weren’t for Ash, this wouldn’t be happening today. Me standing up here would not be happening today. Because as I’ve told her repeatedly, and I’m saying it now, publicly, she has been my oasis. I’m so grateful that I can go home and that it feels like a haven, it feels like a place of rest because she is a woman of valor and she has added tremendous value to my life. Now, I’m not trying to whitewash this experience. It was incredibly hard because, you guys know, the last few years were difficult for all pastors. And then we did some stupid stuff on top of that. So we left the covering of our parent church. We stepped away from Central to become our own entity with our own responsibilities. A few weeks after that, a dude by the name of John Jensen called me up. He’s like, I own the Blue Suede Shoes building. You want to come check it out? I said, Absolutely not, and he twisted my arm. We bought this building. I remember standing in the driveway of our neighbors across the street. And I was explaining how stressed I was because of all these silly choices I had made. And my neighbor goes, you’re insane, right? There’s nothing stable about what’s going on right now. And you guys just bought a building, an old building that you have to fix. And she was saying, there’s a reason why you’re stressed. She’s like, I’m stressed for you. But the good news is I’m married to Ash and she has been this woman of valor for me that has added tremendous value to my life. And if it weren’t for those steadying forces, I’m not sure I would be up here today. Now, my prayer is that that would become true of all of the households in our church, that there would be people of wisdom who are living out the application of wisdom in such a way that the relationships within our church become beautiful and valuable, where they become a place where people experience the benefits of God, the blessing of God, the value that God has instilled in these things. A woman of valor is worth far more than rubies. Those who benefit from her lack nothing and they experience good well.
THE WOMAN OF VALOR’S WORK
Secondly, we find the woman’s work in verses 13 to 27. Let’s look at these verses. She selects wool and flax and works with her eager hands. She’s like the merchant ships bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it’s still night. She provides food for her family and portions for her female servants. She considers a field and buys it out of her earnings. She plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously. Her arms are strong for her task. She sees that her trading is profitable and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. Here are three things she’s industrious, she’s working. She’s working with eager hands. Verse 13 she’s not reluctant to do this work. She’s eager to get about it. She’s strong for the task. We’re told she’s verse 15 getting up before the sun even does she’s she’s going about her work eagerly and diligently and you see this reflected in her schedule and in her priorities. She is at work. She sets about her work vigorously. Verse 17 and her arms are strong for her tasks, so she is industrious. This woman of valor is a worker. She works very hard and very diligently. Secondly, she’s ambitious. She’s ambitious. She is taking initiative, she’s making decisions, she is exercising her ability to lead out in these different ways. She’s selecting materials with which she’s working. Verse 13 she’s selecting wool and flax. She’s able to make faraway deals happen. Verse 14 it’s like merch. She’s like the merchant ships and bringing her food from afar. Meaning she has a network of relationships that extend quite far. She’s not relegated simply to the home, but she has all of these different connections and the blessings are reflected in those connections. She is ambitious in that way. She’s engaged in real estate acquisition. Verse 16, she’s purchasing property, and when the profits come in from that, she’s launching new business ventures, planting a vineyard. She’s engaged in all kinds of ambitious work. And it is evident, as we’re told here now, she’s a blessing then to all who are around her, to family and friends. In verse 16, she’s providing for them, she’s caring for them, and then also her profitability is resulting in stability. In verse 18, it says her trading is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. The way that she’s organized the life of the family, she has lamps that are burning constantly, which is in the ancient Near East. That was a sign of affluence. It was a sign of stability. To be able to keep your lights on all night long was evidence that you had done a good job of managing your resources, that you would have that sort of ability to do that. So she is industrious and ambitious and is a blessing to those under her care. We also see her relational work here. Verse 20 she deals with those who are in need. Verse 20 she opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. Because of her ability, she is able to help those who are around her. She has managed her own resources quite well. So now she’s in a position to be charitable toward those who are in need. Her own household experiences the work of her relationships. When it snows, she has no fear for her household, for all of them are clothed in scarlet she makes coverings for her bed. She’s clothed in fine linen and purple. She has done work around her family to make sure that they are well cared for. Her family is dressed appropriately for the conditions. They’re clothed in scarlet. She’s made coverings for the beds. She herself is clothed in fine linen and purple. She has done this relational work that her family is benefiting from. Her husband specifically. Verse 23 her husband is respected at the city gate where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. This is in the ancient Near East. This would be a position of authority and responsibility. And what’s implied here is he’s there because of her. He’s able to have this position because of her doing good and adding value to his life. She has set him up quite well. Her husband is respected and he is among the elders of the land. So everyone who’s coming into contact with her is experiencing some sort of provision and some sort of blessing, even those that she’s doing business with. Her vendors look at verse 24. She makes linen garments and sells them and supplies the merchants with sashes. The people that she’s dealing with, she has now made thoughtful gifts for them and is providing them with blessings as well, that’s the work of her relationships and then the work of her character. This woman of valor is a person of incredible character. She’s confident. Verse 25 she’s clothed with strength and dignity, she can laugh at the days to come. This woman of valor. When she looks into the future with all the uncertainty and everything that’s going on in the world, she’s not easily phased by it. In fact, she looks at that and laughs, meaning she is absolutely certain in God’s ability to provide for her and for those that she cares for. She’s clothed with strength and dignity. She is a person of character. The way she communicates is very helpful. Verse 26 she speaks with wisdom and faithful. Instruction is on her tongue. The way that she talks to people is desirable. People seek out her instruction because she is a person of wisdom. And finally, verse 27 she watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. As we consider the work of this woman of valor. Obviously there are a lot of features to her work that are tied to that ancient Near East culture. But today the question is what would it look like today for people to be living out this wisdom? What would it look like for us today to be pursuing this way of life? And may we become people who could be explained along these lines of being incredibly industrious and ambitious and full of blessing? Could we be people who have character that other people are seeking out because they see the strength of our character?
The Woman of Valor’s Praise
Well, finally, the third portion of our text today is the praise that’s given to her. In verses 28 to 31, the woman of valor’s praise the family acknowledges how valuable she is. Her children arise and call her blessed. Her husband also, and he praises her. The kids wake up and they recognize right away mom is special. Sunday mornings for me are kind of weird because I have a lot of responsibilities. I get up first and start getting ready and I get up very early and often I go down to my office and prepare for Sunday gatherings. But this morning I was getting ready and I heard this banging at my door and I’m like, what is that? So I go out there and Harrison is sitting at our door and he’s just like rocking back and forth. I’m like, Dude, what are you doing? It’s still early, you can go back to bed. And he’s like, I can’t wait for Mommy to get up because he is excited for the day to start. There are a lot of reasons. Not so sweet also. He just wants to play and do different things. But he wants Mommy to be up, to be with him as he’s doing these things that he’s aiming his life at. But the children arise and call her blessed. That’s the woman of valor. That the kids look at her and they say she is something else. And praise be to God that my wife is that for our family. The husband also. The husband praises her. Verse 29 many women do noble things, but you surpass them all. The husband is able to look at this woman of valor and say, man, this is special. There are a lot of women doing great things, but when I consider what you are to me, you surpass everyone. Verse 29 and today, gentlemen and kids, this is an opportunity to express that sort of praise, to be thoughtful in our words and in our actions towards those women in our lives. But all are praised. She’s praised by all. I should say in verses 30 and 31, the attention goes from her family at first, but now it’s something that all of us should acknowledge. Verse 30 charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Verse 31 honor her for all that her hands have done and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. It’s telling us, it’s commanding us. We need to do what we can, especially today. But at all times, to honor these sort of women in our lives, we need to honor her for all that her hands have done and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. Let’s do a good job today of honoring moms and wives and women of valor. Now the conclusion. Let me just wrap this up, then we think about the big picture here and we think about what we’ve discussed today. I want to point out again one of these literary features that I drew your attention to at the very beginning. It’s interesting. I told you that the book starts and ends with a father and then a mother. But it also starts and ends with the whole premise of the book. In Proverbs, chapter one, verse seven, we were told the thesis of the entire book of Proverbs. And it goes like this the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. So if you want to be wise, there are a lot of things that that would look like. But under all of it is this concept of reverence for God. It’s the fear of the Lord. It’s knowing who he is and the appropriate relationship that we ought to have to him. The fear of the Lord is the starting block for any wisdom that we might experience. We’ll look again at verse 30 in this final chapter of the book. The concluding thought is there is a woman who is living out this way of wisdom and what should we do? Verse 30 of chapter 31 a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. The book starts and ends with this idea if you want to be a wise person, it is on account of knowing who God is and relating to Him appropriately. We have been instructed then in this way of wisdom. And we have now looked at this example of this woman of valor who shows us this is what it would look like for a person to be living under the lordship of God himself. I love how von Roberts puts it. The woman of valor is not just an example, but rather is an inspiration. The woman of valor is not just an example that we can look at and go, man, she sounds wonderful, but no, this is an inspiration. This is what God is moving us toward. And may we become a people who are wise enough to move in that direction quite gladly.
Let’s pray. Lord, we ask for Your help. We pray that you would make us a wise people. We thank you for the way that Your word instructs and guides and leads us. We’re thankful for the Book of Proverbs and the way that it has been a kind teacher to us, that it continually has shown us over and over again, week by week, what it looks like to walk in the way of wisdom. And today, as we look at the woman of valor, we are reminded again of how significant this truly is. I pray, Lord, that you would inspire all of us to have the fear of the Lord that would lead to knowledge. I pray, Lord, that we would make it our ambition to become people who are walking in the ways of the Lord in wisdom. Lord, we want to honor the women who are doing this today, on this Mother’s Day to help us to be thoughtful and kind and attentive to the reality of Your blessings that are happening in real time right before our eyes. Help us to express our gratitude in Jesus name. Amen.