Proverbs 31 Days 1-23

Day 1
A while ago, I began writing about this Proverb because from the very first time I read it, I wanted to follow this amazing woman around. Not so much to see her many accomplishments (each of us have differing gifts) but for the fact that she is highly commended in God’s Word: her place is the last word in Proverbs! She is described as “excelling them all,” what a commendation when “them all” includes the likes of Eve, Sarah, Hannah, Deborah, Esther! So I don’t feel like her peer in terms of her accomplishments, but I do in that I too am nameless, and I too am a woman,I have also been a homemaker my whole life. 

You know, I don’t see her as looming over me at all,  and I hope you don't either. I let her stand alone without comparison, I have learned from the scripture not to do that (2 Corinthians 10:12). the older I get the more I see why we are told not to compare ourselves among ourselves. In a nutshell, it’s this: we don’t know what we’re talking about! We are each so different; we have different histories, different personalities, different opportunities, different challenges, the list is endless. No two finger prints alike. You’re the only you. I’m the only me.  So I let her stand alone without immediately berating myself. I let me stand alone too and you dear reader, you stand alone too. I believe with all my heart that is how God sees each one of us…. See you next time I hope  :) 

Day 2: It Could be You
Let’s just jump right in.  The introduction :

« The words of King Lemuel, an oracle that his mother taught him »

The name Lemuel sets the tone for this entire proverb, it means « for God ».  Here is a son who has learned and received his mother’s charge from God and who walks in it, so much so that he now shares it with us. The father is not mentioned. Obviously there had to have been one but here, he is not mentioned. This is between a mother and her son.  Single moms, take heart. 

According to scholars little is known of this King, some believe him to be Solomon while others think he may be a Gentile King. Either way, it feeds me. 

If this is Solomon, then his mother is Bathsheba and his father is David. How those two came together is another big story in God’s book; it is neither pretty nor pleasing and can be found beginning in IISamuel 11. Nevertheless, God placed their (second) issue, Solomon, in the line of Christ. What a comfort to those of us with a past like Bathsheba. Even if our coming together with our spouse was under questionable circumstances, as was theirs, it does not spell the end: anything is possible with God.  

If, on the other hand, she was the Gentile mother of a Gentile King,  I find it equally comforting. How did it happen that they are serving the Lord while not being a part of Israel? I love it!  I love the fact we cannot put God in a box. His ways are higher than our ways, His thoughts higher than ours.

I’m actually happiest staying with the mystery that is left here. These are the words of a man whose name means,  «for God»,  a man whose name figures nowhere else in the Bible, words that his nameless mother taught him, words described as a prophecy or an oracle. In the Hebrew, the word prophecy is mostly translated « burden » and is largely associated with being charged with something by God. This mother had a charge from God for her son whom she dedicated to God and whom she raised to serve Him. 

Right now if you’re feeling discouraged, because you tried to raise you son or daughter to serve God and it sure doesn’t seem like they are, please don’t stop here. I saw something in the next verse that will nourish any mother whose child has wandered away from God.  

Meanwhile, one of my most treasured nuggets from God in difficult times (and a child wandering from God fits that bill) is found in Genesis when Moses, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes: « and the evening and the morning were the first day.» What I saw in that was this: with God, the day isn’t over until the morning dawns ! Any ‘day’ or ‘event’ is not over until the Morning Star appears and the Light comes! I love it! God is a god of hope, He never, ever leaves us in the lurch. If we find ourselves in a lurch, then He’s not done yet and we can take heart. It isn’t over until the sun rises to a new day.

Day 3: Probing Questions

Verse 2:  “What are you doing, my son...? ”

Hear this intense threefold question… 

My mind now wanders over to the beach where Jesus walked with Peter after his denial of the Lord that fateful night. Jesus asked him three times: Peter do you love me?….  I would think time stood still for Peter on the beach that day face to face with Jesus, suspended as it were and facing his own soul under God’s all-seeing gaze. 

As uncomfortable as God's probing might be, it is life saving. Only God knows the depths of our heart, we don’t even know that ourselves. “Who can understand his errors, cleanse thou me from secret faults” the psalmist cries in Psalm 19:12. Only an omniscient God can reveal to me what is truly there. 

The parallel I am drawing here is the probing quality of that threefold question. She is not like Eli who never adequately dealt with his sons for their awful behavior at the door of the Tabernacle. He did slap their wrists and lecture them, but it was no threefold prober like what we have here. It didn’t penetrate their heart, it didn't convert the soul.  God said Eli honored his sons over God! That's heavy stuff. Read all about it in 2 Samuel chapter 2, the good, the bad and the ugly. 

Please do not think I mean we have to read the riot act to our children at every faux-pas.  I am talking about a mother who was able to communicate God’s charge to her son in such a way it impacted his life for ever. Do you hear her heart-cry? What occasioned it? I hate to say it, but we don’t know! We do, however, know the rest of her cry in the same breath but that is for next time.

Day 4: of Life and Death

“What my son, and what the son of my womb…”

Can you hear the depth of her feeling, the constancy of her devotion? There is no giving up, King or Pauper, he will ever be her son.  Some women forsake natural affection but it is a strong force and to deny it is extremely costly. And here I have to stop for a moment. For even as I write this, emotion wells up in my throat. 

The very presence of the social battle over abortion and the reality of its emotional impact on the mother point to the reality that no matter what we may think or believe, abortion is a huge deal.  Whe become pregnant,the fetus within is a new life needing the nurture and protection of our womb. If it were nothing more than mere tissue with no life of its own, why the battle, why the personal impact?

My point is not to discuss where life begins but one thing is sure, life does not begin in a court of Law or at the hands of man. Life begins in a mystery, the fusion of male and female, deep inside a woman’s womb. One womb may open, while another stays shut but neither Law nor Science has any real control over Life itself.

All this to validate the pain that you feel, the agony you have endured. I believe it is real and way beyond the ability of man to dispel. I believe that the depth of the agony of abortion lies precisely in its finality. Unlike many of our other sins, this one can never be reversed. 

In my mind, I hear: "we did it, we’re guilty, we don’t need healing, we need forgiveness"… Really? Consider these words:

Heal my soul for I have sinned against thee.. cries the psalmist in Psalm 41:4; Jeremiah in chapter 3:22: return O, faithless sons, I will heal your faithlessness and again in Lamentation 2:13: thy breach is great like the sea, who can heal you?

I John 1:9 says that if we agree with God (confess our sin), He would not only forgive us but also CLEANSE us of all unrighteousness. The Greek word for cleanse is undoubtedly the root of our word catharsis. Catharsis and cleansing both speak of a process, not fairy dust. 

We know we need God’s forgiveness but we often don’t go on to that catharsis, that cleansing. That is what changes us, gives us a clean conscience. We will never do that again - not because we’ll bite our lip- but because He has removed from our heart that particular bent toward wrong. In the most amazing Psalm of repentance, (or turning away from sin), David, who had taken a man’s life as surely as if he had thrust the knife in himself, cries out: “Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God of my salvation.” 

Are you ensnared by accusation long after having sought forgiveness? Will you let the Lord be true, will you not only receive His forgiveness, will you not also let him cleanse you and heal your damaged soul? 

In Luke 23:34, as Jesus hung dying, he found it important enough to utter these words out loud: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do!” I am so grateful He said that. Did you really have any idea of the consequences at the time? As He so beautiful said to Mary Magdalene in John 8:9: "where are your accusers? Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more." Accusation does not come from God.  

Day 5: Your Children Belong to God.

“ not give your strength to women, your ways to those who destroy kings.”

She sees her son, looking down the road of his life, and cries danger!! It is entirely possible that he was already heading down that way, that he was already embroiled like Samson so famously was. I never raised sons, only daughters. But a mother’s cry is a mother’s cry and we often have a nose for trouble. Very few things hit us deeper than the lives of our children. I am not a soap opera fan, but there is one (or was)  entitled “All my Children” and I often thought, yep, that’d be me. Sometimes it was hard to talk about anything else.

So in this cry I saw a gold nugget of comfort for any mother whose child has wandered from the ways of the Lord, seemingly out of His reach. My nugget it this; if the son of this virtuous woman has indeed strayed from God’s path, does it follow then that she failed? Was she then to blame? Nothing is recorded against this woman, she is only commended by God. I am speaking to those of you beset by accusing hordes that you are to blame for that wayward child! I doubt this woman was perfect, since she was human, and neither are we. But God chose not to record anything against her in respect to her son's waywardness and neither should we accuse ourselves. 

If that isn't enough, let’s take it to a higher level. Was Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden a reflection on God’s poor parenting? Well, was it? Of course not!  I’m trying to untie heavy burdens on the backs of mothers (and fathers). Ask me how I know you carry those, haven't we all made huge mistakes with our children... 

First of all, we cannot properly reach our children and love them if we are beset with blame or anger, be that directed inwardly (against ourselves) or outwardly (against others, including God).

Secondly, we need to give our children the same latitude, the same right God gave us to come to Him in His time, and in His way. Only He has such knowledge, it is too wonderful even for us mothers or so says Psalm 139:6. His ways are so far beyond ours, His thoughts are on a plane, a perspective and vantage point so immeasurably higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9). He see all the way to the end, right from the start. We can't claim anything like that. Salvation truly belongs to the Lord (aren’t you glad?). So let us trust Him with our children. We must give them back to Him again and again. Let Him truly be Sovereign over them. Let us not oppress them by wielding over them our own flawed and self-serving expectations and insecurities.

Day 6: A Vow
Just a couple more days on this verse 2 and then we’ll move on (does it matter really)?

“... and what the son of my vows”

I cannot, not talk about vows. All the vows I saw up to this point in the Old Testament have been of a religious nature: they were vows made to the Lord as part of a person’s relationship with God. The Old Testament rituals made ample room for such vows. However God cautions us to not make them lightly, that it is better never to enter into a vow at all than to make one and “not pay” (Ecclesiastes 5:5). So the idea of a vow is you promise to give something. That is the type of vow in question here.

Such vows can be very significant in a person’s life. I believe it is precisely because we give something to God. They can contribute to our closeness with God in this daily world. But I cannot caution enough that I would never make one lightly, or of the sort that I could never keep, such as for instance, giving up chocolate for ever. Even for a month. Or Lattes. Seriously!!

I have made only two vows that I can remember. One was fulfilled years ago and the other I am in the process of fulfilling. The payment is a devotion, a voluntary consecration of a part of my life for a specific purpose in an effort not to be overly consumed with too many activities, but be free, unburdened enough, to be able to focus on that one purpose I hold dearest in my heart. It is a freewill offering and I gave it almost thankfully. In a way, it’s like entering a convent, it is extremely restful. It all belongs only to God.

Of course these vows are extremely personal in nature and hard to describe, but this woman made a vow concerning her son and to me it speaks of the great depth of her commitment not just to her son, but to her God.

Day 7: of Vows and men. 

“and what, the son of my vows?”

I believe there is a real difference between vows made to the Lord (see Day 6) and promises we make to people. 

Through the Bible, God warns us against being a surety, or a guarantee, for a neighbor, and that perhaps nowhere more strongly than in Proverbs 11:15. 

"whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer harm, but he who hates striking hands in pledge is secure"

That type of promise is actually more like a hostage situation where you are putting yourself at someone else’s mercy. He also warns us against making promises about what we'll do tomorrow since we really don’t know what tomorrow will bring and how that would affect our ability to fulfill our promise. 

I have gotten caught making such a promise, I remember it well. Saying not would have meant being rude and I was apparently more willing to disobey God than to be rude. Fortunately when I came home and told my husband about my vow, my promise made to a person, he took his prerogative and annulled my vow. In Number 40:5 God makes a provision for our spiritual head or covering to annul such a misguided vow -  in this case her father in my case my husband. 

But the vow in question here was made to God; her own life, her commitment is all she can give. The performance of what is desired, as was the case with Hannah in asking for a son, is beyond her ability to produce.  A vow calls on God to do what only He can do. It requires our commitment, our offering of ourselves to God but we are not the performers of the request. God is and God alone. However we must follow through with our commitment which was within our power to begin with. Hannah held up her commitment by giving her son to God, dropping him off in the Temple with Eli. Not a minor commitment. 

So this vow she made to Her Creator and Lord speaks of her character, her faithfulness, her determination and her selflessness since it was on her son's behalf. In short, it speaks of what any mother should be. 

Day 8: A Warning Part 1

What comes next in our Proverb is a warning, verse 3: 

"Do not give your strength to women, your ways to those who destroy kings"

Strange as it may sound, I have grown to love God's warnings because they are for our good. Here, that which we must not to do comes before the admonition of what to do. I see two elements in that. 

First, being told what not to do rather than what to do gives us more freedom in taking our first step: as long as we avoid the pitfall, we'll be ok. We have liberty, room to breathe and be creative. God may be sovereigh but He is not controlling.  I am so convinced of that. God allows our missteps, even sin, for a time. We all know of course that neither Adam nor Eve heeded their first warning. Neither did I actually, which is why I say that I have learned to appreciate the warnings in God's Word.

Secondly, I remember an extremely difficult time in my life where the only thing I knew was what NOT to do, what to avoid. It was simple enough for my bruised emotions and proved a respite from the complexity of my situation.  Since then, I have adopted that restraint as a good place to start.

Day 9: Warning Part 2

As I explained the previous day, I like warnings because God means them for our good, the same way we wish our children would just take our word for some things in life. Here it is again, verse 3

"Do not give your strength to women, your ways to those who destroy kings"

My mind travels back to the story of Samson and Delilah. What was it about Delilah that had captivated Samson so much that in the end, though he redeemed himself, it destroyed him? 

I like going back to Genesis, where it all began. There, God took a bone out of Adam’s body -a part of him was taken out of him - in order to fashion a companion and a help made just for him, her name was Eve. I truly believe that is precisely the moment where the vulnerability was created.  Not only is a woman the only created being fit for a man in the purpose of procreation, but on an emotional level also, I believe there is a near cellular level of bonding with his woman to which a man is extremely sensitive and for which he hungers. 

She is truly his physical completion. This is not just a lust issue, there is something much deeper men long for: an emotional homecoming, the champion in their corner, a rest from the battle, a place of refuge and refreshing, of safety and disarmament; it is a garden of delights to be sure, but made so much deeper for this emotional completion: she is now once again, bone of his bone. 

The warning is simple: do not go after women just to relieve your desires. There are plenty of unscrupulous women who can easily play the part and exploit this weakness for their own gain. Samson became blind and lost all his strength because of his involvement with Delilah. He was driven by his own lust yes, but at least as much he was captured by this foolish exposure of his vulnerability. So the advice is serious: stay away from that entrapment if you want to be the man you were meant to be. Samson did eventually recover his strength to take his proper place but it cost him his life. We do, however, have Samson to thank for serving as a warning. According to God's wonderful redemption, Samson's life was not in vain despite his disobedience, but how painful it must have been for him and for those who loved him. 


Day 10: Women Take Heart. 
We’re still on verse 3:

"Do not give your strength to women, your ways to those who destroy kings"

Yesterday we addressed men, today I would like to turn the table and address women. I am convinced that we are all capable of any of these wrong attitudes and behaviors. I take these warnings personally.

When a man becomes a means to an end for us, we’re on the wrong track. Where does our provision really come from? You may have a job or a rich uncle, but the way I see it, your provision only comes THROUGH that job or that uncle, not FROM them. When we manipulate men for our own benefit, we are destroying them along with any chance at a healthy fruitful relationship.  We are also insuring our own loneliness and true poverty. It’s that simple.

Now walking with God requires faith. 

"... without faith, it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him" 

Women, do we trust Him to meet our every need, do we believe He sees us? Hagar was a slave – life doesn’t get much more helpless than that – but even she knew this. Her story is told in Genesis 16-21. She had no choice about many things. She may not have responded in the best way (are we perfect?), nevertheless she found that God saw her and answered her need and that of her son.

True, our provision may not always be what we want in the moment, but I believe with all my heart, it will answer our need. When we trust God for our lives, we set those around us free. It's a fine line because yes, we need each other, absolutely. God uses people in our lives as He would use us in theirs, for a multitude of reasons and purposes. Yet we need to realize that all these people are gifts from God. He alone is our source.  I firmly believe His plan for us is for good, not evil, and that obstacles and even trials are a part of our lot in this life. Jesus told us that Himself in no uncertain terms (John 16:33):

"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world."

Day 11: Filled but with what?

We're on verse 4 and our second wave of warnings:

“It is not for Kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; or for rulers to take strong drink.”

Caveat #1: From the moment I received the Lord, I put away alcohol and have never touched it since.  I don’t like the taste of it, nor how it makes me feel.

Caveat #2: still no Bible scholar so this is no dissertation about what kind of wine they drank, their unsafe water supply giving them no choice but to drink fermented juice and I certainly won’t try to discuss what Jesus drank and how He turned water into wine for his first miracle.

The point I see is simply this: overuse. The NLT refers here to “guzzling and craving alcohol”; Ecclesiastes 10:17 makes a reference to “feasting for strength not for drunkenness”. The only place I find a policy of total abstinence besides here in Proverbs 31, is for the Nazarite vow. There are however plenty of strong warnings against overuse. Take Proverbs 21:17 “He that loves wine and oil shall not be rich.” Just what constitutes overuse for you, you alone can settle.

I have often heard it said (and have seen) that alcohol consumption lowers inhibitions and self-restraint, it acts as a muscle relaxant and, consumed in large quantities, apparently also causes one to forget. Call me stodgy but I tend to agree with the strict blood alcohol standard set by the DMV. I have seen people « loosen up » after just a couple of drinks and somehow change; sometimes they said things they would not have said otherwise. Their judgment changes.

Now God is not some dreary old fart who can’t stand it when people have a good time. Check out the Song of Songs, look up laughter, joy and Psalm 16:1 to name a few.  The warning is against losing a grip on your faculties, dulling your senses. Doing so is pursuing a lie, living a distortion of yourself; the warning is, it will destroy who you really are. 

To accompany this hearty fare, I will leave you to take in one of my all-time favorite verses. Here, in Psalm 16:11, David speaks to God: "you make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forever more." That’s how I want to live and that’s how I want to be filled.

Day 13: God Cares about the Oppressed

We now come to the reason for the warnings of the preceding verses (see Days 3 through 11), ‘they’ here refers to Kings and Princes, or rulers. People in charge:

"...lest they drink and forget what has been decreed and pervert the rights of all the afflicted."

I love this reason for moderation: not because it’s better for you, not because of your blood pressure or overall health, not for a more balanced life, no. It’s not about you at all, it’s about those who need you as a leader; it’s about the oppressed. What touches me most is how much God hates oppression. He sees those who cannot speak for themselves even when we ignore them. 

The warning here is that a ruler who is given over to pursuing his own desires, be it for women, drink or money,  will forget this mandate and be unable to execute justice for the oppressed. It’s that simple. He must stay sober and on watch for others.

As a side note, it is clear God expects there to be oppression in our world. It's not because He brings it so it must be because He knows the heart of man, he knows what many will do under certain circumstances, He knows many others will suffer and be oppressed. How can we ever blame God for man's inhumanity to man?

The way I see, we may not all be elected representatives, Judges, Presidents or CEO’s but all of us exercise some form of leadership in life: we are mothers, fathers, older siblings, pet owners, class monitors, club leaders, church leaders, employers to name a few. I believe that these standards apply to us all. 

Day 14: God of the Darkness

Here, in Proverbs 31:6-8, are some of my least favorite verses of this proverb. I bunched them together to get it over with, like bad tasting but necessary medicine:

“Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. 7  Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.”

So perhaps she was being facetious, exaggerating to make a point: you’re the King so you’re the one who needs to look out for others, not the other way around. Such a kick in the pants is always my own best anti-dote for the poor me’s. Most of us are often in a position to help someone else even if all we can do is pray for them.  It’s an attitude that seeks to give, not one that pines away for something we can't have. I will say here that giving our sorrows to God counts as giving. It really does. He tells us to do that. I know, He's amazing. 

The best construction I can put on these two verses is that they serve as a reinforcement of her earlier warnings: drinking alcohol acts as a painkiller and causes you to forget, so watch it! Of course there may be times when that would be a welcome relief. Alcohol does kill germs, at least the stuff I buy at the drugstore does. In the New Testament, Paul told Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach. The syrup I have for nighttime flu symptoms is mostly alcohol. So I can get off my high horse I guess…

What is hard for me about these verses is the pervading sense of hopelessness they bring. I don’t believe that with God we are ever hopeless. I just don’t, I’ve lived too long, read too many stories of other people’s lives to not believe with all my heart that what the Bible says is true, even when my circumstances seem to contradict it. I believe He hears the faintest cry in the darkest of night, when you think no one hears. He hears you. The Beauty of God to me is that He cares so deeply about each and every one of us. He bears all my suffering and yours, all your sorrow, the deepest of sorrow, the unspeakable sorrows. In my darkest moments He has shone the sweetest. That is our God.

Day 15: God of Compassion

8  Open your mouth for the dumb, for the rights of all who are left desolate.
9  Open thy mouth, judge righteously, maintain the rights of the poor and needy.

What a glimpse into the heart of God! 

Now, we, on the other hand, live in a society that loves a winner. We rally round winners, we look for them. 

In the Book named for him, we read that Job was a wealthy and highly respected man in his community. The description of his former life can be found in Job 29. Even more importantly in chapter 1:8 God informs us: 

 "And the Lord said to Satan, have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fear Go and turns away from evil?"

I cannot think of a higher commendation. Yet, this very same man, who was so respected and admired,  is suddenly despised when his children, his wealth and finally his health are brutally taken away from him. This startling reversal is painfully described in chapter 30. 

Job had not changed, the Bible is clear that he was a righteous man and never sinned with his mouth even when calamity struck, but the people around him judged by the appearance of things and drew the wrong conclusions, even his own wife...

Similarly, we often misjudge and dismiss the destitute, the poor and those who are left desolate. The admonition here is to look beyond the surface and judge righteously; to not forget or dismiss those who cannot speak for themselves. Here, I must confess that I see unborn babies among the company of 'the dumb', those who have no voice of their own and I see prisoners, among the company of those who are left desolate. Even if a person has contributed to his misery, he or she remains the object of God's compassion and, as we learn here, should be the object of ours as well. 

Only God knows what is truly going on and we should not be quick to judge but quick to seek God for His righteous perspective on others, particularly those whom we would consider 'losers', the non-victors, the non-winners, the ones societies generally scorn. God sees them, values them and charges his leaders to represent them and their cause. After all, His own son ended his earthly ministry as an outcast, misunderstood on a lonely cross. 

Day 16: Not Just Mama’s Boy

We now come to that wonderful transition which begins with a simple question in verse 10:

« Who can find a virtuous woman? »

According to one commentary I read, this mother dictated the entire proverb to her son, the King, who dutifully wrote it down. The first reaction as I read was: “ludicrous!!” Then I tried to be more studious and open minded.

Well, balderdash! I’m sorry but I don’t see this incredible woman standing over her grown son, dictating to him how wonderful she is! How emasculating is that? The Bible makes it quite clear that a man is to leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife. I simply do not believe that this mother hung on and dominated her son to that extent.

The way I’ve always read it, the King begins by rehearsing the charge his mother had given him some time back (verses 1-9). After a likely detour in his life - the kind that adds grey hairs to parents' heads - he clearly repents or comes to himself as the Prodigal son and becomes a living testimony to her wisdom. I say a detour because of the way she cries out in verse 2 (see Day 3), seemingly questioning his behavior. The English Standard Version certainly translates it that way: “what do you mean my son?” she repeats three times.

Back to verse 10. The shift is also indicated by a different format in the text: we now have the start of an acrostic poem, where each verse begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet. I see the Kings speaking under his own steam here. He describes that which he has come to realize the hard way is a rare find: a woman of virtue. A woman who will be an asset and who will help him become what he was meant to be, and, he has come to the conclusion that her worth is beyond calculation.  

I have often heard that the most powerful force for good in a teenager’s life, is the example, love and attention of the teen's parents. I have read and re-read anti-drug ad campaigns that parental attention will combat even the pull of drugs and peer pressure. 

I have no doubt this King learned all this not because he was lectured or brow beaten into it by an overbearing mother but because he beheld the way she lived, he saw first-hand the daily choices she made, learning what her values truly were. He saw fruit, the result of her involvement and the impact she had on everything she touched. That is what steered this son to heed her and thus become a man who now himself realizes his need for such a woman of substance. 

Day 17: Is She the One?
“Who can find a virtuous a woman?”

This has all the flavor of a rhetorical question, which Wikipedia defines thus:

A rhetorical question is a figure of speech in the form of a question posed for its persuasive effect without the expectation of a reply (ex: "Why me?")[1] Rhetorical questions encourage the listener to think about what the (often obvious) answer to the question must be. When a speaker states, "How much longer must our people endure this injustice?", no formal answer is expected. Rather, it is a device used by the speaker to assert or deny something.

The assertion I see here is that such a woman is rare. Maybe that's why many shy away from this Proverb: her standard seems unattainable! I simply do not believe that. God is not exclusive. He does not say "here's the carrot but you can't have it." People do, but God has no duplicity, people do. God invites, God calls, God exhorts, God corrects, God purifies, God refines and God transforms. 

Back in Genesis 18:14, God said to Sarah - for whom it was naturally impossible to conceive: "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" And she who was past menopause, conceived and bore a son. 

The word "too hard" is a key to understanding: it carries the meaning of the miraculous. In most cases where this word appears, God is the subject, meaning God is the doer of the action. This verse is the first appearance of that word, giving the verse emphasis. 

Are any of us too hard for the Lord? 

In Exodus when God describes how He will deliver Israel from Egypt, he uses this same word which is often translated 'wonders.' What God does to change situations and people is miraculous and He says His salvation, His miraculous intervention in our lives, is for whomsoever will! 

In other words I believe ANY woman can become that virtuous woman at any point in her life. She might not look the part right now.  She might be a diamond in the rough, or just a lump of coal. But given the right pressure, choices are made, things change and see what emerges. That process is a gift from God. 

Day 18: Nameless and Faceless… 
We have now finally come to the rich and captivating description of this virtuous woman. 

« A virtuous woman, who can find? » 

I do not consider myself an overachiever and yet I love this description. Her example motivates me, it inspires and guides me through life. It has for years.

The King James above is my favorite translation of this verse simply because it has the broadest application and points to virtue, and intriguing and otherworldly quality that sets me searching for definition. The ESV simply says: "a good wife who can find?" The Message states: "a good woman is hard to find"  The NIV comes a little closer to what I believe is the spirit of this verse yet still falls short in my view:  "a wife of noble character who can find?"

I can be so insecure, so quick to compare myself unfavorably, yet with her I never do. I often think it is because she is faceless. God lifted a nameless woman over all the amazing women in the Scripture, the list is long and inspiring: Sarah, Moses' Mother, Deborah, Esther, Abigail, Mary, Elizabeth, Anna to name a few. 

In setting her up as an example in such a nameless way, God lifted each of us up. I cannot want to be Sarah, I can be inspired by her and imitate her faith, I can even be her daughter as long as I do well and let nothing terrify me (1 Peter 3:5).  But I do feel included in this woman. That could be you and me. How immediate, how awesomely inspiring! 

Finally, this is the end of the last proverb.  The NIV refers to this description as an Epilogue, which means high praise or commendation according to my dictionary. You might say this is the last word in Proverbs, another inspiring emphasis on the value of a simple woman.

Day 19: Whosoever Will!

“Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies”
She can’t be bought! That’s what it says. Her price is not in a denomination we have here on earth, her value cannot be counted in money.

Do you get the “for” in the second phrase? The reason no one can find such a woman is because money cannot lure her, locate her, draw her or buy her. The poorest among us can be such a virtuous woman. I just love how God levels the playing field. He is the opposite of exclusive.

He is not impressed with what so often impresses us: money and prestige, which basically comes down to money. In our world, knowledge, skill, talent, even voluble hot air can be translated into money and money means *power*. Anyone with status or *power* in our world, either has money, did or will soon have.

This woman (and God’s value) is far above ALL of that.

So this invitation to be a virtuous woman is not for whomsoever can afford it. It’s for whomsoever WILL. What a relief.

[* starred because ours is a very limited power. Read the exchange between Jesus and Pilate the night Jesus was betrayed.]

Day 20: The Word.
Let us examine that qualifying word: virtuous.  It bears doing.

Words are used to express meaning and intent. We mortals often use words to manipulate, many times we use them to lie. God never does. We often find ourselves having to eat our words. God never has to eat His, never. He says what He means and He means what he says. I have found true rest in the Word of God.

Jesus was not called the Meaning of God nor the Explanation of God, not even the Communication of God, which would be close. Jesus is called the Word of God. That is so very direct; the purpose of a word is to be heard by the hearer, be received, understood and have its desired effect. The Words of the Bible are spoken by God to us. 

Day 21: No Damsel in Distress

Here is the original OT word for 'virtuous' according to Strong’s definition:

02428 חיל chayil (pronounced khah’ yil)

from 02342; n m; (noun masculine) I find it interesting that here is a masculine word to describe a woman. 

AV-army 56, man of valour 37, host 29, forces 14,  valiant 13, strength 12, riches 11, wealth 10, power 9, substance 8, might 6, strong 5, misc 33; 243

In the paragraph above (AV stands for Authorized Version or KJV), each number indicates how many times the Hebrew word 'chayil' was translated into the English word that follows it. It's sort of like the nutrition information label: the first on the list is the one in greatest quantity. So the predominant meaning of virtuous is that of an ARMY and its related attributes. Halfway down the list, the notion of wealth and substance gets added on.

1) strength, might, efficiency, wealth, army
1a) strength
1b) ability, efficiency
1c) wealth
1d) force, army

The numbered list above gives us the dictionary definitions. The English word 'virtuous' occurs only three times in the Old Testament, thus finding its place under “misc 33”. Interestingly, each time it refers to a woman.

So the context of virtuous is clearly military, strength, courage, substance, wealth. Does that conjure up a damsel in distress, waiting to be rescued? I see here a model of strength, might, an ability to fight, to endure and to overcome.  

There’s no mention of natural weapons, there are no war games: her fight is for the well being of her family.  Her enemy is that which attacks her soul and those under her care and we will learn her weapon. 

Day 22: When the Going Gets Tough...

On Day 20, we looked at the word ‘virtuous. It comes from a root word that is also interesting, adding context and intensity:

02428 or 02342 חול chuwl khool or חיל chiyl kheel
AV-pain 6, formed 5, bring forth 4, pained 4, tremble 4, travail 4, dance 2, calve 2, grieved 2, grievous 2, wounded 2, shake 2, misc 23; 62

1) to twist, whirl, dance, writhe, fear, tremble, travail, be in anguish, be pained
1a) (Qal)
1a1) to dance
1a2) to twist, writhe
1a3) to whirl, whirl about
1b) (Polel)
1b1) to dance
1b2) to writhe (in travail with), bear, bring forth
1b3) to wait anxiously
1c) (Pulal)
1c1) to be made to writhe, be made to bear
1c2) to be brought forth
1d) (Hophal) to be born
1e) (Hithpolel)
1e1) whirling (participle)
1e2) writhing, suffering torture (participle)
1e3) to wait longingly
1f) (Hithpalpel) to be distressed

The reference to labor, travail and birth is inescapable. Eve was called “the mother of all living”.  Women are without a doubt carriers and bringers of life in a natural sense. I believe the same is true in a spiritual sense. Whether or not a woman has physical offspring, she is a bringer of life.  Churches seem to be populated by women more than men in general. I believe it stems from an awareness women tend to feel of the seriousness and awesomeness of life. I knew something else was at work in me to mold these children in my womb. I was not a believer at that time but even I knew that conceiving a child and bringing it forth was not anything “I” could do. A much greater force than my own was at work in me. 

That task, that burden of life, it lasts a lifetime.  Often, it is neither easy nor pretty, it can weigh heavily and costs much. I’m fairly certain we all misstep in the process. It would be so convenient and more dignified to be able to toss it sometimes. But care, like labor, cannot be dismissed.  It can only find rest in its time. When I find scriptures like these, I feel God saying, it is so and it is good. 

Day 23: Of Great Value. 

We left off at the rhetorical question of verse 10 in Proverbs 31: "Who can find a virtuous woman for her price is far above rubies?"

I have always thought that this verse represents a break. In the preceding verses the speaker is reiterating what his mother taught him. Now he picks up his own train of thought. In my old KJV bible, there is a carriage return sign at this verse, I have no idea why, it may simply be the first typo I ever found in a Bible, but it does reinforce my conviction. The view held by some commentators, that this King is merely taking dictation from his mother, seems to contradict everything I see in the Bible about men and women, their respective positions and roles.

I am no doormat but neither am I modern feminist. Of my three daughters, two are professionals, two are mothers and all three carry their own weight. I have held many women leaders of nations in high esteem. Hopefully that gives a proper context when I say that I do not believe in feminism. I see a real difference between men and women; I see it in the way they function, in their respective strengths and weaknesses, in their interactions. As a result, I find the whole notion of competition or comparison between the sexes to be utterly ridiculous. Each has his and her place. Neither can replace the other. Both have value. I was about to say "equal value" but there's that tinge of competition again. Both have value to God. That is enough for me.

From what I have seen of life and learned in the Bible, Christianity is the greatest emancipator of all time in any society. I am not saying the Church is perfect, I am saying the Word of God is perfect. Here, God elevates a nameless woman to amazing heights of honor because of her virtue alone. Real value, not just a higher income bracket or social standing, but true inner value comes from the heart of God and none who seek Him will be turned away.

Day 24: A Matter of Trust

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