Build Up the Virtuous Woman

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The woman who fears the LORD share be praised. We do that by defending her, supporting her, listening to her, and encouraging her.

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Title: Build Up the Virtuous Woman
Text: Proverbs 31:10-31
Series: Building Families Through Wisdom
INTRO: A Woman Who Fears the LORD Shall Be Praised.
As a bicentennial baby and a child of the 80s, I remember a string of hit movies about teenagers. Several of these I saw or was at least familiar with. Some of them I remember with fondness & some I have forgotten all about. Even the ones I am nostalgic about, I tend to forget what was inappropriate about them, until I show one of them to my kids. Parents, let me warn you- PG movies in the 80s, are PG-13 now.
One of these movies came to mind as I began working on this sermon. I am in no way suggesting anyone should watch this movie, but the premise of it may help to illustrate the tension that exists between the world’s view of the ideal woman and the biblical view of the virtuous woman.
In this movie, two unpopular nerds design their ideal woman on a computer. Their goal was to build a woman on the screen, a virtual but realistic simulation they could interact with. They feed the computer the data it needs to make their perfect woman- looks, intellect, abilities, etc. Through a weird electrical storm, the virtual woman they built came to life. She turned their world upside down, but through her uncontrollable help, they become popular guys, get the girls, and everything goes their way.
Virtual reality is not virtuous reality. The world is trying to build and shape women that will conform to its image of the perfect woman, but it’s not reality. Women are being constantly bombarded with unrealistic images of what they are supposed to be like. Those women are not real. They are the figment of someone’s imagination, sometimes a perverted one. They want to build a woman of their imagination.
We are not trying to do that today.We are not trying to build the perfect woman, nobody is perfect, and no one’s idea of a woman is perfect, except for God’s. We don’t want to build the perfect woman; we want to build up the virtuous woman from our text Proverbs 31:10-31, just 7 verses for now
10-12, 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. She does him good and not evil All the days of her life… 28-31, 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.” Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates.
Four ways to Build Up the Virtuous Woman:
1. DEFEND Her. 10-11, 30 Defend the Ideal of the Virtuous Woman
Understand we’re not talking about the perfect woman, she doesn’t exist. What we mean is the virtuous woman. The woman that fears the LORD, she is to be praised. One of the ways we can build her up is to defend this ideal.
Context begins in verse 1.This chapter is attributed to King Lemuel, but the instruction he got from his mother. The word “utterance” means oracle, a kind of prophecy or pronouncement. In vss. 1-9, there is advice for him related to his rule and the administration of justice. Vss. 10-31 is the description of an excellent wife in the form of an acrostic poem. In the original language, the beginning of each verse is one letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
There is some debate as to who Lemuel is. His name means “belonging to God.” Some believe this was a nickname given to Solomon by his mother Bathsheba. Others think Lemuel was the king of Massa, or maybe even someone else. What’s important is that the Holy Spirit included it in the Scriptures for our instruction. His mother taught him that as the king, wine can ruin you, and so can women. Vs. 3, Do not give your strength to women, nor your ways to that which destroys kings. That’s what leads to this idealized description of a virtuous woman. I say idealized because no one can live up to a list like this perfectly, but that’s not the point of the text.
A woman’s performance is not the point - a woman’s reverencefor God is the point of the text. Jesus settled the performance issue at the cross. You can never do enough to be made right with God, that’s what Jesus did. You don’t have to measure up to someone else’s version of who they think you ought to be. You only owe that to God. “A woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.” Defend the ideal of the virtuous woman who loves God & lives out of his image, not conforming to the image the world pushes on her.
2. SUPPORT Her. 12-22 Support her Unique Identity.
The phrase “virtuous wife” could just as easily be translated “excellent woman.” The word for wife or womanis interchangeable; context bears out that this woman is married. Context also bears out that while she is married, she is her own person as well.
Virtuousspeaks to her worth, the quality that renders something desirable, valuable, or useful. The word itself means strength, capacity, ability, faculty; the worth of which makes her price, or her cost, far greater than that of rubies (a precious red gem). How is she virtuous? Proverbs 31:11-22
11-12, The heart of her husband safely trusts her; So he will have no lack of gain. She does him good & not evil All the days of her life. She has INTEGRITY
13-19, She seeks wool and flax, and willingly works with her hands. She is like the merchant ships, she brings her food from afar. She also rises while it is yet night, and provides food for her household, And a portion for her maidservants. She considers a field and buys it; From her profits she plants a vineyard. She girds herself with strength and strengthens her arms. 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. She has the CAPACITY to do many things, i.e., she is not pigeon-holed or stereo-typed into one thing/role. You get the feeling that could be anyone or anything she wants.
This is no monochromatic image of a woman, painted with just one color. Rather, she is like a prism, as you turn her life, you see the many different aspects of her identity and ability- the image that comes to light includes the stay-at-home mom, the working mother, the corporate leader, the community volunteer. She has the Capacity to BE and to DO all that God has designed for her, in the full spectrum of her identity in His image.
20-22, She extends her hand to the poor, yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household is clothed with scarlet. She makes tapestry for herself; Her clothing is fine linen and purple. She has a MINISTRY. Whether it is in the community, at church, or even at home, the virtuous woman ministers to people out of the gifts, passions, and skills that God has given to her.
If you know a virtuous woman, support her in her unique identity in the LORD, as a woman of Integrity who has the Capacity to do the Ministry the LORD has prepared her to do.
3. HEAR Her. 23-27 to build up a virtuous woman, listen to her
She has something important to contribute. She has something to say and to share with her husband, with her household, with those who are hurt or in need of help. Listen to vss. 23-27.
23-27, Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land. 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. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness. She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.
· She has INFLUENCE- in both the city gates & the marketplace.
Notice that throughout this text, the virtuous woman is given the place of honor. The husband is called her husband, she is not known as his wife. Her husband sits in the city gates- this tells us something of his status in the community. In that culture, the city gates were the social and economic hub. That was where the wheeling and dealing went down. It was also where elders of the city dealt with legal rulings. The husband of the virtuous woman was known and respected as a leader.
He has his role, but she has hers. A female friend recently reminded me that the husband might be the head, but the wife is the neck. There’s a good chance that when you are dealing with a well-respected man, there is a virtuous woman beside him. She has influence.
· She has EXPERIENCEtoo- strength & honor are her clothing, she speaks with wisdom & kindness.
Wisdom- ability, technical skill, shrewdness; so that what we mean is that she has learned enough stuff, done enough stuff, & gone through enough stuff that she is able to lend a hand and her heart to the person who is in need. Law- direction and instruction; Kindness describes the manner in which she shares what she knows.
· She has INTUITION- she watches over the ways of her household
Ways-describes the comings and goings, and doings of the house and family; Who can relate to this? When no one else knows what’s going on, momma knows what’s going on. It’s also hard to pull a fast one over on momma.
She has an intuition, experience, and influence and we need to hear that from her and listen. She has something to contribute.
4. ENCOURAGE Her. 28-31
If you truly want to build up a virtuous woman, encourage. 28-31, 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.” Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates.
Encourage her with words- call her blessed & praise her
Encourage her with gifts- the fruit of her own hands
Encourage in front of other people- her works praise her in the gates
This puts her in the place of honor. How many of you know a virtuous woman- maybe your mom, wife, daughter, sister, or friend? Whoever she is, if she is a virtuous woman, she needs building up. She is under attack.
She needs you to defend the ideal that the scriptures set forth for a virtuous woman- not a perfect woman by the world’s view, but a woman who fears the LORD by the Word’s view. Defend her, support her, listen to her, and encourage her. Do it today.
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