Seek to be rare, don't compare.
Proverbs(1) (Part of the Mother's Day(2) series)
by Stuart Johns(198) on May 10, 2020 (Sunday Morning(281))
Blessed(7), Mother's Day(2), Virtuous Woman(1)
“According to a poll by Family Circle magazine, 86 percent of mothers think they don't get enough respect, and 80 percent agree that moms who stay at home get even less. Even so, 77 percent of mothers who work full-time would rather stay home if they could.
Moms in both camps are a bit defensive: 73 percent of those at home think working moms look down on them, while 66 percent of those who work feel the same way about moms who are at home.
The main message, however, is a positive one: while 70 percent of mothers say that being a mom is much more demanding than they expected, 92 percent say it is also much more rewarding.”
Time (5-6-2002), p. 18; submitted by Jon R. Mutchler, Ferndale, Washington.
Stating the obvious
I’m not a mother
I’m not a wife
I’m not a woman
That’s why I have to rely on God’s Word to speak about woman today
Expectations from other moms
Perhaps you’re a stay-a-home mom (I guess every mom is a stay-at-home right now, with the Coronavirus), and you feel like working moms are looking down on you
Maybe you’re a working mom, and you feel like stay-at-home moms are looking down on you
Take heart that both kinds of moms are feeling the same way, so don’t put that undue pressure on yourselves
Biblical characteristics from God
It’s easy to look at what other moms are doing and feel like a failure, but don’t play the compare game
God’s Word gives us Biblical characteristics and qualities for women, and He is the One we should strive to please
Being a wife and mother will fall into place when we spend time focusing on God and His Word
Most everyone is familiar with Proverbs 31. There is a ministry organization that’s called Proverbs31 Ministries. People talk about a Proverbs 31 woman. We’re going to look at Proverbs 31:10-31 today as we celebrate Mother’s Day. The writer of this section of Proverbs talks about a wife of noble character and how rare that can be. Fortunately, it is not impossible. As we look at this passage today, I want to encourage every woman to . . .
BIG IDEA – Seek to be rare, don’t compare.
GOD (Proverbs 31:10-31)
The final verses in the book of Proverbs (vv. 10-31) have two very powerful patterns that are important to recognize
This is not the only acrostic poem in Proverbs or the entire Bible, there are others
The beginning of each verse starts with the consecutive letter of the Hebrew alphabet (there are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet) [show image of the Hebrew alphabet]
[Show image of Proverbs 31:10-31]
This shows an incredible beauty in how the poem was constructed
The other pattern we see is the chiastic structure
[Show image of chiastic structure]
In a chiastic structure there are matching pairs that point to a central theme that the author doesn’t want the reader or audience to miss
They say certain things heading into the central theme and then say the exact same things in reverse order as they move away from the central theme
We are going to be using the chiastic structure as our guide, looking at the central theme first and working our way out
Central theme (v. 23)
Who is this Proverb written for?
I don’t want us to miss the historical and contextual significance of the book of Proverbs
Most of the book was written by Solomon with help from Agur and Lemuel at the very end
It seems to be primarily written to Solomon’s son(s) about how to obtain wisdom and live a disciplined and prudent life
As it pertains to our passage today, and the central theme, the character qualities listed are for a wife, perhaps for Solomon’s son(s)
The central theme then is about the husband of this woman of noble character
The husband of this woman is respected at the city gate
He is part of the ruling council of elders for her city
With that said, I don’t want us to take too much time focusing on the husband, because it’s Mother’s Day
“The woman was formed out of man – not out of his head to rule over him; not out of his feet to be trampled upon by him; but out of his side to be his equal, from beneath his arm to be protected, and from near his heart to be loved.” [Matthew Henry cited by Anders, Homan Old Testament Commentary, Proverbs, 358]
Let’s look at the character qualities, of this ideal wife, that allows her husband to be respected at the city gate
We’re going to look at each matching pair as we get further and further from the central theme
Character qualities (vv. 10-22, 24-31)
Making of coverings and garments (vv. 22, 24)
For herself (v. 22)
She works hard at the textile trade
Most women in the Near East were gifted at weaving and making their own garments
We’ll see this more as we progress through this passage
She is weaving large coverings for her bed
She is also clothed in fine linen and purple
Fine linen would have been made from flax and imported from Egypt
Purple refers to wool that was dyed and was imported from Phoenicia (the dye came from shellfish found there)
The woman would have made her own garments from these imported materials
She was dressed with the best
She’s resourceful as we will see in a moment
Most of our wives aren’t weaving or sewing their own sheets and blankets, but they are making sure that we have sheets and blankets at the best possible price – they’re researching the thread count to make sure the quality is good
They are also making sure to dress well
Making sure that our bed has sheets and blankets and dressing herself well shows us, guys, that our wives love us and are concerned about us
She not only makes items for herself, she also makes items to sell
For others (v. 24)
She is so industrious that she has more than enough garments and sashes to sell to the merchants
I’ve been impressed with those of you in our congregation, who know how to sew, and have used your giftedness to provide hundreds of masks to individuals in our community and beyond – and you’ve done that out of your own generosity, at no charge (we’ll see the character quality of generosity in v. 20)
She is not only concerned about herself and her husband, but also her children
Clothing of children and herself (vv. 21b, 25a)
Her children don’t have to be afraid of the cold associated with the season of snow, because their mother provides scarlet clothing (v. 21b)
Again, the dyed cloth would have been expensive
Scarlet would have referred to wool garments instead of a light linen made from flax
Wool would have helped to retain heat
Waltke explains that mentioning the color of the thread, is another way of saying wool, simply because “linen does not readily accept dye.” [Waltke, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, The Book of Proverbs, Chapters 15-31, 530]
This mother spares no expense in taking care of her family and keeping them warm
TODAY – how have you seen your mother or wife making sure you are warm?
The matching unit speaks of a woman being clothed, but not with garments (v. 25a)
She is clothed with strength and dignity
She is able to face any adversity that comes her way with confidence instead of fear
TODAY – How have you seen your mother or wife face adversity and uncertainty?
The woman in this passage is prepared for the future
No fear (vv. 21a, 25b)
She is ready when winter comes and can laugh at the days to come
This shows not only a physical readiness, but an emotional readiness
We’ll see in the final matched pair where this confidence and emotional readiness and strength come from
It doesn’t come from herself
In this next pair, we see that this woman is generous, compassionate, loving, and caring
Wife gives to others (vv. 20, 26)
With her possessions (v. 20)
Perhaps you’re skeptical about whether or not this is truly a matching pair
Both Anders and Garrett explain that throughout Proverbs, and other wisdom literature, that the mark of wisdom is in providing for the poor – it is a fundamental virtue [Anders, 362; Garrett, The New American Commentary, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, 250]
This woman is either giving them what they need (food, clothing, etc.) and/or inviting them into her home
What we see here is generosity and hospitality
TODAY – How have you seen your mother or wife reaching out to those in need, and either providing what they need or inviting them into your home?
With her words (v. 26)
Speaks with wisdom
“That she speaks with wisdom implies that she already possesses it and that wisdom shapes what she has to say and how she says it.” [Waltke, 532]
It is probable that she is sharing her wisdom with her husband
Husbands, how many of you have experienced the great wisdom of your wives?
I know I have – God has given Judy incredible wisdom and I’m a better man when I listen to God speaking through her
Faithful instruction is on her tongue
Can you hear her children? “Mom, why did you give that garment, you made, to that beggar?” “Why did you invited that family to our house for a meal?”
Can you see her, gently sitting down with her children and explaining, “God has been so good to us. He has provided for your father and I above what we could ever imagine. We want others to know and experience God’s love, compassion, and provision through us. So, sometimes we give them clothing or feed them a meal.”
She uses the wisdom she has gained through circumstances and questions from her children as teachable moments
She is concerned about passing on the wisdom she has gained
TODAY – What wisdom has your mother passed on to you?
She not only speaks and lives out wisdom, but she works hard
Wife works hard (vv. 13-19, 27)
Works herself (vv. 13-19)
She makes her own thread from the wool and flax she selects (vv. 13, 19)
She probably goes to the market place and carefully looks through the wool selections
She also carefully looks at the flax selection, for the best quality
Flax was made from a plant that was uprooted and dried and then the fibers were extracted from the plant
Flax was used to make linen, so the better the flax, the better the linen
She uses the distaff and the spindle in order to spin her own wool and flax thread for weaving and making garments
She does this with eager hands (at the pleasure of her hands – she enjoys it!)
She provides food for her family (vv. 14-15)
She goes to the market place before sunrise, so she’ll have the best food selection possible for her family
She also chooses exotic food for her family to enjoy
She’s probably not making food for the servant girls, but rather, providing the raw ingredients for them to make the food
She is a savvy business person (v. 16)
She looks at all of the angles, puts a plan together, and then executes her plan in purchasing a field and then planting a vineyard on it
We’ve been watching old episodes of “Counting On” with the Duggar children and Jinger decides that she wants to buy a car, at the auction, and then flip it. She takes a couple of her brothers with her to the auction, then she has a couple other brothers, a friend, and her one sister who make the necessary repairs and detail and clean the car, and finally she takes two other brothers with her to show the vehicle to a prospective buyer – she did her homework and used the generous resources of family members to help her purchase and sell the vehicle for a profit.
She is not lazy (v. 17)
She plans her work and works her plan
She has a strong back and strong arms
She probably has strong hands as well
She never lacks for financial resources (v. 18)
The trading that she does is profitable
Her lamp does not go out, is not necessarily speaking about her staying up late working into the night, but rather, is probably talking about the fact that she never lacks money, she is prosperous
TODAY – In what ways have you seen your mother or wife working hard for the family?
Does she make things and sell them?
Does she provide good food for you to eat?
Is she a savvy business person?
Does she every stop working?
Does she provide financially for you?
This woman not only works hard herself, but she also supervises the work of others
Supervises the work of others (v. 27)
She is aware of everything that’s happening in the household
When something is missing around the house, who do you ask first? (Mom)
She is not idle
I’ve watched my mom and my wife preparing for family meals and they both have multiple things cooking at the same time and are able to know where everyone is and all the details of upcoming events and activities
There are times when I have to ask Judy if she is going to stop and sit down (of course it’s for selfish reasons, because I want to stop and sit down)
When I first met Judy’s Grandma Young I wondered if she ever ate, because she would be a flurry of activity around the dinner table. She would always ask if I needed anything else, because my plate was empty. She wanted to make sure everyone was provided for, before she would take time to eat.
We all know how hard our mothers and wives work to provide just what we need, so we should take time to recognize and acknowledge that fact
Recognition by husband and children (vv. 11-12, 28-29)
Husbands (vv. 11-12, 28b-29)
Do you have full confidence in your wife? (when is the last time you told her that?)
How has she brought good into your life? (when is the last time you expressed gratitude for the good she has brought into your life?)
When is the last time you’ve praised your wife?
The author gives us an example here, “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”
When Judy and I were dating, I told the guys in the dorm that I was sorry for them, because they had to settle for second best, since I was dating the best! (I know it sounds cheesy, but I meant it)
How can you praise your wife today? What characteristics are your grateful for?
Husbands aren’t the only ones who need to recognize the incredible woman in their home, children need to also
Children (v. 28a)
When is the last time you’ve expressed your gratitude and love for everything that your mother is doing or did do for you?
Today is the perfect day to do just that
All of this leads to the very first matching pair in this passage
High value of a good wife (vv. 10, 30-31)
The author of this section helps us to understand that a wife of noble character can be found, but it is rare, like a precious stone
The description that we have seen in this passage may not reflect a single woman, but may be a composite portrait of ideal womanhood [The NIV Life Application Bible, footnote for Proverbs 31:10-31, 1131]
It’s always tempting to look at other woman and compare ourselves to them
I want to encourage you to not compare yourself to anyone else, but use the characteristics found in this passage as your guide to becoming a virtuous woman
Seek to be rare, don’t compare
Where does this woman find the physical and emotional strength to do everything she does, with excellence?
It doesn’t come from within her
She can’t accomplish this on her own
It comes from revering the Lord
When I was sharing with Judy about the message for today, she said that the only way for her to excel in these character traits is to be connected to the vine
She is referring to John 15:1-17
We read these words in verse 5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
She shared that when she has tried to do anything on her own, she has failed, but when she stays connected to Jesus, and does it with His strength, she succeeds
My Next Step Today Is To: Stay connected to Jesus, so I can be a wife and/or mother of noble character.
True reward and praise come from being connected to the Lord, not through charm or beauty
“In short, ‘charm’ deceives because it promises a lifetime of happiness that it cannot deliver . . . ‘beauty is said to be deceitful because it passes away, and with it passes the hope of happiness base on it.’” [Waltke, 535]
“Inner spiritual beauty does not deceive.” [Waltke, 535]
“About ten years ago, I found my mother sitting at the kitchen table. She was reading and chuckling in frustration, so I asked her what she was looking at.
She told me that she'd been studying Proverbs for her devotions and that she'd just read chapter 31, which lists the qualities of a virtuous wife. She was frustrated because she realized she could never be the woman God describes there. We talked about it some more, and my mom finally arrived at a decision that still inspires me today: she decided to take on the challenge, one verse at a time. She said: ‘I'll work on the first item in the list. When I've got that one mastered, I'll move to the next one—hopefully I'll be a virtuous woman before I die.’
I recently checked in with her to see how she was progressing. She laughed and told me she was seven or eight items into the list but was currently stuck on, ‘Her children call her blessed.’ She said, ‘I might have to wait for all of them to grow out of their teens before I can accomplish that one.’
Last year, my sisters and I got together and made a Certificate of Completion in Proverbs 31 Training. We took every verse and came up with an example of when she had fulfilled that requirement. When the certificate was finished, it looked like a real diploma and listed her many accomplishments. We all signed it, including my dad.
I read it out loud to her, and when I got to the last verse, ‘Her children call her blessed,’ one by one each of us said, ‘Mom, you are blessed.’ She cried and cried—she had finally reached her life's goal!”
Submitted by Jennifer Tatum, Romeoville, Illinois.
Husbands and Children
My Next Step Today Is To: Take time, today, to tell my wife and/or mother that she is blessed.
My Next Step Today Is To: Take on the challenge of seeking to be rare, one item at a time, so I can be a virtuous woman.