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A Devotional Exposition of Proverbs 31
Proverbs 31:10-14, KJV Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far beyond rubies. Worldly possessions may make our time on earth more pleasurable, but mean nothing to God. The rich man may feel that as his riches endear him to the world, God is similarly impressed by his talents, but He is not. As we are told in the New Testament, there is no point in striving to increase our wealth and possessions, for when we die, we will be in the same state as a man who lived his life with nothing. Things we own in the world can become a god to us - we focus more and more on acquiring more wealth, and in protecting that wealth from robbery, and so turn our eyes from God. Instead of praising the One who through His grace saves us, we grow to praise ourselves for earning and spending money. This is foolishness. "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Mark 8:36) What we are and what we do is worth more than money. If we act rightly then God approves of us - and His esteem cannot be bought, it is worth more than all the jewels in Creation. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. How good it is to have someone who can be absolutely trusted! To know that no private matters will be gossiped around the town, that no lies will ever be exchanged between you. We know that we can utterly trust God - what He promises, He will do. So it should be among Christians - both male and female, whether in a marriage relationship or in the relationship of faith. Our "yes" must mean "yes" - if we promise anything, we must deliver it. If we promise God our service, we will serve. If we marry, and vow to be true, then we must not commit adultery. Trust is the bedrock of our faith. It is because we trust God that faith exists. We believe in His promises - we believe that when He said we have eternal life, we do have it. We trust safely in each other, within our covenant of love. If we are hurting, we can trust that no brother or sister will harm us. If we give money to the church we can trust that it will not be used for the self-enrichment of the minister. Trust is fundamental, and for a sinner to regain God's trust is glorious. For us criminals to again be trusted by God to serve Him is the beauty of the Atonement. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. When we place our trust in God, we commit ourselves to good. We take on a responsibility to be as like God as we can. In God there is no evil. We seek to do only what is good, without shadows of grey. We will not seek to do good by evil means - we will not harm an innocent to perfect goodness in the world. Among ourselves, we pursue what is good all our lives, and try, with the help of God, to never do evil to another soul. We are servant of the good God, in whom there is no darkness at all. We live in
submission to our brothers and sisters in Christ - never putting ourselves first, but always thinking of others. We live in humility, love, and peace - this is how we tell a Christian from the world, because we know the image of our Father in heaven. "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." (John 13:35) She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. Pride is a great danger. To think that we are 'too good' to take on any particular job is neither true nor Christian. Every job has honour, every work is blessed of God. It is disgraceful to see some Christians looking down on their brother because he works with his hands. Jesus Himself worked with His hands, helping Joseph as any boy would have helped his father. Later in life Jesus was homeless - would we dare to look down on Him as we do to manual workers and the homeless today? We know that we are equal in the eyes of God, and that He does not look upon an employer more favourably than an employee. We should not esteem a man or woman who works in an office above one who works with their hands. Indeed, working with the hands can be a delight to the soul. If you are depressed, or idle, then sewing, making or gardening can refresh the spirits. To see something you have made in your hands can be joyful and uplifting. Creating something for the glory of God is a wonderful thing. If you make a coat for a homeless person, you have made it for God. If you mend the roof of an elderly person, you do this for God. Helping others with the works of your hands is blessed by God. We certainly should not look down upon it. She is like the merchant's ships; she bringeth her food from afar. We should all be like merchant ships: strong, sturdy and trustworthy. They may travel long distances, but arrive bringing hope and good news. When we travel through life we should give Good News to those we meet, an gain a reputation for being trustworthy and safe. When a stranger sees you, they are glad, for they know you bring good things. They know they can ask of you, and receive, and learn of Christ from you. We bring food, the living bread which descended from heaven to the people we meet. Though He came from a far-off land and place, His message is as sweet and fresh as ever it was. We share it with those we meet, and they know from our lives whose Message we carry. We are providers of bread in two senses - we give spiritual bread to whoever asks us, preaching the good news of Christ. We also give physical bread to those in need, giving to them as Christ in our midst. We are merchant's ships, giving away our valuable charge from the great Merchant to any and all who ask it of us.
Proverbs 31:15-19 KJV She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
Self-discipline is an invaluable aid to living a fulfilling life. We should make sure that our time is not wasted, for the time of a human life is a gift from God. When we become Christians, we dedicate our lives to God in thanks for His grace and our salvation. He deserves all of our time, and we should not waste the hours and minutes of our days, for, after all, we may die tomorrow. Better that we use every minute wisely, in the service of God, than die and realise we wasted time. The minute of your time whn you could be doing nothing may be the minute that reconciled a person to God. The act that you could not be bothered to do might have been one which saved a person's life, or revealed to them the goodness of Christ revealed in His servants' lives. The Virtuous Woman managed her time well, working for others from her waking until she went to sleep. She rose before the dawn to provide sustenance for others - whether we are homemakers or not, male or female, we each have the ability to provide for others. We should do more than merely give to those we are obliged to give to - the Virtuous Woman gave not only to her household, but also to her maidens. When we work as Christians it should not only be to those in our "family" - other Christians, but also to those who do not know Christ. "And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?" (Matthew 5:47) God commands us to feed the hungry and clothe the needy whether or not they are Christians, and whether or not we think they deserve it. Our responsibility in this world is to work until our Lord comes again, helping as long as and to whomever we can. She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. When we become Christians we do not give up the necessities of the flesh. While some may be called into full-time, paid ministry, the majority must work as everyone on earth does. We are called to work hard, and we dedicate our work to the glory of God. We are conscious of the value of money, neither spending frivolously nor hoarding our money. Like the Virtuous Woman, we invest our money wisely, considering any venture before leaping in. From our hard work we receive good fruits. When we work hard God blesses us with success, with the good things of the earth. When we work hard for Christ, in our work as God's servants we help the growth and health of God's vineyard, the Church. Christ is the Vine we seve in our lives, we spread His fruit in the earth. We become a part of the vine when we receive Christ and we aid others to join us there. "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." (John 15:5) She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. One fundamental fact all Christians know is that we are weak. Mankind as a whole is weak, and grows weaker from sin. Part of the conversion experience is realising that we are not strong, that we cannot save ourselves. Even if the world thinks we are strong emotionally or physically, we know that we are weak. Our sins have weakened us to death, and sin calls out to sin. We are saved when we realise our weak and sinful nature, and call upon God for forgiveness. Then He lends us His strength, and saves us by His grace. Our God is strong, stronger and more powerful than anything we can imagine. Yet He gave up His strength out of love for us. He took on humanity and died in our same
weakness, that His strength might be manifested in the world. He chooses to work through we poor weak creatures, "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (2 Corinthians 12:9) When we are born again in Christ, He lives in us. He gives us strength to face the world and all its problems. He gives us strength to serve Him, to keep away from sin. He gives us strength to face persecution, danger and death. Our God, our strength, our hope. "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Philippians 4:13) She perceivest that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night. As Christians, we perceive our own self-worth. False modesty is not acceptable to God, and neither is arrogance. He sees the entirety of our actions and abilities, without a veil of self-importance or self-hate such as we espouse. We know that we are worthy in God's eyes, that God loves us and calls us friends - and that is worth more than the world's esteem. We know that we have talents, God-given, and that because God gave them to us, it is not right to deny them so that we can look more humble than our brother. Like the Virtuous Woman, we acknowledge what we are good at, and give thanks for it. We also know that the merchandise we bear is good - for we bear the news and the life of Christ. We know, absolutely, how good the Good News is, for we have lived without it, and been changed by its message. For that message we will work all the hours we may, from the morning to the evening will we serve and praise our God. She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. In the modern world, few people sew their own clothes as did the women of Israel, long ago. We leave the sewing of our garments to poor people in the third world, and rarely pay heed to the conditions under which they must work. We should be aware that there is no shame in such work. Making the clothes of your household is a joy, though many people are unable to do so because of the lack of time. We have a duty to open our eyes to the suffering of the poor, for Jesus was among them, and is among them still. We must work for the workers who make our clothes to have honour, and decent wages. "Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts." (James 5:4 RSV) Sewing and weaving are worthwhile and relaxing tasks that we should perhaps consider taking up. We also weave the message of Truth into our lives and proudly show it to other men and women. We are weavers of God, sewing Him and His message close to our hearts. We serve the living God with all our talents and energy - for we owe Him and love Him a great deal.
Proverbs 31:20-24 KJV She stretcheth out her hand to the poor, yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.
We always keep in mind those who are worse off than us. We know from the Bible that God has a special interest in the poor, because they are so often forgotten or exploited. The Old Testament is full of God's commands to help the poor, and His judgement pon those who exploit or ill-treat them. "Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed; To turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless!" (Isaiah 10:1-2) God has an eye on the helpless, and their persecutors receive His punishment. Jesus reiterated this message. As Christians, we are duty-bound to aid those in need. Indeed, Christ said that whatever we do to them, we do to Him (Matthew 25:40). Perhaps if more people kept that in mind when they pass a beggar or a poor family the world would be a better place. We live our lives by Jesus' maxim: "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets" (Matthew 7:12). If we were needy, how would we wish to be treated? To be ignored, insulted, abused? or to be treated with dignity, respect and care? Sometimes, we concentrate solely on spiritual need, bringing the Gospel to those who do not know Christ. While that is vital, God has nowhere said 'feed the soul and leave the body to starve.' He provides for both body and soul - we should neither concentrate solely on the body or the soul - if we see the body as so unimportant we might as well help others receive Christ and then kill them. We won't do that, but that is the inevitable consequence if we preach the gospel but neglect to give food to those who are starving. Jesus combined the two when He preached, and then fed the 5,000. We should, too. The Gospel is an active movement, and our principles of justice and equality could change the world. Our mission to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and help those in need could reform the world that makes some poor and others rich. Instead of doling out a few pennies when we are reminded of others' need we could seek to make poverty impossible, helping others earn money, seeking out those in need stretching out our hands rather than waiting for them to be grabbed. If we as a Body did that, all over the world, what do you think the results would be? "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised. (Luke 4:18) She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet. Our hard work for our families can keep them from harm. God would not have us destitute ourselves in His service, but keep an awareness of what is necessary. We do not love money, or possessions for their own sakes, but understand that going cold in winter for the sake of it is not God's plan. We walk the line between covetousness and poverty; between buying for the love of possessions and needless poverty. We are better workers for God if we are not likely to catch pneumonia - He does not command us to do away with that which is necessary for our health and work. Spiritually, we are protected, too. The blood of Jesus Christ has covered us, and wiped our sins away by His grace, protecting us from the chill of a world without Him. Someone, somewhere worked that you might know Him - do you honour that servant of God?
She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple. God does not demand ugliness of us. We do not love our worldly possessions, knowing that He is greater and they will not last, but we are not forbidden them. The Virtuous Woman wore expensive clothes - purple was an expensive dye, which is why Kings and Emperors wore it. Like us, she was accounted worthy to wear purple, for she was a child and servant of the King above all Kings. With God's blessings she had earned money by her own work, and spent that money not frivolously, on luxuries to make her happy. There is nothing to stop us using our money in this way, showing ourselves to be honoured children. We are not slaves, and there is no virtue in self-made poverty, and when we spend and give we know we do not do it to make others impressed, but to make ourselves happy, and to show that we know the true value of money. As a provider of luxuries and necessities, but of a transient variety. We do not place our love on these things, but know their use. Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land. The people of God are called to different gifts, but all serve others. Our service comes in different shapes - for one it may be preaching, another providing food, another praising before others. Our service in one way may free another to perform the service they are called to. The Virtuous Woman was called to family service, and her work enabled her husband to fulfil his calling of leadership to his people to the best of his ability. Each person knows what God has called them to do, and does it, so that each may serve in the way that suits them and that they do best. She could have been called, like Deborah, to speak the words of God, but she was called to craftmanship, to the providing of money and food and clothing for herself and her family, and the needy who leaned on her. She served God willingly, and excellently, and through her others became known for their gifts, as she was known for hers. She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles to the merchant. The Virtuous Woman made good use of her time. She owned fields and made clothes to sell. She earned profits which were spent on her family and the poor. She used the talents she was given to help herself and others. Just so we use our abilities to earn money, and to provide for others. If we are gifted at writing we may earn money from it, and give pleasure and the Gospel message to others. God is not an exploiter of talents, He does not demand that we work without money, and so become destitute. He asks only that we think of others, and give to those in need, and do not think always of ourselves and how much we should have. The worker is worthy of his hire, but the Christian worker knows that others deserve his help too, others who perhaps cannot pay for it.
Proverbs 31:25-29 KJV Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.
We live our lives as Christians with God's strength supporting us. His grace clothes us and protects us against the world. When we give ourselves up to Him, knowing our weakness, He gifts us with strength to overcome the world. "God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty." (1 Corinthians 1:27) He became weak to make us strong when He became man, and lived, and died as one of us. Ours is a faith of paradoxes - when we know we are weak, and submit to God, then we become strong. Jesus overcame the world, and the god of this world, and when we accept Him He lives within us, and we act as His agents on earth. We commit ourselves to old-fashioned honour when we become Christians. Whereas the world may repay evil with evil, we must repay it with good. We forgive those who wound us, when the world would wound them back. Our 'yes' always means 'yes', and our 'no', 'no' - we do not lie or make pretence, but live by honour, honouring the name of God. We are promised our reward in times to come. God may bless us on earth, but we know that through His mercy we have gained a greater reward. We have eternal life, and will see God face to face, and live. We will rejoice when we see Him and live in the New Jerusalem at the end of days. We have a joyful faith - who could not be happy knowing that they will not die and will stand before the Highest with no sin on their soul, for He has willed it to be so?! Sometimes, we get bogged down in worries about continuing sin, and forget the glorious joy that is ours by right - we are the children of God, alive in Christ and freed from the world. So rejoice! "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-3) She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. The search for wisdom is life-long, and vital. By wisdom we begin to understand God, and live as He wills us. It is not something that we acquire once, and then need not seek any more. Nor is wisdom something only someone who has gone to university can possess. Everyone may gain wisdom, and every Christian should earnestly seek it. "The LORD by Wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens." (Proverbs 3:19) Wisdom is part of the trinity of our glorious God. Some people think She is the Holy Spirit, but myself, I think that Jesus is Wisdom. "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made." (John 1:3) He created the earth, and taught us the ways of God in His human life. He has sent to us another Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, by which we are born anew into the Kingdom of God. He teaches us all things, and helps us to understand God better. The Spirit speaks through us, allowing us to speak words of wisdom to the world. This is one of the gifts of the Spirit. "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." (James 1:5) When we receive Christ we promise to do His will. We replace hard justice with mercy; an eye for an eye with forgiveness, in the conscious knowledge that as we have been undeservedly forgiven, so we forgive others. We, like the Virtuous Woman, speak the law of kindness to one another - loving others, forgiving wrongs done to us, behaving with care not to harm others at all times. "But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy." (James 3:17)
She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Being idle is not in God's plan for us. We are in the world to work, and to work for God. That is not to say we cannot relax - that it, after all, necessary for us, but that idleness is wrong. It has dangerous consequences, as scripture warns: "Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy." (Ezekiel 16:49) If we are working in an office, for instance, then spending hours playing Solitaire is wrong. We must not cheat our employers, for Christians are counted honest people. We all serve another, whether that be a family, a congregation, an employer or God alone, and we should look to their needs if we are to be good servants. Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, a job so low only gentile servants did it. If God Almighty can serve men, then we should certainly not be too proud to do likewise. If we take on the work of a servant to another, we should serve to the best of our ability. When we accept Christ we undertake to serve Him, which makes idleness an insult to God. We serve God through other people - when we serve our family and friends we serve and bring glory to God. Is that not worth our full attention? Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. How wonderful for any mother to have her children say she is blessed of God! True and honest acknowledgement of your gifts, without false flattery or jealousy, is both rare and precious. Whether or not you have children, we all can work to ensure that others see our true gifts, and appreciate them by working hard and honestly. When we work to bring the Gospel to others we are blessed, and it is wonderful to know that God has blessed us and is working through us in this way. Many of our works are private, known to no one but ourselves, and those we served. God will see, and approve, but the human spirit can be cheered and strengthened when someone we respect sees our blessings, and acknowledges them. Think: do you know someone at church, in your life, who serves without a word of thanks? Have you thanked that person for what they have done for you? When the Church as a whole works and brings as much good as it can, it is an amazing sight. To realise that we are but one part of a much larger body, made of many thousands of Christians, is both awe-inspiring and humbling. Truly, we children of the Church, in looking on the fruits of the Body of Christ, can call her blessed. God has blessed the Body with many gifts and talents, in its members and in the work of the Holy Spirit among us, and though these are sometimes misused, they are generally used for the glory of God and with His blessing. When we act in this way, Jesus, the Bridegroom of the Church, praises us. He is ever watchful of our actions, and like the caring Saviour He is, He shows His approval through His Spirit when we act in accordance with His will. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." (Ephesians 1:3) Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. We strive to please God. Sometimes we fall short, but we always work to do His will. When we fail, we do not allow the experience to put us off trying again. We seek to be
virtuous men and women, acting in the love and will of God. We are not perfect, but we have the Helper, the Holy Spirit to aid us in our quest to serve God more perfectly. We strive to deserve His praise and patiently wait for His coming. Dear Father in heaven, Help us in our quest to serve You, bear us up when our spirits are low, and give us the will to carry on. Your will is always perfect Lord, better than man can imagineour only desire is to carry out Your wishes. Help us be like the Virtuous Womanhard-working, wise and fair; help us stand steadfastly in our aim. We thank You for Your perfect intentions, Your love and Your help; we ask that Your Spirit works in us and that our actions perform Your plan. In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, AMEN!
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