Dear radio friends,
I want to thank the Reformed Witness Hour and you, the listeners, for the opportunity of speaking to you the next few months. It is always a privilege to share the gospel in whatever way possible. During my brief time on the Reformed Witness Hour this time I would like to address the place and work of women and men in the home and the church of Jesus Christ.
As Pastor Kleyn’s sermons pointed out, we live in the last days, the days prior to Christ’s second coming. The apostle Peter asks a pertinent question of us in II Peter 3:11: “Seeing then, that all these things shall be dissolved [that is, seeing that everything in this world is soon to come to an end], what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness?” What kind of person ought we to be? We know that this universe is hastening toward the coming of the day of God. We know everything in this life will perish. How ought we to live in this world? Peter answers: we must be holy in conversation and godliness. That idea is going to be our focus as we consider first a short series of broadcasts on the virtuous woman, followed by another on the upright man.
Today we study together Proverbs 31:30. Let me read that verse a moment: “Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.” We are going to apply this verse to believing women in general—not just to a wife and mother in the home, as is done in the context of this verse. We will have opportunity to do that in another sermon, but not today. Today we ask the question of believing women of the church, young and old alike, “what characterizes you as opposed to the women of the wicked world?” And what better instruction can we receive than that of a godly woman. Solomon’s mother, Bathsheba, taught Solomon the words he now records for us in Proverbs 31. In other words, the divine, inspired, infallible instruction of this chapter was written from the viewpoint of a woman in Zion. It contains no male bias. It is not slanted in the direction of a man. It is the clear testimony of a believer led by the Holy Spirit to write God’s Word. And the women of the church do well to heed it.
THE WOMAN THAT FEARS JEHOVAH
I. Her Identity
Solomon asks a question in Proverbs 31:10: “Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies.” Obviously, a virtuous woman is hard to find. For that reason, if she is found, her price is far beyond the most precious jewel. She is priceless since she is so rare and so valuable. Indeed, a virtuous woman in today’s world is a rare gem. Yet, those who are not gem collectors are not able to determine the value of a precious stone even if they see one. For that reason, God Himself teaches us what makes up a virtuous woman. Our text identifies for us this woman. “Favor,” we are told, “is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman that fears Jehovah,” she is that virtuous woman! The one criteria that determines the true beauty, the true value of a woman is that she fears Jehovah. This is what makes her precious, priceless. She fears God. The one outstanding feature of a woman who is beyond price is that she fears God. This beauty is not outward. It reveals itself outwardly, but fearing God is rooted in the heart—it belongs to the hidden man of the heart.
Peter explains this in I Peter 3:3, 4: “whose adoring let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” In other words, the fear of God is that which God by His grace and through the Spirit of Christ works in the heart—the spiritual center and seat of a woman. It is a work of God in an elect woman that comes with her salvation. There is no fear of God found in the heart of the unbeliever.
What is this fear that we read of here in Scripture? The Hebrew term for fear actually speaks of “trembling.” When we contemplate who God is, then we bow before Him and tremble. So great is God’s dignity and power, so great is His majesty and glory that we tremble before Him.
Our world is void of this fear of God. There are people who blatantly mock, criticize, and spit out hatred toward God. We hear such hatred from the mouths of extremely popular talk show hosts. It is either that or people of this world find God humorous. They make God and Jesus Christ the objects of their jokes. But most people in the world today reveal no fear of God by simply ignoring what God commands in His Word and doing what they want with no fear of punishment.
The virtuous woman, however, is one whose heart has become the abode of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit has sanctified her in the blood of Christ. She is righteous and holy. She lives out of a true faith. And in that faith she knows God as Jehovah, the sovereign God who reigns over heaven and earth, the God who has called all things into existence and who upholds this creation and governs it to fulfill His sovereign will and good pleasure. He is the judge of all the earth before whom every man and woman must give an account. He sets the standards and demands of us to walk in His ways. And the virtuous woman fears that God. She stands in awe before Him and trembles at His power, majesty, and holiness. This fear of God determines her life in this world too.
Hand in hand with the fear of God is the keeping of His commandments. We read in Ecclesiastes 12:13, “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” The virtuous woman in whom God has worked a knowledge of who He is knows her duty before God. This is how her godliness, her piety, her fear of God shows itself in her life. She does not walk in wickedness, but she walks in a way that pleases the God whom she fears. I know there are many women today who will claim they fear Jehovah. There are many who speak of their love for God. But here is the ultimate test: do they know and seek to walk in God’s commandments and Word? Do they read God’s Word, know God’s Word, and then strive to conform their lives to God’s Word? Are such women more concerned with what man says or with what God says in His Word? Do they follow after the standards set by the world and society or do they direct their lives to follow after the Scriptures? There is a corresponding relationship between the fear of God and the knowledge of Him and how this comes to manifestation or fruition in life. The woman who fears God, strives to walk in God’s ways. And this is what makes such a woman both rare and priceless! There are not many women around like that anymore. The examples of unbelieving women abound and are in our face all the time, but the examples of believing women are few in today’s world.
Now, God’s Word in the proverb before us gives those women who are virtuous something to think about when it comes to favor and beauty. We learn that favor is deceitful and beauty is vain. Notice, God does not say that favor and beauty are sin, but they are deceitful and vain.
How true this is! Favor is deceitful. The term “favor” refers to the words spoken or actions used by a woman in order to catch the eye of a man or men. They are words or actions meant to win the favor or acceptance of others. It might be flirtatious mannerisms or words. It may be sweet, sappy flattery or superficial laughter. It may be mere friendliness and attentiveness.
That is what is meant by favor. Solomon writes that such favor is deceitful. Not that it always is, of course. A woman that fears Jehovah must reveal genuine friendliness. She must be attentive, she must show concern for others. She must speak kindly to and about others. She must be sweet and happy. But she does not do this in order to win the favor of others. She does not feign these things. There are so many women in our society, however, that do! The Word of God here makes reference to the women of this world who are loud, gaudy, bold in their advancements. Isaiah in chapter 3:16 describes this type of woman: “the daughters of Zion are haughty and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go and making a tinkling with their feet.” These were women of Zion, that is, the church who had become exactly like their heathen counterparts! These women were haughty, and walked with stretched forth necks as a peacock and with wanton eyes. What a perfect description of the women of fame in our society—women over which so many young women and men swoon! Their favor is deceitful! It is meant to deceive others into thinking they are a gem when in reality they are a worthless stone. Their actions and words are meant to catch someone else. But they are deceiving, and many a foolish young man has fallen snare to this deceitful woman!
Solomon adds here in our text, that beauty is vain. The word for vain here is empty and fleeting. Outward beauty is here today and gone tomorrow. It fades. Time takes it away. If a woman or a man thinks that love will be found in outward beauty and sexual attraction, they have not discovered love. A woman can be drop-dead gorgeous on the outside but sour as a lemon on the inside. She places so much emphasis on outward beauty she becomes vain. And meanwhile, the uglier she becomes on the inside. And that is what is happening to so many women in our society.
Again, this does not make outward beauty a sin. God gives a natural outward beauty to many God-fearing women. Neither does it mean that a woman may not modestly and carefully adorn herself. But God’s Word instructs us in I Timothy 2:9, 10 that a godly woman adorns herself with shamefacedness, with sobriety, and with good works.
Concentrate on what you carry in your heart, women of the church of Jesus Christ! Exercise yourselves in godliness. Mothers, teach your daughters and your sons the true beauty of that woman who fears God. A virtuous woman is far above the price of rubies! She is a rare jewel! Parents, shape and hone your daughters into those rare jewels!
II. Her Virtues
This, then, is the identity of a virtuous woman: she fears Jehovah. That she fears God is who she is. But out of that fear of God flow forth the virtues of such a godly woman. We are told in verses 25 and 26 of Proverbs 31, “Strength and honor are her clothing;…she openeth her mouth with wisdom and in her tongue is the law of kindness.” These are the virtues of a virtuous woman. Strength and honor are her clothing. She is clothed with strength. A virtuous woman is not a weak, helpless, incapable creature who is unable to make it on her own in this life. Neither is she the weak, impotent, and incompetent vessel in a marriage who is entirely dependent on the strength of her husband. Strength is her clothing! And if there is anything that Proverbs 31 teaches us about a virtuous woman it is that she is important in the sight of God and in the church in her God-given role as a woman. Look at what she does for her family and household. Look too at what she does for the church of Jesus Christ both as a single and as a married woman. She is clothed with ability, talents, and gifts, all of which she uses in the service of the God whom she fears. She fears Jehovah, and it is in that strength that she goes forth in this life. She can do all things through Christ who strengthens her. She is able to war the warfare of faith in this life. She is able to stand against the fiery darts of the devil and to overcome in the blood of the Lamb.
And this too is her honor. She is clothed in honor too. She is not a lowly servant, she is not a slave, she is not a no-count. She is not to be abused as is often done in wicked and godless homes. She is honorable. She must be held in high esteem; she must be treated with respect in the calling God has given her in the home, in the church, and in society.
But the honor this passage speaks of is also of a spiritual nature. A woman that fears Jehovah is clothed with honor. She is not the wanton, lewd, deceitful woman of this world. She is not obsessed with her own beauty. She is not one who is out to satisfy her own wants and desires. She loves God. She loves His Word and commandments. She seeks the welfare of others. She is humbled by her own sins and acknowledges that her worth is found only in the cross of Jesus Christ. She knows from God’s Word her place in the home and in the church and is happy and content there. And for this reason, she is most honorable and respected.
Words of wisdom and kindness are found in her mouth. Ah, yes, a woman that fears God is characterized by this virtue: she is wise. She knows the Word of God. It is in her heart. It is a living Word. That Word imparts wisdom to her ways. She is able to determine what to do in the various circumstances in life because the Word is her guide. But more, she speaks words of wisdom to others. She does not involve herself in the foolish prattle of the wicked. She is not vain in her conceits, talking only about herself. She is not a bragger or self-centered. She is ready to speak words of instruction and warning. The words of encouragement are in her mouth. And this is true because she is also kind.
Do words of kindness characterize you, women of Zion? Let all malice and bitterness be put far from you, the Bible teaches us. Do you fear Jehovah? Are you a virtuous woman? Then this virtue must be found in you too. We must be willing to think no evil and speak no evil of a fellow saint. Even to those who are outside of the church, words of humble wisdom and kindness must be found in what we say. The tongue no man can tame. It is an unruly evil. But Christ has overcome our sinful flesh and the power of sin in us. Let not sin reign in your mortal bodies. We hold our tongues in check and speak kind, gentle, encouraging words about and to others. This is a virtue. And these are the virtues, now, that must characterize the women of the church. When they do, then you are the precious ruby that is spoken of here in this chapter. You are priceless.
III. Her Praise
Let me read the proverb we consider one more time: “Favor is deceitful and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.” The woman that fears the Lord shall be praised! Literally, that term praise means to be bright and clear. When the virtues of a woman that fears God shine forth in her life, then others will speak of them. They shall shine forth brightly. She will be honored, adored, and thanked for what she does. This is her praise. The virtues themselves give cause for praise. In the home, fathers and children rise up and praise their wife and mother—at least, I hope they do! I pray that we do not have husbands and children that simply use their wives and mothers and never recognize what they do. And never a word of praise and thanks? What a wretched husband and children those are! In the church, women must be praised for their labor and for the invaluable work they do. Where would our families and churches be without godly women who devote themselves to our welfare?
But that is not the all-important praise that must be given to the virtuous woman. It is the praise that God Himself in His Word bestows on those who fear Him. God praises you, godly women. He is pleased with you. You are His cherished possession! Thank you grandmothers, mothers, and single women for what you do for us. The church could not exist without you. Your role is invaluable. And, indeed, your price is far above rubies.
Dear radio friends,