Today we will be looking at the topic of vigilance, and how our collective resolve to pursue the goals of the kingdom demonstrates our character as God’s people.
If Proverbs 31 is viewed as the ideal for all of God’s people, we can be encouraged to collectively attain its lofty ambitions.
The thirty-first chapter of Proverbs contains a famous passage providing the characteristics of a “noble” or “virtuous” woman. Many a wife has reviewed this passage with trepidation, as the ideal set forth in these verses can indeed be intimidating.
However, instead of describing the ideal woman and holding wives to an unreachable standard, this passage can be viewed from a different, and perhaps more attainable, perspective that aligns with the middle eastern propensity to couch word pictures and ideas in parabolic language. When viewed as a metaphor for the people of God, a whole new set of ideals come into focus.
Especially in the prophets, God has revealed himself as desiring his people as a husband desires the pure love of a faithful bride. However, he is bitterly disappointed when that love is not returned to him, but is instead wasted on the idolatry of the nations around them.
Hosea 6:4 – “’O Israel and Judah, what should I do with you?’ asks Yahweh. ‘For your love vanishes like the morning mist and disappears like dew in the sunlight.'”
But he holds out the promise of renewed faithfulness and marital fidelity for the people of Zion.
Isaiah 62:4-5 – “Never again will [Jerusalem] be called ‘The Forsaken City’ or ‘The Desolate Land.’ Your new name will be ‘The City of God’s Delight’ and ‘The Bride of God,’ for Yahweh delights in you and will claim you as his bride. Your children will commit themselves to you, O Jerusalem, just as a young man commits himself to his bride. Then God will rejoice over you as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride.”
This theme is echoed all the way into the New Testament in the book of Revelation:
Revelation 21:2-3 – “And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.'”
If this noble woman in Proverbs is viewed as the ideal for all of God’s people as his metaphorical and prophetic bride, then it begins to make sense of the overall passage which lines out the expectations God has for his people, not just a list of unattainable objectives for wives.
One of the notable characteristics God expects of his people is the vigilance with which this woman watches over her family, that nothing is outside of her purview.
Proverbs 31:15, 18, 27 “She rises while it is still night and provides food for her household and tasks for her servant-girls. … She sees that her gain is good, and her lamp is not extinguished at night. … She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness.”
This woman of the Proverbs carefully looks ahead to the needs of her family, identifying dangers ahead of time, like a watchman on the walls of a city. She works with diligence throughout the day and even into the night. She ensures her family is fed and cared for, and all of the servants have appropriate tasks for the work at hand.
The vigilance that she exhibits is contrasted with laziness, or more literally the eating of “the bread of idleness,” as one who sits idle, concerned only with their own appetite and nothing else. In today’s terminology, this individual might be labeled a deadbeat or a slacker. However, as we have the opportunity to view the passage in its entirety of what God expects of his people, we can then become aware that his goal for us is not to remain trapped in the idleness of our own selfish passions, but to be ever watchful, caring for the welfare of those of our “family.”
Proverbs 31:25 “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.”
She is represented by both strength and dignity. If there are two words that I would long for how believers should be perceived in this day and age, it would be that we are strong and dignified. Yet, that is currently far from the case. Most non-believers, at least in America today, look on believers with a sense of scorn and derision for what has been labeled “backward thinking” and “antiquated morality.” Yet they are quick to forget that the antiquated morality of believers is the glue that has held Western society together for millennia. It is only in recent decades that it has become in danger of being expunged for the sake of the more politically correct, culturally-driven designations of tolerance and understanding regarding self-appointed marginalized groups.
In regards to this woman of Proverbs, it is also stated that she “laughs at the time to come.” This beautiful sentiment of being care-free from the challenges of this world is unfortunately woefully lacking among most believers today. Congregations instead fret unnecessarily over the divisive condition of the world, rather than seeing the larger picture of how God wants to use his people to modify the world for good, and to unify a people for himself. To laugh at the time to come means that we should become so impervious to the negative cycle of sensationalism in our social and media platforms that we can only see the good growing out of the increase of the kingdom in this world. We should be able to laugh at the time to come because we are prepared for any earthly eventuality, not in the sense of prepping for apocalyptic demise, but in relegating our physical life and belongings as expendable for the cause of God’s greater purpose. It is only when we begin to loosen our grip on material things that we can be freed up for the will of God to be accomplished in our lives, and with this freedom comes a sense of joy.
Therefore, when looked at as a list of objectives for individual wives, Proverbs 31 can be intimidating and unattainable. However, viewed as an ideal for all believers, a collective attainment of its lofty ambitions suddenly becomes more applicable and practical.
John Gill writes, “her price is far above rubies; showing …the esteem she is had in by him; who reckons her as his portion and inheritance; as preferable to the purest gold, and choicest silver; as his peculiar treasure; as his jewels, and more valuable than the most precious stones.” We would do well to imbue our lives with her character of vigilance for her family in respect and honor of the one who holds us in such high esteem as his very own.
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