Let’s jump back to Proverbs 31 for just a moment. What is it about the wife of noble character? What is it about her that sets her apart from the other wives? Right at the end of the chapter, she’s told, “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” Doing noble things is not the same as being a wife of noble character. What’s the difference? What does it say in the next verse? “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”
A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. That is the difference maker. That is the difference between doing noble things, and being a person of character. The ideal that God speaks into our lives through the Proverbs 31 woman is a description of a woman who fears the Lord.
This is where some of those inductive Bible study habits we talked about before can continue to come in very usefully, especially in terms of word study, when we run into a word in the Bible that rubs us the wrong way. What does it mean to be a woman who “fears the Lord”? If God is a God of love, why should we “fear” Him? That's the kind of biblical word usage that can get an uppity Americanized gal like myself all up in arms. This woman lives in fear of no one, mister!
See, we tend to read our interpretations right into the text without question, and that’s where we miss the boat on a lot of Scriptural relevance. Why would we consult a concordance for a word like fear? We know darn well what fear means.
But... that’s kind of the problem. We force our understanding onto the text, instead of allowing the text to speak to us in the context of the original language. The word fear in Proverbs 31:30 in today’s Bible is the closest we can get to the original Hebrew word yare’. Most of us don’t speak Hebrew, but with a brief survey of biblical usage, we can quickly see our word fear used in different contexts. The thing is, we actually have to look at the word usage in order to see the contexts forming, and that seems like way too much work for some of us.