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.”
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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.
The woman of Proverbs 31 is not cowering in terror of a tyrant. She is honoring her Maker with the mindful reverence of a godly, respectful life. This is what a woman of God looks like.
And as the bride of Christ in our New Testament faith, Church, we had better be aspiring to be a wife of noble character.
A noble character finds identity in Christ. You want to become a person of character? Become a person who finds identity in Christ. Do what Ruth did. Do what the Berean Jews did. When Ruth lost everything, she didn’t go running back to her own people or the old life or the things she knew before, like her sister-in-law did. She chose to stay with God’s people, and she chose God as her God. The Berean Jews didn’t resist change or reject new insights into their biblical views, like a lot of their fellow Jews did. They received the good news of Christ with eagerness. They tested the preacher’s words against the Scriptures they were studying for themselves.
So whether you’re a wife or a mother or a single woman, whether you’re a husband or a father or a single man, a single parent or a sibling or a child, a believer or a non-believer or an undecided prospector, there is an application point for us in this. Are you sticking with God’s people, even if you feel like a foreigner in someone else’s land right now? Are you examining the Scriptures every day to see how your leaders line up? Or are you just going with the flow and wondering why other people seem to have more character than you do? Why you can’t seem to get past these feelings of failure or inadequacy? Like circumstances and other people and bad luck just seem to be against you?
A noble character finds identity in Christ. A person who finds identity in Christ is a person of noble character. Look at the people, places, and things in your life. Where are you finding your identity? Who are you allowing to tell you who you are? When life pulls the rug out from under you, where do you go? Do you go running back to the old life, the old way, the old crowd? Do you turn back to what is comfortable and familiar, whatever seems the safest or most logical at the time? Or do you leave your identity on the side of the road and find identity in Christ?
Has God spoken an ideal into your life? Are you seeing what it can mean to live a life of character and integrity and faithfulness? What does that mean in your life this week? What does that mean to you today? In the next hour? Right this minute? When we read through that passage in Proverbs 31, this is not a male/female thing—this is a character issue. Does that passage make you feel energized and inspired and free to live up to your potential, or does it remind you of all the places in life where you fall short? Where you should be or could be or would be living up to your potential, if only? If only those circumstances were different, if not for those other people, if only you had a little less bad luck?
Find your identity in Christ, and He will redeem your situation. He redeemed my situation. Six years ago, I never in a million years would have imagined I’d ever step foot in a church again, much less pursue a ministry education or teach the Word of God to you today. And I’m not saying we’re all called to minister, but you know what else? Remember that friend from my story? The one who read me the prayer of Saint Francis and gave me the Life Application Study Bible that changed my life?
I never saw that coming. I wasn't looking for a husband... I was looking for God. My friend and I didn’t set out to live a good life so good things would come our way. We weren’t looking for a new relationship to redeem us—we were tired of relationships, heartsick over our losses. We found our identity in Christ, as individuals and then later as a couple. And Christ has redeemed our situation, in ways we could not imagine.
I can’t promise your story will go just like ours, or that you’ll live happily ever after. But I can promise you that if you find your identity in Christ, He will redeem your situation, in ways you cannot imagine today.
Has He spoken an ideal into your life? What could that look like for you? What could it mean for your marriage? Your parenting? Your work and leadership? Your church and community? How different can life be for you if you allow the Lord to speak a change in you today?
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