Getting Our Priorities Straight RBC Chapel November 10, 2010
Proverbs 31:10 • Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. (NKJV) • A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. (NIV) • Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies. (NLT) • An excellent wife who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. (NASB)
The Hebrew word translated “virtuous,” “noble character,” “excellent,” or “virtuous and capable” is chayil.It appears in Proverbs 31:3: “Do not spend your chayil (strength) on women…”
Chayil is a common word in the Old Testament, used 246 times:It’s used 3 times of a woman (Ruth 3:11, Prov 12:4, 31:10), but in most other cases it describes soldiers or armies. It’s basic meaning is strength.
A chayil person (man or woman) has an inner strength to carry through on responsibilities and to overcome obstacles.Proverbs 31:10 is about this kind of person: strong, valiant, committed.
Proverbs 31:11-12 • Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. (NIV) • The heart of her husband safely trusts her, so he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life. (NKJV, similar in NASB)
The first characteristic of a person of strength is that you are TRUSTWORTHY.Are you a trustworthy person? Can you be trusted to do good, not harm, all the days of your life?
Proverbs 31:13-18 A strong, committed person is also SHREWD: someone who is intelligent, wise or clever. This shrewd person doesn’t take advantage of other people, but knows how to take advantage of opportunities. Shrewdness looks like this in verses 13-18:
Proverbs 31:13 “She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.” The shrewd person chooses his or her tasks and materials with care and then works with them with delight.
Proverbs 31:14-15 “She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her serving women.” The shrewd person looks ahead and prepares for the future, not just for the present.
Proverbs 31:16 “She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.” The shrewd person thinks through his/her projects carefully and plans how to carry them out successfully.
Proverbs 31:17 “She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks” (NIV) “…she makes her arms strong” (NASB) “…She strengthens her arms” (NKJV) The shrewd person improves his/her knowledge and skills in order to work smarter, not harder.
Proverbs 31:18 “She sees that her trading is profitable; and her lamp does not go out at night” (NIV) “She perceives that her merchandise is good…” (NKJV) The shrewd person makes quality products that can be sold without shame or fear.
Proverbs 31:19-20 “She stretches out her hands to the distaff, and her hands grasp the spindle. She extends her hand to the poor, And she stretches out her hands to the needy.” (NASB)
Shrewdness must always be tempered by generosity. Otherwise, it becomes greed.
Proverbs 31:21 “When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.” The wise person of strength is diligent in caring for the needs of others, even when it snows in the Middle East (!).
Proverbs 31:22 “She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.” This wise person is also diligent in caring for his/her own needs.
Proverbs 31:23 “Her husband is respected at the city gate where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.” This wise person’s handling of life earns her husband respect among the elders of the city.
Proverbs 31:24 “She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.” We see this wise person at work producing income for her family in order to help others.
Proverbs 31:25 “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” This person’s diligence is such that she does not have to worry about the future.
Proverbs 31:26 “She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue” (NIV) “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue” (NASB) The strong wise person always speaks wisely and kindly. He/she not only walks the walk, but also talks the talk.
Wisdom throughout the book of Proverbs is about making wise decisions in the thick of life. In Proverbs 8:35-36, Lady Wisdom tells us that those who love her will live, but those who sin against her wrong their own souls. Wisdom is the stuff of everyday life, but it is also the stuff of life and death.
Proverbs 31:30 “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but the person who fears the Lord is to be praised.” The bottom line: The wise person knows the difference between what passes and what lasts, and chooses to live for what is eternal.
The “fear of the Lord” is a reverent understanding of who God is and where we stand in relation to him.
Our awareness of God at work even in tragedy gives us a different way to see life and see pain. It teaches us the difference between what passes and what lasts. Knowing God sustains us in our darkest hours.
But knowing God also sustains us in daily life:It isn’t easy to be trustworthy, but God is there and sees that we can be trusted.It isn’t convenient to be shrewd, but God sees our work and is honored by it.
It may be tough to be generous, but God calls us to share what we have.It’s not fun to be diligent, but we work to glorify our Maker.It’s not easy to speak wisely and kindly all the time, but God hears what we say.
One ship sails east, another westOn the self-same wind that blows.It’s the set of the sail and not the galeThat determines where each ship goes. [Ella Wheeler Wilcox]