How does the Proverbs 31 Woman inspire our vision for 2020 and the years ahead? Was she someone that we can identify with today? What is it about her that intrigues us, three thousand years after Solomon wrote the book of Proverbs? What kind of a woman was she?
If you’ve ever wondered whether God has designed a place for you to express your talents, then you need look no further than Proverbs 31 to encounter the woman whom God sees as more precious than jewels. She is an example of a woman who is active and fulfilled in every area of her life - in relationships, in the home, and in the marketplace. Her ministry flows from wisdom and kindness and her hands are open to the poor and needy. She is creative, strong and cheerful because she knows that she is blessed. Her reputation is dignified, and her work is productive and valued.
We may think that this paragon of virtue is too good to be true but remember what we studied in Part Two of our series. This laudable lady had also drunk deeply from the well of grief and remorse. She understood pain and suffering, but she knew the joy of redemption and God’s unmerited favor. In so many ways she is like us. And in many more ways, she is exactly what God designed us to be.
She seems so fulfilled! How can we be like her? What does it take for us to discover and manifest God’s specific design for each of us?
Beloveds, it’s not about who we were, or what we’ve done, or how hard we are willing to work. Bathsheba didn’t go from the pit to the palace and from pity to praise overnight. And she didn’t become the Proverbs 31 Woman on her own steam.
She underwent a process of maturity from being the woman who cheated on her husband Uriah, which resulted in his being murdered, to being the woman whom Solomon described as an excellent wife, who does her husband David good and not harm, all the days of her life (v. 10-12). This wasn’t due to a simple change of location or spouse, but of a fundamental metamorphosis of character.
A transformative third party had to step in to effect this change. King David and Queen Bathsheba had to surrender to a higher authority, and place someone who was without sin on the throne of their hearts to govern them.
Of course, you already know that I am talking about our Lord Jesus, and that for us to be fulfilled in any way at all, we must first make him and him alone the Lord of our lives.
I’m also talking about something in addition to that. When we look at the Proverbs 31 Woman as an example of how much harder we should be working, and of how far short we always seem to fall no matter how much we are willing to do – then we are looking at her through veiled eyes.
She is not an example of what we should be doing. She is an example of what we could be receiving from God, if only we would settle down and let him manifest the unique blueprint he’s knit together in each one of us.
God made a way for Bathsheba to become the Proverbs 31 Woman. He made a way for David to become the husband and the king whose wisdom was known at the gates and who sat in authority among the elders of the land (Proverbs 31:23). And God wants to open that same way for us, not just for this year, but for all our years into eternity.
In Part One of this series we explained how God defined a plan for each one of us from before the creation of the world. God designed each of us to express the plan he knitted together in us, so that our good works would give him glory. God desires for his glory to shine into the world through his people, like a light on a hill.
King David wrote in Psalm 37:3-5, “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act” (ESV).
The difference between Bathsheba and the Proverbs 31 Woman that she became is that Bathsheba followed the desires – or we could say, the lusts – of her “natural” or earthly heart, while the redeemed and sanctified Proverbs 31 Woman followed the desires of God’s heart for her. When we trust in the Lord, he gives us, not the lustful desires of our earthly hearts, but he aligns our hearts with his heart, so that our desires and God’s desires are a match. When the desires of our hearts are aligned with the desires of God’s heart, then the work that we do in the world is fulfilling for us and brings him glory. God makes a way for us through the alignment of our hearts with his heart and our desires with his desires.
God created the first man and woman in his image - to be in relationship with himself, to demonstrate his character, and to reflect his glory. The image of God in mankind was tainted by the fall, but God’s image in us was restored through our new birth in Jesus Christ.
As image-bearers, we are designed to express God’s nature through what he has fitted together in us as our giftings – the talents and abilities that God built into us from before the beginning of the world. God designed the eye to see, the ear to hear, the heart to pump blood, the feet to travel, the skin to defend us from outside invaders. Each piece of our bodies has its perfect part to play, designed to support the function of the whole.
We are the Body of Christ on earth, and each of us has been endowed by God with certain abilities. We have each been provided with the talents necessary to glorify our Creator, and to live out our own unique callings.
Knowing what God’s call is for our lives is not something that we have to struggle to figure out. When we examine our examples in Proverbs 31, we see that the man and woman described there are going about their day-to-day lives, doing all the things that are set before them to do, without worrying or complaining. The work that they do is fulfilling, whether it is in the home, the marketplace, or in service, because they are fully utilizing the gifts and talents that God placed in them. God placed unique gifts and talents in each of us so that by expressing them, we would give him glory and enjoy life more abundantly (John 10:10).
How does Solomon’s description of the Proverbs 31 Woman and her family present us with an example of the desires of God’s heart for us? Here are some examples:
Have you always dreamed of becoming a chef? See Proverbs 31:14-15, “She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens” (ESV).
Do you work in farming or real estate? See Proverbs 31:16, “She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.”
Are you interested in promoting good health and wellness (or are you an athlete)? See Proverbs 31:17, “She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.”
Are you skilled at working with your hands? See Proverbs 31:13,19, “She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands…She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle.”
Are you involved in ministry? See Proverbs 31:20, “She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.”
Fancy a career in meteorology (or science)? See Proverbs 31:21, “She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household is clothed in scarlet [or in double-thickness].”
Are you interested in design? See Proverbs 31:22, “She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple.”
Do you dream of running a business? See Proverbs 31:24, “She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant.”
Do you find joy in teaching? See Proverbs 31:26, “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”
Are you a homemaker? See Proverbs 31:27, “She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”
Are you raising wonderful children? See Proverbs 31:28, “Her children rise up and call her blessed…”
Are you a newlywed, or celebrating a golden anniversary? “…her husband also, and he praises her.”
Can you envision a career in law or politics? King David is our example in Proverbs 31:23, “Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.”
Do you love composing and performing music? David is our example again! For inspiration, spend some time in the Book of Psalms!
And finally, if you feel called to work in writing and social media (like we do here at Speak Comfort!), take note of Proverbs 31:18, “She perceives that her merchandise is profitable, Her lamp does not go out at night.” (lol!)
As you can see, whatever the desires of our hearts, God’s plan has got us covered! The beauty of this is that we don’t have to excel at everything, but God has a blessing and an anointing for the unique gifts and talents that he intends for us to use. And we don’t have to wrack our brains to figure out what God’s call for us is about. All we must do is stop and recognize where our talents are and what brings us the most joy.
As Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (ESV).
As our series continues, we will look at how God gives us provision, equipping, and anointing for the work he created us to do.