Sunday, March 29, 2009

Virtuous women are weak--like fragile ornaments, right?

A Reflection of the Lord

Leslie Basham: Virtuous women are weak--like fragile ornaments, right? Here's Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: The world has it all wrong. The godly woman is a strong woman. She is able. She is valiant. She is a woman of valor, strong character, lots of skills and a heart full of compassion.

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, March 5th. We've distorted what the Bible has to say about virtue. Virtuous women are not doormats. They're pillars. They support what is right and godly. That's the kind of woman God describes in His Word, especially in Proverbs 31. She is counter-cultural. Here's Nancy.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We're looking at what one commentator has called "a looking glass for ladies," Proverbs 31. Matthew Henry, that commentator, said, "We should desire to look into and to dress ourselves by it."

We've been reminding each other that even though this lengthy, detailed description can seem overwhelming and intimidating to those of us who still have feet of clay and are not yet glorified, yet we ought to be encouraged. We know that as women of God--if we're allowing God to work in our lives--He is making us into this kind of woman who reflects the beauty and the image of the Lord Jesus, for indeed it really is His portrait that we're looking at here. We're seeing His heart, His character, His beauty in this picture.

So we pick up at verse 10 and we read that very familiar verse: "Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies." Who can find a virtuous wife? Some of your translations say, "An excellent wife." Some of them say, "A wife of noble character."

That word virtuous or excellent has to do with strength. It's often translated army or wealth. It's talking about a woman of moral strength--a woman whose character is strong. A woman who has godly character is a strong woman.

The world would have us think that a godly woman is a weak woman, who just gets run over and she never has any opinions, never has any thoughts, never says anything. She just meekly smiles and looks up adoringly into her husband's eyes. She has no brains, no abilities. This is how the world would caricature the godly woman.

But the world has it all wrong. The godly woman is a strong woman. She is able. She is valiant. She is a woman of valor. She is a woman of strong character and lots of skills and a heart full of compassion.

Now the New King James Version that I just read says, "This is a virtuous wife." But the word translated wife there in some of your translations reads woman. That's also an acceptable translation. We're reading here about a woman who happens to be a wife. It becomes obvious as we see her described. But the word translated wife or woman here is just a word for female.

I want to point that out because this passage is not just for married women, although as we'll see this woman is in fact obviously married. But whether married or single, you and I can be excellent, virtuous women.

Now if you are married, let me point out that this woman is a wife before she is a mother. You say, "Well, duh. That's obvious." But you know, it's not "duh" today. Those of you who have a husband and children know how easily you can be a mother before you're a wife. I don't mean chronologically, but I mean in terms of priority and what consumes your time and your effort and your energy.

But it's important, I think, that we notice in this passage that her relationship with her husband is what is highlighted first. The children come later; Not only in order but in order of priority. Her most important human relationship is with her husband.

Now those who come from a more feminist way of thinking don't particularly like this emphasis on her husband. The thinking of our world is that women should not have to be identified in terms of their role as a wife or as a mother--not identified as related to their husband or their children.

But I want you to notice that here is a woman who delights to be a wife. She does have her own personality, her own gifts and her own strengths, but she is inseparably bound as one to her husband. She is not ashamed of that. She is not embarrassed to be his wife. She is not embarrassed to have her achievements stated in those terms.

One of the things I so appreciate about my mother is that she has always loved being Mrs. Arthur DeMoss. My dad has been with the Lord for now 22 years or more. She was married to him for 22 years before he went to heaven. She loved it then; she loves it now.

Now she has her own name. Her name happens also to be Nancy. She also delights to be known as Mrs. Arthur DeMoss. She delights to be known as my mother and the mother of her seven children. It's a quality of a woman of virtue that she appreciates being known in connection with her God-given roles as a wife or as a mother.

As we read through this passage over the next days and weeks, we're going to see that this woman has a strength of character that produces certain other strengths in her life. Her abilities, her habits, her lifestyle flow out of this strength of character--this virtue, this excellence that characterizes this woman.

Remember that this passage is the words of King Lemuel recalling the words that his mother taught him when he was a young prince. His mother taught him, "Son, this is what to look for in a wife. Look for strength of character and heart and walk with God."

You'll notice what is absent from this description largely, and that is physical traits. We're seeing the priority here in selecting a mate. You need to be teaching this to your sons--to look for a woman who has a heart for God.

Now there is no sin in her being physically beautiful. But if that is the primary thing that attracts him to his wife-to-be, this passage is going to tell us that beauty will not last. It won't last till old age, and it may not last till then. She may get in a car accident and have her face disfigured. What will you have then in your wife? Will you have a woman of character, the kind of character that endures?

I got a voice mail last week from a man who listens to Revive Our Hearts. He identified himself as a single male. It was such a gracious, sweet-spirited voice mail that he sent. He said, "Thank you for Revive Our Hearts. God has been teaching me through this program the importance of choosing a wife who is godly, of looking for a woman with godly character."

When we think about being an excellent or a virtuous woman, a woman of great spiritual strength and character, there is a sense in which that is a past accomplishment. When we become a child of God, we are in Christ. As God sees us, we are perfect. We have the righteousness of Christ. The challenge here is to live out the reality of who you are in Christ.

But then there's a present, ongoing sense that we are becoming this kind of woman. It's progressive. It's the outworking and the development of what God has already put in our hearts if we are children of God, cultivating who and what we are in Christ.

Then--and this is what really encourages me--there is a yet future sense when it comes to being an excellent woman, a virtuous woman. That's what we can look forward to. It's that final, completed state where we are glorified, we are sanctified, we are perfect, we are mature. As we're in process, we can look forward and know that God is making us into that kind of woman.

So as we contemplate this picture, this portrait of a virtuous woman, remember there is a sense in which this already is you, if you're a child of God. If you have Christ in you, God has made you perfect positionally in His sight--positionally in Christ. Because of your position in Christ, you have that righteousness.

Then commit yourself to the process of saying, "Lord, I want You day after day--today--to be working out in my life the reality of what You have done for me through the cross and the Gospel of Christ. I am becoming this kind of woman. It is a process."

So that's why when you fall, when you blow it, when you get discouraged about your seeming lack of progress, you can pick yourself up and go on by God's grace, knowing that this is a process. There is growth involved here. That's okay.

So as you read this passage, don't give up. Say, "Yes! I'm in process. This is what God is making me." Look forward. The Scripture says, "The righteous man falls down seven times"--sometimes I think that may be in a day or even an hour. He falls down seven times, and what does he do? He gets up again each time.

So you say, "I've blown it." Well, get up. Repent. Get new grace and go on.

Blessings to all!


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