I want my woman to be alluring and attractive, charming and beautiful. I’m a product of my culture! We make good-looking women celebrities. Fox News seems to want its female anchors young, blond and charming. But it’s not only us. In ancient
But God values something higher in a woman than physical charm and beauty.
Look at the proverb’s contrast. “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised” (31:30). In God’s eyes, fearing the LORD is more valuable than being charming and beautiful.
Physical charm is deceptive; it seems permanent but it’s not. Beauty is fleeting. Years pass quickly. Aging takes its toll. Get-rid-of-wrinkles cream goes only so far. Working out holds off sagging only so long (31:30a). So, although God created beauty and will make every one of his women beautiful in the coming creation (Ecclesiastes 3:11), we are fools to value it too highly in this one.
“Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised” (31:30).
This proverb raises three questions: (1) Who is it that this praiseworthy woman fears? (2) What does it mean for a woman to fear the LORD? (3) Why should a woman who fears the LORD be praised? All we want to do this morning is to understand this proverb, so we can praise the women in our lives who fear the LORD.
Who is it that this praiseworthy woman fears? The answer is plain from the proverb: the LORD. Notice that “LORD” is in all capital letters. That’s the translator’s way of indicating that “LORD” translates the Hebrew name YAHWEH.
So in the desert Moses is fascinated by a burning bush that doesn’t burn up. From it a voice calls his name. The voice tells Moses he has heard the cries of his oppressed people in
“Uh, if I go and they ask me, who shall I say sent me?” Moses wants to know.
“I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14). That’s the meaning of the Hebrew YAHWEH which we translate “LORD.” YAHWEH has been called God’s personal name, like “Allan” is my personal name. But instead of YAHWEH being personal in the sense that it brings God down to our level, it actually exalts him to the highest place. Because it declares that God exists (I AM). It declares he is the ultimate reality who always exists with no source beyond himself. (God is always in the present tense!) It declares that he is the God who rescues his people from oppressive powers (he used it to call Moses to lead his people out). And, it declares he is the God who came to us in Jesus Christ to rescue us from sin and death so we might belong to God now and forever in the new creation. Jesus was in a heated conversation with the Jews . . .
“Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad."
"You are not yet fifty years old," the Jews said to him, "and you have seen Abraham!"
"I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!"(John 8:56-58).
Jesus didn’t answer, “ . . . before Abraham was born, I was!” but “I am”—an intentional connection with YAHWEH at the burning bush. Jesus is YAHWEH.
So who is it that this praiseworthy woman fears? YAHWE—the eternally self- existing God, the ultimate reality, who came in love and mercy to free us from the power of sin and death by the sacrifice of his Son, so we might belong to him and enjoy him now and forever in the new creation. “A woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”
What does it mean for a woman to fear the LORD? At least three things. First, it means that she reveres the LORD. She regards him with holy reverence. “Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere him” (Psalm 33:8). Psalms are poems, and Hebrew poetry was written in couplets, the second line further explaining the first. In this psalm “fear” and “revere.” A woman who fears the LORD reveres the LORD. She isn’t casual or light about God. She stands in awe of him. She regards him as dreadfully holy and terrifying in his wrath against sin. She has a holy reverence for the LORD.
Second, it means that she hates the evil that the LORD hates. “To fear the LORD is to hate evil” (8:13). She isn’t okay with sin. She’s against it in her heart. It’s a vice she’s growing to detest.
And third, because she knows that she is not innocent of evil—though she tries to walk in his ways (Psalm 128:1)—and therefore deserving of the LORD’s wrath, she does the opposite of what we might expect. Instead of running from the LORD, she goes to him and puts her hope in his unfailing merciful love. “The LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love” (Psalm 147:11). She dares go to him hoping for compassion.
John Piper tells a true story that gives us a powerful picture of having a holy terror of the LORD while putting hope in his merciful love. One day 30 years ago now Piper and his wife and two sons went to visit a church couple, Dick and Irene. I don’t know how old Piper’s sons were then (maybe about 10 and 8), but Dick and Irene’s dog was as tall as their older son Benjamin—a big old German shepherd that greeted them with barks and growls from where he was chained. After a while, when they were all in the house, Dick unchanged the dog and brought him inside with them. Loose, he was friendly. When time to leave came, Irene warned the boys not to run from the unchained dog. As Piper’s younger son, Karsten, walked toward the car, the dog came trotting up behind him. Karsten started to run. Immediately the dog barked and growled and chased after the terrified boy. From the doorway, Piper yelled, “Karsten! Stop! Turn around! Pet him!” Bravely the boy stopped. The dog stopped. Karsten reached out his hand to pet the huge German shepherd. And the terrifying dog licked it. God, says Piper, is a terror to those who flee him, but a joy and a sanctuary to those who draw near.
The same LORD Almighty whom we are to regard as holy, whom we are to fear, whom we are to dread, is our sanctuary (Isaiah 8:13,14). The LORD who is terrifying in his wrath against sin has come to save us in his mercy (Titus 3:4,5). A woman who fears the LORD is a woman who stops running from his holy terror and kneels before him to receive his loving mercy. That’s what it means to fear the LORD. A woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Why should a woman who fears the LORD be praised? Why should we congratulate her and applaud her and commend her and honor her and sing her praises?
First, because she delights the LORD. “ . . . the LORD delights in those who fear him” (Psalm 147:11). She makes the LORD happy. She brings the LORD pleasure. He rejoices over her. And in a world of idolaters who grieve the LORD, a woman who delights the LORD should be the object of our honor.
Second, a woman who fears the LORD should be praised because she has the beginnings of true wisdom (9:10). Wisdom, says Christian professor T. D. Alexander, is “knowing how to live a successful life in God’s world.” Because the world is the LORD’s and she fears the LORD, this woman has the beginnings of knowing how to live a
successful life in this world. Because redemption from the wrath this world is under comes only from the LORD and she fears the LORD, this woman has the beginnings of knowing how to live a successful life in this world. Those who don’t fear the LORD don’t have wisdom; they don’t begin to know how to live a successful life here, no matter how successful they seem. But this woman who fears the LORD has the beginnings of knowing how to live successfully in this crazy, mixed-up world. Therefore, we should commend and admire her for her wisdom.
Third, a woman who fears the LORD should be praised because she is a treasure to her family and community, whether they realize it or not. She brings her husband good (31:12). Her respect for him increases others’ respect of him (31:23). She feeds and clothes and protects her children (31:13-15,21). She works hard at everything she does, including helping provide family income (31:16-18,24,27). She cares for the poor (31:20). She faces the unknown future with strength, dignity and courage (31:25). And by word and example she teaches her children to fear the LORD, so they too will have the beginnings of wisdom (31:26). She is a treasure for her family and community, who impacts generations to come, because she lives her ordinary days in the fear of the LORD. Therefore, she is to be praised.
* * *
Sadly, she often isn’t. Partly that’s because men (especially husbands) and children can be self-centered. We take our wife, our mother—the women in our lives—for granted. Now, none of the women in our lives quite measure up to that superwoman of Proverbs 31 (we wonder how anyone could!). But one thing is crystal-clear: if they fear the LORD, they are to be praiseed . “A woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” By her husband. By her children. By her church.
So I’m going to ask each of you women who fear the LORD to stand. Now I’m going to ask the rest of us to think about what these women mean to us in light of God’s Word today. Then, from our hearts with all our strength, let’s applaud them . . .