TEXT: PROVERBS 31:10-31
Many people have written and given sermons about this famous woman. We’ve learned that she does everything perfect and is the super-woman of all times; she has everything under control -- her emotional life, marriage, children, work, and yes, even her fashion. So perhaps you are wondering who was this woman in real life? Some suggest that she was Solomon’s mother; others say that she was just a figurative “ideal” woman in the Bible. I tend to agree with the latter opinion because everything the Bible says about her is just beautiful. She is perfect in every area of her life, and she acts with such gentleness and elegance. She has a generous life and shares her wealth with everybody. She certainly seems to be the perfect, ideal woman.
How does Proverbs 31 line up with our normal lives? How can we be and act like her? The reality is that we all are busy daughters, mothers, wives, friends, employees -- just ordinary women who are trying so hard to be able to accomplish everything in every area of our lives. We want to be the best mothers, the best wives, be able to have the best figures and best careers, be the best friends, etc.; but is that something attainable in our busy world today? The answer is NO! We can try all of the above and devote our whole lives to achieving perfection, but to be perfect in every area is impossible. You and I are not perfect people.
But there is hope. There is someone who is perfect in every area who wants to transform ordinary women into extraordinary daughters. He wants to guide you and empower you with His Spirit. He wants to help you accept yourself the way you are, with all your mistakes. He wants you to finally realize that no matter how hard you try on your own, you will always fail in some area, because our nature is corrupt and limited. The Author of hope will patiently change you only if you allow Him; piece by piece, layer by layer so you can become the unique masterpiece you were created to be -- a wiser woman who will face this life with courage and security because she realizes that she is not fighting in this busy world in her own strength but in His!
I always used to struggle with Proverbs 31 and the various ways the opening lines of the poem were translated. This poem always felt like an overwhelming list of domestic duties I needed to somehow daily achieve in order to be an ideal woman and wife in the eyes of God, the church, and the men in my life. I was a terrible seamstress, a sub-par cook, and I hated cleaning. The only part of the poem that grabbed my attention was that the woman having her own side business. Plus, where I really wanted to be, was sitting in the city gate discussing religion and politics! Reading Proverbs 31 often left me feeling unfeminine and less than ideal.
Thankfully, God loves to reveal His Word to us, and this happened for me in graduate school, the first time I was able to study Proverbs 31 in Hebrew. Instead of seeing this woman as previous English translators (who were mostly men) had seen her – as the epitome of a quiet, submissive, noble European woman – I realized she was the warrior woman Eve was meant to be (the ezer), and was described in similar language to Lady Wisdom (who appears in the opening chapters of Proverbs). The opening words “eshet chayil” can be translated as “woman or wife” of “noble character or warrior/military valor.” In fact, when the male version of this appears in the Bible (‘esh chayil”), scholars most often translate this as “mighty men or men of military valor” – for example, David’s mighty men who went into battle with him. The translations I had grown up with just couldn’t fathom a woman being described in the same way as male soldiers, and yet the rest of the language in Proverbs 31 supports this lens of interpretation. The poet consistently chose strong, military words to describe her actions – she hunts for prey when collecting food for her household, she brings in her spoils, she girds her loins with strength and makes her arms strong.
Now when I read Proverbs 31, I think of how Eve was created to be – an “ezer”, a warrior in times of dire need, a woman who faced the future with hope, courage, and wisdom. You and I were meant to be “ezer”s and “eshet chayil”s who imitate our Warrior God – a God who rescues the needy and oppressed. Sadly, like Eve, we have failed to be who we were meant to be because we have turned away from the Lord (the source of our strength, wisdom, courage). We cannot muster up our own strength and strategy, but must instead choose to fear the Lord. We cannot trust in our own beauty, our own cunning, or the many ways the world tells us to be perfect or wise; instead we need to be women who fear the Lord. Women who turn first to God in times of trouble. Women who trust in the wisdom that comes from God and not from ourselves. Women who come to the rescue and aid of others, because we have first been empowered and strengthened by the Holy Spirit.