Calvary Road Baptist Church

“WHO CAN FIND A VIRTUOUS WOMAN?”

Proverbs 31

 

In Proverbs chapter 31 we come to the passage in the Bible most commonly associated with what is called the virtuous woman. The virtuous woman is that rarest of all women.

This chapter is broken down for us into two sections. The first section, verses 1-9, contains the lessons to Lemuel. Turn there and stand when you find the passage:

 

1      The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him.

2      What, my son? and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows?

3      Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings.

4      It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink:

5      Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.

6      Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.

7      Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.

8      Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction.

9      Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.

 

Friends, there is no clue in the Word of God just who Lemuel was, though I like to think he was Solomon. Neither is there any suggestion as to who his mother was, though I like to think it was Bathsheba.[1] Understand, however, that it was the lessons Lemuel’s mother taught him that gave rise to all that is found in Proverbs chapter 31. The questions asked by Lemuel’s mother, quoted in verse 2, might suggest that Lemuel was a child given by God in response to a vow made by his mother. Remember that Samuel was that kind of child, given when Hannah vowed to give to God the son that God would give to her. Would it not be a wonderful thing for every mother to vow this kind of vow to God? That in training, in faithfulness to church, in prayerfulness, and in personal service to God, you would give back to God the child that God has given to you?

What Lemuel relates of the lessons taught by his beloved mother is found in verses 3-9. Three things: In the first part of verse 3, we learn what she taught her son about women: “Give not thy strength to women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings.” Wise is the mother who teaches her son about the dangers of wicked women, women who are familiar with men, women who do not blush, women who are immodest.

In verses 4-7, we learn what this wonderful woman taught Lemuel about wine. In verse 4, we see that wine is simply inappropriate for kings. In verse 5, we see that wine impairs judgment. In verses 6 and 7, we are told what wine is good for. It is good for those ready to die. It is good for those who are sad. It is good for those who are poor. As well, it is good for those who want to forget their misery.

Two comments about verses 4-7: First, I think this passage applies to Christians, since we are shown to be kings and priests unto God in Revelation 1.6. Therefore, you should not drink wine. The reasons given in this passage suggest that you should not drink wine because it impairs your judgment. Further, my own subjective opinion is that I have not met Christians who I would consider wise who play games with this wine issue and risk their testimony in the community for a few minutes of selfish gratification in an attempt to pretend themselves to be sophisticated. Second, I think the writer is using irony in verses 6-7. I think that there is not any real advocacy of wine here, but the sarcastic recommendation that it be given to those who have no life, who have no future, since people who are already totally messed up cannot be messed up more than they already are. At the very least, wine is not advocated or recommended for normal people with a life.

First, Momma taught Lemuel about women. Then Momma taught Lemuel about wine. Third, Momma taught Lemuel about words, verses 8-9:

 

8      Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction.

9      Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.

 

Lemuel was taught by his mother to speak up and not be silent. He was taught to speak up and use his position to be an advocate for those who had no voice, to speak up for those who had no hope, to speak up for those who were poor and needy. Sounds to me like Lemuel, whoever he may have been, had a great mom. She was wise. She was sound. She was temperate. However, she caused her son a great problem. Do you know what it was, this problem she caused for her boy? Turned off by trashy and vapid women because of what Momma had taught him, Lemuel laments, in verses 10-31, the scarcity of virtuous women to be found in the world.

Verses 10-31, which eulogizes the good wife and mother, is written in the form of an acrostic poem, in which the first letter of each verse, in the Hebrew Bible, begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet in order. The lament of Lemuel begins with the asking of a question, and then continues to the end with the qualities he is in search of being advanced.

Verse 10: “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.” What does Lemuel’s question show us? It shows us two things: First, it shows us that a virtuous woman, a woman who is both a good wife and a wonderful mother, is a rarity. Not many virtuous women in the world. Second, Lemuel’s question shows that not only is the woman he is looking for extremely rare, she is also extraordinarily valuable. Her price is far above rubies. Abraham sent his unnamed servant to a far away country to find a wife worthy of his son Isaac, and Rebekah was worth every cent Abraham spent in seeking her for his son. But why? Why would such a woman as he is lamenting be so rare and so valuable? As I read to you the qualities that Lemuel advances, judge for yourself:

 

11     The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.

12     She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.

13     She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.

14     She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar.

15     She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.

16     She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.

17     She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.

18     She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.

19     She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.

20     She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.

21     She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.

22     She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.

23     Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.

24     She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.

25     Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.

26     She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.

27     She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.

28     Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.

29     Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.

30     Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.

31     Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

 

Ladies who are mothers, you are to be honored because God commands that it be done. You are one of His representatives in the home, and it is only right and proper that one who represents God to a child be honored by that child. You are to be loved because of the pain and sacrifice and suffering that you endure to be a mother, to be a nurturing person, to be one that raises another human being to adulthood. Selfish and obnoxious is the child who, for whatever reason, does not love his mother. When your children rise up and call you blessed, and when they, in doing so, acknowledge you a diligent woman who fears the LORD, and when your husband stands and praises you, that is reward indeed.

God bless you, mothers. In this church, so long as I have the privilege of being the pastor, motherhood, and mothers will be treated with respect, with courtesy, and with honor, as God enables me so to do.

 

SERMON:

 

I remember a conversation held with a young man a number of years ago. It was out in front of the church. After chit chatting about a number of things, the young man made a startling announcement, considering he was all of 19 or 20 years of age. He said, “Yeah. A man needs a good woman.”

While I will agree with the truthfulness of his statement, he seemed to be operating under the two strong delusions that he was a man, and that a good woman would give him a second look. That young fellow did not have the benefit of being raised by a mom like Lemuel’s mom. I know that kid’s mom, and the woman that eventually gave him a second look was anything but a good woman. Both of their mothers were women who did not have a clue about this thing called child rearing. The result, of course, was disaster.

Folks, we gathered last Sunday to honor mothers. I think mothers are worth two Sundays. Let us recognize that a mother, in the truest sense of the word, is a great deal more than someone who has simply given birth to a child. A mother is a person who has been charged by God with forming the personality of another human being. No one has more influence in a child’s life than does that child’s mother. Remember, by the time they were four years old, when they were removed from their mothers and placed under the supervision of ungodly people, both Moses’ and Samuel’s mothers had set them on a course for serving God from which those two men never wavered. A good start from his mom was also the experience of a young man named Timothy.

Perhaps your mother did not set you on a course of godliness. It may be because her mother did not set her on a course of godliness. In any case, you must recognize, this evening, the necessity of a mother training her child. “But my mom didn’t take me to church and teach me the Bible and pray with me.” That is history. I deal with the present and the future. From this point on you must recognize the duty of every mother to train into her children the following values:

 

First, THE REQUIREMENT TO HONOR

 

The first commandment given by God in the Ten Commandments, governing affairs between human beings is the command to honor fathers and mothers. Since this is a command, it cannot be optional behavior. A child must honor his mother. Long before the child can be taught to honor God, the child can be trained, through correction and reinforcement, to honor his mother and his father. Moreover, since mothers are usually closer at hand to the young than are fathers, it falls upon the mother to first train her child to honor her. Children, however, are sinful. They are born sinners and they behave sinfully. From the first moments after birth children sin. Since children commit sins and will naturally find it hateful to honor their mothers, they must be coerced to honor their mothers, they must be forced to honor their mothers, they must be trained to honor their mothers. A godly mother will spend whatever time is necessary to train her children to honor her. Children need not like their mothers. Children need not agree with their mothers. However, children must honor their mothers.

Second, children must be trained by mothers to honor God. In order to train your child to honor God you must honor God. What does it mean to honor God, or to honor mom? To honor means to treat as being important, to treat as being revered, to treat as being greatly respected. There are certain things you cannot make your child do. You cannot make your child trust Christ. You cannot make your child love God. However, you can insist that your child at all times treat you and speak to you respectfully, and you can insist that your child at all times treat God and the things of God, and speak of God, respectfully. Why would a king like Lemuel make reference to what his mother had taught him? Why did he not take credit for such wisdom himself? Because he honored his mother as he was trained to do as a child. Why was he a man who would settle for no woman who was not a woman that feared the Lord? Because he was a man who had been trained by his momma to honor God. Think about honoring God. Can a man be saved who does not honor God, who does not value and highly esteem God? No. Can a man rightly honor God who does not honor his mother? Think about it. How can one honor God who does not honor God’s representative in the home? My friends, I have a serious problem with someone who does not seek to honor his mother, while claiming to be right with God. Quibble and justify all you want. God has commanded that mothers be honored, and if you do not honor your mother, you and God have a serious matter to be settled.

 

THE REQUIREMENT TO HONOR COMES FIRST, FOR THAT MUST BE TAUGHT BEFORE ANYTHING ELSE SHOULD BE TAUGHT TO A CHILD. NEXT IN THE CHILD’S SPIRITUAL CURRICULUM COMES THE REVERENCE OF SCRIPTURE.

 

Second Timothy 3.15: “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”

Here we read of the experiences of a young Christian man when he was a child, brought up in the home of a devout Jewish Christian mother and grandmother. There can be no doubt that young Timothy, the man of God to whom two books in the New Testament were written, had been taught by the women in his life to reverence the scriptures. How does a mother, or a grandmother for that matter, engage in planting in the bosom of a child a reverence for the scriptures? Three ways must simultaneously be used:

First, a child learns to reverence the scriptures by your perusal. Children watch adults. They learn by imitating. They come to recognize the value and importance of something, of anything, not by what you say, but by what you actually do. Therefore, it is important that you, mom, be one who peruses, who reads with diligence and care, God’s holy Word. Perhaps you do not have great study skills. Perhaps you are not one who studiously analyses the fine points of theology or parses verbs. That is perfectly fine. However, do you carefully read God’s Word? Do you crave to know the will of God as it is revealed in His Word? Remember, Second Timothy 2.15 is where young Timothy was commanded to “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.” That means he was expected to work at it, to toil at it, to expend effort to properly understand God’s Word. Mom? No matter what you tell your child, you will not succeed in convincing your child to reverence the Word of God unless and until that child sees you, mom, spending time each and every day in God’s Word. “But pastor, it is hard for me.” It is hard for everyone. This is a spiritual book, not a comic book. Is it not worth whatever it takes to inculcate into your child a reverence for the Word of God?

Second, a child learns to reverence the Word of God by your practice. Two things I mean by practice. First, what do you do with the Word of God? How do you handle it? How do you treat it? Friends, this is the Word of God I hold in my hands. Should that not have some effect on how we handle this book? I find it amazing how some so-called Christians treat their Bibles, only to learn a few years back that Muslims never, never, hold the Koran below their waist level out of respect. I well remember being shocked when seeing profanity written in the Bibles of some kids when I went to Sunday School some few times as a kid in Florida. I have seen adults put cups of coffee on their Bibles. This is not a coaster. Some people indiscriminately mark, tear, and abuse their Bibles as if it was some other book. How does that help a child revere the scriptures? You ought to get all over a kid for abusing or messing with a Bible. However, that is not all. I refer to something else by practice. I refer to obedience. My friends, the Book I hold in my hand is God speaking to mankind. This is “Thus saith the Lord!” How in the world can you expect a child to reverence the Bible if, in addition to treating the object with affection and respect, you do not display a holy desire to give heed to, to give obedience to, the truth that is contained herein? How, then, can we treat lightly the truths contained in this Book and expect, at the same time, the blessings of God? How can we treat lightly the truths contained in this Book and expect, at the same time, our children to reverence this Book? Remember, Jesus prayed these words the night before His crucifixion: “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” John 17.17. That means, when you are reading the Word of God to your child and you come to a passage that exposes your sin, you need to say, “See that verse, my child? Mommy does not obey that verse, as I ought to. Let us pray right now, and you help Mommy remember to do what God’s Word says to do here. Will you help Mommy do that?” If you are that kind of mom, your practice will help ensure for your child a reverence of God’s Word.

You must peruse scripture, Mom. That is, you must personally read God’s Word and seek to know what God wants of you. Second, you must practice the Word of God. Third, you must preach the Word of God. In Proverbs 31.1, we read of “the prophecy that his mother taught him.” The Hebrew word for “prophecy” here is the familiar Old Testament word for prophecy. However, since we see absolutely no indication of any future events being referred to in this passage, the preaching aspect of the prophetic effort must be in view here, not the predictive aspect of the prophetic effort. In short, Lemuel’s momma preached to him. She would not preach to her husband. That is not scriptural. She would not preach in the synagogue. No indication of that. However, she certainly did preach to that boy of hers. Have no doubt that a good mother will lift up her voice and proclaim the truth of God’s Word to her children. “God says that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of reproof shall drive it far from him. So, you get in here, boy. Momma’s going to get some wisdom into you, one way, or the other.” That is Bible preaching with an invitation at the end. His rear end. It may be that a boy will be raised right and leave home unsaved. Not every kid raised right by a godly mom is saved. However, don’t you want that boy to be saved sometime, mom? Don’t you want him to turn from his sins as a grown man and be saved? The Bible says, “Of His Own will begat He us with the Word of truth.” That means, when a sinner is saved he is saved through the instrumentality of the Bible. Therefore, unless and until that sinner has reverence for the scripture, it is highly unlikely that he will ever be saved. He must first believe and trust God’s Word to be true; he must reverence the Book, before he will ever be saved. Mom? He will reverence the Book, whether lost or saved, if you teach him to reverence the Book by your perusal of the Book, by your practice of the Book, and by your preaching of the Book to him, if to no one else.

 

THE REQUIREMENT TO HONOR. YOU CAN FORCE THAT ISSUE. THE REVERENCE FOR SCRIPTURE. YOU CAN INSIST ON CERTAIN ASPECTS OF THAT BEING DISPLAYED. HOWEVER, THE MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL, THE REDEMPTION OF JESUS, YOU CAN PRAY FOR AND PRESENT TO YOUR CHILD, BUT YOU CANNOT FORCE

 

Friends, let me talk directly to you right now. The moms here can apply what I say to their parenting, but what I have to say now, I want to say to those of you who are not saved. Perhaps your Momma was not saved. Maybe she did the best she could, but some things were not worked out. They can be worked out now. Let me present to you the salvation, which Jesus Christ offers to you in three rather simple phrases:

First, there is the picture. Ephesians 1.7 refers to the redemption that is through the blood of Jesus Christ. Redemption refers to purchasing someone. Since Romans 6 shows sinners to be slaves to sin, imagine yourself a slave standing on an auction block. It is an accurate picture of your spiritual situation. You really are on the auction block of sin this evening. A slave to sin from birth. Perhaps you can control what sins you commit, but you have no control over whether you commit sins or not, since you really are a slave to sin. Bound in chains of sin, you will be dragged into Hellfire should you still be a slave to sin on the day you die.

Second, there is the proof. What is the proof that you are a slave to sin? What is the proof that you are a sinner? There are two proofs that I offer to you to show that you are a slave to sin and that your sins will take you to Hell. First, there is Romans 6.23, which says, “For the wages of sin is death.” Deny to me that you will someday die. Deny to me that you are a mortal human being. Your mortality, the inescapable fact of your approaching death, either sooner or later, but eventually, is proof positive that you are a sinner. You see, only sinners die. Death is the wage paid to sinners. Second, there is the testimony of your life. Look at First Corinthians 6.9-10. This is a list of sins that characterize people who are unsaved, who are going to Hell when they die:

 

9      Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

10     Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

 

Do you think you are a Christian? Do you believe yourself to be saved? If you are on this list, you are fooling yourself if you think you are heaven-bound. The only people on this list are unsaved people. The only people on this list are people who are slaves to sin, standing on the block.

It is a bleak picture, my friend, complete with Proof. There you stand in the slave market of sin, destined to remain a slave to sin, unless someone comes along with the price to pay for your freedom. Guess what? Someone has come along, and He does have the payment price for your sins. His name is Jesus, and He is the Son of God. Born of a virgin, He shed His blood on Calvary’s cruel cross to pay for your sins. After His resurrection from the dead, He ascended to the Father’s right hand, where He is right now, awaiting your response to His free offer of salvation. Understand, all the sins you have ever committed are recorded in a book in heaven. Therefore, even if you stopped sinning at some point in time your past sins would still condemn you. However, the blood of Jesus Christ shed to set to freedom those who come to Him by faith, washes away sins. Imagine the joy of a mother whose child comes to Jesus Christ and is saved. Imagine the joy of both a mother and a child spending eternity together in heaven, saved by the blood of the crucified One.

 

A great mom ought to teach her child the requirement to honor her and God, ought to teach her child to reverence the scripture by her practice, and ought to teach her child of the redemption that is found only in knowing Jesus Christ as personal Savior.

Did you not learn all these things as a child? Then learn them now. Learn that God should be honored and that He wants your mom to be honored as well. Learn that the Bible is God’s Word and that He wants His Word to be reverenced. After all, He has exalted His Word above His very name. However, most importantly of all has to do with redemption.

Redemption speaks of a slave being set free. Redemption speaks of being saved, going to heaven when you die instead of Hell. And redemption can only be through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Do you realize that you are a sinner, this morning? Would you like to be saved? Come, during our invitation time, and let me show you how to be saved.



[1] Charles Bridges, A Commentary On Proverbs, (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1968), page 616.



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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org