The final chapter of Proverbs finishes with a punch, elaborating on the character of the thoroughly virtuous person; this is the character we should all aspire to, but not to the end of perfection--for we’ll never be perfect this side of heaven--and that’s the gift grace makes up for. We strive, we fail, and then we forgive ourselves; because God already has!
So, sharpening our moral character to approach the capacity set before us in the Proverbs 31 “wife of the noble character” is fundamentally part of our purpose.
And moral development does increase our capacity for a whole range of things, due to virtue i.e. the diligence of hard work (vs. 15, 18-19, 27), faithfulness (v. 26), inspiration in others of their confidence in us (v. 11), discernment (vs. 13, 16), resourcefulness (vs. 14, 18, 22), strength (v. 17) and dignity (v. 25), courage (v. 21), and compassion (v. 20). Finally, she’s admired and respected by her entire family, especially her husband (vs. 28-29) for her noble deeds surpass those of all other women--by direct observation of this noble husband. He’s totally stoked.
Wow, what a killer marriage! But, is this set of images too hard to live up to? Again, it’s about aspiration, not perfection. It’s about spiritual progress, not spiritual perfection.
We miss something from the meaning of Proverbs and particularly chapter 31, however, if we see this as just about the woman profiled. Men are equally called by God to exhibit these traits of character. After all, a good marriage requires two equally devoted workers, labouring with and for each other--and their God. God is not a gender-exclusive deity.
Can we then just begin to appreciate how awesome God is to bring about such transformation of character within us? The very possibility that we can tap into this power of God to become better people... it’s a completely awesome thought which fills our normally be-draggled hearts with hope.
All of this drives us to the end of the chapter, indeed the end of the book, of course. This has us back flipping in an instant, rekindling the early theme of the ‘fear of the LORD.’ (See Proverbs 1:7) This theme is sprinkled throughout, and indeed underpins Proverbs.
Those bent on the appropriate, awed respect and honouring of God--in basically all their ways--will reap eventual honour themselves (v. 31), not that this would ever be their intent. Their intent is only ever God!
Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.