May 10, 2020

Mother’s Day

Proverbs 31:10-31

Today is a day designated in the United States for the remembering and honoring of mothers. This holiday to honor mothers began with the efforts of Anna Jarvis, who in 1905 began a memorial for mothers, including her own. In 1908, she presented Congress with a proposal to have an official day to recognize mothers for their importance and their sacrifice in the lives of their children. Then in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson declared that the second Sunday in May would be observed as a national holiday to honor mothers. Since that time, the second Sunday in May has been officially recognized as national Mother’s Day. While this day has become increasingly commercialized and may have lost some of its initial intended significance, Christians are grateful for the opportunity to express love and tribute to their mothers. In fact, the book of Proverbs includes one of the greatest tributes to a Mother every written. 

The book of Proverbs was written by Solomon with the arrangement of its present format done during the days of Hezekiah. It is primarily the work of Solomon but does include the wise sayings of others as well. It is a book that provides us with God’s practical wisdom for living life skillfully in this world. The book is primarily addressed to young men. In it, they are encouraged to seek true wisdom and build their lives upon its foundation. The book ends with wise sayings and poems from those who heeded this advice and are now sources of wisdom for the benefit of others. Solomon states that the pursuit of wisdom is to be the most earnest endeavor of any individual. 

“Make your ear attentive to wisdom,

Incline your heart to understanding;

For if you cry for discernment,

Lift up your voice for understanding;

If you seek her as silver,

And search for her as for hidden treasures;

Then you will discern the fear of the LORD,

And discover the knowledge of God.

For the LORD gives wisdom;

From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.”

Proverbs 2:2-6

Solomon understood that the source of true wisdom was the LORD Himself. Sadly, not everyone seeks Him to gain this wisdom. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7) 

Fittingly, the book of Proverbs ends with a tribute to one who has received wisdom from the LORD. It is a woman who not only has what is beneficial for herself; but also, is a source of great blessing and benefit to others. She is described for us in Proverbs 31:10-31.

Proverbs 31:10-31 is a unit in itself. It is a Hebrew poem consisting of 22 verses that were written in an acrostic format (each verse beginning with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet) to help with memorizing and reflecting upon the truths contained within it. It is a poem describing the type of woman that epitomizes true femininity and is a blessing to all around her. This poem begins by affirming that such a woman is a rarity and one to be highly prized.  

“An excellent wife, who can find?

For her value is far above jewels.”

Proverbs 31:10

Long before the warm emotional feelings evoked by a Hallmark card, this poem described the traits that commended the type of wife and mother who stands out above the rest. She is truly “The World’s Greatest Mom.” The verses that follow describe the traits that are seen in this woman and are characteristic of a woman who is more valuable than the riches of this world.  

“The heart of her husband trusts in her,

And he will have no lack of gain.

She does him good and not evil

All the days of her life.”

Proverbs 31:11-12

First and foremost, this woman is a woman of Integrity. She is someone who can be trusted. She is reliable and someone that you can depend on. There is a great comfort and benefit in knowing such individuals. She is a woman who causes no concern about what she may be doing or saying “behind one’s back.” This woman is faithful to her word and can be trusted in all circumstances of life to seek to do what is beneficial for her spouse and family. She is a woman characterized by virtue and honesty. She is an honorable woman.

“She looks for wool and flax,

And works with her hands in delight.

She is like merchant ships;

She brings her food from afar.

She rises also while it is still night,

And gives food to her household,

And portions to her maidens.

She considers a field and buys it;

From her earnings she plants a vineyard.

She girds herself with strength,

And makes her arms strong.

She senses that her gain is good;

Her lamp does not go out at night.

She stretches out her hands to the distaff,

And her hands grasp the spindle.

She extends her hand to the poor;

And she stretches out her hands to the needy.

She is not afraid of the snow for her household,

For all her household are clothed with scarlet.

She makes coverings for herself;

Her clothing is fine linen and purple.

Her husband is known in the gates,

When he sits among the elders of the land.

She makes linen garments and sells them,

And supplies belts to the tradesmen.

Strength and dignity are her clothing,

And she smiles at the future.

She opens her mouth in wisdom,

And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

She looks well to the ways of her household,

And does not eat the bread of idleness.”

Proverbs 31:13-27

Seeking to do a thorough exposition of these verses is not our present intended purpose. Instead, our purpose is to glean from this passage the traits that are characteristic of the woman who was described in the agricultural and small village setting of 700 to 1000 BC. Although the world we live in today has made great technological advances from what things were like 2500 to 3000 years ago; people are still the same. The character traits that were demonstrated in a woman of honor living in that day, are still the character traits of a woman of honor today. These verses in Proverbs 31 describe the traits of this woman. 

Not only is she a woman of integrity, but she is also a woman who Self Sacrifices for the well being of others; particularly her family. “She rises while it is still night.” “Her lamp does not go out at night.” Rising early and staying up late are not done to meet her own needs. Instead, she is one who is sacrificing herself to “look well to the ways of her household.” She embodies the mindset that is a reflection of the mindset or outlook that was demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ. “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not look out for your own personal interests, but even for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:3-5) This woman freely gives of herself so the needs of others are met. This woman sees the well being of others as more important than her own. She is a woman who manifests the self sacrifice of Christ for us.

Third, she is a woman who is Industrious. She “does not eat the bread of idleness.” But she is not busy just to be busy. She is a well organized woman who has determined the most efficient way approach her day and the tasks that are before her. She gives considerable thought to what options are before her and pursues the opportunity that appears to be the most beneficial for herself and her family. Her activity is one she enjoys as she “works with her hands in delight.” She finds great pleasure in capably caring for the members of her family. At the same time, she also delegates the tasks to those in her home to be sure that what is most needful is done. “She gives portions to her maidens.” The term translated “portions” means “tasks or responsibilities” to her maidens. In our present day, these “maidens” may be her children, her appliances, outside help or one of many other options that were not available when the book of Proverbs was written. She is a woman who seeks to accomplish the necessary tasks in a pressure filled day so her family does not lack for any good thing. 

Fourth, this woman is a Generous woman. She is not only concerned about the needs of her family and herself; but “she extends her hand to the poor; and she stretches out her hands to the needy.” Such a woman is moved by the plight and needs of others. She responds in compassion to help them in their time of need. Through her wise management of the resources of her family, she is also able to help care for the needs of others. When the woman described in Proverbs 31 lived, there were no government programs or charitable organizations to help those less fortunate. The Lord had stated in the Law given to the nation of Israel through Moses that the Israelites were to show compassionate concern for the poor and needy within their society. Yet reading the comments made by many of the prophets sent by the Lord to Israel, it becomes apparent that many had failed to show compassion to them. But that is not the case with this woman of virtue. She not only displays a compassionate concern for those in her own family; but is moved by the needs of others as well.     

Finally, she is a woman who expresses a Gracious Speech. “She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” This woman knows what needs to be said in a given situation and how to express it in a loving way to benefit those who hear. Obviously, she is someone who sought for wisdom “as for hidden treasure” and found it. She is now one who has the discernment and wisdom to skillfully live her life and to offer wise advice and counsel to others. Even more importantly, the speech of this woman demonstrates the condition of her heart. As Jesus stated to the religious leaders of His day: “You brood of vipers, how can you being evil speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man out of his good treasure brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings forth what is evil.” (Matt. 12:34-35) The wise and kind words of this woman indicate that the Lord had done a transforming work within her. She was a woman whose heart was filled with wisdom, knowledge, discernment and kindness. Her gracious speech is a reflection of her heart and character. 

It is no wonder that such a woman is more valuable that the riches of this world. She truly is a virtuous and honorable woman. Now the poem ends by providing insight into what sets this woman apart from other women. It is because she is a woman of faith. She is one who fears the LORD.

“Her children rise up and bless her;

Her husband also and he praises her saying:

‘Many daughters have done nobly,

But you excel them all.’

Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain.

But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.

Give her the product of her hands,

And let her works praise her in the gates.”

Proverbs 31:28-31

Those who fear the LORD are the ones who have a genuine relationship with Him. This woman is a woman of faith. “She is not afraid of the snow for her household.” “And she smiles at the future” because she has a dependent trust in the One who controls the future. She is living her life with the overriding desire to be pleasing to her God. No wonder she has such an impact upon her family as well as others within her community. This woman is one who is praised by her husband, her children and even those of the community. But most importantly, this poem is included in the Word of God for us to realize that this woman delights the heart of God and is praised by Him. 

In the same way today, a woman who trusts in the LORD is more valuable than the riches of this world and will be a blessing in the lives of others for both time and all eternity. These women are the ones who honor God in their lives and will receive praise and honor from the LORD. And so…women who are depending on God to do for them what they cannot do for themselves; who are looking to God to be the strength in their weakness, and the joy in their service: take encouragement from the words of Proverbs 31. Those of you who are trusting in the LORD should know that your calling as a mother will delight the heart of God and make you a blessing in the lives of others. Each woman of faith is a rare treasure and one whose value is far above the riches of this world. Thanks be to God for the gift of godly mothers. It is a joy to give honor and praise to these women of faith. 

Soli Deo Gloria!