A Virtuous Woman
J.Culy Harvey, Twickenham
PROV. 31. 10-31
This "golden ABC for ladies," their "spiritual looking-glass'' (if they dress themselves by it, their adorning will be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ), in another aspect furnishes an attractive and stimulating model for an assembly of believers.
Though the professing Church as a whole has failed and become a shame and disgrace to the heavenly Bridegroom, it is open for any company to foster devotion to the Lord and seek to be a name and a praise to Him.
Encouraged by the leaders and guides (2 Cor. 11. 1-2), each member in its measure may be following hard after Christ, entering into the fullness of its portion, and responding to the love wherewith it is loved.
Verse 10. Who can find a virtuous woman? - Rare indeed, is suggested, but why should we not he of the number? Thoroughly true to Christ.
her price is far above rubies - of real value to Him.
Verse 11. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, - Think of the joy of hearing the Lord say, "I can trust her; I have won her heart; she will not turn aside; she will stand true to Mo and be ready to be led by Me; whatever I give her to do, 1 can trust her to do; she will not sow discord nor break down the bulwarks iiot remove the landmarks of My Church.
so that he shall have no need of spoil. — He will get riches from such; deep, adoring, grateful love, and thorough surrender of heart and will, which will find joy in sacrificing for Him. This will gladden His heart, He will need no other spoil.
Verse 12. She will do him good and not evil - Instead of being a burden to Him she will be a joy; instead of grieving Him, she will minister pleasure to Him, being able to enter into His thoughts and be His companion. He will receive something in return for His great love.
all the days of her life. — Not one day, but every day. May we jointly (corporately, as well as individually) thus learn to regard His wishes, fall in with His plans and pattern, and never be so base and ungrateful as to think that half-hearted, fitful obedience is good enough for Christ.
Verse 13. She seeketh wool, and flax, — Seeks it, it is nut brought to her. Wool for comfort, to make warm garments; flax for beauty, "fine linen, which is the righteousness of saints" (Rev. 19. 8).
Wool — the love and grace of Christ. We should go through the Bible and search out all the precious promises, loving words and encouragements, and weave them into a garment to fit ourselves-a garment to suit our temperament, circumstances and trials. Only so can each and the whole maintain spiritual warmth (a warm glow and not a cold glare—John 5. 35) in the biting atmosphere of this world.
Flax — the beautiful precepts of Christ—woven into our lives, covering us as with a garment, seen in all we say and do; the fruits of righteousness so beautifying that others may be attracted.
Some seek only wool and are content with their own blessings, and do not seek to be a glory to the Lord. Others limit themselves to flax, and keep shivering with cold though outwardly consistent. May both wool and flax be worn by each member of "our own company."
and worketh willingly with her hands. — There is no constraint, no feeling, "I must do this wearisome task," but a happy response to the Love of Christ.
Verse 14. She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar. — She is not satisfied with being fed by others, but presses up into the presence of the Lord and sits down and feasts with Hun there. There are difficulties in the way—sins to be put down, weights to be laid aside, enemies to stay her progress, but in spite of these she proves for herself the rich, satisfying provision of the Father's house and, like Ruth after sitting with Boaz, comes away laden with good things for others. May we be preserved from remaining spiritual infants, dependent upon others for food and needing continually to be fed with a spoon.
Verse 15. She riseth also while it is yet night, — She is intensely in earnest (with self-sacrifice and not self-indulgence), for she earnestly longs to enrich the Lord and help Him in the tedious work Me is accomplishing.
and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. — She makes it her first care to minister spiritual food to those whom the Lord has committed to her - a Sunday-school class, a gospel meeting, etc. with you it is. Any for whom the Lord has made you responsible and are ready to listen and glad to receive what you have to give.
Verse 16. She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. -
She is not satisfied with service close to hand or in doing what others put into her hands but looks around, " Cannot I do anything more for Him ?" She considers, there is careful thought; she asks "Is there no vineyard I can plant for Him?" She perceives an unoccupied field, and buys it. It costs her something—the love or praise of friends or something she enjoys and values, some earthly hopes or case or comfort, but gives it up for Christ and thinks not of the cost. We will never do much for Christ unless prepared to buy. He gave all for us, and now He has given us energy, talents, influence, time and so forth. Shall these be wasted, or our stewardship be faithful?
Verse 17. She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengthened her arms. — What labour to transform a. rough field into a fruitful vineyard. Then it has to be tended with ceaseless care. There is much to discourage, but she goes on and continually gets fresh strength and is ever on the watch to win more souls for the Lord.
Verse 18. She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: — (Prov. 3. 14, 15). The law of God's mouth is better to her "than thousands of gold and silver." She proves the value of obedience, its present and eternal gain, and therefore urges others to buy. Salvation is the free gift o( God but we must buy the precepts ; but they are worth all we can give. In keeping of them is great reward. In the day of Christ we shall prove that each command of God which we have received and carried out will have enriched us to all eternity, when the gold will have perished.
her candle goeth not out by night. — She does not grow weary in well-doing but keeps the light shining.
Verse 19. She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.—She minds not high things but puts her hand to anything that has to be done, each in its turn. She has a meek and lowly spirit, not sitting as a queen to be ministered unto, nor saying "This is servants' work, I cannot be expected to do this," but is ready to help in any way she can. Each fruit of the Spirit is brought forth in its .season—humility in this verse, mercy in the next.
Verse 20. She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. - Poverty was the result of disobedience among the Israelites ; and many now are spiritually poor because they do not walk with Christ, or, follow afar off—poor in love, joy, faith, etc, and needing well-nigh everything. This pattern woman does not lift up herself because of her own riches, but stretches out her hand to the poor and both her hands to the needy. Her compassions flow out to them. There is no harshness, she does not upbraid them but liberally helps them.
Do we thus deal with those who are spiritually poor? Are we not sometimes inclined to despise them and complain of them instead of stretching out our hands to help? Do our compassions flow out to proud, rebellious children of God? Are we not rather ready to be hard on such? And yet they are poor indeed! The enemy has robbed them of all their pleasant things and left them half dead. Oh! for bowels of mercies, which would make us give all we have for the blessing of others.
Verse 21. She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with "double garments" (margin). — Her household - those she has been feeding and caring for, the lambs of the flock. "Double garments," wool and flax! They can stand the cold. She has no fear of the difficulties and dangers they will encounter, for they are furnished and prepared to every good. They will come out of these things with honour (1 John 2. 28).
Verse 22. She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple. — She seeks that her garments should shew forth the riches and glory of her husband; and we should seek that our way (corporately as well as individually) may be a name and a praise to Christ. She makes these garments herself. They do not typify the robe of righteousness but the beautiful fruit of His Spirit.
"Tapestry," worked in stitch by stitch, requiring much patient, loving labour. Probably embroidered with gold, blue, purple and scarlet-colours which represent the perfections of Christ, winch we are called to shew forth.
Gold. The divine glory wrought in stitch by stitch into our lives. We receive all the thread from Christ, but much exercise is required to effectively work it into our habits, thoughts and feelings!
(Note. The gold thread for the ephod and breastplate was prepared by beating the metal into thin plates and cutting it into wires (Ex. 39. 3), i.e., all the love that was ever in the heart of the Lord came to light as He, as the Man of Sorrows, walked down here on His way to the cross.)
Blue - The soft, heavenly, soothing colour. The gentle graciousness of Christ pervading all we do or say.
Scarlet - Readiness to bear suffering and humiliation for Christ.
Purple - The deep consciousness of our heavenly, royal dignity so filling our souls that we despise the world's glory and honours.
The Holy Spirit delights to help us in this work and to maintain a beautiful blending of the coloured threads derived from Christ worked out in every good word and work. Thus our Lord Jesus would be verily glorified in us. Sometimes one colour predominates and spoils our testimony, but by constantly comparing ourselves with Christ we shall discover what colour or stitches are lacking. It may be a little more self-denial, or steadfastness, courage, patience, meekness, etc. One part of our garments may be well tilled in, whilst another is scarcely begun. Patient toil and perseverance will be needed, but these garments are for Eternity and are well worth all the labour. "She shall be brought unto the King in raiment of needlework" and to all eternity stand arrayed not only in the given robe, "the wrought gold," but also in those of needlework which have been wrought out in our lives on earth. No two Christians will have garments alike. Each one will wear his or her own workmanship. We cannot make them for one another, but we can greatly help and encourage one another in the work. And, what a joy it is to know that our Lord Jesus watches the process with intense delight and is always ready to help in any way.
Verse 23. Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders in the land. -
There is no mistake as to whom she belongs. He is known as her husband! Is it thus with the reader? You belong to Christ. Does everybody know it? Seek so to work out the coverings of tapestry that you may be unmistakably marked out as belonging to Him. Moreover, there is a suggestion here that her character and her industry had some connection with her husband being respected in the gates—in the place of influence where he sat among the elders. Do we so adorn the doctrine of God in our lives that Christ is enabled to exert greater influence upon others?
"I want the adorning divine;
Thou only my God canst bestow;
I want in those beautiful garments to shine
Which distinguish Thy household below"
should be the breathing of each one forming the assembly.
Verse 24. She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; —
She seeks to exemplify the beauties of holiness and joy of fellowship with Christ. She tells what it will cost; that it cannot be had without parting with worldliness, carelessness, vanity and pride or any indulged sin. She, as it were, holds up the fine linen before them and descants on its merits—its eternal value and beauty, its present comfort and strength.
and delivereth girdles unto the merchants. — We all have our weak points and we specialty need to search out the truth of God upon these points and weave it into a girdle to apply to them, that we may be able to stand in the evil day of temptation.
Verse 25. Strength and honour are her clothing; —
Them that honour Me, t will honour. Conscious of His smile, therefore able to go forward with firm and steady step through evil report or good, knowing that He will uphold and bless.
and she shall rejoice in time to come. Whatever others have thought or said, they will have to endorse His verdict in the coming day.
Verse 26. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. —What an assembly would it be if composed of men and women so deriving character from fellowship with Christ!
Verse 27. She looketh well to the ways of her household, —What oversight and shepherd care!
and eateth not the bread of idleness. — What giving of selves to prayer and the ministry of the Word! Labouring in the word and doctrine!
Verse 28. Her children arise up, and call her blessed ; — Spiritual children may, like some natural ones, be tardy in their recognition of all that has been dnne for them, but sooner or later this will be realized and appreciation shown, and, above all—
her husband also, and he praiseth her. — What words He will use of those who have been truly devoted to Him.
Verses 29 to 31. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all — This will more than repay reproach and loss and to hear all heaven echo His judgment-
A woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates. - Surely a clear typical reference to the Judgment Seat of Christ!
Such exercises throughout an assembly would produce the beautiful church of Tom Baird's lines:-
"How beautiful that church must be
Where Watchful is the Porter;
Whilst Prudence has the Oversight,
With Patience as Exhorter,
Where Harmony conducts the Praise,
And Reverence the Worship;
Whilst Loyalty accords to Christ
The undisputed Lordship.
Humility pervades the place,
And Piety sweet smileth;
Whilst Purity her fragrance breathes,
And Gentleness beguileth.
Simplicity adorns the walls,
And Grace all captivating -
Benevolence is prominent.
Whilst Zeal is operating.
Here Mercy wears her diadem,
And Meekness conquers friction;
Whilst Truth exerts its influence -
joy adds her benediction.
Here Righteousness is placed on guard,And Faith is ever active;
Whilst Goodness everywhere abounds.
And Christ is all attractive.
O Lord, restore Thy church to this
Her primitive position;
And let us taste on earth the bliss
Of this sublime condition.