PRO 31:25 starts with the Hebrew letter ayin. Ayin pictures a fountain and speaks of life.
The virtuous woman flows with the love of Christ.
I find it quite humorous that Proverbs 31 mentions the clothing of the woman so many times, or puts biblical principles into the analogy of dress. Most women tend to like clothes and care about the way they are dressed. When we are preparing for a mission trip, I am thinking about what clothes to take weeks in advance. Since I am usually limited to what I have on and two other changes, I want to like wearing what’s in my suitcase. The clothes I pack need to be appropriate to the culture I am traveling to and the weather we will be encountering, comfortable enough for long days of travel, wrinkle-free, and have a little bit of attractiveness—maybe just for vanity sake! Ah! So much to consider!
My husband, on the other hand, thinks about what knives he is going to take weeks in advance. Since he is going to be limited to only two or three, maybe four (he really likes knives!), he wants to like what’s in his suitcase. It is not until we actually start to pack that he even thinks about what clothes to bring. That just baffles me!
In PRO 31:25, the virtuous woman is dressed in strength and dignity. Since you can’t be physically clothed in “strength and dignity,” this verse is referring to the spiritual character of the virtuous woman. The word “strength” is the Hebrew word oz and means “strength or might.” The word for “dignity” in the NASB is the Hebrew word hadar and can also mean “beauty, honor, and glory.” When I think of strength and might, coupled with beauty, honor, and glory, there is one person that immediately comes to the forefront of my mind—the Lord Jesus Christ! ROM 13:14 tells us to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ,” to morally and spiritually dress in His character, His strength and might, His beauty, His honor, and His glory. That is quite a wardrobe!
One of the most prominent aspects of the character of Jesus Christ is the fountain of His forgiveness. The ayin file of PRO 31:25 speaks of a fountain—an ever-flowing source of life and refreshment. The forgiveness of Christ knows no limit or boundary for, through faith in Jesus Christ, “He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins,”COL 1:13-14.
In JOH 8:1-11, we find the fountain of Christ’s forgiveness poured out on a sinful soul. Jesus is up early in the temple to teach the people when the religious leaders storm into the room. They hurl before Him a woman “caught” in adultery. In one cruel turn of time, the woman was grabbed from the pleasure of a man’s touch to the pain of man’s wrath. The word “caught” is katalambano, meaning “to take eagerly,” “to seize or overtake.” “The scribes and … Pharisees” were pretty happy to have caught this woman in order to use her to test and discredit the Lord Jesus Christ. (Good luck with that, scribes and Pharisees!) The woman was probably scantily dressed in whatever she could throw around her in that mad moment of being discovered in an adulterous position.
No doubt, as she now stood before the Lord, she tasted the depth of her own shame and shuddered in fear of certain judgment. In Jewish law and custom, an adulteress was to be stoned (LEV 20:10). She was now expecting that kind of a judgment, expecting that kind of climax to her regrettable sin. We can only imagine the thoughts racing through her head: Who will throw the first stone? Where will it land on my body? How bloody will it be? How long will it take before I fall into unconsciousness? Why did I throw my life away on a bed of sin?
But then, her thoughts are interrupted by the actions of Jesus. What is this? His scorn is directed not at her, but at the religious leaders. Jesus stooped down in front of these men and wrote something—we don’t know what—on the ground at her feet and said, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” He continued writing on the ground. The next verse says, “when they heard [Jesus], they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones.”
I find it interesting that Jesus wrote a message to them, but when they heard it, they went out. It must have been one of those moments when you are so confronted by truth that you openly speak the words you are reading. Or perhaps, they heard the ramifications of those words penetrate the stony coldness of their hearts. Either way, the sound of that message took all the air out of their puffed-up hearts, and they walked away deflated, but unchanged, leaving behind them the incarnate God—the bodily fulfillment of all they claimed to believe.
And Jesus was left alone with the woman. Moments after an intimate encounter with the wrong man, she is ushered into an intimate encounter with the right Man! This woman was in the presence of the gentleman Jesus; she was in the shadow of the Savior—in the hands of One who would be nailed to a cross for the sins of the world. His blood would be shed so that hers could be spared. This day, her life was transformed by the Master’s touch as she felt the tender hug of His love—a faithful and unconditional love of the sort she had never before known. Her imminent stoning was suddenly interrupted by eternal forgiveness. It was the most amazing surprise of her life!
Jesus spoke to her—to her ears, to her heart, to the dark, needy depths of her soul, “‘Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.’” He loved her enough to offer His fountain of forgiveness. He also loved her enough to exhort her to a higher standard of living. In this final statement from the Lord, we find the balance of grace and truth—grace that forgives and truth that beckons us all to walk in obedience to His Word for His glory!
I love surprises, and perhaps the surprise that means the most to me is when I have sinned or failed in some way. I come into my husband’s presence expecting a lengthy sermon, and then he surprises me with understanding and forgiveness. It is such a breath of fresh air! (It makes me want to buy him a new knife!) What I anticipated would turn into a “big deal” is suddenly dealt with by the love of Christ in my husband’s heart—and the big deal becomes a done deal. We can move on in fellowship and forgiveness. That kind of response builds my love for him.
I try to surprise him as well, with a quick and ready forgiveness for his faults and failures, and that builds his love for me. Forgiveness makes marriage so much sweeter. Forgiveness makes any relationship so much sweeter! We are not in control of how others react to our faults and failures but we are in control of how we react to the faults and failures of others.
As believers in Jesus Christ, the goal of our soul should be conformity to His likeness. To forgive others is perhaps one of the greatest opportunities to manifest His likeness. EPH 4:31-32 says:
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
Be kind to one another, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has also forgiven you.”
“Bitterness … wrath … anger … clamor and slander” are sins. We are to put off these sins by confession (1JO 1:9). But confession should never be the end of the road for us; EPH 4:32 leads us to correction. That correction is forgiveness toward others.
Consider these verses on the forgiveness of Jesus Christ, and forgive others in just the same way:
1. PSA 103:2-3 (emphasis added), “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits; who pardons all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases.”
COL 2:13b (emphasis added), “... having forgiven us all our transgressions.”
• The forgiveness of Jesus Christ covers all sins! Therefore, we should be willing to forgive others of all sins: the ones we consider both big and small.
2. MAT 18:21-22, “Then Peter came and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.’”
• The forgiveness of Jesus Christ knows no limit. If He commanded Peter to forgive his brother up to 490 times in a day, think how much greater His forgiveness is for us! This should not give us license to continue in sin; rather, out of appreciation for His grace, it should motivate us to strive for purity from sin.
• There should be no limit to the number of times we are willing to forgive our husbands, our children, or our brothers and sisters in Christ. I have never had anyone sin against me 490 times in one day, but I think I have come close to remembering someone’s sin against me that many times in a day. Sometimes when we are left alone to our thoughts, perhaps in the dark of the night, or some other long, contemplative time, we dwell on the hurts of the past. They rise up in us like an angry snake. When an unforgiving spirit repeatedly rises up within us, we must overcome it through confession and application of, once again, of the forgiveness of Christ.
3. HEB 8:12, “FOR I WILL BE MERCIFUL TO THEIR INIQUITIES, AND I WILL REMEMBER THEIR SINS NO MORE.”
PSA 103:12, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”
• When Jesus forgives us, our sins are no longer an issue in our relationship with Him. Our sin is forgotten and moved from us as far as the east is from the west. (The east and west never meet, by the way!)
• When we forgive others, it frees us to move on from the sin that has been committed against us. In ongoing relationships, such as a marriage, the sin does not need to continue to be brought up between us and the other party. That’s freedom! We need to deal with people where they are in the present, not in the failure of their past. Remember, forgiveness cancels the past. Again, I am so thankful that Gene and I have grown in our maturity to the point where we are able to forgive each other more freely, more quickly, and more completely. The forgiveness of Christ in a marriage relationship spares it from angry outbursts or long hours of silence. It delivers husbands from those you-can-just-sleep-on-the-couch moments!
4. EPH 1:7-8, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight ...”
• We do not deserve the forgiveness of Jesus Christ, nor is there anything we can do to earn it. Forgiveness is given to us as a gift when we believe in Him. I love the word used in this verse, “lavish.” It is the Greek word perriseuo and speaks of a downpour, a superabundance in both quality and quantity, something that is superfluous and extravagant. This is the nature of God’s grace toward us in Christ!
• We do not show forgiveness to others because they deserve it; we show it as a gift in reflection of the character of Jesus Christ. Nor should we ask them to work to earn our forgiveness. Forgiveness is unconditional. If Jesus lavishes His grace on us, it seems only right that we could show more than a trace of grace to others!
5. 1PE 2:24 (emphasis added), “and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.”
• Jesus paid the ultimate price for our sins: death on the cross. His love drove Him to suffer greatly in order to buy our freedom.
• When we are willing to forgive others, it doesn’t mean we are overlooking the sin or saying it doesn’t matter. We are saying that we are willing to bear the pain and suffering that accompanies that sin. We are willing to carry the burden of another’s sin because Jesus carries the burden of our sin (1PE 5:7; MAT 11:28).
6. JOH 8:11b (emphasis added), “And Jesus said, ‘I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.’”
• We already looked at this example earlier in the lesson. But I just want to use it here to reiterate one important point of reflecting the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. The forgiveness of Jesus Christ gives us an opportunity for confession and correction, to learn from our failures, and to move on to victory.
• In the same way, we should encourage others to learn from sin and failure and to turn to Christ for correction. There is opportunity to minister to the person who has hurt us and show them the way to pick up and move on in God’s grace.
7. LUK 7:47, “For this reason I say to you [He is speaking to another arrogant Pharisee], her sins which are many have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
• The sinful woman of Luke 7, knowing how much she needed the forgiveness of Christ, loved Him far beyond the reach of the Pharisee’s “love,” for he did not realize His great need for Christ. Forgiveness builds love in a relationship.
• When we are willing and able to forgive others, it builds a bond of love between us that is sometimes stronger than before the breach of trust.
8. 2CO 5:14-19 (emphasis added), “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh ... Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.”
• At times it seems very difficult to forgive another person who has greatly sinned against you. Actually, humanly speaking, it is nearly impossible. But when we depend on the love of Christ to be the power of our forgiveness, we are calling on a love far beyond ours—a love great enough to forgive the whole world!
• When we consider others as souls that Christ was willing to die for, what grounds do we have not to forgive? If they are believers, they are “new creatures in Christ”; if they are unbelievers, we have the opportunity to show them the love of Christ in a way they may never have seen before!
• We each are given a ministry—it is the “ministry of reconciliation,” meaning “a bringing together of two separated parties.” In relationships where there has been a breaking of fellowship through sin on the part of one party or both, the goal to strive for is reconciliation. That is always God’s desire. But sometimes only one party seeks after reconciliation. I would encourage you to be the party willing to reconcile, and pray for others to come to that same desire. To God be the glory!
9. ROM 8:1-2, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”
• We all have a past of some sort—some sordid sort! Some people are more prone to guilt and shame than others. But the Word of God freely assures us that in Christ Jesus there is no more condemnation for sin! You may not be struggling with forgiving someone else, but you may be struggling with forgiving your own self. If so, go back through the above verses speaking about the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ and, please, apply them to yourself.
The moment we believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior, all condemnation from sin is gone, finished, erased—nailed to the cross and considered as naught. The price, the penalty, and the pain of every sin was demolished by the work of God’s holy Son. He instantly sets us free from sin and guilt so that we can, indeed, be free. Shout, “Hallelujah!” Rejoice! Jump up and down with joy—you are free!
Perhaps one of the greatest expressions of forgiveness I have ever heard was written on a tattered piece of paper and found in the clothing of a dead child at Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. It goes like this:
“Lord, remember not only the men and women of good-will but also those of ill-will, but do not remember all of the suffering that they have inflicted upon us. Instead, remember the fruits that we have borne because of this suffering; our fellowship, our loyalty to one another, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown from this trouble. When our persecutors come to be judged by you let all of those fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness.”
These words just make me want to cry. To cry for the terrible suffering this child endured, to cry for the evil that this world can inflict on body and soul, to cry with longing for that same kind of mature and gracious love in my own heart. The words of this child put me to shame. This is a boy who had lost his childhood, his peace, his health, his joy, and his very future to evil men. This amazing young man was able to see what he had gained from both his suffering and the opportunity to forgive. He looked at how he had grown in character and integrity and in relationship with God—how God had opened his heart and allowed His grace to take root and bloom there. From the suffering inflicted by evil men, he had gained friends and learned loyalty and courage. He focused not on his personal suffering but on the fruit that the suffering had brought in his life.
For just a moment, I want you to ponder on the most difficult thing that you have ever had to forgive—the very thing that you may wish had never happened to you, that you may wish could be erased from the chalkboard of your heart. Whatever you are pondering on may be the very thing God uses to draw you to Him! That very thing could end up being your greatest blessing because of the strength and dignity you gained from the trial. Often our greatest ministry grows out of our deepest suffering.
Corrie Ten Boom was greatly hurt in the persecution of Christians in WWII. She suffered long and hard in a concentration camp that took the life of her sister. After the war was over, she struggled with forgiveness and asked a pastor how to deal with the bitterness in her heart. This is the counsel he gave her:
“Forgiveness is like letting go of a bell rope. If you have ever seen a country church with a bell in the steeple, you will remember that to get the bell ringing you have to tug awhile. Once it has begun to ring, you merely maintain the momentum. As long as you keep pulling, the bell keeps ringing. Forgiveness is letting go of the rope. It is just that simple. But when you do so, the bell keeps ringing. Momentum is still at work. However, if you keep your hands off the rope, the bell will begin to slow and eventually stop.”
The virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 is dressed in “strength and dignity,” and “she smiles at the future.” If your smile has been turned upside down by a broken heart—an infliction of pain from someone else’s failure—I would encourage you to embrace the love of Christ and reflect it through forgiveness. When the fountain of His forgiveness flows through you, it is the first step to healing that broken heart. We are only able to smile at the future when we have dealt with the past. Forgive in the same way that Christ has forgiven you!