PRO 31:26 starts with the Hebrew letter pe. Pe pictures an open mouth and speaks of feeding on God’s Word.
The virtuous woman is a channel for God’s Word.
When I met my husband at the age of seventeen, I was an unbeliever. I was occasionally taken to church as a child, we read the account of Jesus’ birth at Christmas, and thanked God for our food before every meal. When my grandfather died, my mother assured me he was in Heaven. I thought I was a Christian because I had been raised to be a Christian.
Shortly after I met Gene, I went to work at a ski resort in the mountains of Colorado. It was only a summer job, but during those few short months, he wrote me letters—love letters that told me of his desire to be my spiritual leader, my protector, and friend. He continually spoke to me in those letters of God’s love, the good news of the Gospel, and principles from God’s Word. He presented Christ to me in a way I had never seen before. It was like he knew Jesus Christ as a Person, and I wanted the conviction, confidence, and truth that he held. Sometime during the span of that Rocky Mountain summer, I fell in love with the two most important men in my life: Gene Cunningham, and the God-Man, Christ Jesus! I read those love letters over and over again. I pondered on his words and treasured them in my heart. Forty two years later, I still have those letters.
The Bible is God’s eternal love letter written to my heart and yours. It speaks of His desire for us to open the doors of our soul to His love; it speaks of His desire to be our spiritual Leader, Protector, and Friend. It leads us in the paths of righteousness and blessing, and delivers us from inordinate love for a fallen world. It is the invitation from our heavenly Husband to dance the divine romance that lasts for eternity. We should read this love letter over and over again, ponder and meditate on its principles, and treasure them in our heart.
We should be drawn daily to the beauty of God’s Word, strengthened by its power, and motivated by its wisdom. We are to have more than just an intellectual knowledge and understanding of God’s Word, for the living power of it is meant to pierce into the depths of our soul to change our thinking, our priorities, and our purposes in life. Once the Word of God has permeated our own heart, we are meant to use it to reach the hearts of others. As we grow in Christ, we should become a channel of God’s Word as it goes from His heart to ours, and then, from our heart to another’s. PRO 31:26 speaks of this open channel. The virtuous woman is able to open her mouth in wisdom and teach others of the kindness of God because she has first feasted on God’s Word for her own soul.
There is another passage in the Book of Proverbs that expounds on this principle. It is found in Proverbs 9 where the Word of God compares and contrasts the character of a wise woman versus a foolish woman. Let’s look at the ladies of Proverbs 9 and learn from their victories and mistakes.
The Path of Wisdom
“Wisdom has built her house,
She has hewn out her seven pillars;
She has prepared her food, she has mixed her wine;
She has also set her table;
She has sent out her maidens, she calls
From the tops of the heights of the city;
‘Whoever is naive, let him turn in here!’
To him who lacks understanding she says,
‘Come, eat of my food,
And drink of the wine I have mixed.
Forsake your folly and live,
And proceed in the way of understanding.’”PRO 9:1-6
Wisdom in the Book of Proverbs is personified as a woman. As we look more closely at these verses, pay attention to the imagery that the Spirit of God uses to help us understand the woman of wisdom. The verses are very graphic. God is a very visual Teacher because He knows most of us are visual learners. Perhaps you have already pictured in your mind the house of the wise woman.
This verse describes the stand the wise woman has taken in her personal life. We cannot hope to point others to the truth of God’s Word if we have not taken a stand for it in our own life. She has decided for herself that wisdom is the path she will seek in her life, and the structure of her house reflects that decision:
The word “built” indicates the house is well or attractively formed.
The words “hewn out” indicate the application of skill and the investment of time to build something both sturdy and attractive.
Her skill and time have resulted in a house of “seven pillars,” the number seven indicating completion, perfection, and strength.
The wise woman’s skill and time are now applied to the table of her home. After taking a stand for wisdom, she now prepares a feast in order to have something to share with others. Again, think of the imagery:
She has “prepared” her food, which actually means she has “slaughtered the slaughter.” This is not hot dogs and chips on a paper plate. She has prepared the finest of meats to present a feast with sustenance, nutrition, and flavor. As my husband and I travel to remote and poor places in the world, we often receive great hospitality from the people we visit. They always try to give us their best. In cultures that are meat-deprived, that means they will sacrifice whatever is necessary to provide us with a protein. It may be sautéed goat intestines or a roast bat, but it is protein!
“She has mixed her wine” to strengthen and flavor it.
She has “set her table” by arrangement and beautification—presentation, presentation, presentation!
The food referred to in this passage represents the offering of truth to others.
In these verses, we see that her preparations have a purpose as she actively pursues ministry:
She “calls from … the heights of the city.” The word “calls” means “to summon or shout.” The wisdom of her life is now calling out from “the heights of the city” as she seeks to share life (both eternal and abundant) with those in need. There is no greater need in this life than the need for understanding God and His Word. This woman of wisdom is ready to share it because she has a compassionate concern for the souls of other people.
She seeks to minister to the “naive,” or one who lacks understanding. In Scripture, naivety or ignorance often has a moral as well as an intellectual connotation. This wise woman is ready to minister to the spiritual need of another—whether that need is for instruction, reproof, correction, encouragement, or strength. Because our present-day society is so far removed from biblical standards, young people often do not even know that premarital sex is sin, or that homosexuality is not a legitimate expression of desire in God’s sight. We must pursue the presentation of truth to a world that no longer has respect for the absolutes of God’s Word.
“Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt,
so that you will know how to respond to each person.”
With these graphic images of the wise woman in our minds, let’s make application in our own life. Ask yourself these questions:
Have I taken an active stand to learn and use the wisdom of God’s Word? Am I diligently and daily seeking His truth and standing upon its firm foundation? Do I rate the quality of my spiritual life by how many “tapes” I have listened to, how many notebooks I have filled, or do I rate it by the intimacy of my relationship with Christ and my willingness to surrender to Him?
Am I adorning the doctrine of God is such a way that people are hungry for what I have prepared? Do I care about the souls of others and their need to hear the truth of God’s Word? Do I set an attractive table of God’s Word for my husband, my children, my family? The people that live within the walls of your own home are your first mission field!
Are the doors of my life flung wide open to invite others in for counsel and encouragement? Am I actively seeking to bless others through service, encouragement, teaching, and prayer? Or am I idly sitting on the sidelines, twiddling my thumbs ’til Jesus comes?
The one thing that is not included in the description of the wise woman is the result of her ministry. She calls out for people to come in order to share understanding with them. But life teaches us that not all will respond to that call. Of all the passersby who hear her invitation, we are not told how many respond. Still she considers it worthwhile to take a stand in her life and offer the overflow of her wisdom to those in need. We should too! Life and ministry can often be discouraging, but don’t lose hope because the eyes of Jesus roam to and fro (2CH 16:9) within the walls of our heart and home. He knows our devotion to Him even when we don’t see the fruit!
The Path of Folly
“The woman of folly is boisterous,
She is naive, and knows nothing.
She sits at the doorway of her house,
On a seat by the high places of the city,
Calling to those who pass by,
Who are making their paths straight:
‘Whoever is naive, let him turn in here,’
And to him who lacks understanding she says,
‘Stolen water is sweet;
And bread eaten in secret is pleasant.’
But he does not know that the dead are there,
That her guests are in the depths of Sheol.”PRO 9:13-18
The Spirit of God once again uses imagery to set a stark contrast between the heart and ministry of the wise woman and that of the foolish woman.
The woman of folly has taken no stand in her own life; therefore, she lacks stability, maturity, and strength.
The word “folly” refers to “stupidity due to disdain for God’s truth.” Again, it is not judgment on her intellect as much as judgment on her moral and spiritual character. She does not have an “open mouth” that is hungry to feed on God’s Word. This word can also refer to being silly or simple.
While the wise woman is busily making preparation, the foolish woman is sitting!
The words used here imply apathy and laziness resulting in wasting the years, days, and precious opportunities of her life. “Like sands through the hour glass,” so are the days of the foolish woman’s life. I find it interesting that they are now discovering that the physical act of sitting for long periods of time is one of the most detrimental things you can do to the health of your body. In keeping with that, spiritual sitting is one of the most detrimental things you can do for the health of your soul.
The foolish woman also calls out to those who pass by. Unfortunately, she calls out with the offer of death—not life! She desires to lead others in the path she has taken, a path leading to the death of understanding, fellowship, and productivity—a dead-end path of sin.
Before we leave the principles found in Proverbs 9, it is important to examine the verses that separate the descriptions of the wise and the foolish woman. These verses are very pointed and convicting, clarifying for us the underlying difference between the wise and the foolish woman.
“He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself,
And he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself.
Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you,
Reprove a wise man and he will love you.
Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser,
Teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
For by me your days will be multiplied,
And years of life will be added to you.”PRO 9:7-11
The difference between the wise and foolish woman is not how much knowledge they have of the Word of God (though that is very important), but how much they let the Word of God correct and change their thoughts, motives, words, deeds, and life. The striking difference between one woman and the next is not knowledge, but teachability! The willingness to take rebuke and correction is crucial to the gaining of wisdom in our life. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (PSA 111:10). To sit at the feet of a spiritual leader, pastor or Bible teacher is imperative for our spiritual life. But sitting should not be the only posture of a disciple of Christ. We are also to walk in the truth, to “run with endurance the race set before us,” and “to stand firm” in the face of the enemy (EPH 5:15; HEB 12:1-3; EPH 6:11). The sitting to learn is the first step—but not the last step!
Let’s open not only our ears to hear the Word of God, but also our hearts to be changed and renewed by the Word of God and the working of His Spirit in our life. When others (yes, even our husbands) give criticism or correction to our life, it is easy to resent their words and reject their views. This reaction comes from arrogance of soul. We would fare much better if we were to humbly consider their words and, if needed, make the necessary corrections in our lives. Age and experience should never be an excuse for apathy toward God’s Word. If we think we know enough or have grown enough, the Lord will faithfully show us our own folly to stimulate us into further growth. Let’s remain teachable in order to be ready to teach and encourage others.
One of the greatest areas of teaching ministry available to a woman is with her own children. God places the responsibility for the spiritual health and welfare of sons and daughters onto the parents. Rightly so! It is a great responsibility coupled with a great privilege. The Book of Deuteronomy was written to teach the people of God how to properly live before a holy and righteous God. Under God’s leadership, Moses gave instruction to the people in order “that [they] … [their] son[s] and grandsons might” live in the fear and obedience of the Lord, resulting in blessing and long life (DEU 6:1-3). I think we would all agree that we want this for ourselves, our sons, grandsons, daughters, and granddaughters. DEU 6:4-7 says this:
“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God
with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words,
which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them
diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when
you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.”
There is some parallel here with the passage of the wise woman in Proverbs 9. She first took a stand for truth in her own life before she was ready to call from “the heights of the city” to those passing by. In the same way, this passage in Deuteronomy encourages us to first love the Lord our God in our own heart in order to live out the love of the Lord our God to our children. The process starts with self. Moses then commands the people to teach their own children with diligence and consistency. If we are opening our mouth in wisdom to our children when we sit in our house, when we walk by the way (or drive down the highway), when we lie down and when we rise up, we are pretty much in full-time ministry to our children. That is God’s design!
Our words and our life should marry in a harmonious message of who God is and what He has done for us. We need to be passionate about our relationship with God and let our children and grandchildren see that passion so as to ignite the same passion in them. Let your children see your love for the Lord your God by the way you live for the Lord your God.
This message is repeated six times in the Book of Deuteronomy, each passage having a little different wording or emphasis. God doesn’t have dementia; when He repeats something it is because He really wants us to get it. Compare this Deuteronomy 6 passage with DEU 4:9, DEU 6:20-25, DEU 11:18-21, DEU 31:12-13, and DEU 32:46. I wonder how well Israel did at following these commands. Judges 2 answers that question for us. JDG 2:7-8 read as follows:
“The people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders
who survived Joshua, who had seen all the great work of the LORD which He had done for Israel.
Then Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of one hundred and ten.”
Joshua and his generation were strong in their faith and pursuit of God. It seems a bit of a conundrum, but the following verses indicate that they failed in one critical area. JDG 2:10-12a (emphasis added) tell us that:
“All that generation also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation
after them who did not know the LORD, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel.
Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals,
and they forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers ...”
The same generation that stood firm in their own faith gave birth to a generation that did not know the Lord, but forsook him for dead idolatry. Where was the execution of DEU 6:4-7 in their lives? Excuse me, but this sounds a whole lot like America today!
Now, I understand that good parenting is only one part of the equation. Children, as they grow, have volition of their own to choose to follow or forsake God. Certainly we have had some issues with our own children from time to time, and certainly we have failed at times to love the Lord our God before their very eyes. If children have been raised to trust Christ and love their God with all their heart, soul, and mind, and then turn away from Him, the condemnation is theirs. But if we fail, as parents, to instill the love of God into their young hearts, the condemnation is ours. Father God, help us as Christian parents and grandparents in America, Australia, and around the world to lead our children into an intimate relationship with You!
Not everyone reading this lesson will have children. Some are barren and, difficult as it may be, that needs to be accepted as from the Lord, whatever His reason. Others choose not to bear children. But if you are without children, consider the impact you can have on kids who are spiritual orphans, having no parents of their own who will display Christ to them. Even children who are raised in Christian homes by Christian parents sometimes just don’t get it until another adult comes alongside them and mentors them in Jesus Christ. When they see it and hear it in someone besides their parents, it begins to make sense to them. There are many open doors of ministry available to those who want to spiritually adopt the children of this world, to open their mouths in wisdom, and let the teaching of kindness be on their tongue.
There are so many places we could go with this verse in Proverbs 31, so many passages that speak of the power of the tongue for good or evil. Jesus is the manifestation of kindness; let His words and His love be on our lips, in our words, and in our lives. Let’s regularly feed on God’s Word in order to have a word of wisdom, grace, and encouragement for those around us!
“Like apples of gold in settings of silver
is a word spoken in right circumstances.
Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold