“Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman
who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” Proverbs 31:30
Verse 30 starts with the Hebrew letter shin. Shin pictures a tooth and speaks of a feast.
The virtuous woman has a healthy respect for her Lord and His Word.
I have always been amazed at the number of stunningly beautiful women there are in this world. At times, we will be in some desolate area, in a poor remote village, and in will walk a woman who could easily outshine a Hollywood star in her raw, natural beauty. She will live out her life without lotions, cosmetics, or fine clothes, sleeping on the floor of some bamboo or mud hut; but the beauty given to her by the hand of God is undeniable. Our Creator God is such an artist and sculptor, and at times, His greatest work is found in the face and form of a woman!
The picture above was taken during a Bible class in a spiritually restricted area of Asia. This woman is not stunningly beautiful by human terms. Her skin is leathered and lined, her hair thinning and gray—yet, as Gene was teaching, the countenance of her face lit up with the delight of feasting on God’s Word. I couldn’t help but try to capture her beauty with my Canon. I love the way the inner beauty of a woman’s soul surfaces in her eyes, countenance, and smile!
PRO 31:30 starts with the Hebrew letter shin, picturing a tooth and speaking of a feast. A daily diet of God’s Word is the nourishment we need to develop inner beauty and protect us from the deceptions of the world. David said:
“One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days
of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to meditate in His temple.”PSA 27:4 (emphasis added)
David’s innermost desire was to behold the beauty of the Lord in the Word of God. This should be our desire as well. Yet, at times, our female vanity causes us to be more caught up with our own beauty than the beauty of the Lord, more drawn to looking at our own reflection in the mirror than looking into the mirror of God’s Word.
In the days of Isaiah, the nation of Israel was going through a time of great discipline from the Lord “because their speech and their actions are against the LORD, to rebel against His glorious presence” (ISA 3:8). The Lord passes judgment on Israel’s leaders and its people. The women are not excluded from this divine judgment because of the extreme vanity of their life. Read the words Isaiah uses to describe their haughtiness, and consider how closely it resembles many women in Western culture today:
“Moreover, the LORD said, ‘Because the daughters of Zion are proud, and walk with heads held high and
seductive eyes, and go along with mincing steps, and tinkle the bangles on their feet, therefore the Lord will
afflict the scalp of the daughters of Zion with scabs, and the LORD will make their foreheads bare.’
In that day the Lord will take away the beauty of their anklets, headbands, crescent ornaments, dangling
This is a very descriptive passage of Scripture. Visualize with me the “before and after” portrait of these women. One day, they are walking around “dolled up” to the max and so proud of how sexy and attractive they are, so caught up in possessing every article available to enhance their vanity. Their closets, drawers, and jewelry boxes are full—and they love it! This is the portrait of the proud and haughty female.
The next day, judgment arrives from the hand of God; their hair is plucked away and their scalp becomes scabbed, their clothing is stripped from them and all that remains is rope and sackcloth, the aroma of their sweet perfume is replaced with a putrefying stench, and there is nothing they can do to escape it. When God’s judgment comes, there is no place to hide. This is the portrait of a woman branded for discipline.
This Isaiah passage is a very extreme account of discipline from the Lord. We may not suffer a “plucked-out scalp” and a branded hide; but if we rebel against His glorious presence in our life, we will suffer His just discipline. Therefore, these verses should stand as a warning to us as well: a warning of the danger of getting so caught up in the physical that we forget the spiritual, a warning against the deceitfulness of charm and the vane nature of physical beauty, and a warning not to worship self but the one true and living God of the Bible. We must filter the lures of this world and the deception of commercialism through the eyes of God’s Word.
I recently had a three-hour layover in the Las Vegas airport. My soul mourned the absolute vanity of all that surrounded me, and the complete and utter absence of any mention of God. There should be a place in our life to physically adorn ourselves, to care for the temple that houses our eternal soul, and to beautify ourselves for the pleasure of our husbands, but that place should not take priority over the need to care for our soul. I think God wants us to celebrate our femininity. But if it consumes our time, attention, and finances, the celebration turns to idolatry.
Today’s world is infected with the disease of deception. It started in the Garden, and it has spread through the hearts and souls of men and women ever since. Paul wrote about this in 2 Corinthians when he implored the Corinthian believers to be single-minded and pure in their relationship with Christ:
“For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ
I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness,
your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.”2CO 11:2-3
One of the deceptions we, as women, are most susceptible to is the deception of charm and beauty. We like the attention and adoration of men, but if we lust after that in an inordinate way, or desire to receive it from an improper source, we have been deceived by its power and led away from pure “devotion to Christ.” The greater desire should be to receive the praise and adoration of Jesus Christ Himself, and this is available to us through the fear of the Lord.
What does it mean to fear the Lord? Fear is defined as “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is likely to cause danger or threat to us.” Synonyms of fear are terror, fright, horror, alarm, and dread. But in the biblical sense, fear is based on a reverential awe of Who and what God is (PSA 33:8), coupled with a healthy understanding of His holy standard of righteousness and justice. It is a deep, inner desire to do what is right in God’s sight out of love and gratitude for His grace to us. We see this explained for us in HEB 12:28-29 when the writer says, “... let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.” As a well-trained child looks with love and admiration to the wisdom and strength of his father, yet fears the consequences of violating the father’s standards, so we should look with love and admiration to the wisdom and strength of our heavenly Father and desire to live within the standards of His household—or suffer the just consequences. Our fear of the Lord beckons us to worship Him, to serve Him, and to obey Him as our heavenly Father.
Have you ever been tempted to take something or do something that you knew was wrong, and everything inside of you wanted to follow through with that temptation? Of course, you have! You are human, just like I am. With the temptation comes the thought, “what if someone finds out” or “what will the consequences be?” You knew if you could only get away with doing that thing and nobody would know (including God), then you would follow through with the sin. But then, the still, small voice inside of you says, “there will be consequences, because God will know.” This is the fear of the Lord piercing our heart and delivering us from sin and evil. We turn from the temptation out of admiration and duty to our heavenly Father, whom we love—and fear!
There are many examples in Scripture of believers who acted according to God’s will because the fear of the Lord lived in their heart. Two women who are praised in Scripture for their fear of the Lord are Shiphrah and Puah, ladies who became heroes in the story of Israel’s deliverance because of their wisdom and bravery. As Christians, we love to name our daughters after our forerunners in the faith, so you probably all know a girl in your church named Shiphrah or Puah, right? Ha! These women were Jewish midwives living in captivity in Egypt. The Pharaoh feared the rise of the Jewish people and so commanded the midwives thus, “When you are helping the Hebrew women to give birth and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, then you shall put him to death; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live. But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live” (EXO 1:16-17, emphasis added).
These women were being commanded by the highest authority in the land of Egypt to murder babies. Shiphrah and Puah’s fear of the Lord kept them from committing repeated acts of murder against the Jewish newborns. Their fear of the Lord led them to disregard their own safety in order to give due regard to God’s creation and His holy Word. When the king of Egypt realized that the baby boys were not being put to death, he called upon the midwives to give an explanation, and they replied, “the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife can get to them” (EXO 1:19). God honors faith, and He honors our fear of disobeying Him.
In light of the midwives’ actions, consider these verses on the fear of the Lord:
The truth of these verses is found in the actions of the midwives. In a difficult time of trial, they demonstrated wisdom and confidence to do the right thing in God’s eyes, turning from the path of sin and evil and following the path that led to the preserving of precious life. There was danger involved in their decision, for to purposely go against the commands of Pharaoh could certainly lead to violent consequences. God not only protected the midwives, but He blessed them as well. The passage goes on to say, “So God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied, and became very mighty. Because the midwives feared God, He established households for them” (EXO 11:20-21, emphasis added).
In light of God’s honor and goodness to Shiphrah and Puah, consider these promises regarding the fear of the Lord:
“A woman who fears the LORD” is to “be praised,”PRO 31:30.
“The LORD” takes pleasure in all “who fear Him,”PSA 147:11.
“The LORD has compassion on those who fear Him,”PSA 103:13.
The Lord “will bless those who fear Him,”PSA 115:13.
He stores up goodness “for those who fear” Him, PSA 31:19.
He “fulfill[s] the desire of those who fear Him,”PSA 145:19.
“The secret of the LORD is for those who fear Him,”PSA 25:14.
“The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him,”PSA 34:7.
“In the fear of the LORD there is … refuge” and rescue from the “snares of death,” Pro 14: 26-27.
The truth of these verses is found in the protection and blessing that God faithfully bestowed upon the midwives. And these promises are for us as well when we live in the fear of the Lord. Since “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge [wisdom]” (PRO 1:7) and the virtuous woman manifests God’s wisdom in her life, it is fitting that this beautiful section of Proverbs should conclude with the promise of praise for all who fear the Lord.
Many years ago, an artistic friend of mine gave me a piece of prose written on a beautiful picture, and I would like to share that prose with you in closing. It was written by Ann Kiemel and is the prayer of a woman who understands that “charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord shall be praised.”
“Jesus, I am a humble lowly servant woman.
Take me, all of me.
Add anything, take away anything, at any cost, at any price.
Make me Yours completely ... wholly.
May I not be remembered for how I wear my hair,
or the shape of my face,
or the crowds I have addressed.
May I be known for loving You, for carrying a dream,
for building bridges to the hurt and broken and lost in the world.
Make me what You would be if You lived in person where I do.
May everything accomplished through my simple life
bring honor and glory to You.
Take my human failures and flaws and use them to remind
those who know me that only You are God,
and I will always just be ... (fill in your name)”