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Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Whew! There’s a lot to unpack in this small, but mighty verse!
Beauty and Charm are Not Bad, But…
Let’s start with the obvious: The ideal characteristic in a Proverbs 31 wife is the fear of the Lord, which shows itself as godliness and wisdom.
Society, for centuries, has held that the most important attribute of a woman or wife is her charm and beauty. Proverbs 31:10-30 was written by a mother to illustrate what her son should look for in a wife.
The son, or any man reading this proverb, is meant to take away that a woman’s charm and beauty may be attractive and, because of that, he may think she would be a good spouse, but these characteristics can be deceiving if there is no character, or fear of God to back them up. Charm and beauty can be a form of smoke and mirrors. Things aren’t always as they seem and beauty and charm won’t ensure marital bliss.
I’m not saying that being charming or beautiful is a bad thing, but it is just ONE (or actually two) things. After all, God created and loves beauty. In the Song of Solomon, we read how much a man delights in the beauty of his wife. But beauty, without character or a relationship with our Heavenly Father is not a good recipe for a happy husband or marriage.
Ishet-Hayil, A Woman of Valor
One of the beautiful things about the wisdom of Proverbs is that it can be applied to anyone in any circumstance. In 31:10, this ideal woman is called ishet-hayil, or the woman of valor. It’s a title that has significance.
The Hebrew word ishet (or eshet) is the construct form of isha (woman) and hayil (or chayil) means bravery (Psalm 76:6), capability (Proverbs 12:4), triumph (Psalm 118:15), a rampart (Psalm 84:8) or wealth (Proverbs 13:22). Essentially, the eshet chayil represents the virtues of courage and strength.
I adore the Jewish tradition that the entire passage (Proverbs 31:10-31) is recited by a husband before Kiddush on Friday evenings. After the Shabbat candles are lit, but before the meal is eaten, the wife is praised!
The Bible is rich with stories of this woman of valor, but one of my favorites is the story of Ruth and Naomi. These two God-fearing women, mother and daughter-in-law, have found themselves homeless are homeless and without food. Ruth, the daughter-in-law, who in scripture is also called ishet-hayil, a woman of valor, risks everything to provide for her mother-in-law.
Her actions, which were selfless and brave, led her to her being “praised in the city gates,” just as we also find in Proverbs 31:23. In Jewish tradition, many see Ruth as the perfect illustration of a Proverbs 31 woman. In this example, as well as throughout the Bible, we see stories of both queens and homeless women living a life that demonstrates that being a woman of valor has nothing to do with a woman’s circumstances, and everything to do with her character.
So, what does the woman of valor or woman of noble character look like today?
A Woman of Noble Character Today
I think we tend to overthink this and make it a lot harder than it has to be. (I wrote a full post about this HERE).
I think the answer is a lot simpler than we make it out to be. The ideal woman looks like Christ. She is a woman who exhibits goodness, self-control, love, faithfulness, joy, gentleness, peace, patience, and kindness.. She seeks justice, loves mercy, gives grace and walks humbly with her God. And no matter her lot in life or current circumstance, she seeks God’s will in her life. She is resourceful and serves others in and out of her home.
Whether a woman is managing a castle or scrambling to provide a meal for her family, if she fears the Lord and is a woman of valor, she will live life in a way that reflects Christ to those around her.
Remember, friend, there’s nothing wrong with beauty or taking care of ourselves to look good for our husbands (unless it becomes an idol that we place before God and our obedience to Him), but the most important asset in a godly wife is not beauty but faith in the One True God.
A Woman Who Fears the Lord
I’d like to wrap up by taking a look at the phrase “fears the Lord”. Clearly, this is pretty important to Our Father as the phrase “fear of the Lord” occurs twenty-five times in the New American Standard Bible (NASB).
It occurs twenty-three times in the Old Testament and two times in the New Testament. The phrase “fear of the Lord” appears more times in the book of Proverbs than in any other book in the Bible. In fact, the Bible uses the word fear at least 300 times in reference to God.
The word “fear” in the phrase “fear of the Lord” comes from the Hebrew word YIRAH (transliterated), and it means “to be terrified” (Jonah 1:10), “to be awe” (1 Kings 3:28), and “to have respect” (Lev. 19:3). The “fear of the Lord” is the reverence one would pay to a king because he is the majesty.
Proverbs says that the “fear of the Lord” – honor and respect for the Lord – is wisdom and it is the beginning of knowledge.
I love the description, written on GotQuestions.org about fear of the Lord:
A biblical fear of God, for the believer, includes understanding how much God hates sin and fearing His judgment on sin—even in the life of a believer. Hebrews 12:5-11 describes God’s discipline of the believer. While it is done in love (Hebrews 12:6), it is still a fearful thing. As children, the fear of discipline from our parents no doubt prevented some evil actions. The same should be true in our relationship with God. We should fear His discipline, and therefore seek to live our lives in such a way that pleases Him.
Believers are not to be scared of God. We have no reason to be scared of Him. We have His promise that nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38-39). We have His promise that He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Fearing God means having such a reverence for Him that it has a great impact on the way we live our lives. The fear of God is respecting Him, obeying Him, submitting to His discipline, and worshipping Him in awe
Therefore, the fear of the Lord is accompanied by tremendous blessing. Listen to the psalms.
“The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him,
and he makes known to them his covenant.” – Psalm 25:14 (ESV)
“Oh, how abundant is your goodness,
which you have stored up for those who fear you
and worked for those who take refuge in you,
in the sight of the children of mankind!” – Psalm 31:19 (ESV)
(Notice that fearing God and taking refuge in him are parallel. Those who keep the fear of God before their eyes will not run from him but take refuge in him.)
“The angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him and delivers them.” – Psalm 34:7 (ESV)
“For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;” – Psalm 103:11 (ESV)
“As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.” – Psalm 103:13 (ESV)
“He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
he also hears their cry and saves them.” – Psalm 145:19 (ESV)
The promises God makes to those who fear him are so incredible that the commandment to fear God and the summons to hope in God are inseparable. And so, the psalmist puts them together, for example:
“Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love.” – Psalm 33:18
“but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who hope in his steadfast love.” – Psalm 147:11 (ESV)
A woman who fears the Lord will not turn away from God to satisfy her worldly or personal longings and relieve her anxieties. She will wait for the Lord. She will hope in God. She will stay close to the heart of God and trust in his promises. The thought of sin will be too fearful to pursue; and the benefits of waiting in the shadow of the Almighty too glorious to forsake.
Why Should We Praise Such a Woman?
“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Why? That is our second question: Why is this praise so important? I believe there are three reasons for praising a woman who fears the Lord:
- It feels good to praise others.
- It honors God.
- It strengthens her walk in the Lord.
It Feels Good to Praise Others
First, it feels good. David says:
“Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.” – Psalm 37:4 (ESV)
I take this to mean, at least in one sense, “Delight yourself in everything that delights the Lord,” and that includes, delight yourself in the woman who fears the Lord.
Not just for husbands but delight yourself in other women who fear the Lord.
Now what exactly is praise?
C.S. Lewis describes this in his book on the Psalms that praise is not merely the expression of joy, but the culmination of joy. A joy isn’t fully enjoyed until it comes to expression in praise.
It might be helpful in passing just to mention the ugly alternative to praise so as to increase our desire to avoid it. Lewis said, “Praise is inner health made audible.” I have seen that time and time again. It is the cranks, the misfits, the scrooges of the world who seldom praise. You know those people, right? They constantly complain and never have anything good to say about another. They have an inner sickness of soul that yields criticism, complaining, murmuring, grumbling, sarcasm, suspicion, and a general joylessness.
I just want to shake people like that and remind them that, “yes, the world can be rotten, but we have so much to be joyful for! Jesus Christ died and rose again precisely that the commands, ‘Rejoice always,’ and ‘For everything give thanks,’ would not be ignored, but lived in our daily lives.”
To Praise a God-Fearing Woman Is to Honor God
Not only does praising a woman who fears the Lord feel good; it also honors God, which is most important of all.
God is honored through praises that come to his people for graces, which he has blessed us with and by their very nature exalt him. Therefore, when we praise a woman who fears the Lord, we praise God.
To Praise a God-Fearing Woman Is to Strengthen Her Walk in the Lord
A third reason to praise women who fear the Lord is to strengthen their walk in the Lord.
So, it is with those who fear the Lord and hope in Him. There are always temptations to allure us away from the fear of God: temptations to fear financial insecurity more than we fear God, to fear rejection by our peers more than we fear God, to fear the loss of time spent in good deeds more than we fear God.
How strengthened we would feel if we heard a godly person say “Well done. I love the way you fear the Lord.”
And now listen husbands and children – even adult children — a word especially for you:
“Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her.” Proverbs 31:28 (ESV)
Think for a moment, if your mom were to go to heaven tomorrow and you hadn’t told her or praised her, recently.
Tell her, and you will strengthen her walk in the Lord.
What Does a Woman Who Fears the Lord Look Like?
And now, finally, we ask: what does a woman who fears the Lord look like? What sorts of things can we praise her for? I’ll just list a few of them below. For all or most, reread Proverbs 31:10-31.
She Doesn’t Fear Tomorrow’s Troubles
First, a woman who fears the Lord is not anxious about the future. Look at Proverbs 31:25. I love this line, and I praise all you beautiful women who are like this:
“Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.” – Proverbs 31:25 (ESV)
She doesn’t worry about the next bill or what if this or that. She places her trust in the Lord.
She walks out Proverbs 14:26: “In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.”
Her fear of the Lord makes her fearless of man.
She Has Practical Wisdom
Second, a woman who fears the Lord has practical wisdom.
“She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” – Proverbs 31:26 (ESV)
We’ve been taught from grade school that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10) so it’s no surprise that the woman who fears the Lord “opens her mouth with wisdom.”
And isn’t there a very close connection between a practical, gracious wisdom and freedom from anxiety about the future?
The wisest people I know are the people who hope in the Lord. But the people who are most anxious, most tense and fretful about tomorrow, are those who have shaky walks with the Lord.
Women, there is a wisdom that your family and friends and associates need that will only come from a heart that can laugh at the future because it fears the Lord.
She Is Strong
Next, a woman who fears the Lord is strong.
“Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.” – Proverbs 31:25 (ESV)
Verse 17, “She dresses herself with strength
and makes her arms strong.”
She will be morally strong.
Proverbs 23:17 says, “Let not your heart envy sinners,
but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day.”
The woman who continues in the fear of the Lord will have power to resist the temptation to desire other’s belongings and envy what she shouldn’t have.
The fear of the Lord will also increase her intellectual strength. The fear of the Lord is the impulse to wisdom and rouses the mind to search for knowledge as for hidden treasure. And the fear of the Lord will even increase her physical strength. One of the reasons we let our bodies languish and get weak and out of tone is because we are bored and feel no excitement or hope about the future. But the woman who fears the Lord is confident and hopeful and eager to enter the future with God at her side. This kind of hope always gives us pep and vigor and increases the strength of the weakest among us.
She Will Live for Others
Finally, on our short list, a woman who fears the Lord will live not for herself alone, but for others, especially her husband, if she is married.
“The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.” – Proverbs 31:11–12 (ESV)
A woman who fears the Lord will not squander the family’s savings on frivolous purchases but will have the complete trust of her husband because she is for him and not against him.
Wherever possible, she helps increase the family income rather than wastes it. But wives, far more important than this financial support is the moral support of your husband.
How is that a word of praise to the wife who fears the Lord?
We find the answer in Proverbs 12:4
“An excellent wife is the crown of her husband,
but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.
She Cares for the Needy
Now one last attribute of the woman who fears the Lord: married or single, she lives for the good of the needy.
“She opens her hand to the poor
and reaches out her hands to the needy.” – Proverbs 31:20 (ESV)
God has drawn near and secured her future in his care. Now she draws near to those who need most help.
A Woman Who Fears the Lord Is to Be Praised
“Charm is deceitful, beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” She keeps before her eyes the fearfulness of running away from God into sin and so stays close to God and his mercy. She should be praised by us all because that will strengthen her hand in God, honor the Lord, and make our own lives happier.
And she can be recognized because she is confident and not anxious about the future, gracious wisdom is on her lips, she girds herself with strength, she brings her husband honor by her support, and she reaches out her hands to the needy. “A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised!”
You may enjoy this video about a woman who fears the Lord from Grace for Purpose Ministries:
Are you a woman who fears the Lord, my friend? Or do you place more emphasis in your life on earthly things, such as beauty and charm?
I encourage you to ask God to shine a light on any area of your life that does not seek to reflect Him and His love.
If you’d like to dig deeper on how to be a woman who fears the Lord, consider one of these recommended books: (click the link to take you to the Amazon listing)
(Both are also available on Kindle or Audiobook).
If you want to dig deeper, check out my book, The Complete Proverbs 31 Wife: A Verse by Verse Exploration of What it Means to Be a Proverbs 31 Woman in Today’s World.
Or, for a look at the final verse in Proverbs 31, see this post here.
As always, I am praying for you, my friend!
Because of Him,