God’s Word for You
Proverbs 31:30 Forever praised
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, November 5, 2019
30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is fleeting,
but a woman who fears the LORD is forever praised.
Sheqer is “deception,” and it begins with the second-to-last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, which is shin. The other half of this comparison is that beauty is “fleeting.” This is the word hevel, the Hebrew form of the name “Abel.” It means evanescent, that which quickly fades from sight, like a cloud or a vapor of steam. When Eve named her second son, she had realized that the curse of death comes to us all, and that she, her husband, and her children would be called away in death one day. But she had been given hope even as the curse was pronounced: A Savior would come from her descendants, the one who would crush the power of the devil even while being hurt himself (Genesis 3:15). This Savior would be Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11).
Here in the Proverb, the outward, physical delights of charm and beauty are things not to be trusted. Charm can be a mere sham of grace, a mask that hides a cruel intent or greed (1 Thessalonians 2:5). A man who marries a woman because of her charm may find that her charm becomes like “a constant dripping on a rainy day” (Proverbs 27:15). Beauty fades quickly like a cloud or a wisp of steam. A man who marries a woman only because of her beauty will soon be disappointed unless he learns to see her true beauty. If he can do this, if she can show it to him, he will learn to see that she is beautiful all her life, that every silver hair, every varicose vein, every hint of a wrinkle are things that on the one hand he doesn’t really see (because he loves her), and on the other hand those things are part of her loveliness because she is lovely, because she loves him and he truly loves her.
A woman who fears the Lord is a woman of faith. Faith in Christ is followed immediately by putting on “the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge, according to the image of its Creator” (Colossians 3:10). This means that faith also involves the fear of God, knowledge of God, righteousness, and truth. The fear of God is first being genuinely afraid of God’s punishment. Following this, fear also trusts in God (his promises as well as his justice), and therefore no longer being terrified of the punishment of hell, since through Christ we have the assurance that our punishment has been fulfilled already in his blood on the cross. “He forgave us all our sins, he wiped out the record of our debt with its regulations which stood against us, which was hostile to us. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14).
Our Augsburg Confession explains the Christian life of faith this way: “For this is Christian perfection: that we fear God honestly with our whole hearts, and yet have a sincere confidence, faith, and trust that for Christ’s sake we have a gracious, merciful God; that we may and should ask and pray God for those things of which we have need, and confidently expect help from him in every affliction connected with our particular calling and station in life; and that meanwhile we do good works for others and diligently attend to our calling” (XXVII,49).
Finally, our text says, “(she) is forever praised.” I need to defend this translation. The Hebrew text here employs a verb form known as an imperfect. This has nothing to do with the quality of the language (it is not “less than perfect”), but simply that the action expressed by such a verb is not complete in the mind of the speaker. So, a way of understanding this verb (the piel of halal, as in verse 28) is “she is praised and praised, again and again.” Back in verse 28, the context was praise coming from the woman’s children. This is a declarative piel verb: They were calling her blessed and praising her. Here in verse 30, the context is her faith in Christ: She has the fear of the LORD. Since she is now praised and praised, again and again, for her faith, we can take the context to be the mouth of the LORD God himself. This is no longer a declarative piel, but a forensic piel. God is forensically (that is, pronouncing judgment as in a court of law) announcing the verdict that she is to be praised for her faith. And this praise is part of her eternal place in heaven, as Paul says: “At that time each will receive his praise from God” (1 Corinthians 4:5). And Jesus says: “I tell you the truth, whoever believes has everlasting life” (John 6:47), and again: “everlasting joy” (Isaiah 61:7). Hers will be “an everlasting name that will not be cut off” (Isaiah 56:5). Why? Because her faith is in Christ the Lord, the Savior who paid the debt of his sins. Her faith is a gift from God; a gift that makes her a truly heroic wife.
Pastor Timothy Smith