God’s Word for You
Proverbs 31:31 The Heroic Wife (conclusion)
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, November 6, 2019
31 Give her a share in the fruit her hand produces,
and let her works praise her in the gates.
The heroic wife is praised seven times in her chapter:
1, Solomon praises her throughout (31:10-31).
2, The Holy Spirit, who inspired Solomon, praises her (31:10-31).
3, Solomon leads us to praise her (esp. “Who can find?” 31:10).
4, Her children praise her (31:28a).
5, Her husband praises her (31:28b).
6, God praises her in heaven forever (31:30).
7, Her good works bring her praise (31:31).
Notice that Solomon places good works in their proper place, at the very end, following faith and the forensic or courtroom blessing of God (verse 30). Without the forgiveness of sins and faith in Christ, good works have no value. And faith, Luther says, “does not ask if good works are to be done, but before one can ask, faith has already done them and is constantly active” (Preface to the Epistle to the Romans).
The final letter of the Hebrew alphabet is taw, which from the time of Moses to the time of Solomon and the kings who were descended from him was written like an x or a +. Here it is the first letter of the imperative verb phrase tanu-lah, “Give to her.” She should have a share in what she has done. This seems obvious to our culture, but not that long ago, women still had no legal rights in countries like America and Britain. If they worked and earned money, the money was the property of their husbands. Likewise, if a married woman committed a crime such as theft or forgery, her husband was held to be guilty; it was assumed that she could only have been under his orders. This was not the case in ancient Israel. The same rule is invoked here for wives as the one Jesus laid down for pastors: “The worker deserves his wages” (Luke 10:7; 1 Timothy 5:18).
A question that might not be obvious in the final line of the verse, poem, chapter, and book, is: What gates? Some translations don’t permit the question to be asked by supplying “city” as we did in verse 23, where the context made it clear that a city was meant. Here, this is not so certain. Before we pursue that thought, we should point out how rare it would be for a woman to be praised in her own city. A military heroine like Deborah might find praise of this kind, and the housewife Jael who was victorious in the same battle (Judges 5:1, 24); both of them earned praise. But here it is a good wife, hopefully a typical wife. She is praised by the people around her and by the elders of the city.
Ever since my wife was diagnosed with cancer four weeks ago, we have been overwhelmed by the number of people who have told us that they are praying for her, and they have shared the promise of the gospel with us. When a congregation shares the gospel with their pastor and his family, it’s an overwhelming experience: God’s people are doing the work of God’s kingdom purely out of faith and trust in Christ. A great many people have done just what this verse describes: She is praised at the gates; the gates of the city, the entrances of private homes, the doors of churches, the portals of hearts. It is my wife’s faith in her Savior and the life she has led in response to Him that has brought these feelings and words to light. She has been embarrassed, overwhelmed, brought to joyful tears, and flooded with gratitude for everyone who has reached out to her and out to the Lord on her behalf (as our school faculty put it: “Storming heaven’s gates with prayers”). But the verse’s meaning may not end here.
Since we are within the context of God’s eternal praise (verse 30), it is natural to think of more than city gates, and to think of the gates of the City of God (Psalm 46:4, 48:1, 48:8, 87:3; Hebrews 12:22). As we saw in verse 30, God will praise his saints for their actions in eternity, even though we might not have recognized some of our actions as fruits of faith. This is what Jesus describes when he says: “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). A Godly woman like my wife lives a life of faith. She sought out a Christian husband, made sure her children were baptized and raised them in the Christian faith. She can never be accused of shoving the Bible down their throats, because it was simply always on her lips, not as a hammer or a club, but as an answer, a guide, a lamp, and especially as medicine for the soul. She offers her voice to sing in the choir. She offers her time to volunteer whenever asked. She offers her training in education to teach Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. She offers her many different talents in many different ways. She spends hours in the word of God every week; every day. She is never idle. She encourages the timid, she helps the weak, she is patient with everyone. She never pays back wrong for wrong; she tries to be kind to everyone. She finds joy in everything. She prays continually, and she gives thanks in all circumstances. This is God’s will for her in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:14-18). She is worthy of respect, and temperate and trustworthy in everything (1 Timothy 3:11). Who has not seen the purity and reverence of her life (1 Peter 3:2)? She is like the holy women of the past, a living example of Godliness with contentment, reverence, trust, hope, and love.
She is a heroic wife. May all Christian men seek a wife like her. They will be, along with their heroic wives, forever blessed.
Pastor Timothy Smith