Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Does being a virtuous woman mean you have to be perfect? Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: You know, it’s more important in your home and in your marriage that you model humility than that you model perfection. Your husband and your children already know you’re not perfect. They’re just looking for you to admit it, to acknowledge it when you do blow it.

Leslie: It’s Friday, February 16th, and this is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Do you ever read Proverbs 31 and feel like giving up? The description of a virtuous woman we read there can seem intimidating, but there’s good news. Even if Proverbs 31 doesn’t describe you currently, it still could, thanks to God’s forgiveness. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss in a series called The Counter-cultural Woman.

Nancy: We’re looking at what one commentator has called “a looking-glass for ladies”—Proverbs chapter 31. We came yesterday to the beginning of that portion, verse ten, where the Scripture gives us a description of a woman of God, a virtuous woman, an excellent woman.

Matthew Henry, that commentator, said that this is a looking-glass for ladies that we should desire to look into and to dress ourselves by it. We’ve been reminding each other that, even though this lengthy, detailed description can seem overwhelming and intimidating to those of us who still have feet of clay and are not yet glorified, yet we ought to be encouraged because we know that as women of God, if we’re allowing God to work in our lives, He is sanctifying us.

He is molding us. He’s shaping us. He’s pruning us. He’s making us into this kind of woman who reflects the beauty and the image of the Lord Jesus, for indeed it really is His portrait that we’re looking at here. We’re seeing His heart, His character, His beauty in this picture.

We pick up at verse ten, and we read that very familiar verse, “Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies.”  “Who can find a virtuous wife?” Some of your translations say, “an excellent wife.” Some of them say, “a wife of noble character.”

That word virtuous or excellent is a difficult word to translate from the original Hebrew language. The word has to do with strength. It’s often translated “army” or “wealth.” It’s talking about a woman of moral strength, a woman whose character is strong.

A woman who has godly character is a strong woman. The world would have us think that a godly woman is a weak woman who just gets run over, and she never has any opinions, never has any thoughts, never says anything. This is how the world would caricature the godly woman.

The world has it all wrong. The godly woman is a strong woman. She’s able. She’s valiant. She’s a woman of valor.

Now the New King James Version that I just read says this is a virtuous wife, but the word translated wife there, in some of your translations reads “woman,” and that’s also an acceptable translation.

We’re reading here about a woman who happens to be a wife (it becomes obvious as we see her described), but the word translated wife or woman here is just a word for female. I want to point that out because this passage is not just for married women, although as we’ll see, this woman is, in fact, obviously married. But whether married or single, you and I can be excellent, virtuous women.

If you are married, let me point out that this woman is a wife before she is a mother. The children come later, not only in order, but also in order of priority. Her most important human relationship is with her husband. Here is a woman who delights to be a wife.

Now she does have her own personality, her own gifts, and her own strengths, but she is inseparably bound as one to her husband. She’s not ashamed of that. She’s not embarrassed to be his wife. She’s not embarrassed to have her achievements stated in those terms.

Now as we read through this passage over the next days and weeks, we’re going to see that this woman has a strength of character that produces certain other strengths in her life. Her abilities, her habits, her lifestyle—flow out of this strength of character, this virtue, this excellence that characterizes this woman.

Remember that this passage is the words of King Lemuel recalling the words that his mother taught him when he was a young prince. His mother taught him, “Son, this is what to look for in a wife. When it’s time to get married, make sure that these qualities are in place. Look for strength of character and heart and walk with God.”

You’ll notice what’s absent from this description largely, and that is physical traits. Now we’ll talk later in the series about why that may be absent, but we don’t know that she was a woman of wealth. We don’t know what kind of background she came from. We’re seeing the priority here in selecting a mate—and you need to be teaching this to your sons—is to look for a woman who has a heart for God.

Now there’s no sin in her being physically beautiful, but if that’s the primary thing that attracts him to his wife-to-be, this passage is going to tell us that beauty will not last. It won’t last till old age, and it may not last till then. What will you have then in your wife? Will you have a woman of character, the kind of character that endures?

When we think about being an excellent or a virtuous woman, a woman of great spiritual strength and character, there is a sense in which that is a past accomplishment because when we become a child of God, we’re in Christ.

As God sees us, we’re perfect. We have the righteousness of Christ, and there’s a sense in which He has made us, past tense—if we’re children of God—He’s made us already that excellent, virtuous person. The challenge here is to live like who you are, to live out the reality of who you are in Christ.

Then there’s a present, ongoing sense that we are becoming this kind of woman. It’s progressive. It’s the outworking and the development of what God has already put in our hearts if we are children of God—cultivating who and what we are in Christ.

Then, and this is what really encourages me, there’s a yet future sense, when it comes to being an excellent woman, a virtuous woman, and that’s what we can look forward to. It’s that final, completed state where we are glorified. We are sanctified. We are perfect. We are mature. As we’re in process, we can look forward and know that God is making us into that kind of woman.

As we contemplate this picture, this portrait of a virtuous woman, remember there’s a sense in which this already is you if you’re a child of God. If you have Christ in you, God has made you perfect positionally in His sight—positionally in Christ. Because of your position in Christ, you have that righteousness.

Then commit yourself to the process of saying, “Lord, I want you day after day—today—to be working out in my life the reality of what You have done for me through the cross and the Gospel of Christ.” I am becoming this kind of woman. It is a process.

That’s why when you fall, when you blow it, when you get discouraged about your seeming lack of progress, you can pick yourself up and go on by God’s grace, knowing that this is a process. There’s growth involved here, and that’s okay. That’s true of every woman. You look at the most godly woman you know, and she considers herself still very much in process. She’s still growing, still developing.

Then there’s that hope, and aren’t you glad for that hope that one day I will look like the picture in this looking glass? You will, too. If we’re allowing God to have His way in our lives today, this is not a standard that we will never be able to match. It’s a standard that God is committing to conforming us to. He will perfect that which concerns us. “He who began a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (KJV). He will bring it to completion.

As you read this passage, don’t get despondent. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t give up. Say, “Yes! I’m in process. This is what I’m becoming. This is what God is making me.” Look forward.

The Scripture says, “The righteous man falls down seven times” (Proverbs 24:16). Sometimes I think that may be a day or even an hour. He falls down seven times, and what does he do? He gets up again each time.

You say, “I’ve blown it. I just haven’t had that servant’s heart. I haven’t been that kind of devoted wife. I haven’t been committed to my home and family as I ought to have been and the qualities we’re going to see in this woman.”

Well, get up. Repent. Get new grace and go on. Let God continue to take you in that process of molding and making you like His Son, Jesus.

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss, and she’ll be right back. There’s so much pressure on women these days to be perfect. Nancy’s been pointing out that being humble is more important than trying to be perfect in your own strength. It’s the kind of insight she’s been bringing us all week in a series called The Counter-cultural Woman. It’s a verse-by-verse look at Proverbs 31.

This chapter has so much valuable insight that we as women need. I hope you’ll take Nancy’s advice and read Proverbs 31 every day for 31 days, and I hope you’ll get a copy of Nancy’s teaching on CD. When you order, you’ll get additional material from Nancy that we didn’t have time to air.

Learn how to become a woman of virtue while you’re exercising or running around town. Order The Counter-cultural Woman at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1-800-569-5959. Now let’s get back to Nancy’s teaching.

Nancy: “Who can find a virtuous” or “an excellent wife? For her worth is far above rubies” (Proverbs 31:10). Those are the words spoken by King Lemuel, we’re told in Proverbs 31. We think he may have been, actually, King Solomon, and these are words that his mother taught him when he was a young prince.

She told him, “Son, this is what you need to look for in a wife, and make sure you get the right one because if you have the right one, she will be a blessing and an asset to your life for all of your life. Her worth will be more to you than any amount of jewels or wealth that you can accumulate on this earth.”

You say, “Well, I’ve failed so many times. I can’t be that woman. I’ve blown it so many times.” You know, it’s more important in your home and in your marriage that you model humility than that you model perfection. Your husband and your children already know you’re not perfect. They’re just looking for you to admit it.

Some of you may need to leave this session today and go back to your husband and be specific in sharing with him—first with the Lord and then with your husband—ways that you’ve not been an asset to him. Now you’re not going home to tell your husband, “I’ve blown it, but starting tomorrow or starting this moment I’m going to be this incredible, Proberbs 31 woman.” Don’t make that promise because, as we’ve said, it’s a process.

We’re all in process, but as you’re in process, don’t be afraid to admit it when you blow it. Know that as you mature and develop and grow in Christ, as you develop this excellent character, that is developing your worth and your value.

Now what this chapter, Proverbs 31, portrays about womanhood runs head-on into what our culture has taught us about what makes a woman valuable. If you embrace God’s way of thinking, you can know that you will go against the grain of the secular culture around you.

I will get some emails from people who strenuously disagree with this picture. I’ll tell you that the reason I can live with that is because it’s not my word. I didn’t draw this picture. I didn’t make this up, and had I drawn it, I wouldn’t have drawn it this way.

God drew this picture, and who better than the Creator should know how men and women should best function? God made us as women. He knows how we’re wired. We can’t figure out how we’re wired ourselves, but God knows.

This Book, this Word, the Scripture, is the instruction manual. It’s the operator’s manual. He made us. He knows how we’re created to function. We will function at peace and at rest and with joy and with blessing, not without problems, but with joy as we allow ourselves to be made and molded into the image of God’s kind of woman.

Now verse ten tells us that this woman of excellent character, this woman of virtue, has a worth and a value that is far above rubies. That means she’s a rare treasure. She’s unusual.

One old-time writer on the book of Proverbs said, “Perhaps one reason of the rarity of the gift is, that it is so seldom sought. Too often is the search made for accomplishments, not for virtues, for external . . . recommendations, rather than for internal godly worth.”1

I think that’s a wise word to young men who are seeking for a godly wife. “Make sure that’s what you’re looking for,” this mother said to her son, and this author said the reason it’s such a rare find is because that’s not what most men are looking for.

He challenges young men, and I know we have some men listeners who will be challenged through this passage and the words of this wise mother, to not just look for accomplishments but to look for virtue.

This woman is a woman who is valuable. There is no treasure that can compare to her. She’s desirable. She’s precious.

We read about this concept of more precious or more valuable than rubies in a couple of other places in the Proverbs. In chapter three and chapter eight of Proverbs, wisdom, which is the theme of Proverbs, is personified as a woman. It says, “She is more precious than rubies, and all the things you may desire cannot be compared with her” (verse 15). 

We read in the book of Ruth, chapter three, where Boaz says to Ruth, “All the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman” (verse 11)—an excellent woman, a woman of strength and moral character.

Proverbs twelve, verse four, tells us that “an excellent wife” or “a virtuous woman”—same phrase—she “is the crown of her husband, but she who causes shame." The opposite of a virtuous woman or a woman of character is a woman “who causes shame,” and she is like, get this, “rottenness in his bones.” She makes him feel decayed and falling apart inside. She makes him weak. It’s amazing the impact that you have on your husband.

I discovered a gem of a book a couple of weeks ago written by a man in the 1880s, and let me read to you what he says in this book called Home-Making about the influence of a wife on her husband. He said, “No wife can overestimate the influence she wields over her husband, or the measure in which his character, his career, and his very destiny are laid in her hands for shaping.” 2

This author is saying you cannot imagine the influence that a woman has, the power she has over her husband. He goes on to say, “How can she make sure that her influence over her husband will be for good, that he will be a better man, more successful in his career and more happy, because she is his wife? Not by . . . perpetual preaching and lecturing on a husband’s duties and on manly character.”

Now, most of us are familiar with that way of trying to influence men. We wouldn’t quite have used those archaic words, but haven’t we all been guilty of trying to explain to men what it’s like, what they should be like and lecturing on their duties and responsibilities?

Well, this author goes on to say she can only have this influence for good, “. . . by being in the very depths of her soul, in every thought and impulse of her heart and in every fibre of her nature, a true and noble woman.” Then listen to this last sentence. “She will make him not like what she tells him he ought to be, but like what she herself is.” 

When you look at your husband, and you say, “He’s not a man of noble or excellent or virtuous character,” you may want to look in the mirror and say, “Why? Is he like me in ways that I would not want to admit, in ways that maybe I’ve been blind to or never seen?” “She will make him not like what she tells him he ought to be, but like what she herself is.”

You want your husband to be a man of virtue, to be a noble man, a man of spiritual strength and character? Then set out, not to change him, but set out to be the kind of woman with the kind of character that you want him to have. The Scripture says that kind of woman is a crown to her husband. She blesses him. She brings out the best in him.

Women, we have so much power and influence over the men around us. I’m not making allowances or excuses for misbehavior on the part of men, but you know, that’s not our responsibility. Our responsibility is to seek God, to pursue Him, to let Him mold us into His image. I think we can’t even begin to imagine what the influence and the impact will be on those men around us when we become the kind of women who influence them by our noble hearts and character to be men of God.

Martin Luther described his beloved wife, Catherine, whom he affectionately called Kate, and he said, “The greatest gift of God is a pious amiable spouse, who fears God, who loves his house, and with whom one can live with in perfect confidence.”3 You can be that kind of gift to your husband. Your worth will be more than that of rubies.

Then remember that that means your worth is not found in what others think of you. It’s not found in what your husband thinks of you or what others say about you, but your true worth and your true value are found in your inner character and walk with God. May it be excellent, virtuous, and noble.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been helping you recognize the kind of powerful, godly influence you can have on those around you. That kind of influence looks much different than worldly ways of gaining power and influence. During Nancy’s series on Proverbs 31 will you go deeper in this topic? Learn to serve other people and glorify God in distinctly feminine ways.

Get some help from a book Nancy worked on called Becoming God's True Woman. You’ll read contributions from Nancy and other women who have a lot of wisdom to share—like Carolyn Mahaney, Susan Hunt, and Mary Kassian.

When you’re at the website, don’t forget to sign up for the Revive Our Hearts Daily Connection. It’s a quick way for you to know what Nancy’s teaching each day. It will also let you know about special offers, such as Becoming God's True Woman. If you’re ever in the car trying to remember everything I say, the Daily Connection will let you relax and drive knowing the information is waiting for you.

When you sign up for the Daily Connection, you’ll get a daily email with key quotes from Nancy’s teaching that day. The email also includes quick links that will let you stream or download the audio, read the transcript, or order a helpful resource. Sign up for the Revive Our Hearts Daily Connection at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Well, Proverbs 31 has a lot to tell us about how to build a strong, committed marriage. Nancy will explain on Monday as she continues the series The Counter-cultural Woman. Let’s close today’s program with prayer.

Nancy: Oh Lord, raise up a whole new generation of women, starting with me, starting with us right here in this room, who trust You, who reverence You, who walk with You and reflect Your beauty and heart and whose lives create hunger and thirst and motivation in the lives of our sons and daughters and husbands and fathers and pastors and neighbors and employers—just that we would create motivation by our lives in the men around us to be all that You’ve made each of us to be. For Jesus’ sake we pray it and for the sake of Your great kingdom. Amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the New King James Version.

1Charles Bridges, A Commentary on Proverbs (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1998), 617.

2J.R. Miller, Home-Making (San Antonio, TX: The Vision Forum, Inc., 2003).

3Compiled and edited by Noelle Wheeler, Daughters of Destiny (Bulverde, TX: Mantle Ministries, 2000), 140-141.

 

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