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Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Bible's Strong Woman

The Bible’s Strong Woman
Proverbs 31
Recently in Manchester, England, a concert with Ariana Grande that attracted girls and young women was subject to a terrorist bombing and tragically twenty-two young women were killed.  It was reported that the terrorists might have targeted this concert because one of the purposes of Arian Grande’s concert was to empower young girls to become strong good women.  To send a message to a new generation of girls that they can “do it all.”  Since the terrorists seem to believe that all women should be uneducated and kept “in their place”, were these terrorists threatened by this dangerous message?  We will never know.
Western women today are struggling to break through barriers that have usually been in place in the past. Down through the generations there have been leadership positions and certain professions that usually only men were allowed to fill. But now women are working to change all of that.  Women have made some changes in society for the good, but perhaps have lost some along the way.
Sixty years ago, a woman’s place was in the home: cooking, cleaning and taking care of children.  She worked outside the home if she needed or wanted to but usually her husband’s pay check covered all the household expenses. Back then men and women were expected by society to marry and have children and most people followed those expectations.
 Sixty years ago, most women and men deeply wanted to find their “true love” and marry! Romance was always in the air!  Nearly all the themes of the movies and popular music were about love lost or found.  The ideal of a man and a woman being in love for a lifetime was everyone’s dream and most men and women actually found love and trust in their marriages which nourished and blessed their lives and the life of their community.  When you read the obituaries today you will find many men and women who lived out their lives enjoying the blessing of “true love” in a good 50-60 year marriage. It was the norm.
 In past generations women and men most often believed Scripture - that their marriage vows before God should not be broken unless there were very serious problems in the marriage like adultery, abandonment or mental cruelty.  So long loving marriages were the rule in a by-gone day.  
But now modernity has changed all of that!  We have questioned Scripture and tradition and now we march to a different drummer. Our music and our media reflect the beliefs of our society and today we have an individualistic society.  No longer do we have “romantic” music or movies about love and trust and no longer do we seem to value lifelong commitment or “true love”.  It seems our true love is to ourselves, our wishes.  We must be brave and strike out.  Make our own mark and insist on doing life our own way!
 Marriages are not as stable as in days gone by.  Today many women (and men) choose to remain single. Couples live together without getting married. And many children are raised by single parents. Abortion and child abuse are rampant with many couples choosing to remain childless.
There is a fear of commitment today with many afraid of marriage.  Even married persons want to be fluid and move on if they have grown apart or if the marriage partner hampers their freedom to be their own selves. We have lost the vision of “true love” today and we give many reasons why we believe that good marriages were never really a reality in the past. We have replaced our vision of “true love” with no vision at all! Depression and suicide rates are rampant. We will never know how much we are missing.
It seems that when women’s roles change, all of society changes!  Let’s read about what the Bible has to say about how a good woman can change her family and her society around her.  We find a definition of a good woman in Proverbs 31:10-31. “Where can one find a woman of noble character?  Such a woman is worth far more than rubies.  Her husband has full confidence in her and never has to be concerned.  She brings him good and not harm all the days of her life. 
She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.  She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.  She gets up early and provides food for her family and portions for her workers.  She considers a field and buys it.  Out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She sets about her work vigorously: her arms are strong for her tasks.  She see that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hands she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. 
When it snows, she has no fear for her household, for all of her children are clothed in scarlet.  She makes coverings for her bed, and she is clothed in fine linen and purple.  Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.  She is clothed with strength and dignity.  And she can laugh at the days to come. 
She speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction is on her tongue.  She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.  Her children arise and call her blessed: her husband also, and he praises her:  Many women do noble things, but she surpasses them all. 
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting: but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.  Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”  (Proverbs 31:10-31)
This ideal woman from antiquity described here in Scripture can be any woman from any generation.  This woman with her big heart and open arms.  She speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction. (verse 26)  She is strong and not afraid of problems because she trusts in God.  She prepares ahead of time for problems and is enterprising. She works hard and enjoys life.
 She blesses her family and her community with her produce. She gives to the poor and needy and cares about those around her. She is not living just for herself since her whole life and work revolve around her family and community. She thrives in being productive and helpful to those around her.
You notice that this good woman depicted in Scripture has a husband that completely trusts in her.  And I doubt that she would work so long and hard for their household if she didn’t trust him in return. Her husband also blesses her with his work and love. They have a strong trusting caring marriage and probably a great love affair like so many couples have. She considers a field and buys it.  (verse 16) It doesn’t say that her husband had to approve of this bold move.  She seems to manage her own business. 
I believe this strong virtuous woman’s secret to her good life and strength is in verse 30.  It reads “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting: but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”  With God’s help, she could “do it all.” This strong good woman from the Bible fears the Lord and that is her secret!  That is her joy and strength. And that has been the secret of many millions of strong women who have lived in every generation!  “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting: but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”  It’s as simple as that!     

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