Who Can Find a Virtuous Woman?

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“Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies.”

Proverbs 31:10

We all want a prescription for something.  Take five minutes and scan the newspaper, magazine rack, or the internet and there is sure to be a multitude of prescriptions for a number of different things.  “Five ways to improve your health.”  Or type into a search engine “How to be” and the options are unlimited of what we can be.  How to be happy, how to be successful, how to be pretty, just to name a few.  The search for things that we cannot seem to find ourselves is the front line of many TV shows, talk shows, advertisements, internet searches, headlines for newspapers or magazines.  As a society we are inundated with prescriptions for whatever we feel we are lacking in life.  When we get to the end of the day, the question becomes, “Did any of these prescriptions really work?”  Or are we still searching for that secret that will transform our lives?

Unfortunately, the vast majority of people want a quick fix to whatever is ailing them.  Even when a person has bronchitis it takes ten days of antibiotics in order to get well.  Not only are there no overnight quick remedies, there is also no overnight improvement to our character or station in life.  Booker T. Washington said, “Nothing ever comes to one that is worth having, except as a result of hard work.”

Proverbs 31:10-21 is the prescription for a virtuous or excellent woman.  Instead of looking on the magazine rack, we as women should be looking in the Word of God for the answer to those perfect qualities for which we are so eagerly searching.

“Who can find a virtuous woman?  For her price is far above rubies. (Proverbs 31:10).  It is interesting that this section of Scripture starts out with a question.  Is it to tease the reader, or is it to say that these women that are virtuous are hard to find?  As we spend time studying this passage of Scripture, we will see that these women are hard to find.  Many of us would rather peruse the magazine stand or the internet for the quick remedy to becoming an excellent or virtuous woman.  The principles laid out in this chapter of the Bible are not easy nor are they for the faint of heart.  “And let us not grow weary of doing good for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9).

The first time the word “find” is used in the Bible is in Genesis 2:20,  “The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.”  Here we see that there was no woman that could be a helper for man. At least by the time we get to Proverbs 31:10, there are women that are virtuous, but they are difficult to find.

The Hebrew word for “virtuous,” chayil, is used in many different ways in the Old Testament.  I love how these different ways add to our definition of the virtuous women.  Chayil, is used to mean wealth, men of activity, army, able men, valiant, men of valor, mighty men of wealth, strength, and power.  As God inspired this Scripture to be written, He chose the word “virtuous” to describe a valuable woman.  God could have chosen another word, but rather He chose “virtuous” to describe an incredible woman.  As women we can be an army of valiant men who are wealthy and mighty.  That analogy breathes excitement into my being as I think about what God thinks is possible through me, not a lowly woman, but an army of valiant men.  Be careful not read into this that we should be out on the battle field saving our country.  As we continue looking at this passage, there is no hint of us using these qualities outside the realm of our home and community.  Just think about what could be accomplished through women if they felt empowered to be a valiant army of men with wealth and might.

“Who can find a virtuous women?” (Proverbs 31:10).  She can be found right inside each of us.  We must put forth the effort and not “give up on doing good.” (Galatians 6:9).  This is no time for the sissys, rather it is time for the valiant to take a stand and prepare for the challenge.

Questions:

  1. Do you feel defeated as a woman in this task of being virtuous before you even start?
  1. Read Galatians 6:6-10 to understand the context of verse 9. According to verses 8, 9 what is being used as an analogy?
  1. With this thought from Galatians 6: 9, 10 in mind look at Galatians 5:13-15. What is sown in these verses?  There is positive and negative.
  1. What will be reaped from the above that is sown?
  1. My grandpa was a farmer. He had cows and acres of corn and wheat.  When he went out to plant his field he did it one seed at a time.  To be specific, I should say his machines planted it one seed at a time.  As a child we had a large garden and I remember all that went in to this garden.  When we planted, it was one seed at a time.  When we harvested, we gathered many times over what we planted.  How does this thought go along with Galatians 6:9?
  1. Do you feel like a valiant army of courageous men or like a timid mouse?
  1. Evaluate your response. If a timid mouse, what is causing you fear?  If a valiant army, what is causing you not to fear?
  1. How can you take your new found courage and use it to mentor the next generation?
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Introduction to the Wise Woman of Proverbs 31

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We move now to Proverbs 31, which center on being a godly woman.  Many are terrified of her and all that she encompasses.  Rather than view her through the eyes of fear, we must picture her as God intended.  We must understand the context of the verses and the intention of the human author inspired by the Holy Spirit.

“The words of King Lemuel.  An oracle that his mother taught him…” (Proverbs 31:1).  Many scholars view this proverb to be the instructions that Solomon’s mother gave him as he was growing up in anticipation of his upcoming sovereignty.  When Solomon’s father, King David, passed away, Solomon was the chosen son to take over the throne.  Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, instructed him wisely as to what was needed to help him be a sage king.  As we read through the first nine verses, we see specific instructions regarding alcohol, the poor, the needy, righteous judgment, and women.

Bathsheba knew what would tear down a kingdom and what would make a nation rise to greatness.  Solomon began his reign following his mother’s advice.  When God came to him in a dream and said, “Ask what I shall give you.” (I Kings 3:5).  Solomon’s response to God was neither for riches or power but instead he said, “Give your servant therefor an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” (I Kings 3:9).  God rewarded Solomon generously with wisdom, power, riches, and a long life.  His reign was prosperous!  Unfortunately, what started out well did not finish well.

“Now King Solomon loved many foreign women…he had 700 wives who were princesses and 300 concubines.  And his wives turned away his heart.  For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father… So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done.”  (I Kings 11:1-6).

It was not Solomon’s advisors and friends who turned his heart away from God.  It was women.  As women we have great power to influence our husbands, our children, and many others we rub shoulders with on a daily basis.  Proverbs 31 was not written by King Lemuel’s mother as a mere suggestion.  As we can see, these were principles that Bathsheba intended Solomon to follow throughout his entire life.  Sadly, he did not.

As the saying goes, “everything rises and falls on leadership.”  As King Solomon’s heart was turned away from God, so too country of Israel followed in his steps.  So then why do we as women discount our responsibilities?  Why do we diminish the role we play in the lives of those around us?  Why do we shortchange ourselves into thinking that we cannot become all God asked us to be?  I cannot answer any of these questions for anyone other than myself.

I agree with Paul in Romans 7:19 “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.”  Since this is the curse, what is the cure?  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13).

We tend to get overwhelmed with doing worthy things and we forget the source of the good that God wants us to accomplish.  I have been in this state for too long.  I was so busy doing the work of God, I forgot the main reason I was to be doing this work – love for God.  Trying to be the Proverbs 31 woman on my own strength left me exhausted.  Thankfully, God is patient.

One of my favorite sayings is, “if you aim for nothing, you hit it every time.”  We must have goals, and I see Proverbs 31 as a goal.  We will never be the perfect mom or the perfect wife, but as we love God and seek Him we can come closer to the ideal woman in Proverbs 31.  We must try and strive to be all God intended.  Without this as aour primary goal, we have no target and nothing to aim for.  “Do not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we reap if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9).

The Fruit of our Character (Esther 10)

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A person’s greatness is not measured by their words, but rather by their deeds.  A person’s actions are a good representation of their heart and their character.  King Ahasuerus has shown his character throughout the book of Esther.  He showed off his kingdom and held a 6 month long party for all of his officials, then he threw a party for the whole kingdom.  During this party, he banished his wife from the kingdom because she would not do as he commanded.  He chose Esther out of many women from a royal beauty contest as his queen.  In Esther 2:18, during the wedding ceremony and celebration he rescinded the “taxes to the provinces and gave gifts with royal generosity.” (Esther 2:18).  He allowed Haman to pass an edict that would eliminate an entire race of people, even though he was unaware of what race he was eliminating.  Since King Ahasuerus could not rescind the original law, he allowed the Jews to defend themselves which resulted in the loss of at least 75,000 people.  Now in Esther 10:1, the tax that he had rescinded in Esther 2:18 is being reinstituted.  The meaning of this word “tax” in the original Hebrew means “forced labor.”

This encapsulated version of King Ahasuerus’s life helps us see his character.  He is impetuous and does not stop to consider the consequences of his decisions.  The contrast of his life is that of Mordecai’s.  Mordecai raised his niece, was important in the palace of the king and when he overheard a conversation that would threaten the life of the King he reported it to the right people.  He gave Esther sound advice throughout her life that showed his love for his people and his willingness to do what was needed to save the entire race of the Jews.  He became second in command even though he was not a Persian, but rather from a race of captured people.  As second in command, “he was great among the Jews and popular with the multitude of his brothers, for he sought the welfare of his people and spoke peace to all his people.” (Esther 10:3).

The character of Haman also speaks for itself as he plotted the murder of an entire race of people because one man did not bow down to him.  This anti-Semitist attitude evidently had permeated the entire Persian culture.  According to Esther 9, there were 75,000 people who were killed because they hated the Jews and sought “to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate them.” (Esther 3:13).  There is no record of any Jews being slain during this time of personal vendetta.  “Now the rest of the Jews who were in the King’s provinces also gathered to defend their lives, and got relief from their enemies and killed 75, 000 of those who hated them…” (Esther 9:16).  If a person did not hate and decide to attack the Jews they were safe from destruction. An edict against the entire race of the Jews to kill them was not enough personal satisfaction for Haman since he also had gallows 75 feet tall constructed to hang Mordecai on, the apparent root of his hatred and bitterness.

Esther’s character also shines through the events recorded about her life.  She is raised by her uncle so at some point in her life she had to deal with the loss of her parents.  She becomes part of this royal beauty pageant and wins.  Though she is not a Persian, she becomes queen.  Just another fact about King Ahasuerus.  He does not do a background check on the new Queen but takes her as his wife based on her looks.  Esther does as her Uncle Mordecai suggests and she willingly lays down her life for her people, since she does not know the response she will receive from the King since she had not seen him for 33 days.  By the end of the book, the King is coming to Esther and asking her what she wants to happen. (Esther 9:12)

God takes the character of people and uses it for His purposes and plans. The theme of Esther and the central verse of the book is Esther 4:14 “…And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Questions:

  1. As we have reviewed the lives of the main characters in the book of Esther, their character shines through their actions. Read Matthew 7:16-20 and record what Jesus says and how it applies to each of the characters in the book of Esther.  What fruit is evident?  What made the difference in each of their lives?
  1. Take some time and evaluate your life. Think about the decisions you have made and how they have impacted your life.  Think about the deliberate choices you have made and the impetuous choices you have made and record the impact it had on your life.
  1. Read Matthew 25:14-30. Which servant are you at this point in your life?  What changes do you need to make no matter which servant you are, no matter how great or small the changes are to be counted more faithful by the Lord?
  1. Realizing that you cannot do this task on your own, who must you enlist to help you and what must you overcome in order to become more faithful?

The Tables are Turned…by God (Esther 9)

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In the blink of an eye, the tide changed in the Kingdom of Persia.  No longer was the second in command a man who hated the Jews.  Now the second in command actually was a Jew.  God’s plans will not be thwarted no matter who is on the throne or second in command.  God unfolded the events in the life of Esther, King Ahasuerus, Mordecai, Haman, and the Jews exactly how He planned it:  the Jews would not be destroyed.  Haman could have treated the Jews with respect and been humble not wanting anyone to bow before him, but that is not the path he chose.  Life brings about many choices each day and it is our decision which choice we are going to make…how we spend our time, talents, and treasure.  Out of pride and selfishness Haman made a choice that was destructive.  Mordecai and Esther made a choice based on humility and love.

Esther 9 reveals how these choices played out with the Hand of God guiding the steps of His people.  “Now in the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, on the thirteenth day of the same, when the king’s command and edict were about to be carried out, on the very day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the mastery over them, the reverse occurred:  the Jews gained mastery over those who hated them.” (Esther 9:1).  Instead of the Persians gaining victory over the Jews, the Jews gained mastery over the Persians.  “The Jews gathered in their cities throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus to lay hands on those who sought their harm, and no one could stand against them, for the fear of them had fallen on all peoples.” (Esther 9:2).  Just a few days before, Haman was leading the way in hatred with preparations to destroy the Jews, now the Persians were fearful.  How can this rapid change of attitude and direction be attributed to anyone besides God?  Only God could orchestrate a plan so masterful that hatred with intent to kill could turn into fear and respect.

Mordecai became great in the King’s house.  He became more powerful, and as his fame grew throughout all the provinces, fear of Mordecai fell on all the officials.  This radical change of events did not happen because Mordecai was authoritative and demanding with the assumption that he was owed this as Haman’s attitude had been.  Rather Mordecai’s attitude of humility along with his wisdom brought about this dramatic change in his position.  When God is on our side, and we exhibit an attitude of submission to the will of God, He can use us for great things.

It would be nice to read this chapter and see that this respect for Mordecai, a Jew, resulted in peace and harmony between all the Jews and their fellow countrymen in Persia.  Even though Mordecai had been promoted to second in command and “fear for Mordecai had fallen on all the officials, satraps, governors, and royal agents,” (Esther 9:3), sadly, peace and harmony was not how the story progressed.  Instead death was on the path to the peaceful ending.  The Jews protected themselves from those who hated them and brought death to many.

Esther 9 records that 500 men in Susa, along with the ten sons of Haman were killed during this one day of fighting.  By royal edict, the Jews could now protect themselves from those who came to destroy them.  With God on their side, no Jews died but the citizens of Persia met with their demise.  After the day was over, the King came to the Queen and asked her if there was anything else she wanted.  Not too long ago, the Queen was fasting and praying for three days before entering the presence of the King unsure of how she would be received.  Again, the tables are turned and now the King is seeking an audience with the Queen.  The Hand of God is seen again and again throughout the story of Esther.  “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sins, and heal their land.” (II Chronicles 7:14).

Questions:

  1. What phrase is repeated three times in Esther 9? (Esther 9:10, 15, & 16).
  1. Read Exodus 17:8-16 then read I Samuel 15. (Haman was an Amalekite).  How do these stories relate to Esther?
  1. In Esther 9:,10, 15, & 16, the people took no plunder. In I Samuel 15:9, 15 what did the people do?
  1. How has the attitude of the Jews changed over the course of time?
  1. What did Samuel say to Saul in I Samuel 15:22, 23?
  1. Did the Jews seem to learn their lesson from these events in I Samuel 15?
  1. How many men were killed as the Jews defended themselves? (Esther 9:6-10, 15, 16). What is coupled each time with the number of men that are killed?
  1. As a result, Purim, which is a party, a celebration and holiday was established. It is still celebrated to this day.  The name of the holiday received its origin from the word “Pur” which means to cast lots, which is how the day that the Jews were to be “destroyed, killed, and annihilated” (Esther 3:13) was established by Haman.  Again, the tables are turned and what could have been a wretched and horrible day that would have gone down in infamy in the history of the Jews turned into a day of celebration.  The ending “im” in Purim makes it plural.  The intent was the celebration was to continue and the people were to celebrate each year the protection of God on their lives.  What is involved in this holiday? (Esther 9:20-22)

From Fasting to Feasting

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I am always surprised when I find out a certain person is related to someone else, or a friend of mine knows a friend of mine from long ago.  How often do we say, “It’s a small world?”  God made people to interact and develop relationships, yet it still amazes me the connections people have.

After Haman was hung on the gallows that he had constructed for Mordecai, the King gave Queen Esther the house of Haman.  “And Mordecai came before the king, for Esther had told what he was to her.” (Esther 8:1).  The king has learned in the last 24 hours that the Queen is a Jew and that Haman, his right hand official, is evil and was plotting to rid the nation of Persia of an entire people group, the Jews.

Esther did not have to identify herself as a Jew.  She could have continued to keep it a secret.  The King could have said he thought Haman’s plot to destroy all the Jews was a good plan. According to Haman, the Jews were insubordinate and “do not keep the king’s laws.” (Esther 3:8).  Rather Esther jumped in with both feet and proudly proclaimed her lineage as a Jew.  “For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated.” (Esther 7:4).

Now Esther proudly proclaims that Mordecai is her uncle.  (Esther 8:1).  The King loses no time in honoring Mordecai.  The signet ring he had given to Haman now is bestowed on Mordecai.  Again, such a quick turn of events in 24 hours.  Haman was the second highest in command at dinner with the King and the Queen with gallows in the distance waiting to be used for Mordecai.  Now 24 hours later, Haman is dead on the gallows intended for Mordecai, and the signet ring once on Haman’s finger is now being worn by Mordecai.

The hand of God moves when He wants it to move according to His timing and through his ways.  We should be quick to surrender our plans to the Lord’s and be willing servants in the plans He has for us.

The work of Esther is not complete.  She has exposed the evil plot against the Jews via Haman and Haman has met his demise, but the edict still stands:  “to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children, in one day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods.” (Esther 3:13).  According to Persian law “an edict written in the name of the king and sealed with the king’s ring cannot be revoked.” (Esther 8:8).  Esther must come up with a plan so this decree will not be enacted, so she goes to the King again and pleads for her people.

The King did not waste any time in deciding to rectify the situation.  “But you may write as you please with regard to the Jews, in the name of the king, and seal it with the king’s ring…” (Esther 8:8).  Mordecai summoned the King’s scribes and had a new edict written, “the king allowed the Jews who were in every city to gather and defend their lives, to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate any armed force of any people or province that might attack them, children and women included, and to plunder their goods.” (Esther 8:11).

In other words, the Jews could defend themselves against any who wanted to come against them and kill them.  Not only could the Jews defend themselves, but the Jews could plunder the goods of those who attacked them.  The edict for the Jews and against the Jews was the same.

Questions:

  1. Timing is important and understanding the timing of all these events helps us to put events into perspective. Look up the following verses and record the timing of each, when they happened.

*Esther 3:7 (first date)

*Esther 3:7 (when Haman went to the King)

*Esther 8:9

*Esther 8:12

  1. What was the timing before Esther 3:7? (Esther 3:3,4)
  1. What similarities is there between Esther 3:14, 15 and 8:13, 14?
  1. Compare Esther 3:15b with Esther 8:15-17. What is the difference in the people?
  1. In Esther 3:15b we see that the King and Haman sat down together after the decree was issued and had a drink together. This shows their nonchalant attitude about the decree and about the millions of people that would be annihilated, because of the disdain Haman had for Mordecai.  One man’s pride would cause the destruction of an entire race.  Compare this with the attitude seen of Esther and Mordecai in Esther 8.
  1. Esther 8:17 closes the chapter with an interesting change of events. How had the tables turned?