Profitable Merchandise

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“She perceives that her merchandise is profitable,

her lamp does not go out at night.”

Proverbs 31:18

As we continue our study through Proverbs 31, we are continually reminded of the industriousness of this well rounded lady.  She is diligent in her tasks and a hard worker.  There is not an ounce of laziness in her well-cared for body.

The Hebrew word for perceive, taam, translated elsewhere in the Old Testament is taste.  Each time it is used as taste it is referring to tasting food. The only time this Hebrew word taam is translated perceive is in this verse.  What does perceiving profitable merchandise have to do with tasting food?  The definition of perceive according to Webster (1984) is “to become aware of directly through the senses, to take notice of, observe, to achieve understanding.”  When we taste our food, we are more than just putting food into our mouths to satisfy our stomachs, we are experiencing the food through our taste buds.  We are enjoying and experiencing the variety of flavors and textures of the food.  The lady described here uses her experiences and the experiences of others to provide or make profitable merchandise.  She learns through her successes and failures.  She is astute in taking her experiences and applying them to her business so that her merchandise is profitable.

When we carefully consider what needs to be done to provide valuable merchandise, we take our past experiences and apply them for future gains.  She is not insane: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” as Albert Einstein said, but rather she takes what she knows and applies it to what she does not know.  She uses past experiences as a stepping stone for future success no matter whether the past experience was positive or negative.

Many who read this passage grumble about how little sleep it appears this industrious woman seems to get.  “She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household.” (Proverbs 31:15).  Now it appears she does not even go to bed, “her lamp does not go out at night.” (Proverbs 31:18).  No woman can function without any sleep.  God made all of us need sleep in order to rejuvenate our bodies so they are energized for the next day.

There are two ways we can dissect this part of the verse.  This woman is not staying up all night working on her various projects, but rather she is willing to work as hard and as long as needed to get the job done.  She is industrious, and understands that at times in order to accomplish a task certain sacrifices are needed.  The key here is her willingness to sacrifice her needs for something that is greater than she.

The second meaning of this verse comes through cross referencing the word lamp.  We see this same Hebrew word, hiyr, in Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.”  This lady knows God’s Word and it influences every part of her life.  There is no part of her day or night that is not influenced by God’s powerful Word.  God’s Word influences every business decision she makes, and since God is the giver of wisdom, she relies heavily on Him and His Word to guide every aspect of her business.  She does not make unethical decisions just to make a few extra dollars.  She walks in the light of God’s Word, which helps her perceive what wise business decisions she needs to make in order to be profitable.

What can we take away from this verse?  We must be industrious and use our experiences as stepping stones for future decisions.  We must be willing to sacrifice our needs for others and for important projects that need to be finished, but we must also balance this with taking proper care of ourselves.  As we use God’s Word as a lamp, it will guide us into making proper decisions that will benefit us and our families, and give glory to God.
Questions:

  1. Do you learn from your past or do you continue to do the same thing over and over again hoping for different results?
  1. Relate some things you have learned that have been positive and relate some things that you continue to do over and over again hoping for different results.
  1. Read James 1:22-25. Relate the applicable verses to the positives and negatives that you mentioned above.
  1. What has caused you to remember what you saw in the mirror and change you actions?
  1. What has caused you to forget what you saw in the mirror and continue on the path you are on?
  1. James 1:25 has the key. What is the key?  What will you do with this key?
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