Excellence Full Circle

Proverbs 31 is a chapter that intimidates women all over because of its description of a virtuous wife. This chapter is not written directly to women. In fact, it is a recitation that King Lemuel learned from his mother, and the first 9 verses are King Lemuel reciting the standards necessary to be a good king. As I pondered this it occurred to me that his mother probably groomed him to be king when he was just a little boy by teaching him these recitations so that he would always remember it. This is similar in purpose and approach to teaching our children to memorize scripture. The capable wife described in the remainder of Proverbs 31 is an example of the kind of woman he needed to find as a wife of a king. Both the king and his wife are held at a higher standard because of their leadership, influence, and responsibility to lead the people. The woman described in this chapter has so much influence that her husband is honored because of her. Reading this chapter can easily give the impression that a woman who is domesticated and loves to cook, sew, and work hard in the field is the ideal woman, but what I really got out of reading this is that she is a woman who does not waste time on idle things, and she works hard planning and preparing well for her family. She doesn’t waste time or resources and she plans and prepares ahead so that her family is prepared for season changes and emergencies. Obviously, this translates very differently for our times. The kinds of things a woman did to prepare her home were much different than what we do. Sewing clothes and making blankets to survive a harsh winter were absolutely necessary in those times, where women now only sew as a hobby or business unless she lives on a homestead. The tipping point of this whole thing for me was at the end when it says that she will be praised by her husband, her children and the works of her own hands. It suddenly occurred to me that King Lemuel was doing this very thing. The woman he described was a picture of his own mother teaching, influencing and preparing him as a young boy to be a good king. It would all come full circle in his own life because she not only taught him his whole life how to be a good king, but she prepared him to find the kind of wife he needed to be his partner. She would be the woman who would prepare his own future son to be king, and she would be the voice of wisdom in his ear as he led the people, so she needed to be virtuous, wise, and honorable. Proverbs 31 is not a tough, unattainable standard on women. It is a call to excellence for both men and women, and an incredible picture of partnership in living with excellence and raising children with honor. This life of excellence prepares them to be honorable leaders that continue the circle by training their own children with excellence so that this continues with each generation.

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