Do you remember when the movie Wonder Woman came out in 2017? Wonder Woman featured a strong, noble, courageous, sometimes insecure, but ultimately heroic female super hero, the Amazon warrior Diana Prince. When this movie came out it inspired little girls everywhere.
- Right after this movie released in June 2017 this little girl was dressing up as Wonder Woman with a huge grin. She didn’t care it wasn’t Halloween or that it was summer. She was Wonder Woman!
- This little girl named Milah dressed up as Wonder Woman and her mom took pictures of her on “the streets of New York City like a true superhero.”
- One dad actually recreated some of the Wonder Woman scenes with his “three-year-old daughter Nellee.” His daughter “was so obsessed [with the costume] she couldn’t take it off.”
- But my favorite picture is of last year’s Trunk or Treat when Elijah was so inspired he asked Monica if he could dress up like Superman and her Wonder Woman.
Wonder Woman has had a powerful effect on women and girls in our culture. They’ve walked away from the film feeling inspired and empowered. I think that’s how we’re supposed to feel when we encounter the Wise Woman in Proverbs 31, the original Wonder Woman.
At first she can make us feel like we’ll never measure up or be as perfect as her, but I don’t think that’s how we’re supposed to feel. We’re supposed to see her as an inspiration, as the best of us. The wise woman of Proverbs 31 is meant to move us to take everything we’ve learned in the book of Proverbs and live it out. The Wise Woman:
She is the woman we all should be.
The wise woman is the Wonder Woman (or wonder man) we should all emulate, try to be like. Proverbs is mostly written from the perspective of a father to his son. Remember how the book opened?
Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction
and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. (NIV)
Then the father began to paint wisdom as a strong, attractive, intelligent, God-fearing woman (Prov 1:20-33). As we read the first nine chapters we discovered woman wisdom to be a metaphor for God, and ultimately for Christ Jesus himself (Prov 8:22-31; Col 1:15-17). So the call is for young men (and women) to pursue God and his wisdom.
Now women and girls are usually the ones who go to Proverbs 31 and say, “Here’s the kind of woman I’m supposed to be.” But this text is first written to teenage boys about the kind of girl they should find and marry. It’s written from the perspective of a mother speaking to her son (King Lemuel’s mom speaking to Lemuel). How often do you hear about a boy’s youth retreat studying the Proverbs 31 woman? Never! But that’s who it’s primarily for. With that in mind I do think women are the secondary audience and it’s good for girls to aspire to be like this woman as the. So there’s two ways we should hear this passage:
- Guys, this is the kind of girl you should look to find and marry.
- Girls, this is the kind of girl you should want to be like.
But I want to take a moment and reverse that because if we were to flip over to Psalm 112 we would find a matching Psalm very much like Proverbs 31 describing the ideal man and husband. I’m not going to read it but with that in mind I want to say:
- Guys, this is the kind of girl you should want to be like.
- Girls, this is the kind of guy you should want to marry.
She is the woman we all should be. Now with all that in mind what kind of woman is she? She is:
1) Valorous (v10)
This Hebrew word for “noble” is often used in the Old Testament as a military term. It’s used to describe valiant warriors (Joshua 1:14). She is courageous and determined and doesn’t run away in fear. So she is like a female superhero or the Disney princess Mulan. If you’re not familiar with Mulan, it’s starts when the Huns invade China and a man from every family is conscripted into the army. But Mulan’s father is older and feeble and can’t fight so Mulan disguises herself as a man and joins the army in his place. She’s courageous, noble, and a mighty warrior. A Proverbs 31 woman is valorous. She is also…
2) Trustworthy (v11-12)
Tremper Longman III translates v11, “Her husband entrusts his heart to her…” Then he adds, “The heart stands for one’s core personality and not specifically emotions… it means that the husband is confident to make himself totally vulnerable to her. He trusts her to follow through and take care of him and the household.” Find a wife (or a husband) who is completely trustworthy, in the big things and small. She is…
3) Diligent (v13-19)
Before I go any further I want to point out that Proverbs 31:10-31 is an acrostic poem based on the Hebrew alphabet. In our training for the upcoming intergenerational outreach program we created an acrostic poem based on our names. So for example Doreen’s name created this acrostic poem:
D – dependable
O – organized
R – reliable
E – empathetic
E – endearing
N – neat
Doreen is all those things! The reason I’m not sharing my own acrostic was that I was so bad at this that for “o” in Jonathan I wrote Oreo… If you were to read Proverbs 31 in Hebrew it would go something like this:
An awesome wife, who can find her?
A blessed lady, her husband trusts her.
A caring woman, she does him good all her life.
A diligent worker, she is skillful with her hands. (Exalting Jesus in Proverbs by Jonathan Akin)
In verses 13-19 each acrostic inspires us to be a diligent woman or man and to look for a diligent spouse.
This woman really is hard working and industrious. Verse 12 says she works with her hands to process wool and flax. Although wool is relatively easy to process flax is difficult and hard work. You have to plant and grow the flax, pull it up at harvest (if you cut it you shorten your fiber), bundle and dry the flax linen, comb the dried flax to collect its seeds, rot the inside of the plant with bacteria to free the fibers from the stalk, beat the wood fragments off the stalks, scrape away any remaining shives, pull the fibers through a hackle, which is like a comb made of nails, spin the fiber, weave it, and finally bleach it. It’s a long process but the end result is the “strongest natural fiber in the world.” It lasts a long time (is often given as an heirloom) and has “Antibacterial properties” because “it wicks moisture and dries out much faster than cotton.” To process flax you have to be a pretty hard working and industrious person.
The Proverbs 31 woman (or man) is entrepreneurial and financially responsible, trading with others and providing food. She gets up before the break of dawn to prepare food for her family and servants. I’ve heard that most CEOs and executives wake up before 6am, around 90%. We should all be diligent and that may mean getting up. I’d also like to point out that she does have servants to help her, which is perhaps why she can accomplish so much. She is diligent and also…
4) Compassionate (v20)
She’s benevolent and kind. She goes out of her way to show care for the least of these.
She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy. (NIV)
Men, we’re also called to do this. The matching text in Psalm 112 says:
He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever;
his horn is exalted in honor. (ESV)
In the movie Wonder Woman, Diana hears about World War I and believes the evil god Ares, the god of war, is manipulating humankind to fight each other, both British and Germans. She sets out to stop him and end the war. As one reviewer wrote, “Diana’s mission is fueled not by revenge or selfish gain, but by compassion.” Chances are none of us are going to have to fight Ares the god of war but we can all stand against oppression and injustice in the places God has called us, in our family and at school or at work, and we can go out of our way to show compassion to those in need.
5) Prudent (v21-22, 24-25)
That means she can predict what might happen in the future and plan accordingly. When it snows, her and her family aren’t cold because she made them clothes or paid the heating bill (v21). Verse 25 literally says, “she laughs at the future.” She’s not afraid. She’s prepared. She looks into the future, get’s out her planner, and writes down what needs to be done. At our house we have a monthly calendar that’s on a whiteboard in our kitchen. Maybe your family has a group calendar through google or apple. We should all plan for the future like the wise woman.
6) Honorable (v23, 28, 31)
The way this woman carries herself and supports her family brings respect to her husband. People look at him and say, “Wow! You married up. You chose wisely.” Her husband recognizes how great she is, and praises her with words of affirmation, but so do her children, they recognize how great their mom is.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her: (NIV)
Everything said about this woman can be true of a man. He can also bring honor to his family.
His offspring will be mighty in the land;
the generation of the upright will be blessed. (ESV)
The wise man or woman is honorable. And the most important quality, she…
7) Loves the Lord (v26, 30)
She knows the Lord and his word.
She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue. (NIV)
This isn’t just that this woman is good at giving advice but that she is good at pointing her husband and son to the Scriptures and what God says. Remember how the book of Proverbs opened?
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (NIV)
The father told the son to find the “fear of the Lord,” which is a reverent awe for who God is. One of the ways we can develop this good fear of God is if the Lord calls us into marriage by finding a woman (or if you’re a girl finding a man) who loves the Lord. Your spouse has a huge impact on your walk with God.
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. (NIV)
It’s not about outward beauty or strength but about an inward love for the Lord. The wise woman is valorous, trustworthy, diligent, compassionate, prudent, honorable, and she loves the Lord. Sounds easy, right? This woman in Proverbs 31 is meant to be an inspiration, a model of something greater, of something we should become, something we can aspire to. But in the end no matter how hard we try she is also something we can’t really become.
She is the woman we all can’t be.
The reason Wonder Woman is so amazing is because she’s fiction. And even if she wasn’t fiction, she’d be a Greek Goddess, and none of us are that, except for maybe Andrew…
We are to aspire to becoming like her, but ultimately we need to recognize that we can’t. We all fall short. This is because lady wisdom is ultimately a metaphor for God, and is embodied by Christ Jesus himself. Jesus had this to say about himself and lady wisdom.
Matthew 11:19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.” (NIV)
The wise woman is the person we should all be, but can’t be, but Christ could be. Christ embodied valor as he went to the cross to win the battle between heaven and hell. Christ was trustworthy and diligent and compassionate, healing the blind and the lame and caring for the least of these. Christ was prudent. He saw his path would lead him to the cross and he walked it anyway. He died the most shameful death to honor his Father in heaven, who then honored him (Phil 2:9-11). Christ did it all because he loved his Father and he loves us.
In the movie Wonder Woman does finally meet up with Ares, the god of war, a type of Satan figure. But to her surprise Ares reveals that he’s not the one who caused the war. It was people themselves. All he did was whisper in humankind’s ears ideas of war and wickedness. We chose evil because we’re “inherently corrupt.” What does Wonder Woman do? She saves a corrupt and broken humankind. Sounds a little like the gospel story, doesn’t it? But Wonder Woman is fiction. Jesus is real. He died to save corrupt and broken people and make us new. Will you accept his free offer of salvation?
The wise woman is the woman we all should be but can’t be… But because of Christ…
She is the woman we are all becoming.
If you repent of your sins and believe in Jesus, if you confess you’re not Wonder Woman or Superman and in fact rather broken and that you need savior Jesus, he will rescue you. The Bible tells us that everyone who knows Christ is a part of his bride, the church, the noble bride.
I think the last chapter of Proverbs paints a picture of not only who we should become but who we will become. Remember how the wise woman clothes herself with “fine linen?” (Prov 31:22) In Revelation 19 the prophet John gives us a glimpse of what the people of God will be when we’re finally united with Christ, a bride clothed in… fine linen.1
Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, bright and clean,
was given her to wear.”
(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.) (NIV)
The noble wife has become the noble bride. The wise woman of Proverbs 31, our Wonder Woman, is the kind of person each one of us will become when Christ finally brings us home. By God’s grace, and Christ’s victory on the cross, we can begin to become a little like her, like Jesus, in this lifetime. We can become strong, noble, and courageous, but every time we fall short and feel insecure we remember our hero, Christ Jesus. Jesus defeated Satan (Ares) and our sins and offers us eternal life with him.
When the little boy and little girl in your hearts wishes you could be Wonder Woman for a day, remember that Christ Jesus is making you into the wise woman for eternity.
Pastor Jonathan Romig preached this message at Cornerstone Congregational Church. You can download a PDF copy of this sermon above, which includes endnotes and references, or listen to it through Apple podcasts or Google Play Music. Read the story of our church here.
- The word for “fine linen” in the LXX (Proverbs 31:22) is βύσσος. The word for “fine linen” in the Greek New Testament (Rev 19:8) is βύσσινος. The Proverbs 31 woman is also a ruby or jewell to her husband (Prov 31:1). When Christ finally comes the New Jerusalem, the city of God, is also called the bride (Rev 21:2). The city itself, which is another picture of all God’s people, is called a jewel. Revelation 21:19 says, “The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald…” (NIV) Proverbs 31:31 in the ESV also talks about fruit. Revelation 22:1-2 talks about the fruit from the tree of life. These are all small hints, perhaps, that John is helping us make this connection between woman wisdom in Proverbs 31:10-31 and the bride of Christ, the people of God, us, in Revelation 19-22. ↩