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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
May 8, 2011
Women Worth Emulating
Happy Mothers’ Day. In honor of this cultural holiday, I would like to encourage each of you ladies by pointing out some of the qualities that make a woman truly beautiful. In 1 Peter 3:3-4, the apostle points out that it is not the outward appearance that makes a woman truly beautiful, but character qualities that are precious in the sight of God. It can be easy for women to get caught up in fashion and work hard to make themselves appear attractive. Peter corrects this mindset saying, “let not your adornment be [merely] external– braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses.”
Notice that Peter is not against a woman making herself appear nice, but he goes beyond that, for true beauty requires it. Proverbs 11:22 comments, “As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout, So is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion.” There has to be a character to match if a woman is to be truly beautiful. Peter goes on to say about what is truly beautiful adornment, “but [let it be] the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.”
This morning I want to talk about some of these character qualities including faithfulness, obedience, wisdom, humility, thankfulness and loving sacrifice.
The Ideal: The Proverbs 31 Woman
Proverbs 31:10-31 is a poem that describes an ideal, but because this is an ideal, and there are few that achieve the ideal, many women give up before they even start. For that reason I want to point out to you several real women described in the Scriptures that are examples of key character qualities that you should desire to emulate. However, I do want to briefly describe the Proverbs 31 woman because the ideal is the eventual goal. (If you want more detail about Proverbs 31:10-31, see the sermon: Characteristics of a Godly Woman).
Valuable (vs. 10) “An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.” Like a jewel, she is of high quality and rare and therefore extremely valuable. It will take work to find such a virtuous woman – and she is worth the search! And though rare, that does not mean that each of you ladies here today should not strive to achieve this status.
Trustworthy (vs. 11) “The heart of her husband trusts in her, And he will have no lack of gain.” He can trust her wholly for she is seeking what is best for the family and not just herself. She will not squander the family finances on herself, but instead she brings profit into the family as we shall see in the verses that follow.
Continually Good (vs. 12) “She does him good and not evil All the days of her life.” No wonder her husband can trust her, for she is consistently good to him. This demonstrates she is deeply committed and sacrificial in her love.
Industrious (vs. 13) “She looks for wool and flax, and works with her hands in delight.” Work is a good thing and she is diligent. Whether she is producing something for her own family, to sell or for charity, she actively pursues it and enjoys doing so.
Prudent (vs. 14) “She is like merchant ships; She brings her food from afar.” She sacrifices convenience and her own comfort to find the better goods and the best value.
Diligent (vs 15) “She rises also while it is still night, And gives food to her household, And portions to her maidens.” She is not lazy, for her life is caught up with her concern for family and others instead of her own comforts and convenience. She is diligent at managing her household.
Entrepreneurial (vs. 16) “She considers a field and buys it; From her earnings she plants a vineyard.” Her priority is her home, but she has the wisdom to make investments, in this case real estate and agriculture, that will add to the wealth of her family.
Strong (vs. 17) “She girds herself with strength, And makes her arms strong.” She is not afraid of physical labor. She would have to be strong to do all she is described as doing, but there is more.
Attentive (vs. 18) “She senses that her gain is good; Her lamp does not go out at night.” She is attentive to the outcome of her labor, investments and family’s well being. She even checks the oil in the lamp to make sure there is enough to last the night.
Hard Worker (vs. 19) “She stretches out her hands to the distaff, And her hands grasp the spindle.” In his verse we find her busy about the activity of spinning which is why she was looking for wool and flax in verse 13. She is preparing material for either her family, for sale or for charity, for she is also compassionate as the next verse states.
Compassionate (vs 20) “She extends her hand to the poor; and she stretches out her hands to the needy.” Beyond just the idea of providing the poor with material goods, she reaches out with a tender touch to comfort, counsel and encourage. This is a quality that is very pleasing to God.
Confident (vs 21) “She is not afraid of the snow for her household, For all her household are clothed with scarlet.” She has anticipated the future and has prepared clothes for family that wil
l both protect them and look nice.
Elegant (vs 22) “She makes coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple.” She used the colors available to her to make fine clothing of contrasting colors. Her many virtues have enabled her to gain fine clothing for her own apparel.
Admirable (vs 23) “Her husband is known in the gates, When he sits among the elders of the land.” Because of what she does, her husband is freed up to be involved as a leader in public affairs and so she is to be admired.
Capitalist (vs 24) “She makes linen garments and sells them, And supplies belts to the tradesmen.” Her industry and spirit have enabled her to operate a clothing and belt manufacturing business in addition to her other enterprises.
Dignified (vs 25) All of these are wonderful characteristics, but the most important ones are found in the next two verses and in verse 30. “Strength and dignity are her clothing, And she smiles at the future.” Her real beauty is her personal dignity and based on her strength and dignity she smiles at the future for she has nothing to fear.
Wise (vs 26) “She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” A fitting ornament in her beauty is her wisdom and especially in its expression of kindness in her teaching. Wisdom lives life mindful of the Lord and that is what she teaches others.
Watchful (vs 27) “She looks well to the ways of her household, And does not eat the bread of idleness.” This is an expression of her wisdom and a summary of the characteristics already described.
Honored (vs 28-29) The result of all this that her family honors her. “Her children rise up and bless her; Her husband also, and he praises her, saying Many daughters have done nobly, But you excel them all.'” This is the natural reaction of children who are well reared and a husband that recognizes her excellent, noble and virtuous character. He recognizes her worth is far above jewels.
Godly (vs 30) Her excellence of character has a solid basis. “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” Charm is deceitful because flattery is used to manipulate people into doing what you want. Beauty is vain because it is always fleeting and at best only lasts the few years of your short life. The characteristics that mark this excellent woman rise from within because she has the proper fear of the Lord and seeks Him with all her heart.
Acclaimed (vs 31) Finally, we find that she is also acclaimed by the rest of society. “Give her the product of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.” She has brought much blessing to others by what she has done for them and they in turn give praise for it. Her godly character shines in all that she does including the products of her hands for they cannot be hid. Thus, she is acclaimed.
Such are the characteristics of the ideal woman. You may not be like that yet, but those are the characteristics you should strive to emulate. Men, let me remind you that you are to help her develop those characteristics by your own leadership and encouragement. Do not make the mistake of taking your wife or daughter for granted. Praise her and encourage her by letting her know the good qualities you see in her and how God is using her to bless your life.
For the rest of this morning, I want to point out some particular real women that are described in the Scriptures. Romans 15:4 reminds us, “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Each of these women have strengths and weaknesses, but each demonstrates particular characteristics that are worthy to emulate.
Rahab is an excellent example of redemption. Rahab is not a virtuous woman when we first meet her in Joshua 2. She is a harlot who is deceptive and freely lies. You may recall the story of her hiding the two spies from the King of Jericho. She hid them under stalks of flax on her roof and when the King’s men came looking for them, she lied and said they had already left. She helped them escape that night in exchange for their promise not to destroy her or her family when Israel conquered Jericho.
She did not know much about God except that she knew the Lord had given the Israelites the land since she had heard about how the Lord dried up the Red Sea and destroyed the Amorite kings. Her conclusion was that “the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath” (Joshua 2:9-11). She did not know much, but she acted on what she did know and the Lord rewarded her for it.
She and her family were spared and she married Salmon, a man from the tribe of Judah, and she bore Boaz, the great-grandfather of King David. She is included in the direct blood line of Jesus Christ. She is included in the hall of faith in Hebrews 11:31 stating of her, “By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace.” In addition, James 2:25 also points her out as an example of true faith.
Rahab is the example of redemption. Regardless of what your life is like currently or even how bad your character might be at present – God can and will change you if you will simply step out in faith to believe and trust Him for He is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). Rahab started with just believing that the Lord is God in heaven above and earth beneath. You can start at the same place, then come talk with me or any of our church leaders and we can explain more clearly Jesus’ death as the payment for your sin, His resurrection and promise of eternal life to all who believe in Him.
Ruth is the next woman I want to mention this morning. She is an example of faithfulness and commitment. The book of Ruth tells her story and God’s mercy to her, for she was from a people that were to be excluded from the house of God (Deuteronomy 23:3). In brief, Ruth was a Moabitess who married the son of Naomi, a Judean woman whose family had moved to Moab due to a famine, but her husband and both of her sons had died there. After this multiple tragedy had occurred, Naomi encouraged both of her daughter-in-laws to return to their father’s homes and find new Moabite husbands. Naomi was going to return to her people in Judah. One of them did so, but Ruth would not leave exhibiting her own faithfulness and commitment to Naomi saying, “Do not urge me to leave you
[or] turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people [shall be] my people, and your God, my God. “Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if [anything but] death parts you and me” (Ruth 1:16-17).
Ruth returned with Naomi to Bethlehem and then went to work gleaning in the fields so that they would have something to eat. In God’s providence, she gleaned in a field belonging to Naomi’s close relative, Boaz. He had already heard about her kindness to Naomi, and so he instructed her to work only in his field and that his servants would look out for her. When Naomi found out what had happened that day, she instructed Ruth what to do for Boaz was their kinsman-redeemer. Ruth followed her instructions with the end result that she and Boaz were married. That is not as romantic a story as it might appear for even Boaz commended Ruth for seeking him as a kinsman redeemer instead of going after a young man.
Ruth had a limited knowledge of the Lord, but like Rahab, she followed what she did know and would not turn back to the idolatry of her pagan heritage. Ruth followed Naomi and accepted her counsel. The result was that she, like Rahab, also became an ancestor of Jesus being the mother of Jesse, the father of King David.
Ruth is an example of faithfulness and commitment. Perhaps you too have experienced great tragedy in life, but that does not mean the Lord has ill plans for your future. Be faithful to follow what you do know is true about God and He will open new doors to a greater understanding of Himself and a better course of life (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Esther is another fascinating woman. Her story is told in the book of Esther and she is an example of courage in the face of fear. Esther was the niece of a Jewish man named Mordecai. She had become queen to King Ahasuerus of Persia. A plot had been formulated by one of the King’s officials, Haman, to annihilate all the Jews in the land. This put Esther in a precarious position. She was queen, but Persian Kings were despots and sometimes fickle. The previous queen had already been removed because the King was displeased with her. If she approached the King without his invitation, her life would be at risk (Esther 4:11), and she had not seen the king for thirty days. She was afraid, but and the urging of Mordecai, she faced her fears. She told Mordecai, “Go, assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa, and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maidens also will fast in the same way. And thus I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.”
Esther did approach the king and he did hold out his scepter and greet her sparing her life. She then carefully carried out her plan to exposed Haman’s plot which was against her and her people. This resulted in the rescue of the Jews and the execution of Haman.
There are many things you will face in life which will cause you fear. Esther is the example of overcoming fear with courage. It was not that she even she expected a good outcome, for she well knew the risk that she could die. However, she solicited others to pray for her, and then stepped forward to do what was good and right regardless of what might become of her personally. That is what defines courage. You do what is good and right and leave the results in the hands of God. Courageous women help shape the lives of not only family and friends, but also of entire societies.
Wisdom: Abigail – 1 Samuel 25
There is not a lot said in the Scriptures about Abigail, but what is said demonstrates a woman of great wisdom. 1 Samuel 25 records her story and how she came to the attention of David. She was married to a man named Nabal, whose name means “fool,” for such was his character. He had greatly offended David, and so David was on his way with his men to destroy him. When Abigail found out, she quickly prepared gifts for David and his men and rode out to appease their anger. Her intercession for her husband is one of great wisdom in taking on the responsibility herself, explaining her ignorance of the situation, explaining her husband’s folly and then imploring David to relent form his plan lest he do evil which would cause him grief and trouble when he became king. David listened and heeded her advice commending her and blessing her for keeping him from bloodshed and avenging himself. As the story continues, Nabal goes into shock and finally dies after hearing what Abigail had averted. David’s great respect for her is seen in that he then took her as a wife and she bore his second son, Chileab, by her.
Abigail is an especially good example for those who are in difficult marriages and situations. She demonstrates wisdom and humility in protecting her family from the danger coming upon them.
An Instructor: Priscilla – Acts 18
Priscilla is another woman for whom little is said, but what is said demonstrates her to be worthy of emulation. She had a great love for God and the truth of His word and so properly sought to correct and teach those with less knowledge. We are told about her in Acts 18. She and her husband, Aquila, were Jews that had been forced to leave Rome due to Emperor Claudius’ decree. They had recently arrived in Corinth where they met and worked in the same trade as Paul as tent-makers. They then went with Paul to Ephesus where they stayed while Paul continued on his way to Jerusalem. When Apollos arrived in Ephesus, he began teaching boldly in the synagogue about Jesus, but he was only familiar with the baptism of John. “But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26). That action says a lot about this woman.
First, she and her husband worked together. She is mentioned first, the position of prominence indicating she may have had the greater role in teaching Apollos, but she does not usurp him and they work together. Second, they had a love of God and the truth so they were not hesitant to correct error or in this case, insufficient knowledge. Third, they were both humble and did their teaching of Apollos privately so as not to embarrass him so that he could continue his powerful ministry. They were team players wanting God to be glorified and not looking for a position or prestige for themselves.
Priscilla is a good example to all you women who love God and truth and know more than others. She shows the proper way to teach that will magnify God, edify others and demonstrate your own godliness.
Humility: Sarah – 1 Peter 3
Sarai / Sarah is a major character in the Scriptures being mentioned by name 49 times from Genesis 11-49 and also in Isaiah, Romans, Hebrews and 1 Peter. As the wife of Abraham, it would be expected that she would be mentioned many times, but she is also listed for her, own faith and example. There is much that could be said
about her for the Bible reveals both her good and negative examples. A review of her life demonstrates her growth in faith over time, so much so that she is also listed in the hall of faith in Hebrews 11 for she considered God faithful to fulfill His promise that she would bear a son though she was 90 years old and Abraham was 100 years old before she conceived.
What I want to point out about her this morning is what is said in 1 Peter 3. We looked at this passage a couple of months ago when considering the role of a wife. Peter uses her as the example of a woman that has the “imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. 5 For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands. 6 Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.”
Sarah was able to submit to Abraham because she was a humble woman of faith. She learned to overcome fear and follow her husband’s lead by learning to trust the Lord. That is the example all wives need in fulfilling their own role in the family. Your ability to be a good wife is directly tied to your being a godly woman of faith.
I want to mention Hannah next because she demonstrates a very important quality of a virtuous woman. She was thankful. Her story is told in 1 Samuel 1 & 2. If you are familiar with it, you will recall that she was barren and it bothered her greatly, especially since her husband’s second wife would provoke her bitterly about it to irritate her. Hannah’s response was fervent prayer vowing that if the Lord would remember her affliction and give her a son, she would give Him back to the Lord. The Lord answered her prayer and gave her a son, which she did give to the Lord as soon as he was weaned. That son was Samuel, who became a great Judge in Israel and was the one that anointed both Saul and David as Kings of Israel.
Hannah’s song of thanksgiving is recorded in 1 Samuel 2:1-10 and it is a beautiful psalm exalting the Lord and expressing her gratitude to Him for His character and actions toward her. What is most remarkable about Hannah is that she does this knowing she will soon be giving him up and only be able to visit him once a year as he grows up. That is a very difficult prospect for any mother, but even more so for a woman who has been barren. In Hannah’s case, the Lord granted her additional children – three more sons and two daughters.
Hannah is a good example for all women about being thankful even when what you will have to do will be emotionally difficult. She saw beyond herself to the Lord’s goodness and the bigger picture of what He was doing. Humility leads to thankfulness which then gives praise to God.
A Living Sacrifice: Mary
The final woman I want to mention this morning is Mary. There is a lot that could be said about this very remarkable woman, but what stands out to me the most about her is that she lived out what Paul would later command in Romans 12:1 and presented herself as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God. This character quality is first revealed in Luke 1 when the angel Gabriel announces to her that the Lord had chosen her to conceive and bear the promised Messiah. She is of course confused and asks how it could be, which Gabriel explains would come by the Holy Spirit coming upon her. Mary’s response is humble and beautiful. “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word.” She would have been well aware of the great risk she was taking in being rejected by everyone that did not believe her story. Even Joseph had to be visited by an angel before he would believe the story (Matthew 1:19-21). Yet, Mary was willing to do as the Lord asked regardless of the sacrifice.
She would of course make the sacrifices every mother makes in raising her children, but there would be the additional stress that would come with the knowledge that she and Joseph were raising the Son of God. Then there was the emotional turmoil that came when Jesus was crucified. Like any mother that has lost a son, she was deeply grieved, and more so since she also knew the injustice that was being done. What joy must have been in her heart when she learned that Jesus was raised from the dead!
The Lord’s bondslave is the defining characteristic of Mary. She lived for the purpose of glorifying God however the Lord desired to do that. In addition, her understanding of what God was doing was not shortsighted. In her expression of praise in Luke 1:46-55, she is clear that what the Lord was doing through her was His mercy upon generation after generation and help to all Israel in keeping with God’s promises to Abraham. She understood that her first born son, Jesus, was also her God and Savior.
Mary is a woman worth emulating. As I already pointed out from Romans 12:1, every Christian should present themselves to the Lord as a living and holy sacrifice acceptable to God. That was already her attitude before Gabriel visited her and why she was able to so quickly yield herself to his message of what the Lord was going to do. She is also a mother whose example should be followed. All mothers make sacrifices for the sake of their children and all mothers will do well if they will take Mary’s attitude.
First, she knew the child she bore was a gift from God and raised Him accordingly. But in a sense, is that not true of every child? It is the Lord that opens the womb and children are a gift from God (Psalm 127:3). You need to treat them as a gift from God and not as something you own.
Second, Mary treasured her time with Jesus, but she learned that He belonged to God and must yield Him to do His Father’s will. But is that not true of every child? While you will greatly value the years you have your children at home, your purpose is to prepare them to live apart from you. Our children belong to God, not us. The Lord has only given us a stewardship over them for the years we are raising them to become responsible adults.
Third, Mary had a hope in her son that transcended this life. While you cannot have a hope in your son, you can have a hope in the Son that does transcend this life. That is a hope for yourself and all your children if they will also believe and follow the Lord Jesus Christ. Physical death in this world need only be a temporary separation regardless of whether it is parents or children that die first.
I trust that is a hope that you have, but if not, then talk with myself or any of our church leaders before you leave today so that you can have this hope.
There are many women listed in the Bible who had lives worth emulating. Take the time to ponder their examples and follow them. Set your goals higher than what is common to society and you also will become a woman whose life is worth
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Express your love to your mother
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. The woman described in Proverbs 31 is an ideal – what characteristics does she display that you already have? – and what characteristics do you want to develop in your own life? List out some of the women mentioned in the Bible that you admire and explain why you admire them.
Women Worth Emulating – Selected Scriptures
The Ideal: The Proverbs 31 Woman
Valuable (vs. 10) Like a __________, she is of high quality and rare and therefore extremely valuable.
Trustworthy (vs. 11) He can trust her wholly for she seeks what is best for the family
Continually Good (vs. 12) Her husband can ___________ her for she is consistently good to him
Industrious (vs. 13) Work is a good thing and she is productive
Prudent (vs. 14) She sacrifices convenience to ___________ the better goods and the best value
Diligent (vs 15) Her life is caught up with her concern for family and others
Entrepreneurial (vs. 16) Her priority is her _______, but she also has the wisdom to make investments
Strong (vs. 17) She is not afraid of physical labor
Attentive (vs. 18) She ____________the details to make sure her family is well cared for
Hard Worker (vs. 19) She is busy spinning in preparing cloth for her family, for sale or for charity
Compassionate (vs 20) She provides and reaches out to ____________, counsel and encourage
Confident (vs 21) She has anticipated the Winter and has prepared nice clothes for her family
Elegant (vs 22) Her many virtues have enabled her to gain __________ clothing for her apparel
Admirable (vs 23) Her virtues enable her husband to be involved as a leader in public affairs
Capitalist (vs 24) She operates a manufacturing ______________ in addition to her other enterprises
Dignified (vs 25) Her real beauty is her strength and personal dignity
Wise (vs 26) Her wisdom and _______________ are a fitting ornament in her beauty
Watchful (vs 27) She is active and watches over the affairs of her household
Honored (vs 28-29) Her children and husband honor her for her many _______________
Godly (vs 30) Her character traits arise from her proper fear of the Lord and seeking Him
Acclaimed (vs 31) For the blessings she brings to others, they in turn ____________ her
These are the ___________ for which you are to strive
A harlot who demonstrates simple _________, is spared, redeemed and becomes an ancestor of Jesus
___________ can change your life into something beautiful if you will believe and seek Him
A grieving Moabitess, she is __________ & committed, kind, and is redeemed – an ancestor of Jesus
The Lord can enable you to ___________ tragedy as you learn to trust Him – Proverbs 3:5-6
A Jewish woman that becomes __________ to Persian King Ahasuerus
She _________ her life to expose Haman’s plot to annihilate the Jews – resulting in their rescue
There are fearful things in life, but be courageous to do what is good and _____and watch the Lord work
Wisdom: Abigail – 1 Samuel 25
She was married to _____, a “fool” – who greatly offends David. She intervenes and saves her household
Abigail is an example to those in difficult marriages and situations of being _________ and humble
An Instructor: Priscilla – Acts 18
Wife of Aquila, they make tents with Paul, they teach ___________ more accurately the way of God
1) She works with her husband & does not ________ him.
2) She loves God and __________
3) They are humble, team players who avoid compromising Apollos’ ministry by teaching him ________
You may know more, but you must be __________in teaching so that you magnify God and edify others
Humility: Sarah – 1 Peter 3
As Abraham’s wife, Sarai / Sarah is mentioned many times, she is also cited as a woman of _______
Peter uses her as the example of a woman of godly characteristics precious to God – including _________
You must also learn to overcome fear by ____________the Lord as you fulfill your role in the family
Thankful: Hannah – 1 Samuel 1 & 2
Hannah was barren and ______fervently for a son. The Lord gave her a son which she gave back to Him
Her song of thanksgiving (1 Sam. 2:1-10) exalts the ___________ and expresses sincere thanksgiving
You can be __________in all things if you see beyond yourself to the Lord’s goodness and His purposes
A Living Sacrifice: Mary – Luke 1
Mary proclaims herself to be the _________of the Lord and submits to His plans though personally risky
She makes the ____________ any mother makes for her children – and more so
She lived to glorify __________ and saw how she fit into His bigger plans.
She is an example of godly motherhood
1) All children are a ________ from God (Psalm 127:3) and not something you own
2) Our children belong to God – parents are only ________who are to raise them to be responsible adults
3) If you believe and follow the Lord Jesus Christ, you have a _________ that transcends death
Ponder the examples in the Bible of godly women and set your __________ in life to be and do likewise
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