by Gina L.
from Virtuous Daughters, June/July 2017~Volume 17, Number 2
"Panning for Gold" Proverbs 31 Study Series Part 14
This week we took a field trip to an aquarium to observe the marvelous fish God created. In a large tank, I oohed and ahhed at many beautifully colored exotic fish and at the sharks, sting rays, and the giant turtle. The expert biologist who was answering questions came around to talk to us. She told us her favorite fish was this tiny little three inch plain looking fish. I was shocked at first. Then she told us why. It turns out that little fish was loved by all in the tank because he would clean all the parasites off of the other fish and groom them. He was such a good little helper that he would even swim in and out of their gills, cleaning and making the fish look good and stay healthy all over. While I can’t even remember the name of the plain little fish, I certainly remember how good he made the others in the tank look. Like the biologist, I decided that I liked that plain little fish too and would like to be like him, helping others and making them better by his presence. That plain little fish reminds me of the Virtuous Woman.
As we have peered into the life of the Virtuous Woman in Proverbs 31, we have observed her many noble character qualities mentioned and have sought to emulate them. Now, however, as we come to verse 23, we find a stark change--the woman’s husband’s position and place are emphasized rather than hers.
Proverbs 31:23 says, “Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.”
What are we to make of this? This acrostic poem has been focusing on the Virtuous Woman’s own admirable qualities, listing them one after another, and now out of the blue, we see her husband praised as a leader—known among the people and exalted as an elder, sitting honorably in the gates where the matters of justice were heard and judged. What does this have to do with her? Well, maybe a lot.
While he has become a man respected and known in his own right, since this is stated within a list of her qualifications, it must bear some relation to her. Indeed we can safely assume that in many ways his accomplishments are a reflection of his virtuous wife. Perhaps the Virtuous Woman is indeed much like that plain little fish working on another’s behalf.
There is a popular saying that goes, “Behind every good man is a good woman.” This “proverb” is embraced and repeated by Christians and non-Christians alike and has a universal appeal because there is indeed some truth in it.
What do we know about this woman that could help propel her husband to honor? Often men are judged by their wives, and she is a true beauty with many talents, but it is more than that. Knowing her care for creating and crafting impeccable clothing, we are certain he looked good in his threads, but it is more than that, for many well-dressed men have fallen quickly out of honor once they opened their mouths or their deeds spoke for them. Let us uncover the secrets of a woman who is a propelling source of greatness for her husband.
Since the Virtuous Woman looks well to the ways of her household, her husband is free mentally, physically, and spiritually to pursue positions of leadership and influence outside the home where he sits among the elders of the land (Proverbs 31:27). How does he have time to sit anyway? She must not be beckoning him home to help her every second, and indeed her prudent behavior pays great dividends, freeing him to serve others. Had she been sloppy, neglectful, idle, or careless, he would have had to spend his time undoing or redoing what she had messed up or missed at home, and he wisely would have made the ruling of his own house well his first priority before looking to serve in leadership (1 Timothy 3:4-5). He may have never been free to pursue service outside the home. Yes, many foolish women have shipwrecked their husbands’ hopes and dreams to lead and serve by neediness and laziness. Instead, her hard-working hands, which extended to her household, her own businesses, and the poor, have freed him and helped him rise. Her income may have been a source of blessing for the family as well. And yet her industry alone was not reason enough for his greatness, for many a man has been deflated by the tattling tongue of his wife.
What inexpressible peace a husband holds whose heart safely trusts in his wife! The Virtuous Woman exemplifies this (Proverbs 31:11). Not only does her husband have no need of spoil, shame, or fear of one of his character defects being spread across the grapevine, but the fact that his wife is careful with her own speech qualifies him in part to pursue leadership. In fact, Paul not only gave Timothy commands for the qualifications of bishops and deacons in the New Testament church, but also for the deacons’ wives. He said that their wives must be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things (1 Timothy 3:11). It is always imperative that a godly leader have a grave, sober wife who is never a false accuser, tattler, slanderer, or a busy body, but rather faithful in all things—to God, her husband, her family, and mankind. But a husband needs more than an industrious wife whose speaks no evil of him to succeed, for a woman bent primarily on her own success will fail him.
God designed women for a very special purpose. Certainly we were created by Him and for Him, unto good works that God before ordained that we should walk in, and for God’s pleasure, as was man (Colossians 1:16, Ephesians 2:10, Revelation 4:11). But God also had a unique plan for a woman—a divinely ordained position. Right in the beginning of creation, the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” (Genesis 2:18) This helper who He created was the first woman—Eve. Interestingly, God created Adam a helper, who would be an heir together with him of the grace of life, before the fall (1 Peter 3:7). Yes, this hand-picked job of a woman helping her husband was established when Adam was still untouched by sin and walking in perfect harmony with God. It is a good calling. It is an important calling. It is God’s calling. And we can be sure that the Virtuous Woman—the ideal wife—embraced this and that her help was another reason for her husband’s leadership success and notoriety.
Through her character, we see the hidden help of the Virtuous Woman, like the little fish, propelling her husband to greatness. In fact, with her by his side, he seems almost kingly, and a Virtuous Woman is actually referred to as a crown to her husband (Proverbs 12:4)! She enriches him in another way too, for when a man finds a wife, he finds a good thing and actually obtains favor from the Lord (Proverbs 18:22). Be warned though, for a woman can help her husband or hurt him as well, for she that makes ashamed is as rottenness in his bones, which sounds rather vile, painful, and insidious (Proverbs 12:4). In fact, a wife can propel her husband to greatness or stir him up to wickedness as we see clearly with the case of “Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the LORD, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up.” (1 Kings 21:25)
But how can you propel your husband rather than stir him up like Jezebel did, if you don’t have one? Certainly you can be a propelling force to others, heartily helping all those around you, and yet there is more, for even if you are an unmarried woman, you do indeed have a husband in your future….
Let us revisit Proverbs 31:23 and you will see, in the most unlikely place, a Wonderful Wedding Story!
Her husband is known in the gates,
when he sitteth among the elders of the land. (Proverbs 31:23)
While the literal husband here is certainly the husband of the Virtuous Woman, could this simple little verse be a powerful, prophetic picture of Christ? If so, then the analogy of Christ as the husband must fit perfectly. Let us check the analogy with Scripture and see if indeed we find Christ, as a husband, in the future known in the gates when He sits among the elders of the land.
Christ is called the Bridegroom, and His Church, consisting of those who believe in Him, is called the Bride of Christ (Matthew 9:15, John 3:29, Revelation 21:2). Paul also refers to Christ as the believer’s husband, saying, “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:2) In referring to Israel, believing Gentiles, and prophetically to the Church, Isaiah 54:5 says, “For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is His name.” Our groom is indeed Christ. He will present His Bride to Himself as a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:27). That is what Christ will do for us, His bride. Yes, the husband in Proverbs 31:23 can be a picture of Christ, for Christ is certainly called a husband. Let us continue to check the analogy with Scripture and also unveil the wonderful wedding story…
Her husband is known in the gates,
when he sitteth among the elders of the land. (Proverbs 31:23)
Since the husband in Proverbs 31:23 is sitting, and he can picture Christ, we must see if we can find a time when Christ is sitting. After God raised Him from the dead, Christ is found sitting on the right hand of God in the heavenly places (Colossians 3:1, Ephesians 1:20). He is sitting because His work is finished. When Christ, our Husband, had by Himself purged our sins, He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:3). What joy His completed work on our behalf evokes! Christ also sits when He comes at the last day to judge the nations, for then He sits upon the throne of His glory (Matthew 25:31).
We see then Christ pictured in the husband, sitting down in heaven, but are there present with Christ “the elders of the land” as Proverbs 31:23 mentions? The Lamb of God, Christ, is indeed seen among the elders in heaven when taking the book sealed with seven seals out of God’s hand. “And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb.” (Revelation 5:8) The elders and beasts then burst into song about how worthy the Lamb, Christ, is. We also find Christ among the elders present in Revelation 19, when the 24 elders and the four beasts fall down and worship God Who sits on the throne (Revelation 19:4). Next, a multitude praises, “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.”(Revelation 19:7) Yes, indeed, Christ is seen here as a Husband sitting among elders. Wow!
Hence we see a perfect parallel with Christ being the Husband who is known in the gates, sitting among the elders of the land, and we see a marriage taking place, even including a perfect white “dress” worn by this beautiful wife, the Church, who is arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints (Revelation 19:8).
However, what about the gates mentioned in Proverbs 31:23, where her husband is known when he sits among the elders of the land? Can we find gates where Christ is sitting? Yes! In Revelation 21, we find the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband (Revelation 21:2). This city is described as having 12 gates which never shut that are made of pearls (Revelation 21:10,21,25). We find Christ here in the holy city within the gates, sitting on His throne saying, “It is done.” (Revelation 21:6) So we have found the gates….but what about the wonderful wedding story—the marriage? It is about to take place, and next, an angel says to John, “Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” Then John is carried away in the spirit to a high mountain and shown that great city, the holy Jerusalem—as a beautiful bride—descending out of heaven from God (Revelation 21:9-10). The holy, pure, triumphant Christian Church—the Lamb’s bride—is presented without spot or blemish and ready for the marriage to her Husband the Lamb. Blessed are they which are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb.
Now we have found Christ, the Husband, sitting in the gates among the elders of the land. But is He known? Let us first look at Jesus’ time on earth. Many didn’t know Jesus when He walked on earth. Most of the Jews rejected Him. He came unto His own, but His own received Him not (John 1:11). In the upper room, Jesus told His disciples that after His death some would kick them out of the synagogues and even kill them because they have not known the Father, nor Jesus (John 16:2,3). Those who crucified Jesus knew Him not because “none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” (1 Corinthians 2:8)
However, Jesus did talk about some that knew Him when He was on earth, His sheep, when He said, “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.” (John 10:14) Prophetically Paul spoke of a time in the future when every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord and every knee will bow to Him. He will indeed be known in the gates by all, having a name above every name, when He sits among the elders in the land (Philippians 2:8-11). In fact here in Revelation 21 the seated Christ, her Husband, is known by all because those present are the nations of them which are saved (Revelation 21:24). Hence, we have found the last piece to the picture in the verse, and we have seen Christ as her Husband Who is known in the gates, when He sitteth among the elders of the land.” Amazingly, we have also found a wonderful wedding story—a picture of our Groom and Husband, Christ. In addition, we have found a beautiful bride—His Church, made ready and perfect and wearing white!
What joy that we know Him. What peace in that He is seated, His work finished. What praise of His worthiness we, joining the elders, sing unto Him. What a delight to be made into His unspotted, unblemished bride. And how beautiful that, “as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.” (Isaiah 62:5) Yes, He rejoices over you just like any groom would over his bride. You are His beautiful bride if you know Him as your Lord. And you can be like the little fish exalting and lifting up the name of the Lord as you labor for Him.
Let our character be such that it frees and propels our husbands to a place of honor among the elders of the land and let our lives be such that they bring glory and honor to our Heavenly Husband, the Lamb of God, as we await the Wonderful Wedding Day, for such does the Virtuous Woman.
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