Forgotten Beauty Secrets
by Gina L.
from Virtuous Daughters, April/May 2017~Volume 17, Number 1
"Panning for Gold" Proverbs 31 Study Series Part 13
Even now as I think back to my childhood, I can remember the wonder of decorating my room in a special and beautiful way. When I was in elementary school, I had a pretty canopy bed with a pink and white checkered bedspread and matching canopy top. It was dainty and wondrous, and I enjoyed it. When I was a little older, my mom bought me a comforter that was bright white with a rainbow that started on the foot of the bed and made an arch across the two pillow cases. My mom even painted an old dresser bright white and painted each drawer face a matching color of the rainbow. What a joy the rainbow of colors was. It always amazes me how a bed covering can change a room. The Virtuous Woman knew this and made herself delightful coverings of tapestry. What beauty to behold these hand-woven masterpieces, bringing cheer and delight to all. Even amidst all her practical skills, the Virtuous Woman found time to produce and enjoy purposeful art.
In Proverbs 31:22, the Virtuous Woman is seen making herself coverings of tapestry, and her clothing is silk and purple. We find in this woman a rare blend of characteristics. While she takes care of the poor, her own household’s clothing and food, a textile business, a vineyard, her husband, and many other endeavors, she also makes time to take care of herself and her home, creating original masterpieces and appearing to value artistic beauty. What wonders her silk and purple clothing must hold! We will discover many beauty secrets on this journey into the outward apparel and core beauty of the Virtuous Woman.
Let us consider her fine, handmade tapestries and her personal clothing. A tapestry is a woven hanging or covering which depicts people, animals, or landscapes and is often made of wool or silk and enriched with gold and silver. (Webster’s 1812 dictionary). The time, skill, and effort required to make even one tapestry must be quite significant, and yet she makes multiple coverings. Interestingly, these tapestries were not made to sell, but rather created for her and her family to enjoy as they may have adorned her walls, furniture, beds, or even floors. The Bible only mentions this same word translated here “covering of tapestry” one other time, and it refers to a covering on a beautifully decked bed that the strange woman used to attempt to lure in her prey (Proverbs 7:16). While the strange woman is an impostor and her “beauty” only skin deep, she seeks to cover herself and her surroundings in beautiful fabrics and tapestries as the Virtuous Woman does (though in a much different manner), and yet there is a beauty that cannot be faked. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Next, let us consider the silk and purple clothing choice of the Virtuous Woman. What royal, gracious, fine images are brought quickly to mind, and after a deeper look, these initial images prove accurate. Silk is translated from the Hebrew word shesh, which is translated in the Old Testament as silk, white linen, fine (twined) linen, or marble. All of these are of the utmost quality. Silk is a versatile natural fiber that is warming in the winter and cooling in the summer. It is very fine and yet very strong (sort of like the Virtuous Woman herself). Even today it is considered an elegant fabric of beauty, fit to wear to a wedding and yet suitable for frequent wear with some of the washable silks. It’s no wonder the Virtuous Woman chose silk for her clothing.
Purple reminds us of dignitaries and royalty and the Bible proves this hunch correct. After Gideon fights the Midianites and defeats them, he requests every man give him the earrings of his prey. They gladly comply and a list is given of the bounty, which includes not only lots of gold, but also the purple raiment that was on the kings. (Judges 8:24-26) Yes, the kings were wearing purple. Mordecai, who was given King Ahasuerus’ ring and Haman’s royal position, was clothed in royal apparel with a crown of gold and a garment of fine linen in the color purple. (Esther 8:2,15) King Solomon made a chariot, with pillars of silver, a bottom of gold, and a covering the color of—none other than—purple. (Song of Solomon 3:10) Yes, purple is royal indeed, and it is this color that the Virtuous Woman chose to clothe herself in.
One use of purple surprised me a bit when I noticed something I had never seen before. We looked last time at the place of scarlet in the tabernacle’s color scheme, and if you remember correctly, purple was right there too. It was in the curtains, the veil, the hanging for the door and the gate, and also in the ephod. The ephod and other priestly garments, made for Aaron to wear as he ministered in the priest’s office, were made of gold, blue, purple and scarlet and fine linen. (Exodus 28:3-6) What is interesting is twofold. First, the “fine linen” here is the same word shesh used as “silk” in the Virtuous Woman’s attire. So we have the priest dressed in shesh and purple too (like the Virtuous Woman). But look also at what God tells Moses when He gives the instructions on how and why these priestly garments are made. God commands, “And thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron thy brother for glory and for beauty.” (Exodus 28:2; also Exodus 28:40). These garments with purple and fine linen (shesh) were made for glory and even specifically for beauty. Wow! So not only does the Virtuous Woman care about art and beauty, but God himself also cares about beauty. He is in fact the supreme artist of creation, which exudes the most magnificent beauty and wondrous display of artwork available. In addition, when speaking out of the whirlwind, God reminds Job that Job cannot deck himself with majesty and excellency and array himself with glory and beauty like God. Yes, God Himself is arrayed with glory and beauty.
We have seen that the Virtuous Woman takes the time to create appealing, artistic tapestries for her home and dress herself in beautiful clothing of silk and purple. She doesn’t neglect her outer appearance, and we are wise to follow her example, but we also must realize that this woman of virtue doesn’t neglect her inner appearance either. Yes, though she may have been arrayed beautifully, her real beauty went far deeper than her clothing. What can we learn from Scripture about both clothing the body and the heart in beauty?
First we must remember God sees things differently than we do. While we can see our outward appearance in the reflection of a mirror, there is an inner appearance which only God can see, for His mirror penetrates deeply. When Samuel was to anoint a king of the sons of Jesse, he saw Eliab and thought within himself that surely the Lord’s anointed was before him. God reminded Samuel that He doesn’t see how man sees, for man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart. Samuel wasn’t to look on Eliab’s height or his countenance because God had refused him. (1 Samuel 16:6-7) God chooses His man by the heart….His woman too! Hence, as we seek to take care in our clothing which man sees, let us remember to adorn our heart, which God sees.
Wives are specifically told to adorn the hidden man of the heart with something of great price in the sight of God—a meek and quiet spirit. What a beautiful adornment this meek and quiet spirit must be in a woman to be so highly esteemed by God. It is certainly worth the prayer and effort to attain it! Wives are warned to let their adorning not be that outward adorning of fancy hair styles, gold jewelry, or clothing, but instead the hidden man of the heart which is incorruptible. (1 Peter 3:3-6) Our clothes and accessories and hairstyles are not where our true beauty emanates. We are given the example of women from the past who trusted God, and likewise adorned themselves (inwardly), being in subjection to their own husbands—like Sara, who obeyed Abraham. We are daughters of those holy women as long as we do well, adorning not only our outward person, but our inward person, and are not afraid with any amazement.
While we seek to adorn the hidden person of our heart, we look also to what God has to say about our outward apparel. We are told that women are to adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety. Then we are also instructed that rather than fancy hairdos, gold jewelry, pearls, and costly clothing, our true adornment should be our good works, which becometh women professing godliness. (1 Timother 2:9-10) How beautiful indeed a woman serving others is. Also, what beauty there is in modesty and moderation! How sad that the world seems to have lost these wonderful beauty secrets.
But is modesty simply what you put on? What is modesty? Many have stumbled over what “modest” means. Rules are often imposed as a shortcut to godliness or modesty, but they no more produce modesty in the heart than the rules of the law produced righteousness. Outward appearance should be a reflection of an inward relationship. The correct order is to change the inside and let the outside follow. A growth in our inward relationship with God may often be reflected in a difference in our outward preferences in clothing and modesty. But, sometimes, we try to shortcut the growing part and just make a quick change in apparel, thinking afterwards that we have arrived at a higher spiritual level. Maybe we observed a wonderful example of a spiritual, godly woman and wanted that kind of godly character in our lives, not knowing how she got there. It is easy to copy her wardrobe, which we try, but not as easy to walk thankfully with God, trusting, obeying, surrendering, denying ourselves, and allowing God to prune our hearts and direct our paths. In our human condition and our desire to maintain an appearance of godliness rather than pursue a deep relationship with God, we often think modesty is something we can just put on rather than something we become. God will lead you, His daughter, in your quest for modesty and good works. Sometimes a clothing change is good and necessary, but it is useless if not accompanied or proceeded by a heart change. Truly it is hard to separate the outward beauty from the inward as they are connected.
There are pitfalls to avoid in our attitudes about clothing as well. Pitfalls like those on a narrow country lane with ditches on both sides of the road. Some women pride themselves on their finery and ornate beauty and exquisite taste and latest style and trend, looking down a bit on those with less fashion and flair. They have fallen into pride and hence sin. Others, however, have prided themselves on their perfect plainness and rejection of anything worldly, feeling a bit more spiritual than the rest and deriding any deviation from their invented rules. These have also fallen in to pride and hence sin. Yet there are some dressed in fine clothes, some stylishly, and some dressed as plain as can be—and many in between—but each with true beauty, modesty, and hidden hearts that are all truly adorned with a meek and quiet spirit and good works. The problem is you can’t see who is who from the outside—only God can! Remember His mirror penetrates deeply. Only God can see whose heart is perfect toward Him, and His eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is indeed perfect toward Him. (2 Chronicles 16:9)
There is a beauty that starts in the mind too. While we are attempting to be in the world and not of it, we may certainly make decisions to reject many of the clothing styles of our day, but is this what makes us truly different from the world? We are commanded not to be conformed to this world, and then we are told how to accomplish this.
We are transformed by the renewing, changing, of our minds. It is our thoughts, renewed to God’s Word, that transform us. It would be easier if we were told by God to be not conformed to this world simply by changing our outfits. Changing our clothes is not that difficult and can be done by anyone in a matter of minutes. But changing—renewing—our minds is much harder, and yet this is what transforms us and this is how God tells us not to be conformed to the world. (Romans 12:2) While we may choose clothing that is counter-cultural if that is our choice, it is the day by day, moment by moment, walk with God, leading our thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ that truly makes us non-conformists to the world and transforms us. A true change in mind may often be followed by a change in clothing. But a change in clothing alone never results in a true change of mind or heart. Keep your mind renewed and your heart meek and quiet, adorning yourself with good works, and you will be a truly beautiful woman valued above rubies!
There is yet another dimension to beauty. As we seek God’s heart throughout scripture on beauty, we find mentioned also the beauty of holiness. Holiness is found through Christ’s work on our behalf. He made us holy. That is, He made holy those who have faith in Him, and there is no greater beauty than the Saviour living in you! God then commands in 1 Peter 1:15, “but as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation.” We are reminded also in 2 Corinthians 7:1 to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. Additionally, we are told also to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. (Psalm 29:2, 96:9). What true beauty indeed!
Just today my son Louis chose a gorgeous, shiny red apple from the fruit bowl. With great anticipation, he took a big bite. His face soon reflected his disappointment and disgust as he found his mouth filled with a grainy, white and brown mush. Hidden beneath the beautiful outer layer of the apple lurked a rotten, brown section that emanated out from the center. At first, he thought the rotten part may only have infected a portion of the apple, so he chiseled away at it with a sharp knife. After much cutting, he lost hope and eventually threw the whole apple into the trash because the entire core was fully rotten. It was such a beautiful apple from the outside. How deceptive it was! Feeling foolish and cheated by the apple’s secret, Louis became a detective. Before throwing it away, Louis had inspected it tediously and finally found that when he parted the little bud remains on the bottom of the apple, he could see a little tell-tale hole that betrayed the flawless outward beauty of the fruit and gave a hint as to its deceitful, rotten core.
Outward-only beauty is vain and disappoints. Just ask Louis—he can probably still taste that rotten “beauty” in his mouth. We certainly don’t want to waste our lives pining after a vain, outward-only beauty. (Proverbs 31:30) What a foolish waste to only seek this fleeting kind of beauty, which is never said to be “of great price” in the sight of God, though a meek and quiet spirit in a woman is given this high esteem. Yes, there is a beauty that cannot be faked.
The apple told the same story we have been discussing. It really was a promising apple with its firm feel and shiny red coat. Yet, it was much like what the world today calls beauty—all a facade. Jesus compared the scribes and Pharisees to sepulchers painted white that appeared beautiful on the outside, but inside they were filled with dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. (Matthew 23:27) It reminds me of Louis’ apple.
As we seek to clothe ourselves in the beautiful “silk and purple” clothing of our choice, let us not neglect to beautifully clothe our hearts and minds, lest we also be found rotten apples when our true core is discovered. We must remember to take care in adorning ourselves and our homes and most importantly our hearts, for such does the Virtuous Woman.
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