The Mystery of the Scarlet Clothes
by Gina L.
from Virtuous Daughters, March 2017~Volume 16, Number 12
"Panning for Gold" Proverbs 31 Study Series Part 12
Snow! What wonders and fears are conjured up at the mention of that word. I have seen my fair share of snow and often it has been a delight. As a child, I lived for a short time in North Dakota, and I remember building a snow dugout, like an igloo, with my brothers and dad. When I walked to school one time, I remember a wall of snow several feet tall on either side of the sidewalk, which was shoveled. It was amazing. I also have memories, not quite so fond, of shoveling snow in Ohio as a teenager. That was hard work for sure, but good for building muscle and enjoying the beautiful white scenery. When I started driving, snow became less delightful at times. Several driving incidents are etched permanently in my mind that involve snow—one in which I slid off the road into the median. Yes, snow holds dangers as well. As a child, I loved to frolic in the snow and with good boots, a snowsuit, high quality gloves, and a hat, I would enjoy hours of play. But there were other times when I didn’t have adequate clothing, and though the snow was enticing and delightful, I was soon frozen to the bone and back quickly taking refuge in the comfortable indoors.
This insufficient clothing problem happened with my own children too during a big Ohio snow. For some reason, they didn’t have proper gloves and grabbed some socks to put on their hands. Out they dashed into the snow to make snowmen and hurl snowballs. Before long, they were back in with bright red fingers. Their soaking wet, soiled, makeshift gloves lacked the properties necessary for the snow’s fury and cold. Looking back, I don’t even remember why they didn’t have proper gloves. In any case, I was not much like the Virtuous Woman in this. She prepared for the snow and all her household were warm and cozy when it came, and she was free from fear and fretting too…and also from frozen fingers.
In Proverbs 31:21, the Virtuous Woman is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
Looking closely, there are a couple things we notice. First, the Virtuous Woman was not afraid of the snow. Fear can be a crippling emotion, but something kept the Virtuous Woman resting in peace as to the coming snow storms. It was her provision of scarlet clothing that she had previously laid up for her household. This forethought and planning for future seasons allowed her the comfort of peace rather than fear, and it allowed her household comfortable warmth through the cold. Indeed, proper planning produces future peace and looking ahead is a quality we are wise to emulate. The ant does this with his food and we are told to go to the ant and consider her ways, and be wise (Prov. 6:6). The time to procure warm clothing is not during the first snow storm. Practically speaking, we know that the cost for winter clothing can be significantly lower in the off season and also the drive to purchase it much easier in the calm rather than in the storm. And if you plan to weave, knit, or sew the garments, thinking ahead is imperative, for the time to get out the knitting needles in not when the first snowflake falls.
This skill of planning ahead is very practical and useful for many facets of our lives. Planning in the kitchen will pay huge dividends. Just a few minutes of forethought in the morning can save lots of time, money, and scrambling later as food is placed in a crock pot or rice cooker for a later meal when busy schedules don’t allow time for cooking. Planning our trips to town and our family’s calendar will prove to be prudent and productive. However, there is a danger of over planning, where you get so consumed with your schedule that you miss out on daily life and the pleasant distractions and opportunities placed around you because you are absolutely absorbed with your plan. Sometimes it can be hard for God even to burst in on your schedule if you are too determined to stick to it, and we must remember that His ways are not our ways, and so it is wise to daily give the Lord the permission to trump any of our plans. Don’t forget Mary’s example of sitting at the feet of Jesus even as we endeavor to plan and make preparations like Martha. Yes, our hearts do plan, but God directs our steps (Proverbs 16:9).
(While the Virtuous Woman was not afraid of the snow, it is not true to say that she had no fear. We see the wisdom of this woman in that her fear was well placed, for in speaking about the Virtuous Woman, it says in Proverbs 31:31 that a woman that fears the Lord shall be praised. Fearing the Lord is the wise placement of fear, and planning for the future while others just bask in the sun alleviates avoidable fears.)
Next, we see the reason for the household’s warmth—being clothed in “scarlet.” But what is this “scarlet”? Obviously it is something of great warmth, but its full meaning is uncertain. Perhaps there is a double meaning within it. Some have suggested that since scarlet got its color from being double dyed and the Hebrew word for scarlet is close to a word used for double, she provided them with double garments—an undercoat and overcoat so to speak, or a folded-over doubled garment. But scarlet is very significant throughout scripture and doesn’t always refer merely to a doubling. While this mention of scarlet’s warmth may be a bit puzzling, let’s see what we can uncover about the mystery of the scarlet clothes.
God gave Moses very explicit instructions on Mount Sinai regarding the building of the Old Testament tabernacle, where God would dwell among his people, and the color scarlet had a large presence. The ten curtains were to be blue, purple, and scarlet. The veil separating the Most Holy Place was to include the color scarlet, as were the door of the tent and the gate of the court. The ephod worn by the priest was to be made of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet. The girdle of the ephod included scarlet, as did the breastplate of judgment. Also the pomegranates, which were interchanged with bells, on the hem of the blue robe of the ephod where blue, purple, and scarlet. Though we may not understand all of the reasons, God’s choice of scarlet was not arbitrary. (Ex. 26:1,31,36,27:16,28:6,8,15,33).
There are other mentions of scarlet in Scripture, too. Rahab bound a line of scarlet thread in the window which she let the spies down by, helping them escape, and this scarlet thread was the sign that would save her family from harm during the upcoming invasion of Jericho. It must have been a strong “thread” for that purpose (Joshua 2:18-19). A midwife placed a scarlet thread on Tamar’s twin son Zarah who reached out his hand first from the womb, but his brother Pharaz overtook him somehow and became the firstborn (Genesis 38:28-30). There is mention of scarlet wool in Hebrews 9:19, recounting the story of when Moses took the blood with water and scarlet wool (and hyssop) and sprinkled the book and all the people. Also, scarlet wool was required in the law of the cleansing of a healed leper (Leviticus 14:6).
We know scarlet clothing was desirable, too, for King Belshazzar offered a prize to whoever could read the infamous hand writing on the wall, saying he “shalt be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about thy neck, and shalt be the third ruler in the kingdom.” (Daniel 5:16) Scarlet clothing must have been quite prized to be included with a gold chain as a king’s reward. After Saul’s death, David lamented over Saul saying, “Ye daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you in scarlet, with other delights, who put on ornaments of gold upon your apparel.” (2 Samuel 1:24) Scarlet is shown here as part of a delightful attire.
While the use of “scarlet” in Proverbs 31:21 may remain a bit of an enigma, we see that the Virtuous Woman had no reason to fear the snow because her household were clothed in this delightful, richly colored, strong, significant, desirable and warm fabric.
We have seen the rich, literal meaning of this wonderful truth and within it a reminder to plan for the future, noticing planning’s role in removing unnecessary fear. Is there also a beautiful picture of Christ and an important application within this simple verse? Is there a double meaning after all?
There is said to be a “red thread” that runs through the Bible which foreshadows Christ in the Old Testament and then culminates in His precious blood in the New Testament. The scarlet blood applied to the side posts and upper door post protected the Israelites from the angel of death (Exodus 12:13, 23). The blood of bulls and goats offered in sacrifice sanctified temporarily to the purifying of the flesh (Hebrews 9:13). And almost all things in the Old Testament Law are purged (cleansed) by blood. In fact, without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins (Hebrews 9:22). Yet, while the high priest entered into the holy place every year with the blood of animals, Jesus Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many. Yes, Christ once, in the end of the world, hath appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself (Hebrews 9:25, 26, 28). Could the scarlet clothing of Proverbs 31 be another “red thread” mystery?
Through faith in Christ, we stand redeemed, justified, sanctified, and cleansed—all by the crimson blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:7, Romans 5:9, Hebrews 13:12, 1 John 1:7) In fact, we are washed from our sins in His own blood! (Revelation 1:5) We are clothed from head to foot in His righteousness, for we have been washed in His blood. This is our protecting garment. This is the scarlet that has washed us through and through by grace through faith. It is interesting too that the tribulation saints have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Revelation 7:14) Perhaps the Virtuous Woman’s protective scarlet clothing is a picture of the scarlet blood’s washing which provides salvation, protection, and refuge enduring even through the snow (or trials) of our lives.
Just as the Virtuous Woman was not afraid of the snow by reason of her scarlet garments, we who have placed our faith in Christ need not be afraid of the snow either, for we are clothed with the garments of salvation and covered with a robe of righteousness. (Isaiah 61:10). We are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation and we rejoice, though now for a season we may have snow and bitter cold—yes, we may be in a season of heaviness through many temptations and trials. (1 Peter 1:5-6) Yet we are not afraid, for we know our future destination is secure by God’s provision. The snow which may whirl around us coupled even with stormy winds cannot remove our scarlet washed clothes, nor pluck us from His hand (John 10:28). In fact, just as God has a purpose for literal snow and rain, He also has a divine purpose for the figurative snow in our lives and trials of our faith. (Psalms 148:8, Job 37:5-6, Isaiah 55:10) They soften the soil of our hearts, allowing growth and fruit to be produced in us, like patience and a faith tempered and tested which will be found unto praise, honor, and glory when Jesus Christ appears—a faith more precious than gold. (1 Peter 1:7)
While we don’t need to fear the snowy storms of our days, we will someday meet the Ancient of Days who could be another figurative picture of snow. God is shown as the Ancient of Days, Whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like the pure wool: His throne was like the fiery flame (Daniel 7:9). Christ is likewise described with His head and His hairs white like wool, as white as snow; and His eyes as a flame of fire (Revelation 1:14). We see a picture here of the pure, wise, ancient Lord and God Who will execute righteous judgment. And we shall all stand before Christ where every one of us will give account of himself to God, and every knee will bow and every tongue confess. (Isaiah 45:23, Philippians 2:10-11, Romans 14:10-12) And just as the Virtuous Woman doesn’t fear the snow because her household is clothed in scarlet, those who are clothed in Him will have no fear.
Yes, there is a planning for the future, a preparation to be made ahead of time, that alleviates the greatest fear of all. You must be clothed in scarlet—washed in the blood—before you meet the Ancient of Days Whose garment is white as snow. You will have no reason to be afraid on judgment day if you have been washed in His crimson blood. If you have not made this crucial provision (decision) prior to judgment day, it will be too late. No last ditch effort will have any effect. Any garment other than one washed in His scarlet blood, even a vigorously self-scrubbed suit or a magnificent merit-filled robe, will fail and only produce results like the socks covering the hands of my kids in the snow—just a wet, filthy rag. (Isaiah 64:6) Our own good works without faith produce the ultimate insufficient clothing problem.
God set His Son forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood for the remission of sins (Romans 3:25). If we have placed our faith in Him, what joy and delight we have in God’s provision and purposeful planning for us in providing the precious scarlet blood of the Lamb of God.
Let us ward off fear by faithfully planning for the future snow, clothing our household in warm, sufficient garments, and ultimately taking refuge in Christ’s sufficient blood, for such does the Virtuous Woman.
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