The Virtuous Woman
There are three kinds of women featured in Proverbs. The strange woman – which leads men astray, the contentious woman - which rots his bones, and the virtuous woman - which supports him. The wise man warns against the first two, but encourages the man to find a virtuous woman. The latter is apparently not easy to find. After offering a clear description of this virtuous woman, the wise man contrasts her with the other two. He says, "Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised" (Proverbs 31:30).
Let us clarify what the fear of the Lord is. The translators of the NET version of the Bible included an accurate explanation of this concept. They say the title,
'the Lord…' functions as the object of fear. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew term for fear is used commonly and has a three-fold meaning: (1) 'dread; terror' (Deut 1:29; Jonah 1:10), (2) 'to stand in awe' (1 Kings 3:28), (3) 'to revere; to respect' (Lev 19:3). Used with the Lord as the object of fear, it captures the polar opposites of shrinking back in fear and drawing close in awe and adoration. Both categories of the meaning appear in Exodus 20:20, where the Lord descended upon Sinai amidst geophysical tremors. Moses encouraged the Israelites not to be afraid of God arbitrarily striking them dead ('Do not fear!'). Furthermore, he also informed the people that the Lord revealed Himself in such a terrifying manner to scare them from sinning ('God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him in you so that you do not sin'). The fear of the Lord is the foundation for wisdom (9:10) and the discipline leading to wisdom (15:33). Therefore it is expressed in reverential submission to his will which is the characteristic of 'true worship.'
One of my favorite author's also expounds eloquently on this subject. Let us read what he says,
'The fear of the Lord is to hate evil.' Prov. viii.13. It is not to be afraid of Him and shun His presence, but to hate and shun that which is unlike Him. The love of God is that we keep His commandments. And as hating evil is identical with keeping His commandments, so the fear and the love of God are identical. God wants all men to love Him; and 'there is no fear in love' (E.J.W., The Present Truth [British] April 4, 1895).
It is clear in Proverbs that the wise fear the Lord. Therefore they hate evil. But, what happens when the wise realize there is evil in them? This is not far fetched. David cries out to God, "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Ps 139:23-24). The Lord answered David's prayer several times. One such occasion was the Bathsheba and Uriah incident, where David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then murdered her husband Uriah afterward. In response, the Lord sent Nathan the prophet to reprove David, who admitted that he had sinned and cried out to God in Psalms 51:1-4,
'Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.'
Solomon says that, "A reproof entereth more into a wise man than an hundred stripes into a fool" (Proverbs 17:10). A person of virtue is not a person that has never erred, but someone who does not scorn reproof when it is given. This person reverently submits to God's chastisement.
Taking the contrast of the virtuous and non-virtuous woman further, Ellen White says, "In Revelation 17, Babylon is represented as a woman, a figure which is used in the Bible as the symbol of a church, a virtuous woman representing a pure church, a vile woman an apostate church" (GC 380). God is searching for His virtuous church (Luke 18:8). In John 18:4, she is warned to, "…Come out of [Babylon], my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues."
Many feel safe from Babylon because they do not attend a Sunday keeping church. Others feel safe because, they know or practice 'this' or 'that' other truth. But, what if the Lord finds them partaking of the sins of Babylon? We ought to remember that the Third Angel's Message and the Message to Laodicea are for the last days; therefore they are for the same people. We could even argue that they are the same message. Regarding Laodicea, Ellen White states,
The people of God are represented in the message to the Laodiceans as in a position of carnal security. They are at ease, believing themselves to be in an exalted condition of spiritual attainments… What greater deception can come upon human minds than a confidence that they are right, when they are all wrong! The message of the True Witness finds the people of God in a sad deception, yet honest in that deception ... Those addressed are flattering themselves that they are in an exalted spiritual condition ... secure in their attainments ... rich in spiritual knowledge" (3T 252, 253).
Laodicea is a fool – wise in her own eyes (Proverbs 12:15). And, like all fools, she scorns and hates reproof (Proverbs 9:8). Ellen White points to what was revealed in relation to reproof,
I have been shown that the greatest reason why the people of God are now found in this state of spiritual blindness is that they will not receive correction. Many have despised the reproofs and warnings given them [Ibid].
Can Laodicea become virtuous? The solution is in Revelation 3:18-20,
I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me."
Ellen White expounds further by saying,
The gold that Jesus would have us buy of him is gold tried in the fire; it is the gold of faith and love, that has no defiling substance mingled with it. The white raiment is the righteousness of Christ, the wedding garment which Christ alone can give. The eye-salve is the true spiritual discernment that is so wanting among us, for spiritual things must be spiritually discerned (RH, April 1, 1890).
We ought to pray David's prayer (Ps 139:23-24). Let Him reproduce Himself in you.