Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.Proverbs 31:30(NASB)
The last section of Proverbs is frequently quoted because it contains a beautiful description of a godly woman, who is worthy of high praise - both from her close family as well as those that are acquainted with her.
King Lemuel, who is not mentioned elsewhere in Scripture, wrote this final chapter, but like Solomon's wise advice to his children, Lemuel warned his sons of the dangers of strong drink, and the destructive nature of certain women - women like queen Jezebel, who ignored God's sovereign orders, and sought to exercise authority over a man.
Lemuel warned that strong drink, and the alluring beauty of narcissistic women are equally dangerous, and can cause strife and destruction within a family as well as causing the downfall of a great kingdom or nation. And he continues by contrasting the destructive nature of evil females, with the loveliness of a woman who fears the Lord. "Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain," he wrote, "But a woman who fears the Lord - SHE shall be praised."
Lemuel's exposition on the qualities and character of an excellent wife and virtuous woman were taught to him by his mother and he comments that a godly woman is of far greater value than precious jewels. He describes the good deeds in which she would be engaged and the diligent way she would work with her hands.
He likens her as a magnificent 'merchant ship', which travels far and wide, to gather the choicest things from her family. She is industrous in all to which she turns her hand and shows grace and kindness to all who cross her path. She displays strength and dignity, courage and wisdom - and she is praised by both her husband and her children.
The king's detailed description of this woman of virtue is not so much a series of attributes that a Christian girl should aim to develop or a tick-list of attributes that women should set out to achieve. It is rather a list of qualities and characteristics for which a young man should be looking, in his future bride. Indeed, the man who trusts in the Lord and follows the wise advice offered by King Lemuel at the start of chapter 3 is likely to discover the woman he chooses to wed, will be endowed with many of the qualities and graces found in the excellent woman described in verses 10 to 31.
As one reads through the book of Proverbs there are many warnings about the folly of fraternising with silly women, and the disaster that will happen when a man becomes obsessed with loose and immoral women. Lemuel concludes his extended description of a virtuous woman by reminding us that, "Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain - but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised."
There is a saying that behind every good man there is a good woman, and the description of the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 presents the pinnacle of godly womanhood, who not only demonstrates personal wisdom, good home-making skills, significant graces, a striking talent and an industrious provider for her family, but also one who proves herself to be a mother who enables her children to thrive, a wife who encourages her husband to success and a valued neighbour who shows genuine concern and generosity towards others.
Whether Lemuel was describing a particular person or stating the ideal is not really the issue, but the significant qualities she possesses suggest that the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 is a rare breed...for as he concludes his discourse, and brings his observations to a close he makes three important observations. Firstly, that charm is deceitful, secondly, that beauty is vain, but thirdly that a woman who fears the LORD, is a woman who shall be praised.
How blessed are those who can say that their lives have been touched by such a woman - or a man, who displays the shining qualities about which Lemuel wrote in the last chapter of the book of Proverbs.
Loving Lord and Heavenly Father, just as we read of the beautiful attributes that shine through the life of a virtuous woman or man of integrity, in the last chapter of the book of Proverbs, I pray that my life would become a reflection of the Lord Jesus. I pray that my self-life would remain nailed to the Cross and He would increase in my life as I decrease. Take away all those things in me that are not of you and mould me into the person You would have me to be. Lord, I want to be willing to be conformed into the beautiful likeness of Christ, and although this may at times be painful. Teach me YOUR way until I can say, "it is not I that live but Christ that lives in me." This I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.