The Proverbs 31 Family

“It was the woman you gave me…” Genesis 3:12

This woman you gave me. Adam may as well have said, “God, you aren’t good. You give bad gifts. God, you tempted me by binding me to this temptress. God, you rigged the deck against me.”

This kind of attitude undergirds the war of the sexes– man and woman look at each other with contempt, suspicion, and a rebellious need to control one another because we fail to believe that the spouses that God has given us are good gifts.

We think little of God’s sovereignty and grace until one of His gifts to us seems to short circuit. We think much of our own influence and goodness until we misstep. When we fail devastatingly, suddenly we’re Calvinists and God is some controlling overlord that should have stopped us, or should have put a hurdle in our way. The rest of the year we are good Arminians gleefully paving the way to our own spiritual mountaintops.

When we hate a member of the opposite sex, when we revile our spouse, we discredit God’s good gift to us in the form of a partner, and we sin against His command to be fruitful and abundant together (Genesis 1:28.)

When we are at odds with the opposite sex, a person who we are supposed to be in productive relationship with, we are not victim to a raw deal, we are continuing on with the willful, deceptive, rebellious attributes of the Curse.

I mean in this to say, enmity from a sister to a brother or a brother to a sister in Christ, is a sinful action against God’s gift to us.

We do this in all areas of life! We take something God gave us in grace, abuse the expanse of freedom given us, and then blame God for our inability to work out our salvation, to build our family, to exercise our gifting, to submit to one another, to be least, to be last, to be a faithful servant.

Look at what our compass chapter through this series, Proverbs 31, says: “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, to guzzle wine. Rulers should not crave alcohol. For if they drink they may forget the law and not give justice to the oppressed. Alcohol is for the dying, and wine for those in bitter distress. Let them drink to forget their poverty and remember their troubles no more,” (vs. 4-7.)

Kings and queens and priests– what God calls us through our sonship because of Christ, do not live in active self-pity.

And the first area of active self-pity to eradicate in the Christian life is a mistrust of God over the mistakes that a dear one made and in so doing led you into that mistake with them.

The Proverbs 31 Queen Mother advises her son to find a wife who is actively trusting in God as evidenced by her strength, dignity, and boldness (Proverbs 31:25.)

“This is how the holy women of old made themselves beautiful. They trusted God and accepted the authority of their husbands,” 1 Peter 3:5.

The challenge of this verse is marginally about submission, and majorly about trusting God. If your litmus for submission is built on trust in each other, your house will fall. We can only be successful together when our constant endeavor is to trust God and to have our productivity as a unit to stem from there.

The command for men to love their wives as Christ loves the Church is equally as much founded on trust in God as woman’s trust in her husband must be founded on trust in God. Love is not contingent upon your trust in your wife. What does Christ’s love for the Church look like?

It looks like a man who found a treasure hidden (the Kingdom of God) in a field and in His joy over it sells all He has (the Cross) to buy the field (the world), in which He has reburied the treasure. (Matthew 13:44)

Jesus did not purchase those who are His out of the world, but rather entrusted His kingdom to us while in the world until His return. That is immense trust!

That is the kind of trust that King Lemuel has in his wife, to whom he entrusts all that he has, his entire household, and the investment of his riches, and the dignity of his reputation while he rules and reigns at the city gate. (Proverbs 31:10-31.)

Our marriages, our partnerships and relationships in business and church and community dealings between men and women, the success of them, the failure of them,  reflect nothing less than our trust in God and the tides of our going in or our coming out of life under the Curse.

There is life under the law of sin and death, and their is life under the law of grace– the law of grace being full satisfaction in the goodness of God. We see the reflection of our freedom in how we behave when standing face to face with each other.

The Proverbs 31 Family

“Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife,” Matthew 1:20

I want to talk about Mary and Joseph as a picture of submitting our physical realities to spiritual realities. We live in the natural but are called to the supernatural.

My favorite themes in 1 Corinthians are: first, the discussion of the physical body vs. the spirit– and how those competing appetites affect how we worship and serve God, and second is, the way that Christians are assigned, appointed, anointed, and arranged in the spiritual realm to be useful in the Body of Christ with intent and specificity by the Lord.

The interplay of the physical and the spiritual pervades the New Testament– starting in the Gospel narratives. There are a lot of picnics, meals with disciples, lunch at the in-laws, dinner parties with sinners, biblical feasts, festivals, weddings, Passover, the Last Supper. Jesus’ earthly ministry is punctuated by meals.

Jesus also tells the woman at the well that he can give her living water so that she will never be thirsty after drinking it. He speaks of us “feeding” on Him, the bread of life– A spiritual meal that does not lack, does not require more meals after.

The Gospel of John, the most “spiritual” gospel, reveals Jesus as the Holy Spirit, yet talks repeatedly of food, in order to talk about spiritual hunger, and that Jesus satisfies.

This seemed the premise of Jesus’ rebuke of Martha. Martha was busy with her, possibly usual task, of preparing the meal for Jesus and his disciples. She was attending to her physical assignment, which probably would have been fine had she not complained about Mary. Mary was not preparing a meal for Jesus but was receiving a meal from Him. She was fulfilling her spiritual assignment to feed on Jesus.

We have both physical and spiritual assignments from God, but! Our physical duties always yield to the spiritual ones. Your earthly life must punctuate your spiritual life. If your spirituality is just a comma in between your workday and dinner, don’t be surprised that your soul continues to hunger and that your flesh continues to lust.

The account of Joseph’s encounter with the angel Gabriel in Matthew 1:18-25, brings insight into the gravity of both the physical and spiritual assignments that God gives us, and how we are called to submit our physical assignments to our spiritual ones.

Joseph was physically anointed, as a man, to be head of a household, husband to a virtuous woman, father to legitimate children. He was called in the natural to be religiously observant, an adherent to the law, an abhorrer of sinfulness. Yet, Gabriel tells Joseph “she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus,” Matthew 1:21. (emphasis mine)

Before this dream of Gabriel, Joseph had planned on quietly breaking off his engagement to Mary. He didn’t want to embarrass her, but it seems that he was “afraid” (Matthew 1:20) of what the implications of marrying a pregnant Mary might be.

Could the implications have been feeling like he had botched his earthly mantle as a faithful Jewish man? That he had failed to be a strong leader over his household, in which his wife and children respected him? That he might not be admired for his morality, but that people might snicker at him as a cuckold? That he’d sacrifice the satisfaction of living a righteous life in the eyes of man?

Could taking Mary as his wife– throwing away his fear– mean throwing away everything he thought God had called him to as a man?

To be the leader who would raise, protect, provide for, and name Jesus– “And Joseph named him Jesus,” Matthew 1:25– would require that Joseph lay down every right inherent to his God-given, physical assignment as a man.

He would lay down everything he had ever been taught about being a religious man in order to take up the demands of his new spiritual assignment.

The first counter-intuitive, counter-cultural aspect of this assignment was that Joseph had to tailor the very beginning of his marriage and family life to his wife’s calling and his son’s purpose. Men in his time did not organize their lives around their wives and children.

A patriarch in Joseph’s day would probably feel that it is their right to set the agenda, to take the most important role, to delegate menial tasks to others, to arrange themselves in the natural position to receive praise. Women and children wouldn’t even be part of the plan, let alone “be the plan.”

It must have been hard to believe that this was what God was asking him to do! Wasn’t this opposed to the natural order of things?!

In his calling, to be Mary’s husband and Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph did not: set the agenda, was not even nearly the most important actor, accepted menial tasks rather than delegating them, and was completely outshone by every one else in the Nativity narrative.

Joseph, Jesus’ father, is an early and strong example of living Christianity. He completely submitted his physical duties to his spiritual assignment. He did not reserve any natural craving, but satiated his spirit with his faith in God’s word over his life.

If we continue to be hungry for the rights inherent to our physical identities, we forfeit our time at Jesus’ feet and our usefulness to the kingdom.

The Proverbs 31 Family

“His wife said to him…’Curse God and die.’ ” Job 2:9

What a supportive wife Job had. Willing to enjoy the years of her husband’s abundance and favor with the Lord, not however, willing to suffer in his suffering. To say to him, “curse God and die” is telling him that he should kill himself.

We can look to the church’s historical view of suicide to see why this interpretation can be valid. Suicide was once considered among the gravest and damning sins because it terminally opposes the will of God– in other words: “curse God and die.”

Again, what a supportive wife! Definitely not a woman of good report or one to take counsel from.

And with that spring board, I want to introduce the final arch in the Proverbs 31 Family series.

So far, we looked at Proverbs 31 to find that faith and calling are interdependent pursuits– male/female relationships matter. Our first families: Elizabeth and Zechariah; Sarah, Abraham, and Hagar; and Isaac and Rebekah explored what tension in male/female relationships look like and the strife it causes in our faith and calling. Proverbs 31 is about support, integrity, and unity in calling. Dysfunctional faith relationships lack these qualities.

The next set of relationships: Esther and Mordecai; Deborah, Barak, and Jael; Moses, Midwives, Mothers, and Miriam, showed the cooperative nature of effective faith relationships. Cooperation, humility, and belief gives turbo-energy to fulfilling our callings. Proverbs 31 is very much about effectiveness. The idea of gender wars energizes no one, defeats everyone, because we are meant to be one flesh under one purpose for a God who is One.

Finally in these last five families, we will tackle the most misogynistic question I know of, “Should a man listen to a woman.”

Luckily, what we will find by looking at: Samson’s parents; Mary and Joseph; Adam and Eve; and Jezebel and Ahab is exactly what we see today looking briefly at Job and his wife– whether a man should listen to a woman has very little to do with her genitalia and very much to do with what she is saying. 

Proverbs 31:11— “Her husband can trust her, and she greatly enriches his life. She brings him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.”

Proverbs 31:26— “When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness.”

Proverbs 31:28— “Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her”

Proverbs 31:31— “Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gates.” or “Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.” (NIV and NLT.)

There is no mistrust in a Proverbs 31 Family. There is no disparaging in a Proverbs 31 Family.

Finally, by comparing two families that exhibit Proverbs 31 traits to two families that absolutely do not, we are about to see that not only are genders wars against God’s original plan for humanity, gender wars are gloriously surmountable within this present Christian life. Men and women are meant to, and can, be at peace with each other, work together in love, and show honor to one another as befits– not just King Lemuel’s family– but King Jesus’ family.

The Proverbs 31 Family

“Be careful never to take my son there.” Genesis 24:6

Isaac and Rebekah are mistake repeaters. They didn’t pay attention to the downfalls of the previous generation. They fell right into the same pitfalls as Abraham and Sarah, and so instead of spring boarding off the platform of faith Abraham and Sarah built for them, they had to start the course over.

Though Isaac and Rebekah make the same mistakes as Abraham and Sarah, their personalities are in fact different from their elders. Note– though we think shaping ourselves into people with ideals, hobbies, political beliefs, styles of worship, and theology that differ from our elders will save us from making their mistakes— Isaac and Rebekah show us that that just might not be true.

Isaac is a supporting actor, very different from his father. People tend to make decisions for him: his mom, his dad, his dad’s servant, his wife, his sons. Isaac is kinda pampered. He would not have been one to leave it all behind to follow a God he was unfamiliar with like his father did.

Isaac likes comfort. When Sarah dies, Rebekah comforts him. He loves Esau because Esau makes him yummy food. “Isaac loved Esau because he enjoyed eating the wild game Esau brought home, but Rebekah loved Jacob,” Genesis 25:27.

This love of feeling comfortable is detectable in a glaring omission in the book of Genesis— any mention of Isaac chastising Esau for giving away his birthright in exchange for a cup of lentils. Isaac, the miracle baby, the boy whose family is defined by his being favored above Ishmael, didn’t have anything to say about his eldest’s reproach for his inheritance. After all, we are told that Isaac inherited all of Abraham’s possessions, where his half brothers received only gifts at their fathers passing.

True to the pattern of people who have not experienced conflict—or those who refuse to experience conflict by ignoring it— comfort allows us a naiveté to the real consequences of disobedience and sin, as well as a neglect and mishandling of what is valuable.

Thus, Isaac repeats history in two ways. He makes grave mistakes that he had every bit of information needed to avoid. He gives Rebekah to Abimelech, just like Abraham did to Sarah. He also sends Jacob to Laban. Laban, who had tried to entrap Abraham’s servant through false hospitality (Genesis 24:28-61.) He sends Jacob to the place of which Abraham had said, “be careful never to send my son there.”

Isaac created opposition within his family when he betrayed Rebekah. Her response was to ally with Jacob.* She gained a lot of influence over the family by favoring the winning horse. God had told her while she was pregnant that Jacob would rule over Esau.

Isaac also reinforced opposition outside the family. Esau goes to live with Ishmael. Even the blessing Isaac gives Esau is meager— because Jacob took the blessing of which there is only one! Esau’s blessing is to live by his sword and serve his brother. Very similar to what was prophesied over Ishmael.

Isaac loses ground for the family. He sends Jacob into a trap that Abraham protected Isaac from. He sends Jacob to Laban. Laban keeps Jacob “captive” for fourteen years. Fourteen years that Jacob could have been journeying with the Lord, he was instead under the dictates of a deceitful man in the land of his family’s past rather than of the land of his family’s future.

Now, he did have help making this decision! Ever the eaves-dropper, Rebekah overhears Esau’s plan to kill Jacob. So in order to get Jacob out of dodge, she uses the dysfunctional family dynamic to manipulate Isaac. She complains about Esau’s foreign wives until Isaac agrees to send him to their relatives to find a wife. Isaac has Jacob go to Laban, something he should have known better than to do.

If in our faith, if in our family, if in our fellowships we protect our comfort we will find our legacy unprotected.

Individually and corporately, protecting comfort will produce a passivity that tolerates division, invites spiritual opposition, and yields to our natural inclination to go backward. We return to Laban and the false hospitality of the world. Or worse! We send our kids back to our old family curses and iniquity. We get the next generation stuck for “fourteen years” before they can move forward into God’s plan for them.

“Be careful to never…” When we are comfortable, grow up sheltered, or just are inexperienced with conflict, we end up without urgency. We lose track of what “careful” and “never” mean. We forget the saying “a little leaven.” Even just a little.

Think back to passover. God commands- “keep your shoes on during the meal!” Urgency! We have to have an urgency about obeying God.

The greatest temptation to sin is not intrapersonal but interpersonal.

 

*More on Rebekah’s brand of unforgiveness in the previous post about Sarah, called “This is your fault! Genesis  16:5” It is part 2/10 in The Proverbs 31 Family series.