A Woman Who Fears the Lord

December 30, 2009

December 29 is our thirtieth wedding anniversary. God has blessed me beyond measure through Beth – and more and more with each succeeding year. In honor of this event, consider these excerpts from Proverbs 31.  I preached on this passage three years ago under the title “The Valiant Wife” (audio is here); an edited version of the conclusion to that sermon follows .

Proverbs 31:10-12, 25-31  10 An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.  11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.  12 She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. . . .  25 Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.  26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.  27 She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.  28 Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:  29 “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”  30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.  31 Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.

God has granted me a valiant, excellent wife who displays strength and wisdom daily. She fears the Lord; she loves His Word; she is generous with her time and energy. Self-indulgence is far from her. She provides for her household with material goods, with fragrant smells, with wise teaching, with thoughtful kindness. I trust her implicitly to such an extent I can’t even imagine not trusting her. Whatever honor and respect I have, to whatever degree I fear the Lord and glorify Him, results in large measure from God’s work in my life through Beth.

So I have no hesitation in saying to my sons: Marry a woman like your mother.

  • Not necessarily in personality;
  • Not necessarily in looks;
  • Not even necessarily in the way she cooks (though there are side benefits to that!).

But marry a woman who desires to become wise. Marry a woman who wants to learn from wise women how to be wise. Marry a woman who fears the Lord, and will be worthy of your trust.

Also, remember: The lessons from Proverbs 31 are not just for marriage. This passage calls to all of us: Be like this wise, strong woman. Notice the women around you who live out this picture. Praise your mothers and grandmothers, praise the other women in your lives, to the extent they exemplify such wisdom.

Praise such women – yet remember the focus. This chapter does not tell us, “A diligent, strong woman is to be praised.” Rather, it says, “A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” For all – even the strongest and wisest of us – have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. All of us – even the most morally upright of us – deserve God’s wrath and judgment. The only hope for any of us – virtuous by man’s standards or corrupt by man’s standards – is being united with Christ in His death and resurrection, through faith in Him.

So I praise God for His work in Beth, for her fear of Him. Indeed, I see her sinfulness, and she sees mine – better than anyone else. And I have seen Him mold and change her more and more into His likeness. So all glory to God who takes an object of His wrath and so sanctifies and purifies her so that she becomes like Christ – wise, strong, and valiant.

This is what I have seen in Beth – and what I hope you see in your wives and mothers. May such women through their wise examples show us all the way to the fountain of life and wisdom: Jesus Himself.

Christmas and Anticipation

December 4, 2009

Seasonal music on the radio. Lights on houses (sometimes beautiful, often garish). Long back-ups at the McAdenville exit. “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” in this “Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”

What are you looking forward to this season?

You may have grown up with many wonderful Christmas memories: A mysterious present under the tree that you couldn’t wait to open; excitement about what might show up in your stocking; eagerly anticipating your loved one opening the perfect present you wrapped; building a snow fort after a big storm; sipping cider around a fire. The songs and lights stir up such memories, and you can’t wait to see what this year might bring.

Praise God for family traditions and happy childhood memories. Praise God for the opportunity for grandparents and cousins and nieces and nephews to gather together. Praise God for thoughtful gifts and joyous reunions.

But I ask you: What are you looking forward to most of all? What should you look forward to most of all?

The birth of Jesus?

No. Biblically, the answer is not the birth of Jesus.

Consider Simeon and Anna, those two elderly saints who encounter the infant Jesus in Luke 2. What were they looking forward to? Simeon was “waiting for the consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25); Anna similarly was among those “waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38). The birth of their long-promised Messiah – “the Lord’s Christ” (Luke 2:26) – was a necessary and important step to bringing about this consolation and redemption. But they were looking forward to much more than a baby! They were looking forward to the fulfillment of passages such as Isaiah 52:7-10 and Isaiah 40:1-2, 5:

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”  8 The voice of your watchmen–they lift up their voice; together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see the return of the LORD to Zion.  9 Break forth together into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people; he has redeemed Jerusalem.  10 The LORD has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.  2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins. . . .  5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

Simeon and Anna were looking forward to seeing the payment of every sin of God’s people, to seeing then the end of sinning among those people, and to seeing the glory of the Lord. God mercifully revealed to them that through the baby Jesus, He would fulfill all these prophecies – but not at that time. Not in the first century. As the author of Hebrews puts it, those such as Anna and Simeon “though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:39-40).

So in looking for the consolation of Israel and the redemption of Jerusalem, Simeon and Anna were eagerly anticipating what we now know as the second coming of Jesus – what Paul calls “our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13) when God “will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken” (Isaiah 25:8).

Jesus was born in Bethlehem to Mary while she was still a virgin. The angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest!” Shepherds bowed before Him; wise men brought Him gifts. May we remember these truths with joy.

But may we also remember that this baby was born to die, in order to redeem His people from their sins; God raised Him from the dead and He sits at the Father’s right hand until He makes His enemies His footstool (Psalm 110:1; see also Luke 20:43, Acts 2:35, Hebrews 1:13, and Hebrews 10:13). And this Jesus, our Messiah, our Christ, “having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:28).

Does that include you? Note what Hebrews 9:28 says: Those who are saved are those who “are eagerly waiting for him”.

So what are you looking forward to this season? Family? Presents? Warm fires and hot cider? Chestnuts roasting?

More than all these, may you eagerly long for, may you lovingly pray for the momentous, magnificent return of our Lord and Savior.

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

(These next three Sundays our services will celebrate Christ’s first advent by turning our thoughts to His second advent. Our Christmas Eve service will do the same. Please join us, and thereby deepen your desire for Jesus’ return.)