Who Needs to Hear Proverbs 31 the Most?

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The ‘wife of noble character’ is rarely applied to whom it was meant to describe.

In recent years, many faithful Christian women have internalized the words of Proverbs 31, but I can’t help wondering with 17th-century Bible commentary author Matthew Henry, “This passage is to be applied to individuals, but may it not also be applied to the church of God, which is described as a virtuous spouse?” The answer historically—though not in modern interpretation—has been emphatically yes. Paul connects the dots when he writes about marriage, “This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:32). If this is the profound mystery of the universe, we must rediscover the most foundational reading of Proverbs 31: Mother Wisdom’s poetic instruction to the Messianic King about his Valiant Bride.

Church, when was last time you looked into the mirror of Scripture? Do you see the beauty the King sees in you—his excellent wife? And local churches, how would our ministries shift if we began to recapture a vision of God’s people as the strong woman of Proverbs 31? It is the delight of our King in his church that ensures the gates of hell shall not prevail against us. Bishop Caesarius of Arles (c. 470–542) insists: “That valiant woman is the Church. How can she fail to be valiant, since from the beginning of the world she is troubled by such great tribulations and still is not overcome?”

Behold her beauty

The final 22 verses of Proverbs form an acrostic poem that was handed down to King Lemuel by his mother. Each line begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The woman it portrays is beautiful from A to Z; her excellence exhausts human language. German medieval philosopher and theologian Albertus Magnus …

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