So we’ve arrived at the end of January and at the end of Proverbs. This final chapter starts with warnings for leaders (kings) to avoid the excesses of drink and to speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves (Prov 31:4, 8-9). Leadership is a sacred calling. It should not be undertaken lightly (James 3:1) and should champion the poor and the needy. God’s people should never be obsessed with class or wealth (James 2:1-14), but should reflect God’s character.

The rest of the chapter (Prov 31:10-31) is subtitled ‘the wife of noble character’ and is such a lavish eulogy that as a wife, I feel thoroughly daunted by this description of such a superwoman! The role of women in the Bible has often been a ‘hot potato’ for the church, with many believing that God is misogynistic. This is manifestly not true. Men and women have different roles in life and are clearly very different in personality and strength, but both are valued by God and called to love Him with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. The wife pictured in Proverbs 31 is no doormat. Rather, she is valued and loved by her husband (Prov 31:10-11), is resourceful and talented (Prov 31:13-22) and has depth of character which reflects the wisdom we have been learning about throughout Proverbs (“she is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.” Prov 31:25-26). She is valued by her family (Prov 31:28-29) and certainly reminds us of so many godly women in the Bible.

The tribute ends with a timely reminder of the value of character over outward appearances: “Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades. The woman to be admired and praised is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-GOD.” (Prov 31:30) This is a theme found throughout the Bible: Peter reminds us that beauty comes “from your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” (1 Pet 3:4) In an age where beauty is apparently prized over everything else and advertising urges both men and women never to be content with their appearance but to constantly be seeking to enhance it, we have truly become wise if we see that “ ‘beauty is more than skin deep’ and that character matters more than looks.