The Perfect Wife
Dr. Joe Temple

Review

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Proverbs, that portion of the Word of God that we are considering together. We want to look at the last lesson we will be considering in the book of Proverbs. We have come to what we have referred to as supplements to the book. Chapters 30-31 represent supplements to the book in the sense that they are not in the body of truth found in the book, but are very much a part of the book.

As we consider our lesson, we would like to remind you that in our last lesson we began a consideration of supplement number two, which is described as The Words of King Lemuel . Notice chapter 31, verse 1:

Proverbs 31:

1 The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him.

We spent some time identifying this individual, and we told you that he could have been king of Massa, but probably Lemuel was the family name for Solomon. Lemuel means “devoted to God.” Bathsheba, then, would have been the mother of Lemuel, and the advice that we find in this chapter was given by Bathsheba to her son, Solomon.

We suggested to you that the advice was threefold. It was suggested to him that he avoid promiscuity, that he avoid drunkenness, which is the root of perversion. He was warned not to consider wine as a panacea for all the ills which are in the world as some individuals sometimes do. Rather, he was to come to the aid of individuals who were in need instead of encouraging them to drown their troubles in drink. We noticed that he was to come to the aid of the less fortunate, the individuals who would come, not in the sense of the physically afflicted, but in the sense that they had no one to speak for them before those who were in authority. He was to come to the aid of those who were unjustly accused. He was to come to the aid of the orphans, and he was to come to the aid of the poor and the needy.

Advice Concerning Choice of Wife

That is as far as we were able to get in our discussion, which brings us to the portion of the Word that we want to consider with you today, which contains some additional advice that the mother of King Lemuel presented to him, advice that would be wise for every mother to give to their sons, advice which every young man would do well to heed, and advice which every young woman would do well to pay close attention to if they are to be what they ought to be in the this very special relationship that God has ordained in His Word. The advice that the mother of Lemuel gave in the portion of the Word that we are considering is the advice of a mother concerning the choice of a wife.

I do not know how many mothers give advice such as this in our day. I suppose they are few in number. I do not know how many young people are willing to listen to a mother as they tell their sons the kind of wife they should look for, but may I encourage you to listen to the Word of God because the Word of God cannot be disputed. I am going to suggest that we read the passage which deals with the subject and then think about it together. Follow in your Bibles as I read from Proverbs, chapter 31, verse 10:

Proverbs 31:

10 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
11 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
12 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.
13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.
14 She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar.
15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.
17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.
18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.
19 She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.
20 She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
22 She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.
24 She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.
25 Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.
26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
27 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.
29 Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.
30 Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

Because of the last paragraph of this chapter, “Her children rise up to call her blessed,” this passage of Scripture is usually read at funerals of older people and rightly so, in a sense, but I believe because it has been used in that fashion so often, we fail to realize the practical import of the passage. It is that practical import that I would like to leave with you.

Seek a Capable, Intelligent Woman

Lemuel was advised by his mother when he was seeking a wife, to seek a virtuous woman. We need to think about what is said in verse 10. Notice again:

Proverbs 31:

10 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.

The word virtuous does not mean to most people what it meant when the King James translation was presented. The word virtuous comes from a Hebrew word that speaks of a very strong, forceful individual. Other renderings than the King James recognize the meaning of the word virtuous and suggest those meanings in their renderings. For example, the Berkeley translation translates this verse: “Who can find a woman with strength of character?” They are not on every corner, and you do not find them in every group of people gathered together.

The Amplified renders it: “A capable, intelligent and virtuous woman, who is he who can find her?” You will notice, in the custom of the Amplified version, they offer to us more than one meaning of the Hebrew word. In addition to the word virtuous, they use the words capable and intelligent , for that is the thing that is involved in this word virtuous; so Bathsheba said to Lemuel, “Son, when you go out looking for a wife, don't look for the most beautiful individual whom you can find because beauty is a vain thing.” Notice verse 30:

Proverbs 31:

30 Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.

“When you look for a wife, look for a capable woman—one who is intelligent, one who is of strong character.”

A Woman who Cultivates Spiritual Life

It is not enough for an individual to be capable in the sense that we have described, for there are such individuals, and they do not necessarily make happy homes, and certainly they do not make homes which honor the Lord Jesus Christ; so Lemuel was advised by his mother to select a woman who would take the time to cultivate her spiritual life.

I want you to notice the verses that suggest that, and then I want us to go back over those verses and notice the manner in which they might be expounded that we might get the truth of them. In verse 15, we read:

Proverbs 31:

15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.

Then in verse 17:

Proverbs 31:

17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.
18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.

Then in verse 25:

Proverbs 31:

25 Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.

These characteristics put the emphasis upon the material and the physical, and there is nothing wrong with doing that, but we must recognize that if we are familiar with the original text, there is an underlying meaning in each one of these verses. As a matter of fact, we might interpret them in a twofold way. We might interpret them from the material aspect, then from the spiritual viewpoint. I think you can see from our reading of the Word, the King James translation emphasizes the material aspect. For example, in verse 15, we would recognize a lady who is not lazy but a lady who is busily engaged about many things.

I like the Amplified rendering of this verse, which places emphasis upon the spiritual and the material as it reads: “She rises while yet it is night and gets spiritual food for her household and assigns her maidens to the task.” You will notice the order of events: She arises before the rest of the household arises that she might get spiritual food for her household, and then she assigns her maidens to the various tasks related to the carrying on of household duties.

I have often mentioned, when we have dealt with this passage of Scripture, that Cricket often told me that if she did not arise 30 minutes before everyone else in the house got up, she could not begin to get through the day with all of the responsibilities that were hers. She arose early to get spiritual food for herself and her household and then was ready for whatever physical, material duties might be.

We would not suggest any certain period of time, but we would suggest to you wives and mothers that your duties for the day that must be done might be carried on more easily if you did arise a bit early and find spiritual food, not only for yourself, but for your household as well; and we would suggest, young men, when you are looking for a wife, look for a young lady who has spiritual aptitude, a young lady who is willing to spend some time alone with the Lord. She will be better able to care for your needs if she has first taken time with God.

She Should Clothe Herself with Strength and Dignity

Notice, please, verse 17:

Proverbs 31:

17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.

This is not a suggestion of physical exercise because it is not involved so in the original text. Rather, it is a matter of manifesting a spiritual strength and undergirding oneself spiritually. Berkeley suggests verse 17 could be translated: “Strength and dignity clothe her, and she laughs at the future.”

When the individual is able to clothe herself for what the future holds, then, as we read in verse 25:

Proverbs 31:

25 Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.

This is in the sense that she will not be afraid of what the future has to offer. A great many times the mother of the household is concerned about the future and because she is concerned about the future, she leaves an atmosphere of fear and concern in her household. Her children go off to school with a cloud hanging over their heads, not certain what they might face during the day because of the atmosphere of the home which they have left.

Mothers, hear me: If you can so arrange the atmosphere of your home so that when your children go off to school and your husband is off to work, they might leave an atmosphere of tranquility, the whole day will be better for them. Of course, the only way that you can do that is to gird your own loins with strength and with dependability.

Notice verse 18:

Proverbs 31:

18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.

Of course, that could refer, as we have suggested to you concerning the various duties of the household that are done either before the household arises or long after the household is settled for the night, to the fact that she is able much as a cook to take the food which she is cooking and knows that it is satisfactory, to examine the handiwork of her hands and recognize that it is perfect.

Again, I would like to emphasize the spiritual in this verse and call to your attention another rendering, which reads: “She takes and sees that her gain from work, with and for God, is good. Her lamp goes not out, and it burns continuously,” and I like this, “through the night of trouble.”

Where is there a better place for a child to come, as far as humans go, than to be able to come to Mother with whatever problems he or she may be facing? What better place is there for a husband to be able to come than to the side of his wife and find that light burning in the night of trouble?

Do you realize today that in the society in which we are living, there are many young people who would not dare come to their mothers with the troubles which they are carrying because their mothers would be horrified at the suggestion that the child could be guilty of something that had brought him into the kind of trouble that he was in.

When I was in California at a young people's camp, I had a young lady come to me, tearfully, asking me how she could be freed of the drug habit; and she was hooked, believe me. I suggested, as I was trying to find some way, practically, to help her, that she might discuss it with her parents. She said, “I don't dare. I tried. I mentioned it to my mother first, and she laughed and said, ‘You are teasing.' Then I said, ‘Mother, I am not teasing. I need your help'.” When her mother realized that she was really not teasing, the young lady said that her mother threw her hands up and began to cry and said, “Not my daughter. Coming from a Christian home and a Bible church, how could this be? Not my daughter.” She carried on so that the young lady said, “Oh, Mother, I was teasing. Don't get so excited. I am really not hooked like I have been saying.” She said to me, “I don't have anybody to whom I can go.”

It is a sad thing when mothers cannot provide this atmosphere of tranquility that I speak of, that their children are not willing to come to them with the problems which are theirs. Young men, find a wife whose lamp will never go out in the sense that I am talking about. There are men who tell me constantly, “I don't dare mention this to my wife. She would be so upset.”

I don't know what it would be like to live with a woman with whom I could not share everything that bothered me. I don't know what it would be like to have to keep something from somebody. You need a wife who can stand by your side and with whom you can share what needs you have—a wife whose lamp will not go out by night.

She Should be Conscious of Personal Appearance

Notice verse 22, as I bring to your attention another suggestion of the kind of wife whom you ought to seek. You ought to seek one who is conscious of her personal appearance. In verse 22:

Proverbs 31:

22 She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.

Another rendering presents: “Her own clothing is beautifully made.” A bit earlier I suggested to you that you should not seek for your life's companion the most beautiful girl you can find because beauty is deceiving. But that does not mean that you should purposely find the individual who is the ugliest creature that you ever found. It does not mean that you should seek an individual who is careless about her appearance. I would suggest to you, young men, if you look for a wife, look for one who is conscious of her personal appearance and who is willing to take time with her appearance to make herself presentable. There are men who have been handicapped in business because men who were planning advancement for them wanted to visit with their wives, and when they visited with their wives, they decided to pass over that individual for advancement and go to the next man because the wife would not fit into the picture. There is a need for the wife to be conscious of her personal appearance.

I want to say this and I want to say this as kindly as I know how: Young men, if you do not find a young lady who has already developed habits of consciousness of personal appearance, don't expect her to develop them after you marry her. She will not have time. Things do not get better. Individuals do not look better after they are married. They have to fight a battle to look as well as they did when you married them because there are many things that make demands upon them, and it is only an individual who is very conscious about her personal appearance to begin with that will continue that after marriage. It will not be developed after marriage. Keep that in mind.

Young ladies, keep in mind that you should develop those habits which make your appearance attractive and personable. Mothers, while you are training your daughters for all the things for which you train them, why don't you spend a little time training them to be the wife of some good man? As you train them to be the wife of some good man, train them in matters of personal appearance because it is a very vital thing. The matter of personal appearance can be a real problem for the continuation of a marriage. I know of marriages that have been on very treacherous foundations because the wife and the mother was careless about her personal appearance. Because these habits were not inbred in her, when things got difficult in the marriage relationship, she was ready to be careless about letting things go and say, “Well, this really doesn't matter.”

Seek a wife who is conscious of her personal appearance. The Bible always presents a happy balance. We rarely do. We go to seed, usually, one way or the other. It is wise, then, to recognize a happy balance that the Bible presents.

She Should Care Adequately for Her Household

Lemuel was instructed by his mother not only to seek a wife who was conscious of her personal appearance, but to seek a wife who would care adequately for her household. If you are seeking a wife, young man, seek a wife who can care adequately for a household over which she will preside because it will be her privilege and responsibility to preside over that household. It will be your privilege and your responsibility to give her the household over which she will preside. She should be a queen in that household who cares adequately for the household itself.

She Should be Observant

I want to suggest to you several verses in this paragraph which suggest how a young wife and mother might care adequately for the household. If she is going to care adequately for her household, she will be an observant individual. Notice what is recorded in verse 27:

Proverbs 31:

27 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.

She is observant. She looks well to the ways of her household and eats not the bread of idleness. Some other renderings will emphasize some points and key words which would take me many words to emphasize, so I would suggest one of them to you: “She knows how things go in her household. Gossip, discontent, and self-pity, the bread of idleness, she will not eat.”

Did you notice? She sees how things are going in her household and as far as she herself is concerned, she is not going to have time for gossip. She is not going to have time to be discontented, and she is not going to be full of self-pity. These things are indeed the bread of idleness. If a wife and a mother is doing what needs to be done, she will not have time to be discontented. She will not have time to be full of self-pity.

Counselors of the marriage relationship often face the fact that they are dealing with an individual—the wife, the mother of the household—who is so idle that she has listened to so much gossip that she has become dissatisfied with her marriage and she has had time to examine the faults of her husband and her children to such an extent that she is filled with self-pity.

Another rendering of this verse suggests: “…watches carefully all that goes on throughout her household.” I would like to pause to emphasize that suggestion. A godly wife and a godly mother needs to know what is going on in her household. It is a difficult thing in this generation in which we are living when some wives and some mothers spend more time out of their homes than they do in their homes.

You ought to know, mothers, the young men your daughters are entertaining in your home. Don't think that just because they are home and not somewhere else that everything is all right. You ought to know the kind of records your children are listening to on the stereo. You ought to know the kind of literature that is in their room, which they are reading. I could go on, but I am not going to take the time. If you, mother, are observant, you can save yourself and your family a lot of grief.

I know there are individuals such as Ann Landers and Dear Abby who suggest that there is such a thing as privacy, and you have no right to be prying into the lives of your children. You have no right to be deceitful; you have no right to lie to your children, but you do have the obligation of being observant. You ought to know the kind of letters they write and the kind of letters they receive. You ought to know what is going on in their lives. If you don't, you will not be able to rear a successful family.

She Should be Industrious

The individual wife and mother who cares adequately for her own household, according to the passage of Scripture before us, is going to have to be an industrious individual. Notice verse 13:

Proverbs 31:

13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.

Of course, this terminology is the terminology of the day in which the mother of Lemuel lived, and it is not likely that you would be seeking wool and flax for any specific purpose, but you would be working willingly with your own hands, and you would find that which would occupy yourself so that you would be an industrious individual. Notice verse 24:

Proverbs 31:

24 She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.

This suggests that this individual is not only industrious as far as her own household is concerned, but she has a little business on the side. She is able to make extra garments and deliver them to the merchants.

I would not suggest that every woman ought to have a business on the side, but I am going to suggest to you that if the wife and the mother is industrious as she needs to be within her home, there will not be time for a lot of the foolishness that is going on in our society today.

She Should Be Thrifty

Another suggestion comes from verse 14, where we are informed that this capable woman whom you should be seeking for a wife, young man, will be a thrifty woman. Notice in verse 14, where we read:

Proverbs 31:

14 She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar.

That may not suggest much to you, but the idea is that she shops around and she finds the best bargains and brings them home even if she has to travel some distance in order to do it, like a ship that is bringing merchandise from a great distance.

Many men have been saddled with burdens which they did not need to bear because their wives were spendthrifts instead of thrifty individuals. Young man, if you want to be successful in your home, if you want to be successful in your marriage relationship, if you want to advance from one standing to another in our society, be sure that the young lady whom you choose for your wife is a thrifty individual; and while you are courting, don't spend all of your time making out. Be examining the young lady with whom you are keeping company for the various things that I have suggested. So many young people today have all of their relationship when they are together based upon a physical attraction and physical activity, so that they don't find out until after their marriage that they married a spendthrift for whom they will never be able to make enough money. They might as well recognize that they have saddled themselves with an unpleasant experience that they cannot hope to change.

That is why I do not believe in hasty marriages. That is why I believe in longer courtships. That is why I believe that young people today ought to be able to spend time together entertaining one another without having a movie to look at or some entertainment to keep them occupied. Young people are quite often are so occupied while they are together that they never really get to know one another. I remind you that if you wait until after you are married to get to know one another, you may be in for a real disappointment. Oftentimes I am told by parents when I ask about the welfare of their young people who have married, “Well, they are having a rather difficult time. You know, it takes quite a while to get to know each other.”

I am aware that you should not know each other intimately, physically, before marriage, and I am aware of the fact that there are some things that can be learned from living together that cannot be learned until you live together. But I would like to emphasize that if you spend some time learning to know the kind of young woman you marry before you marry her, you will not have nearly the proverbial difficult time that people think you ought to have.

She Conserves Her Time

The third thing that I would like to suggest to you that indicates she will be able to care adequately for her house comes to our attention in verse 16. I have suggested it in the words she conserves her time . The King James translation reads:

Proverbs 31:

16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.

Another rendering that conveys the thought that I would like to leave with you reads: “She considers a new field before she buys it or accepts it, expanding prudently and not courting neglect of her present duties by assuming others.”

I would like for you to let that sink in. Did you notice the suggestion? She has the opportunity to buy a field, but she considers it very carefully. Before she buys the field, she wants to know whether this new opportunity of expansion will mean the neglect of other duties for which she has obligated herself. All too often some wives find out they have taken upon themselves too much, and then they have to retrench because they realize that if they continue doing the new thing that they have taken upon themselves, they will not be able to discharge the duties and the obligations which God has already laid before them.

Let me encourage you young wives, you young mothers, before you take on too much, examine carefully what it will do to what you are already doing. Oftentimes, even under the guise of Christian service, you can be persuaded to take on a duty which will interfere with something that you are already doing. You might as well recognize that just because something is done in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, does not necessarily mean that you are the one to do it. You need to examine very carefully the responsibilities already assumed before you take on any more responsibilities.

She Should be Calm in Trying Circumstances

I would like to suggest another characteristic to look for in a wife, and that is, you should look for a woman who is calm in trying circumstances. Young man, if you are keeping company with somebody who is already complaining about nerves, you might as well break off the relationship. It won't get any better; it will just get worse. If you want somebody who will be calm in trying circumstances, examine the personality of the young lady with whom you are keeping company and see if she will measure up to this sort of thing. Notice verse 26, where we read:

Proverbs 31:

26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.

Another rendering expresses it this way: “She opens her mouth with skillful and godly wisdom and in her tongue is the law of kindness, giving counsel and instruction.” This suggests to me that the individual will be calm in very trying circumstances because individuals who are not calm in trying circumstances open their mouths and quite often only hysterical ravings come out. The individual concerned is calm in trying circumstances. She will be able to speak with kindness, and she will be able to give the counsel that is needed.

Mothers, perhaps you should examine your lives in the light of this statement. When your young people and your children are in difficult circumstances, when they are facing a problem, when they are doing something that has brought reproach upon the family name which is embarrassing to you, what is your reaction when you open your mouth? Do you open your mouth, screaming hysterically about what has been done and leveling all kinds of accusations and trampling your son or your daughter beneath your feet with the age-old expression, “How could you? After all that has been done for you, how could you?” Or do you calmly and quietly speak with love and kindness manifested, giving the word of counsel that is needed for that particular time?

She Should Minister to her Husband

In the last few minutes we have together, I want to suggest to you that in addition to everything that Bathsheba had suggested to Solomon as characteristics to be looked for in the young woman you are going to marry, on top of that I would suggest to you that you look for a young woman who will be a minister to her husband. I am perfectly aware of the fact that we are living in a day when we men are everything but what we ought to be in the eyes of “women libbers.” I got a letter the other day after somebody read our printed message on “Heirs Together of the Grace of God.” This woman—I won't call her a lady—said that I belonged to a special group of men who thought that women were no more than slaves and were no more than implements to be used for the fantasies and whims of men.

I want to say something to you men. You ought to love your wives as Christ loves the Church and gave Himself for it, and that is enough said. Women, God provided the marriage relationship so that you could be a minister to your husband. Remember, He chose you to be a help which would be meet for him.

I want to suggest to you the ways in which you might minister to your husband's needs as they are presented in this chapter. Certainly this is not all the ways that could be suggested, but they are suggested in this chapter. Notice verse 11:

Proverbs 31:

11 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.

That suggests to me that you women should be the confidante of your husband. The heart of your husband will be able to trust in you. Another rendering has it: “The heart of her husband trusted her confidently and relies and believes in her safely.”

You have read enough stories if you have not looked at the facts to know that many extramarital relationships find their roots in the old saying, “My wife does not understand me,” and somebody is always around who will understand.

I am quite willing to agree that a lot of men use that as an excuse for sin, but I must say in fairness to some that some men fall into temptation because their wives are not the confidants they need to be. Did you notice the translation of the rendering that I read to you? Not only is it a matter of listening, but it is a matter of listening with an open ear and closed lips. The two ought to go together.

Another rendering of that verse: “Her husband can trust her, and she will richly satisfy his needs.” Women, if your husband tells you something, he ought not to ever have to say, “Dear, don't tell this to anybody.” He ought to know that if he tells you, that is as far as it is going to go.

Young men, if you are looking for a life companion, if you have to choose one characteristic above all other (I don't believe you have to, but if you do) I would suggest that you choose a woman you can trust, a woman who can know all of your weaknesses, a woman who can know all of your shortcomings, a woman who can know all of your failures, and you don't need to be concerned about her telling anybody else.

Women, you might ask yourself can your husband really trust you? A woman who ministers to her husband will be a comfort to him according to verse 12 because we read there:

Proverbs 31:

12 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.

One rendering has it: “She will not hinder, but help.” I hope you are letting that sink in. Are you a hinderer or a helper?

The Amplified rendering says: “She will comfort, encourage, and do him good as long as there is life within her.” A comforter is what a man needs, and you women can be a comforter. Young men, look for that kind of wife.

She Should Contribute to Husband's Success

The last thing that I would like to suggest to you is that you should seek a young lady for your wife who is able to contribute to your success because you cannot attain that success all by yourself. That is suggested by what is read in verse 23:

Proverbs 31:

23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.

The prominent place, when this was written, was not the city hall; it was the gates of the city. Individuals who were prominent, respected and a success sat at the gates of the city and took care of problems of other people. Sitting in the gates of a city indicates success. One rendering of this verse is: “Her husband becomes a distinguished person.”

Conclusion

I would not say that the success of her husband depends only on the wife, but I would say, young men, choosing a wife is a very serious business.


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