A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. (Proverbs 31:10-21, NIV)
I wanted to continue looking at the Proverbs 31 woman this week, continuing to focus on her character rather than her activity. So far we have seen that she is noble, precious, eager, vigorous, strong, profitable, prepared, and generous. It is still quite a list, but each of these qualities comes from a heart that seeks its value from God rather than selfish effort or material goods. Today we see that this woman has no fear for her household. In particular it refers to a snow storm, perhaps even a blizzard. It may be a bit hard to picture snow in Israel. We generally picture Israel as a hot, desert land, which it is - similar to the Los Angeles basin. However in the northern hilly regions (Mt. Hermon in the Golan Heights) it snows yearly, enough to support skiing. Safed, Jerusalem, and the hill country of Judea can get snow every few years. At any rate it is not unthinkable that this woman faces the occasional snow storm with her family. During such storms she clothes them in scarlet, probably wool that she has made with her own hands. The scarlet, deep red color would keep them visible during white out conditions. The wool would keep them warm. Such clothing is associated with wealth and well-being (though not always in a positive sense, see II Samuel 1:24 and Revelation 18:16.) There are a couple of points that make this really powerful imagery for me:
- First, it shows again the preparedness of this woman. She knows the dangers that her household may face. Not just family, by the way, but also servants needed to be provided for in times of danger. She knows they will face the occasional blizzard, so she prepares appropriate clothing for this danger. With all the big storms and earthquakes lately, and the instant, global publicity they can receive, emergency preparedness is big in the news lately. Around here we don't have to worry about blizzards. We have earthquakes and brush fires. There are certain precautions that we need to take to be prepared for these hazards. More importantly there are spiritual hazards that we need to be aware of and preparing our household to face: materialism and moral relativism spring to mind. We need to "clothe our families in scarlet" - giving them a foundation of the true Gospel to keep them safe in these spiritual blizzards.
- Second, I can't help but be reminded of the well known verse Isaiah 1:18 - "Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool..." (NIV) It's the same interplay of colors - scarlet and snow - but in many ways an opposite image. Our sin, in this metaphor, is what makes us stand out starkly on the white background of God's holiness, but He has the power to make us white as snow.
No matter how you look at it, it is God that keeps us safe in the storms of life and God that can wash away our sin and make us pure. Once again our hearts must turn to Him in order to be confident for ourselves and our family.