Strength and honor are her clothing;
She shall rejoice in time to come.
When my beloved wife died unexpectedly two years ago, I suddenly found myself having to decide on arrangements for her funeral, her casket, and her grave. I was truly blessed to have a great deal of help and support from my wife’s family, but the final word on things was always mine. And so, when it came to the newspaper notices and the wording on the headstone, it was left up to me to decide what they ought to say.
As a writer, I should have found it easy to come up with something, but as a grieving husband I toiled over the words. As it turns out, not only did I find great solace in the Word of God, I also found the words I did not have. The book of Proverbs ends with a chapter extolling the virtues of a good wife. I think my late wife would have whacked me on the head if I’d talked about her buying and selling property or being a canny shopper, but I did find other words there that described her quite well.
In today’s verse, we have the beginning of a broad description of a good wife – and, as we will see, a good Christian. Notice, first of all, how the first line of this verse is phrased: “Strength and honor are her clothing.” We see quite a lot in those simple words:
• She wears her strength visibly, an outward sign of an inward peace and courage. She doesn’t seek strength and find it, she simply has it.
• As Proverbs 31:17 tells us, she has put on this strength, and even strengthened herself. How? I believe she has done it like David did, by strengthening herself in the Lord:
1 Samuel 30:6
Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.
• Honor (or “dignity” in some translations) is not something she seeks but something people see in and on her. She is not given honors and awards for her work, she simply assumes the mantle of honor as if it were always hers.
• Strength and honor go together. We might sum them up in one word: nobility. There is something noble about a faithful person (man or woman) who finds strength in the Lord and who simply receives honor without pride.
Of course, the person so clothed in honor and strength will undoubtedly have confidence in the future. In some translations of this passage, the second part of this verse says she will “laugh” at the future. Of course, we are not talking here about the reckless confidence of ignorance, nor about someone who takes risks with her family or her own well-being. Rather, this is the unworried peace of someone who knows that her fate rests with God, someone who holds fast to God’s promises of salvation and providence and life. She not only doesn’t worry about tomorrow, she actually rejoices in her future with Christ.
31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’
32 “For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
The questions I must ask here are these: We who profess faith in Christ, do we clothe ourselves with strength and honor? Do we smile at the future we shall have with our God? I think sometimes we faithful get so caught up in the toil and trouble of this world that we forget the strength that is ours for the asking. I think we forget the honor that will just simply come to us – “Well done, good and faithful servant” – if we but seek the will of God in all things. And we also forget that when we DO seek the face of the Lord our God, it not only brings us peace but it should also be bringing us joy.
Proverbs 31:25 (NIV)
She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
Does this sentence describe you or me? Most of the time, it certainly described my wife. Oh, she had her worries, just as we all do, but most of the time she did not let those worries overwhelm her great sense of duty to serve and honor God. My wife’s memorial service packed our little church beyond capacity – truly standing room only. That is the honor she wore, although she never sought it. That is the strength she had, although she doubted it. And that is the future she created: her inspiration to another generation.
Brothers and sisters, my prayer is that we will all clothe ourselves with the strength of the Lord, that we will unwittingly bring honor and glory to God’s name by simply loving and obeying Him. I pray, too, that we find confidence in the future when we strengthen ourselves in Him. Today, when you face troubles and worries, repeat this little verse:
Exodus 15:2 or Psalms 118:14
The LORD is my strength and my song,
And He has become my salvation.
We need look no further than to Him for strength and honor and confidence. “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4) Good advice indeed.
Our Father in heaven, strengthen me today. Let me always know that You are the strength I will wear, that Yours is the honor I bear. Let me always know Your presence so I need not worry nor be afraid, and so that I can rejoice in the future and the hope You have for me. Amen.