This is the Sermon with the Crazy Long Paragraph
July 8, 2018
Today is our last day in the book of Proverbs. Praise the Lord for our time in it. We looked at the introduction or prologue of the book. That was chapters one through nine. And today I thought it would be most fitting to look at the conclusion or epilogue of the book - the final verses of chapter thirty-one.
The way that the book of Proverbs ends is most wonderful. The book ends with a poem. And it is a poem about an excellent wife who fears the Lord.
This woman is amazing. First, A, she works hard. Seeking wool and flax was no easy task. Wool had to be weighed and combed and washed. Flax had to be gathered and measured and dried. She works hard with willing hands. Second, B, she goes the distance and brings home the bacon. Like merchant ships who journey far and wide, this woman plans and executes her supply-chain economics and logistics and reaches the ends of the earth for the best world-class delicacies on the planet. Third, C, she prepares and provides out of sacrifice and love. She gets out of bed before everyone else wakes up in order to provide food for everyone else when they wake up. Fourth, D, she means business. With strategic planning and investment savvy, she buys a field. And after digging up the field and clearing it of stones and constructing a winepress and erecting a watchtower and planting the choicest of vines, she’s got a vineyard. Fifth, E, she is physically strong. Sixth, F, she is mentally stong. Seventh, G, she is emotionally strong. Eighth, H, she is spiritually strong. Ninth, I, because of all of her strength, she is a woman of endurance. She makes her arms strong. Tenth, J, she is on top of everything. She checks her numbers and evaluates her work to make sure that her merchandise is profitable. Eleventh, K, she is enduring. When it says that her lamp does not go out at night, it does not mean that she is pulling all-nighters. It means that her fruitfulness has no end. There is always abundance in her household. Her wealth is a generational wealth. Her work is an enduring work. Twelfth, L, she is a woman of great skill. We knew from the beginning that she was in textiles. But here we discover that she is a woman of great spinning and weaving skills, putting her hand to the distaff and spindle. Thirteenth, M, she is a woman who loves the poor. The same hands that reach out to the distaff and the spindle are the same hands that reach out to the poor and the needy. She is generous and caring. She invites. She gives. She helps. She takes initiative. Fourteenth, N, she protects her family. The snow and the cold signify the dangers that can come with life. But she is not afraid because she knows that her protection is legit. The color of scarlet means that their clothing is not cheap. She protects her family at all costs. Fifteenth, O, she is independent and takes good care of herself. But she is not like this for her own sake. She does not make bed coverings ultimately for herself. She makes bed coverings for herself so that she will not ultimately fail her household. Sixteenth, P, she is noble. Fine linen was a rare import, and the color purple was a costly dye. Seventeenth, Q, she is a woman of dignity. She has character and class. Eigthteenth, R, she has confidence and valor. She laughs at a future that is unknown. Nineteenth, S, she is wise. Twentieth, T, she is kind when she teaches. Twenty-first, U, she is not a sluggard. Twenty-second, V, because she is awesome, her husband is awesome. Everything that she is and everything that she does only heightens her husband’s reputation and name. He is known in the gates when he sites among the elders of the land. He trusts in her. She does him good all the days of their lives. Twenty-third, W, she is worthy of praise. Her children call her blessed. Her husband praises her. Twenty-fourth, X, she is of unsurpassed worth. Many women are excellent, but this woman surpasses them all. Twenty-fifth, Y, she fears the Lord. And finally, twenty-sixth, Z, she is excellent. She is valiant. She is heroic. She is glorious. She is amazing. She is A to Z… perfect.
That A to Z paragraph was very long and it might have felt like a waste of time in this sermon. But it was not. It was a joy and an honor to prepare and preach that A to Z paragraph. And there are two mind-blowing reasons why. First, A, in that paragraph, I was ultimately talking about the Lord. And second, Z, in that paragraph, I was ultimately talking about you.
Remember the big picture and the overall drama of the book of Proverbs. You should know it well by now. Proverbs is an epic story about a father and a son - a father who is king over Israel and a son who is called to surpass him in wisdom and righteousness. The son of Proverbs had to fear the Lord. The son of Proverbs had to obey the law. The son of Proverbs had to fulfill righteousness. The son of Proverbs had to have perfect wisdom.
And the son of Proverbs had to pick one of two women who competed for his love - Lady Wisdom, the personification of wisdom and righteousness, and Lady Folly, the personification of foolishness and sin. In chapters one through nine, in the introduction or prologue of the book, we see the father call his son to fear the Lord and choose wisdom - to chose Lady Wisdom to be his excellent wife. And here in the final verses of chapter thirty-one, in the conclusion or epilogue of the book, we see the son make his choice. And he chose rightly.
And that’s exactly what our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ did for us. Jesus is the ultimate and eschatological Son of Proverbs. Proverbs is really about him. It is really about him choosing wisdom that is personified as an excellent wife. Jesus obeyed the law. Jesus fulfilled righteousness. Jesus had perfect wisdom. Jesus never sinned. And he took the reward for his work and credited it all to us. We do not go to heaven because of our own work of wisdom or righteousness. We go to heaven because of Jesus’ work of wisdom and righteousness credited to us. That A to Z paragraph was really about Christ.
But it was also really about you.
Remember the truth that Paul shares with us in Ephesians 5. The church is the glorious bride of Christ. Our corporate relationship to Jesus is to be understood like that of a marriage. And so just as the excellent wife is the bride of the son of Proverbs, the glorious church is the bride of the Son of God.
Brothers and sisters, you are the church that is excellent. You are the church that works hard. You are the church that goes the distance and prepares and provides with sacrifice and love. You are the church that has strength and endurance. You are the church that endures. You are the church that loves the poor. You are the church that is noble and dignified, overflowing with confidence and valor and wisdom and kindness.
But make no mistake, the only reason why the church is excellent is because of the excellent death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We were at one point not excellent at all. Before being saved to become the beautiful bride of Christ, we did not have wisdom or the fear of the Lord at first. Before Jesus picked us, his bride was once a spiritual prostitute of sin.
But the Lord covered her with the fine linen of his royal righteousness. He did her good and not harm all the days of his life. His vineyard was the cross, and his wine was his blood. We were spiritually poor and needy. He reached out his hand to us and provided us his salvation. He opened his mouth of wisdom to us, and it was his kindness that led us to repentance. He loved us and delighted in us. He choose us.
Praise the Lord!
Now we are far more precious than jewels to the Lord. Now we make Jesus known at the gates and in the land. Now we are not afraid in him. Now we laugh at the time to come. Now we work with willing hands. Now we love the poor like he did. Now we love wisdom as well. Now we fear the Lord. And we will be excellent. We will be valiant. We will be glorious. We will be amazing. We will be A to Z… perfect.
Praise the Lord!
Brothers and sisters, let us be wise. Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a church who fears the LORD is to be praised. There are many things that many church want to be. Many people have personal visions of what they want their churches to look like. But let us consider the head of the church, Jesus Christ, and let us want what he wants. Let us prioritize what he prioritizes. And one thing that is very important to him is that we have his wisdom and the fear of the Lord.
I’ve said this in a sermon long ago, but it is worth repeating. What makes a church truly beautiful? Is it the architecture or the interior design? Is it the quality of its programs or the tastiness of its food? Is the beauty of a church lodged in the overall experience or feeling that one gets on Sundays? Is a church beautiful when it is full of photogenic members? Is a church beautiful when it has a charming welcoming team or a great sounding praise team? Perhaps. But not really. Not really in the eyes of the bridegroom. You see, in the eyes of Christ the King, earthly charm is deceitful and humanly-measured beauty is vain. But a church who fears the Lord is to be praised.
As we prepare for the marriage supper of the Lamb, may we be a hard-working church. May we continue to grow in sacrifice and in love. May we have strength and endurance. May we open our hands to the poor and reach out our hands to the needy. May we be excellent and valiant. Jesus is coming back soon. We just recently celebrating a wedding. So much time and effort and preparation and skill and cost and love goes into it - especially if you are the bride. If this is true of earthly marriage, then how much more true should it be of the church’s spiritual marriage with Christ.
Today is our last day in the book of Proverbs. And soon and very soon, we will see the last day of redemptive history. Then the words of the Apostle John in Revelation 19 will come true:
“Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, … crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure” … And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”
Summary of Sermon
The book of Proverbs ends with a poem about an excellent wife. And this woman is amazing.
She is a woman of hard work, provision, and business savvy. She is a woman of great strength and endurance and skill. She cares about the poor. She protects her family. She has character, class and confidence. She overflows with wisdom and kindness and the fear of the Lord. Her husband is blessed because of her. All in all, from A to Z, she is excellent, valiant and glorious.
This poem is ultimately about Jesus Christ.
The son of Proverbs was to be a wise king. He was to fear the Lord and choose the personification of wisdom and righteousness, Lady Wisdom, over and against the personification of folly and sin, Lady Folly. The beginning of the book sets forth this choice before the son, and the end of the book reveals what the son decides: he loves wisdom. This poem therefore lifts up a hope and anticipation for an ultimate and eschatological Son - one who would have perfect wisdom and righteousness and fulfill the promise of God’s salvation for sinners. This Son is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
But this poem is also ultimately about us the church.
The church is described in the New Testament as the bride of Christ. Just as the excellent wife is the bride of the son of Proverbs, so the glorious church is the bride of the Son of God. This poem therefore works as a portrait of what the church should look like and will look like. We are and we will be the church that is excellent and valiant and glorious.
Let us therefore be wise from A to Z. Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a church who fears the Lord is to be praised. Let us be wise as we wait for the return of Christ.
Questions for Discussion & Sharing
The book of Proverbs ends with a poem about an excellent wife: Lady Wisdom and the personification of the wisdom of God and the fear of the Lord. What do you think about Lady Wisdom? What admiration or praise or desire or love can we have for the wisdom of God and the fear of the Lord?
The church is the bride of Christ. And this poem works as a wonderful portrait of what the church should look like and will look like. How can our church and the church universal be excellent and valiant as we wait for the return of Christ our King?
We are at the end of our series in the book of Proverbs. In what ways has your understanding of wisdom and the fear of the Lord changed because of our time in Proverbs? In what ways has your understanding of Christ and his salvation changed?