“[These are] the words of King Lemuel, the utterance which his mother taught him...” (Proverbs 31:1).

Proverbs 31 has forever been famous for the describing the qualities of a "virtuous woman."  And for that reason, most people are only familiar with this chapter from that perspective.  But the chapter opens with, "These are the sayings of King Lemuel's mother..."  In other words, the wisdom found in this treasured passage is the things the king’s own mother taught him—it speaks of the things he learned through the counsel of a wise mother. 

In the Book of Proverbs, King Solomon also recalled the counsel of his parents: "My son, listen to your father's discipline, and do not neglect your mother's teachings" (1:8).  Once again, we find wise counsel for a future king –instruction to a son to heed the instruction of his mother. 

Returning to Proverbs 31, it seems the depiction of the virtuous woman was actually the recalled instruction from a godly mother of what qualities to look for in a spouse.  This mother must have desired (as all mothers do) for her son to find a good wife.  But not just "good" in the sense of right and fair, but good as in godly.  Too often, Proverbs 31 is looked upon as a passage of scripture for "women" only.  But the fact that it was written by a man tells me God desires for young men to listen to and heed the words of their mother and to study these characteristics so they will readily find such a woman. 

Unfortunately, it is not always easy to find a virtuous woman, which would explain the question: "Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies" (Proverbs 31:10). 

If it was hard thousands of years ago, I wonder if it is even harder today?  Maybe yes, maybe no.  I know many virtuous women.  And I know many men who are blessed to have virtuous wives.  The world may be increasingly more wicked, but the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is upon those who reverence Him, regardless of the world we live in.  Without question, women seem to have a natural gravitation towards the things of God, regardless of the bad reputation Eve received for her folly.

In fact, women hold some very special distinctions in the Bible.  They were the last at the cross (Mark 15:47).  They were first at the tomb (John 20:1).  Women were the first to proclaim the resurrection and the first to whom Jesus showed Himself after being resurrected (Matthew 28:8-9).  It was a woman who was the first to preach to the Jews in the temple (Luke 2:37-38), and it was a woman who was the first convert in Europe (Acts 16:14-15). 

Yet despite these accolades, God’s protocol for a woman's place is clear.  "But I want you to know that the head over man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God" (1 Corinthians 11:3).  God is always above all, with Christ beneath Him, man beneath Christ, and woman beneath man.  And I find no offense in this order whatsoever.  In fact, God’s arrangement makes me feel quite safe, much like lying under three blankets during a cold night. 

But in an attempt to pervert the good ways of God, Satan has planted the idea in the minds of women that they are weak if they position themselves under man's authority.  Yet nothing could be further from the truth. 

A woman who tries to position herself as the authority in her home, for example, wears a yoke not designed for her.  However, when a man stands in his place as the head, it is a mantle for him –not a yoke.  Symbolically, a yoke was a device for joining together a pair of draft animals, especially oxen, usually consisting of a crosspiece with two bow-shaped pieces, each enclosing the head of each animal.  It is also symbolic for oppression and slavery because of the weight of the yoke that rested upon the shoulders of the one under its power.  In contrast, a mantle is a robe.  I have two bathrobes.  One is lightweight and airy, while the other is thick and warm.  Either one brings me great comfort.  I love my robes!  So the visual that comes to mind when I think of a yoke versus a mantle is quite different.  And it should be because God intended for it to be this way.

This understanding amazes me all the more when I think about the words of King Lemuel and King Solomon to heed and adhere to the teachings of their mothers.  A woman is purposefully placed under man, yet God honors the woman with crowning qualities that lift her up.  And these are the "virtues" of the virtuous woman.  She is trustworthy.  She is industrious.  She is not lazy.  She is perceptive.  She is generous.  She is resourceful.  She is wise and full of kindness.  And more than all of these qualities, she has great reverence for her God.  "Charm is deceitful and beauty passes away, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised" (Proverbs 31:30). 

As a mother, one of the greatest honor I could receive is praise and esteem from my husband, my sons, and my God.  So I say, God bless the mothers of King Lemuel, King Solomon, and King David for their wisdom. And may God bless your mothers today also!