The description of the Virtuous Woman in Proverbs is a most widely read portion of Scripture in modern day Christianity. Women the world over have studied these verses at length, and desired to attain to its status. However, as I was recently pondering on these verses a thought came to me that this passage is not only talking of women, but in the larger sense also of the Bride, the whole House of Israel.
Verse 26 in particular caught my attention;
She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching (תוֹרַת torah) of kindness (חֶסֶד chesed) is on her tongue.
It is the destiny of the House of Israel to once again come into possession of Wisdom and when she does, the teaching of kindness will be on her tongue… but what is this teaching of kindness?
The Teaching of Kindness
In Hebrew this is תוֹרַת חֶסֶד. Most people see the word Torah as meaning the Law, but it is much more than that… the word reflects a teaching or guiding principle making the Law something that directs us in our walk like a lamp to our path.
And this teaching or directing will not be harsh, constrictive or judgemental, but rather it will be the teaching of חֶסֶד chesed, a rich word which encompasses everything from kindness, grace, love and mercy to God’s covenant faithfulness. It is the very foundation upon which we have our being. However, this foundation is removed when we reject God, His Word and Wisdom and look instead to worthless idols.
Those who watch intently to idols, things that are worthless and have no substance, will forsake the חֶסֶד that could be theirs.
Opening our mouths with wisdom and thereby teaching covenant faithfulness, is the destiny of the virtuous woman, the nation of Israel and this will form the foundation for the restoration of the creation.
The Rejection of Wisdom Makes Us Simple
Yet this wisdom is not inherent within us. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve rejected Wisdom when they took of the forbidden fruit. As a result they lost their garment of Light and became, as the Scriptures define it – Simple.
To you, O men, I (Wisdom) call, and my cry is to the children of man. O simple ones, learn prudence; O fools, learn sense.
The word ‘simple’ used in this verse is the Hebrew פְתִי petiy and literally means one who is simple, foolish, naive or easily persuaded.
Adam and Eve were deceived and persuaded to eat of the tree which promised to make them wise and to become like gods… but by eating of this tree they rejected the Wisdom, that covenant faithfulness that was already theirs and as a result they became both פְתִי and foolish.
Ladies Calling to the Simple Ones
In Proverbs 9 we are given a detailed view of both Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly. The chapter paints a picture of both ladies being ever present in our daily environment and each in their own way calling out to the sons of man, the simple ones, in the hopes that they might dwell with them. The question for us is, which call are we responding to?
Who is Lady Folly
Lady Folly, who herself is described as both simple, פְתִי and foolish, should have responded to the invitation of Lady Wisdom, but she did not and has wilfully rejected her. In many ways she represents each one of us in our fallen state in which we are both simple פְתִי, and foolish.
A foolish woman is clamorous: she is simple (פְתִי), and knows nothing.
Lady folly is boisterous, chaotic and knows nothing and yet her seductive behaviour lures many a guest into her dwelling. Her attitude is passive as she sits at the door of her house, the place where the Laws of God were symbolically written in ancient Israel. She thereby seems to present the way of Life to the passers by who are endeavouring to walk uprightly.
She sits at the door of her house… calling to those who pass by, who are going straight on their way.
Stolen Water and Bread Eaten in Secret
But her invitation is empty, it has no substance as, at the end of the day, all she has to offer is stolen water and bread eaten in secret and those who enter in and partake of this meal enter into death.
Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant. But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.
The ‘stolen water’ on offer is the water of deception which stands in stark contrast to the true water of the Spirit which is freely given, the Word of God.
The word ‘stolen’ here is the Hebrew גָּנַב ganab meaning to steal, deceive, get by stealth. Does this not take us back to what happened in the Garden of Eden where both Adam and Eve were deceived by the seductive words of the serpent who seemed to present to them the way to Life but instead enticed them into the way of death?
Lady Folly’s second offering is bread eaten in secret. How does this compare to the bread that we eat in communion in and through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ? Communion is not taken in secret, on the contrary it is taken in company and the result of partaking of it is the restoring of sight, hence to uncover secrets. We read of this in Luke 24 when Jesus took the bread, broke and gave it to those gathered with Him and then their eyes were opened and they recognised Him for who He was.
Let us not be deceived any longer by the empty, boisterous words of Lady Folly as by entering into covenant with this deceptive house we are led to our death, a place of disintegration, the depths of Sheol.
But let us take heart, for where Lady Folly is spruiking, we also find Lady Wisdom.
The Offering of Lady Wisdom
Back in Proverbs 9 we read that Lady Wisdom is standing and crying out to you and me, the simple ones from the highest places in the town inviting us to dine with her.
“Whoever is simple (פְתִי), let him turn in here!” To him who lacks sense she says, “Come eat of my bread and drink of the wine that I have mixed. Leave your simple (פְתִי) ways and live, and walk in the way of insight.”
She cries out to us in an effort to slow us down, to forsake that foolish, simple, boisterous life that we lead in our fallen state and to settle down our hearts and minds to eat of her bread and wine that she has mixed…
This hospitality she is offering is the bread and wine of communion… a union with our Lord who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is the means by which we get from A to B… He is that road to righteousness which we rejected all those years ago in the garden.
But in order to dine with her and receive this wisdom we need to leave our simple ways… we need to leave our will on the doorstep we need to concede that our ways are not the ways to life and this is not an easy thing to do.
However, it is our destiny, as Israelites, to come to this point of leaving behind our simple ways – saying not my will but thine be done – of partaking in communion so that our eyes may be opened allowing us to walk again in the way of insight the way built on His Word and His Being which will allow us to discern instead of being easily persuaded.
Making Wise the Simple
It is by heeding the call of Lady Wisdom, by coming into exclusive covenant through communion that we can eat of His Word, His perfect Law and digest it so that its wisdom is written on our hearts and minds. Then we will become that Light to the world, we will shine forth His Glory and Knowledge like the stars in the heavens as promised in Psalm 19:7;
The Law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple (פְתִי).
When the Lord fulfils this promise in our hearts and minds we will stand, as Lady Wisdom, on the crossroads of our own communities and invite others to come in, be part of the Kingdom and be healed.
Jesus gave us an example of what this would be like when He started His ministry here on earth. He did not stay in Nazareth, which was an insignificant out-of-the way village… He stood in Capernaum, a commercial hub of Galilee, situated on a major crossroad, so that all who pass by would be comforted by the proclamation that Jesus the King called out to His people, namely “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”