Series: The Book - Part 5
“The Bride of Christ as the Virtuous Woman”
This is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.
We continue our Spring and Summer series called The Book. Over the next several months we are going to be teaching out of all the sections of the Bible and seeing how it’s put together, seeing common threads that connect the books of the Bible to make up The Book.
We now have arrived in the part of the Bible we call “Wisdom Literature”, and here we find some really interesting stories, sayings and people:
1. Job - although a godly man, he lost everything and struggled to make sense of the meaning of it all (worldly wisdom vs. heavenly wisdom)
2. The Psalms – the expressions of human emotion from rage, to despair, to almost ecstatic-like adoration.
3. Ecclesiastics - where we are told that “everything is meaningless”
4. The Song of Solomon – where most things you read are supposed to have a sexual innuendo.
5. The Proverbs - where wisdom and folly are contrasted as two types of women: folly as the prostitute and wisdom as the admirable woman.
From an “English literature” perspective, the texts change in this section. There are many more poems (or songs), and there is much more use of analogies and metaphors. Some scholars actually differentiate these as “covenant texts” (most of the works before the Psalms and the major and minor prophets) and “wisdom texts” (the five books I just mentioned.)
In an Old Testament framework, the covenant is the “what”…the contract and the laws of obligation, and the wisdom literature is the “how”. Wisdom literature deals with the messiness of life and human nature, and how to be human and live in the covenant.
Note: How to read wisdom literature…with wisdom!!!
The other thing that is an important distinguishing feature of wisdom literature is that there is always a deeper meaning. Unlike the historical books, which were meant to be read plainly and factually, the writers of wisdom literature embed a deeper meaning in the text itself. There can be space for a literal interpretation (for example: it probably really is easier to live on the corner of the roof of your house than with a contentious woman) but there is also the deeper meaning or implication. But it assumes there is a deeper meaning than just the original surface reading. So let’s get started!
Proverbs 31: 10-31 – for Discussion & Reflection
Stop, reflect and share:
What has been your framework for understanding Proverbs 31? Do you think that this falls in line with the author’s original intention? (Recall that Proverbs was written by a man for young men.)
What can be learned from a LITERAL interpretation of Proverbs 31? (In other words…what wisdom can be learned from this text?)
In Ephesians 5, Paul draws a comparison between the marriage of a husband and wife, and that of the relationship between Christ and the church. He does the same in 2 Corinthians 3, mentioning it briefly. The writer of Revelation discusses the marriage of the Lamb in Chapter 19. The church is the bride of Christ, and it is the standard of the Virtuous Woman found in Proverbs 31 to whom we will draw comparison in the following section.
Now let’s find the deeper meaning for us, using the sermon guidelines.
Reflect on the following verses.
What does she look like? (Verses 17, 22 & 25)
What strikes you about these verses? (This can include what was mentioned on Sunday)
Select some of the following questions to discuss and some practical implications. Be intentional about discussing the difference of the church as a body (corporate) and what this means for you personally.
What does this mean for us? What does this mean for us today in a society where people’s identity is their physical appearance? What does the bride of Christ look like? What does she look like? What do we look like?
What does she do? (Verses 13, 16, 20…and other verses you would care to discuss.)
As you read the verses of her “doing”, ask yourself what this implies about her character.
What type of person is she to engage in these issues and to do these types of things?
Using these verses as a grounding point, discuss possible implications for the church’s involvement (as a community) and your individual involvement (personally as a small group) with each other.
How this woman interacts with other characters mentioned in the passage. (Verses 11, 23, 28-29)
How is this woman viewed by her husband and children?
What did we learn about in the earlier verses that would inspire this kind of reaction? (Think in character, not just in tasks.)
How does this inspire (or perhaps challenge) the church of today? In what ways (be practical) would we need to act in this world?
What are the implications for you personally?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Christ’s response to us was the same as the husband in this passage? That He would trust us? That we would be blessed by Him, and that as a result of our deeds He would be praised and well-known in all the land! Oh that we would strive to be this bride!
If interested in joining or starting a small group contact our Director of Worship and Discipleship Amanda Van Halteren firstname.lastname@example.org
This week, you’ll note that Amanda was speaking about verses 10 and onward in Proverbs 31. So I thought I would bring up something interesting in verse 6 of Proverbs 31, where King Lemuel’s mother (he was passing on her teachings to him) recommends that he “Give strong drink to those who are perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress.”
BUT, back in Proverbs 20:1, we’re told that “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.” HUH?!
Again, an apparent contradiction resolved by CONTEXT: Proverbs 21:1 is talking about social drinking of the “I’m-going-to-drink-till-I-drop” variety, drunkenness, which leads astray and is strongly spoken against throughout scripture (Prov. 20:1; 31:4–5; Isa. 24:9; 1 Cor. 6:9–10; Eph. 5:18).
Proverbs 31:6, on the other hand, is talking about a medicinal use of strong drink - i.e. in the case of one who is “perishing” or in “bitter distress” – he’s not talking about a weekend party gone wrong!
We also note it in the New Testament when Paul told Timothy he ought to drink a little wine for the sake of his stomach and his frequent ailments.
Everything in context, folks!
Arthur, Kay. Teach Me Your Ways: The Pentateuch (New Inductive Bible Study Series) Harvest House Publishers, 2002. ISBN: 978-0736908054. Begin at the beginning - Creation, marriage, sin, civilization. Then learn about God's continuing lovingkindness and faithfulness to His covenant people, even when they let Him down.
Geisler, Norman L., and Thomas A. Howe. When Critics Ask : A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992.
Grudem, Wayne et al. Understanding the Big Picture of the Bible: A Guide to Reading the Bible Well (p. 40). Crossway. Kindle Edition.)
Koukl, Greg. How Does the Old Testament Law Apply to Christians today? Available at the Stand to Reason website at http://www.str.org/articles/how-does-the-old-testament-law-apply-to-christians-today#.VTpOJSFVikp
Longman III, Tremper. Making Sense of the Old Testament. Baker Books, 1998. Answers 3 questions: What are the keys to understanding the OT? Is the God of the OT also the God of the NT? How is the Christian to apply the OT to life?
Redford, Douglas. The Pentateuch. (Vol. 1, Standard Reference Library: Old Testament). Cincinnati, OH: Standard Publishing, 2008.
Schreiner, Thomas. 40 Questions about Christians and Biblical Law. Kregel Publications, 2010. (ISBN 978-0825438912) – all that Law… what still applies to us? What doesn't? Why or why not?
Zacharias, Ravi and Vince Vitale. Why Suffering?: Finding Meaning and Comfort When Life Doesn't Make Sense. FaithWords, 2014.