A Legacy of Faith
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Mother's Day is on the horizon, and though I originally shared this message with a group of young adult women for a Galentine's event at my church, I believe it is fitting again for us now. Whether you are a woman or man, mother or father, single or married, I pray this message meets you where you are today. It's about legacy. We'll dive into this idea of legacy in this new mini series on the podcast, but to start us off, let's take a look at Ruth. She changed her family's legacy with obedience. In doing so, she left a legacy of faith.
Ruth's story began during a famine. Within the first few verses we see, it wasn't just physical but relational too. First, her father-in-law dies, then her husband and her brother-in-law die. Distraught, her mother-in-law says her goodbyes to her daughter-in-laws and encourages them to go remarry, but Ruth clings to her mother-in-law, Naomi, and in time, we see God honors Ruth for her obedience and faithfulness through a man named Boaz.
When Ruth asked Boaz why she had found favor in his eyes — why was he was concerned for her safety and provision in the fields? — he tells her he has heard of her character and respects who she is as a person. He also understands she had no obligation to her mother-in-law and was in awe of how Ruth stepped towards Naomi when she had every right to step away.
Then, when Ruth boldly asks for Boaz to marry her, thereby redeeming her, he says,
“And now my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman. And now it is true that I am a redeemer…” - Ruth 3:11
“A worthy woman” - those words seemed to be magnified off the page to me as I read it, and I began to think of where I had heard that phrase before. Reviewing the King James Version of this passage, I saw the parallel, for in this, Ruth is called “a virtuous woman.”
Where have we heard this description in scripture?
You may be thinking Proverbs 31, and you'd be right!
The Proverbs 31 Woman
So first thing's first, who wrote Proverbs 31? Unfortunately, it's uncertain, but as I read it in light of the story of Ruth, I can’t help but wonder if it was not just one woman but a legacy of virtuous women who inspired this passage in scripture to be penned?
It starts out with the same language Boaz used to describe Ruth,
Who can find a virtuous woman? - Proverbs 31:10
As a close friend pointed out to me, the Hebrew word for “virtuous / worthy / excellent” in this verse is "hayil" and it is usually used in more masculine, military and wealthy settings, which is so interesting to see here describing a woman at a time when women had no rights and no status. This word describes immense strength.
If you were sitting next to me, you'd see I have a new balloon in my hand. Since you're not, you'll have to imagine it. As to why I have this in my hand, well, I promise it will make more sense here in a bit, but just play along until it does.
This passage goes on to say:
"...She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
[Blowing air into the balloon]
She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar. [Blowing air into the balloon]
She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants. [Blowing air into the balloon]
She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. [Blowing air into the balloon]
She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks. [Blowing air into the balloon]
She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
[Blowing air into the balloon]
In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers..." [Blowing air into the balloon, which is now at max capacity]
- Proverbs 31:13-19
You see, we all have a balloon we carry around. Similar to how we have been filled with various talents and gifts to offer hope to the world, the balloons we hold are filled with air.
But I’ll admit my first response to reading about the Proverbs 31 woman was: “Well, I’m not that.” I mean, for one, I can sew a button that falls off a shirt, but I’m no seamstress. [I open the mouth of the balloon slightly and air comes out.] I don’t go to the shipyard for merchant ships [a bit more air released] ...or plant a vineyard [a bit more]. And, my lamp does actually turn off at night — intentionally. I need my sleep! [The balloon is released and the balloon falls to the ground.]
I think we get easily confused and deflated because we read Proverbs 31 similar to how we read one another — we compare. Comparison is a trap laid out by the thief of our joy.
When we compare ourselves to another person, we open the mouth of the balloon, even if just the slightest, and air slips out. And, air also slips out of their balloon. In short, comparison has a deflating effect on us and those around us.
The world, with the winds of our circumstances and extreme temperatures of our days, is harsh enough of a climate without us adding pressure to it. Hope is too easily popped. As believers, we are called to love one another. I’ve recently been thinking a lot about a spiritual discipline we can easily neglect — the discipline of celebration. It’s the party-planner in me, I know, but this is deeper than that. We must be intentional to celebrate one another. Here’s why: Comparison deflates, but celebration inspires.
The word inspire means to “fill someone with the urge to feel something, especially to do something creative.” Whether we consider ourselves creative or not, we are all made in the image of God, the Creator, so we are all inherently creative. When we apply the gifts He has given us, whether in an art studio or a corporate office, a classroom or hospital, we are collaborating with God and being creative.
What does this mean for how we see each other? It means we intentionally work to celebrate one another. Instead of comparing ourselves to someone else, saying, “They’re better at [blank] than me,” or “They’re smarter than,” “They’re stronger than,” They’re prettier than,” — whatever it is, when we hear the word “than” slip out of our mouth or enter our thoughts, we know it is a comparison trap, and with it, air has slipped out of both of our balloons.
Instead, we flip the script and we choose to celebrate each other, “Lord, thank you for [their name]. [He/She] is made in Your image. You have given them the gift of [blank] and I see this is from You.”
When we celebrate each other, we fill air in their balloon and our balloon, too. Filled with more air, our balloons wave higher and inspire others to “come and see” the goodness of God in our lives.
Now, let's practice reading this passage of scripture not with a comparison view but with a posture of celebration. To help us, I've written a scriptural reflection of Proverbs 31 for us - not because scripture can't stand alone but so we can see it not as this unattainable woman but rather how God intends for us - His church - to serve those around us.
While the eleventh verse says, “The heart of her husband trusts in her.” (Proverbs 31:11) and can often be misunderstood to be encouragement intended for wives, we know Jesus is our Bridegroom, so unmarried women are not excluded. Rather this is intended for all of us - not just women either, but men and women alike.
The Woman Who Fears the Lord
Proverbs 31:10-31, a scriptural reflection written by Candace Cofer
Who can find a virtuous woman?
Her life is rich in wisdom.
The price paid for her redemption was greater than that of diamonds and precious jewels.
Her Bridegroom has entrusted His heart to her and He is victorious through her.
She is intentional to pursue truth and brings good, not harm, all the days of her life.
As wool and linen are known for purity and righteousness,
These are the materials — the virtues —
which she uses to clothe herself and comfort others.
Like a trading ship which brings supplies from afar,
She brings heavenly manna — divine truth and sustenance — to feed and nourish others.
She is a radiant light, dawning in the darkness,
Serving those who are hungry for truth.
She sees a field — one ordained for ministry — and sets her heart and resources upon it.
In full faith, she claims the territory, faithfully stewarding what God has given her.
Tending to the branches of the Vine of Christ, caring tendering for God’s people,
With her passion and dedication for fruitfulness, this vineyard experiences new life and new wine.
She is clothed in strength and power from heaven,
Making her arms strong, so she can carry the burdens of others.
She sees immense purpose in the gifts given to her
And His light shines through her, unable to be extinguished.
Putting her hands to the weaver’s staff,
She uses what she has for those in need.
Grasping the spindle, she lays hold of the wheels of government
With a helpful and servant hand.
Open, not closed, is the position of her hands to the poor,
Outstretched, not folded, is the position of her arms to the needy,
For she is extravagantly generous towards others
with what the Lord has provided for her.
She does not fear cold, winter seasons in life
For she has been given an undeserved covering and great comfort
In the blood of Christ, which she wears
as a two-layer coat of grace and righteousness.
Royal purple woven in exquisite linen,
She wears the ministries of her faith like a gown knit divinely together.
The glory of her Bridegroom is known and admired by all,
He serves as the righteous Judge of His people.
In making and selling linen garments,
Some purchased in the form of aprons and belts by the Canaanites,
She fills her days with works of righteousness,
Even for the benefit of her enemies.
She is clothed in beauty, honor and excellence,
Virtues none of which are of this world.
And there is no fear in her of the days to come,
For her forever is entrusted to her faithful Bridegroom.
She opens her mouth carefully,
Teaching wisdom with kindness.
Her time here is purposeful,
Watching over those God has placed in her care and serving to meet their needs.
It’s not her tongue but her legacy which tells of how she is, indeed, a virtuous woman,
And even more, she receives praise from her beloved Bridegroom, who says,
“Many of My daughters are rich in wisdom and grace because of your great obedience!
My glory — Do you see it? Do you feel it — it is resting on you!”
As we pursue this legacy of a virtuous woman, may we remember this:
Charm will mislead and beauty is temporary
But a virtuous woman, she lives in the great wonder and reverent fear of the Lord,
resting in His redemptive, forever unfathomable, love for her.
Fruitfulness is her passion and her reward,
Let us celebrate the goodness of God we experience in and through her!
And, may we celebrate the goodness of God we experience in and through one another. May we recognize the destruction of the trap of comparison and choose to combat this with the discipline of celebration for what God has done and is doing and is yet to do through each of us. May we find strength in scripture and joy in God's pleasure as we meet Him here. May we experience peace with one another as we intentionally choose to thank God for the ways we see Him in each other and may we rest from striving.
We each get to choose what our legacy will be. For me, I want to leave a legacy of faith, courage, love, joy, hope, and fulfillment. Thankfully, God has provided beautiful stories of modern-day women who are living this out. I can't wait for you to meet them in the days to come.
The good life, well it starts with a good day. Then another. Then another. Let's choose to live #TheGoodDay one day at a time.
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