Before the minister begins to speak, there is a special moment in every wedding, and I always look forward to it. After a procession of people take the stage—the groom’s party, each bridesmaid, the awkwardly adorable ring bearer and flower girl—the audience is primed and eager. Then it happens: The bride enters. The guests stand to pay honor to her, making her splendid procession down the aisle, gloriously adorned for her husband.
Every husband remembers that incredible moment. And he should remember what followed it too: He vowed to God that day to cleave to her, to love her, to cherish her, to provide for her and, yes, to honor her, throughout their marriage. To keep the spirit of that moment of honor alive in our marriages, let’s examine the instruction God gives in Proverbs 31:28-29.
The first part of verse 28 says: “Her children arise up ….” This suggests something about this woman’s child rearing. The phrase “arise up,” according to Strong’s Concordance, can mean “abide” and “accomplish.” It can mean “to succeed, to arise, become powerful” or “to be proven.” It’s pronounced “koom”—a great sounding, almost onomatopoetic word. Our children don’t just stand up—they koom. They stand up as successes in life, a phenomenal benefit that is possible because they had a virtuous, Proverbs 31 woman in their lives.
If we have taught our children correctly, the next part of the verse tells us how our children will respond to their mother: “… and call her blessed.” Strong’s says of that last word: to be straight (used in the widest sense, especially to be level, right, happy). One definition says: “to pronounce happy, called blessed.”
Of course the children call this woman happy and blessed because she is a virtuous woman who fears God. But this gives us as fathers and husbands a responsibility too. There is a standard here: If we have trained the children to honor and respect their mothers, this is how they will respond to the virtuous women God has given us.
This proverb, though, is about much more than the actions of our children. It is also about what we do as husbands. A February 1982 Good News article “The Proverbs 31 Husband” discusses the next part of verse 28: “Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.” “How about it, husbands?” this article reads. “When was the last time you said, ‘Honey, that was a super job?’ When was the last time you complimented your wife on a well-cooked meal? Or a clean and neat house? Or the extra time she spent helping a sick neighbor? Unfortunately, most of the time, the good deeds and hard work go unnoticed—certainly uncomplimented.
“You men would like a Proverbs 31 wife? Then, first, you be a Proverbs 31 husband!
“Trust, respect and praise for your wife—these are important qualities of the Proverbs 31 husband.”
The article gives some pretty specific points, but Aubrey Andelin’s Man of Steel and Velvet exposes the negative opposite of the praise advocated in this verse. “Unfortunately, men usually fall short in making a woman feel queenly. By criticism or slighting remarks they treat women like inferiors. I was offended to hear a business associate speak of his wife as the old lady. Men are quick to criticize women drivers and yet expect women to drive and run their errands for them. … The evil effects of this downgrading has more far-reaching and destructive effects than most men realize. Many women have been lured into the feminist movement because they feel men have let them down. Most women would not give the feminists a second thought if their men honored them in the many ways women expect and deserve to be honored.”
The word “praise” in the last part of verse 28 doesn’t even begin to encapsulate the enthusiasm of the Hebrew word: haw-lal. It means “to shine; to flash forth light, to make a show, to boast; and thus to be (clamorously) foolish; to rave; to celebrate.”
Can you picture that, standing there raving about how great your wife is, celebrating her effect on yours and your children’s lives? Clearly this is about our fellowship—how we talk about our wives to other people. Verse 23 tells us that this man sits in the gates and is known by the elders of the land. He has ample opportunity to praise her, just as we do when we fellowship—to show honor to our wives in the way we talk about them to other members of the God Family.
And this proverb really can’t be read fully without reading both verses 28 and 29. Verse 28 tells us that the husband praises the virtuous woman, and verse 29 tells us what he says. Here is how the Proverbs 31 man describes his wife: “Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.”
Would you describe your wife that way? Does she, in your mind, excel them all? There are over 3 billion women on our planet—and she excels them all. There are a handful of extremely impressive women in God’s Church—and your wife excels them all! Would you, as it says in verse 10, describe your wife as having worth far above rubies?
Of course, while these verses apply to our marriages physically, they are really about Christ and the Church. So how does Jesus Christ talk about His wife? As we consider how we praise and honor our wives, let’s consider the praise Jesus Christ gives to His wife.
In Psalm 45, Jesus Christ—the God of the Old Testament—is talking to His wife. In verse 13, He says she is “all glorious within.” And verse 17 tells us that Jesus Christ will make His wife’s name known for all generations. He will teach these spiritual children to praise her forever and ever!
One of the most striking things Gerald Flurry wrote in The Song of Songs—God’s Greatest Love Song is about how Jesus Christ talks about those in the Church who have become lukewarm. It exposes a remarkable ability God and His Son possess that we usually lack. “Despite that rebellion, however, this spiritual woman still has profound spiritual potential, from Christ’s perspective. In chapter 4, Christ speaks to her ….”
Look at Christ’s words to this lukewarm, double-minded bride: “Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves’ eyes within thy locks: thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from mount Gilead” (Song of Songs 4:1). He is talking about how beautiful His wife is! She is still His wife in embryo.
“Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which came up from the washing; whereof every one bear twins, and none is barren among them. Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely: thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate within thy locks” (verses 2-3).
“Christ is describing His lovely wife in the most glowing terms,” Mr. Flurry writes. “Amid all this praise, here is perhaps the most stunning statement: ‘Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense. Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee’ (verses 6-7). What remarkable testimony! This is Christ’s goal! This is the way He views His Laodicean wife—as spotless, perfect! Though she is not in that state today, in the end that is what she will be! God views things that are not yet as though they already are.”
The Proverbs 31 wives who remain loyal and help build God’s Work today are already providing incredible support to each and every one of their husbands. Can we see how blessed we are by these virtuous women, and give them the sort of praise God says they deserve—the kind of praise He says a virtuous woman will receive from a Proverbs 31 husband?
The scripture doesn’t say we might be moved to praise her. If we are Proverbs 31 husbands, this will happen. Our children will arise up and call her blessed. We as husbands will stand up and praise her.
Let’s take the instruction in Proverbs 31 and use it in our own lives, in the way we teach our children to treat our wives, in the way we honor our wives with our speech, in the way we talk about them on the Sabbath and throughout the week. Let’s take the opportunity to say to our wives, just as Jesus Christ says to her—and to you as a part of His Bride: Many daughters have done virtuously, but you—you excel them all.