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Thursday Thoughts: What Not to Wear (or Do or Be)

frauen-powerIf you’ve ever seen the TV show “What Not to Wear,” you’ll perhaps start to get an understanding of the title! In this TV show, the hosts catch someone who is usually dressed in a frumpy, sloppy, and/or completely unattractive manner. The show hosts then trash the rest of the target’s clothes and take her shopping (on their own terms). And, voila, you have a new woman with a new style!

In a sense, this is a way we could look at the woman in Proverbs 7. Imagine that she is the “target” in a “What not to Wear. . .Do. . .Be” show. This lesson, however will only cover the first part of the show, the “before look.”  We are going to examine the Proverbs 7 Woman (hereafter P7W) in detail in order to learn how not to act.

While the warnings regarding the P7W are addressed to men, the implications of the warnings apply to women.  Although not every aspect of the P7W is a problem area or temptation for women, we all should be duly warned against any aspect of ungodliness exampled in her. The P7W models how not to live as a godly woman.

It seems that the P7W–or Lady Folly or the Forbidden Woman–is the sum of many of the characteristics of foolish living. In other words, an unbeliever (the “fool” of Proverbs) may have some or all of these characteristics. As believing women, we especially want to make sure that we don’t imitate her in any way.

Yet, as I cautioned our ladies in our Bible study, we need to be wary lest we pat ourselves on the backs because we don’t look like her. The proud mindset that we are ok because we don’t look like the P7W could be just as deadly if we are not consistently humbled by our own sins and the goodness of a forgiving, gracious God!

I recommend that you read Proverbs 7:1-27 as a whole first to get a feel for the full story.

Her Background

She is a Married Woman (Prov 7:19-20)

Though married, she is unfaithful in her marriage. She assures her victim that “the man is not in the house.” Her husband, probably a merchant, is gone on a business trip and will not be home for a while.

So you will be delivered from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words, who forsakes the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God (Prov 2:16-17)

The Hebrew word companion is used two other times in Proverbs, both times translated as “friend.” She had made a covenant of marriage with her friend whom she married. Obviously, their marriage and friendship had begun to break down before this encounter.

She is a Religious Woman (Prov 7:13-15)

These vow offerings she offered were voluntary peace offerings, in which she made an offering as thanks to God for an answer to a prayer. Unlike many other offerings, the giver was able to take the bread, pastries, and meat home to eat (considered a luxury!). The giver, being rightly related to God, was supposed to then share the feast with her family as a symbol of joyous communion and fellowship with God.

This woman clearly was hypocritical in all of these religious acts.  In fact, she was devious in the midst of her “worship.” She chose to give an expensive offering which she knew required a feast afterward at a time when her husband was gone. She used this as a ploy to make herself look godly and well-respected to her victim as well as to entice him to her home under false—even seemingly godly—pretenses.

Her Mindset (Prov 5:5-6)

The word ponder means “to mentally weigh” something. She does not carefully think about what she is doing. As a result of her careless thinking, she wanders. Wander means “to stagger, shake, or waver.” She does not even realize she has no direction. Yet, her careless thought pattern leads her steps to death. Her undisciplined mind has eternal consequences.

Her Heart (Prov 7:10)

She is “wily of heart.” The word wily means “guarded, secret, or hidden.” In this context, wily refers to her subtlety and craftiness. She has a secret agenda, and she is willing to do whatever she must to manipulate her victim.

Whoever plans to do evil will be called a schemer. The devising of folly is sin,and the scoffer is an abomination to mankind (Prov 24:8-9).

Delilah is a great example of this wily, manipulative heart (Judges 16:4-20). Her manipulative heart led to evil plans and actions.

Her Appearance (Prov 7:10)

While her heart has a secret agenda, her clothing choices certainly do not. She dresses “as a prostitute.” Her clothing choices, in reality, reveal her heart. So, what does dressing like a prostitute look like? One author explains,

It definitely involves how a woman puts herself together—the type of shoes, clothing, and make-up she chooses to wear. But far more than that, it has to do with her underlying attitude. A prostitute is excessively concerned about personal appearance (Mary Kassian, Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild, 94).

Her Attitude (Prov 7:11)

Loud

The Hebrew word implies “to rage, to roar, to make in tumult.”  She is flashy, gaudy, showy, theatrical, unrestrained, sassy, cocky, pushy. She’s a “girl with an attitude!” However, Proverbs 9:13 calls such a loud woman foolish and stupid.

Wayward

The Hebrew word means “rebellious and stubborn.” This a woman who demands her own way and refuses to be instructed or led.

Today’s culture praises these characteristics as virtues. The world  renames them as “self-assertiveness” and “female empowerment.” However, God calls them sin.

Her Routine (Prov 7:11-12)

She was always out and about. “’Now at the mall, now at the club, now at the movie theater, now at the party, now at the game’” (Kassian, p. 73 ) is a contemporary parallel. She had neglected her priority—her home. Her physical routine drove her out of the home, and her mental focus was most certainly elsewhere.

Her Methods

Nonverbal Communication (Prov 6:25)

Ever seen “Toddlers and Tiaras”? These little girls have learned the nonverbals that our P7W practiced so well.  Women like the P7W can capture men with their eyelashes. They have learned to send messages to men using looks, touches, body movement, head tossing, etc. This is flirting, seduction, and sin.

Promises of Pleasure (Prov 7:16-18)

She describes to her victim the beautiful and expensive bedspreads and linens that she had prepared for him (7:16-17).  The descriptions of such opulence imply a focus on extravagance that this woman had.

She also proposed that she and her victim delight in each other’s love all night.  The phrase “take our fill” means to satisfy. She was proposing that their rendezvous would satisfy and bring intense joy. She was a self-indulgent women who wanted instant pleasure.

Her Speech

Prov 2:16: “So you will be delivered from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words.”

Prov 5:3 “For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil.”

Prov 6:24 “To preserve you from the evil woman, from the smooth tongue of the adulteress.”

Prov 7:5 “To keep you from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words.”

Prov 7:21: “With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him.”

The most frequently-mentioned descriptor of the P7W is how she speaks or uses her words. She speaks a lot, she speaks manipulatively, and she speaks deceptively in order to flatter. Knowing that men need affirmation, yet seeking only to meet her own needs, she flattered instead. “Flattery is simply a seductive counterfeit for affirmation” (Shaunti Feldhahn, For Women Only, 67).

Her Outcome

 But in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol (Prov 5:4-5).

Conclusion: Hopefully we are not waiting at corners dressed as prostitutes (But if you are, God promises hope and forgiveness!). Believers strive to live godly lives, living out our professions to Christ and our faithfulness to our husbands (if married). Yet, it would help each of us to examine ourselves in order to make sure that we do not practice any of the thoughts, attitudes, or actions of the P7W. It is not too late to change any or all of these ungodly habits.

The root of these characteristics is trying to fill the hole in our hearts with something other than Christ. For an unbelieving woman, male attraction may be the way she strives to do it, as did this proverbial foolish woman. As believers, we may forget the fullness of the pleasures of Christ and seek temporary shelter in the pleasures of this world, which may reveal itself in some of these characteristics. So check yourself. Ask yourself some diagnostic questions:

(Marriage/Religion)

How is your faithfulness to your husband?

Do you take your marriage covenant seriously in all respects?

Whether or not you are married, do you to take others’ marriage covenants seriously? Are you a help or a hindrance to married couples you know and can influence?

Do you use “religion” as a cover, while trying to live life only as you want to live it?

(Your Heart)

How is your heart?

Do you use manipulation in order to accomplish your secret agenda?

Are you trusting the Lord and seeking the best interest of others (particularly the man in your life)?

(Your Appearance)

How is your appearance?

Are you excessively concerned about your appearance?

Do you dress in a way that draws attention to yourself or in a way that points to Christ?

(Your Attitude)

How is your attitude?

Are you sassy and stubborn?

Are you characterized by gentleness, calmness, and submissiveness?

(Your Routine)

How are your routines?

Are you self-indulgent and irresponsible?

Are you self-sacrificing and disciplined?

(Your Methods)

How are your methods of interaction with men (other than your husband)?.

Are you characterized by flirtatious words or body language that may invite lustful thoughts/actions or gain male attention (whether or not you’re married)?

Do you seek to make your godly lifestyle attractive to others?

(Your Speech)

How is your speech?

Do you speak excessively, manipulatively, or deceptively?

Or do you weigh your words, speaking sincerely and for the good of your hearers (remembering God hears your words)?

(Your Outcome)

Where are your steps leading you?

Are you headed toward destruction?

Or are you headed toward eternal life?

*Mary Kassian’s book, Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild was immensely helpful in writing this lesson. I recommend this book highly.

**The above is part of First Baptist Church of Rockford’s Ladies Bible Study on Biblical Womanhood.**

{On Thursdays, I share some thoughts about what God is teaching me in my various roles as a Christian, a woman, a wife, a mother, and a pastor’s wife.}

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Monday Meditations: The Power of the Written Word

typing text{This was not from Dave’s sermon; I was in the nursery. This is just something I thought a lot about this weekend.}

Reading blogs is sometimes very helpful for my sanctification. And other times, it is very unhelpful for my sanctification.

When the author of a blog explains biblical truths clearly and graciously, I may be exhorted, encouraged, rebuked, and moved to love God and live a holier life in response.

There are other times when I read a blog, and I feel a “boiling” sensation deep inside. I start to get hot and almost shaky as I just want to leap through my computer screen and strangle the author of the blog post. Not quite the sanctifying response, right?!

And, often, the people who agitate me the most are the ones who are always talking about “grace,” “unity,” and “love.” They point fingers at other believers, calling them legalists and Pharisees and judgmental. Ahem.

Calling someone a legalist and a Pharisee is a stiff charge. I read Matthew 23 this weekend in my devotions. Pharisees were demanding of others, yet lazy themselves; they did everything they did only to gain attention for themselves; Jesus called them and their proselytes children of hell, closed to the kingdom of heaven; they were hypocritical, greedy, self-indulgent.

This is the label that many carelessly throw at others, acting themselves as accusers of the brethren! (I couldn’t help myself! 😉 ) These “grace-talking” people are not often characterized–in their written words at least–by gracious speech, as Ephesians 4:29 puts it.

When I read a blog, the only assessment of the author and the author’s character I have available (unless I rarely happen to know the author on a personal level) is the author’s words. I have read ungracious posts and comments by people in spiritual leadership, and I can’t help but wonder what their ministries are like. . . simply because of their own words.

I often read the comments of posts (which, again, I should probably do less frequently because people’s comments make me even more agitated at times!). People just respond, without thought (it seems!) or without kindness and just blow people away. Or they post simply based on how they feel or what they think without much reference to Scripture. One commenter was amazed at the words written by a certain blogger and posted his reaction. Another commenter responded back saying that if he knew the author he wouldn’t accuse him as he did. And the second commenter was absolutely right. Most of us don’t know the bloggers; all we know are the words the bloggers say.

I know that Christians do not agree on many things, some things more important than others. And I don’t think that we should necessarily forget our differences, hold hands, and sing. (Because what would we sing? We wouldn’t even be able to agree on that! 😉 ).

I love reading Al Mohler’s blog. I am sure that I don’t agree with him on everything, but he is so gracious in his written speech. It’s the type of speech that makes me want to consider his argument, because his reputation for gracious writing and love for God are consistently evident.

But of course, even when someone is attempting to speak graciously, with a view to discuss humbly, intelligently, and biblically about a given topic, there is often someone (or many) who love a good argument and split hairs in the comment section in order to make a point. They become what they say they hate: hypocritical attention-seekers. At least that is what comes across in their written words.

The written word is important. It communicates. It is the only means others may have of knowing who you are and what you most love.

I pray that my words will always communicate my great love for my Savior. My love for my husband and my children. My hope that the Gospel will spread. My desire to enjoy the good things God has given me for his glory.

Jesus warned the Pharisees in Matthew 12:36-37 about their words:

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.

May we all–whether our hearts sinfully lean toward “legalism” or whether our hearts sinfully lean toward a haughty “freedom”–recognize God’ grace to us. May our speech be far from careless, knowing that Christ already took the penalty for our sinful speech. Yet may we ever portray the new creatures that we are in our careful, gracious speech, whether spoken or written.

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Thursday Thoughts: Reverse the Curse?

screaming womanI read an article in a parenting magazine recently that was discussing a particular type of current sitcoms. The article called these particular sitcoms the “Mom-Com.” Here’s the description of the moms of the 21st century: “These aren’t perma-smiling, pie-baking June Cleaver types. Today’s TV moms are snarky, cynical, and edgy, just the way we like ’em.”

These kinds of wives and moms are the women being extolled today. But God had quite a different type of wife in mind–from the very beginning. We will learn that God’s divine design for women is submission. {Gasp! Women, what is your very first response when you hear the word submission? I can’t imagine how the parenting magazine contributors and readers would respond! But hopefully–as Christians–our reactions are conditioned by Scripture. “If you react negatively to the idea [says Carolyn Mahaney in her book Feminine Appeal], chances are you have only seen a warped or defective product, because the genuine article of submission brings immeasurable benefit to our marriages and tremendous honor to the gospel” (137).}

God’s Flawless Design

God designed men to lead and women to submit to that leadership. It is important to note that male leadership was established before the fall (Gen 3).  Many argue that male leadership over women resulted from the consequences of the fall (Gen 3:16). They argue that the purpose of Christianity is to reverse the effects of the fall by returning to equality of the sexes. That is, Christianity should eventually negate the need for submission (c.f. Gal 3:28, a verse that teaches unity in Christ within diversity, not equality in all things).

You can see this belief that submission is a result of the fall in the phrase “Reverse the Curse.” At the university I attended people jokingly laughed about this phrase, referring to “Sadie Hawkins Day,” a day when the girls were able to ask the guys out. However, the concept of “reversing the curse” implies that submission is a result of the curse.

The Bible is clear that the wife is to submit to her husband, her leader. Adam and Eve exemplify this teaching in a perfect world. While Adam’s leadership over Eve is not explicitly stated in Scripture, it is implied in several ways:

1.  The Order of Creation: Genesis 2:7, 21-22

Man was created before the woman. This creation order is important to note because the apostle Paul cites it as significant in 1 Timothy 2:13: “For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.” Elsewhere, Paul reminds his readers that “man was not made from woman, but woman from man.” (1 Cor 11:8). Paul considered the order of creation to be important in his own case for male leadership (see 1 Cor 11:7-10).

While the creation order does not demand male leadership, it does evidence male leadership. God states elsewhere that man is the head (i.e., leader) of the woman (1 Cor 11:3). The creation order reflects this leadership.

2.  The Naming of Woman: Genesis 2:19-23

The naming of an object or individual in the Old Testament is widely recognized to be a sign of authority. Adam named the animals, signifying his dominion over them. Adam’s naming Eve as well implies his leadership role.God actually brought all the animals to Adam to be named. Adam then  realized that he did not have a corresponding partner as all the animals did (2:19-20). Thus God graciously made Eve out Adam’s flesh (2:21-22). Adam then named his wife “Woman” (2:23).

3.  The Role of Helper: Genesis 2:18; 1 Corinthians 11:9

As was discussed earlier, God created the woman to help the man. Paul also used this fact to argue for male leadership (1 Cor 11:9). Woman was created for the man. The woman’s role as helper implies male leadership.

Male leadership and female submission existed before the fall.  From the beginning of creation, God designed men to be leaders and women to be submitters. Thus, God designed wives to follow their husbands in submission.

If we as women are designed to submit, why is it that submission is such a struggle?  Why must we fight daily to submit as we were created to do? The answer is found in the story of the fall.

Women’s Fallen Desire: Genesis 3

Satan was very crafty. He knew exactly how to deceive Eve to get her to his side. He cast doubt on God’s command (v 1), denied the consequences of disobedience (v 4), and claimed that sin would be profitable (v 5).

The result? Eve sinned in a two-fold manner: She refused to obey God and she took sinful leadership in leading Adam to sin as well.

The consequences? Pain in childbirth {enough said!}. The desire to rule. Sin had tainted the harmony God designed in marriage. When sin has the upper hand, the woman struggles to overcome and rule over the man. The man sinfully domineers the woman. Carolyn Mahaney aptly says,

It is actually weakness on display when a wife is not submissive; she is only caving in to her natural inclination to usurp authority and demand her own way. That doesn’t take any effort at all (Feminine Appeal, 140).

What then is a woman to do? She is created to submit, yet every aspect of her being longs to rule over her husband. The answer lies in a promise of deliverance within God’s curse on the serpent.

God’s Faithful Deliverance: Genesis 3:15

{This is my favorite part!!}

God’s future deliverance

Despite the gloom and harshness of the curse in Genesis 3, there is yet hope for mankind. In God’s curse on the serpent, He promises ultimate victory over sin through the woman’s seed—Jesus. If you like big words, Genesis 3:15 is called the protoevangelium, the first proclamation of the Gospel.

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.

God will triumph over Satan in the future.  Though Satan “bruised” Jesus at the cross, Jesus crushed Satan at the cross (Heb 2:14; Col 2:14-15). And God will crush Satan forever in the future (Rom 16:20).  One day, we will be like Christ perfectly, and we will no longer sin. The struggle to submit will be over.

God’s present deliverance

Not only is there hope for change in the future, there is also hope for change in the present. Eve had become a “friend” of Satan by placing her trust in Satan’s promises rather than God’s when she took the fruit. Genesis 3:15 makes it clear that, after the fall, Satan became Eve’s enemy. Her heart was changed. She became a lover of God.

God uses many passages in Scripture detailing how we are to submit. God can shape our fallen desires into his divine mold of Christ-like submission.  As Christians, we also are “new creatures” (2 Cor 5:17). We must allow God’s grace to change us to help us submit to our male leadership.

Conclusion: God’s divine design for women has always been submission. Our sinful tendencies always hinder us from perfectly aligning with God’s design. However, the transforming work of Christ in our hearts allows us to overcome our sinful tendencies and submit by God’s grace to the men in our lives.

One of the most helpful applications may simply be realizing that we are daily fighting a sinful desire to rule over our male leadership.  Yet, as new creatures in Christ, we can obey as God has given us the strength to do so.

**The above is part of First Baptist Church of Rockford’s Ladies Bible Study on Biblical Womanhood.**

{On Thursdays, I share some thoughts about what God is teaching me in my various roles as a Christian, a woman, a wife, a mother, and a pastor’s wife.}

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