A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. (NIV)
Una donna perfetta chi potra trovarla? Ben superior alle perle e il suo valore. (Conferenza Episcopale Italiana – CEI) Translated: A perfect woman who can find? Well beyond pearls and its value.
On the very last day of my first trip to Israel in 2015…
I’m so honored to share the writing of Jennifer Weber Elwood with you today. We met in Israel…
I mean – ISRAEL!! I still can’t believe I got to GO there and bask in the places where Jesus lived…
After spending the day in the garden tomb, I explored with my new friend Amber, haggling our way through the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem. We wound our way through the stalls, looking at art, as well as all the beautiful trinkets and treats that would delight our children.
After ducking into a New York bakery for an iced coffee (I know, right? Not an expected find…) my eye caught a t-shirt that I thought my husband would just love. So, we darted into the store called Shorashim the Biblical Shop.
We looked around and found a few treasures and as we went to pay for our items we met the curator of the store. He shared his store sells biblically inspired items and we saw it! Throughout the store, most items had an appropriate bible verse next to it. He inquired about the tour group we were with and we happily reported we were with Proverbs 31 Ministries.
He asked us if we had studied the Proverbs 31 woman and asked us about verse 10 specifically…
“She is worth far more than…???”
“Um… Uh…” Yeah, we failed the initial quiz. I remembered the reading of Proverbs 31 at the Shabbat dinner and blurted out “Pearls!”
He said, “Yes!” but… Did you know most of the English translations state “rubies” and most other language translations state “pearls”?
Nope. We were not aware of this detail. What else have I missed?!
He explained that the translators of the Bible to English made an assumption that a jewel of such value could not possibly come from an unclean animal. That a ‘woman of valor’ could not possibly be compared to a pearl.
In fact, the only woman in the Bible that can lay claim to the title ‘woman of valor’ is Ruth. She came from the most humble of beginnings – a Moabite. These people arose from the incestuous relationship that Lot had with his daughters. Humble beginnings indeed.
However, God took Ruth through a beautiful process of spiritual transformation – in her obedience she made the decision to believe in the God of the Israelites which led to her following Naomi and the marriage to her kinsman redeemer, Boaz. The births of Obed, Jesse – and David – followed. She is the great-grandmother of the second king of Israel!
Ultimately, we should focus on the JOURNEY and not just the destination. Ruth is certainly not perfect, yet she is an awesome example of a Proverbs 31 woman. Ruth was not just great-grandmother to the second king of Israel but the many-times-great-grandmother to the King of Heaven and Earth.
What a gracious God we have – to include a previously unbelieving widow into the family tree of His Son. It gives me hope that God could turn His eyes on me – a previously unbelieving, divorced woman – and graft me carefully into the family of believers.
Whether rubies or pearl, the original word in question in Hebrew is mipininim. This word is used five times in the Bible and depending on the context, means rubies, pearls, coral, or jewels.
Hours were spent reading commentaries on this verse and the specific word for ‘rubies’ or ‘pearl’. Did you know that BOTH words are a beautiful illustration of the ‘process’ one goes through to be shaped into a woman of valor and sold out follower of Jesus Christ? Incredible, right?!
Rubies are fascinating – do you know they are actually sapphires? The gem forms through a process of great pressure and extreme heat – however, once sapphires have acquired a red color they are considered rubies. Rubies are very hard, the only substance harder is diamond. However, rubies are much less common than diamonds and can actually be worth more depending on the size and color – ‘blood red’ being the most valuable color for rubies.
The way gemologists know a ruby is real is that they have inclusions, which means that they are flawed – you know, stuff in them. However, a fake ruby is perfectly smooth and flawless. A truly valuable ruby is formed through great pressure, is full of flaws, and is covered in blood red.
Only by looking for the cracks inside the stone and a blood red color can you determine the authenticity of a ruby. Is that true for us too?
Pearls are equally amazing. They are formed by an irritant embedding itself into the lining of the oyster, and layer upon layer of lacre forms. The process takes a long time. Once it is finished, the irritant is soothed and completely transformed into a shiny, beautiful pearl. A pearl is also a gem of great worth and goes through a time-consuming process of layer upon layer of covering to become what it is.
A pearl starts as an irritant, soothed with layers and layers of healing covering. Did you know?
I love this teaching as it has certainly helped me relate to the Proverbs 31 woman. How can any woman ever be a woman who provides impeccably for her family and community, is a well-prepared financial wizard and has rocking self-care to such an amazing degree?
I’ve always thought that was one of those unattainable things in life. The point is NOT this impossible destination but a bending to God’s will.
I reflect on such God-ordered things that have happened after abruptly moving from a different country (England) back to my parent’s home with a toddler as I limped through a divorce. In the midst of this, I began answering the call of obedience to the Lord – to remain where I was when I wanted to move, to stay-put in Divorce Care after 1 session (I volunteered for 3 years after!), to remarry, to adopt…
In reality, I witnessed my own flaws and irritants undergo great pressure as they were covered with the blood of Jesus and soothed with layers of healing. It is a PROCESS. So hard – but SO necessary for any one of us to become the woman God envisioned.
And the story continues…
Did you know peacocks are tied to Christianity symbology? On a recent trip to Rome and Greece, I learned the peacock was an early symbol of the resurrection of Christ. When peacocks lose their gorgeous, luminescent feathers, even more stunningly beautiful ones replace them. Did you know that? I certainly didn’t!
Oh, buy the way, God wanted to GET MY ATTENTION with this peacock thing.
Peacocks were all over the Vatican and Rome. As I embarked upon the footsteps of Paul portion of the journey in Athens, peacocks were EVERYWHERE. I now realize… I am much like the peacock.
As I slough off less beautiful pieces of me, the growth and beauty that replaces it takes my breath away. Has your beauty emerged much like that too?
I believe there is a place that I’ll finally arrive. Yet in reality, that will be the day I arrive at the foot of the throne of GOD. So, until I complete the journey of life and knock at the narrow door to heaven, there is pressure to endure, wisdom to obtain, plucking to experience, layers of healing to receive, the Gospel to spread, and more beautiful feathers to be produced.
I’m ready. Are you?
Well, Jennifer, my sweet friend, I encourage you to continue writing. I wanna hear more…
Jennifer Elwood would rather have a passport full of stamps than a house full of STUFF. Jennifer and I met in Israel in 2015 on the Proverbs 31 Ministries first trip taking people with them. We listened at Lysa TerKeurst’s feet every morning as she brought the Bible to life – in Technicolor! The first day we stood on the Mount of Olives as Lysa read:
3 Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights on a day of battle. 4 On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south.
Zechariah 14:3-4 (NIV)
And there we stood – where the feet of Jesus will return on the day there will be one LORD, King over the whole earth…
And I believed.