Murder She Wrote
The Mystery behind the Woman of Virtue
New Beginnings Church
May 15, 2005
2 Peter 1:1-11
I love a good murder mystery. Murder She Wrote was a favorite but it has lost its appeal over the years. It starred Angela Landsbury as Jessica Fletcher, the nationally known mystery writer. She was a magnet for murder, thus almost anyone close to her, be it relative or friend, were sure to be arrested for murder. Jessica would then come to the rescue and solve the mystery, right under the noses of the local law enforcement.
I also like Law and Order, especially Special Victims Unit, mainly because Ice-T is in a starring role. The squad takes on high profile cases that the run of the mill police can’t solve. Usually the crimes are gory or too gruesome for the general audience, but I enjoy the suspense of determining the real culprit.
But my all-time favorite who-done-it is Matlock, starring Andy Griffith. Matlock is a middle-aged, silver haired, widowed lawyer in Atlanta. He is frugal; he loves hot dogs, wears the same suit week after week, and rarely loses a case. He knows that the answer to the mystery rarely lies within the obvious. His fame comes from finding that one little thing that the killer has overlooked, something that others usually dismiss as unimportant.
Why, you are probably thinking, am I talking about mysteries? Well, as I studied the passage that describes a woman of virtue, I was baffled. Israelite women did manage the household and they performed the duties of wives and mothers. They also had a measure of anonymity in life and were subordinate to their husbands. They were an integral part of the community and they were protected as such. A good wife was usually praised and honored; godly women were admired and valued. Yet, I wondered why this woman was showcased. Oh, there were many woman of old who became noteworthy, women who made the news so to speak, for their achievements.
Women were valued and honored to a degree, but they were always in a weaker position than a man. Now, I am not advocating Women’s Liberation, but it was Jesus Himself that lifted women up, gave them new roles and equal status in His kingdom. Yet, I was baffled about this particular woman. The Lord kept telling me that there was a mystery; a mystery that I was overlooking. Then, He showed it to me. This passage in Proverbs is used many times as a standard, a model as the highness that we are to aspire to, and that’s fine, but God would have us to see today the real starting point leading to a Woman of Virtue.
Proverbs was written by Solomon, son of King David and King of Israel. Solomon obviously loved women or he was trying to prove himself a real man, for he had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Yet, he was a man who found life to be boring and filled with vanity. There is some speculation of his authorship of chapter 31, but I believe it to be his, relating the descriptions that his mother gave of a perfect wife.
The woman in Proverbs 31 is given as the standard for the kind of wife that is to be sought out. There was a song some years ago that said: “If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, never make a pretty woman your wife”. The implication being that ugly women make better wives. It has been my observation that most men don’t buy that logic, and those that have married the least attractive women have convinced themselves that real beauty is within. Likewise, Proverbs 31 is describing a woman who may or may not be easy on the natural eyes, but rather one whose beauty is clearly observed from within, from her character. The characteristics of such a woman are clearly laid out.
First of all she is hard to find. You have to look hard and maybe long for there are imitators that will deceive you. She is anxious to please her husband at all cost, his whim; his need is her pleasurable desire. She is not lazy and uses her time well. She is a good manager of the family’s household, finances and resources. She never shops on a whim (uh-oh) or without pre-planning. She accounts for every dollar and her husband always has enough for his needs. She makes sure that the needs of the family are met and she often gives to the poor. She is discreet, quiet and filled with wisdom. She only speaks healing and comforting words and she never embarrasses her husband. Like I said, she is hard to find.
But it’s not the perfect wife that I want to discuss today. No. I want to examine the aspect of virtue found in the Proverbs 31 woman.
I know for sure that this woman of was not born the way that she is described because no one is born perfect or virtuous. There are none perfect, no not one. In fact, the word virtue that is used here is not used in the way that many of us think of virtue today. It does not mean chastity or pure, nor decent and moral, nor innocent, guiltless or faultless. Just knowing what it does not mean should give us a sigh of relief! We can find virtue used the same way in 2 Peter 1:1-11. Virtue in the original language and its usage in these passages refer to excellence, strength and courage.
Many women before us have been women of excellence, such as Hannah, the woman of grace and mother of Samuel, who, though barren, feared and trusted God more than the mocking and jeers of her husband’s other wife and vowed to return a man child to the Lord for His service; women of strength like Abigail who so impressed King David with her beauty, humility, praise and advice that she became his wife after the death of her husband Nabal; and there was Ruth who left familiar land and family and told her mother-in-law “Where you Go, I will go, where you lodge, I will lodge, and your people will be my people, and your God will be my God; and women of courage such as Deborah, a judge in the nation of Israel who had to lead a general out to war; and don’t forget Esther whose beauty won her a queen ship and whose faith proved courageous as she said “If I perish, I perish”.
From this passage in 2 Peter we will see that in order to become a Woman of Virtue, a woman of excellence, strength and courage, a murder must take place. Everyone knows that a murderer usually has a motive to kill, an opportunity to kill and a weapon used to kill.
Motive gives us the reason to act and the object of our actions. Without motive, almost any action on our parts is meaningless and just plain dumb. We dress each day before we go out to avoid arrest. We eat (sometimes too much) to avoid death. We work to provide the necessities of life for our families and ourselves. We cry to show grief. We laugh to show joy. We marry and are intimate to bring forth life. We kill to protect life, but we murder to end life. You see, some of us need to murder some things, and at the very least, to mortify some things from our members in a quest to become a woman of virtue.
In Colossians 3:5, Paul is not saying that we must mortify our physical or natural bodies, but rather the deeds of the body or sinful actions that plague us and would hinder us.
Paul says that these members of your body that do these things, they belong to you. These evil desires lurk in “your” members. They are not God’s and not even Satan’s. They are yours. Now, just what are these things that need to be mortified? First and primarily, they are earthly; the concerns and the things of the world. Worldly lusts and pleasures arise out of earthly mindedness. Paul goes on to identify them in particular:
§ Uncleanness of every sort
§ Sensual appetites and unholy desires
§ Covetousness and idolatry
It goes without saying that when these things are present and active in your life and being performed by your members, you cannot be a woman of virtue or a man of virtue either, for that matter. But the problem is not always in the outward practice of such things. Many of us have failed to separate ourselves from past actions or old ways of thinking.
Paul goes on to say that some in the body of Christ are actually children of disobedience, or still practicing and acting on these sinful desires. Still others may not be outwardly practicing them, but they are plagued by them or guided by their former enslavement to them. Most times when we come to the saving knowledge of God, no one tells us or helps us to mortify our past sins and behaviors, so the actions continue or the remembrance of them stunts our growth.
We kind of go through our spiritual lives trying to live up to the Proverbs 31 woman but with an often times secret mindset of a Rahab or a Jezebel. Some of us have stopped the sin but we have failed to mortify the mindset. Some of us have learned how to present ourselves like women of virtue on the outside, but we have not learned how to feel virtuous on the inside. And because of this, many are struggling in silence trying to over-power the old way and the nagging thoughts of yesterday, all alone.
I just want to admonish you today to stop. The Bible says that “as a man thinks, so is he”, so if you are a child of God today, you need to correct your thoughts. Paul says that if you are saved, then you have put on a new man. This new man must be renovated in the spirit of the mind, daily, by the Spirit of God. The outward man will decay but the new man, your inner man; your new mindset is renewed day by day. It increases in holiness and righteousness, grows in grace and particularly in knowledge, the knowledge of the things of the Spirit of God. The new man must grow in the knowledge of God and grow after the image of Christ until it is perfected in heaven.
What I like about Paul is that he does not leave us in a mystery. He tells us how to mortify the sinful deeds and hindering thoughts of the old man, of the flesh and of the world. He says, since a man is as he thinks, and since you have been made to put on the new man, then your must think like the new man. You will mortify, count as dead, and render powerless those old thoughts and deeds, the anger of a bad childhood, wrath for an abusive parent or relationship, malice towards someone who’s just done you wrong, slander bought on by jealousy and envy, and abusive speech including lies, to carry out the desire of the flesh. You will mortify these when you put on:
§ A heart of compassion-consideration and empathy
§ Kindness, humility-unassuming nature
§ Gentleness and patience-endurance, staying power
When you are:
§ Bearing with each other-tolerating, accepting
§ Forgiving and practicing love-agape, the perfect bond of unity
§ Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts
§ Being thankful
§ Letting the Word of Christ richly dwell within you
§ Doing everything in the name of the Lord Jesus
§ Giving thanks through Him to God, then you will mortify the past, unwanted deeds of the flesh.
Putting on the new man, giving the new man power and authority will bring about those results, but there is a new mindset that we must adhere to: Paul teaches in Philippians that in order to be that person of excellence, a woman of virtue, we must have a new ‘tude. Our attitude will most certainly reflect our thought, so think on, ponder on, and let your mind rest on these things:
§ Whatever is true
§ Whatever is honorable
§ Whatever is right
§ Whatever is pure
§ Whatever is lovely
§ Whatever is of good repute, kind and gracious, if there is any excellence, any virtue and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on, ponder these things, practice them and fix your minds on them and the God of peace will be with you.
The motive of the woman of virtue is clear! Her mind is set on the things of God, her actions on doing the will of God and her allegiance on obeying the commands of God. Motive then, leads to opportunity. How can I be a woman of virtue when I have so much to deal with on a daily basis, you might ask?
The woman of virtue in Proverbs 31 had one main thing going for her. The one thing that enabled her to be a woman of virtue is that she feared God. Her fear of God tells me that she had a working knowledge of Him. She knew what He expected, she knew what pleased Him, and she knew how to affect those things. Just like the good wife knows her husband and the things that pleases him; so the woman of excellence knows her God and the things that pleases Him.
If you do not know God up close and personal, if you do not know the commands and objectives He has for your life, and if you do not know the promises found in the Word of God, then your opportunities will be uneventful.
The opportunity for becoming a Woman or a person of virtue lies in His divine power, power (that)has bestowed upon us all things that are suited (or needed) to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by and to His own glory and virtue. We have His promises that we may escape the moral decay in the world.
Everything you need to be the woman or man of excellence is locked within the knowledge, the information, the data, the experience and understanding, the comprehension and familiarity that you have of Him, of Christ Jesus. You will only realize these things through His Word and your personal relationship with Him.
The more you know of Him, the more you know Him. The more you know Him, the more you desire to please and obey Him. The more you please and obey Him, the more virtuous, the more excellent, the more courageous you become.
The more your know Him, the more you look like Him, act like Him, imitate Him and represent Him. Your characteristics will change with practice. Opportunity is present to you now through the study of His Word, the sharing of the Word in conversation and actins and through prayer. The more we take the opportunity to do it His way, the more of our past habits, our past practices and past thoughts and mindsets we mortify.
But there is one other element necessary. We know the motive is to change our mindset by knowing God more through His Word and a personal experience with Him. We also know that we have opportunity to change, to become a woman or person of virtue right now if we are children of God because He Himself has called us to walk in His plan of virtue and excellence, and that He has given us certain promises to help us reach that potential. Within those promises are the weapons needed to mortify those unwanted members that would hinder us from being the person we are called to be.
The weapons that we need will manifest when we exercise our faith to develop virtue. As we seek to be the person that God has called us to be, to walk in His will and to obey His commands, we will develop a deeper knowledge of Him and His ways, but also a better understanding of who we are in Him. You see, it is in knowing whose I am that enables me to be strong in the power of His might to mortify old deeds, old thoughts and old ways. It is in knowing whose I am that strengthens me to be in control at all times, even during adverse situations, bad hair days, difficult work days and less than blissful days at home.
I can be steadfast in my profession and calling because it is settled in my mind whose I am. Situations no longer dictate my actions; rather my actions will command the situations, because of whose I am. I can act in godliness because I am confident of the One who stands behind me. He’s got my back! He won’t let me fall! I can be generous to a fault towards others and share Christian love among the saints and the aint’s because of whose I am. I am the child of Love Himself; The Alpha and Omega; The giver of faith; The Bright and Morning Star; The soon coming King!
If you are a child of God this morning, no matter where you are in life, no matter how successful you are or hope to be, whether you are married or not, considered pretty or not, if you fear God, if you desire to please Him, to obey Him, to follow His dictates, then you can say “I am a woman or person of virtue, because of whose I am”. It’s not who you are, but whose you are that makes you. It’s not what you did, but what He did. It has nothing to do with what you know, but who you know. It is not that you have made it in the marketplace, achieved high educational status or made good investments or even hold a high position on your job; but it is about whose you are, that you serve an omnipotent God; a God who is all-powerful, invincible, unstoppable and supreme in His abilities.
It’s not even about how you look, whether you look like a beauty queen or a drag queen; whether you’ve kept your shape like an hour glass or that hour glass has turned into a mug. It’s about whose you are. It’s not about your looks but it is all about how He must have looked one day about 2000 years ago. It was a time when He exampled for us the full meaning of virtue, of excellence, of strength and courage.
The Bible says that He arrived by way of a virgin. He came to save men from their sins, but His own received Him not. He never sinned, but He was tried in unjust courts because He told man the truth and made their sins apparent. See, it’s about whose you are!
I believe He was mocked and whipped, in fact beaten beyond recognition of a human being. They say that His beard was plucked out, hair by hair and that He was so badly beaten in His face that He no longer looked like a man. It’s about whose you are! I am told that He was stripped of His garments and beaten on His bare skin, 39 licks as one was held for mercy; Beaten with a whip that hid bone pieces and metal prongs in the ends that wrapped around His torso and gashed the flesh from His body. He carried His own cross up a hill called Golgotha, the Skull, His arms were stretched out and His wrists were nailed with 9” Roman nails and His feet with even larger nails; a crown of thorns was hung on His head; He was offered vinegar for drink, and mocked and tempted to come down from the cross. But His character overshadowed this for He never said a mumbling word to His accusers. Can you appreciate whose you are? Instead of cursing, in the midst of His agony, He forgave. He provided for His household and gave charge of His mother to another. He managed His resources well, for He negotiated with the Father above and paid the price in full with His blood for our sins. He was a man of ultimate virtue. He died that day, and He was buried in a borrowed tomb. Three days and three nights He was buried in the tomb, but I read that He got up from the grave on the 3rd day morning. Now, because He got up you can be the virtuous person that you are called to be, that you are destined to be, because He has already provided all that you need to succeed. You can’t fail. You won’t fail. You can only succeed. You know why? Because of whose you are! You are a child of The King! You are women of virtue, so stand up for your king. Seek His need, His desires and attain to His every whim. Stand up for King Jesus. Walk your walk, strut you stuff and talk your talk because He’s got your back. Pack your wares and showcase them in the work place, exercise them at the gym, sell them at the market. Wherever you go let your God given characteristics speak for you. When you slip up, that’s o.k. Get up and keep on going because you have a High Priest in Heaven who is ever interceding for you. We’ve got it made. The mystery is solved. We know how to mortify the things that would hinder us; opportunity has been provided for us; and our weapon is ready to be used. I don’t know about you today, but for me, that’s good news! I am a child of the King! I am a woman of virtue! I am woman of excellence! I am a woman of courage! What about you?
All you have to do is walk in your calling with a reverent fear of your Lord and one day you will hear Him say: “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over little, I will make you ruler over much. Enter into the joy of your Lord.”