What Are Women for? (Part 1)
Nov 20 2020
The good news of the gospel is that Jesus came to save women. This of course implies that women need saving. But this also implies that God loves women. There is something gloriously unique and precious to God about a woman.
Building a Woman
Whereas the first man was made from the dust of the earth, the first woman was “built” from Adam’s rib (Gen. 2:21). Thus, from the beginning, woman was meant to be beautiful. She is an architectural feat, a work of divine art. Literally, the word “woman” is related to the word for fire, eeshah. As light is the first glory of creation (Gen. 1:3), and light is the radiance of God’s glory, the Divine Light that gives us sight (Ps. 36:9), so the woman is the light of the human race, or as Paul puts it, the “glory of man” (1 Cor. 11:7).
It is not until the woman is created that the Bible refers to Adam as a “man.” He does not become an eesh until an eeshah exists (Gen. 2:23). The glory of the woman lights up Adam. Even in Adam’s poetry, he is not merely relating the origin of the woman’s body but praising it with a comparative construction (Gen. 2:23). She’s a better version of him.
After God builds the first woman from Adam’s side, the same verb is used to describe building pagan cities five times (Nineveh and Babel) and twice it is used to describe building a faithless dynasty (Hagar and Bilhah). Otherwise, it is used seven times to describe building an altar to the Lord and once it is used for Jacob building himself a literal house.
Throughout the Old Testament the most frequent use of the word refers to building altars to the Lord, culminating in a prolific use in Solomon’s building of the temple and in the rebuilding of the city and temple in Ezra and Nehemiah. A woman is a house. The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish pulls it down with her own hands. Wisdom is a woman who builds her house on seven pillars (Pr. 9:1, 24:3). A woman is a house for beauty and wisdom.
A Woman is for Beauty
In context, Peter is giving specific instructions to women who are married to disobedient men (1 Pet. 3:1). But Peter’s exhortation rests on assumptions about the glory of women, namely that they are something to behold (1 Pet. 3:2). As it is today, there have always been cultural lies about what that beauty consists of, and the central lie has been that you can somehow divorce your external presentation from the contents of your heart (1 Pet. 3:2-5), which incidentally was the problem Israel had in the days of Isaiah (Is. 1:6-21).
This can go a couple different ways: some women are like pharisaical white-washed tombs, lots of outward adorning whether stylishly or religiously while there’s a rotting corpse on the inside. Others, for various reasons, determine that outward adornment doesn’t matter. Scripture certainly prioritizes inner beauty over outward adornment (e.g. Pr. 11:22), but this cannot be an excuse for rejecting the gifts of God or refusing to be gracious to others. Peter specifically instructs women to adorn themselves with a “gentle and quiet spirit” (1 Pet. 3:4).
He defends this as a worthwhile pursuit on the grounds that this adornment cannot be lost and it is worth the most to God. This kind of adornment is particularly manifested in married women submitting to their husbands (1 Pet. 3:5-6), but the particular virtue is a deep trust in God that is not afraid of anything and the kind of way of life that relies on the power of this beauty over words (1 Pet. 3:1). And it should be noted that all women ought to adorn themselves with this kind of beauty at all times. Confidence in God is altogether lovely.
A Woman is for Wisdom
Lady wisdom has built her house and set a feast, and she invites the simple to her table (Pr. 9:1-6). In the Old Testament, this is what Israel was for. The tabernacle and temple were built as glorious sources of the wisdom of God for the nations, and for a few minutes during the reign of Solomon, we saw a glimmer of this (1 Kgs. 4:29-34, 10:1-13).
Recall that “wisdom” is not some kind of esoteric mystery or a philosophy degree from the university. In the Bible, wisdom is given specifically for building houses (Ex. 31:3, 6, 35:26, 31, cf. Solomon), and wisdom builds houses that are flooding with life (Pr. 3:18, Eccl. 7:12). As a woman’s body is designed to give life, this constantly proclaims what she is for.
This often includes the glory of bearing children, but that is merely a season of life and a symbol of what all womanhood is for. If a man is called to live by dying, a woman is called to die by living. A home is a place where there is bread to strengthen hearts and wine to make hearts glad (Pr. 9:5). A home is a place where wholesome words are spoken like nourishing food because a perverse tongue is like poison (Pr. 15:4, 31:26). To be a woman is to be a life-giver, a nurturer, a place of rest because of your obedience to and your love of the Word of God.
This is the fear of the Lord (1 Pet. 3:2) which is the beginning of wisdom and a force for good to be reckoned with, as glorious and fearsome as an army streaming with banners (Song 6:4, 10). But the woman who forsakes the covenant of her God is building a house that leads down to death and Hell (Pr. 2:17-18, 9:18).
Restoration & Mission
There is not a woman in this room who has not fallen short of the glory of God. And though we decry any kind of double standard with regard to sin, given the greater glory of a woman, it seems natural to feel those failures more severely. But the greater the sin, the greater the grace: where sin has abounded, grace abounds still more.
Though Israel was unfaithful, Jeremiah says that virgin Israel will be rebuilt, and adorned with tambourines: she shall go forth with dancing (Jer. 31:4). In the prophets, it’s somewhat common to read of rebuilding Israel in the same breath as replanting gardens (Jer. 24:6, 29:5, 28, 31:28, 42:10). Though a woman was deceived and became a deceiver, it was in the womb of a woman who had never known a man that our Savior was conceived. It was to women in a garden, that our resurrected Lord first appeared. Jesus meets every woman at a well, and He offers to give her living water, so that she might be healed, and so that she might become living water for the world: a house, lovely and wise.