A new world order

Looking past the captivity of Judah, Isaiah saw a time when God’s people would be transformed into heroes of faith. God was going to take the nation of Israel in a new direction, one that would require his people to re-grasp the situation and exert an effort to do the opposite of what came natural to them. In order to demonstrate the eternal nature of his kingdom, God intended to let Jerusalem be destroyed and rebuilt in a whole new fashion.

Isaiah introduced a new world order that would be based on repentance. He began his message by stating, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God” (Isaiah 40:1). The Hebrew word translated comfort, nâcham (naw – kham´) means to sigh or to be sorry (5162). Nacham is translated as both comfort and repent with regards to a turning point in a person’s life. The first mention of this word is in Genesis 5:29 where Noah is listed as the son of Lamech. It says, “And he called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the LORD has cursed.”

It could be said that comfort or repentance is the sign of a new beginning, a fresh start in life. Isaiah linked this new beginning to the point in time when God’s punishment of Jerusalem was finished. Isaiah stated, “Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she hath received of the LORD’s hand double for all her sins” (Isaiah 40:2). Immediately following this statement, Isaiah established Jerusalem’s new beginning as the launch of the Messiah’s ministry on earth (Isaiah 40:3).

John the Baptist quoted Isaiah 40:3 when he declared Jesus to be the Messiah. It says in Matthew 3:1-3:

In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom  of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

John’s reference to repentance was intended to convey the idea that individual action was necessary to become a member of God’s kingdom. God’s work was no longer about saving the nation of Israel as a whole, but about the individual people of God turning to him in order to receive salvation.

The new world order that Jesus came to establish was based on a personal relationship with God. Prior to Jesus’ arrival on earth, no one had seen God face to face. Isaiah revealed that the LORD would come to his people and be seen not only by then, but by everyone (Isaiah 40:5). The evidence that God was present would be a supernatural power that would enable those with faith to exercise divine strength to undergo trials and persecutions on behalf of God’s divine kingdom. Isaiah said about believers, “But they that wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

The good wife

Very little of the Bible focuses on the lives of women. There are only two short books, Esther and Ruth, completely dedicated to the lives of women. Therefore, Proverbs 31:10-31 is an important portion of scripture because it clearly portrays the characteristics of a godly woman. What surprises me the most about the description is that it is so contrary to what I have seen and been taught in the churches I have attended. Perhaps that is why this section of Proverbs 31 begins with the question, Who can find a virtuous woman?

The Hebrew word translated virtuous in Proverbs 31:10 is chayil (khah´ – yil). It is the same word translated strength in Proverbs 31:3 where it says, “Give not thy strength unto women.” “Chayil means strength; power; wealth; property; capable; valiant; army; troops; influential; upper-class people. This word signifies a faculty or ‘power,’ the ability to effect or produce something. This word is used of physical ‘strength’ in the sense of power that can be exerted (2428). Most people think of power in the context of a position that one holds, such as President of the United States, but the context of power in the virtuous woman is work, physical labor. The only woman in the Bible associated with chayil is Ruth, who worked in the field of Boaz to support herself and her mother-in-law Naomi, a widowed Israelite.

It says of the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31:17, “She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms” and in verse 25, “strength and honour are her clothing.” Some of the activities of the virtuous woman are “working willingly with her hands (vs 13); she considereth a field, and buyeth it (vs 16); she maketh fine linen, and selleth it (vs 24); she openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness” (vs 26). I think an appropriate one-word description of the virtuous woman is industrious or prosperous. It is important to note that the virtuous woman is a wife and mother. It says in Proverbs 31 that “the heart of her husband doth safely  trust in her” (vs 11) and “her children arise up, and call her blessed” (vs 28).

One of the misconceptions I had when I was married was that a good wife’s primary responsibility was to take care of her husband’s sexual needs. My ex-husband once told me the reason that he married me was so he wouldn’t have to pay for sex. Today, it seems like most women are concerned with the way they look; attracting a man sexually is very important to them. It says in Proverbs 31:30 that “favour is deceitful and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.” If I ever get married again, I want to be a good wife, but instead of focusing on my sexy 60 year old body, I expect the man I marry to be impressed with the balance in my bank account.


Proverbs 31 is attributed to king Lemuel’s mother. The name translated Lemuel means “belonging to God” and is believed to be a symbolic name of Solomon (3927). If so, then the prophecy came from Bath-sheba, the woman king David had an affair with. Proverbs 31 deals with the role of women in Solomon’s life. In verses 2 – 3, Solomon’s mother warns him against having a large harem and sexual immorality. “What, my son?  and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows. Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings.” Repetition of the what question three times indicates a tone of rebuke and concern for Solomon’s awareness of his problem. Today we might say something like, What are you doing? Have you lost your mind?

Solomon’s approach to marriage was to treat it like a business transaction. Many of his wives were acquired by forming alliances with neighboring nations. In order to maintain peace, Solomon lived a double life. Three times a year, Solomon offered burnt offerings and peace offerings on the altar he built for the LORD (1 Kings 9:25), but he also “went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians” (1 Kings 11:5) and built a high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab (1 Kings 11:7). Solomon’s compromise resulted in the LORD taking away the majority of the kingdom from David’s descendants (1 Kings 11:11-13).

The  phrase that Solomon’s mother used, “give not thy strength unto women” (Proverbs 31:3) implies that Solomon’s wives were given power or control over the nation of Israel. In some way, they were influencing the course of Israel’s history. From an extreme perspective, Solomon’s foreign wives erased many of king David’s accomplishments. David and his army fought many years to gain control over Israel’s enemies. Solomon’s decision to worship his foreign wives’ gods made it seem as if his strength was coming from multiple sources and God was no longer calling the shots.

Exercise for the soul

Physical exercise is a relatively new concept in America. If you remember Jack LaLanne, then you know that in the 1960’s there were not many people that believed they needed regular physical exercise and fitness centers were exclusive clubs for the rich and famous. The information age has turned the majority of people into couch potatoes that rarely break a sweat without an intentional effort. It takes work to keep your body strong, especially if you want to be active in your later years.

Speaking to the LORD in Psalm 138, David said, “In the day when I cried thou answeredest me, and strengthened me with strength in my soul” (Psalm 138:3). The word soul or nephesh in Hebrew is also translated as life and person (5315). The word nephesh is derived from the word naphash which means to breathe (5314), so you could say in one sense that naphash refers to having breath in you or being alive.

When David said that the LORD strengthened him with strength in his soul, he meant that the LORD gave him a sense of vitality and exuberance toward life. The Hebrew word translated strength is also translated as power, might, and boldness (5797). In order for David to be strong in his soul, he had to exercise, he had to do what the LORD instructed him to do in his word.

David not only listened to the LORD, he did what the LORD told him to do, even when it seemed impossible. David said, “Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it” (Psalm 139:5-6). The word translated wonderful, paliy is derived from the word pala which means to be beyond one’s ability to do (6381). David did not let the thought of impossibility stop him from doing what the LORD asked him to do. David realized that “although something may appear impossible to man, it still is within God’s power” (6381).

The thing that motivated David to exercise his soul was an awareness that God knew and understood him completely. David said, “O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and my uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways” (Psalm 139:1-3).

Thinking of the LORD as the trainer of his soul, David was willing to yield his life to the expert. David knew that the LORD wanted him to be a mighty warrior on the inside as well as on the outside. “The Hebrew system of thought does not include the opposition of the terms ‘body’ and ‘soul,’ which are really Greek and Latin in origin. The Hebrew compares/contrasts ‘the inner self’ and ‘the outer appearance’ or, as viewed in a different context, ‘what one is to oneself’ as opposed to ‘what one appears to be to one’s observers.’ The goal of Scriptures is to make the inner and outer consistent (5315).