Her Price is Above Rubies
“Seeing that his divine power hath granted unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that has called us by his own glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:3, RVIC).
— Micah Hess
In a directive to the Gospel Age church, the Apostle Peter uses the word “virtue” (Strong’s G703, arete, excellence) as the second step in our transformation. He informs us that God, through His divine power, gives us all the tools we need to develop character qualities that help us escape the world’s corruption.
Peter writes that faith and virtue begin the process of spiritual growth (2 Peter 1:5). As we grow stronger in faith and trust in God following spirit-begettal, we take on a new identity as God’s children and we enjoy the shelter of His mighty power (Matthew 11:28). They are the very beginning of the transformation of our character which enables us to “Walk in the Spirit,” resist the “lust of the flesh” and help make our “calling and election sure” (Galatians 5:16, 2 Peter 1:10‑11).
Prior to Peter’s directive, the faithful women of the Old Testament and the early Church had David’s words in the Old Testament to guide them toward virtue. “Trust in Jehovah, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on his faithfulness. Delight thyself also in Jehovah; And he will give thee the desires of thy heart” (Psalms 37:3‑4 RVIC).
Two individuals stand out among the examples of virtuous women in the Bible. While these two were virtuous in God’s eyes, the world saw them differently. In a study of their lives, we find that their success was tied to their identity as dear children of God.
Mary, Mother of Jesus
The mighty angel Gabriel introduces us to Mary, the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:26‑38). Gabriel astonished Mary with the news that God greatly favored her, which troubled and perplexed her. Her reaction was not a sign of doubt, but perhaps Mary was awestruck by Gabriel’s glory. Surely, she was not accustomed to receiving such high praise, especially from the heavenly courts of God. Mary’s concentrated wonder and awe at Gabriel’s message was an indication of her humility.
After reassuring Mary of God’s favor, Gabriel revealed the prophecy that he was sent to deliver: the momentous announcement of the Messiah. She was to be the mother of the one who would take up the mantle of the Davidic Kings, with no end to his kingdom. She was to be the mother of the Messiah, an honor for which Jewish women had long hoped and prayed.
Mary’s search for understanding included her inquiry of how it could happen since she had known no man. Here, Gabriel reveals to Mary that God’s divine power would make this miracle happen. Her son would not come from Joseph or any earthly father. Instead, her son would be the son of God, like Adam. God would send his holy Spirit upon Mary and thus fulfill this remarkable prophecy.
The angel Gabriel gently reminded Mary that there is nothing that God cannot accomplish (Luke 1:37). Mary’s final words to Gabriel are, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38 NASB95). In these words, we see the outward expression of Mary’s virtue, her trust and faith in God, and her complete submission to God’s will. But her path would not be easy. She surely had many more questions, but for now, she would receive God’s blessing with faith, based upon the angel Gabriel’s message from God.
Mary’s example of submission to God is poignant. Submission is not a virtue valued in our society. Instead, the world sees submission as a weakness. Like Mary, we know through scripture that submission to God’s word is the only way to find and live our true purpose. Submission is a critical step in our sanctification.
Mary shows us that finding purpose, with a life of fullness and joy, comes when we submit to the identity which God has given us in Christ. Mary’s purity of character (goodness with moral excellence) was recognized by God, and she was given the incredible honor of being the mother of our Lord and Savior. She responded to that honor with faith and humility.
Just a few months before this event, Gabriel had been sent to the father of John the Baptist. However, that encounter unfolded somewhat differently. Zacharias responded to Gabriel with disbelief, for which he was rendered mute until the birth of his son, John the Baptist.
Mary’s reaction to Gabriel could have been to believe that it was impossible for her to become miraculously pregnant. She could have doubted that such an honor could possibly be bestowed upon her. Instead, Mary chose the better path — a humble submission to the word of God. Through Mary’s submission to God’s will, grace and mercy would burst outwards toward the whole world.
Leah, in her tribulations, is another noteworthy example of virtue (Genesis 29:31‑35). She found herself amid a complicated set of circumstances; she was the least favored of the two wives of Jacob. We do not know to what degree she participated in Laban’s fraud against Jacob on his wedding night. She may have been a willing participant, or she may have been misled or forced by her father, too. But partially because of this deception, she had a damaged relationship with her husband. She was not loved by her husband. The emotional toll of this damaged relationship must have been devastating. Making matters even more difficult, her sister Rachel was now her direct competitor. The reality of two sisters married to the same man was not a wise arrangement and was later prohibited in the Mosaic Law (Leviticus 18:18).
God was not indifferent to Leah’s suffering (Genesis 29:31). As a show of His compassion and care for Leah, God blessed her with sons. This blessing was intended to ease her pain. Instead, it seems to have magnified her pain each time she bore a child; her heart hoped that she might earn Jacob’s love by bearing him children.
However, with the birth of each son, the hope of repairing her relationship with Jacob remained out of Leah’s reach. With the birth of her first son Reuben, she hoped that Jacob might love her since God had seen her plight and had given her a son. She continued to pour her heart out to God, and God heard her and saw that she was unloved. She was given another son named Simeon. Yet Jacob continued to withhold his love for her.
When a third son, Levi, was born, she again hoped for Jacob’s love. But we finally see a change for the better in Leah when her fourth son, Judah, is born. However, the change Leah experienced was not in Jacob’s love for her. Instead, it was in the way Leah received God’s blessing. Leah, rather than focusing on how God might help her gain the affection of Jacob, chose to orient herself towards God and utter his praise, saying “This time I will praise the Lord” (Genesis 29:35 NASB95). Leah was transformed by her total submission to God. Instead of trying to earn a man’s love, she decided to be satisfied with receiving God’s love.
While scripture does not give us insight into why this change occurred, Leah’s focus and hope shifted from Jacob to God. In the early years of her marriage to Jacob, her emotional turmoil could have burst out of her like a storm at any time. Instead, there was a measure of calm and serenity during her tumultuous experience (Genesis 29:35). We wonder how Leah could seem to navigate through this turmoil with grace, instead of drowning in it.
Leah survived and thrived by developing the strength of character (virtue) which concluded her sons were blessings from God. Instead of hoping she could use this blessing of God to earn the love of Jacob, she instead gratefully received the mercy and grace of God. This character transformation allowed her to take shelter in the true refuge of our heavenly Father, and it likely gave her some respite from her intense emotional wounds.
Leah’s transformed character did not end her troubles with Rachel and Jacob. The struggle for Jacob’s affection continued to plague their family. But her fitful experience and victory are a reminder to all that those who seek to build virtue must return to the refuge of God’s love for their strength and affirmation.
Leah’s example teaches us that virtue is not built overnight. Her experience teaches us that we may minimize worldly troubles by following the Good Shepherd’s voice, wherever it may lead us, to resist the world’s values and instead submit to God. We may gain strength from Mary’s and Leah’s examples as we walk the narrow way of sacrifice in humble submission toward the mountaintop of God’s spiritual kingdom and in the protection of His love.
Virtue, the Source of True Strength
Mary’s and Leah’s lives teach us to submit to God’s will in our lives. Their commitment to God shaped their character and strengthened their resolve with each question or disappointment. In Mary’s experience, virtue formed the very basis of her character, and her grace and favor in God’s eyes strengthened her resolve which she relied upon to guide her through difficult decisions. In Leah’s experience, her daily struggle chiseled and shaped the contour of her character until the rough edges of her human nature gave way to the will of God.
Our goal should be to let God’s righteousness permeate our character until we are transformed. The resulting spiritual character will slowly and steadily channel the strength and resilience of God’s word during our own sanctification process. Our goal should be our submission and obedience to the will of God. This spiritual character will become our new identity.
In the beginning and until the very end of a godly life, virtue (goodness of character with moral excellence) requires the careful study and application of God’s word. It will lead to our submission to God’s will, and it will strengthen our own resolve.
Mary and Leah showed how we may also receive strength and power which God promises to all His people (Proverbs 10:29, 2 Timothy 1:7).