Polished Palace Pillars - Strength and Beauty
Psalm 144: 12 Let our sons in their youth be as grown-up plants, And our daughters as corner pillars fashioned as for a palace; (NAS95)
Psalm 144 paints a picture of our sons as grown-up plants and our daughters as cornerstones or corner-pillars, fit for a palace. The picture of sons makes sense – they should be mature, healthy, fruit-producing plants, not weeds or thorns. But I’ve always been somewhat mystified by the metaphor for daughters. Nice picture, I’ve always thought, imagining the Porch of the Caryatids on the Erechtheum, a temple on the Acropolis in Athens, though I wasn’t altogether sure this was exactly what the imagery implied.
Thanks to Nancy Wilson’s excellent CD set on Mothers and Daughters, I now have a better understanding of this beautiful word picture. In a nutshell, our daughters ought to exemplify both strength and beauty. Think of a column or cornerstone, Mrs. Wilson says. What does it need to do? It shares in bearing the weight of the building. Our (older) daughters (and we ourselves) ought to be able to bear much weight. Women do this by serving the church and one another. To see what this resembles, take a look at I Tim. 5: 9,10 which lists the qualifications for a woman to be put on the list of widows:
I Tim 5: 9 A widow is to be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, 10 having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints' feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work.
By doing these things – good works, bringing up children, showing hospitality to strangers, washing the feet of the saints, and assisting those in distress – a woman bears the weight of the needs of the church, the body of Christ. These are things we ought to do ourselves, and the very things we ought to encourage our daughters to do so she can be a pillar or cornerstone.
One more thought about helping our daughters develop strength so she will be able to bear weight. As parents of little ones, we do all we can to protect them from dangers and difficulties. This is good and right. But as our children grow, we need to gradually stop protecting them from every situation in life that makes things hard and instead teach them to rely on God.
But that’s not all. This pillar is not merely strong and functional, sturdy but ugly. No! It is also beautiful, carved or fit as for a palace! Beauty begins on the inside and works its way out. (I Peter 3: 3,4). We need to help our daughters grow in beauty – first by developing a gentle and quiet spirit, but also by helping them to be attractive and feminine, or as Nancy Wilson says, “Attractive without attracting.” Adjectives that come to mind that characterize beautiful, strong women include these: noble, graceful, poised, stately, dignified, pure, and lovely. Not exactly a caryatid standing for centuries frozen in stone, but a God-fearing woman who pours out her life in service to her family and church. Now that’s a picture I can wrap my brain around!
Proverbs 31: 30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.
When we see our daughters well-established and stayed with wisdom and discretion, as corner-stones are fastened in the building,--when we see them by faith united to Christ, as the chief cornerstone, adorned with the graces of God's Spirit, which are the polishing of that which is naturally rough, and become women professing godliness,--when we see them purified and consecrated to God as living temples, we think ourselves happy in them. (Matthew Henry)