I’ve been studying through Proverbs lately, and I wanted to share a bit of what has enouraged me from it. Something that is so striking is this continuous heralding of “the fear of the Lord”. But I had to stop and ponder these words more deeply. What is it to feafr the Lord?
1 To know wisdom and instruction,
to understand words of insight,
3 to receive instruction in wise dealing,
in righteousness, justice, and equity;
4 to give prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the youth—
Here we have such a beautiful invitation! The simple and the young alike can learn this wisdom. We who were once all foolish can learn to live and walk in wise ways of righteousness, justice, equity, prudence, and discretion. These aren’t words our culture uses very often, but just pause for a moment and think about the meaning of each (if you don’t know, look them up by the links above.) The Proverbs are inviting us into these beautiful amazing characteristics as a way of life. The question is will we listen? Will we incline our ears to receive such instruction that God is offering?
From the very beginning the foundation is laid…. this wisdom begins in the heart, not the mind. All the sayings and teachings in the world will go in one ear and out the other if not for this primary foundation:
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction. -vs 7
and we will see it again in Proverbs 9:10
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
So the question quickly comes for the thinking person, what exactly is “the fear of the Lord”? This is obviously very important to know. Is it being afraid like running and hiding, is it fear in the way the world thinks of fear? Or is it something else?
I love the way Charles Bridges describes it in his commentary on the Proverbs:
But what is this fear of the Lord? It is that affectionate reverence, by which the child of God bends himself humbly and carefully to his Father’s law. His wrath is so bitter, and his love so sweet; that hence springs an earnest desire to please him, and—because of the danger of coming short from his own weakness and temptations—a holy watchfulness and fear, “that he might not sin against Him” (Heb 12:28, 29). This enters into every exercise of the mind, every object of life (Prov 23:17).
“Affectionate reverence”, I could not think of a better way to say it! It is love and honor that is at work in the fear of the Lord. There is also an understanding of the terror of His wrath and the sweetness of His mercy and love. This understanding and reverence will have an effect on every area of our lives. In another book I am currently reading called “Fear and Faith” by Trillia J. Newbell, the fear of the Lord is described by her in this way:
The fear of the Lord…. is to be understood as an awe and reverence of God, because we know that “the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods” (Psalm 95:3). The fear of the Lord starts in the heart. The outward expression of the fear of the Lord is obedience and fellowship and worship. Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised. The response to His awesomeness is to bow down in worship: “Oh come let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!” (Psalm 95:6). Practically speaking the fear of the Lord is manifested in obedience. During times when I am tempted to sin but don’t, it isn’t because of a natural inclination to do good; actually, Paul had it right when he said that when we desire to do good, sin is right there knocking on the door (see Romans 7:21). I obey the Lord because I have His Spirit, and I desire to honor Him. I fear Him. To fear the Lord is not to be scared of Him. It’s to adore Him. Worship Him. Honor Him. It’s to put Him in the right place in our thinking.
For the Christian, this is beautiful and rings true in our hearts. We can relate to this as we read these descriptions because the fear of the Lord has been placed within us by the Lord Himself. It is a work He has done, and will continue to perfect. One day when we see Jesus and bow before His throne in Heaven the work He began in us will be completed and we will have a joy-filled, perfect fear of the Lord. Between now and then, He will be teaching us the fear of the Lord through His Word and by the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and we should willingly desire and pray for more of it.
The Fear of the Lord brings Blessing
Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind! -Psalm 31:19
He will bless those who fear the LORD, both the small and the great. -Psalm 115:13
The fear of the Lord brings blessing, this may mean earthly blessing like avoiding the many pitfalls and consequences of sin, but it a more real sense it means the blessing and favor of the Lord on our souls. Because of this, we know that the fear of the Lord is something that is only in the heart of the true believer, because unbelievers do not receive the blessing of God’s favor. The non-Christian does not know the fear of the Lord, he/she may fear consequences of sin and might even fear God’s wrath at times, but the unbeliever does not fear the Lord in the right way, in the way that leads to repentance and obedience, in a way that leads to wisdom and blessing. This is why the non-Christian does not listen to or heed wise instruction. Charles Bridges puts it like this:
Why then do multitudes around us despise wisdom and instruction? Because the beginning of wisdom—the fear of God—is not “before their eyes” (Psa 36:1). They know not its value. They scorn its obligation. Wise they may be in their own sight. But surely God here gives them their right name. For fools they must be, to despise such a blessing (Jer 8:9); to rush into willful ruin (Pro 1:22, 24-32; 1Sam 2:25; 1Ki 12:13; Jer 36:22-32); to treasure up work for despairing repentance (Pro 5:12, 13; 29:1). Good Lord! May thy childlike fear be my wisdom, my security, my happiness!
How my heart agrees and echoes his prayer:
It is right that we would ask the Lord to increase our knowledge of Him, the Holy One; and to increase our fear of Him. The fear of the Lord is a good and glorious thing, and not only that, but it is as we see here in this Proverb, the beginning of wisdom. We can not hope to apply the wisdom taught in the Proverbs apart from this.
Lord, Increase our fear of You that we may walk in wisdom and receive your blessing.
If you are interested in reading the two quoted materials, you can find them here:
and the book “Fear and Faith: Finding the Peace Your Heart Craves” by Trillia Newbell (affiliate link)