“The Fear of the LORD”Categories: Proverbs
The thesis of the book of Proverbs is in 1:7 – “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” This is a major theme repeated throughout the book and is attached to various blessings. Solomon’s goal was to teach his children what it meant to be wise and use the knowledge acquired through life. But such information is nothing without an appropriate relationship with God.
We may think that wisdom comes through observation and experience. To some degree, this is correct. But Proverbs 20:12 puts our observations and experiences in their proper context – even they were created by God: “The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the LORD has made them both.” We are dependent on God for everything, even the ability to observe. This also helps us to understand what it means to fear the Lord.
The term translated “fear” can mean anything from “respect” and “awe” to “terror.” If we understand that we are dependent on God for even our seeing and hearing, then we are already in a good frame of mind to fear God. It is not merely respect, but it is not necessarily paralyzing terror either. It is an understanding that we are utterly dependent on God for everything. A recognition that He is the creator and we the creature. It is a recognition of our place in the order of things. We, like the Israelites, see the glory and fire of God on Mt. Sinai and we recognize what God can do. Imagine the smoke and fire descending around you. Imagine the thundering voice of the one who just ravaged Egypt speaking. Doesn’t that create fear? The Israelites told Moses to go and talk to God alone and whatever He said, they would do. If they had to hear His voice again, they thought they would die. Notice God’s response to this in Deuteronomy 5:24-29:
“And you said, ‘Behold, the Lord our God has shown us his glory and greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire. This day we have seen God speak with man, and man still live. Now therefore why should we die? For this great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the Lord our God any more, we shall die. For who is there of all flesh, that has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of fire as we have, and has still lived? Go near and hear all that the Lord our God will say, and speak to us all that the Lord our God will speak to you, and we will hear and do it.’ “And the Lord heard your words, when you spoke to me. And the Lord said to me, ‘I have heard the words of this people, which they have spoken to you. They are right in all that they have spoken. Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!”
It was not enough to know the Ten Commandments. It was not enough to have the Law of Moses. God had to be in the rightful place of their hearts. This is what Solomon has in mind when he says “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.” We must begin our search for wisdom in the correct place and that is at the feet of the LORD God!