Proverbs 1.7 says the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” Let’s begin the month of August by looking into the book of Proverbs to see all of the wonderful things God stored for us there.
The Introductory Verses
The first six verses of Proverbs serve as an introduction to the rest of the book. There are lots of important words there: wisdom, instruction, insight, righteousness, and justice, just to name a few. One day in the future, will come back and look at these words more deeply, but right now, let them serve as markers for what the book of Proverbs contains. We are seeking for God’s justice, righteousness, and wisdom. We want to know how God would have us live our lives. Seeking this information is what will allow us to bring him glory and draw us closer to him.
The Fear of the Lord
The word “fear” literally means something that is terrifying. I’ve always heard my entire life that we shouldn’t really “be afraid” of God. But, I think God has chosen this word precisely because we should be afraid of him. Why use the word “terror” if he doesn’t expect us to be at least a little bit afraid?
This doesn’t mean, necessarily, that we are afraid God is going to do bad things to us. It most definitely means, however, that we know God could do bad things to us. He is a “consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). In Leviticus 10:2, fire comes out from before the Lord and consumes Nadab and Abihu. In Numbers 16:35, fire again comes out from the Lord and consumes 250 people Korah’s rebellion. Certainly, the Lord can destroy his adversaries.
So our fear becomes respect because we know it is entirely possible for the Lord to consume us in judgment. This knowledge should compel us to be faithfully obedience to the Lord’s wishes. This is a lot like the way people respect dangerous animals, like rattlesnakes and grizzly bears, and keep their distance because they know what the animal can do. It is also like a young child who speaks carefully and ask respectfully toward his father because he knows the father can and will punish him for disobedience.
The Beginning and Not the End
It’s important to note the word “beginning”. We cannot stay terrified of God. While this might be a good beginning place, this is not a place where we should stay for very long. If our terror of God’s judgment drives us forward in seeking to learn how to obey, in seeking God’s wisdom we will find his grace, love, and mercy. These wonderful gifts from God will cause us to love him in return. Then our relationship with our father is based on respect, admiration, and love, not fear.
This is one of the great gifts of seeking God’s wisdom and knowledge. The more we learn about God, the more precious he becomes to us. As God becomes more precious to us, the more diligently we seek to obey and follow his will. The more diligently we seek to follow him, the further judgment is removed from us. The further judgment is removed, the more we will love and seek him. A beautiful cycle that builds itself up in love is begun by first seeking the Lord out of fear.
This is why we need to study the book of Proverbs. It has God’s wisdom all throughout it, from the beginning to the end. God always wants what is best for us (Deuteronomy 6:24), and he shows us repeatedly what we should be doing. Even better, he often tells us why we should be doing it. This gives us not only the “what” of obedience, but also the “why” of obedience. When we understand why we do things, we are much more likely to do them with zeal and joy.
Let’s be people who seek God’s wisdom and instruction. My prayer is that we will grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18) and draw closer to God every day as we read and study his wisdom.