The Fear of the Lord
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (v. 7).- Proverbs 1:1–7
God used Solomon at various points in his life while he was fixed on pleasing Him to give His people much of the Old Testament wisdom literature. He wrote most of the book of Proverbs and is traditionally regarded as the author of Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon. The passage selected for today’s study is the core truth expressed in all the wisdom literature and, indeed, is found expressed in various ways throughout the Bible. Fundamental to salvation is the truth that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov. 1:7).
The kind of fear that Solomon is talking about is not the same thing as the fear of harm from an enemy or other dangers. To be sure, all unregenerate people should have that kind of fear of the Creator, for His holiness will bring judgment upon all impenitent people (Rev. 21:6–8). Yet the fear of the Lord described in Proverbs 1:7 is the fear of a converted person, a reverent love that understands God’s grace toward the sinner who trusts Christ and who wants to do what is pleasing to the Lord. This kind of fear recognizes the Lord’s character and His holy love. C.S. Lewis’ illustration of this love in The Problem of Pain helps us understand the kind of fear we should have toward our God. His love is not “a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, nor the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, nor the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests.” Instead, it is “the consuming Fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist’s love for his work and despotic as a man’s love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father’s love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes.” This description of God’s love is thoroughly biblical and moves us to see ourselves for who we are, to look for cleansing, and to worship Him in His purity and grace (see Isa. 6:1–5; John 20:24–28).
To those who have such fear, God gives saving knowledge of His kingdom (Matt. 13:10–17). Those who forsake this knowledge are fools who despise wisdom and understanding (Prov. 1:1–7). Such persons are unable to recognize the fullest expression of the Creator’s Wisdom in our Savior (1 Cor. 1:24) who is revealed to us in the foolishness of the cross, which is, paradoxically, the wisdom of God unto salvation.
In our casual culture we must take care that we always have a reverent fear of the Lord. While Jesus has made us His friends (John 15:15), we need to remember that His friendship is like none other, for He is worthy of our worship and praise. Meditating on the holiness and grace of God can help us maintain a reverent fear of Him, and we should take care in our speech how we speak of Him. As we reverence Him, He will give us wisdom.
Passages for Further Study