Proverbs 9:10 (NIV)
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
Our Verse of the Day is one we have studied before; but perhaps, the Lord wants us to review it again. And today I sense there is a need to distinguish the concept of “fear” as it is applied here in this wisdom literature because we can confuse the use and application of this word without its some context.
The first use of the word translated “fear” in the Bible occurs in Genesis 3:10, “He (Adam) answered, “I heard you (the Lord) in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” In this context, the traditional meaning of “fear” is recognized because Adam described himself as “afraid”. The definition here is “a feeling induced by perceived danger or threat that occurs within us and which causes a change in metabolic and organ functions and ultimately a change in behavior; such as fleeing, hiding, or freezing from perceived traumatic events.” In short, fear is a response to the perception of a danger or threat to the body or life. But this is not the type of response God desires in us when it comes to an intimate relationship with Him. In this respect, God tells us: “Do not fear … do not be afraid.” (Cf. Isaiah 41:13,14; 43:1,5; 44:2,8; 51:7,12; 54:4,14)
So then, what is the “fear of the Lord” as used in our verse? Used as a noun this context, “fear” refers to profound reverence, awe, and wonder toward God. This concept of “fear” finds its expression through worship, submission, and obedience. Consider Exodus 20:20 where we see both uses of this word: “Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” Moses asserts that our understanding of who God “is” and a reverent relationship with Him should keep us from sinning against Him. Likewise, in Deuteronomy 6:13, Moses admonishes the people: “You shall fear the Lord your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name.” I believe we can infer from these passages that “the fear of the Lord” will ultimately find its deepest expression as “love” for God. As Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commands.” (Cf. John 14:15) Therefore, worship, submission, and obedience are the proper responses of love.
I think the Holy Spirit wants us to heed what these Scriptures are saying. It is important for us to understand that we will not find or obtain the wisdom of God until we fear Him. Until we hold God with deepest reverence in our hearts and believe Him at His Word, the knowledge and understanding that we need to submit to Him will fail to penetrate our hearts or change them. This is why we most assuredly need Jesus Christ to abide in us! For He is the power of God and the wisdom of God! And He has chosen us out of the world to follow Him and to worship Him.
I believe the question to ask yourself is this: “Do I truly fear God?” Consider this verse: “Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” (Cf. Job 1:8) Do you think God would characterize you with those words? Over and over in Scripture, we are admonished to fear the Lord, yet I wonder if we truly do…. Jesus shared some strong words for the hypocrisy of “religious” people:
Luke 12:1-5 (NIV)
1 Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak to His disciples, saying: “First of all, be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 3 What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs. 4 “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him.”
What is the application for us? Our worship of the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ should be in Spirit and in Truth! (Cf. John 4:23-25) Indeed, holy fear, awe, and reverence for God, whether genuine or insincere, will be manifested in our behavior and conduct. It should be authentic and without hypocrisy. As Paul wrote: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a person sows, that he will also reap.” (Cf. Galatians 6:7) Likewise, we find a similar admonition from James:
James 3:13-17 (NIV)
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.
Well, I hope your thoughts are stirred; and I pray that each of us will spend some time in meditation to focus on what it means to “fear” God. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom for this life. Through wisdom we gain understanding of the awesome majesty, power, and holiness of God. Yes, we come to know His Will … as revealed through His commandments. And then, submission and obedience will ultimately be our expression of love for Him. As Solomon concluded: “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.” (Cf. Ecclesiastes 12:13)