>The Wisdom in Fearing God

>July 24, 2009

Proverbs 1:7 is an extremely popular and oft quoted verse where Solomon writes, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The placement of this truth at the beginning of the book of Proverbs is no coincidence on the part of Solomon. Everything in the rest of the book is couched in the idea that wisdom is rooted in fearing God. I would like to present a few ways that the fear of the Lord should be present in our minds and hearts.

1. Terror at the wrath and judgment of God against sin.
The transliterated Hebrew word for “fear” in Proverbs 1:7 is “yir-ah.” It does not usually mean “reverence”; it usually means “terror.” So consider: what has God said He is going to do about the sinful and the wicked?

“…and He shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips He shall kill the wicked” (Isa. 11:4b).
“For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law” (Romans 2:12).
“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8).

God will harshly deal with sin in that He will destroy those who act wickedly. When we understand the severity of His judgment, then we understand the depth of His love and grace in forgiving us our sins. Our understanding of God’s mercy will only be as deep as our understanding of His coming judgment on the wicked since we are deserving of that judgment. Yet God, being so immeasurably rich in mercy, delivered us from His own righteous judgment through Christ Jesus (see Ephesians 2:1-10).

2. Fear of God keeps us from doing evil.
Proverbs 16:6 reads, “By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by fear of the Lord one turns away from evil.” A proper fear of God turns the believer from sinful actions. When we are terrified of how God deals with those who commit evil deeds, we will not walk in them. This is absolutely necessary since we who died to sin should no longer live in it (Romans 6:2). Being fearful of how God deals with sin is intensely practical. Are you struggling with a particular sin? Perhaps it is lust, pride, covetousness, lying, or stealing. God detests those things and is going to judge those who do them. Meditate on that and see if the desire to sin persists. I do not believe that it will.

3. The love of God is poured out on those who fear Him.
Psalm 103:11 proclaims, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him.” Fear of God puts our hearts in a posture of humility toward Him. When we realize that we are deserving of His righteous wrath, then we are to receive His abundant grace. Repentance and humility are God’s criteria for salvation and eternal life. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psa. 51:17). God will not despise or reject those who come to Him in true repentance for their wickedness. In fact, they are the ones He takes for Himself, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies. Fear God so that He may overwhelm you with His steadfast love!

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