Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Beginning of Knowledge

The fear of the LORD [is] the beginning of knowledge,
Proverbs 1:7 NKJV

“A little fear is a good thing.” Have you ever heard those words? I actually heard it quite a lot as I grew up because most every job I ever had involved the use of some sort of tool or machinery that could inflict some major pain if used improperly. I can remember those words coming from my father on more than one occasion and as you might expect, there were times that I forgot or chose to ignore them and paid the price with a little pain and suffering.

Of course, many of us have had the experience of comforting our children when they were afraid of the dark, or had a bad dream that scared them in the middle of the night. These are the sort of thoughts that came to mind when I first read these words as a young believer, and I naturally wondered about them and what they might mean. As children of God, are we really being told that we need to “fear” our heavenly Father in this passage from Proverbs?

The Hebrew word translated for fear is "yir’ah", which can mean the kind of fear you and I are thinking, but also means “respect or reverence”. Now back when I was younger, I was not being told to actually “be afraid” of the tools I was using, but rather to respect the power that they had. In the context of this passage in Proverbs, where Solomon is speaking as a father to his son, I think the message to us is the same as the one I received from my father. We are not to be “afraid” of our heavenly Father, but rather to respect and reverence Him for who He is and for what He has done for us.

As I began to read through the book of Proverbs, not only did I find this advice repeated, but I found myself actually looking for passages containing this admonition because it became apparent that along with the instruction to fear came a very good reason to do so. I can recall being told that if I respected the tools in my hand I could count on keeping my hand. As I began my apprenticeship as a carpenter, I saw a lot of scars and missing fingers on those who failed to respect the power of “Mr. Saw”.

So today I thought I would share just a few reasons why Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, said we should “fear the Lord”.

The fear of the LORD [is] the beginning of knowledge, [But] fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 1:7 NKJV

To me personally, the key word here is “beginning”. Wisdom starts with acknowledging where it all comes from in the first place. God is the creator of everything, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that respecting Him as the author of everything that exists is the starting point for acquiring knowledge. Also, what does that say about those who hold a different belief on the origin of life? Paul tell us in Romans 1:22 that “Professing to be wise, they became fools”.

The fear of the LORD prolongs days, But the years of the wicked will be shortened.
Proverbs 10:27 NKJV

I have to admit that I have arrived at the point in my life where I start to wonder just how long God is going to allow me to hang around. I had lunch a couple of weeks ago with one of my oldest friends and we both laughed as we admitted that on occasion we looked at the obituaries in the paper and noticed people younger than us were passing on. What Solomon tells us here is that not only does the fear of the Lord result in wisdom, but it will also result in our being here longer than if we chose not to respect Him.

The fear of the LORD [leads] to life, And [he who has it] will abide in satisfaction; He will not be visited with evil.
Proverbs 19:23 NKJV

The Hebrew word for satisfaction is “sabea”, which means “full or satisfied” as if you just finished your Thanksgiving meal. I hate to admit just how much I enjoy a good meal, and I’m sure I am not alone. We can all probably admit to having this feeling once or twice and Solomon tells us in this verse that we can have that exact same feeling every day of our lives if we but acknowledge God as the creator and the provider of all we need.

By humility [and] the fear of the LORD [Are] riches and honor and life.
Proverbs 22:4 NKJV

How many really smart people have you known in your life? You know the sort I’m talking about; those who people always go to for answers because they know if anyone can solve the problem, they can. I have always wondered what it was like for Solomon to be the wisest man who ever lived. Did he actually know he was? If he did, did it go to his head? I think we have the answer to that in this verse where he tells us that humility and the fear of the Lord should go hand in hand. How easy is it for us to want to “share” our wisdom with others for all the wrong reasons? We only need to look at the life of Jesus to see what Solomon is trying to tell us here. Jesus Christ was God in flesh, yet was by example, the most humble man who ever walked this earth. Riches, honor, and life come from humility, not pride and arrogance.

Do not let your heart envy sinners, But [be zealous] for the fear of the LORD all the day; For surely there is a hereafter, And your hope will not be cut off.
Proverbs 23:17-18 NKJV

Isn’t it a shame that we as humans so often want what we want right now? Our focus so often is this life and the things we think we need in order to consider ourselves “successful”? The truth is that the things we think we need are simply the window dressing we want in order to affect how others see us. Because of that we are often jealous of what others have, be it possessions, status, or money. However Solomon tells us that our priority should be focusing on our respect and reverence of God every minute of every day. As you go through this next week try to practice this by constantly reminding yourself that God is behind absolutely everything you see, everything that happens, and everything you receive. This is the beginning of knowledge!

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