What "The Fear of the Lord is the Beginning of Wisdom" Means for Us Today

Contributing Writer
What "The Fear of the Lord is the Beginning of Wisdom" Means for Us Today

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction." Proverbs 1:7

What is wisdom and how do we receive it? Throughout antiquity, these have been the eternal questions on the lips of mankind. Adam and Eve were confronted with this question as they tried to resist the forbidden fruit. Israelite kings pleaded with God for wisdom during their reigns and Jesus proclaimed the answer as He climbed the mountain at Calvary.

All the people of the Bible needed knowledge and wisdom. There was no regard for stations in life. Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction." As one continues to read, they will come across Proverbs 9:10 which states “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Knowledge of the Lord through His word is the only way to gain wisdom. But where does fear enter into the equation? 

God’s Holy Word gives us the book of Proverbs to answer these questions. This book is filled with beautiful words of instruction that lead to obtaining wisdom in every area of one’s life. If there is a question, Proverbs has the answer.

What Is “The Fear of the Lord”

The words "fear the Lord" are probably three of the most misunderstood words. Our human minds go straight to the thought that the Lord is one to be scared of. We should watch our steps and hold our tongues because this “lord” will hurt us if we don’t. How far this is from the truth.

In the American Commentary on the Old Testament, George R. Berry writes that “the fear of the Lord is not a philosophy or speculation. It has to include a religious element.” The fear spoken of in these verses are relating to respect. Respect of the Lord means His followers are being aware of what is right and wrong and making a conscious effort to avoid evil. As believers, we want to obey and be pleasing in His sight. In the words of Charles Bridges, “the fear of the Lord is that affectionate reverence, by which the child of God bends himself humbly and carefully to his Father’s law.” 

How Does the Fear of the Lord Lead to Knowledge?

Knowledge is the facts, skills, and information one achieves through experience or education. Everyone has knowledge in certain areas. Just like a farmer has knowledge of the land, believers need knowledge of the Lord. To obtain this knowledge, we must be taught. Our teacher is the Lord. He teaches through His Word and Holy Spirit.

To fear the Lord leads us to respect Him and His laws. We learn how we are to act and even what we should say by fearing the Lord. This fear, or reverence, makes us think before we act or speak. As we gain knowledge, we gain wisdom. In the words of Bruce K. Waltke, “knowledge is inseparable from wisdom.” Waltke goes on to write in The New International Commentary on the Old Testament that to have wisdom means there is an “internalization of spiritual knowledge.” To have fear of the Lord is to have knowledge. How could one not fear the Lord when He begins to show them wisdom?

The Process of Gaining Wisdom

Three points stand out in verse 10. The first, is of course, fear. We see God as a father who wants his children to learn, grow, and apply these truths to every aspect of their lives. Secondly, we find conviction. When we have been going down the wrong path, we place a wedge between ourselves and the Father. Conviction opens our eyes to our current situation. It is a chance to turn away and begin anew on the right path. Lastly, we see repentance. Repentance is the turning away from sin. If we have a healthy dread of the consequences, then we are more likely to repent. This is the beginning of true wisdom.

Believers should fear the consequences of the heavenly Father, therefore leading them to make wise decisions in day-to-day tasks as well as the “big” decisions of life. To enter onto the right path, we must forsake the wrong path. Without the fear of consequence, one cannot get to a right place with God.

The Nature of the Bible Book of Proverbs

Proverbs is the twentieth book in the Bible. Primarily authored by the great King Solomon, it is a compilation of sayings and songs inspired by God. 1 Kings 4:29 tells us that God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding as vast as the sands on the seashore. Further down in verse 32 we learn that Solomon spoke 3,000 proverbs and 1,005 songs. King Solomon was a man of his time that had a close relationship with God, and the people of Israel knew this and listened.

Scribes in the court of King Hezekiah wrote down these proverbs in the 10th century B.C. The purpose was to provide instruction that would lead the people to a point of wisdom and a disciplined life.

Wolfgang Mieder, a professor at the University of Vermont, gave the following definition in an article on Forbes.com that seems fitting for this poetic book. He says, “A proverb is a concise statement of an apparent truth that had, has, or will have currency among the people.” Every word, phrase, and statement in this book has had and continues to have credence with those who make up our world. Proverbs 3:19 states that by wisdom God laid the earth’s foundations. He knew we would need wisdom to travel this earth and share His good news.

Wisdom in Proverbs 1-9

The first nine chapters of Proverbs focus on wisdom. In these chapters, we read of how to embrace wisdom, wisdom’s rebuke, benefits, and restoration of well-being. We also learn to obtain wisdom at all costs. Chapter eight focuses on the call of wisdom. The words strongly encourage believers to have open hearts and ears to listen when wisdom calls out.

Chapter nine is particularly helpful to the disciplined life of a believer. Throughout the entirety of chapter nine, the reader can almost hear the voice of King Solomon as he instructs his people about where wisdom originates. Verse 10 states “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

With humility, we must approach this verse. We cannot pass it over or discard its words. If one began reading Proverbs in the first chapter, then they would have already encountered this theme of wisdom. Proverbs 1:7 states “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” With knowledge comes wisdom. The first words of verse 10 remind the believer that no wisdom comes to us from our own doing. It can only come from God.

To further explain this point, we can find in Job 28:28 the following statement. “The fear of the Lord — that is wisdom…” Ecclesiastes 12:13 says “When all has been heard the conclusion of the matter is this: fear God and keep His commandments.” Paul tells believers in Corinth “It is from him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became wisdom from God to us – our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).

Wisdom can only come with a healthy fear of the Lord. Our reverence is demanded in our relationship with the Father.

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