It has been a while since I’ve blogged on this site, so I’m going back to the beginning of Proverbs.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction. – Proverbs 1:7
What does it mean to fear the Lord?
This is a difficult concept because God is love and he pours out his grace upon us. In particular, if we are saved, then we are free from condemnation and thus spared God’s ultimate wrath. How could I fear the one that sacrificed all He had so that I would be spared?
I think it has to do with perspective. Remember that God is the ultimate power in the universe and has at times showed the world how much He hates sin. He used a flood to wipe the Earth clean and start over with a fresh slate and He’ll come again in the end times to do the same (in a different sort of way). So there’s obviously a reverent respect that we should have for how dangerous the Lord could be. But again, what does that ultimately mean to me when I have the assurance of His salvation?
Answer: While salvation is assured, a comfortable life on Earth is never promised. Jesus has prepared for me a room in his Father’s house, but I’m still walking the road to get there, and there are are twists and turns and hills and valleys to go through along the way. I may stumble and fall. I may be beaten up along the way. I may wander off the road. Some of these things happen by chance, some of them are through sin, and some of them may just be God punishing me or “giving me over” to sin in little ways.
Think about it, if you disrespect authority, you could end up being disciplined by that authority. If you lie, you could get caught. If you get upset with someone, you could get into arguments (or worse) and wind up hurt (emotionally or physically). Each case is different and we cannot presume to know God’s motivations. But it makes sense that God would discipline us in any number of ways when we sin.
It comes back to the parent analogy. God is our Father, and fathers are responsible for teaching and guiding his children. That means he has to use discipline. Kids “fear” their parents even though they know that the parents (usually) have their best interests in mind and are in fact looking to help us. We should have that same attitude towards God.
A healthy fear of God produces an attitude of obedience which leads to a teachable heart and that is where we gain knowledge and ultimately wisdom. So only a fool rejects discipline. Or said another way, if you reject being taught, you’ll end up knowing nothing.
For bonus reading, see this link from Christianity Today. Here’s a snippet from William D. Eisenhower:
Unfortunately, many of us presume that the world is the ultimate threat and that God’s function is to offset it. How different this is from the biblical position that God is far scarier than the world …. When we assume that the world is the ultimate threat, we give it unwarranted power, for in truth, the world’s threats are temporary. When we expect God to balance the stress of the world, we reduce him to the world’s equal …. As I walk with the Lord, I discover that God poses an ominous threat to my ego, but not to me. He rescues me from my delusions, so he may reveal the truth that sets me free. He casts me down, only to lift me up again. He sits in judgment of my sin, but forgives me nevertheless. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but love from the Lord is its completion.