Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent
Following the arc featuring the “story” of Lady Wisdom and Ms. Folly, we notice a stylistic change in the book of wisdom, ostensibly collected by King Solomon. Beginning in chapter ten, King Solomon wields a shotgun and pelts us with wisdom’s birdshot. Manufacturers make birdshot by packing numerous steel or tungsten balls into a cartridge. The steel balls scatter when fired. This design increases the likelihood of striking a flying bird and keeps game fowl from being completely obliterated by the shot.
So, beginning with Proverbs 10, the reader is confronted with numerous truths that do not form a cohesive narrative like Lady Wisdom and Miss Folly but are practical words of wisdom that enrich life. As a result, it is often best to approach the rest of Proverbs as a topical study. “The fear of the Lord” is an excellent place to start our topical overview of Proverbs. Solomon defined fear of the Lord as the beginning of knowledge and wisdom (Proverbs 1.7; 9.10).
As with the word “fool,” the Biblical definition of “fear” is not what one typically associates with the term. I oft tout Webster’s original 1828 dictionary since it often frames words within a Biblical context. Here is Webster’s subentry for the word “fear.”
“In scripture, fear is used to express a filial or a slavish passion. In good men, the fear of God is a holy awe or reverence of God and his laws, which springs from a just view and real love of the divine character, leading the subjects of it to hate and shun every thing that can offend such a holy being, and inclining them to aim at perfect obedience. This is filial fear
I will put my fear in their hearts. Jeremiah 32.39.
Slavish fear is the effect or consequence of guilt; it is the painful apprehension of merited punishment. Romans 8.15.
The love of God casteth out fear 1 John 4.1.”
Regarding the beginning of knowledge and wisdom, we understand that this is because we respect and revere God. We acknowledge His authority and thus trust His knowledge and judgment. Beyond its role in enlightening us, the fear of the Lord will accomplish other positive things as well.
We will hate evil. (Proverbs 8.13).
One cannot truly despise evil without also cherishing good, and just as an aversion to wrongdoing motivates people to turn away from it, so does a desire to do what is right in God’s eyes. In this context, “fear of the Lord” refers to the essence of religious practice.
We will prolong life. (Proverbs 10.27)
Mature individuals can recall numerous cases of the wicked whose lives were cut short and ended due to their evil actions—fatalities caused by drunk drivers, robbers who police have shot, adulterers killed by cuckolded husbands, etc.
We have strong confidence and a fountain of life. (Proverbs 14.26-27)
The traps of death include not only the pitfalls and dangers of our current lives on Earth but also the unfathomable terrors of the “second death.” James Moffat translated the Scriptures in 1929 and rendered the passage: “Reverence for the Eternal is a fount of life; it shows how to avoid the nets of Death.” He capitalized the “d” in “death” to show that it was eternal condemnation.
The fear of the Lord will prompt us to depart from evil. (Proverbs 16.6)
No matter how well done, mercy and truth cannot save people from sin unless genuine repentance and a change of heart toward God’s will accompany them. People refrain from doing bad things because they are afraid of the Lord, and this fear affects them. Those with holy fear and reverence for God in their hearts will not sin against him.
We will have a satisfying life, spared from much evil. (Proverbs 19.23)
According to this verse, the only way to be “satisfied” is to fear and serve God. On the tomb of William Rockefeller in New York’s Tarrytown Cemetery, there is a quote from Augustine that reads, “Our souls, O God, were made for Thee, and never shall they rest until they rest in Thee.” Men will never find happiness elsewhere, no matter how hard they try. Only in Jesus Christ can we find the fullness of life that God provides.
We will enjoy riches, honor, and life! (Proverbs 22.4)
This verse, which discusses humility and reverence for God, sums up several of the principal lessons of Proverbs. In addition, it provides a concise overview of the fundamental requirements for human survival on this planet.
True religion, as demonstrated by “the fear of the Lord.” is synonymous with humility. The signs of humility are being dependent on God, having a low opinion of oneself, surrendering one’s will, and convincing ourselves of sin. They are all summed up in the phrase “the fear of God,” which is the source of all virtues and blessings: riches, honor, and life.
We deprive ourselves of God’s wisdom and knowledge treasures when we do not fear the Lord. We will tempt fate and let ourselves get corrupted by mingling with evil. Our refusal to listen to God’s word will likely shorten our lives (e.g., suffering sexually transmitted diseases if we do not heed His Word on sexual relationships). We will not come to know God’s love, which provides assurance and confidence in salvation. We are not motivated to repent or turn to God when we sin! We will not be inspired to “work out our salvation.” This outcome from lacking the fear of the Lord sounds dreadful.
To be truly wise, we must first learn to fear the Lord. Let us understand this fear, appreciate it, and incorporate it into our lives as God’s children!