Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Monday, March 8, 2016
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: But fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7).
Fear is one of the most powerful emotions we have. It is at the root of many irrational behaviors. It causes some people to do things they would not otherwise do. It breaks up family bonds. It is used as a tool of intimidation. It is often used to control people’s minds and actions.
Conversely, the Lord has placed in us a fight or flight response that is often triggered by a sense of urgency or even fear. For example, if you were walking across the street and suddenly noticed a pickup truck coming your way with no indication of stopping, fear may cause you to run or jump out of harm’s way. If you see a child pinned under a heavy object that is causing crushing pain, fear that she may be fatally injured may trigger an adrenal response that empowers you to move the object you otherwise would not be able to move.
Interestingly, the Bible says that God has not given us the spirit of fear. God wants us to trust Him when we face the unknown. We need not fret because of evildoers. We need not worry about the state of our country’s future should we elect one candidate over the other. God has all things in His control.
So why would the wise man say that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge? Which of the types of fear I described is it, if any? One fear principle I did not mention (notice I said principle and not emotion this time) is reverence or respect. English speakers in 2016 do not generally use the words fear and worshipful respect interchangeably. But in ancient Hebrew, depending on the term they used for our English term fear, they were interchangeable. That being said, we could paraphrase our theme text to say, “Having reverence and respect for Yahweh is the foundation and starting point of true knowledge.” Since that is the case, it is no wonder the next phrase follows. The Bible says that fools despise wisdom and instruction. The term here for fool is not merely stupid, dunce, ignoramus, or idiot. There are many otherwise intelligent people in the world that would be considered fools in this context. Interestingly, the term sounds like our English word “evil,” and actually means “perverse.” The Bible says, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, There is none that doeth good.” (Psalm 14:1). While this term fool is a bit different like the Old Testament character Abigail’s husband’s name (and character), it all comes back to the fact that people who hate righteousness also despise wisdom, instruction, and true knowledge. Let’s have a look at two more verses that tie this all together for those who do not have the luxury of looking up words in Hebrew. The Bible says, “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: Pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, And the froward mouth, do I hate.” (Proverbs 8:13). Further, it says, “By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: And by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil.” (Proverbs 16:6).
Do you want to have the greatest knowledge, wisdom, and understanding in the universe? Learn to worship God. Do you need knowledge to do well at your job or in school? Learn to reverence the Lord. Are there important relationship decisions you need to make and are unsure of what to do? Fear God. When we develop this healthy principle of honor and respect for our Creator, He increases our ability to understand things that perplex evil, unrepentant people. This is the kind of fear of which we need not be afraid.