We have arrived as some of the most practical and intensive sections of scripture on Wisdom. For the next 10 days we are going to be immersed in a deluge of wisdom literature that, if we wanted to, we could spend months unpacking because of its rich practicality and sharply focused points. It makes it difficult to pick just one topic from today's reading to write about. But here we go... One thing that stood out to me in today's reading was the section that addressed and connected wisdom to the fear the Lord. Proverbs 9:10 is a verse that grabbed my attention last fall and got me thinking about what it means to "fear the Lord". I figured that if fearing the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, the literal starting point, then I should probably understand what fearing the Lord means. As with most things in life, the way that we start something has a great effect on the rest of what we are intending to do. If we start singing a song in the wrong key, the rest of the song is going to be awful. If we were a pilot and started flying toward are destination but at just a half degree off on our course direction we would end up being miles off course by the time we should be arriving. If I were to be competing in a marathon and decided to start the day of the race with a huge bacon, eggs and hash browns breakfast with a side of pancakes smothered in fresh berries, I am not going to be feeling real great after a couple of miles. Starting matters. Finishing matters more. (but that is for a different blog post, today we will just look at starting.)
So, the beginning of wisdom, the starting blocks as it were, is the fear of the Lord. What is it? What I found is that it is something far more significant than most people will give it credit. I asked many of my friends what they thought "the fear of the Lord" meant and read many articles discussing this very matter and as you can imagine I got a variety of comments and ideas on the matter. The most common and consistent thread that I got, and what most people think of, is the idea of having a reverence and awe for God.
This is most certainly a part of its meaning, but is that all it really means? Are we to simply think highly of God and see him as a 'good guy' who has done some cool stuff in the scope of history? There is no question we should have a sense of awe when we are communicating with, living for, meditating on, and praying to the Lord. There should be a sense of reverence. He has the entire universe in the palm of his hand and he cares about me, and he cares about you. He knows our names. He knew us before we were even born and he has a plan for our lives and we can find purpose in life through Him and in Him. He is very deserving of reverence and awe. But what if it was more than that? What if it was deeper than that?
Whenever you see this phrase in scripture, awe and reverence are tied to it, but there is also the plain and simple truth of actual fear. You know that thing that grips you as a child when you are sure that there is something living in your closet or that moment when you wake up and realize that you are all alone in the woods and you are not sure which way to go in order to get back to camp.
Now some of you may be saying wait wait wait, God came and died so that I can have relationship with him. He is our friend. We have no need to fear anymore. And I would aree with you. But before you think me crazy and that I am just talking in circles lets consider a couple of things.
First, the thing that we no longer have to fear is death. When we read or talk about Christ coming and the fact that we no long have to fear it is because we have been given hope in the death and resurrection of Christ on our behalf. He took our place. He loved us so much that he died so that we could have eternal life. Fear of death and eternal separation from God has been taken off the table. And yes it is through that sacrifice that we can have a very real and very intimate relationship with Him. But it does not solve the fear of the Lord issue.
There is something about having a healthy fear of something that is good. It keeps us from doing things that would otherwise be foolish or dangerous. In fact we use the phrase in our own culture in this very way. We say, "I have a real healthy fear of __________." It is different for us all. But whatever that _______ is, causes us to give a lot more reverence to it and causes us to pay closer attention, doesn't it? A healthy fear of riding motorcycles for instance, doesn't mean that we will never ride one but it does mean that we respect what dangers come with the bike and we operate it with a certain level of wisdom. We take it seriously.
I believe that by taking all of the fear out of our understanding of "fear of the Lord" and replacing it with awe, reverence or respect, only lessens our understanding of God. What can tend to happen is that we make God or Christ out to be our peer. He is our buddy, he is our friend and it has been reduced to a peer to peer relationship rather than a Lord and savior to servant relationship, or creator of the universe with His creation relationship, or beginning and the end, infinite God to finte man relationship, or all knowing, all powerful God to humble, dependent man relationship.
When we step back and begin to have a truly healthy fear of the Lord it is the beginning of wisdom because we are putting ourselves in our proper place. The place of follower, the place of disciple, the place of servant to the most High God. It is when we begin to have a proper perspective that we begin to truly have the awe and reverence for who God is. We understand that we are nothing and that it would only take a thought from him and the world could again be destroyed just as it was in the days of Noah.
We serve a mighty God. A God that is not contained in a box or a church building or whatever way we deem to be convenient to our own circumstance. It speaks in the book of Psalms about how the voice of the Lord shatters the oak trees. Think of that. He speaks and trees shatter. I believe that it is completely healthy to have an element of fear when it comes to God.
Every time in Scripture when man came physically face to face with the Almighty God, the first response of man was fear and trembling; "Woe is me, I am undone". The root of this fear was the complete, transforming and overwhelming understanding that God is holy - holy, holy, holy - and we are nothing but depraved flesh. And the most amazing thing about the gospel is that Christ's sacrifice allows us to "approach the throne with confidence"; it allows us to cry out to our "Abba, Father" our Daddy God. God is not just one end of the spectrum. He's not a one or the other God - he's everything. He's the holy, just and righteous judge who cannot tolerate sin and can obliterate trees with the sound of his voice, and he is also the one who loves us so much he humbled himself to the cross so that we can abide in Him and he can abide in us. Let us never forget!!
For more insight on this topic check out this link to a short 12 min message from Francis Chan. Today could be the day that you take a giant revolutionary step forward in your life/walk with Christ as well as your understanding of the enormity of God and who He is.