Proverbs 1:7 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
One of the most beautiful things God did for all people of every generation was to give us the Old Testament in the Hebrew language. He could have selected any language or even created a new one, but instead, He chose the language of the Israelites; which, to it’s affect, benefits us all.
Poetry in Hebrew is patterned in parallelisms, which can take place in many forms and provide a series of different functions; but the beauty of it is never lost in translation and it’s patterns are used to indicate the authors emphasis. In Proverbs 1:7 we see a parallelism in the form of “antithetical” where a positive and negative teaching is contrasted in order to emphasize the importance of fearing God. Here, Solomon was inspired by God’s Spirit to use the Hebrew noun yir’ah (יִרְאָה H3374, pronounced “yir-aw”), for the verb “to fear”. When used in this context as a noun, it is mostly viewed as a positive aspect towards God; meaning to “fear God” in the way of awe or respect as well as “being afraid”; however here, “being afraid” is for positive reasons such as causing one to believe and act morally like the midwives who did not kill the Hebrew newborn sons (Ex. 1:17,21). This kind of “positive fearing” keeps us properly aligned in a moral sense and gives us a healthy attitude towards obeying God and respecting others around us, even if it means to oppose the world.
So then, “how” do we fear the Lord in our lives today?
Scripture gives us our answer. Interestingly, we can look back in time to learn what is needed for our modern day efforts. In the book of Job (28:28), Job declares that to have a fear of the Lord is to have understanding and wisdom. Elsewhere in Proverbs, Solomon teaches that fearing the LORD is expressed as; a hatred of evil, the beginning of knowledge, the foundation for wisdom, the receptivity towards gaining wisdom, the discipline leading to wisdom, and results in a long, honorable life.
Solomon wrote of the fear of the Lord not only in Proverbs but also in Ecclesiastes (12:13-14) where he, as the wisest man who lived summarized all of life as “The end of the matter, all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil”. The whole duty of man involves fearing God.
Fear of the Lord also appears over 19 times in the New Testament through 11 different books creating a common theme.
In the first chapter of Romans, Paul declares that God has made His presence known to all the world when he states in verses 19-20 “For what can be known about God is plain to them because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” Does this mean that all those who have not heard the Gospel are judged and condemned? According to the theologian Dr. D.G. Barnhouse, God has indeed revealed just enough of Himself for all to know He does exist; and those who want to know more will. He states that on one side of this verse there is human speculation; on the other side there is God’s divine revelation; it’s a division between guess and God (239). He continues with “To know that there is a Supreme Being renders the one who knows it without excuse”. Fearing the Lord then, is also understanding from His natural revelation that a Supreme Being exists, and honoring that existence as truth as much as we believe there is truth in an atom yet unseen.
We can see by looking back that fearing the LORD today and forward, in our culture, involves preparing our minds for instruction and discipline by remaining humble and teachable as well as slowly implementing those same aspects into our daily lives. By doing this we show God, others and ourselves that we fear the Lord.
Having a healthy fear of God gives us a healthy attitude towards obeying God and respecting others around us, but how does the second part of our verse (Proverbs 1:7), “the beginning of knowledge” fit in?
The beginning of knowledge is when the scales fall from our eyes (by the Spirit of God), giving us the vision and sight of things that we once could not see (Acts 9:18). Without the scales over our eyes, we now see verses in Scripture glare out at us and strike us in the heart convicting us of where we need to repent and grow. This occurs when we have accepted Christ and He gives us His Spirit to dwell in us forever and guide us to knowledge and wisdom. However, we still need to use our own efforts to open the Bible pages in order to learn more, in order to apply more, in order to be blessed more with a life of peace and joy even in trials.
Reading God’s Word is like reading His love letter to us with a personal message. The beginning of knowledge comes with laying aside our flesh and the world, to become a re-born child of God.
We have now embraced what the fear of the Lord and what the beginning of knowledge means in Proverbs 1:7. Now we need to understand how to apply it to our lives because knowing this (knowledge) and actually applying that knowledge into action (wisdom) is a big step in our faithful journey; it is also one of the most places Christians stumble and struggle to move forward in our maturity. The following application suggestions may help us navigate across that great divide (these types of suggestions are often called “spiritual disciplines”). These suggestions are in no way exhaustive and are examples of how we can mature by obediently putting God’s Word to work in our lives.
A Few Suggestions for How to Fear the Lord:
Prayer can sometimes seem like a stoic word, a word that means ultra religious or formal; but really, it is a conversation with our Father in Heaven who desires for us to share our feelings, fears and fascinations with Him. Even though He already knows how we feel or what has happened, He desires our communication because it draws us near to Him and allows us to feel more freedom to approach Him when there are times of trouble. As much as we love our activities, family or family pet, He loves us more. Sometimes calling it something different helps get past the staunchness of the term such as a God-chat or time-out with my Creator, or whatever makes us want to communicate as often as we like throughout the day (and night).
- If words are at a loss, try the ACTS prayer (A=Acknowledgement and appreciation for what He has done and does; C=confession; T=thanksgiving; S=supplication (prayers for others)).
- Always prepare our hearts and minds before jumping in by slowing down, taking a few deep breaths, ensure privacy, and quickly pray that God will have us see what He wants us to see.
- Discover a reading program that fits our personality and lifestyle.
- Translation (NLT, NIV, ESV, NASB etc.)
- Study Bible selection (study Bibles are plentiful, the most comprehensive and neutral is the NLT study Bible.
- Plan (a good place to find a pre-made plan is “Navigators” and “Blueletterbible”) or we can create our own but we should be sure to include both Testaments).
- Time (plan to read at least 15 minutes a day or twice a day and work up to longer periods as we become more experienced; this becomes a joy and soon we will find ourselves desiring the Word throughout the day). If we are moved by only one verse and decide to camp there for the entire session we should not be dissuaded because it’s not about the quantity read but how much we pay attention to what the spirit points out to us. Re-reading a verse once, twice, ten times as the Spirit directs is better than ignoring the Spirit and moving on to hit a self imposed quota. Quality over Quantity is the goal.
Bible Reading Journaling
- Asking ourselves questions and noting what surprises us or convicts us is a good way to visualize where we need to change. We can journal our feelings also such as any excitement, guilt, repentance, thankfulness, appreciation etc.
These are just a few of the Spiritual Disciplines; a few more are attending church and fellowship, small groups, and Bible Studies for examples.
By taking a concordance and finding all the places in the New Testament Bible where the fear of the Lord is stated, we can discover there are 3 kinds of people when it comes to fearing the Lord.
- The first set includes those who have no fear, have no regard for their sins and ignore God’s natural revelation of Himself (Romans 3:18 and Rev. 16).
- The second set are those people who fear the Lord, love the Lord and are looking for forgiveness for their sins, looking to Christ as their redeemer (Acts 16, Romans 10, 2 Corinthians 7 and Acts 10).
- The last set includes those people who are sorry for their sin but reject Christ, and those who care about their sin but don’t want a relationship with God (Romans 13, Rev. 16, Acts 10 and 13).
Thoughts for Reflection:
- In which set of persons do you find yourself? Do you find your loved ones in the same category as yourself?
- How can you help those close to you understand how to honor and awe God by fearing Him?
- How can you grow closer to God by knowing how to fear Him?
 Proverbs Scriptures: A hatred of evil (8:13), the beginning of knowledge (1:7), the foundation for wisdom, the receptivity towards gaining wisdom (9:10), the discipline leading to wisdom (15:33), and results in a long, honorable life (10:27).
 Donald Barnhouse, “Romans Chapters 1:1-5:11, Expositions of Bible Doctrines”, 1959.