Wisdom and the Fear of the Lord

This lesson will focus on the relationship between “wisdom” and “the fear of the LORD”. In the introductory verses of the book of Proverbs, the wise King Solomon says,
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Pro. 1:7, ESV)

In the previous class we considered the various concepts connected to wisdom listed in Proverbs 1:1-6. The summation statement in verse 7 connects wisdom with “the fear of the LORD”. Jesus spoke about love and not fear, so how do we reconcile these things and make sense of “the wisdom of the LORD”?

KEY VERSE: “By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the LORD one turns away from evil.” (Pro. 16:6)

Children of the LORD

In order to grow and mature, children require love, instruction, discipline, correction and encouragement. The apostle Paul stresses the importance of children learning from God and His son, Jesus, as well as children obeying their parents. He cites the ten commandments from the Law given to Moses. He says,“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Eph. 5:1-2, ESV) “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:1-4, ESV)

Jesus stated that the child-like abilities to learn and obey are essential qualities of the disciple of Christ for entrance into the Kingdom of God: “…and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat. 18:3, ESV) “Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”” (Mat. 19:13-14, ESV)

A very brief, but powerful example is from the early life of Jesus. When Jesus was 12 years old, it appears that his knowledge as the “son of God”, had exceeded that of his parents. He was able to converse with the well-educated on the Law, as was evidenced by his attendance at the feast of Passover as recorded in Luke 2.

“After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:46-52, ESV)

When we consider these verses from the New Testament regarding children, and particularly the example of the young boy Jesus, what are some of the lessons we learn regarding instruction, learning and obedience?

The Fear of the LORD

It is important to understand the Hebrew words used in connection with the phrase “the fear of the LORD”. The following uses of the phrase have differing contexts and use a different word for “fear”: “And they attacked all the cities around Gerar, for the fear of the LORD was upon them. They plundered all the cities, for there was much plunder in them.” (2 Chr. 14:14)

“And the fear of the LORD fell upon all the kingdoms of the lands that were around Judah, and they made no war against Jehoshaphat.” (2 Chr. 17:10)

In the above two verses, the word “fear” is the Hebrew word “pachad”, meaning alarm, the object feared, dread, terror. These are the terms we may think of when we consider the word “fear”.

The following verses use a different Hebrew word for “fear”, which helps us to better understand what the LORD wants from His children regarding wisdom and the fear of the LORD.

“And he said to man,‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.’” (Job 28:28)

“…the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.” (Psa. 19:9)

“Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.” (Psa. 34:11)

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!” (Psa. 111:10)

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Pro. 1:7)

The Hebrew word for “fear”, in the above verses is quite different from the previous verses. This word is “yir’ah”, meaning fear morally, reverence. Reverence is the idea of treating a person of thing with deep respect.

As children, what role does “respect” play toward a parent and particularly toward our heavenly Father?

How do you understand the difference between the two useages of “fear of the LORD” that we have considered?

The following verses use the term “yir’ah” in the phrase “fear of the LORD”. Consider the point of each verse with regard to “wisdom”.

The fear and knowledge of the LORD, humility and despising the teachings of the LORD
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Pro. 1:7)

“Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD…” (Pro. 1:29)

“then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.” (Pro. 2:5)

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” (Pro. 9:10)

“The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor.” (Pro. 15:33)

The fear of the LORD and hating and turning from evil ways

“The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.” (Pro. 8:13)

“By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the LORD one turns away from evil.” (Pro. 16:6)

“Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the LORD all the day.” (Prov. 23:17)

The fear of the LORD and eternal life

“The fear of the LORD prolongs life, but the years of the wicked will be short.” (Pro. 10:27)

“In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge. The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.” (Pro. 14:26-27)

“The fear of the LORD leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm.” (Pro. 19:23)

“The reward for humility and fear of the LORD is riches and honor and life.” (Pro. 22:4)

The fear of the LORD and Jesus

“And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear…” (Isa. 11:2-3)

“and he will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is Zion’s treasure.” (Isa. 33:6)

What do you think?

Read Genesis 20:1-13.
Why did Abraham choose to tell King Abimelech that Sarah was his sister rather than his wife?
Was this a lie?
What role did “the fear of God” have in Abraham’s decision?
Think of some examples from your life, where you made a decision based on whether the people around you believe in God or not.

Perfect love casts out fear

Now that we have seen that fear, from the Old Testament is either “alarm and dread” or “reverence and deep respect”, this helps us to understand the scripture: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18)

The Greek words for fear are: phobos and phobeo, meaning to be put in fear, alarm, terror. This seems to equate with the Hebrew word of similar meaning. In addition, John says that fear has to do with punishment. This is not reverence or deep respect, but the idea of terror and being afraid. So the apostle John is telling us that complete self-sacrificing love casts out the fear and terror of punishment.

Question to consider

How important is “the fear of the LORD” with regard to maturing in the LORD and obtaining eternal life?

What are some of the qualities that the true disciple or child of God is to develop that is the result of a deep reverence toward God and His word?

Id we do not develop in the “fear of the LORD”, what qualities are we likely to develop?

Each day, how can we demonstrate and grow in the “fear of the LORD”?

How do you think “the love of God” and “the fear of the LORD” are connected or are they conflicting concepts?

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