The Fear of the Lord

 The Fear of the Lord

 Proverbs 1:7

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”

This is one of the premises forming the foundation of the book of Proverbs (Prov. 1:7, New King James).

Throughout Proverbs and in the Bible at large, God tells us that our basic disposition of mind or attitude is where everything begins. Proverbs 4:23 expresses the same premise: “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.”

In the New Testament, Jesus echoes this in Matt. 15:18,19 where He shows that sinful behaviors originate in sinful thinking; He specifies adultery, fornication, stealing, dishonesty and blasphemy. He declared that these things come “from the heart.” So in Proverbs, in the teaching of Christ, and throughout Scripture this premise cannot be missed: Our basic disposition of mind or attitude is where everything (good behavior and bad) begins.

Since this is so, there is a practical component I must acknowledge: If I will get my heart right with God, and maintain that disposition of heart, that action on my part will move me in the right direction and prompt good character and behavior. If there is, in my heart, a healthy fear and respect toward God, that is the beginning of a good life of right knowledge and right behavior. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”

Let’s explore this disposition of heart further. What is the fear of the Lord?

It is not just a feeling of terror, as described in Romans 8:15 (“For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father'”). This is a spirit of bondage that generates fear. This kind of fear is not the beginning of knowledge.

The fear of the Lord isn’t a timid, cowardly spirit, as described in 2 Tim. 1:7. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (Note: The word “fear” in the Bible must always be understood in view of the context in which it occurs. You cannot, therefore, assume a single definition or significance that applies “across the board.” You must carefully consider the context in order to assign the proper meaning to the word. It is one of those words that is context sensitive. So, the “fear” we are concerned with in Prov. 1:7 is not identical to the “fear” of Rom. 8:15 or 2 Tim. 1:7.)

In Proverbs 1:7…

The fear of the Lord is an attitude of respect toward God, which includes a healthy dread of displeasing Him. The fear of the Lord is about reverence toward God, respect for Him, love and appreciation, holding Him and His beloved Son in high esteem. And this is the attitude necessary in order for us to know and do what’s right!

So if I want knowledge — I must have this attitude! If I want to know and do what’s right before God; if I want to learn to make ethical and moral distinctions to please God – this attitude must find residence in my heart: The fear of the Lord.

The reason many do not take God’s Word seriously is, they do not have this attitude. They have no foundation of respect for God in their hearts. As a result of the absence of this kind of fear, they read or hear God’s commandments and react: “I don’t want to do that . . . I don’t see anything wrong with this . . . I don’t think I’m going to hell if I do this or neglect that!!” Without the fear of the Lord, there is no reason (in their hearts) to respect Him and obey Him. Faithful service to God and obedience to Christ is rooted in the FEAR OF THE LORD.

Parents need to begin instilling this good influence in their children as soon as influences are possible! Preachers need to preach lessons which are designed to encourage, foster and nurture this fear of the Lord. Elders need to have this fear in their own lives and lead others to this disposition of heart. And when we set about the task of teaching someone what to do to be saved, we need to illustrate, instruct and influence our students in this good direction.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”

Throughout the rest of Proverbs, the inspired writer shows that this basic attitude toward God GETS GOOD RESULTS! Notice:


causes us to depart from evil, Prov. 3:7.
causes us to hate evil, Prov. 8:13.
prolongs our days, Prov. 10:27.
inspired confidence, Prov. 14:26.
affords great contentment, Prov. 15:16.
keeps the heart, Prov. 23:17.
strengthens us against unstable companions, Prov. 24:21.

What is your attitude toward God?

By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 4.9; September 1997

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