One of the most interesting of all Biblical passages to me is Proverbs 8:22-36.
“The Lord possessed me at the beginning of His way,
Before His works of old.
From everlasting I was established,
From the beginning, from the earliest times of the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
When there were no springs abounding with water.
Before the mountains were settled,
Before the hills I was brought forth;
While He had not yet made the earth and the fields,
Nor the first dust of the world.
When He established the heavens, I was there,
When He inscribed a circle on the face of the deep,
When He made firm the skies above,
When the springs of the deep became fixed,
When He set for the sea its boundary
So that the water would not transgress His command,
When He marked out the foundations of the earth;
Then I was beside Him, as a master workman;
And I was daily His delight,
Rejoicing always before Him,
Rejoicing in the world, His earth,
And having my delight in the sons of men.
Now therefore, O sons, listen to me,
For blessed are they who keep my ways.
Heed instruction and be wise,
And do not neglect it.
Blessed is the man who listens to me,
Watching daily at my gates,
Waiting at my doorposts.
For he who finds me finds life
And obtains favor from the Lord.
But he who sins against me injures himself;
All those who hate me love death.”
Here Solomon exhorts his readers to wisdom by likening wisdom to natural law. Wisdom speaks and says that he, wisdom, was with God from the beginning of creation and was the architect and reason and order and design behind all of the physical creation. In our day we would call wisdom natural law or divine law. If you are going to operate successfully in a physical universe you are going to have to co-operate with the laws that God ordains. You fear or respect them. You embrace and do not distance yourself.
And to make it successfully and painlessly through life – a life filled to the brim with moral choices- one must co-operate with divinely ordained moral law. Laws that are just as absolute and unbending as natural law.
One does not break God’s laws. One is broken upon them.
This is what “the fear of God” means. It means that “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” (Ps. 24:1) It means that everything operates according to the divine order. The very word “cosmos” means “order.” And God does the ordering. It means that when we live according to God’s will and ways we are living the right way
the best way
the safest way
the way that will stand.
To rebel is to resist reality.
And thus, “the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.” A wise life is the best life and it begins with the recognition of who is the creator of all.
Once, when I was in Cheboksary, Russia, I had a translator and interpreter named Galena. I knew not one word of Russian but she knew them all. As long as I was close by her I could operate in the Russian world and make my way. As long as she mediated between me and the world I was in, I was safe and the world made sense. But any moment I was away from Galena was a moment of growing danger. Nothing without her would make sense. I revered her. I feared being away from her. I recognized that she was not just an interesting aspect of my life, but that there was no life without her. Reality was impossible without her.
This is the fear or the reverence of God.
Obey? Life is as it ought to be.
Rebel? And live in unreality. Fantasy. The wrong way on a one way street. Going out over the in spikes. Sin is entering a chipper. Life will make you mulch. Thus four things involve the fear of the Lord.
One already discussed is God’s Position as the creator and framer of all order, morality and reality.
What refuses God will ultimately destroy me.
Secondly is God’s Presence. He sees all. He is not the absentee landlord. He sees and knows. “Before there is a word on my tongue Thou dost know it all.” (Ps. 139:4)
Thirdly, He not only sees but acts in Power. Though it may be on His patient timetable, nonetheless men reap what they sow. Corruption or life. God brings the way of the wicked on his head. God’s mercies will find the faithful.
But last, God Punishes. “ Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:28-29) As the thief who hung dying beside Christ said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?”
Thought being, “when you die you will answer to God.”
Wisdom is the Biblical concept of divinely informed decisions. The beginning of wisdom is “the fear of the Lord.” It is where success starts.