Peter Misselbrook's Blog
May 20 2019 - Proverbs 1 – The beginning of wisdom

Solomon was given wisdom by God, practical wisdom, the wisdom that enables a person to live well. He shares something of this wisdom in the Book of Proverbs that we may gain "wisdom and instruction ... [and receive] instruction in prudent behaviour, doing what is right and just and fair" (vv. 2-3). And here is where all such wisdom begins, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge / wisdom" (v. 7, cf. 9:10).

What does it mean to "fear" the Lord? It is often said that such fear is not terror. The Christian is one who loves God for he has shown us boundless love and compassion in the Lord Jesus Christ. Such love casts out fear in the sense of terror or doubt. The person who trusts in Christ, knows that they have become a child of God, loved and accepted by him. The fear of the Lord therefore means "reverence", a proper respect for who God is as the mighty creator of the universe.

All of this is quite true, but it needs to be expressed with great care. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews who encourages us to "approach the throne of grace with confidence" (Hebrews 4:6) also reminds us that we need to worship God with reverence and awe for "our God is a consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:28-29, quoting Deuteronomy 4:23-24).

As a recent book has demonstrated, we have a tendency to think that if love wins then judgment, wrath and punishment must be utterly extinguished; the fire has been put out. It is all too easy for us to distort the picture of God's love as if it is an infinite tolerance for the wayward behaviour of his children. In doing so, we lose sight of the righteousness and burning holiness of our God.

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." A life lived to please God flows from an understanding that our God is the creator of the universe. The God who is "of purer eyes than to behold evil" is also our loving Father. Grace does not resolve this paradox, it underscores it.

If we are to live well in God's world we need large views of God's love and of his holiness; large views of his compassion and of his intolerance of sin.

How are we to gain the wisdom we need to live well? The first imperative is to listen – to pay attention to what God says through his word and by his Spirit and also to what godly women and men (v.  8) say to us as they seek to teach us the things of God. The word "listen" occurs four times in this chapter (at least in the NIV: vv. 5, 8, 24, 33). Similar instructions such as, pay attention (v. 24), accept (vv. 25, 30) are found in this chapter. It's frustrating when young children (and others) don't listen to instructions we are giving them. It is dangerous when we turn a deaf ear when God is speaking to us.

Secondly, we need to be careful who we listen to. The world is full of people who will want us to join them in their own foolish behaviour (vv. 10-19). The important thing is not to give in to the temptation to join them (v.10); not to go along with them (v. 15), for the path they are treading does not lead to life but to death (v. 18-19).

Father God, help me to understand more of your character; teach me to love you as much as I fear you and to fear you as much as I love you. Help me to hate sin as you hate sin and love holiness as you love holiness. Fill me with that wisdom which comes from above which is "pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere." Help me by your Spirit always to walk in the path of life, the path mapped out in your word. And as Solomon taught his son what it means to have wisdom and to lead a life pleasing to you, help me to teach the generations to come concerning the beautiful life that wisdom calls us to live.

Peter Misselbrook