“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” ~Proverbs 9:10 (NRSV).
There are two starkly different ways of looking at the fear of God/the Lord.
Many people are scared of God, and don’t believe because of their fear. Indeed, many in the Old Testament times had good reason to fear. And, many may still have good reason to fear God today. This is an ‘afraid’ type of fear we’re talking about.
The other type of fear, as those biblically-grounded people will know, is the fear of the Lord—a concept rooted in discipleship and the fundament of godly Wisdom. The second type of fear has actually nothing to do with fear, per se, but everything to do with humility, respect, and awe before God.
People who fear God misunderstand, at source, the loving Creator.
Or perhaps they are not reconciled to the Lord. Maybe, rather still, they do believe in God but have not allowed the Almighty to forgive them because they haven’t forgiven themselves. Or possibly they just misunderstand.
It’s actually understandable that fear takes control of some lives, be it a fear-ridden tradition, a dark and unreconciled past, some false teaching along the way, or even our human default to expect God to want to blame us for the many mistakes we’ve made, make, and will make in the future.
And, since none of us have died and gone to heaven yet, we somehow might think Judgment will work against us—all those secrets discovered and publicised for all heaven’s angels and God to frown upon (or some worse purgatory).
Our imaginations, and our fears, are part of the problem. One honest read of the Bible will sort this malevolent fear out. It just isn’t true.
The Fear Of The Lord
This type of fear is a thoroughly good fear.
As we read the 31 chapters of Proverbs, for instance, and then venture into Ecclesiastes, perhaps also with cognisance of Job (chapter 28) and Psalms (111 and 112), we discover a wonderful thread connecting all the Wisdom literature.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and understanding about God—the true, living Lord.
In other words, this type of fear is the starting point on the wonderful journey in God’s love. It’s the type of fear that takes God seriously, reverencing the One that controls the universe. It’s the type of premise that motivates learning, discipline, and discretion towards the acquisition of diligence and prudence—two cherished holy virtue of self-mastery in the Lord.
Righteousness, justice, and fairness—understanding for every good path (Proverbs 2:9)—are the products of such a fear of the Lord.
One part of wisdom of this: there is no need to fear a Friend, but every need to understand, accept, and apply a wholeheartedness of faithful allegiance. God wants our love, not our fear. Such love will compel us toward Wisdom; the knowledge of God. It will dispatch fear.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.