Start in the Fear of God
I am finishing up my devotional study of the Book of Proverbs for the months of October and November. One theme that clearly stands out is the phrase “fear of the Lord.” What is the meaning of this phrase? Proverbs 1:7 states that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (See also in Proverbs 9:10 ESV.) The phrase is repeated 15 times throughout the book. There is not enough space here to give justice to an explanation to the meaning of this theme: “fear of the Lord.” So, let me suggest a different approach to help us with a short overview study of the Book of Proverbs.
I suggest asking the question: “When does the fear of the Lord happen in a person’s life?” Here are four instances when this theme occurs. One is when a person comes to God in worship. Prayers become acceptable before His presence (15:8). Worship becomes a life of obedience. “Whoever walks in uprightness fears the Lord” (14:2). The fear of the Lord is real when the people’s posture is that of praise and life of discipleship. Proverbs 21:3 states: “Clean living before God and justice with our neighbors mean far more to God than religious performance.” (See Prov. 21:3. MSG). Together as a community, we come into a position of worship.
Two is the reception one gets when practicing the theme of the fear of the Lord. Verse seven of chapter 16 says: “When a person’s ways please the Lord, He makes even one’s enemies to be at peace with that person” (Proverbs 16:7 ESV). He receives the respect of outsiders. Isn’t this verse reassuring? Respect is a social evidence of the fear of the Lord in a community. This is an act of God. We receive it as a gift from our Creator, and we continue in our life of obedience and worship in the fear of the Lord.
Three is the action of people living out the fear of the Lord in their lives. The whole book overflows with practical instances of God’s wisdom. The fear of the Lord expresses itself in everyday life and the ethical actions of the people. For example, there is a reference to an insect, the ant, regarding the practical teaching on working hard. (See Proverbs 6:6) Many other admonitions refer to children listening to the advice of their parents and to life teachings on honesty in our business dealings. The whole book speaks of various acts of good works. Action happens when one is practicing the biblical theme of the fear of the Lord.
Last is when the people experience the fear of the Lord, they yearn for a celebrate that is grounded in the early beginnings of God’s creation. Chapter 3 and 8 have plenty of reference to creation story in Genesis. Wisdom is described as present at creation, at the beginning of time. (See Proverbs 8:22-31 and 3:19-20.) The practice of this theme of “fear of the Lord” brings a longing for creation, the hope that this world will be brought back to order similar to the creation order. In a manner of speaking, this theme ushers in the intent of the Jubilee Year, a renewal for everyone. For example, we find in Proverbs 2:21 that a time will come when we will be “inhabiting the land,” a reference to the “Year of Jubilee” festival. The writer of this book speaks of creation metaphors in many other places. People yearn for the time of God’s visitation, just like His visit in creation.
In summary, these four instances of position of worship, reception from outside, action in life, and yearning for creation, give us an overview of the Book of Proverbs. If we take the first letter the word of each of the four instances, we come with the acronym P.R.A.Y. In so many ways, prayer is a good way of summarizing the theme of the “fear of the Lord” that we find in the Book of Proverbs.
Pray then, in the “fear of the Lord,” and our prayers will move from a ritualistic exercise to a communal worship, from an isolated spirituality to an inclusive faith, from mere words to an engaging discipleship, and from the present to a hopeful yearning of God’s creation order. “Skilled living gets its start in the Fear-of-God, insight into life from knowing a Holy God” (Prov. 9:10 MSG). Pray in the fear of God.
You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.