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Why the Fear of the Lord is “Smart”

Over the last several years, I have been pondering and chewing on this one phrase, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Job 28:28, Psa. 111:10, Prov. 9:10, 15:33) So simple, so innocuous…yet so elusive. What is the fear of the Lord? Why should we fear the God we love? And why is fearing Him the first, the most important thing? The thing upon which all other knowledge is based (Prov. 1:7)?

Gradually, as I pondered, as I read, as I prayed, the fear of the Lord has begun to shatter me, to remake me, and to re-organize my thinking according to a radically new pattern. Like a building shifting gradually onto a newer, firm foundation…or like a game of Jenga somehow played in reverse, the Fear of the Lord has begun to construct in me a completely different worldview. One alien to, foreign, and opposed to the way of thinking I inherited from birth.

It is on this topic which I would like to speak for the next few posts.
The first thing that I began to realize is that fear is a fundamental aspect of all human life. One cannot function in life – at least not very long, or very well – without some amount of fear. Fear is the belief that a thing has the potential to do harm. In this world, there are a great many things which have the potential to do harm. If you do not have a  realistic view of these things, you simply do not have a sane or workeable view of reality. In layman’s terms, you are either reckless or stupid – and neither is a very safe way to live. Once you know what things are dangerous, you know how to order your life in a way which is safe and productive.

You will notice that I am not speaking here of unreasonable, exaggerated fears. It is not at all helpful to fear things which are innocuous, or to credit a very small danger with a massive fear. Such fears are called “phobias,” and they can hold one captive in their own skin.

But what if one is not afraid of the things which are truly dangerous? This is not freedom, but insanity. Such a one may wander aimlessly onto the busy freeway, get drunk on the rooftop, golf in a lightning storm, walk barefoot in rattlesnake territory, throw food-scraps to a wild bear.

“I have no fear!” Boasts the bleary-eyed, staggering drunk.

“You are a fool, you old drunk!” Yells his wife, desperate to grab the keys from his hand.

Both are right, you know.

You tell me you have no fear? I will tell you that you have no sense. And that will be the truth of the matter.

For you see, the two are intimately related. To fear the things in our world which are dangerous is the beginning of learning about our world. It is the foundation of wisdom, or right knowledge, or “common sense.”

“But wait!” you say, “We fear those things which are dangerous to us. Are you saying that God is dangerous? I thought He was loving!”

Let me quote Jesus on this point:

“I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do.”

This is comforting, but it is not the end:

“But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!” (Luke 12:5)

You may replace that first line with anything you like. Do not fear the serial killer. Do not fear a charging brown bear. Do not fear SAARS, or rapists or tsunamis or wild dogs or brown recluse spiders. What can they do? Merely harm the body. Rather fear God  – He has the power to “destroy both body and soul in Hell,” (Mat. 10:28)

God is opening my eyes up to a radically new world. A world where He is king. A world where His glory, and His worship are supreme.

In this world, the most crucial, the most important, the most central, the most vital point to know is this: you must fear God. Why? Because He is dangerous.

Until you know that, you do not know anything in this strange new world of the Bible.

(If you enjoyed this post, you may also want to read this follow-up post)


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