“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,” Proverbs 1:7a
No phrase in Scripture is more misunderstood than, “fear of the Lord.” Living in fear of the Lord is very different than being afraid of Him. The phrase appears more in Proverbs than all the other books of the Bible combined. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, tells us that “fear of the Lord” is foundational to true knowledge and wisdom (9:10).
Theologians agree that “fear of the Lord” is synonymous with reverence for God and His Word. Such reverence creates a longing to know God more and to seek His direction. A growing knowledge of God’s character fills us with awe for Who He is and generates gratitude for what He has done on our behalf. His love toward us is overwhelming. This produces a genuine desire to please to God because we love Him; not because we fear His punishment.
Seeking to know God through His Word goes far beyond just gathering facts about Him. Scripture promises the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, which transforms our thinking. That’s why the apostle Paul wrote, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might” (Ephesians 1:18-19).
Then, we should apply what we learn. Proverbs says we demonstrate fear of the Lord by hating evil and turning from it (3:7, 8:13); being humble and content (3:7, 15:16, 22:4); and living an upright life (14:2). These attitudes and behaviors glorify God, which results in a life of worship.
Proverbs also tells us that godly fear affects our lives in remarkable ways. Fear of the Lord prolongs life (10:27); gives us refuge and a fountain of life (14:26-27); provides instruction for wisdom (15:33); produces satisfying sleep (19:23); and offers riches, honor, and life (22:4). As such, godly fear is a gift of God’s grace.
As His children, we don’t live in fear of punishment, but in pursuit of pleasing our heavenly Father. Genuine reverence for God is demonstrated by how we think and live. How is your life marked by the attitudes and effects of godly fear? Remember, fear of the Lord is the beginning. We are always learning, always seeking, and always striving to know Him more.