“Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”- King Solomon, Proverbs 1:7 (NASB)
What an interesting verse! On the surface, one might think, “how does fearing God serve as the start to acquiring knowledge?” Do children have to fear God before they learn the alphabet, how to read or do math? Certainly this can’t be the case, so what exactly does this part of the verse mean? Well, I think understanding the context that this verse is in can provide us with the meaning. So, let’s go back a few verses to the very beginning of the book of Proverbs, starting with the first verse. It says the following:
“The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, to discern the sayings of understanding…”Proverbs 1:1-2
From these verses, we see that the knowledge that Solomon is referring to is the knowledge of wisdom and instruction, not knowledge of any sort, necessarily. However, you may ask, “Ok, I understand that the purpose of Solomon’s book of Proverbs is for us to know wisdom and instruction, and to discern the sayings of understanding, but concerning what, exactly? Great question! The good news is that he goes on to tell us in verse 3:
“To receive instruction in wise behavior, righteousness, justice and equity.“Proverbs 1:3
Here is where he gets quite specific about what kind of instruction he wishes his readers to receive from his words, which is, essentially, the lessons and teachings that show us what it means to live the way that we were all designed to live: righteously, with justice and equity. Think about the problems we see in our relationships, and what the root cause of those may be. Are they not almost always tied to either a problem due to a bad behavior that demonstrates a lack of righteousness, justice, or equity? For example, perhaps someone made a decision too quickly that ultimately led to someone else having to suffer unnecessarily? Or someone made a decision without knowing the important facts of a case resulting in extra work or pain for all involved? These are big terms that can be exemplified in many ways, so I’m sure that we can think of countless examples where these ideals have not been attained. However, the good news is that the book of Proverbs seeks to illuminate us to what it means to live righteously on this earth.
How refreshing to have a written guide to teach us and help us understand what it means to live righteously! In today’s age, with so many self-proclaimed experts around us on the web today giving us many variations of plans, prescriptions, and protocols for us to follow to become happy, healthy, rich, smart, beautiful, etc., it is soothing to have a time-tested, valuable resource that teaches us things that are much more important than the aforementioned attributes. Although desirable to have, they do not address the deepest problems that exist in the world around us, and only seek to ignore them since aren’t solutions to the predicate the world is in. Will beauty solve the unprecedented political turmoil and intra-societal discord and dissension that the U.S. is facing today? Hasn’t intelligence failed to come up with a viable solution? Indeed, there are many highly intelligent people in our nation and they can’t seem to figure out how to understand the other’s position and act with righteousness, justice and equity. Therefore, it is times like these when we need to look beyond our usual frameworks of seeing the world and adapt a perspective from outside of it, and that requires a mind that exists outside of it, and can see it for what it really is. That is why this is a perfect time for us to learn what it means to live righteously in the eyes of the creator of the universe, as explained through the writings of King Solomon.
As we begin to discover some of the powerful lessons and teachings found in Proverbs, we will find that although there are a lot of instructions, advice, and tools to apply that will keep our minds full, we can always refer to this all-encompassing message that he left with us in another one of his writings if we are struggling how to implement all that we are learning:
“The conclusion, when all has been hear, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.”Ecclesiastes 12:13
Next time, we will dig in to see the role fearing the Lord plays in acquiring knowledge of these things. Stay tuned!