“And he said to the human race, ‘The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.'”
What is fear of the Lord? That phrase is mentioned 347 times in the Bible, more times than the phrase “Love the Lord”, which is mentioned 219 times. It must be pretty important.
Does the word fear imply terror or being scared? I have the image of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz approaching the great wizard for the first time. Is that to be our approach to God?
Look at Psalm 130:4 “But with you there is forgiveness, therefor you are feared”. That doesn’t fit with terror, why would we be scared of someone who forgives us?
A better definition of fear of the Lord comes from a quote by Tim Keller. In answering this very question he says fear of the Lord is “wonder filled, bold humility”. In other words, we must acknowledge two very different truths. On the one hand we say “I’m a sinner, God died for me!” This is a humbling realization, where we come to know inherently our own depravity. Yet, we also say “I am so loved by God, that he actually died for me!” This is our boldness, to feel set apart, chosen, loved by almighty God. Both the humility and boldness of these truths creates the wonder and awe, the fear of the Lord.
I believe for each of us, one of these concepts comes more naturally. By realizing which truth is harder to emotionally connect with, allows us something to strive for. This, then, is the wisdom we seek. The concept so valuable that to those who grasp it, much is promised. Proverbs 22:4, “Humility and fear of the Lord bring wealth and honor and life”
How meaningful, that these three elements; wealth, honor and life, are the exact 3 things that “wisdom” holds in her hands in Proverbs chapter 3.
Do not be wise in your own eyes (humility), fear the Lord (grasp your sinfulness at the same time that you realize you are so loved that someone died for you) and shun evil. This is wisdom.
In closing, from Proverbs 2:9-11, “Then you will understand what is right and just and fair- every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.”