People want to know how to succeed. Everybody wants to be happy and fulfilled. But how to accomplish these goals often eludes us. We try all kinds of options that promise us success. Solomon penned most of the Book of Proverbs. He also wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes. In the book he tells us his own experiential evaluation of pursuing various means of fulfillment (a) wealth, status and power (Ecc 8:9), (b) sexual pleasure (Ecc 8:15), (c) party pleasure and drunkenness (Ecc 8:15) (d) the pursuit of knowledge (Ecc 8:16,17) (e) achievement (8:16, 17). He concludes none of these fulfill the human life. Rather, he says fear God and keep His commandments
Proverbs invites us to reflect on the world and peoples experience, especially Solomons. So, we can learn to successfully manage life, organize our affairs, foster good relationships, avoid costly mistakes, live in the flow of Gods order for His creation and to understand a proverb and a figure, the words of the wise and their riddles (Pr 1:6). Today, Proverbs gives us our starting point, the fear of God.
What is knowledge or wisdom?
In Jewish thought, unlike Greek, all knowledge or wisdom had a practical application to life. The abstractions about truth of the Classical Greek philosophers had no place in Jewish thought. Those abstractions are completely foreign to the Proverbs. This knowledge, this wisdom is completely practical, forged in the crucible of life and intended for guidance in our daily affairs.
What does the phrase the fear of God mean?
The phrase is used several times in the Bible. It is virtually synonymous with belief in and obedience to God.
Exodus 19:16-19 & Exodus 20:18-20 He delivers Israel; He proposes marriage; He manages status like a king/judge; He is good, but He is no wimp.
The Bible makes it clear that God sees everything (Jer 23:23,24).
Jesus will evaluate our actions. That alone should cause us to think twice when tempted with evil (2Co 5:9-11).
The fear of God should motivate us, not immobilize us (Mt 25:15-20, 24-28). The one-talent guy had a skewed understanding of Gods character. He felt it was unfair for God to expect a return on His investment. Is that unfair? Dont we expect a return on our investments?
Why would I want to maintain a healthy fear of God?
The fear of God keeps us grounded in reality, it keeps us humble, teachable and on the road to an eternal reward. This clear view of truth will form the logical foundation for all my behavior, and a life based in truth can be immensely successful. Without the fear of God, the rest of the Book of Proverbs is meaningless. Because its wisdom is all based on the knowledge that God sees and will evaluate my life. When that evaluation comes, we want to hear Him say, well done good and faithful servant. Enter in to the joy of your master.
How do I gain the fear of God?
Believe the Bible. The Bible records some awe-inspiring stories about Gods goodness and His power. These stories are real and rooted in history. Learn from other peoples experience with Him.
Believe current peoples experiences with Him. Choose credible people and listen carefully to their testimony.
Gain some personal experience with Him. If you have had supernatural experiences with Him, peoples arguments that He is not a concern tend to sound pretty silly. But if all you have is a form of Christian philosophy, you could be argued out of your beliefs by anybody with debate skill. Dive in to full relational engagement with Him. After He speaks to you deeply, arguments that He doesnt exist will not be very persuasive.
Reject the currently popular philosophies that seek to undermine your respect for God: Naturalism, Humanism, Relativism. These secular religions are like icebergs in our cultural ocean. The part you dont see, dont really notice, is the part that shipwreaks your faith.
Entire denominations have fallen to these corrosive philosophies. By adhering to these philosophies in whole or in part, the Scripture is placed second behind these views of reality.
1) Naturalism: Nothing exists beyond what science can discover and explain. There is no supernatural realm. No fear of God is needed because He does not exist.
This worldview is pressed into us in very explicit ways through social pressure. A consensus of scientists believe
so if you dare to disagree with the consensus you are labeled an uneducated dunce.
Naturalism is a belief system, a secular religion, if you will, not science. It asserts a truth, but does not prove it. It is not science, but it lies behind the worldview of many atheistic scientists. Christianity has nothing to fear from science, but Naturalism is not your friend.
2) Relativism: a philosophical belief that no absolutes exist. Therefore, there is no such thing as TRUTH. All religious views and moral choices are of equal value because no objective truth exists. Therefore, I cannot be held accountable to any standard of behavior, because all of the standards are human inventions.
Truth is by definition very narrow. False can be wrong a million different ways, but truth is limited to what actually is. If God created everything (and He did), then truth is not relative. Truth is set by Him and the closer we can conform our lives to it, the more successful and blessed our lives will be.
3) Humanism: The happiness and fulfillment of humans is the greatest good. This places humans at the center of the universe and pushes God to the margin, if He is acknowledged at all. Worship becomes a silly old tradition and the church becomes a social improvement organization.
We are all influenced by these philosophies, so we must pay attention to our thinking. They are prevalent in political conversation and daily decision making. But dont buy in. Instead, fear God and keep His commandments.
I fear God. I believe the Bible. I have evidence of Jesus gained through experience. I have felt Him, heard Him, and seen His responses to my prayers. I choose to take Him seriously and believe I will be assessed at the end of this life and rewarded accordingly. So, I fear God and He is the foundation of my knowledge and wisdom.
How about you?