I wish that I could say that wisdom was something that is highly sought after these days. Sadly, I find an insatiable thirst for knowledge, for wealth, and for fame, but not one for wisdom in our present cultural climate. However, wisdom is needed in this present age as much as it’s ever been needed. We need wise leaders, wise teachers, wise pastors, wise parents, wise children…everyone needs wisdom! But how do we go about getting it?
But first, a provoking question: where did wisdom begin?
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In my study, I came across a passage that I have just delighted in reading multiple times now. It begins in Proverbs 8: 22-23. Wisdom is speaking, and she says:
The Lord formed me from the beginning, before he created anything else. I was appointed in ages past, at the very first, before the earth began.
I’ve never heard this passage preached on, and I don’t remember it from previous readings. But it is such a beautiful thought to consider. I believe that our God is filled with all wisdom, and at the outset of His magnificent work in creation, He used wisdom to create all that is. Wow. God demonstrates for us that wisdom was needed first, and then the formation of the universe could come forth. I just delight in this thought so much! If we ever doubted the need for wisdom, let us take notice of its work in creation!
The Fear of God
I have heard all of my life that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 1:7), but I have struggled to understand this. We generally take fear to be a bad thing, so why would it be good and wise to fear God?
I have heard teachers expound on the idea that fear is really more or less, respect or reverence. Okay. Maybe. But I don’t think that I can be satisfied with this as the whole explanation of what is really meant by fearing the Lord. Part of my reasoning for this is that there are dozens upon dozens of scriptures that reference the fear of the Lord! And – here’s the kicker – in ALL cases, the fear of the Lord is a holy, wise, positive attribute of a person’s life. (See openbible.info for many more scriptures.)
If respect is really what was meant, why is it not translated as “respect” in any of these places? Perhaps I digress. But I guess my point is that I think that fear means fear. Let me illustrate with childhood memories about my mom.
My mom loved me, cared for my needs, took interest in all things related to me, and protected me as she was able. I was also afraid to cross my mom. Many of you can relate! If I was disobedient or disrespectful, a holy fire would appear in my mom’s eyes, and I would be filled with mortal dread and immediate remorse for what I had done! A memorable spanking would usually ensue, and a healthy fear of Mom was perpetuated in me.
This would even happen at times without the spanking part. I didn’t want Mom’s displeasure; I didn’t want her to be disappointed in me. I knew that she had an untouchable influence in my life due to her love, but also her authority and power over me.
Now, I know not many today like to talk about authority and power in a positive light. I’m here to remind you that it is biblical, and positive, and God-ordained when exercised in a godly way. Authority is God’s idea because He is the Ultimate Authority.
Do you see how this applies?
If I acknowledge that God is the only All-Powerful, All-Knowing One, then I am at the same time acknowledging that I am not. He has the power and authority in my life to do with it what He chooses. It makes me extraordinarily grateful that He loves me, that He is for me, and that He has redeemed me! However, He is Almighty God, and I have a healthy fear of His power and authority.
This sounds an awful lot like the beginning of humility in a person’s life. When we acknowledge our powerlessness and our need for help, God is quick to step in to bring us aid. When I bow before Him, I submit myself to His authority. This is humble, and this is wise.
One attribute of this humility is that it makes us teachable and willing to receive correction. No, we don’t like! But, we love it. Yes, because we know that the Lord disciplines those He loves and that the wise person is trained by discipline.
We know that the proud person is resisted by God; how in the world could that type of person be truly wise? When God is against you?!
I’m just going to make us sit with the discomfort of this just a tad longer. It is so counter-cultural, and it is hard to take in being immersed in our present age’s mindset. But we are to truly fear the Lord to be have any hope of becoming truly wise.
Too many today are void of this fear and, in fact, resist it. What are they really doing? To resist fearing God is dangerously close to making Him your equal, or at least reducing Him to an impotent grandfather-figure who never exercises his authority over you. This is not biblical. God is both powerful and loving. He is compassionate and jealous. He has both dominion and mercy. He expects obedience and yet gives grace. We have to sit with these hard truths that seem a contradiction. God is not either, He is both. And, yes, it’s hard to make sense of in our human understanding.
When we humble ourselves before God, we are properly positioned to receive all of His blessings, mercy, and yes, wisdom. He is above, we are below, and his glory flows down to His creation. If we don’t get this right, we mess up the flow.
It’s a Gift
I want to be truly wise, don’t you? This is the foundation. It really is a gift, though hard to understand. Once we acknowledge that He, alone, is God, we can begin to truly perceive everything else in the right way. This is Discipleship 101. If we truly want to grow in Him, to be effective in our lives, and to make heaven our home, we must begin here. And if we do, we can be assured that the reward for humility and the fear of the Lord is riches, honor, and life!
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