The Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament is a collection of devotional biblical writings, advice, and warnings about wisdom. It focuses on moral choices, values, and behavior.
Proverbs 1:7 tells us: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction."
In this article, we’ll consider the meaning of the phrase “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” and its practical application for Christians today.
The “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” relates more to respect and reverence for God than actual fear in its modern definition.
Fearing God is knowing God, and this is where true wisdom lies. Proverbs also teaches us that people must submit to God’s will. By doing so, we acquire wisdom.
Knowing God means appreciating that God is majestic and that Jesus Christ offers us redemption through His life and death. These themes appear repeatedly throughout scripture.
Proverbs 9:10 teaches us that “knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Psalm 111 tells us that all those who follow the Lord’s commandments will be rewarded with “good understanding,” which is another form of wisdom.
Proverbs neatly fits into Biblical wisdom literature, which includes the Book of Job, parts of the Book of James, Ecclesiastes, and various other parts of scripture, including Isaiah 11:2.
James 3:17 tells us that human wisdom is “earthly, sensual, demonic” compared to God’s wisdom, which is “pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.”
In this analysis, human wisdom is flawed and self-seeking, and it is likely to lead to our destruction.
The Book of Job in the Bible shows that wisdom “is not found in the land of living” (Job 28:13) but only dwells in the mind of God (Job 28:23). This book focuses on the battle between the forces of good versus evil and how Job’s faith is tested and ultimately rewarded.
Ecclesiastes also considers the purpose of life, our search for meaning, and the futility of living without God and without wisdom.
In the Bible, “fear” has several different meanings.
Deuteronomy 2:25 tells us to fear the might and majesty of God: “This very day I will begin to put the terror and fear of you on all the nations under heaven.”
Joshua 24:14 advises us to “fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness.” Joshua warns about the dangers of false idols, which should be abandoned. Joshua 24:20 warns that disaster will befall those who continue to worship false gods.
Similar warnings are found in Romans 1:21-22, where we're told what happens to those who refuse to glorify God: “Their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.”
The same warnings appear repeatedly throughout scripture.
When we combine the powerful messages from Proverbs with other similarly-themed Bible verses, we can see how building our reverence for God and abandoning “false idols” will lead to wisdom and understanding.
In our modern world, the worship of “false idols” could include the pursuit of material wealth while neglecting a spiritual path.
The complexities of the modern world can undermine attempts by Christians to follow the word of God, leading to the loss of wisdom or knowledge. Having a simple faith starts with piety, awe, and reverence for our creator, the Almighty God.
When you have wisdom, you'll avoid sin and evil in your daily life and behavior.
As a Christian, you're saved from sin through the power of the Holy Spirit. Proverbs invites you to avoid sin or any kind of evil or wrongdoing in your life.
None of us are without sin, and we can better follow Jesus Christ by first acknowledging our own faults and sins.
Then, we acquire wisdom by knowing God and all He has done for us.
The Bible passage Job 38:4 reminds us of the awe and majesty of God’s creation of our world, asking us where we were, “when I laid the foundations of the Earth? Declare, if you have understanding.”
You truly gain wisdom when you realize that God created everything in our world, and He saves us from sin every day.
The path to wisdom begins with fearing the consequences of disobeying God.
The wisdom literature in the Bible mentions the links between “fear of God” and the getting of wisdom repeatedly to ensure that Christians understand what it all means.
Then, it says, “Fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7). This scripture rebukes the ignorant for missing these vital clues to our redemption and not living the best life that God wants for us.
The absence of fear of the Lord may mean that we'll make bad decisions in our lives, which are based upon human desires for wealth, power, and personal advancement at the expense of others.
When we include God in our lives, we embrace wisdom and learn about spiritual discernment.
This starts by acknowledging our creator and all He's done for us. Wisdom can only come from God and a strong belief in Him. You must fear God and keep his commandments, and from this comes righteousness.
Wisdom literature will always direct us straight back to Jesus Christ.
Job 19:25 reminds us: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the Earth.”
Job’s wisdom is shown in his unwavering faith and trust in God, his Redeemer. Job is confident that one day God’s plans on Earth will be completed, and we’ll be rewarded for our faith.
The powerful message delivered in Proverbs is clear and quite simple.
“Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” and it starts by having respect for the majesty of God. We show love for God by following his commandments — not because we have to, but because we want to live a truly spiritual life.
From this comes wisdom and a greater likelihood of a happy, successful life. In a sense, to abandon the fear of God is to walk away from God. We must have a healthy fear of God and His works to gain the wisdom promised in Proverbs.
Studying His word daily is a powerful starting point for coming to know and righteously fear Him.
If you want to better your Bible study and learn more about growing in the love of Christ, download the pray.com app — for daily prayer, bedtime Bible stories, and more — in the Google Play and Apple Store.