Do you ever find yourself needing wisdom to handle situations in life and wonder to yourself, where will you get it and how will you get it? If you’re like me, you’ve been here before. The need for wisdom should not surprise us, and neither should my proposition that the Bible contains the wisdom you need. The part that might seem somewhat counter-intuitive is the means; that is, the how. How does one actually get the wisdom they need to navigate life? Proverbs 1:1-7 will help us see the where and the how.
1 The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: 2 for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; 3 for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; 4 for giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young– 5 let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance– 6 for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise. 7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.Proverbs 1:1-7 (NIV)
A TESTIMONY UNTO ITSELF
I wonder if you’ve ever thought of the the Bible as having a testimony unto itself. That is, a text providing its reader a claim regarding its own veracity. The Bible is unlike any other text on Earth because it is the only book that can make such claims about itself. In this case, I will unpack the opening line of Proverbs 1.
The Proverbs are for…
- Gaining wisdom and instruction
- Understanding words of insight
- Receiving instruction in prudent behaviors
- Doing what is right, just and fair
- Giving prudence
- Knowledge and discretion to the young
- Able to teach the wise
- Giving guidance to the discerning
Not only is this a robust list, but this list is a list concerning the Bible itself. That is, the Proverbs say, I will help you with these things. If you need these things, come to me.
It really is an awesome claim. I wonder if you’ve experienced the benefits of this claim. Have you grown in wisdom, in understanding, learned to know what is right, just and fair, etc.? If so, then I suspect your reverence for the Bible has increased, and hopefully more so over time.
A PRESUPPOSITION TO WISDOM
In order to gain access to this deep well of wisdom, knowledge and understanding, a very important presupposition must be fulfilled. This is the how in our efforts to get the wisdom we need. The how is outlined in verse 7.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
So, not only do we have a testimony of the Bible claiming to offer us wisdom in a wide spectrum of ways, but the testimony of the Scripture is also this: If you want me (i.e. wisdom) you must fear Him…the Lord.
Fear is the beginning of knowledge. Fear is the presupposition to gaining access to the things denoted in verses 1-6 (and the rest of the scriptures, for sure). So, if the fear of the Lord is the how, then I suspect you might be asking something like…how do I fear the Lord. What does it actually mean to fear God?
FEAR OF GOD IS STATE OF MIND
It is a wise of you to fear God, and if you want to live a life of wisdom, knowledge, discretion and prudence, then the fear of the Lord will be your starting point. To fear the Lord is such a big concept I want to offer a few good running definitions.
“To fear the Lord is a state of mind in which one’s attitudes, will, feelings, deeds and goals are exchanged for God’s.”John MacArthur, Pastor-TeacherTweet
In The MacArthur Study Bible, Edition 1, page 877, Pastor MacArthur provides this helpful one-sentence understanding of what it means to fear God. I wonder if this resonates with you. If the fear of the Lord is a state of mind concerning my attitudes, will, feeling deeds and goals, then the obvious corollary ought to be: What are my attitudes, will, feelings, deeds and goals? But this is just scratching the service. MacArthur is having us dig deeper by pointing to our hearts and minds; that is, our state of mind. So we ask again: What is your state of mind?
This might be more easily approached when we’re actually in a situation where our attitudes, will, feelings, etc are being tested. So, think of the last difficult situation you faced when you knew without any doubt, you needed God’s wisdom on the matter. Close your eyes for a minute, reflect and ask yourself, what was my state of mind during that situation?
- What did I want?
- What did I feel?
- What did I do (or want to do)?
- What was my true aim or goal?
- What was my attitude toward so-and-so, or toward God?
These questions will help reveal allegiances in the heart, whether toward God or ultimately to our own way. And this is part of what Pastor MacArthur gets at. We have attitudes, goals, deeds, and feelings that need to be exchanged for God’s. This is to say, there are things that go on in our hearts that are not of God or for God; rather, they are of the self and for the self.
FEAR OF GOD IS ABOUT WORSHIP
Matthew Henry helpfully has us consider his take on what it means to fear God.
“Of all things that are to be known this is most evident, that God is to be feared, to be reverenced, served, and worshipped; this is so the beginning of knowledge that those know nothing who do not know this.”Matthew Henry, An Exposition, With Practical Observations, of
A key takeaway here is the emphasis on reverence, service and worship. When we hold in one hand Pastor MacArthur’s definition and Henry’s on the other, we realize at least this much: Un-exchanged attitudes and an independent heart cannot worship God, it does not worship God, it will not worship God. But if we humble ourselves and admit the parts of us that need to be exchanged, (i.e. repented of), then we develop a new posture of fear of God. A proper fear of God will inevitably lead to reverence of God, service and worship.
One way that I’ve come to describe this over the years: To fear God is know deep in our hearts that we are not God. Maybe that is a bit simplistic but the truth is (and I can testify to this tendency in me in times past), our hearts have a natural bend to self-elevation; a bend toward a belief that all we have in our life comes from us. That is, we worked for it. We earned it. We deserve it. But the humble heart is a heart that knows full-well that it has nothing that hasn’t been graciously given them by our Heavenly Father.
A heart that is too proud to fear God is a heart that has elevated itself to God.Tweet
I need wisdom. You need wisdom. The Bible is full of wisdom and knowledge. It is where we go to get the wisdom we need to handle life’s problems. The fear of God is how to access that wisdom. We miss the Bible then we miss the wisdom to help us. We miss fear of God then we miss both His wisdom and God himself.