The meaning of the phrase “fear of the Lord” (found in Proverbs 1:7) is unpacked for us Proverbs 2:1-5. In the blog, titled, I Need Wisdom, I provided John MacArthur’s definition of what it means to fear the Lord. Pastor MacArthur provided an answer as it relates to a state of mind of an individual. In Chapter 2, Solomon gives six ingredients that will help us in our journey to understand how to fear and know the Lord.
1 My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, 2 turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding– 3 indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, 4 and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, 5 then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.Proverbs 2:1-5 (NIV)
6 INGREDIENTS TO FEAR AND KNOW GOD
- Accept my words
- Store up my commands
- Turn your ear to wisdom
- Apply your heart to understanding
- Call out and Cry Out
- Look for it & Search for it
Solomon says if you do these things, then you will (1) Understand the fear of the Lord; (2) Find the knowledge of God. Are you in a position where you need to grow in your fear of God or grow in your knowledge of God? If so, then this passage help provide the how to. However, as we study this text, a key next step is: how to do these things in themselves. How does one “accept” or how does one “store up” God’s commands or how does on “turn their ear” to wisdom? These ideas seem at least mildly lofty, so this blog will explore how these ideas work and how they help us with problems of everyday living.
Part of being able to do these things is understanding the context of our need. That is, we need God and his wisdom. There isn’t one problem in life where you don’t need God and his wisdom. This may seem obvious on the surface but try to think back to specific situations where you needed God and his wisdom. Consider the problem you faced. Write down on a piece of paper a few of the ways you sought to handle the situation with or without God’s help.
A SMALL list of problems
- Addiction and/or substance abuse
- Marriage difficulties
- Parenting struggles
- Trauma recovery
- Financial instability
- Sickness and health
- Depression, anxiety, anger
- Discrimination or racism
- Church politics
- Unexpected death
- Abuse – physical/emotional
- Crime and poverty
An instinct that needs to grow and be nurtured as a Christian is the instinct to ask, what does God think? As our impulse to this question grows, we will develop better habits of reconsidering our wisdom that we tend to bring to a situation and problem of living, and work to bring to bear God’s wisdom.
UNPACKING THE INGREDIENTS
Let’s try to unpack these ingredients as it relates to a problem of everyday living. The problem we will work with is this: A sick and hospitalized spouse. What will it look like to for these ingredients to be at work in the context of caring for a spouse who is sick and hospitalized.
Ingredient 1: Accept my Words
To accept God’s words is to have the basic inclination of believing that God’s words are dependable and trustworthy.Tweet
In the way we may accept the testimony of someone under oath who is testifying to what is true, the words of God are words that are more worthy to be accepted than the best words spoken under oath.
The Hebrew term that is translated for accept might be better understood as to take, or take away or receive. Cumulatively, there are over 850 different references for these other translations. So, the words of God are not only to be believed at the most basic inclinations of our heart, but our hearts are to receive them as if we are taking them for our own procurement and use.
Solomon goes on to say in Proverbs 10:8, “The wise in heart accepts commands…” Why is acceptance of commands considered wise? Because by and through the acceptance of commands, we acknowledge, at the level of our heart, there is something innate within us that needs the commands; that need the direction in our life; that needs to be told what is the right way or else we are led astray and possibly in danger, perhaps even life threatening danger.
Application: What and whose words do you tend to cling to during difficulty and hardship? Is our inclination to put hope in doctors, nurses, specialist, surgeons, attendants or is our inclination to take the words of God, to accept then as true and to do so as if our lives depended on it?
Ingredient 2: Store up my commands
The Hebrew word for the phrase store up can also be translated as treasure up. The idea being, that the things we store up aren’t just any old thing for the sake of storing up. Rather, the idea is we store up what we value and hold dear. We take within ourselves something of worth as if it is worth something. More than this, we hide it there. The content of that which we value, treasure and hide in our hearts are God’s commands. What are the commands of God if none other than at least the 10 Commandments.
Jesus summarized them as: (1) Love God with all your heart, soul mind and strength; (2) Love your neighbor as yourself. But he also provided a more in-depth analysis of the areas of our lives to which these laws were implicitly and necessarily connected; namely, our thought life. Here is one example. Jesus said that if we even look at a someone lustfully, we’ve committed adultery with them in our hearts. (See Matt 5:27-28).
How do you think of these commands in the context of suffering? Remember, how you respond to suffering matters just as much as the suffering itself. And not matter how great your suffering, difficulty and hardship, we do not have permission to sin in our response.
In suffering, deliberate sin is often about relief from suffering and not so much the enjoyment of the sin itself. Most mature Christians hate their sin but find enduring suffering to be uniquely intolerable that they will violate their own conscious to find any sliver of relief.Tweet
The simplest way to begin storing up God’s commands is to work to meditate on them and memorize them. Joshua 1:8 is a helpful reminder: Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” As we grow in these areas, we will develop better detection methods in seeing our proneness to want to sin in the midst of suffering.
Application: Do you agree that despite our suffering, we do not have permission to sin? If so, which commands of God do you need God’s help storing up.
Ingredient 3: Turn your ear to wisdom
Who do you listen to? What teachers are you inclined to take advice from? Who do seek out for help and wisdom when difficulty and hardship come your way? The world reiterates three kinds of messages in the midst of suffering: (1) You deserve happiness, (2) Believe in yourself, (3) Self-esteem is the issue. When the rawest parts of suffering come along we are stripped of any ability to accomplish these things for ourselves which should serve as a clue that these messages are a farce. If they were really true, then there ought to be people lining up to sacrifice themselves on our behalf while suffering.
But with the gospel, we have someone who has so identified himself with us in our weakness that he endured the cross, the worst form of human suffering imaginable, (cf. Heb 12:2, Rom 5:8). The message of the gospel in our pain is this: (1) You need to worship, (2) Believe the gospel, (3) Esteem Christ. This is the wisdom to which we must turn our ear when pain and suffering come our way. If we are suffering and we are receiving messages that more closely resemble the world, we must turn our ear away.
To turn your ear to wisdom in the midst of suffering is to effectively say in your heart, the gospel has more to offer me than the world ever could.Tweet
As a result, we consciously choose to listen to the sound of the gospel for the wisdom we need and make a deliberate break from worldliness. The degree to which we are turning our ear to wisdom will be reflected in the way we apply the gospel to our heart.
Application: When you suffer, struggle, endure difficulty and hardship, whose voices do you welcome into your ear? Do you welcome gospel-centered messages of wisdom or messages which are essentially self-centered?
Ingredient 4: Apply your heart to understanding
Applying your heart to understanding is perhaps the first step of gospel-centered application of wisdom. Applying your heart to wisdom is the first evidence that we understand the core facet of our lives that must be changed in our application of biblical wisdom; that is, the heart.
The Hebrew word for heart [לֵב] is translated for heart over 500 times in the OT, with little over 60 references in the Proverbs alone. Heart [לֵב] is taken quite seriously in the Bible. The heart is the repository of all sorts of evil and good within a person. The heart is the resting place of where we hope to achieve ultimate and lasting change, and is starting point for what explains why a person behaves and believes the way they do.
To apply our heart to understanding is to apply the gospel, all it implications, and its second and third order effects, to our heart. To apply the heart to understanding is at at least three fold:
- We ask a different set of questions when we face difficulty: We ask less and less, make the pain stop and more and more, help me worship during this time. (Ref. Matt 26:39)
- We have different starting point: We grow in awareness that pain and hardship have purpose and are not pointless and random. We presume the truth of the gospel as a foundation and guiding source of hope and sustenance in our difficulty. (Ref. 2 Cor 12:9)
- We have a different set of ambitions: In tandem with a new kind of prayer life, our hope and vision for heaven shifts. We long for the Lord more than we long for relief. We set our hope on heaven and our eyes on Christ. (Ref. Romans 5:4, 12:12)
Application: When you face difficult circumstances, do you apply the truth of the gospel to your heart to help you and sustain you?
Ingredient 5: Call out & Cry Out
To call our for insight is to actually use our faculty of speaking our pleas for help and support when difficulty arises. We do this in various ways. One way is to ask a counselor. We explain a problem and hope the counselor provides an answer. Another way is to turn to social media. There are people who literally make their complaints known to the whole world phishing for feedback and hoping they strike an answer. Some look to politicians; others look to pop-stars.
For the Christian, we look to Christ. When the pain is on and our difficulty surrounds us, we can’t help but call out. And who hasn’t ever reached a point in their lives when the circumstances are such they need and answer, the must have direction. I know of no one who has never reached a point where they haven’t called out in desperation.
The primary point here is the object or direction to which we call. Do you call to God or to something other than God? Do you look to the Scriptures or something else? Do you confess sins and solicit support from those in Christ or those outside of Christ?
Application: When the difficulties of life become too much to bear, where and to whom do you call for help, for insight in how to move forward?
Ingredient 6: Look for it & Search for it
Just as the object of our calling out for insight matters, so goes the substance of that which we look and search. There are two important factors to consider when searching for wisdom; two assumptions that take place: (1) Where we find it; (2) What it looks like when we have found it.
Where to find wisdom: By virtue of the act of searching and looking within the thing we are searching and looking, we have assumed that this is where wisdom is found. Akin to calling out for insight, one may behave in random ways or deliberate ways in all the wrong places. Either way, the search is built on a premises in the heart that this is where wisdom is found.
What it looks like: How do you recognize wisdom when you see it? How do you know when you have found it when you’ve gone searching for it, looking and calling? This is important to consider. If we call out, look and search wisdom within the scope of the world, we have presumed that the wisdom we need is found in the world.
The wisdom of the world is always tailored to suit a fleshly version of wisdom. But the wisdom of the Bible is a wisdom that always points and leads us to the cross of Christ. When you search and look, you must search the Scriptures while simultaneously looking to the Cross.Tweet
Application: Do you search to the Bible when face hardship? Can you look to the Cross when suffering comes your way.
This is the sort of calling, searching and looking that will engender the right kind of fear of the Lord and develop the a true understanding of the knowledge of God. Accepting God’s words, storing up his commands, turning to his wisdom; applying your heart, calling, searching and looking the wisdom God provides is how we come to fear God and understand who he is.
This is the pathway to a life that doesn’t implode when hardship comes; this is the pathway of a heart that doesn’t turn cold when pain is too much; this is the pathway of a faith that keeps pointing and leading to Heaven even when we are told in desperate prayers, my grace is sufficient for you.