Friday, July 13, 2012
Today’s Topic: Healthy Fear
Today’s Text: Proverbs 1:7 (ESV) The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Friday the 13th. Black cats crossing your path. Broken mirrors. Walking under ladders. These superstitions invoke fear in the hearts and minds of many people. Desperate people. Foolish people who are literally despising wisdom and instruction.
Fear is beneficial for us if properly acknowledged. Fear of being burned usually keeps us from touching fire yet the fire itself is beneficial to us as a source of heat, cooking, and more. Fear of falling and breaking bones keeps us from walking too close to the edge of a cliff – or at least it should, right Dennis? Every day in a variety of ways fear produces wisdom for decision-making.
It is this kind of fear that the Bible says is the beginning of knowledge and the key to wisdom. Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” But we have changed the meaning of the word fear from what God intended us to understand. Our modern Christianity has simply defined the fear of the Lord as “wonder and awe.” I do not believe that is a complete and sufficient definition. Yes, God is awe-inspiring. He is to be revered. But He is also to be literally feared.
Let’s look at the words of Jesus concerning the type of fear we are to have of God. In Matthew 10:28 Jesus said, And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. That’s more than just reverential awe, isn’t it? One of the thieves on the cross understood this when he turned to the other thief and said, “But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?’” (Luke 23:40) The beginning of all wisdom, especially the wisdom of God that comes through His grace to bring us to salvation, starts with a very real fear of God’s justice and judgment. Those who are not saved by the blood of Jesus Christ which was shed as the payment for our sins on Calvary have never faced their fear of God in a healthy way. Rather than embracing it and seeking the grace of God, they have rejected God and His wisdom, thereby making themselves out to be fools.
For those who are saved, the wisdom that comes from a true fear of the Almighty Judge transforms our fear of judgment into a reverential awe of the One who saved us from all judgment by judging His Son Jesus on the cross in our place. But both parts of fear must remain.
In the book of Acts, as the early church was getting organized, a man named Barnabas sold some land and gave the proceeds to the Elders of the church. Seeing the recognition he got, Ananias and Saphira decided to sell some land and give the money to the Lord as well. Their intention was not to help the church, but to help themselves, so they gave only part of what they earned but claimed they had given it all. This lie to the Holy Spirit of God brought instant death to both of them – the judgment of God on sin in the church. As a result, Acts 5:11 says, “Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.”
The Greek word translated into English as “fear” in this verse is the word “phobos”, from which we get our English word phobia. It is literal fear, and it must continue to be a part of a healthy understanding of God even though now we have been saved from eternal judgment. He is our heavenly Father, and in His eternal love for us He is working to bring out His best in us. That requires discipline and training, and the fear of the Lord is the beginning of that training in wisdom. The fear of discipline is a Godly motivator.
So my challenge from Proverbs for today is this – restore a properly acknowledged and healthy fear of God based on His judgment and His grace, and embrace both as the wisdom that brings obedience.
Here’s what a friend said about this verse as he accepted the Proverbs challenge: We have lost our fear of the Lord. Fear of the Lord should be a respectful, genuine fear of failing to please Him while also being aware of the consequences of disobeying Him. If we listen (follow, obey) to the Lord, we will live in safety. The ESV says we will live at ease, without dread of disaster. Does that mean we will never experience disaster or harm? No. It means we will not live in fear of it. Rather, we will be at ease because we know our Lord will never leave us, nor forsake us. He will faithfully supply ALL our needs. Therefore, we need not be anxious about anything! What an AWESOME GOD.