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Fear the Lord of Proverbs

Proverbs: Wisdom for God's Life in the World  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  45:33
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If you have your bibles let me invite you to open with me to the book of Proverbs.
Today we will be completing our study of the preamble to the book of Proverbs.
This is an introductory paragraph designed to ease us into the book.
The preamble equips us with important vocabulary and concepts that will help us interpret the book as we progress.
Last week we looked at 9 different terms that relate to wisdom found in verses 2-6,
All those nuances from verses 2-6 are helpful… but there is a reason that verse 7 gets its own sermon this week.
The structure of verse 7 is different from verses 2-6.
Verse 7 stands out.
It transitions us from the preamble to the first collection of wisdom writings in the book.
In fact, verse 7 functions as the theological key to the whole book.
If you don’t understand verse 7, you won’t be able to interpret this book.
If you don’t understand verse 7, you won’t understand what wisdom is.
So with that in mind… lets read this preamble to proverbs one more time and then lets give our attention to verse 7.
Proverbs 1:1–7 ESV
The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth— Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Lets Pray
Lord increase our right reverent awe-inspired fear of you this morning.
May our fear of you be the key which unlocks the knowledge and wisdom we desperately need to faithfully live in your world.
Speak now O Lord and show yourself to be mighty, awesome, and worthy of our obedience, worthy of our attention, worthy of of our praise.
We pray this by your grace and for your glory in Jesus name amen.
Proverbs 1:7 ESV
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Chapters 1 -9 of Proverbs make up the first collection of wisdom writings in the book.
That section begins with this phrase, “the fear of the Lord” and it ends with this phrase “fear of the Lord”
Notice its re appearance in 9:10.
Proverbs 9:10 ESV
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
As we have discussed in the gospel of Mark… sandwiching is a common literary device.
This is where the author bookends sections with similar ideas or phrases on the outside of the writing so that the content in the middle helps you explain the concept on the outside of the sandwhich.
Not only do we see a small “fear of the Lord” sandwich technique with the first collection of writings.
We see it actually encompassing the whole book of Proverbs.
Like a bigger sandwich encompassing the whole book, this phrase marks the beginning and end of Proverbs.
Listen to the final descriptor of the wise woman in the final verses of Proverbs 31.
Proverbs 31:30 ESV
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
now back to verse 7.
Proverbs 1:7 ESV
7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
The fear of the Lord makes up the outer portions of this sandwich.... and thus everything that comes in between helps us to see what it looks like to live life in the fear of the Lord.
Fear of the Lord is therefore the key to the knowledge that is found in this book.
but what in the world does it mean to Fear the Lord???
Just looking at the individual words that make up the phrase don’t help us discern its meaning all that well.
One commentator writes this about the phrase fear of the Lord:
“Even as one will not understand “butterfly” by “analyzing “butter” and “fly” independently, so also “fear of the Lord” cannot be understood by studying “fear” and “the Lord” in isolation from each other. The expression is a compound. “Fear of the Lord (yirʾat YHWH) involves both rational and non-rational aspects at the same time.” - Bruce Waltke
We know what the word Fear means.
We fear things that are dangerous to us.
We fear things that are threatening to our health or our safety.
We fear poisonous snakes, powerful storms, and deadly diseases
We fear anything that would take our joy or our life or that might harm our loved ones?
Is Solomon saying that the key to knowledge and wisdom as he has just described it… is to live scared of God all the time?
Are we to live our lives at all times as if God is dangerous to us?
What about all the moments in the Bible where God shows himself to someone and then he tells them… “do not be afraid”
God very famously told Joshua
Joshua 1:9 ESV
9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
When John saw Jesus in all his glory and fell trembling as if he were dead, he heard these words from the lips of Jesus.
Revelation 1:17–18 ESV
17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.
So we know there is a wrong way to fear God.... but apparently there is also a very right and necessary way to fear God.
From proverbs we learn that whatever this phrase means, “ The Fear of the Lord”.... it is absolutely a good thing that brings blessing and knowledge to anyone who embraces it.
Listen as the phrase “fear of the Lord” continues throughout the book of Proverbs like glue holding all the wisdom together.
Proverbs 8:13 ESV
13 The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.
Proverbs 10:27 ESV
The fear of the Lord prolongs life, but the years of the wicked will be short.
Proverbs 14:2 ESV
Whoever walks in uprightness fears the Lord, but he who is devious in his ways despises him.
Proverbs 15:16 ESV
Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it.
Proverbs 16:6 ESV
By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil.
Proverbs 19:23 ESV
The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm.
Proverbs 22:4 ESV
The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life.
Proverbs 23:17 ESV
Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day.
Proverbs 28:14 ESV
Blessed is the one who fears the Lord always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity.
The fear of the Lord in proverbs is never portrayed as a negative thing to be avoided, but rather always a quality to be embraced whole hardheartedly. .
so, what is it?
Proverbs drops us a few hints along the way.
In the verses we just read “fear of the Lord” is connected with
- a hatred for evil,
- a soft heart,
- humility,
- a rejection of our own wisdom in favor of God’s,
- contentment, and
- uprightness.
But while those things may be associated with a person who fears the Lord…and perhaps even a result of their fear of the Lord... those things don’t exactly give us a definition.... so lets keep digging.
We know that Solomon would have been a king who knew his Bible.
He likely had personal hand-written copies of Moses’ writings and he knew them well.
And if we look to the writings of Moses, we learn that Solomon did not just come up with this idea of fearing God.
Solomon used the language that Moses used in Exodus and Deuteronomy.
Solomon is not developing a new concept with this “fear of the Lord” language.
He is building off of a very old concept.
In Deuteronomy 5, The Lord is speaking with Moses.
And God says this about his desire for the people of Israel. .
Deuteronomy 5:29 ESV
29 Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!
so here Is God celebrating fear of God as a good thing that he desires for his people and he connects the fear of the Lord with obedience.
Fear of the Lord and obedience are described as inseparable realities.
If you fear God in the right way, you will want to walk through life God’s way.
We see this again in verse 2 of Deuteronomy 6.
Deuteronomy 6:2 ESV
2 that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long.
Again obedience and fear of the Lord are connected.
That makes sense even with our instinctive understanding of the word fear.
If your afraid of God… if you are afraid of his wrath and his judgments… you will obey his commands right?
Maybe thats what Moses is advocating for here.
Maybe he is saying… Be scared to death of God… then you will obey him… and things will be good.
Perhaps thats the way some of you think of God.
You think of him as wrathful, rule-giving judge, who will smash you if you mess up so your obedience is motivated primarily by your fear of punishment.
Makes sense if these were the only verses we had to go off of…, but what doesn’t make sense is the command that Moses then gives..
What kind of God-fearing obedience does God demand of us?
What is the most important command?
Deuteronomy 6:4–5 ESV
4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
Ok so now we have a very strange dichotomy wrapped up in this phrase “fear of the Lord”
How can fear, obedience, and love coincide in the same responsibility to our God?
And not just any ole love.. a whole heart, whole soul, and whole might consuming love for God.
There is an amazing dichotomy within the concept the fear of the Lord.
The fear of the Lord we are supposed to have is a kind of fear that actually draws us to God.
If it is the kind of fear that drives us away from God…, then its the wrong kind of fear.
This kind of fear of the Lord is somehow, someway, totally and completely compatible and in fact necessary for loving God whole heartedly.
You do not rightly fear him…, then you do not rightly know him much less love him.
C.S. Lewis portrays a helpful dichotomy in his children’s story The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
In the story, Christ is represented by Aslan, the great lion.
When the children in the story first hear about Aslan, they nervously ask this question, “is he safe?”
Their guide, mr. Beaver answers, “of course he is not safe, but he is good.”
There is a sense in which Aslan should be feared because he is a lion…, but loved because he is a good lion..
There is a very real sense in which God should be rightly feared because he is God…, but loved because he is a good God.
Charles Bridges defines Fear of the Lord in this way.
“The Fear of the Lord is the affectionate reverence, by which the child of God bends himself humbly and carefully to his Father’s law.” - Charles Bridges
There is a sense in which I want my own children to revere me for my position and authority in their life…, but its my very wielding of that authority for their good that causes them to draw near to me for provision, safety, protection, and love.
This is the kind of relationship the new covenant invites you into.
You are invited into a relationship with the God of the universe.
Listen to the language of what God promises to do through Jesus according to the prophet Jeremiah
This is the fear of the new covenant:
Jeremiah 32:39–41 ESV
39 I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. 40 I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. 41 I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.
Jeremiah 33:9 ESV
And this city shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and a glory before all the nations of the earth who shall hear of all the good that I do for them. They shall fear and tremble because of all the good and all the prosperity I provide for it.
Again, hear the Psalmist in Psalm 145. This a concept that Solomon probably heard from his own father, King David.
Psalm 145:19–20 ESV
He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. The Lord preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.
Notice again the parallel between fear of God and love of God.
Ok, so let me ask again… what in the world is the fear of the Lord?
We know its a right combination of fear, obedience, and love…, but what is it?
Here is my stab at a working definition.

Truth #1 To Fear the Lord is to Relate to God as He Really Is

In other words it is to respond to God and his Word for who he really is and what he has really said.
Whether you know it or not, most of your problems in life can be traced back to your perception of who God is, what God is like, and what God has said.
Anxiety, depression, sin, laziness, all are very different things, but have similar root causes. There is a disconnect between your thought life and the full reality of who God is and what God has said.
A.W. Tozer says this,
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us… The most portentous fact bout any man is not what at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like.”
- AW Tozer
Each of us has this sin within us that causes us to shape God into our own image.
Rather than conforming to the image of God…, we find ourselves conforming God to the image of me.
We have this tendency to see God as smaller than he is…,
less holy than he is..,
less just than he is…,
less sovereign than he is…,
less loving than he is…,
less merciful than he is…,
less truthful than he is…,
less wise than he really is.
less involved than he is.
Each of us has this proclivity of breaking the first two commandments.
In fact, God’s longing for his people to fear him in Deuteronomy 5:29 comes immediately after the 10 commandments were just articulated to the people starting in verse 6.
Deuteronomy 5:6–10 ESV
6 “ ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 7 “ ‘You shall have no other gods before me. 8 “ ‘You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 9 You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 10 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
What is the beginning of knowledge?
What is the key to wisdom?
What is the fear of God?
It is the right commitment to the first two commandments, no other gods.., and don’t reduce god to a more manageable idol.
Relate to God as he really is.
And who is he really?
The first truth gives us a foundation for understanding verse 7.

Truth #1 To Fear the Lord is to Relate to God as He Really Is

now, I want us to discuss this God as he really is.
Who is the Lord that we fear rightly?
Specifically, who is he according to the book of proverbs?
Many people assume that the book of Proverbs is primarily a practical book.
Its a book about Life and wisdom.
Its not so much a book about God.
But that assumption is a false way of viewing life in God’s world.
Its a false assumption that Proverbs actually exists to confront.
God is not separate from the practicality of life.
God cannot be relegated to some certain moment or area of your life.
He cannot be shelved 6 days a week only to be taken out of his box one day a week for some worship music.
In fact it is the right kind of fear of the Lord that is the beginning of all knowledge.
One commentator writes this:
“What the alphabet is to reading, notes to reading music, and numerals to mathematics, the fear of the Lord is to attaining the revealed knowledge of this book.” - David Waltke
There is a deep, robust, beautiful, awe-inspiring doctrine of God that permeates every ounce of wisdom in this book.
If the author of Proverbs wants us to fear the Lord…This is what I want to do with the remainder of our time together.
Lets consider for a moment what Proverbs has to say about this Lord.
The next truths will come in rapid fire.

Truth #2 The Lord of Proverbs is Creator

Proverbs 3:19–20 ESV
The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens; by his knowledge the deeps broke open, and the clouds drop down the dew.
Proverbs 20:12 ESV
The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord has made them both.
The Lord is portrayed as establishing both the unfathomable magnitude of the heavens…, and the intricate detail and design of the human eye.
he is creator of all things.
And he created according to his own wisdom.
Built into the very fabric of his created order is knowledge and wisdom that flows from God as wisdom’s source.
Calculus and physics work because God ordained it so.
Musical notes produce soothing sounds that move the ear drum in particular ways that invoke particular emotions within his creatures.
God designed the way that vibrations travel through the air to create sound. He is the creator, enabler, and the recipient of musical worship.
The world order works in a particular way because God used his wisdom to create it so.
And thus Wisdom is Walking in God’s World God’s Way.
Truth #2 The Lord of Proverbs is Creator

Truth #3 The Lord of Proverbs Sees All Things and Knows All Things

The God of proverbs did not create the world and then step back from it to focus on other endeavors.
he did not create the world and then look another direction.
He sees all that happens in the world
He knows every detail of every action done under the cover of darkness.
He knows every thought in the secret places of a person’s heart.
Proverbs 2:8 ESV
guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints.
Proverbs 5:21 ESV
For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all his paths.
Proverbs 15:3 ESV
The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.
Proverbs 15:11 ESV
Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the Lord; how much more the hearts of the children of man!
Proverbs 20:27 ESV
The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all his innermost parts.
Proverbs 21:2 ESV
Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.
It is not just that God had a lot of knowledge to create the world.
God presently has all knowledge about the world we are living in right now.
He has all knowledge of every intention of your heart.
Knowledge is not something that the LORD increases or decreases in.
He has always been and will always be - all knowing of all things even the things you keep most secret.
The Lord of Proverbs is Creator
The Lord of Proverbs Sees All Things and Knows All Things

Truth #4 The Lord of Proverbs Accomplishes All that He Purposes

Proverbs 16:3–4 ESV
Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.
Proverbs 16:9 ESV
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.
Proverbs 16:33 ESV
The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.
Proverbs 19:21 ESV
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
Proverbs 21:1 ESV
The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.
Proverbs 21:30–31 ESV
No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the Lord. The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord.
Not only did God create everything according to his wisdom.
Not only does God know everything that is.
God also has the power to accomplish all that his wisdom deems necessary to accomplish.
He is sovereign Lord over his created universe.
He is king of kings.
He is lord of lords.
By his wisdom he holds together galaxies… and by his wisdom he causes the lot to land as he wills.
The God of proverbs is doing something in the world in the details…
He is working out a will…
He is leading the universe toward a desired end.... and nothing and no one can stop him.
But what is he sovereignly accomplishing?
The proverbs simplify this into God’s activity toward two categories of people:

Truth #5 The Lord of Proverbs Blesses the Wise

God is personally involved in the lives of his people as they walk wise paths.
not only is he personally involved, but he actually delights in the path, and he blesses those who walk the path of wisdom he reveals.
Proverbs 2:6–8 ESV
6 For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; 7 he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, 8 guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints.
Notice the Lord giving wisdom and then shielding and guarding over those who walk in wisdom.
We see this throughout the book.
Proverbs 30:5 ESV
5 Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
Proverbs portrays a God who speaks truth and blesses his people as they heed that truth.
Proverbs 16:20 ESV
20 Whoever gives thought to the word will discover good, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.
God’s instructions actually lead to life, joy, and satisfaction.
The way of wisdom that God ordains, is a good path for those who walk it.
Listening to God, believing in God, following God’s way, is the way to live a blessed life, where you experience the favor of God.
God’s invitation to fear him is an invitation to love him as a child loves his good father who has given him a good and helpful law to protect him and instruct him.
Throughout proverbs, the Lord is portrayed as one who listens to prayers, intervenes for his people, provides safety, guidance, and rest for his people.
The Lord is Blessing The Wise
But on the flip side…, he is also a just God who inflicts judgment on those who choose the way of foolishness.

Truth #6 The Lord of Proverbs Punishes the Fool

Proverbs 1:7 is clear.
There is a kind of person who fears the Lord rightly.
They believe that God is who he says he is and they begin down the path of wisdom, the path of the tree of life, the path of instruction, and understanding.
They fear God in a way that draws them toward God.
But there is a second kind of person.
Proverbs 1:7 ESV
7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
The fool hates wisdom.
The fool hates instruction.
He does not want to be told when he is wrong.
He does not relate to God as he really is.
He fears God in the wrong way…
He fears being controlled by God in a way that steals his joy…,
He fears whether God’s instruction is really good instruction or not..,
He fears missing out....
He fears what people will think...
He fears surrendering to the Lord’s will...
His fear… causes him to run from God.., rather than to God.
And he chooses a foolish path, which God promises leads to destruction.
Proverbs 3:33–34 ESV
33 The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the dwelling of the righteous. 34 Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor.
Proverbs 10:29 ESV
29 The way of the Lord is a stronghold to the blameless, but destruction to evildoers.
God gives life to those on the path of wisdom.
but God brings destruction to those on the path of foolishness.
He is a just judge who in the end will deliver the final verdict to all evil-doers.
So This is the proverb picture of God.
He is creator
He is all seeing and all knowing
He accomplishes all that he purposes
He blesses the wise who fear God rightly
He punishes the foolish who fear God wrongly
Again we are confronted with the dichotomy of the fear of the Lord.
There is a dichotomy within the very being of God… He is to be both feared and loved. He blesses abundantly, but he judges justly.
The difficulty is knowing whether you fit in the category of wise or the category of the foolish?
Should you expect an eternal blessing from this majestic Lord or an eternal punishment?
The same conundrum shows up back in the Deuteronomy passage we read.
Look again at Deuteronomy 5
The dichotomy is right there in verses 9-10.
Deuteronomy 5:9–10 ESV
9 You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 10 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
God is a God who both visits iniquity with jealousy and he is a God who shows steadfast love to thousands.
He is God who judges sin and he is a God who forgives sinners.
He is a God who is unapproachable in his holiness…, yet he is a God who invites us to draw near.
He is a God to be feared always…, but when we tremble before him, he says we don’t have to be afraid.
So how are these two realities reconciled?
How can any of us be considered among the wise who will be blessed…, when all of us very often walk as the fool rather than the wise?
The answer comes not in proverbs, but at the climax of the biblical story… the cross of Christ Jesus.

Truth #7 To Fear the Lord Rightly, Look to the Cross

Its only at the cross where we get the answer to the deepest questions about how we relate to God.
How can God be both a punisher of sin and a savior to sinners?
How could I ever be considered wise rather than a fool, when my foolishness seems to speak the louder word so often?
At the cross of Christ we see the full wrath of a fearfully Holy God being poured out… visiting the iniquity of the world that was placed on the person of Jesus.
We see a darkened sky and the ground shaking and the veil tearing and the bloodied broken body of Jesus taking his last breath under the weight of the wrath of God for the sins of the world.
At the same time we see love on display.
We see a God who made a way to show steadfast love and kindness despite our sin.
At the cross we see the man who became wisdom for us…,
who lived wisely all of his days…, but who died a fools death.
In Jesus we see someone who deserved all the blessings of wisdom…, but he received God’s curse in himself for the foolishness of the world.
Fear the God who should crush you with his might…, but who crushed Jesus, his only son instead.
Do you fear God rightly?
How does your doctrine of God effect your daily life?
Do you believe in God?
Do you believe this gospel message that God made a way for you to have relationship with him through Jesus?
Do you believe that God’s word is wise and that everything he instructs is for your good?
Do those beliefs impact your actions?
If God has clearly shown in his word, that he calls you to be baptized as a believing adult… what keeps you from heeding that call?
If God has clearly called you to be a meaningful part of the body of Christ, to join yourself to a church to help build up other believers, then what keeps you?
If God has called you to make disciples, then why is the ongoing buzzyness of your life an adequate excuse?
If God has declared that sexual sin to be a destructive abomination, then why go to it again and again?
If God is sovereign over every little detail in the cosmos, then why do you spend so much of your life in anxiety about what he alone can control?
If God has promised you an internal inheritance…, then why do live, and save, and spend as if this life is all there is?
There may be a whole host of complicated answers to any of those questions…, but I can tell you this… gaze at the magnitude of God… fear God rightly… and you will see how a right fear of God is truly the beginning of all knowledge.
Proverbs 1:7 ESV
7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Lets Pray
O Lord, help us not to be fools.
Help us not to despise your wisdom and instruction.
Help us to fear you and to walk in wisdom.
we pray this in Jesus name… amen.
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