The following message is based on Proverbs 9:10-12 and deals with the subject of fearing God. It was delivered on April 21, 2013, on the same day that Central installed church leaders.
Before too long and school will be out. In Missouri, we always looked forward to this occurring around May 20th. In Pennsylvania, you need more schooling, so they keep you until the second week of June. This morning, I’d like you to recall when you were in school. What was your favorite class? Which one did you hate? I’m sure there were aspects you enjoyed and aspects you loathed. Hopefully, you cultivated a love for learning. As a parent, I find that particularly challenging. Kids look forward to the end of school so they can sing: “No More pencils, no more books, no more teachers’ dirty looks.” As you reflect on your time in school, bring to mind your pursuit of knowledge. According to Time magazine, the following are the ten best books of all time. See if you can guess them, then ask yourself if you’ve read them.
- Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
- Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
- War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
- Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
- Hamlet by William Shakespeare
- The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald
- In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust
- The Stories of Anton Chekhov by Anton Chekhov
- Middlemarch by George Eliot
Supposedly, these are the best books ever written. But as I read the list, there is not one mention of the Bible or of spiritual literature. It is all just someone’s opinion. Nevertheless, if we’ve never read any of them, we can’t help but to feel that we are missing out.
As it pertains to life, many of us are still looking for some answers to important questions. If life were a test that consisted of one question, our text would provide its answer. Wisdom is the major theme found in the book of Proverbs. This morning, I will give you the most important, the most fundamental aspect of all knowledge in the world. Otto Zockler once said: “The wiser man is also the just, the pious, the upright, the man who walks in the way of truth. The fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom, consists in a complete devotion to God.” This morning, I would like to show you the most important bit of information that there is. I would dare say that what I’m about to share with you is the foundation of all other wisdom. Unlike the cost of an education at the most prestigious Ivy League School, the wisdom from Scripture is free. Let us discover this morning how “Wisdom and Devotion Go Hand in Hand.” We first learn that…
REVERENCE FOR GOD IS A READILY ACCESSIBLE FOUNDATION FOR ALL DECISIONS IN LIFE.
Solomon was considered to be the wisest man in the world in his time. His intellect was renowned. He was famous for His smarts. And in our verse today, he gives us the beginning of wisdom, which is the “fear of the Lord.” The Hebrew denotes that the term “beginning” is “the first principle” of wisdom. In other words, before all else, it is absolutely pertinent that we understand “the fear of the Lord,” and how it should affect all that we do, think and say. It is the foundation of all prudence. The fear of the Lord is item number one on life’s list of things to know. In Proverbs chapter nine, wisdom is personified. It is compared to a host who has prepared a meal for her guests and the invitations have been sent out. She invites all those who are interested in verse five, never turning anyone away: Proverbs 9:5 “Come, eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed. 6 Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of understanding.”
One of the things wrong with our world today is that people are plagued with an arrogant assumption that they know more than God. Existentialism teaches that the person is the determiner of truth and that all information filters through your mind and you determine your own truth. Postmodernism takes this a step further by saying that truth is not objective. Your truth is not my truth and my truth is not your truth. But God says: “Come, eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed. 6 Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of understanding.”
God is an inviting God. And He cares deeply about us. But He will also let us go our own way if we reject Him. Isaiah 55:1 says: “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. 2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. 3 Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live.” Wisdom is there for the asking. Unfortunately though, many of us live with pride and do not humbly come before God to seek His wisdom, even when His precepts are quite clear. God beckons us to come.
What do we mean by fear of the Lord? Fear in this instance denotes reverence and piety. In 2 Chronicles 19:9 we see that the Levites were to judge disputes among the people in the fear of the Lord, which means that they were to recognize God’s commandants as the guiding light in their decision making. So the fear of the Lord is reverence for God and respecting His character and commandments. In Exodus 20:20, Moses told the Israelites at the terrible scene of Mt. Sinai: “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” Obedience is the goal of a healthy respect for God.
Let us compare this type of fear that that of the elements. For instance, we are to always fear water. It does not mean we do not enjoy swimming or fishing, but we must revere it. For water is much more powerful than we are. Just ask someone who has experienced the loss of all their possessions due to a flood. Or inquire of someone who has come close to drowning. Water can be dangerous and is deserving of our respect. But we should not be afraid of it. Many boating accidents occur for one’s lack of respect for the water. Or there’s fire. Fire can warm us or cook our food, but it can also burn our house down. So we don’t have to be afraid of fire, but we must have a healthy respect for it. The same goes for God. Since He is the creator and sustainer of the universe, we are to respect Him. As a child should His parents, so we are to honor God as the authority in our lives. This starts by following His Son, Jesus Christ, as Savior and Lord.
Do you fear God? Have you come to the realization that He is infinitely holy and hates all sin? Do you remember that He has a jealous wrath for His holiness, “a fiery indignation which will devour His adversaries,” as Hebrews 10:27 teaches? Unfortunately, far too many of us fear things besides God today. We are afraid of what others will think of us if we speak out about God and His law. But we are not afraid of spoiling our reputation through sin. We fear the rejection by the world, be we don’t fear God’s judgment for sin, for after all, “I believe and that is good enough.” How we need to recover an honest view of the holiness of God as it relates to our behavior. Jesus said in Matthew 10:28: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Theologian and author R. C. Sproul states that one benefit from reading the Old Testament is to recover a sense of the holiness of God. REVERENCE FOR GOD IS A READILY ACCESSIBLE FOUNDATION FOR ALL DECISIONS IN LIFE. Secondly…
OUR REVERENCE FOR GOD IS MEASURED BY OUR ATTITUDE TOWARDS SIN.
Knowledge of God brings with it conviction to honor and obey Him N. Emmons states: “Everyone who has read the book of Proverbs with any attention must have observed that Solomon means by ‘wisdom’ holiness, and by ‘folly’ sin; by a wise man a saint, and by a fool a sinner.” What a shame it is for a person to say that they know God, but not live as He teaches in His word. It is the determiner between one knowing of Jesus and knowing Jesus.
The book of Proverbs gives an adequate definition of the fear of the Lord in how it relates to daily living. Proverbs 8:13: “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil….” In 16:6 we read: “…by the fear of the Lord one keeps away from evil.” In other words, knowing God is not just acquiring some facts about Him. It means that His Spirit affects how we live. Anything short of this may be that we know of Him, but are not one of His children.
You may ask “Why should I fear God? What’s in it for me?” Much, I say. Notice verse 11 of our passage: “For through me your days will be many, and years will be added to your life. 12 If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.” What you and I must understand today is that by fearing God and honoring Him, we are not only being wise, but we are also investing in our lives. Unfortunately, we live in a world of scoffers of God’s truth today. Many will say: “God is a kill-joy. You only live once.” But why live as you choose in order to suffer in hell for eternity? When God changes the heart, by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus, God’s commandments take on a loving, protective, joyful characteristic. Jesus said: “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me… and you will find rest for your souls.” The apostle John wrote in 1 John 5:3: “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome….” Author David Hubbard states: “Fear of God has long life as its destiny. Infatuation with folly is a shortcut to the mortuary.”
This church is filled with bright people; overachievers. The leaders we installed today are exceptionally gifted. How smart are you? I am not referring to your IQ or how many degrees you have or what your class rank was. I speak of your inclination to serve and obey God. Are you prudent in spiritual matters? Can the people who know you say: “He’s a wise fellow.”? She’s got a heart of wisdom.” Oh that we would be a church known for our love for Scripture, that produces reverence for God.
Every day brings critical turning point in our lives. Each decision is made with some sort of knowledge or presupposition. With this in mind, it is of utmost importance that the fear of the Lord is the governing motivation for our lives. Life is a series of choices and lessons, and then choices based on those lessons. Know this before you take the test: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. 11 For by me thy days shall be multiplied, and the years of thy life shall be increased.” On the other hand, if God and His ways are of no interest to you, you are making the worst choice of investment in your life! Honoring God is of much more value than the things we count as valuable. All material positions will rot and wither some day. But love and reverence for God will never fade away. Remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:24:“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
 Ed. Frank S. Mead, “Wisdom,” The Encyclopedia of Religious Quotations, Revel l ed.: 469.
 Arthur W. Pink, The Doctrine of Sanctification (Swengel, PA: Reiner, 1975), 11.
 David Hubbard, “Proverbs 9:10-11,” Mastering the Old Testament: Proverbs, 1989, ed.” 133.