"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction."
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight"
What does it mean to fear the LORD? This is an important question for it is the theme of Proverbs. But this expression is found throughout the Old and New Testaments. So it is important to understand what the Scriptures mean when it talks of the fear of the LORD. As we learn from the two verses quoted above, the fear of the LORD is essential for wisdom. In fact if we don't fear the LORD, we will never find wisdom or true knowledge. We will be fools till the day we die. The fear of the LORD is essential for salvation. So, we need to know what it means to fear the LORD.
The fear of the LORD is produced by a knowledge of God and ourselves which is revealed to us in Scripture. God has revealed His character to us on the pages of the Bible. We see God revealed as holy, almighty, all knowing, eternal, infinite, good, just and righteous. We cannot fear someone we don't know. The knowledge of God is essential to fearing Him. Scripture also reveals who we are as well in relation to this God. The Bible teaches that we are sinful and guilty before the Holy One. We are spiritually dead and unable to save ourselves. We are dependent on God for everything. Yet we hate God and will suffer the just wrath deserving to such enemies of God. This Biblical knowledge is vital to fearing God, but it is not enough.
The fear of the LORD is seen in running to the LORD in humility, repentance and obedience based on the knowledge of who God is and who we are. Some people, like Adam and Eve after they sinned, run from the holy, just Judge. But the true fear of the LORD results in a fear of God that leads to running to God. The fear of God brings humility, not pride. We now compare ourselves before the infinite God. As we behold the glory of God, we shrink in our estimation of ourselves. We are but dust and ashes before the Eternal One. We see our terrible guilt before God, who is pure and good. We begin to hate our sin and leave our sin. So we run to God for grace and mercy. We come as beggars desperate for salvation. The true fear of the LORD brings forgiveness, a new heart, and a new relationship with the LORD.
When we truly begin to fear God, then we begin to be wise. The wisdom of Proverbs cannot be yours without the fear of God. The one who does fear God will study Proverbs to obtain skill in living in relationship with God and with people. Without a right fear of the LORD, the study of Proverbs will only make one a self-righteous moralist.
Lastly, we need to grow in the fear of the LORD. The continued study and application of Scripture will lead to a greater and greater knowledge and fear of the LORD. The fear of the LORD is learnt from the Word of God. So a study of God's Word is needed for us to deepen in our fear and reverence of God.