It is often asked what the Bible means when it mentions the “fear of the Lord.” Basically the writers mean that we have an awe of God knowing that He is both wonderful but not someone to trifle with. I have a hard time looking up at the sky at night. While it is a beautiful sight, I find myself having a fear come over me. It is the vastness and the greatness, the very awe that drew me that leads me to say: “this is too great for me; this is to amazing for my eyes.” The awe brings with it a sense of smallness and powerlessness. When one feels small and powerless he also feels a certain type of fear. (Incidentally, I’ve never seen the move “Gravity” with Sandra Bullock because it is one of my worst fears realized. I couldn’t hardly watch the trailer. That is what is meant by fear of the Lord. The stars are majestic and awe-inspiring, but at the same time a dread comes over me. I would never be one to volunteer to go to space.)
Taking that awesome feeling leading to a certain type of fear, we find these instructions from Solomon:
“The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom,
and humility comes before honor,” (Proverbs 15:33, ESV).
When we have an awe of God, we are struck by his greatness. We are not repulsed by it. I’ve never been repulsed by the starry sky; I’ve only been drawn to it. The same is with God. There is the acknowledgment of God’s greatness, and at the same time the acknowledgment of our finite smallness. So to say as Solomon did that “The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom,” would mean that our learning wisdom is seeing God’s greatness to the point we are in awe. The more we teach ourselves (or sit under good biblical teachings of another), we are going to have more and more of the sense of God’s immensity. The more we learn wisdom the more we will fall into a sense of reverent awe-inspiring fear of God. Without this learning, we will think we are the great ones and He is our puppet. We are immense and He is small.
That being said, it is not hard to see why Solomon followed up the first part of the verse with the second: “and humility comes before honor.” Of course it does. Humble people are willing to learn. Humble people are willing to see that others are greater than they. Humble people are willing to admit that they don’t know everything and need to learn more and more. God is infinite, and we will never learn all there is to learn. A humble person realizes that, and seeks to learn more and more day by day. Our family is memorizing Psalm 19 right now which states at its beginning:
“The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork,” (v. 1, ESV).
That’s the verse we learned last week. We are on verse two right now. I asked my middle son if he remember the first verse. He said he did, but it had nothing to do with the second verse. I said, “Are you sure? Think about it.” He went back into the recesses of his mind and thought.
“Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge,” (v. 2, ESV)
“Ooohh.” Came the response. They do point to the same thought. God’s glory is displayed everywhere. Everywhere, there is an opportunity to learn more and more about God, if we are willing to do so. Of course, special revelation from God is contained in the Holy Bible and so if we want specifics, we must read and study there. As we grow in our understanding of God, we will have more and more awe for Him thus treating and speaking of Him without vanity, and so we will be honored. God said that a person who takes His name in vain will not be held guiltless (Exodus 20:7), but here we see that one who fears the LORD (coming through instruction in wisdom) will be honored. Only the proud of heart will see, treat, and speak of God as if He is worthless. The humble learn to see God’s beauty, greatness, and awe.
So, what will you do today, in order to know God better? This isn’t knowledge for the sake of knowledge, but growth in awe of God.