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Apr 28, 2019

Proverbs Helps Us Live Well in the Fear of The Lord

Passage: Proverbs 1:1-7

Preacher: John Huizinga

Series: Why Should I Read Proverbs Now?

Category: Proverbs

Keywords: fear, fear of the lord, proverbs, wisdom


We begin a new series asking, Why Should I Read the Book of Proverbs Now? If we turn to the Psalms often in our lives for comfort or in prayer, the book that comes right after it, the book of Proverbs, is one we tend to skip over. But Proverbs is good news for living in the Kingdom of God. It broadens our desire and thinking beyond just right and wrong to what is wise and what is foolish. It deepens our prayers to ask for wisdom, as Solomon did, rather than just blessing. Jesus is wisdom personified and perfected. So our journey in God’s wisdom leads us into closer union with Christ. Our first teaching and application focuses on Proverbs 1:1-7 and the theme of the book: (vs 7) ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.’ Proverbs Helps Us Live Well in the Fear of the Lord. What does it mean to fear the Lord? Are we to live afraid? Can God scare us into righteousness? And how can the fear of the Lord lead to wise living? We’ll ask these questions together and more as we begin to take to heart and apply the book of Proverbs in our lives.


The horrible news about the abuse and murder

of 5 year old AJ from Crystal Lake by his parents

is just the latest in the stories we have heard lately about the evil that human beings perpetrate

even on those they should love, care for and protect.


And most of the time when we hear such news

it is accompanied by testimony

from neighbors or family

that they never suspected these people

could be so immoral and corrupt.

This causes us to shudder,

because it dawns on us that

those who commit horrible criminal deeds

are often just like us.

Or more to the point,

we aren’t much different from them.

That insight is a severe mercy from the Holy Spirit, who counsels us to be wise about our needs, limitations, and capability for ungodliness

so that we desire wisdom.

The Lord has graciously given us the book of Proverbs to mentor us is wise living.

And wise living begins, says first 7 of chapter 1,

with the fear of the Lord.

What is that?

Living in the fear of the Lord takes to heart

our human temptation

to think too highly of ourselves

and dismiss too easily our ability to sin.

While I listen with caution

to most of what Jordan Peterson says,

he is right to point out that:

The price you pay for wisdom

is radical disillusionment with your own ability

and a confrontation with one's capacity for evil.

Living in the fear of God confesses,

there but for the grace of God go I.


This offends us.

We like to think better of ourselves.

Taylor Swift’s new song is already this year’s anthem:

the title is “ME!” with all capital letters

and an exclamation point.

I’m the only one of me

you’re the only one of you – Taylor Swift

If anyone’s awesome it’s me; it’s you.


The fear of the Lord is a continual awareness

that only God is awesome.

We live in the presence of this awesome, holy,

all-knowing, almighty God,

who knows our every anxious thought,

careless word, and selfish act.


Ours is a Psalm 139 existence:

You have searched me, LORD,

and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise,

you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down;

you are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue

you know it completely.

Where can I go from your Spirit?

Where can I flee from your presence?


Just as we learned in the season of Lent

that God’s holy love transforms our love,

so the fear of the LORD

counsels us to be wise about ourselves;

for life is a gift from God

and we live not for ME but for God’s glory.


Are you watching the PBS presentation of

Les Miserables?

Jean Valjean feels he can only

shake the judgment of his past

by a violent and cruel selfishness

but he is overcome in fear

by the love a priest shows him.

‘My life is claimed for God above, can this be so?’

You, me, each of us, each day and in time,

we answer to God.

This is the fear of the Lord.


So does this mean we should be terrified, afraid,

running scared our whole lives from the divine?

The fear of God does have in it an element of fright. But it is not just that.

The fear of God also leads us to holy awe,

wonder and worship,

reverence and adoration

best expressed by a submission,

a bowing down before greatness.

Abraham Heschel wrote, This . . . is an intuition for the dignity of all things,

a realization that things not only are what they are but also stand, however remotely,

for something supreme . . .

a sense of transcendence,

for the mystery beyond all things.

It enables us to perceive in the world divine presence . . . to feel in the rush of the passing

the stillness of the eternal.

Have you ever been in some place

and automatically you were quiet?

You watched your step?

You were careful?

Dad or mom said quickly to you,

Look, but don’t touch!

This gets at the fear of the Lord.

For this is God’s creation.

Our lives belong to him.

Hebrews 4:13 says, Nothing in all creation

is hidden from God’s sight.

Everything is uncovered and laid bare

before the eyes of him

to whom we must give account.


Living in the fear of the Lord is to be

aware that God is with us as Lord and Savior

each and every moment of the day.

Living in the fear of the Lord says

your will be done, not mine.

Living in the fear of the Lord means

I am made for God

and I am not my own but belong to him.


So we get a little understanding as to why

Proverbs begins with the fear of the Lord.


Will we accept that fear isn’t always a bad thing?

Fear alerts us to danger.

Fear keeps us within our boundaries.

Fear cautions us in our choices.


To fear the Lord is to submit all other fears

to their rightful place under God.

There are so many fears that can shape our decisions, lives and loves -

fear of not having enough

fear of not doing enough

fear of not being loved enough

fear of being alone

fear of failure

fear of being found out . . .


Wisdom comes when we fear God instead of these.

Living instead in the shaping, transforming, redeeming power of Jesus.

Did you know one of God’s names in the Old Testament is ‘The Fear’?

It’s so that no worldly fear assumes authority

over our lives.

In Genesis 31 Jacob confesses:

 42 If the God of my father, the God of Abraham

and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me,

you would surely have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen my hardship

and the toil of my hands,

and last night he rebuked you.”

. . . So Jacob took an oath

in the name of the Fear of his father Isaac.

God is named here

and God’s name is FEAR!


The true God is the God of Bethel, Jacob is reminded.

The God who said, ‘I am with you always.’

The God who turned a place of fear,

while Jacob was running away and feeling alone,

to a place of God’s presence and care.


This is what the Lord is doing,

and it is in this salvation that the Lord calls us

to respond with our trust and obedience.

It is a perfect love that casts out all fear.

God is called ‘Fear’ because

there is nothing left to fear

when we offer our lives to the Lord alone!

There is no greater fear!


William D. Eisenhower puts it this way:

Unfortunately, many of us presume

that the world is the ultimate threat

and that God's function is to offset it.

When we assume that the world

is the ultimate threat,

we give it unwarranted power,

for in truth, the world's threats are temporary.

When we expect God to balance

the stress of the world,

we reduce him to the world's equal ….

As I walk with the Lord,

I discover that God poses an ominous threat

to my ego, but not to me.

He rescues me from my delusions,

so he may reveal the truth that sets me free.

He casts me down, only to lift me up again.

He sits in judgment of my sin,

but forgives me nevertheless.


Jesus is the fear of the Lord in the flesh:

Was Jesus as God with us someone to dread?

We picture Jesus as powerful in love,

strong enough to shoulder the cross of sin,

guilt and shame,

the Lord of all who is the Friend of sinners.

But as Jesus journeyed to the cross

for us and because of us

moments of holy awe and dread surrounded him:

When Peter first meets Jesus

what does he say?

He fell on his knees before Jesus and said,

“Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.”

When the Roman guard came to arrest Jesus,

and asked if he was the One,

Jesus answered, “I am,”

and all of the sudden God that close

caused fear in the guards

and they fell to the ground before him.


But how about us?

Jesus encourages this same holy fear in you and me:

4 “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid

of those who kill the body

and after that can do no more.

5 But I will show you whom you should fear:

Fear him who, after your body has been killed,

has authority to throw you into hell.

Yes, I tell you, fear him.

6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?

Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.

7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head

are all numbered.

Don’t be afraid;

you are worth more than many sparrows.


Fear, but don’t be afraid.

Do you get the difference?


The fear of the Lord

is not something that comes naturally;

it must be learned.

What spiritual practices and habits

can we apply to nurture this awesome regard

for God and the presence of the Lord

so that we rightly fear Christ’s presence

and his call to follow him

to lasting peace and joy throughout our days?


How about first seeing two meanings in this phrase:


What do you think of when you hear that phrase?

Prayers of request to God: Please God, give me . . .

Sure, we do approach God

as the source of every blessing.

We should be quick to give thanks

for the blessings of the day.

Giving thanks is a spiritual practice

that nurtures the fear of the Lord.

But how about PLEASE GOD meaning,

to please the Lord in my speech,

in my thoughts, in my actions?

Did you think of that meaning?

Does my worship today please the Lord?

My prayers?

My giving?

My life choices?

Yearning to please God

nurtures the fear of the Lord in me.


The focus here is on a sense of awe and respect

for the majesty of God.

The King of kings is seated on the throne.

We live in the Creator’s universe.

We are stewards of each hour.

There is no such thing as a casual relationship

with the Triune God.


After the bombings in Sri Lanka last week

that killed so many Christians,

Ajith Fernando, a Christian leader there,

shared what he thought Christians should do

in response.

He didn’t call for revenge,

for mass protests, for an eye for an eye.

Why? Because he lives in the fear of the Lord.

We learn to fear the Lord

when we think biblically before we respond:

He said: Whenever tragedy hits a nation,

Christians need to ask how to think biblically

in response to the situation.

We cannot delay our response.

I have thought of at least six necessary responses from Christians to what has happened.

Each of these trains us in the fear of the Lord.

1) Lament Loss

Christians must join the nation in lamenting

and mourning over our losses.

Christians have been somewhat lacking

in practicing a faith that mourns

with those who mourn.

2) Condemn Evil

The Bible is filled with condemnation

over the wrong that takes place in a nation,

and the OT prophets are a good example of this. Where possible and appropriate,

we need to strongly condemn—with no reserve—

the barbaric acts that have happened.

We fall into the trap of the rest of society

by being quick to defend our side

when we should humbly condemn

what is unjust and immoral.

3) Alleviate Suffering

Part of the Christian answer to the problem of evil

is action to alleviate suffering,

as people made in the image of Jesus

who suffers for and with us.

4) Leave Vengeance to the Lord

The Bible is clear that our holy God punishes wrong. The reason we are to “never avenge [ourselves]”

is because we “leave it to the wrath of God,

for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,

says the Lord’” (Rom. 12:19).

God gives us the freedom

to take our hands off the revenge cycle.

Instead we are told to do what we can do:

We are to love our enemies and bless them.

5) Don’t Bear False Witness

The Bible is severe in its condemnation

of false accusation and harming the innocent.

Racial, ethnic, and religious prejudice

often comes from lumping large numbers of people alongside a few radical members

of the group they belong to.

We are to consider even our enemies

through the lens of the cross—

with gospel-influenced eyes.

They desperately need to hear

the good news of salvation

by the God who loves them.

How can they hear that from us

if we do not befriend them?

6) Pray

While many ridicule the offer of prayers in response to national tragedy by our representatives,

those who believe in the Lord should humbly

and with perseverance offer such prayers

while government representatives are encouraged

to their elected tasks of justice and mercy.


In the fear of the Lord

we enter into each day and situation,

even the most terrible,

assured by the gracious presence of God

who is with us for our good.

And we measure every deed and word

by the Lord’s reign and rule.

Living in this awe and wonder

is for our good

because the Lord is gracious

and only God is good.

As Proverbs will go on to teach us:

Proverbs 14:26

Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress,

and for their children it will be a refuge.

Proverbs 14:27

The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,

turning a person from the snares of death.

Proverbs 22:4

Humility is the fear of the Lord;

its wages are riches and honor and life.


In George MacDonald’s The Portent,

he describes a blossoming romance

with all the fear and wonder,

trembling and hope

that many of us have yearned for

and some even known.

One character is overwhelmed by grace and love

and admits her fear.

Listen to the language of holy fear

in response to redeeming love:

“It is strange,” she said, at length,

“to feel, when I lie down at night,

that I may awake in your presence,

without knowing how.

It is strange, too, that,

although I should be utterly ashamed

to come wittingly,

I feel no confusion when I find myself here.

When I feel myself coming awake,

I lie for a little while with my eyes closed,

wondering and hoping, and afraid to open them,

lest I should find myself only in my own chamber; shrinking a little, too—just a little—

from the first glance into your face.”

This is the fear of the Lord;

it comes from holy, pure love,

a love that casts out all other fears

until we are left only in the presence and will of God.