By Irvin Himmel
Proverbs is a book of practical wisdom. Succinct sayings condense this wisdom so that is stirs interest and sticks in the memory. There is a blending of wit that makes wisdom sparkle.
John R. Sampey correctly notes that “wisdom” in this book “includes intellectual insight, practical conduct, and piety.” I like to think of Proverbs as a book of down-to-earth heavenly wisdom.
J. Sidlow Baxter describes the general message of the book as Prudence through Precept. ” A.F. Walls calls it “a book of discipline” which touches on every department of life.
Robert L. Alden compares the book of Proverbs to medicine – often needed but not in large doses. “The ‘stuff of Proverbs has already been distilled so that its advice comes to us in highly concentrated form. These sage tidbits have been boiled down, trimmed, honed, polished, and sharpened to where a little goes a long way.”
The technicalities of the book of Proverbs (literary forms, date of writing, authorship, etc.) have not been my concern in the material appearing in Guardian of Truth. I have selected a sampling of what the book offers. The particular proverbs on which I have written deal with a variety of subjects. My aim has been to probe these pointed gems of wisdom, outlining and illustrating ways in which they are applicable today.
Although I have done precious little preaching on Proverbs, the book is rich with sermon starters. Perhaps some who read Guardian of Truth will be challenged by its contents to take a fresh look at an Old Testament book which provides seed ready for sowing.
The book of Proverbs is refreshingly different. Its approach demands reflection. Its thoughts are crisp. Its spiritual tone enriches. Its instructions are useful. Its communication is profound. Charmed by its colorful comparisons and contrasts, one is led to drink of its prudence.
Knowledge Begins With Reverence
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:7).
This gem from the gold mine of Proverbs sometimes is considered the motto for the entire book.
Fear of Jehovah
To the minds of some individuals the word “fear” denotes dread, terror, alarm, or fright. They think of that which disquiets or horrifies. This is not the kind of fear which God wants us to have.
The fear which God teaches us to have toward Him is awe 12:13). or reverence, adoration and respect. This holy fear is linked closely with love.
As a young preacher, I once sat in a class of older men on Sunday morning and witnessed a heated discussion between two brethren on the subject of fear and love. One affirmed that mature Christians serve God out of love, not fear; the other argued that fear is the strongest motive for service. Neither bothered to define “fear.” The fear that perfect love casts out (1 Jn. 4:18) is not reverence, but rather the fear that hath torment, that is, dread of horror.
To love God with all the heart, soul, strength, and mind necessitates reverence and respect. This is the “fear of the Lord” that brings blessings to us. “O fear the Lord, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him” (Psa. 34:9).
Fear and trust go together. “O Israel, trust thou in the Lord: he is their help and their shield. . . Ye that fear the Lord, trust in the Lord: he is their help and their shield” (Psa. 115:11).
Reverential fear should be displayed in worship. David said, “But as for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy: and in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple” (Psa. 5:7).
Fear is shown in keeping God’s commandments. “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Eccl. 12:13).
Fear is essential to acceptance with God. Peter said, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (Acts 10:34,35).
People transgress when there is “no fear of God before their eyes” (Rom. 3:18).
The fear of God molds one’s character. As William Gurnall expressed it, “As the sculpture is on the seal, so will the print of the wax be; if the fear of God be deeply engraven on thy heart, there is no doubt but it will make a suitable impression on the duty thou performest.”
Peter packed a lot of thought into a few words when he wrote, “Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king” (1 Pet. 2:17). To be a Christian one must be a God-fearing individual.
Beginning of Knowledge
The Hebrew word translated “beginning” may mean “the principal part” (marginal note). It is true that the fear of the Lord is the chief part of knowledge. One who has never learned to fear God, no matter what else he has learned, is very much an ignoramus.
The word rendered in English as “beginning” may also mean the starting point or initial step. Indeed, the foundation of true knowledge is the fear of God. Knowledge which is not built on that fear is worthless. Parents ought to teach their children to fear the Lord before they send them off to school to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic. And the best way to teach this godly fear is by example.
“Of all things that are to be known this is most evident, that God is to be feared, to be reverenced, served, and worshiped; this is so the beginning of knowledge that those know nothing who do not know this” (Matthew Henry).
Our English word “fool” translates a number of different Hebrew words, so it does not always have the same shade of meaning.
A “fool” may mean a boaster or one who makes a show (Psa. 75:4). It may mean a stupid or silly person (Prov. 1:22,32). It may mean a wicked person (Prov. 17:7). It may mean a thickheaded person (Eccl. 2:19; 10:3).
In Proverbs 1:7, “fool” means one who is evil or perverse. This is the type of fool who is mean enough to despise wisdom and instruction. He does not wish to be told about his conduct, therefore he scorns wisdom and instruction. His love of darkness prompts him to hate the light. He is the fool of all fools!
Realizing that the fear of Jehovah is the beginning of knowledge, let us walk in the fear of the Lord (Acts 9:31). Let us pass the time of our sojourning here in fear (1 Pet. 1: 17). Let us perfect holiness in the fear of God (2 Cor. 7: 1). Let us submit ourselves one to another in the fear of God (Eph. 5:21).
Guardian of Truth XXX: 6, pp. 176-177
March 20, 1986