The Sinner's Proverb
Years ago I was on a hunt for wisdom. I wanted to find and sift through those profound truths that resonate deep in your soul and fill the crannies in your brain. I knew the source was God, but I wasn’t really sure what that meant. Of course it was in the Bible, but I wanted to go one layer further. It was clear to me that the wisdom of God is so important that we must spend ourselves looking for it. Not so we can stroke our beard and tell people how wise we are, but because the wisdom of God is the truth of the world in which we live. It changes everything.
On morning I sat in a hotel room in Seattle with a cup of single serve hotel coffee. I was on a business trip and my meeting with my client wasn’t for a couple of hours. My Bible splayed out on the desk by the window in the room, I got to reading Proverbs. And then I found it:
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…(Proverbs 1:7)
So there it is. But this is not what I would have expected. Fear leads to knowledge? A lightbulb went on in my mind but things were still too dim.
Have you ever stood atop a mountain? Have you ever watched a wave so powerful it seems to vaporize the ocean floor? Have you been in a storm that you thought might kill you? In those moments we are forced into humility as we tremble. And fear is present, but I would use another word: awe. Consider the fear in Proverbs 1:7 as awe, not terror like the child of an abusive parent.
We are not inclined towards awe. We get up, take entitled breaths as our cordless hearts keep beating and go about our days like this is all normal. It’s not. That we would live upwards of seven decades on a planet with inhabitable conditions is a miracle beyond our understanding. But yet we sleepwalk on, in awe of very little.
I take Proverbs 1:7 to be the foundation assumption for our entire being and certainly the foundation for any knowledge or wisdom. It is a presupposition, a truth we stand upon as we consider other truths.
Here is the deal. If we stand in permanent awe of God’s power, glory, and love we will be different humans. If this awe informed our every movement, we would drip wisdom. Because awe of God means we are not in awe of our self, and this moves us out of the way. Too often we are like the concert goer who brings a guitar and starts playing in the stands. The sooner we can drop it and enjoy the show, the wiser we’ll be.
Because of our self-glorifying bent, our proverb would read like this:
The glory of self is the beginning of all happiness.
We tend to think if we had more recognition, if the world doted on us, we would have full hearts. No one says this but it’s true. But if you did get there and sat on top of a monumental pile of Benjamins while people clambered up to kiss your feet, you’d not only be a detestable person you would be miserable. You rich and/or famous is still you and nothing can hide your failings, shortcomings, and moments of moral darkness. Put it this way, the higher our pedestal and the brighter the lights, the more exposed we are. But we are bullheaded and we cannot help but believe glory was made for us.
So what does this have to do with wisdom?
Well, Proverbs 1:7 is translated to say “knowledge” in my ESV Bible. And I tend to think of knowledge as stuff I know. But if we truly extend the lines from the base point of a soul anchored in awe of God, we don’t have to go far to get wisdom from knowledge. An awe-drenched person will apply the facts of God to their heart and the Spirit of God will imbed these truths into them. There’s knowing and there’s knowing. Mere head knowledge changes thoughts, but wisdom informs decisions. And wisdom that is based upon awe of God creates a joy that is walled off from the arrows of the world.
This is all about our starting point – our default mode. If we can, by the grace of God, start with continual amazement and awe of God, our lives will change drastically. We will notice that the ordinary moments of our days are miraculous gifts. But more than that, we’ll remember that we stand in awe of a transcendent and loving God who has sealed our future by signing our adoption papers with his own blood.