Today, Day One, we are looking at the first Proverb. And, as often happens, I am arrested by the simplicity of the Lord’s words:
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:7).
First, let’s see exactly what these words say.
“The fear (or, awe, profound respect, but also frightening terror) of the Lord (and not man) is the beginning (or, the first, chief, best, choice part, the firstfruits) of knowledge (or, knowing, learning, discernment, insight, perception), but (by contrast) fools (or, one who hates wisdom and walks in folly despising both wisdom and morality, one who mocks when found guilty, a simpleton) despise (or, to hold in contempt or as insignificant, to scorn or greatly disrespect) wisdom (or, skill, prudence, shrewdness) and instruction (or, discipline).”
Then, let’s see what these words mean.
The great contrast between God and fallen, unredeemed man is clearly seen in this single verse. In fact, we’ll see this contrast all through the Proverbs.
Human wisdom, or man’s wisdom, is the ability to understand and communicate the highest truths or virtues based on this world’s logic and values. It’s the ability to articulate what this world thinks and the path one should take to successfully navigate this world’s system to some sort of desired end. But what is that end? Fame, riches, temporal pleasure or perceived happiness, freedom from pain or suffering or calamity— at least for a short time? What else can this world offer?
We still age, we still get sick, bad and hurtful things still happen to us that we cannot control, and eventually we all still die. So what can human wisdom do to mitigate the inevitable? Even if I am the richest person on the planet, like Solomon, I will still someday die. And then what? What will I do with my treasure trove of man’s wisdom? How will it help me then?
It won’t. And only a fool fails to recognize that.
It’s Just the Beginning
The Scriptures say the fear of the Lord is the beginning, not the end, of knowledge. It’s the profound respect and awe we give to our Creator that begins our understanding and insight, our perception and discernment of Who He is. And once we catch just a glimpse of the majesty of God Himself, we rightfully fall on our face before Him in worship and contrition knowing we are just men, fallen created beings, nothing more than dust and ashes, who have rebelled against the Holy One. And then we shake in sheer terror and fear for our pride, our arrogance, our prized inflated ego and our disdain for any God other than ourselves.
To honor and revere the Holy One begins to open the floodgates of His mercy and love and knowledge of Himself. After all, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” But there’s a great contrast. The verse continues by saying, “but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
But fools. Is that who we are? Are we fools? Do we hate the wisdom of God codified in His Word? Do we walk in folly and mockery despising His moral commands and living in the filth of our own sin? Look around. I think the answer is obvious.
It says that fools, those who reject God’s Word and live in “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16) actually despise His wisdom and instruction. They just don’t not like it, they hate it, they mock it, they hold it in contempt, derision, as something worthless and insignificant, as not worth their time. They defiantly refuse and reject spiritual discipline and instruction. They have not the time for God nor His Kingdom because they are trying to make their own way through this world to receive the accolades of man and their own fleeting version of fame and success. Why? Because the immediate trumps the eternal. Because they would rather have what they can see and hold in their hands today than what is promised them for tomorrow, no matter how wonderful that promise may prove to be.
There is great contrast conveyed in these sixteen simple words that have eternal consequences. Which one are you?
Are you the one who fears the Lord and is beginning to experience true knowledge and the joy of intimacy with the Holy One? Or are you the fool who is content to live in the midst of an inner city sewer when the Lord wants to take you to Disney World? And you refuse to go with Him because you can’t imagine how anything could be better than living and playing in the sewer .
How little are you settling for right now living for the immediate and not for the eternal?