What the Bible says about
Fear of God is Beginning of Wisdom
(From Forerunner Commentary)
Clearly, there is great similarity between Psalm 19 and Psalm 119, but there is also dissimilarity. The similarity, of course, is that the law of God is the focus for extolling all of the Word of God. The dissimilarity is that Psalm 19 is both more concise (after all, Psalm 119 is 176 verses) and more specific or more to the point. The author of this psalm is David. He uses law, statutes, precepts, commandments, fear, and ordinances as part of the means by which he intends to teach us something vital.
One might wonder why fear is included. It is because fear represents the specific attitude required to make the best use of God's law. Solomon writes in Proverbs 9:10, "The fear [a deep and abiding respect tinged with terror] of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom." In addition, remember that wisdom is right application of knowledge and understanding. If fear is not present, we will not even start to build towards faith, hope, and love. Godly fear gets us jump-started, gets us going to do what is right.
Psalm 19 is divided into three sections: The first section—beginning with "The heavens declare the glory of God" and concluding in verse 6—concerns the revelation of the Creator God in His creation. The second part, beginning with verse 7 and extending through verse 11, is the revelation of the Covenant God in His Word, most specifically in His law. The third part comprises the last few verses, and it contains the response of the man of faith to the first two sections.
In "the heavens declare the glory of God," the word "God" is not Elohim but the singular El. In verse 7, LORD is Yahweh. Thus, the same Being is identified as El and Yahweh. Through this psalm, David is saying that, though the creationreveals the majesty and the power—the implication of the name "El"—of the One who created, the law of God reveals in a much clearer, more comprehensive way the specifics of the nature, character, and purpose of that Being—as suggested by the name "Yahweh." God's law is, therefore, of far more practical help to the created, us.
Thus, he makes a comparison. He says, "Here is the creation. It is great and good. However, it does not even begin to teach you as the law of God does." The specifics that we need about how to live are in the law of God. Both are needed, but the revelation of the law takes one far beyond the nature of the creation.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 14)
Fearing God is a choice. Each and every day of our lives, we are faced with many pressures, forces, and influences that compel us to react. We must make a choice: "Shall I go this way, or shall I go that way?" One way represents the fear of God; the other way represents the fear of men, the fear of the loss of pleasure, the fear of the loss of some other physical, social, or cultural "need" that we do not want to lose.
Notice the verbs in this series of verses: "hated," "did not choose," "would have none," "despised"! Is it any wonder that Romans 8:7 says that the carnal mind is enmity against God? We begin to understand that it was the fear of God, given as the gift of God, that drove us to react, drove us in the direction of the very One who holds in His hands the issues of life! God instilled that reaction within us!
There is an antagonism toward wisdom—toward God. Wisdom is not hiding. People have access to common wisdom, which is described as being right out there on the street—out in public. It is in the forest; it is in the city; it is on the job—it is everywhere! We are surrounded by it! This is why God can make the accusation that the Gentiles who do not have the law are a law unto themselves when they do what the law says is right (Romans 2:14). Their own conscience bears them witness that they understand what is right and what is wrong (verse 15)!
Proverbs 1 shows that God (personified as Wisdom) uses just about every device imaginable to awaken people to what is right, so that they will fear evil. We see Wisdom threatening, laughing, and warning, like a dog baring its teeth. If a snarling pit bull braced to attack every time we were about to sin, we would fear, would we not? Our skin would crawl, our hair would stand on end, and we would be almost spitless!
God has not chosen to warn us in that way, but He does warn us through His Word. He also warns us through the fruit of sin, which we see in this world as well as in our own lives. It is almost as if Wisdom is saying, "I told you so, but you would not listen!"
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fear of God
What God is doing will add to our awe of Him, and the fear of God is a great gift. There can be nothing negative about adding to our respect of God. Recall that Proverbs 1:7 states, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.” However, the fear of God is the also the beginning of wisdom, understanding, joy, peace, and much more because these all flow from God as gifts to us because of our contact with Him after being called.
God set the times for many significant events, for example, when Jesus was born, when the gospel began to be preached, when He would be crucified, how long He was in the grave, and when the Kingdom will be restored. Thus we must learn that the operations and times that God sets are thoroughly reasoned, permanent, and unchangeable. Whatever God does endures forever. He schedules and performs everything at exactly the right time. Thus we must grow in trusting God's timing on everything in our lives. It is that important to our spiritual well-being.
Despite what events working out in our lives might seem like to us from our position as very limited and impatient mortals, God is running a tight ship. We can expand this concept of running a tight ship to envelop the entire period of the past—to all His sovereign operations beginning with Adam and Eve, the calling of Abraham, Jacob having twelve sons, the formation of Israel, and so forth. Everything was done at the right time, and in a way, doing so emphasizes His sovereignty and well-organized purpose.
God wants to impress on those living by faith that He truly wants us to know what He has done and what He is now doing to the degree we can understand. For our good, though, He does not want us second-guessing Him because doing so is not beneficial to living by faith. When we do that, we tend to do foolish things.
Regarding timing within God's purposes as He works with us, we cannot add to or take anything away from the past. The past cannot be changed; it is over. By the same token, we cannot add to or take anything from the future either, as it has not yet occurred and because God has His purposes to work out. What God wants to do when He wants to do it will invariably be done.
No human by his sheer effort can hope to alter the course of things. To seek to do that is evidence of pride. This is a major reason God sets the times even of our trials. He desires to remove every aspect of any argument we might have that might lead us to choose some other way of doing things than His. Resisting Him produces no good fruit.
This leads to the most helpful conclusion: With God in control of time, we, through our experiences, gradually become aware of our sheer helplessness; we cannot manipulate time nor manage the times we live and operate in. This intense understanding of our helplessness helps us grasp more deeply how totally dependent we are on Him to work out His purposes in our lives. The humility produced by this awareness is of tremendous value.
We are involved in the ongoing spiritual creation, and the Creator God is the Potter, fashioning us into His desire. Humility before Him is an absolute necessity. Recall what Jesus says to His disciples in John 15:5, “For without Me you can do nothing.” That is, we can do nothing toward His purpose. Our responsibility is to yield to His purpose. The sovereign God can exercise control of all things in the lives of His children, not just time.
Notice how Jesus illustrates an aspect of this in Matthew 10:29-31:
Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
His two illustrations show how penetrating and complete is God's awareness of what is happening in His creation. Here is the practical point for us: If He is aware of a sparrow falling, and we are exceedingly more important than a mere bird, how can He not be aware of all that is occurring in our lives?
With this understanding, we can appreciate that we can move forward toward God's Kingdom only at the speed He deems is correct for us. This gives us far more reason to learn to be content because the speed that He moves us is perfectly good for us. God does nothing that is not in our best interests.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Four): Other Gifts
The people were stunned, moved to glorify God, filled with fear, and confounded. It is no surprise that the witnesses to the miracle were amazed at the astounding healing. Each of the three gospel writers uses a different Greek word to express a variation of a state of awe. Nevertheless, considering the great impact this miracle had on observers, most of them were not moved to have faith in God. Though filled with awe at His mighty works, they were not convinced or converted. Faith is not produced through sight (II Corinthians 5:7). Miracles and physical proof do not instill faith. God must call a person, opening his mind to His truth (John 6:44). Today, people tend to think that sensationalism will convert sinners, designing their religious presentations to impress people and increase followers by physical rather than spiritual quality.
In addition, the people were moved to glorify God in their limited way (Matthew 9:8). Yet, their reaction to the healing did not cause a change of heart in them.
Luke writes that they were all "filled with fear" (Luke 5:26). It can be terrifying to be near the power of Almighty God. Paul states, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:31). Realizing his own sinfulness in the presence of the perfection and might of God, Peter knelt in fear at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord" (Luke 5:8). Again, however, most of the witnesses to the paralytic's healing refused to overcome their sins and change their lives.
James notes that even the demons believe and tremble before God (James 2:19), yet they, of course, have never been converted. This principle should enlighten us about the professed religion of others. Being filled with awe, glorifying God, or experiencing fear are not enough in themselves; they are merely beginnings of understanding and wisdom (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 9:10).
Some witnesses to this miracle said, "We never saw anything like this!" (Mark 2:12). Others exclaimed, "We have seen strange things today!" (Luke 5:26). They were confounded. The miracle they witnessed was one of a kind, different from anything they had ever seen before. No other "gods" compare with our God the Father and Jesus Christ!
In Luke's account, the word "strange" is the Greek word from which the English word "paradox" derives. It suggests true things that are contrary to all common sense and ordinary experience. The things of God are beyond the understanding of mere human beings. In this miracle, we see the incomprehensible sovereignty and glory of God in His comfort and healing of the sick through His Son Jesus Christ, our Savior.
Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing a Paralytic (Part Two)
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