The Fear of the LORD is Wisdom

“And unto man He said, Behold, the fear of the LORD, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.” (Job 28:28 KJV)

 

     We hear the phrase, “Fear God” all the time but it seems that there is no real consensus regarding what that exactly means and entails.  Hence, it is the purpose of this post to briefly examine wisdom in relation to the Fear of the Lord and attempt to draw some conclusions.

     To begin with, the Hebrew word for fear, used in the above quoted verse and often in the Old testament, is the word “Yirah.”  It has a couple of different meanings.  First, is the emotion of “fear” as in Deuteronomy 5:5 when Father manifests on Sinai before the children of Israel.  This was a terrifying experience for them.  However, there was a reason for this experience.  Namely, as Moses states in the Exodus account, “Fear not:  for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.” (Exodus 20:20 KJV)  Secondly, it is often used in passages meaning, proper or righteous people such as Job who “feared God and turned away from evil.” (Job 1:1)  Thirdly, fearing the Lord carries the idea of a reverent awe or respect for God.  This can clearly be seen in the Egyptian midwives who put their own lives at risk by refusing Pharoah’s command to kill all the male babies of the children of Israel.  The bible states as their reason, “They feared God.” (Exodus 1:17-21)  Another interesting passage demonstrates the “fear of the Lord” while not completing following the Lord in 2 Kings 17:32.  In this passage, the people whom the king of Assyria relocated into the Northern Kingdom of Israel had a polytheistic approach to life.  Meaning, they had several gods that they worshipped and they also included Yahveh in this because the “they also feared the LORD.”  To summarize all of these three ideas into one sentence it could be “A respect for God that is rooted in experiences with Him and these impact all the actions and decisions that are subsequently made.”  In essence, that is what it means to “fear the LORD.”

      The two words that are used for wisdom in both Hebrew and Greek have a very similar meaning.  The Hebrew word is “hakmah” and the Greek word is “sofia”.  The basic idea of New Testament wisdom is: The wisdom of God that existed in Jesus and now has been given to us via the Holy Spirit.  It is true insight into the nature of things.”  Wisdom is the bi-product of relationship with God.  We gain true insight into the nature of things as we fear the Lord, considering Him in all our actions and decisions, and this shows us the nature of all things.

     This idea has merit to the translators of the Septuagint.  In the above quoted verse at the top of the post, they didn’t include the usual phrase for “Fear of the LORD”.  Instead, they used “jeosebeia” which is basically translated “godliness.”  It carries the meaning of proper conduct in reverence towards God.  It is what Abraham feared was missing in Abimelech’s kingdom (Genesis 20:11) and what the angel of the LORD commended Abraham for having as he prepared to sacrifice Issac (Genesis 22:11)  So, we see that the ideas we have presented here have support from the Rabbi’s who translated the Septuagint.

     Here is the sum of the matter, “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13 ESV)  When we have reference for God that is rooted in experience and we implement that in our daily lives, we live a life that “keeps his commandments.”  This also, as we’ve seen in the above-quoted passage of Job, gives us true insight into the nature of things by the power of the Holy Spirit, which is  wisdom. 

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Fresh Insights from Job

“And unto man He said, Behold, the fear of the LORD, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.” (Job 28:28 KJV)

     I recently finished reading Job and got some fresh insights that I would like to share.  First, Job never suffered because of sin.  He suffered because of his righteousness.  It was the very fact that he walked in relationship with God and was “blameless and upright” before the Lord that caused his suffering.  This was a new revelation to consider when things go bad in my life.  I generally, like the Puritans of old, look for some sin that needs to be confessed and subsequently, repented from.  Oftentimes, I have even invented some type of sin just so I could confess, repent, and receive relief from suffering. I’ve used this as a formula to alleviate suffering.  I took the advice of Job’s friends and came up with some strange commandment that I wasn’t keeping and tried to “make peace with God.”   This new insight gave me a new understanding of why godly people suffer.  It might not be because of any sin at all.  It may very well be because Christ is my righteousness.  I’m looking forward, sort of, to the next time things go wrong.  I hope to step back, examine for the presence of any Holy Spirit conviction regarding sin, and if none are present, I will rejoice with the disciples of old who said, “They were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.” (Acts 5:41)

     Towards the ends of Job’s discourses with his friends, Job makes the above-quoted statement.  This is such a wonderful statement.  If biblical wisdom is defined as “insight into the true nature of things”, then the fear of the LORD would give us this insight.  There is much we could say about “The Fear of the LORD” and it will be the subject of another post, but suffice to say here, that it means that “considering every decision regarding how it will affect our relationship with God.”  We will use this as our definition for “Fear the Lord.”  If we could take a minute and consider how our next action would affect our relationship with Him, it might gives us some insight past the enticing and seductiveness of sin.  This consideration would give us true insight into the nature of the sin and we would “shun evil” thus demonstrating our understanding.

     Lastly, when God shows up on the scene, this makes more of a statement than anything that the LORD has to say.  The very fact that he showed up demonstrates that He was not absent from Job during his sufferings, but that He was very near, contrary to what both Job and his friends thought.  The primary insight that God gives to Job, “Will you even put me in the wrong?  Will you condemn me that you may be in the right?” (Job 40:8 ESV)  He calls Job the “faultfinder” (40:2) Ouch!!!  I’ve done this so many times.  I would accuse God of injustice in order to justify myself.  It is rooted in a low self-esteem.  If I confess that I have sin, then it will make me feel even worse about myself than I already do, so, rather than deal with sin, I accuse God of violating His Word which promises me blessings.  As the Lord has said to Job, “Will you condemn me in order to justify yourself.”  Again, I’m, sort of, looking forward to the next time things  go wrong, where there is no conviction of sin, to rejoice and bless God in the midst of the storm.