“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
This verse sets the foundation for the entirety of the book of Proverbs. There is a unique aspect to this book as it imparts profound wisdom to mankind – wisdom from above. We need to be instructed and taught by God and his wisdom as fallen creatures. We learn elsewhere that if any man lacks wisdom, let him ask God who gives it to all those who ask (James 1.5). Before we can attain this wisdom, we must have a fear of the LORD because we do not inherently possess it. Our fallen nature resists any authority and especially the authority that God alone possesses as Creator. Since he has made all things and orders his world as he sees fit, we would do well to listen to what he says. That fear referenced by Solomon is not a fear that leaves us afraid of God, running from his presence. It is a fear rooted in reverence and awe and one that drives us to his presence, where we sit at his feet and learn from him.
We also learn from this verse that the fear of the LORD is a beginning. It is not the end of learning, and it is not the end of wisdom. But, it is where we start. We begin by submitting to the God of heaven, who is most wise, so that we spend the rest of our days learning from him, growing in knowledge and understanding. A wise person will fear the LORD and will continue to grow in wisdom as he remains steadfast in his reverence and awe of the God of heaven.
The contrast is that natural state where all men reside. The writer tells us that “fools despise wisdom and instruction.” That is, they are not interested in listening to the counsel of God and heeding his voice as he proclaims it through his Word. Instead, they profess to be wise yet are fools because they do not pursue wisdom in the infinitely wise one and full of truth.
Therefore, we are either moved by the fear of God to run to his presence, or we are enamored with our knowledge, where pride swells and the fear of the LORD is dismissed. There are no other options. Therefore, either you are a fool who rejects God and his wisdom, or you are one captured by the fear of him, daily sitting at his feet, submitting to his will, learning from him, and growing in knowledge and wisdom.
- The fear of the LORD is not natural for sinners. Nevertheless, the redeemed of God have access to him through the work of Christ. Therefore, they should plead for it daily, asking the God of heaven to work reverence and awe of him in their lives.
- The fear of the LORD is demonstrated as we sit before his Word, drinking in the living water and eating of the bread that alone satisfies. However, man does not live by bread alone, and if we are to have the wisdom from above, we must be in the Bible listening carefully to the mind of God, who is infinitely wise and knows what we need.
- Fools will reject the source of wisdom because they do not fear the LORD. Instead, their pride and arrogance render them as fools, leaving them with no hope of true knowledge and understanding. That is the condition of all those who reject the gospel and the work of Christ.