The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.
What does it mean to fear the Lord? Are we afraid of God? Is this a cringing fear?
Psalm 33 helps:
Let all the earth fear the Lord;
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!
The Hebrew parallelism makes it clear: To fear God is to revere God. The idea is reverence, respect, awe. This is a reverential fear, not a cringing fear. This is a healthy and holy fear that obeys God because he is God and he is to be obeyed. It is our solemn duty and our glad privilege to obey the Lord.
Abraham obeyed God when God called him to sacrifice his long-awaited son Isaac. Why did he obey God? Because he feared the Lord. If we fear the Lord, then we will obey him. Genesis 22:12 states that God put a halt to the sacrifice of Isaac: “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”
If we fear God, we will obey him. It’s not that we are afraid of God, but that we revere him because he is God. He is the Almighty, the King, the holy God, and we owe him our allegiance, our reverence, our fidelity.
Perhaps the idea behind fearing God was captured best in the children’s stories of C.S. Lewis. Aslan is a golden lion who represents Christ. When the children enter the fairytale land of Narnia, they learn of Aslan from the beavers.
“Is he – quite safe?” Susan said, “I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”
“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver, “If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”
“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the king, I tell you.”
That’s why we fear the Lord. He’s the King and he is not safe. But he is good.
All spiritual knowledge, all knowledge of God, begins right here, with the fear of the Lord, the healthy and holy longing to please him and obey him.