The Fear of the Lord is Wisdom (Job 28:28)

And to man He said, “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom;
And to depart from evil is understanding.”

Job 28:28

Job has a lot to say. At this point, he has said quite a bit about how people mine for precious stones and metals and how we refine metal from other substances. It is pretty lengthy. He concludes, though, that all of this — even the most precious of precious stones or the purest of precious metals — is insufficient to purchase wisdom. He speaks of how difficult it is to find wisdom and how the only One Who really knows where it can be found is God. After all of that — after speaking of the value of wisdom and the difficulty in finding wisdom — Job concludes that God tells us that the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.

This truth — the fear of the Lord is wisdom — is echoed elsewhere in The Bible and bears consideration even if it were not repeated. But, in my experience, repeated truths are repeated for emphasis; for the sake of really driving home the point God is trying to make.

Before I go further with this, it bears note that lots of folks want to substitute reverence or some other word that packs less of a punch than fear when dealing with how we should be in relation to God. Let me posit that fear is the right word. See, God calls Himself my Father. Growing up, I was terrified of being caught doing anything wrong by my parents — mostly by the parent who dealt out discipline. It does not mean I never did anything wrong, but it meant that I was careful to avoid doing wrong when my parents could see. I had fear. Translate that to God, Who is more a Father than my Earthly father is capable of being (it’s not that he’s a bad father, but God blows all fathers out of the water, no matter how good that father might be). Add to the equation that God is present everywhere at every moment and you have a recipe for being truly and abidingly afraid of doing anything wrong. That is wisdom. It is wise to be afraid of violating the rules of One Who sees everything and from Whom I can keep no secret.

When this truth is repeated, the fear of the Lord is not called simply wisdom, but is specified as the beginning of wisdom. See, it is wise to be afraid of disobeying my Father when I cannot hide my disobedience from Him. But if that is my only motivation for avoiding wrongdoing, then my relationship with God will be strained at all times. With my Earthly parents, the relationship eventually changed to one of not wanting to disappoint them by disobedience. Yes, there was still the looming presence of discipline, but there was the far more injurious shadow of disappointing them. Yes, they would ground me or what-not, but the discipline seemed light in comparison with knowing that I had failed to live up to what they wanted me to be. They want good for me and I had missed that somehow. So, too, with my Heavenly Father. He wants Good with a capital G for everyone, but our wrongdoing keeps us from that good sometimes. Far worse than the discipline of God is disappointing God — knowing that I have missed the intended Good of the God Who loves me so much that He literally died to mend our broken relationship. Fear is a good place to start and it will get me in the habit of avoiding wrongdoing, hence it is, I think, the beginning of wisdom. But love; wanting to bring a smile to the face of the God Who loves me and to find the Good He intends for me is a step further along the path of wisdom.

I imagine that there will be greater wisdom still when we have shuffled off these mortal coils, but fear and love are sufficient motivators to wisdom for the present. Lord, let me be wise in Your estimation. If I cannot be motivated to wise decisions by love for You and Your love for me, then let me be motivated to wise choices by fear.

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