Proverbs 1:7 gives us the foundation of the rest of the book: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; fools despise wisdom and knowledge.” The fear of the Lord is a major theme throughout Scripture, in both the Old and New Testaments. It is used to distinguish between the righteous and the wicked (Malachi 3:16-18).

In Proverbs 3:5 we read, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” This is to be understood as connected to the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord gives us a deep awe and reverence for the Lord, but also gives us implicit trust in him. If we do not fear the Lord rightly, we will never entrust our lives to him. The man who fears the Lord sets the highest value on Christ crucified for his sin.

Moses was an example of one who feared the Lord and entrusted his life to the Lord. When he was in the presence of the Lord (Exodus 3) he hid his face. He was overwhelmed by the majesty of the Lord. The fear of the Lord gave him courage to confront Pharaoh and all Egypt; one man before the most powerful man and country. 

We are told in Hebrews 11 that Moses valued the reproach of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. Moses had a fear of the Lord, he loved and trusted the Lord, and consequently (and this is always the case) he willingly offered up his life to the Lord. 

The opposite example we find in Matthew 25 in the parable of the talents. In the story, the Master entrusts his servants with his property. He gives them different talents. Two of the servants use the talents they are given to produce more for the Master. But one of the servants buries the talent he is given in the ground.

When the Master returns, the man explains his actions by saying he knew the Master was a hard man, so he hid the talent. He now gives it back to the Master. In other words, he had a servile fear of the Master. He feared but didn’t trust, so he was unwilling to invest the talent for the good of others or the Masters property. He felt he would lose out. The Lord called him wicked because to distrust the Lord is wicked. To not offer your life unto the Lord is to distrust him, and have no true reverence toward him.

In verse 6 we read, “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. “We learn that the Lord gives those who fear him light to see the path they must walk through this world. The fear of the Lord is also an awakening grace; it keeps us from being put to sleep by the world and not watchful for the Lord (Matthew 24:42-44).

This is true for the individual and the church. In Acts 9, a healthy church is described as walking in the fear of the Lord. Walking means awake and active. Conversely, in Revelation 3 we read of the Lord rebuking the church in Sardis for having a reputation of being alive but actually being dead. He warns them to wake up, remembering what they received and heard. They had lost the fear of the Lord.

Sleep is a metaphor for spiritual lethargy or darkness; it is deadness to the Lord. The warning to Sardis is troubling because they had the reputation of being alive. Being active in religion doesn’t seem to have been their problem. Lacking the fear of the Lord was the problem. We must continually put ourselves in the presence of the Lord as he reveals himself to be; holy, majestic, loving, unchanging, knowing all, and sovereign over all. Let the attributes, the nature of the Lord, shape us.

In verse 7 we learn that the fear of the Lord turns us away from evil. The fear of the Lord shows us sin for what it is in the presence of the Lord. David, awakened to his sin, said to the Lord: “I know my transgressions; you are justified in your words; blameless in your judgments.”  The joy of grace and the healing of the soul are in both being forgiven and turning away from sin.

Verse 8 says turning from evil will be “healing for your flesh.” Sin is unhealthy for the soul; causes hardness, fears, and misery. The fear of the Lord drives out other fears; it gives us assurance as we draw nearer to Christ and strive harder against sin. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Make sure you have it day by day.