The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.
The beginning of a river often starts subtly: A melting snowcap, a million drops of rain, rolling down tree trunks, seeping through the underbrush. Yet, before long, it’s crashing together and cascading downhill, bringing clean, clear life.
Knowledge, too, starts with something seemingly simple: “The fear of the LORD.” Not a degree or a genetic advantage or a particular age or experience or instructor. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.
The fear of the LORD is not terror, per se. It is recognizing, acknowledging, concluding that there is a God, and I am not that God. It’s something very like the simple second step from Alcoholics Anonymous:
Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
-Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, “The 12 Steps Illustrated”
The fear of the LORD starts to gather and gain momentum when we realize that the very definition of “God” suggests this God is above me. That this God is above me implies that what God is like effects me. Thus, I should investigate what God is like. If this God deserves something from me, I should find out. If this God has power over me, I should know.
To jump right to the N-th step, if God is truly revealed in Jesus Christ, then what Jesus Christ says and does will become significant, perhaps consuming. Unexpectedly, Jesus Christ reveals that God not only deserves something from us but also wants something for us, that He has come like a shepherd, “That [His flock] might have life and have it abundantly.” What God wants, deservers, does, promises, cautions, provides–all these questions warrant inquiry and response.
It all starts with the fear of the Lord. When we recognize that there is “a Power greater than ourselves,” we find that we live in a different world than we otherwise thought. This new world only starts with a vague recognition; it begs exploration and deserves our lives and promises knowledge–the knowledge that leads to abundant life.