I decided that the "fear of Jehovah" should be the next vein to dig through as we tackle Proverbs. So I went through digging out all the times the phrase came up- there were nine. And in trying to understand them, I did as I often do- and Pastor Dennis Miller recommends- I "graphed it out". And from my graph, I learned one inescapable truth:
This is going to be a good 4 posts long.
Because, each of these mentions involves a "The Fear of Jehovah IS" (except for 2); some have an "and" attached to them, whether explicit or implied by surrounding verses; some have a "but", with the same caveat; and as a whole, all but one have a righteous-vs-sinner dynamic. So to not let this get too hairy in any one spot, I'm going to do this in sections.
Now this first time, I want to introduce you to the verses themselves. In my (hopefully inspired) opinion, I see the very last one as an overarching principle, and the other eight fit neatly into pairs. So instead of going in order, let's take them on in these sets.
Set one: Beginnings
Two verses state that the FOJ is the "beginning of...", so let's begin with them. From the LITV:
Pro 1:7 The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Pro 9:10 The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom; and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
They almost seem to repeat each other, but there is a reason for that. Knowledge, Wisdom, Instruction (which we learned last time includes "chastisement", and Understanding are all inter-related. Follow: Fear of God is the beginning of knowledge, and knowledge of God is understanding. Understanding = wisdom plus instruction- a heart that doesn't scoff, and a mind that is willing to learn. And that also starts with the fear of God. Thus, you HAVE to start with the sacred reverence towards God. That sets you on a twofold path: wisdom, to be open to learning the more about Him, and knowledge, the instruction itself. Both of these are "despised" by fools, whose many characteristics will flesh themselves out as we go along.
Okay, we have a beginning, but next we need action steps.
Pro 8:13 The fear of Jehovah is to hate evil; I hate pride and loftiness, and the evil way, and the perverse mouth.
Pro 15:33 The fear of Jehovah is instruction in wisdom, and before honor is humility.
The first is going to lead to a deep "characteristics of the righteous vs fools" discussion later on; suffice it for now to see that one who fears God will be against pride in attitude, deception in motive, and disrespect in talk. Isn't it interesting that while one bashes pride and "loftiness", the second- seeking instruction in wisdom- teaches humility comes first. "...and before honor is humility" almost doesn't seem to fit with the rest of 15:33- until you link it to 8:13. That's why we graph... that's how we learn.
Next up, since there is a two fold learning process, makes sense to have a twofold reward system. The first reward set we can call, temporal rewards...
Pro 10:27 The fear of Jehovah prolongs days, but the years of the wicked shall be cut short.
Pro 19:23 The fear of Jehovah tends to life, and he shall rest satisfied, he shall not be visited with evil.
These on the surface seem counter to facts- plenty of evil people live long lives, and plenty of good people have bad things happen. But, that's looking at man's perspective, not God's long game. Think about these God's way. God might re-phrase for our days this way:
10:27- Reverence to Me will lead you to accomplish all I have intended in this life, and more in the next; the wicked get their day here, but what do they really gain from it in the end?
19:23- Those who reverence Me will be satisfied IN ME; the evils of this world will neither touch his soul nor follow it beyond this life.
One thing that strikes me as I write this part is the word "perverse" that we hit a few Verses back derives from a word for "to overturn"; the way we would think of these verses in our day, with Christians living long easy lives and evil men dying early, is an overturned- inverted- 'perverse- way of distorting what God is getting at. And that leads us to the second, the more spiritual, rewards:
Pro 14:26 In the fear of Jehovah is strong trust, and His sons shall have a hiding place.
Pro 14:27 The fear of Jehovah is a fountain of life, to turn away from snares of death.
Surprisingly- or perhaps, NOT surprisingly- the last two verses in a set are linked to each other! There's also another connection that these are the two verses that I had to consider the "but" part of the equation unspoken- we'll hit that later. Also the first verse shares the connection of not starting with "The FOJ" with our overarching final verse- again, we'll deal with that later. These two verses are all about salvation- Jesus being our Strong Trust, our hiding place, our fountain of Living Water, and our escape from Death.
And that last, overarching verse? Actually, it is the last one in order, as well:
Pro 23:17 Do not let your heart envy sinners, but only be in the fear of Jehovah all the day.
As we continue through this, we'll see how each one tells us reasons WHY not to envy sinners. Next time, we'll look a little more at this grid of mine, and the benefits of fearing the Lord.