Perspectives on Proverbs: The Fear of the LORD

In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence,
And His children will have a place of refuge.
The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life,
To turn one away from the snares of death.
– Proverbs 14.26-27

Proverbs 14.2a reveals that the one “who walks in his uprightness fears the LORD.” It’s important to note that the fear of the LORD feeds upright conduct not the other way around. That is, the person who is walking in his uprightness is the person already fearing the LORD. It is by the fear of the LORD that one departs from evil (Proverbs 16.6).

The fear of the LORD in Proverbs is the path to wisdom and righteous conduct. “The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom” (Proverbs 15.33a). It is “by humility and the fear of the LORD” that one gains riches, honor, and life (Proverbs 22.4).

The theme of Proverbs could be summed up in Proverbs 1.7: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” We find our starting place in the fear of the LORD. So, note the following general observations about the fear of the LORD:

  • The fear of the LORD is not bound within Proverbs alone. It permeates the entire Bible.
  • When the Law was given to Moses, the people trembled as Moses brought them out of the camp to meet with God (Ex 19.16-17).
  • The holiness of God is so awesome (think the true sense of this word – to fill one with awe and terror) that to look upon His glory means certain death (Ex 33.20).
  • We connect the concept of holiness and fear. God transcends our human existence in that He cannot even look upon sin much less to dwell in the presence of sin.
  • Isaiah was ushered into the throne room of the LORD. The experience was terrifying for him. He saw himself as unclean and undone (Isaiah 6.1-7). Still, the LORD purified Isaiah for the purpose of serving Him.
  • The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. This means it is the proving ground that leads out to wisdom. Wisdom and right conduct find a starting point in the fear of the LORD.

Fear of the LORD in Proverbs

  • “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (1.7). This is a key verse. It tells us what Proverbs is about. Knowledge, wisdom, and instruction come to those who fear the LORD. The way of wisdom is the way of holiness. It includes my responsibility before God to maintain a virtuous, holy life.
  • “Do not be envious of evil men, nor desire to be with them; for their heart devises violence, and their lips talk of trouble making” (24.1-2). One who fears the LORD is separated from evil men according to this passage. Those who fear the LORD separate from those who hate knowledge and do “not choose the fear of the LORD” (1.29).
  • Knowledge is paired with the fear of the LORD (2.5). It leads to an understanding of righteousness, justice, equity, and every good path (2.9).
  • If we fear the LORD, we will depart from evil. We see the danger of being wise in our own eyes (3.7). “Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (26.12). It is by the fear of the LORD one departs from evil (16.6).
  • How important is the concept of the fear of the LORD? “He who has it will abide in satisfaction; he will not be visited with evil” (19.23).

Proverbs 14.27 reveals that the fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to turn us away from the snares of death. To fear the LORD is to so reverence and respect Him that you obey His will and seek to glorify His name in your life. To fear the LORD is to live an eternal quality of life. It is the opposite of testing the LORD by deliberately disobeying Him and daring Him to intervene in your life. That is truly a terrifying concept. This is why we work our salvation in fear and trembling. We serve the LORD with fear while rejoicing with trembling.

The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life. It is the source of spiritual life for us as believers. Verse 26 indicates that it gives us security. We find true hope and even a long life in the fear of the LORD.

Those who do not fear the LORD feed on foolishness (15.14). If we will not fear the LORD, we will not have moral courage and strength. We will lack both spiritual and intellectual nourishment.

Warren Wiersbe wrote, “The soil of the heart must be prepared and the seed of the Word planted, or the water won’t do us much good.” The fear of the LORD is the instrument of preparation and planting. Maybe the intake of God’s Word (watering) fails us because there is little understanding of the LORD’s nearness to us in daily life. If we are living as if God does not exist, we cannot expect a close relationship with Him on Sundays. God is near all the time. My private and public moments must closely align in the fear of the LORD.