My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you,
making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding;
yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.
Solomon, the Wise King, also known as the Preacher; In these passages from this second Proverb attributed to him, he encourages those who listen to him or read his words, that they would do well for themselves if they seek out wisdom, for then, as mentioned, they would understand the fear of the Lord – just as we discussed yesterday. Speaking of yesterday, we agreed on what was said – the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom – but here, we apparently see that the opposite holds just as true… that is, that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord.
To clarify, in case you may be thinking that there is a degree of terror associated to this ‘fear’ of the Lord that we speak of – and I said this before, but it bears saying it again: The fear of the Lord, in my opinion, is to believe that God is who He says He is. Today, we’re seeing a significant stretching, a significant expansion or elaboration on what that means – to know what God says, Solomon shows us the way to do it: Receive the words of the wise. Treasure their commandments.
The fear of the Lord involves making your ear attentive to wisdom, and to incline your heart to understanding – that is to position yourself in a way that you find the most subtle of wisdom that can be found in any situation, circumstance, and/or statement. For the most part of my life I’ve been very cynical – that is, whatever my senses take in is taken in with the proverbial grain of salt, as if to find fault; But I’m learning, with every day I am granted by God’s grace, to take everything in, to find wisdom – to see how God’s everlasting love plays in the small incidents and the (literal) earth-shaking moments, and to see how His personal and perfect love is seen in what people would have us believe are good things that happen to us, and/or bad things that we make happen.
And here’s something that I saw as I kept going down this path. The fear of the Lord involves others – actually, there’s only so much that we could probably figure out on our own. In saying that we ought to call out and raise our voice for insight and for understanding, we are indirectly saying that most of it comes from sources separate from ourselves.
We can certainly stop here and say that we’ve already gained so much from someone considered to be one of the greatest, mightiest and wisest of kings in all of human history… but apparently, there’s much more to be had, and this is coming, not from the greatest of kings – No, this is coming from the King of Kings Himself:
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.“
Jesus Christ starts off with a line that I believe was enough to throw off a whole bunch of people who were listening to Him at the time: DO NOT BE ANXIOUS.
We see through the words of people like Solomon, the Preacher, that there are a bunch of things that he suggests you do in order for you to get something, but here’s this Jesus, a Teacher from Nazareth starting us off with something for us NOT to do. Don’t be anxious. In fact, look at the rest of Creation, and understand that the Creator takes good care of the most majestic of birds, and the most glorious of lilies.
Christ says that if you ARE to look for anything (oh, and He says this only after repeating what He said at first – DO NOT BE ANXIOUS), seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Now, are the Teacher and the Preacher at odds? No, I don’t think so. I went through all this song and dance to have you probably considering that to seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness is to understand the fear of the Lord and to find the knowledge of God. And yes, if you consider that there is some truth to be gathered from that claim, then you may also see how it could work the other way around: That is, to understand the fear of the Lord is also to say that you seek the kingdom of God.
Understand the fear of the Lord, and all these things shall be added unto you.
Seek His kingdom and His righteousness, and you shall find the knowledge of God.
What do you think?
For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints.
I thought I’d end there, but I suppose I wouldn’t be wasting any time or any words if I just kept on going here. And if we go through these verses following the ones I pointed out at the beginning of this article, we see, again, how the Preacher puts a premium on how we ought to be, of all things, as saints – that is, to be upright, and to walk in integrity.
And sure, there’s nothing wrong with pointing those positive attributes for us to strive for. In fact, I’d stand by how we would certainly add more value in this messed up world, by being upright and walking in integrity. However, one thing we ought to understand, especially as we thrive in the knowledge of the salvation we have through no less than Christ, is that we could work to BE upright and to GET integrity… Or, we can choose NOT to be anxious and not to suck in all the pressure, to take in what Christ has to say:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”
The Preacher says that God stores up wisdom, and is a shield for those who are upright, and those who walk in integrity. To match that, the Teacher is saying He has spoken the word (that is, Wisdom) to us, and therefore, we are already ‘clean’. If we go further in reconciling what was said in the Proverbs with what was said in the Gospel of John, we can say that it is Christ who is THE Lord and He gives wisdom. We can say that Christ is the Lord of Lords, and from His mouth comes knowledge and understanding.
And how does the Lord guard the paths of justice? How does the Lord watch over the way of His saints – who, by the way, have had knowledge and understanding spoken to them? How does the Lord watch over the way of His saints, who therefore walk upright and in integrity?
Christ was certainly not wasting His words. I have reason to believe that by way of His abiding with those whom He has made His saints, He effectively watches our way – For He IS our literal Way. In John 17, which some translators have called Christ’s ‘High-Priestly Prayer’, He calls upon our heavenly Father to ‘Sanctify (us) in the Truth, (as His) Word is Truth’: He effectively guards us by His word, in Truth – For He IS our literal Truth.
(Okay that was a stretch, but I still think it holds – bear with me because you know what’s coming up!)
God speaks, and from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. His words are life… And sure as He spoke light into existence in the beginning of time, so His word – which is THE Word – became flesh, and dwelled among us. Christ was not only the bearer of God’s Word, but He is God’s Living Word… and He is the God’s Word of Life.
He IS our literal Life… and just as He IS our literal Life, He IS the literal Word alive in us, the literal Word spoken through us. I say all of this only to emphasize what I may call my final point for purposes of this article: Seeking God’s kingdom and His righteousness may have its parallels with understanding the fear of the Lord. Understanding the fear of the Lord may also have its parallels with Seeking God’s kingdom.
Friends, I believe Solomon himself may agree with me that BOTH are requisites, the beginning of wisdom… but instead of losing time over deciding one over the other, I believe we have something far greater to appreciate and, more importantly, to celebrate and enjoy – that is, Christ, who was the Wisdom at the beginning, just as He is our Knowledge without end.
The King of Kings and the Lord of Lords is also the Word of Life and the Living Word… and He is worthy of all glory and praise. He IS the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He IS all that the Kingdom is. He IS the beginning of Wisdom.
Let’s keep trusting Him. How beautiful it is to have all anxiety about our performance literally dissolve as we fix our eyes on Christ, whose performance has lavished us with no less than perfect love that casts out all fear.
Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path;
for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;
discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you,
delivering you from the way of evil, from men of perverted speech,
who forsake the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness,
who rejoice in doing evil and delight in the perverseness of evil,
men whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways.
Friends, may the Lord continue to bless and keep us as we celebrate the intricacies of the salvation we have through no less than Jesus Christ, guaranteed through His finished work.