And he [God] said to humankind,
“Truly, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom;
and to depart from evil is understanding.” Job 28:28
If you grew up in an evangelical church you probably heard a lot about, “the fear of the Lord”. Some of the messages you heard were about the power, judgment, and anger of a righteous God in the face of your sinful life. The idea was to make you afraid. It certainly worked on me. Funny, I didn’t feel super wise.
Then there were the messages about what kind of “fear” we were supposed to have of the Lord. I remember words like “respect”, and “reverence” occurring a lot. I think the idea was to make God seem a little more approachable than the angry, just God who demanded our fear.
But this text from Job is not really about the character of God, is it? If one wanted to build a doctrine of God one would not start with this verse. This verse is about us and how we can become wiser people. The answer is in the verse.
Almost the entire book of Job is written in this form of ancient poetry where the first line states a proposition and the second line restates it. The second line is the equivalent of the first. Do you want to know whether you fear the Lord as God intended for you? The answer is not in whether you shudder in church or never set your coffee cup on top of your Bible. You fear the Lord if you depart from evil.
If you have sin you are holding onto in your life for safekeeping, you’re not fearing the Lord. Preferring sin is concrete evidence of a lack of wisdom. Wise people get rid of it as quickly and as thoroughly as possible.
Set that as standard operating procedure in your life. When you identify thoughts or actions in your life that are beneath God’s standards, immediately repent of those. That, my friends, is fear of the Lord. It is also the path to a life of great wisdom.