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The Beginning of Wisdom

by David A. DePra

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. (Ps. 111:10)

     This verse is often quoted, and is sometimes made into wall

plaques. But what does it really mean? What IS the "fear of the

Lord?" And how is it the "beginning of wisdom?"

     Anytime you read about FEAR in the Bible, as it pertains to God,

it must be remembered that it is really talking about REVERENCE.

"Reverence" is the result of attributing a great value to something.

It is a realization that someone is holy, good, and to be treated with

great respect. Consequently, "the fear of the Lord" is not a matter

of being AFRAID of God. Rather, it is a matter of realizing how

wonderful He is -- in a way that motivates my conduct and thinking.

     So we do have to get our definitions straight. There is a wrong

kind of "fear" we can have towards God, and there is a right kind

of "fear." The wrong kind of fear is when I am afraid of God. But

the right kind of fear of God is when I REVERE and RESPECT Him. 

     Thus, we have a great contrast between "being afraid" of God,

and "having reverence" for God. "Being afraid" of God -- which is

the wrong kind of fear -- makes me want to run and hide from God.

It motivates me to play religious games with Him, lest I be exposed

for what I really am. It stampedes me into doing all kinds of works

and service "for Him," lest He punish me if I don't do them. But the

proper "fear" or "reverence" of God results in none of these things.

     Reverence makes me want to run TOWARDS God and be with

Him. More and more I stop playing games with God because I am

at ease to simply surrender myself to Him -- sin and faults and all.

I do good works if I revere God, but not out of fear of punishment if

I don't do them. I do them because I love God and it cannot but

help reflect in my conduct towards others.

     The wrong kind of fear of God always goes back to somewhere

I have embraced LIES about Him. It is based on a false knowledge

of God. But the right kind of fear of God goes back to being set free

by the Truth -- by the true knowledge of God in Jesus Christ. I revere

God, not because I am commanded to do so, but because it is

all I can do -- once I see and know Him.

God is Love

     On the basis of all of this is, of course, the issue of LOVE. The

first epistle of John says:

Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the

day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is

no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear

has torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love

Him, because he first loved us. (I Jn. 4:17-19)

John also writes:

God is love. (I John 4:8, 16)

     Now notice: If God IS love -- that is -- is the personification of

agape love, then when John says, "Perfect love casts out fear," He

is really telling us something about God Himself. He is telling us

that God HIMSELF casts out fear. But wait. If the love of God

CASTS OUT fear, then it is therefore impossible for there to be

anything IN GOD to cause fear! It is impossible that anything about

God could make me afraid of Him!

     Do you see that? It is as clear as can be. If God IS love, and

love casts out fear, then God casts out fear. Therefore, fear can

NEVER be of God. The closer God gets, the more fear is cast out!

     Now ask: What does this tell us about source of the wrong kind

of fear? What does it tell us about being afraid of God? It tells us

that none of that kind of fear can be OF GOD. It tells us that when

we feel afraid of God that our "feelings" are lying to us. It tells us that

since the wrong kind of fear cannot be of God, then when we are

afraid, it is either of ourselves or of Satan.

     The fact is, we have been sold a bill of goods. We have been

told, all of our lives that God is a God to be afraid of; to hide from.

Not only are we born with the tendency to believe these lies about

God, but many of us have been taught about God that way by

others who are just as deceived. But the Bible teaches otherwise.

God casts OUT fear. He brings in LOVE.

Inbred Fear

     Usually when we think of being afraid, we think of a cause. In

other words, we usually think that to be afraid we need something to

be afraid OF. But this really isn't so. The fact is, many people are

afraid all time time; quite fearful. And they cannot even put their

finger on WHY.

     There is such a thing as "the spirit of fear." Rather than a sane,

reasonable, thought-out fear, it is more of a CONDITION. It is a

STATE of being. My reactions of fear towards things which come

my way merely amplify the condition of fear which is already

governing me.

     We might expect this of those who do not know Christ. But

unfortunately, fear governs many Christians today. There are many

of us walking around who are continually AFRAID of God. We are

governed by "the spirit of fear."

     The Bible is clear on this issue. Paul writes, "For God has not

given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound

mind." (II Tim. 1:7) Therefore, if we have a spirit of fear, it did not

come from God! Why? Because again: God casts OUT fear. He

doesn't give or bring fear. Ever.

     We see the inbred tendency to be afraid of God all the way back

in the garden of Eden. Right after Adam sinned, we see the

introduction of fear. Adam said, "I was afraid." And he hid himself

from God among the trees of the garden. Thus, it is clear that one

of the elements of the "fall of man" was to be plunged into this

condition or state of FEAR.

     There was no one else alive at this point except Adam and Eve.

Adam's fear was therefore of God Himself. But notice something:

God did not cause Adam to be afraid of Him, did He? No. God was

the same as always. And Adam had not been afraid BEFORE the

sin. It was therefore the sin of Adam which resulted in Adam being

afraid of God.

     Before the sin Adam was completely dependent upon God. And

there was no fear in him. But when Adam chose to become

independent of God, he got exactly what He chose. And because

Adam was now on his own -- severed from God by his own choice --

fear was the result. Adam was plunged into the realm of darkness

and death, and fear became his constant companion.

     Notice again the consistant theme: The closer a persons gets

to God, the more fear is cast out, and love reigns. But the farther

away a person gets from God, the more fear reigns, and the less

love governs. It is as a universal principle.

Refusing Fear

     How do we get out of this condition of fear? Salvation itself will

not do it, for there are many people who are saved, but continue to

walk in fear. To get free of fear, we have to be set free by the Truth.

In other words, being afraid of God is the result of embracing lies

about Him. The solution is to start seeing those lies AS lies, and to

begin embracing the Truth.

     As Christians, we are supposed to treat fear like we would treat

any other lie. We are not to argue with hit, reason with it, or try to

appease it. We are not supposed to turn in upon it and try to beat

it down and try to make it go away. Rather, we are to destroy it by

neglect. In other words, though fear may refuse to shut up, we can

refuse to be moved by it. And the only way we can do this is by

speaking the Truth in our hearts.

     You see, it is a waste of time to try to defeat a defeated enemy.

Fear is of a defeated enemy. So don't try to fight it. Instead, treat it

like a defeated enemy -- who is trying to convince you he is NOT a

defeated enemy. Treat it like a noisy, irritating liar. Tune it out by

tuning in the Truth. Focus on the Truth and in time you will find that

the noise and words and feelings of the enemy have less and less

of an influence upon you. You can stand in the Truth and refuse to

be moved by the lies of the enemy.

     Overcoming fear is not possible by debating fear. Neither will

you overcome fear by accumulating Bible facts and verse. No. As

stated, fear is a condition. I can overcome fear only by faith. I must

embrace the Truth and refuse to be moved from it.

True Wisdom

     The "fear of the Lord," which is reverence of Him, is based on

the true knowledge of Him in Jesus Christ. The point is, the more I

grow to know God, the less I will be afraid of Him. The more I see

Him as He is, the more I will revere and worship Him. There is

nothing in God to incite fear in us. But God will always incite

worship and adoration.

     This brings us back to our verse, "The beginning of wisdom is

the fear of the Lord." Why is this true? What does wisdom have to

do with a reverence of God?

     It has everything to do with it. Reverence of God will mean that

because I see God as He is, I will be able to see things the way HE

sees them. And God always sees things the way they are.

     Thus, we have a definition of "wisdom." Wisdom is seeing things

the way God sees them. It means to see them the way they really

are -- because they are in the light of the true knowledge of God in

Jesus Christ.

     Deception -- at it's root -- really means to see things as they

AREN'T. Right? Sure. I look at something and think I see it the

way it really is. But I'm wrong. I am deceived. My perception is

lying to me and I don't know it. I am sure of something and I am

dead wrong about it.

     Wisdom, however, means that I see things the way they really

are. But not because I'm smart or so perceptive. No. I see them

the way they are because my heart and mind have been adjusted

and renewed. I am looking at life through a reverence of God. I

am looking at life within the context of God AS God, and as One

who I revere and value.

     We see this Truth taught in Romans. Paul wrote:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you

present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God,

which is your spiritual worship. And be not conformed to this world,

but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may

prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

(Rom. 12:1-2)

     Reverence to God always results in surrender to Him. And once

I surrender to God, I am operating from a position of wisdom -- of

being able to see things the way He sees them. That is why Paul

is able to say that surrender results in the "renewing of your mind,

that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect

will of God." Want to know the will of God? Want wisdom? Then

surrender to God.

     Psalms says that wisdom is the result of the proper "fear of the

Lord." But it actually says a bit more. It says that the BEGINNING

of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. This is quite the shocking

statement because it suggests that you and I cannot even BEGIN

to see things the way God sees them until we start to revere God

in our lives.

     Actually, we see this Truth evidenced all the time today. The

more that this country has pushed God out, the more foolish we

have become. We have more and more lost our sense of right and

wrong -- indeed -- we don't even seem to think we need one any

more. The same goes for the churches. The more that churches

have forsaken the reverence and respect for God in all that they

do, the more they have been given over to nonsense, foolishness,

and false teaching.

     The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. So if you have

no reverence for God in how you live, then you cannot so much as

get started in seeing things clearly. You cannot know the Truth and

will eventually be given over to lies.

Ignorance vs. Hardness

     There are many people in this world who are ignorant of the Truth.

Ignorance is the inability to know, i.e. -- I have been born in the dark

and the light has never been turned on. But then there are others

who are not ignorant. They either DO know or COULD know. They

are what the Bible calls "hard of heart." Their problem is not an

inability to see and believe. Rather, they REFUSE to believe.

     Those who are hard of heart have also, as is the case with the

rest of us, been born in the dark. But unlike the ignorant, the light

HAS come on. It's just that they have either closed their eyes as

to mimmic darkness, or they have gone over to the wall and flipped

the switch back off. Either way, they are accountable. They KNOW.

Once the light goes on and you see, there isn't any way back.

There isn't any way to say you haven't seen. You HAVE.

     Those who are truly ignorant are usually somewhat open to the

Truth. But those who are hard of heart usually are not -- at least with

regards to those things which form the crux of their hardness. God

says that the result of becoming hard of heart is to be given over

into even greater deception.

Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with

all power and signs and lying wonders, and with

all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish;

because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be

saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion,

that they should believe a lie. (II Thes. 2:10-11)

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness;

but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. (I Cor. 1:18)

     The shocking revelation of scripture is that deception is often the

RESULT of being hard of heart. Deception is often the judgment of

God upon those who refuse the Truth.

     Notice Paul's words, quoted above, to the Corinthians: To those

who ARE perishing, the preaching of the Cross is foolishness. We

usually get this backwards. We think that if the words of the Cross

are foolish to someone, that this RESULTS in God judgment upon

them. But Paul says it works the opposite way. He says that it is

BECAUSE they are perishing that the words of the Cross are folly

unto them.

     Why? Because "perishing" means you have somewhere

already refused the Truth. So the Truth is now foolish to you. You

have no proper fear or reverence of God, thus even the beginning

of wisdom is not possible for you. Deception is the only other

option, for as we saw, the beginning of deception is the refusal of

the Lord.

     We can illustrate this by going back to the example of being born

into a dark room. If God turns the light on, I have a choice. I can

walk in the light through faith and surrender, and by seeking God for

understanding. Or I can run over to the wall and flip the switch back

off. But if I do, it cannot erase what I have seen. Neither can I deny

the fact that I have seen. It is too late. I KNOW and am morally


     Once a person has seen the Truth, they must either allow God

to adjust them to fit the Truth, or they must adjust the Truth to fit

themselves. This happens on a moral and spiritual level. And it

strikes at the heart and core of what we are before God Himself.

     Let's see how it works if a person refuses the Truth. Let's

suppose, for example, that God did turn the light on in my dark room.

What would happen if I continue to try to pretend I haven't seen?

Well, even if I actually went over to the wall and turned the light off,

I would still have knowledge I did not have before. Thus, every

time I moved and bumped into something, there would be some

recognition of what it was. I would have some knowledge of where

I was going. Not only that, but I would know where the switch was.

I would be able, at any time, to turn back and embrace the Truth.

Thus, the only way to deal with this situation -- if I wanted to continue

to refuse the Truth -- would be to live a lie. I would have to over and

over again push away what I saw and try to make things fit my


     If all we were talking about were "facts," the damage done would

be nominal. But we are here talking about MORAL Truth and

accountability to God. Push away moral Truth and you become

AMORAL. You begin to PERISH.

     Imagine if I knew that two plus two equals four. That is the Truth.

But what if, for moral reasons, I refused to admit that two plus two

equals four. What if I lied and pleaded ignorance? Or simply

denied it as the Truth? The only way to move forward, from that

point of denying that two plus two equals four, is to move forward

on a completely wrong basis. Think what this would mean as I try to

progress in higher mathematics! It would mean that NONE of it

would be right, because I will not embrace the most simplistic and

foundational Truth: Two plus two equals four.

     If it works like that with math, think about how much more it would

work that way MORALLY and SPIRITUALLY. If I will not embrace

the Truth which God gives to me, it will create a moral foundation

within me, upon which all manner of deception can be built. Again,

if I will not allow God to adjust me to the Truth, then I will adjust the

Truth to fit ME. And THAT is deception.

     Note how it is said that those who "are perishing" do this. Why?

Because those who "are perishing," by definition, are those who

have refused the Truth of deliverance from death. They HAVE

already refused the Truth. Thus, they cannot have the moral

receptivitiy or vision to be able to see any other Truth. To them,

it will be folly. Their only hope is to go back to the point where they

flipped off the light switch. They must, and CAN, start over again

with God.

     To them who have already refused the Truth, and who are

perishing, the Truth will be folly. They have not revered the Lord,

or valued Him. They have not surrendered to Him. So, they

cannot even BEGIN in the wisdom of the Lord. Indeed, the

"beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord."

The Words of Jesus Christ

     This same teaching, that "the beginning of wisdom is the fear of

the Lord," is all through the Bible, especially in the gospels. Jesus

taught it continually. Notice His clear words to His disciples:

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The light

of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole

body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body

shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be

darkness, how great is that darkness. No man can serve two

masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else

he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God

and mammon. (Matt. 6:21-24)

     Notice to key to LIGHT: A single eye. In other words, being

fully dedicated, surrendered, and focused upon God -- all of which

is the result of REVERENCE of Him. But if my eye "be evil," which

is the opposite of "being single," then my whole being will be dark.

An "evil eye," is one which tries to serve two masters, God and


     I have a "single eye" when God's will is my focus. I am as

surrendered to Him as I know how to be. But my eye is "evil" when

I want to serve and "obey" God on my own terms. In other words,

there is a DUPLICITY going on in me. I say I want God's will, and

to a degree, maybe I do. But not at the cost of my will. So I try

to have BOTH.

     According to Jesus, to try to have things both ways -- to have

MY will and God's will -- has a result: Darkness. In other words,

deception. Only if I surrender to God fully will I walk in light.

Notice that what causes darkness is NOT a full rejection of God.

That will cause darkness, of course, but Jesus is here talking about

something a little more subtle than total rejection of God. What is

it? Again -- Duplicity. Being a Christian on my own terms will do it.

Being saved, but then trying to live the Christian life on my own

terms. Saying I embrace Christ as Lord, but then not surrendering to

Him AS Lord, in the details of my life.

     God would have better things for us. He wants our eye, that is,

our heart, to be SINGLE. This means that we are to be sold out to

God completely. We revere Him. We love Him. We belong to

Him, rather than to ourselves. And we grow to live and act like it.

The result of such singleness of heart is the mere beginnings of

true WISDOM. We develop the mind of Christ and the ability to

see things from His point of view -- because we have His attitude

in us.

     As it is written:

Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just

man, and he will increase in understanding. The fear of the Lord is

the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is

understanding. (Prov. 9:10)

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