The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7—NIV)

Living in the fear of the Lord is often thought of as an old-fashioned ideal associated with former generations of believers. Previous generations were accustomed to hear someone described as a “God-fearing” person. I suppose they meant that the person was a generally sincere person who sought to treat everyone with equanimity, was a church attender, and prayed at his dinner table. All of these fine attributes would certainly be characteristic of a God-fearing man, but is there something more?

To be God-fearing, one must be born again. The awakening of a soul to true awe of God occurs when he fully recognizes the crimes of his sin before the holy God, owns the justice of his eternal penalty in the fires of hell, and falls upon his knees begging for the mantle of mercy assured through the blood of Jesus Christ to be cast over him. One of the first fruits of this new birth is an eternally grateful heart readily displayed at the slightest provocation and an enlivened conscience to the horrors of sin. With this new life comes a growing desire for, and display of godliness.

Our text tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. It is the first part, the foundation of knowledge. All the scraps of knowledge gained throughout life and cobbled together create a man’s world-view. Without a healthy awe of God as the only sure foundation determining the usefulness of those scraps, the building of a man’s view of his world and his purposeful placement in it will be skewed and doomed to collapse under its own weight. A little knowledge without the know-how to use it is dangerous.

Sometimes a text finds illumination when it is compared to another text. Romans 1:20-22 describes the condition of someone who is not God fearing. In fact, he has removed God from his thinking. “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools.”

Yes, the fear of the Lord is old-fashioned. In the oldest book in the Bible Job says, “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.” Is it any wonder that the first verse beginning of his book records that Job was God-fearing and shunned evil (1:1, 28:28)?

Solomon, the author of our text, first heard the old-fashioned ideal from David, his father, in Psalm 34:11, “Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord,” and 111:10, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments: His praise endures forever.” Solomon often built his proverbs of wisdom on this foundation. Proverbs 8:13, 9:10, 15:33, 23:17, and Ecclesiastes 12:13 press the reader to embrace the crucial devotion of living in holy awe of God in reverential obedience and hatred of evil.

Lest you think that living in the fear of the Lord is an old testament, generational thing—Acts 9:31, “Then the churches throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied” and Hebrews 12:28-29, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom, which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear; for our God is a consuming fire.”

Apparently, God-fearing Christians are never out of date with God. How visible to others is your gratefulness to God because you are devoted to living in awe of the might, holiness, and condescension of God? Better yet, can others say that you are a God-fearing person and know what they are talking about?