Our church had a prayer meeting a few days ago. In that time I read a verse or passage of scripture and then gave a prompt as to how or what we should pray for at that time, and a few minutes later I would do another one. One of the verses jumped out at me. It is pretty counter-cultural, it is also a bit against my own personal nature. The verse is Proverbs 9:10. It says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
If you ask my kids would say that Daddy isn’t afraid of anything. They are pretty close to right. I’ve lived in much more violent and dangerous neighborhoods than what we find in Hancock County. I’ve also been told by doctors that I had stage four cancer and a 2% chance of surviving. I’ve been broke. I’ve been attacked by a dog. I’ve had a season where I was estranged from my family and I was essentially alone. I tell you that to say that I have seen things that are worthy of fear, and I’m still standing. “Daddy isn’t afraid of anything.” But this verse says that fear of the Lord is not only good, it is the only way to gain any wisdom.
So in our prayer time I dove in and tried to discern what it meant to fear the Lord and why it would be a good thing. I know God to be loving and kind, gracious and forgiving. Why do I need to fear Him?
When I think about fear, somewhere in the back of my mind is an almost cartoonish image of some big bad character walking up and blocking out the sunlight. This villain is huge and domineering. The image tells me that I should be afraid because of the size and supposed strength of this character. Essentially we should be afraid because something is stronger than us, and therefore capable of hurting us if it so chooses.
God is bigger and stronger than me, and you, and everyone. Not only can He block out the sunlight, He created the sunlight. None of my other problems can do much to the sun. The closest I get is using the sun-visor to guard my eyes while I’m driving.
There is something good in knowing that there is something bigger than me. It is comforting to know that when I come to understand that God is not a villain. Even though He can hurt me at His whim He doesn’t because He is good and loving, kind, generous, and forgiving.
There is wisdom in understanding that I am not the center of the universe. I am also not the toughest guy around. I am not the ultimate source of all strength. I am not the creator of my destiny. That knowledge brings peace because it lifts the burden. It also gives peace when the responsibilities of life are overwhelming. God is bigger. God can handle it.
Jesus actually instructed us in Matthew chapter 11 verses 28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Fear of the Lord is a recognition of His size and strength. It is the beginning of wisdom because it recognizes where we fit in creation. That Proverb concluded by saying “knowledge of the Holy one is understanding.” As we learn to know God from that beginning we understand that though He could crush us, His desire is to carry us, bless us, and always love us.
Jeremy Alger is the pastor of the New Cumberland Church of the Nazarene. For more information please visit www.newcumberlandnazarene.com