Some thoughts on the fear of the Lord

Sunset in Tel Aviv (Photo: Aaron Hecht)

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.” – Proverbs 1:7

I owe my understanding of this passage to the unlikely personage of Octavian Caesar, known to history as Augustus, the founder of the Roman Empire. In his memoirs, fragments of which have been recovered by archeologists, he said, among many other things, that “I don’t trust a man who doesn’t believe in the gods. He will usually lack a sense of proportion about his own importance.”

Although Octavian was, as the quote indicates, a product of a pagan, polytheistic civilization and he probably never heard of, much less read, a copy of the Book of Proverbs, he nonetheless expressed in this quote one of the basic problems with people who lack “the fear of the Lord.”

Because if you encounter a person who doesn’t fear (or even believe in) a God who is incalculably more powerful and intelligent than the most powerful and intelligent human beings, that person will, by default, assume that the most powerful and intelligent human beings are the highest power and source of authority, moral and otherwise, that there is. It is this which explains so much of what is afflicting the human race in this current year of 2018.

Our world is run by men and women who don’t fear God and who thus look to mere Humanistic philosophy for guidance.

This phenomenon exists even in large segments of what calls itself the Church, most often in a simple lack of regard for the authority of Scripture. It can be seen in some of the recent translations of the Bible which flagrantly refute the meaning of the original texts, in order to make it more “relevant to modern readers.” Phrases like “the Bible was written by men for men” are used to justify this approach.

Implicit in these arguments is the idea that even if there really is a Deity, that Deity didn’t really inspire the Bible to be written, but rather the Bible is merely a collection of writings by people who lived a long time ago who were informed by the superstitions and/or prevailing cultural, social, political and economic norms of their times.

Thus “God” is reduced to, and equated with, mere human beings. So if “the Bible was written by men, for men” thousands of years ago, for no other purpose than to impose a patriarchal system of control on women and/or a capitalist economic system on all humanity, than it can be re-written (or simply re-interpreted) by more compassionate and enlightened modern men and women for more lofty purposes, like advancing “social justice” (which can happily mean whatever the person who uses that particular phrase wants it to mean).

Beyond that, the individual who does not fear the Lord will inevitably start just making up their own rules for living. Or they might just go through life making things up as they go without any rules or structure whatsoever, dismissing anyone who tries to tell them it’s not okay to do that as being “arrogant” and “judgmental” etc.

Indeed, a person who lacks a healthy “fear of the Lord” will, as Octavian said, also lack a “sense of proportion about his (ed: or her) own importance” and think of themselves as the “god of their own life” as I heard someone say once.

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t create this universe and everything in it and I certainly don’t have the power to save myself. So I feel compelled to humbly and gratefully submit to the God who DID create this universe and everything in it and who CAN save me.

As a byproduct of this, I don’t really feel like I’m entitled to argue with the Bible, change and/or ignore passages I don’t like or re-interpret certain verses and/or take them out of context to make them support my “rights” to do things I want to do but which are unambiguously forbidden and/or condemned as sin by the totality of Scripture.

That’s what ‘the fear of the Lord” means to me. I hope someone was blessed by reading this.