Some people hear that and they think that God wants us to always be afraid that He's going to get us if we don't do right. We hear that and see God standing up in heaven with lightening bolts in His hand and He's going to strike down the evil doer. And so many people avoid God because they are afraid of His judgment and punishment. They fear God like a whipped dog might fear its cruel owner, cowering, fearful to mess up, hoping to not be noticed.
But the fear of God in the Biblical sense is to have a reverential respect for God. It's a respect for God that leads to obedience.
If you've ever had a coach who gave you extra drills to do and you do them because you knew he had a plan to make you a better player, you have an idea of what it is to fear God.
If you've ever had a teacher who demanded your best work and you stayed up a little later to make sure it was right, just because you wanted to please them, you have an idea of what it is to fear God.
If you've ever stopped short of doing something you know was wrong because you heard your grandmother's voice saying, "I taught you better than that," you have an idea of what it is to fear God.
It's a respect that leads to a change of action, of obedience, of following instruction.
But here's the deal: If you say that you fear God but you don’t obey Him, or don’t strive to obey Him more each day, you don't really fear God. You might fear the consequences of getting caught. You might fear a loss of reputation. But you don't fear God.
There are people in my neighborhood who will tell their friends to stop cussing when I come by, or they'll kind of slide their beer behind their back, because the pastor is around. And they might say that they do that because they fear God. But to fear God is to know that He is always around and our lives are to honor Him at all times, not just when the pastor is on the scene. The fear of God shows up when nobody is looking, when you are faced with the choice to obey or to not. If you fear God, you will choose to obey and THEN the wisdom of God will show up in your life. When you and I settle in our hearts and minds to obey God, then the Word of God, the wisdom of Proverbs, can show us what the godly course or path will look like.
Now you and I both know that we are going to sin; I've yet to make it through a day where I haven't sinned. So when we sin, which we will do, to fear God is to repent, to ask forgiveness of God, and to apologize to whoever we sinned against. It's not to hide from God or wallow in guilt or avoid church until we 've done better. To respect God is to face our sin, say we are sorry, and ask God to help us choose Him the next time.
What am I saying to you tonight? I'm saying that if you want to have a life of wisdom, a life built on Godly principles, the first place to start is with the fear of the Lord. And to fear God is to respect God by obeying Him. Not just respecting Him in theory but to show that respect by obeying Him and obeying His word, not just the parts of His word that we find particularly convenient.
The fear of the Lord, the respect or reverence for the Lord shown by obedience, is the beginning of wisdom. Fear God and obey Him, and wisdom will lead you on good paths.