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THE REVERENCE OF THE LORD IS THE BEGINNING OF WISDOM

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

2 MAY 1993

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Proverbs 1:7
            9:1-6
            14:26-27
            15:33
            16:6
Jeremiah 23:7-12
Ezekiel 33:30-33
Hebrews 13:7-8
1 Peter 1:25
            2:25

Several times over the past week or so, one passage of Scripture, which appears in several places in the Bible, kept coming to me.

It was, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."

The word “fear” would be better understood if it were translated as "reverence," for that more closely reflects the application of its meaning in this passage.

Our preparation verse for this morning from Proverbs 1:7 states this message in a slightly different way:

7. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;

Fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Wisdom is the ability to put the knowledge you have learned into practice in a way that is pleasing to the Lord.

To have knowledge and not put it to use in this way is very foolish, for it won't profit you or anyone else. It is as good as having nothing. In fact, it might even be worse than having nothing, for we are responsible for what we know. Note what we are told in Ezekiel 33:30-33.

30. "But as for you, son of man, your fellow citizens who talk about you by the walls and in the doorways of the houses, speak to one another, each to his brother, saying, 'Come now, and hear what the message is which comes forth from the Lord.'

31. "And they come to you as people come, and sit before you as My people, and hear your words, but they do not do them, for they do the lustful desires expressed by their mouth, and their heart goes after their gain.

32. "And behold, you are to them like a sensual song by one who has a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not practice them.

Doesn’t this sound familiar?

But because they have heard the truth, because they have heard the knowledge of the Lord, and because they have shunned instruction and wisdom, they will be held accountable, just as the Lord told Ezekiel.

33. "So when it comes to pass – as surely it will – then they will know that a prophet has been in their midst."

So often, people think that the word of God is for another time or for someone else, but it isn't; it's for now, right now, and for each of us, just as Peter tells us in 1 Peter 1:25:

25. "But the word of the Lord abides forever."

And this is the word which was preached to you.

To understand this is knowledge, but to apply it to your life is wisdom.

Listen to what the writer to the Hebrews tells us in 13:7-8:

7. Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.

8. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever.

To imitate the things of God is wisdom.

To not follow such instruction is a sin, as Peter tells us in 1 Peter 2:25, but as he also tells us, there is hope for all who return to follow.

25. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.

But some people wait too long, and they are swept away with the other foolish ones.

Listen to what Jeremiah tells us about the way of the people and the way of the Lord, in 23:7-12:

7. "Therefore behold, the days are coming," declares the Lord, "when they no longer say, 'As the Lord lives, who brought up the sons of Israel from the land of Egypt,'

8. but, 'As the Lord lives, who brought up and led back the descendants of the household of Israel from the north land and from all the countries where I had driven them.' Then they will live on their own soil."

If the Israelites had continued in their reverence for the Lord, they would never have been taken captive into Assyria and Babylon, and thus they would never have had to change their message of acknowledging God's grace.

If they had retained their reverence for the Lord, their wisdom would have shown them the error of their ways, that they could correct themselves.

But even in a corrupt society, there are some who have this wisdom, and will continue to speak and live the truth.

9. As for the prophets:

My heart is broken within me,

All my bones tremble;

I have become like a drunken man,

Even like a man overcome with wine,

Because of the Lord

And because of His holy words.

Those without knowledge and wisdom look upon those who have them as being crazy, or as fools, or as being drunk. And that can be a lonely feeling when you're on the receiving end of the abuse of the people, in the midst of a perverse society.

10. For the land is full of adulterers;

For the land mourns because of the curse.

The pastures of the wilderness have dried up.

Their course also is evil,

And their might is not right.

11. "For both prophet and priest are polluted;

Even in My house I have found their wickedness," declares the Lord.

12. "Therefore their way will be like slippery paths to them,

They will be driven away into the gloom and fall down in it;

For I shall bring calamity upon them,

The year of their punishment," declares the Lord.

There have been times in history, and even today, when the reverence for the Lord is so lacking and there is so little wisdom, that even the prophets and priests of the temple and church become corrupted.

This is why I keep urging you to read and study your Bibles, and to practice applying God's ways to your lives, that you would develop greater and greater wisdom, so that at least around you there would be hope.

Note what we are told in Proverbs 14:26-27:

26. In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence,

And his children will have refuge.

27. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,

That one may avoid the snares of death.

The more we know about the Lord and the more we understand about Him, the easier it is to understand His awesome power, and thus, to have fear or reverence for Him. Then we will most likely listen to His instruction.

It's just as we are told in Proverbs 15:33:

33. The fear of the Lord is the instruction for wisdom,

And before honor comes humility.

Mary and I have repeatedly said that if we err in anything concerning the ways of God, let it be on the side of love and compassion.

This, too, is wisdom and living in truth; and it is confirmed in Proverbs 16:6:

6. By lovingkindness and truth iniquity is atoned for,

And by the fear of the Lord one keeps away from evil.

With God it is necessary to be sensitive and have compassion, even if you're a man, for that is the way that the Lord Himself is.

In Proverbs 9:1-6, the writer depicts one of God's characteristics as the woman "Wisdom." Let's close with these words of wisdom, and let us continually eat at her table.

1. Wisdom has built her house,

She has hewn out her seven pillars;

2. She has prepared her food, she has mixed her wine;

She has also set her table;

3. She has sent out her maidens, she calls

From the tops of the heights of the city:

4. "Whoever is naive, let him turn in here!"

To him who lacks understanding she says,

5. "Come, eat of my food,

And drink of the wine I have mixed.

6. "Forsake your folly and live,

And proceed in the way of understanding."

Amen.

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