Do you want to be wise? That's easier said than done, isn't it? But our text shows us how that happens. Proverbs 1:7 says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline."
It all starts with the fear of the Lord. Now, fearing the Lord is not just being afraid of what he might do to us. The fear of the Lord is that natural feeling we get when we realize who God is. For some that is terrifying, but for us, who realize what he has done for us - the fear of the Lord includes respect and reverence, awe at his power and wonder at his love.
And everything else depends on this fear of the Lord. Our text calls it the beginning, really, the head, the starting point, of knowledge. And this beginning isn't something we leave to move on to more advanced things. This is the base, the foundation for everything else. Just like the professional musician never forgets how to hold her instrument or make it produce a sound, but uses those skills in everything else she accomplishes- without the fear of the Lord, we can never advance in wisdom or knowledge.
I know schools today and some parents today and society today are doing all they can to get rid of that building block. And it shows, doesn't it? I read a report from researchers at Johns Hopkins University in 1990, stating that 30 years ago, the greatest fears of grade school children were animals, being in a dark room, high places, strangers and loud noises. Thirty years later, kids are afraid of the following top five: divorce, nuclear war, cancer, pollution and being mugged.
That's the result of pushing aside the fear of the Lord. And God knew it. Look at the last part of that proverb. God says we're fools if we try to set aside the foundation. Fools reject growing in the fear of the Lord. It is absolutely foolish to pretend that there are more basic, more fundamental, more important things than growing in our awe at God through his word.
So what does that say about every one of you who didn't get up this Sunday morning and join with your fellow believers for worship and Sunday school? "Fools," God says. Or how about those of you who didn't take time each day this week to converse with God, as he speaks to your heart through his word and you to his you're your prayers? "Fools." You took the time to eat, didn't you, and maybe even did some homework with the kids, right? This is more basic, more necessary, more fundamental.
And that kind of folly, the rest of the book of Proverbs says, causes nothing but problems here and nothing but suffering in eternity.
So fear the Lord. How? Well, it happens naturally when we focus on his word. Awe and respect for someone grows when you realize that they would do and have done anything and everything for you. That's what makes the fear of the Lord and God's Word so intertwined. It is here we learn what he has done - so much more than just the stock phrase - he died for my sins. He planned our salvation. He accomplished it. He provided all these ways for us to grow in it - he gave us Sunday School teachers, and pastors, and such easy access to his word. He gave us his son, who still reaches for us even when we are pushing away. He gave up his life that we could live, and he controls all things for our good. The more we study his word, the more we see he has done and does do for us.
And seeing God's love and power behind everything in life, changes everything. In the fear of the Lord, we truly start to live. That is wisdom.