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Fear First.

I was one of those kids that had to drive 40 miles round-trip to high school. I grew up on a farm down in the valley below a lake in central Kansas...and the path I took to school and back I jokingly dubbed “the safari.” I always needed to be on constant alert for large quantities of turkey, deer, coon, coyote, quail, and occasionally a horse or cow.

One time, a friend (who also lived on “the safari”) and I were coming home from a late movie. It was dark. She was driving. As we neared my home, all of a sudden we were dodging cows left and right. Literally. A herd of cattle had dispersed itself on the sandy road, not a half-mile from my house, and my friend maneuvered around the cattle (which seemed like hundreds to this teen), and a few minutes later we were safe on my yard.

Here’s the thing. My friend and I had been trained to fear “the safari.” No, not to be scared out of our wits, too anxious to actually drive, but to respect the nature of the road...to keep our eyes peeled, knowing wildlife very well could be resting in the prairie grass in the ditch. Or smack dab in the middle of the road. We learned to recognize the glow of eyes in the distance. We were on alert. So, while dodging cattle was surprising, it wasn’t necessarily unexpected.

In being trained to fear, we had a good foundation for defensive driving.

As believers, we are also told to have a foundation of fear.

→ The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;

all those who practice it have a good understanding. (PS 111:10)

→ The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;

fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Prov. 1:7)

→ The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. (Prov 9:10)

But why fear? Why would we want to fear God? Why would fear--yir’ah--be demanded of the believer?

Because God is holy.

He is exalted above the heavens. (Psalm 108) His name alone is holy and awesome! (Psalm 111) And he demands our reverence.

Several years ago, I was struck by this call to a holy fear. It seemed so right. So good. So profound.

If you want to be wise, you must start with fearing the Lord!

Wisdom comes from the exceeding reverence, respect, piety...fear...of an awesome and holy God!

And fear isn’t something that can just be sprinkled in. No, it must be foundational. It must be at the beginning!

Imagine if my friend and I would have had limited fear of “the safari.” We wouldn’t have taken the drive seriously. We wouldn’t have been on high alert. We would have been distracted. And we would have bowled over some beef...if not worse.

Taking the journey without fearing the LORD is dangerous. In fact, the Bible says it is foolish. Yikes!

Mike Mason, in his book “The Gospel According to Job” asks this: “Why don’t people prize and pursue the pearl of wisdom above everything else?” In answering he writes, “The reason is that the gaining of wisdom requires the total sacrifice of our single most precious possession: ourselves. More specifically, what is required is the surrender of our wills. To gain wisdom we must part with the very thing which, to part with, means our annihilation.”

Surrendering the self...surrendering our wills...to the point of annihilation can feel scary. But when our eyes are on a holy and awesome God, it is worth it!

Let's shift our view.
Let's fear the one whose works are great and full of splendor and majesty. To the one who causes his wondrous works to be remembered. Who is lasting righteousness, and is gracious and merciful, faithful and just. His precepts are trustworthy, and his covenant, eternal. Fear the one who sent redemption to his people. Whose name alone is holy and awesome! (all from Psalm 111)

In doing so, we are promised good understanding. We are promised wisdom! So today, let’s fall on our knees with trembling, giving thanks to the LORD with a whole heart.

May His praise endure forever!

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