First of all, what is Solomon’s P3 Trilogy? Three books of the Old Testament penned mainly by King Solomon. As I see them, each book’s main theme begins with a P:
P1 ~ Practical Living ~ (Proverbs)
P2 ~ Purposeful Living ~ (Ecclesiastes)
P3 ~ Passionate Loving ~ (Song of Solomon)
As our semester began this week, I introduced Solomon as the son of David and Bathsheba. When Solomon became king following David’s death, God told Solomon he could ask for anything and God would give it (1 Kings 3:5-8). Solomon asked for wisdom to rule God’s people. God not only gave him wisdom but also wealth, power and fame (1 Kings 3:9-13). Solomon’s books are considered books of poetry and wisdom.
His words of practical wisdom are amazingly relevant for those of us trying to figure out everyday life in the 21st Century. This book is more than a collection of clever advice, a few hat tricks and some handy tips. These are not just old sayings that concern people long ago and far away. No! These are universal principles that are timeless. They speak to modern problems as much as ancient because they address human nature and God’s ways. Human nature has not changed since Solomon’s day; God hasn’t changed either.
As we covered the first five chapters of Proverbs, we saw that the purpose and theme are found in in verses 2-7 of Proverbs 1. The whole key and our starting point in getting knowledge, wisdom, instruction, insight and understanding is given in 1:7 – “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;”. That’s where we begin, with fearing the Lord; but what does that mean?
We are told to fear the Lord over and over in proverbs and throughout the Bible. There are two realities in tension here. The fear of the Lord can mean terror and dread, and it can also mean reverence and respect. We tend to minimize the terror/dread aspect because we don’t want to think that way. God is love, right? That’s not scary, right? But God is also holy and righteous and just. He punishes sin. He doesn’t just sweep it to the side; He deals with it. Think of the Cross! For those of us who have put our faith and trust in His Son as our Savior, we need to understand the terror from which we have been saved. Then we can bow before Him with the humility, awe and reverence due Him.
Here’s a quote by J. Gresham Machen. “The Christian must fear God. But it is another kind of fear. It is a fear rather of what might have been than of what is; it is a fear of what would come were we not in Christ. Without such fear there can be no true love; for love of the Savior is proportioned to one’s horror of that from which man has been saved.”
So understanding the fear of the Lord is first and foremost understanding the correct posture of the believer, and it’s one of deep desperation, servitude and humility before a holy and righteous God who has the ability to destroy us but has not because of the love that He has for us in Christ. He is the light by which we see everything else. So to understand the fear of God is to understand who I am, both without Him and now in Him.
We begin to understand how to fear the Lord by considering who He is. Once we have developed a posture of dependence, humility, a recognition of who we are apart from God and now in God, who God is…then we are ready to receive what the Scriptures call “wisdom.” Now and only now are we ready to learn what it means to walk in godliness, to grow in our faith. To do it apart from that reality is to try it in our own strength and to do it out of our own fears. We need to do it out of a complete posture of dependence saying, “I need You. You are the One who will lead me, guide me and direct me. You are the One who knows all things. I am a follower of You. If You tell me to go left, I go left. Why? Because You know all things. And although I cannot see around the bend, I trust the One who is leading me.” So when the words in that relationship come to my heart, I need to know it’s for my good and for my joy. He is a good and gracious God. But it’s only when my heart is ready to receive instruction, when my heart is open for correction, when my heart is in a posture of humility, that wisdom is even possible. Wisdom is possible when humility is present.
So what happens when pride is present instead of humility? For me personally, a “smackdown” from God was the result. Proverbs 3:11-12 and Hebrews 12:5-11 tell us that God disciplines those He loves. This “smackdown” taught me more about the fear of the Lord in such a way that I dread it happening again, but I am thankful God cares for me enough to do so. Does that make sense?
As we continue in our study of Proverbs, expect to see more practical life lessons come alive as we tune in to His Word and His ways.