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Bible for Thinkers

Liberals love the Bible, too. We just look at it differently. This is a place to discuss the Bible where you don't have to check your brain at the door. There are many ways to see it, and many ways to have it come to life.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The fear of the Lord

Our Disciple class is in the book of Proverbs. Every time I get to Proverbs, the issue comes up about the claim that "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" in Proberbs 1:7. When I first encountered that verse, I was sure that they couldn't really mean fear, but something more like awe or reverence.

Perhaps it does mean that, but the Hebrew word is used in other contexts where it clearly means what we would call "fear." So I have tried to sit with let the word be what it is, and ask what it might mean, especially since 1 John tells us that perfect love casts out all fear.

What I think now is that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but not its end. The fear is the beginning and the end is love. Try this on for size. As I see people wrestle with faith...trying to figure out what it is and whether or not they want anything to do with it, the ones who take the plunge seem to start at the same place. It starts with the recognition that God is God and we are not...that there is a being in the universe qualitatively different from us, and with the power to squash us like a bug, should that being so desire. God is the one with power and authority, and we cannot do a thing about it.

I think that recognition is both necessary and terrifying. I have yet to see someone truly find God without first recognizing that any control we have is derived control, given to us by someone greater and revokable at any moment. It is the recognition of humility...not the kind that thinks we're undeserving worms, but the kind that has an honest understanding of our position as Created rather than Creator in the universe.

There are few of us who revel in the thought that we are not in control. It is frightening. It leaves us at the whim of God and the powers of the universe. But we have to go there, or there's no getting in. If we must remain in the drivers seat, we will never understand what God has truly given to us.

So...the beginning of wisdom is just here. Fear. Yikes...there is something bigger than me. Human beings are not ultimate...there is something infinitely larger and more powerful who can oblitarate the world as I know it without consultation with anybody else. BUT that is only the beginning of wisdom. Our journey starts there, but does not end there.

That fear is why, I think, that we call the news of Jesus "gospel," "good news." Good news is what we call news that has calmed our fears, and there is no better news around than that the God who holds our lives in hand is the God revealed in Jesus. While at the beginning of wisdom our teeth chattered and our knees knocked...knowing that God was in control, but not knowing what that God was like...Jesus relieves our fears. "Ah," we sigh. "So THAT is what this God is like. This is a God who loves me, who will forgive, and go to all lengths...even to prevent my destruction." Jesus shows us that our fears were groundless...that God is love.

So I am no longer troubled by fear as the beginning of wisdom. There is truth there. We just must be careful not to end our journey there, but to travel on to the cross, the tomb, and breakfast on the beach. And finally, in perfection, all fears are cast out and only love remains.