Graduating in Life (Proverbs 1:7)
I graduated from high school near the top of my class. During my sophomore year, I got two Bs—Chemistry and Algebra II—but everything else was As. I’m not very good at math and science, so it helped that the school offered tracks that allowed me to focus on languages and history. I had scholarships at four or five different universities. For me, graduation was a special time.
I received my diploma from the county superintendent (who happened to be one of my Sunday school teachers growing up). After receiving my diploma, I walked a few steps to a photographer the school had invited to take pictures of the graduates with their diplomas; a local bank paid for all of us to get a copy of our picture.
A couple weeks after graduation, I received my picture in the mail. I opened it up and there I am with the biggest smile on my face holding my diploma—UPSIDE DOWN! I thought I was so brilliant, but I couldn’t even hold my diploma the right way.
I’m sure there are times you’ve thought you were smart but circumstances proved otherwise. Maybe you studied and studied for a test, you thought you knew all the answers, and then you saw your grade. Maybe you submitted what you thought was an excellent proposal at work only to have your supervisor throw it in the garbage. Maybe you forgot to record a purchase in your checkbook before mobile banking and then you got a returned check notice. Maybe you glanced away from the road for a second while you were driving and had an accident.
Solomon didn’t want his son to think of himself as wise; he wanted his son to be wise. Therefore, Solomon wrote down several proverbs to guide his son—“Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching” (Prov 1:8).
Our text this morning is one verse, but that verse serves as the focus of the entire Book of Proverbs. You need to learn a simple lesson: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.” If you want real knowledge, there is where you start.
We see the disastrous consequences of many people abandoning the fear of the LORD. “Wise” folks now claim there are more than two genders. Parenting experts say that children should be given a choice as to whether or not they’ll attend the worship of the church. Some Christians say that a woman has a right to abortion; other Christians disregard what God has said about worship and do what they please in the assembly; still others will run down the body of Christ.
Yet embracing true wisdom—the fear of the LORD—brings real life: “The fear of the LORD leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied” (Prov 19:23). Let me lead you on a journey to think about how to have true wisdom.
Scripture (Proverbs 1:7)
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov 1:7).
You must fear God:
- “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Eccl 12:13).
- “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor” (1 Pet 2:17).
Do you want to know what it really means to fear God? Look at some folks who truly feared him.
Noah feared God.
“By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith” (Heb 11:7). Noah had never seen a flood, let alone rain—the author of Hebrews spoke of “events as yet unseen.” Yet, God said it was going to flood and Noah believed the word of the Lord. Noah then spent 100 years building an ark and preaching about the coming wrath. That’s what it means to fear God—to take God at his word and to obey his word.
Job feared God.
“There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1). The description of Job further defines fearing God—to live a moral and upright life. If you fear God, you make sure that you live a holy life because you fear a holy God.
Abraham feared God.
When God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, the son of promise, the patriarch got up early in the morning, saddled his donkey, cut firewood, traveled to Moriah, built an altar, laid his son upon that altar, and took his knife to kill his son. As Abraham brought the knife down to slaughter his son, the angel of the LORD called to him and said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me” (Gen 22:12). Abraham feared God and was therefore willing to give up the most precious thing in all the world. If you truly fear God, you will not allow anything—even your precious family—to stand in the way of your service and devotion to the Almighty.
Notice carefully what Solomon wrote about the fear of the LORD; “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.” If you want to be wise, in other words, you begin with fearing the LORD. You don’t start your children learning the alphabet or how to count; you start your children knowing the Lord. You don’t start your education by choosing a major; you begin your education by choosing the Lord. You don’t start anything until you have a firm foundation of fearing God.
Why? Why is fearing the Lord the beginning of knowledge? Because nothing else matters. What good does it do if you know everything and can do great things if you end up going to hell? That’s what Jesus said: “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mk 8:36). Do you know where you start saving your soul from hell? Fearing the Lord.
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.” How much do you fear the LORD this morning? How much do you want to fear the LORD?
If you are to fear the LORD, you must prioritize the fear of the LORD in your life.
Fearing the LORD needs to be put above everything else in your life. Noah did that when he dropped everything to build an ark; Job did that as he sought to live a morally upright life; Abraham did that when he placed Isaac on the altar.
You need to honor God above everything. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt 22:37). “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14:26).
How much do you fear the LORD in your life?
What does your life say about your fear of the LORD?
- What does your worship attendance say about your fear of the LORD?
- What does your private Bible study say about your fear of the LORD?
- What does your giving say about your fear of the LORD?
- What does your Internet history say about your fear of the LORD?
- What does your work performance say about your fear of the LORD?
- What does your family life say about your fear of the LORD?
Just how much do you really fear the LORD?
What is keeping you from fearing the LORD as you ought?
Take a careful look at your life. What attitude in your heart is keeping you from fearing the LORD? What recreation is keeping you from fearing the LORD? What anxiety is keeping you from fearing the LORD? Why do you not fear the LORD as you should?
What do you need to do to fear the LORD in your life?
What changes need to happen in your life?
- What changes can you make to be more faithful in your worship attendance?
- What priorities can you change to spend more time in the Word?
- What shifts can you make in your budget to be more faithful in giving?
- What boundaries can you set to be more faithful on the Internet?
- What can help you serve the Lord in the workplace more faithfully?
- What can you do to be a better example in the family?
Repentance is so very important: “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19). Do you need to come in repentance this very morning?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at Church of Christ Deer Park in Deer Park, Texas.