Today we begin our journey through the book of Proverbs.
Proverbs is one of the books of the Old Testament found in the collection that’s known as Wisdom Literature. The others include Job, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. These books are about wisdom (you guessed it) and the meaning of life. Or as Eugene Peterson puts it, “the art of living skillfully.”
Proverbs comes to us from the Golden Age of Israel, the reign of Solomon, the time of Israel’s greatest peace and prosperity. It’s the closest Israel ever came to God’s shalom, that place of God putting everything in its right place after The Fall.
The world of Proverbs is a black and white world. It’s a world of contrasts. Wisdom versus folly. Righteous versus wicked. In fact, most of Proverbs is simple two-liners along the lines of, “this but that” or “this and even more that.”
As we read Proverbs together, it’s important to notice that these two-liner famous quotations of Solomon don’t begin until chapter 10. What we find in chapters 1-9 is a series of long poems that introduce the ideas of wisdom and folly that work as a lengthy prologue to the book.
Chapter 1 begins with a preamble. In other words, verses 1-7 give us the point. This is the thesis statement, and everything we read in Proverbs we read through this lens:
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
What does that mean, fear of the LORD? If we miss this, we probably miss Proverbs.
So let’s look up fear. I think often, we default to definition #1 and think this has to do with “a distressing emotion” having to do with “danger, evil, or pain.” No wonder we get confused about the fear of the LORD.
What if we go down to definition #4? “Reverential awe.” Maybe that could be right.
Maybe fear of the LORD is about that place of knowing that God is God and we are not.
What do you think?