The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom
Character in a time of crisis Day 19
” The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7 ESV)
The motto of the University of Aberdeen is in Latin Initium, Sapientiae Timor Domini literally meaning Wisdom’s beginning is God’s fear. Words found in Psalm 111:12 and at Proverbs 1:7 & 9:10. The motto itself demonstrates the Christian principles that were enshrined in the founding ethos of the University of Aberdeen since its founding in 1495. When I was in Aberdeen, a colourful character in the department of Divinity, Morton Gauld took these words so literally that he would not step on the University crest and the Latin motto on the floor of the visitor centre!
It is debatable whether these words are as evident in the life of many Scottish universities today, but these words are nevertheless still right. Real Wisdom in the human heart has its beginning in fear of the Lord. To love God and to live for Him is also to fear Him.
The Book of 1 Kings ends with the ignominious death of Ahab king of Israel. An endnote is supplied to show that his son Ahaziah became king in his stead. Sadly it was a case of like father like son, “He did evil in the eyes of the Lord because he followed in the ways of his father ( Ahab) and mother ( Jezebel) and of Jeroboam, son of Nebat ( see 1 Kings 13 & especially verse 33-34).
2 Kings 1 records that one of the first actions of Ahaziah was to ask emissaries to consult the demonic idol Baal Zebub the god of Ekron to see if he would recover from an injury (2 Kings 1:2). Baal Zebub was the chief God of the Canaanites and Philistines, a name that came to be understood as the Lord of the flies and is thought by many to represent satan himself.
So a king of Israel takes counsel from demonic forces! This was not the first or last time this happened, but it was to be disastrous for Ahaziah. Elijah comes to the fore again with the words;
‘But the angel of the Lord said to Elijah the Tishbite,”Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say to them, ‘Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal- Zebub, the god of Ekron? Now therefore thus says the Lord, You shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die.'” So Elijah went. (2 Kings 1:3-4 ESV)
As we can imagine, this did not go down to well, and so Ahaziah sent a detachment of fifty soldiers to capture or kill this meddlesome prophet. The company of soldiers and their captain are consumed by fire from heaven at Elijah’s command ( verses 9-10). In an almost comical scene in verses 11-12, this is repeated again, and another fifty soldiers and their officer are incinerated, as fire from heaven fell upon them.
And so another detachment of troops are despatched by the king, but this time the officer in charge no doubt aware of the fate that befell those before him has a different attitude altogether. He falls on his knees before Elijah declaring
“O man of God, please let my life, and the life of these fifty servants of yours, be precious in your sight.14 Behold, fire came down from heaven and consumed the two former captains of fifty men with their fifties, but now let my life be precious in your sight.” (2 Kings 1:13-14 ESV)
His attitude almost certainly saved his life and that of his men. Perhaps this captain does not explicitly confess to a fear of God. Still, in addressing Elijah as O man of God, and with a very different attitude of heart from those before him, we see in this soldier indeed the beginnings of godly Wisdom. It is the heartfelt desire of God that His people would have a heart attitude towards Him that would cause them to fear Him – not forget Him. The fear of the Lord is truly the beginning of Wisdom. Deuteronomy 5: 29 puts it like this
“Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always so that it might go well with them and their children forever! “