Today I started reading through Proverbs. This is a book I tend to skim. The many words of wisdom feel like too many words in general. It is ironic because if I were an author I think this is the kind of book I would write—a book telling other people how to live. In fact, much of what I do as a counselor involves the wisdom given in Proverbs. However, I still skim it.

Back to today, as I was reading I began to wonder, what is so important about wisdom? Why was Solomon praised for seeking wisdom above all else? I mean, seriously, God shows up in 2 Chronicles 1 and says, “ Hey Solomon, ask me for anything in the whole wide world and I will give it to you.” Solomon’s response? He asks for wisdom!?

If God showed up right in front of you today and said—your wish is my command—what would you ask for? I would probably ask for help with moving and fundraising and comfort in my sadness and maybe a chocolate sundae. I might even get a little deeper and ask for miraculous healing for people I know who are sick, or for family’s to be restored, a cure for AIDS, or world hunger to end. But, wisdom? That is not even on the radar for me today.

Out of curiosity I began researching what wisdom actually is. It is not just common sense, knowledge or intelligence. It is not simply being insightful or discerning. And it is not merely acting in a manner that promotes moral beliefs. It is all three. Wisdom is having knowledge and understanding which is used to discern what is good and true resulting in a life full of actions that are consistent with your level of understanding of what is true. It is circular, I know.

Can you imagine knowing what is good in any given moment and then actually having the “umph” of character to follow through on these convictions? When I better understand wisdom, I suddenly understand Solomon’s heart. I want the ability to see the world with wise eyes, the ability to see past the surface issue, to see what God sees. Even more, I want to ability to follow through in doing what I know is best.

Upon the realization that I actually crave wisdom, I dug back into Proverbs. I was really eating it up until I hit this verse, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge”. I am only 7 verses into the book for crying out loud and I am lost. I know I have heard this verse a thousand times. I know the easy answer. “It means respect God.” “It means we should listen to him.” “It means God is the source of knowledge.” Ba-lo-nee. (I know it is spelled bologna, thank you Oscar Mayer)

I think what “fear the Lord” means is God is fearsome. We should tremble before him. He is mighty and powerful. He seriously can say “ I brought you into this world and I can take you out”.  

Now that is a hard enough concept to grasp for those of us raised with “Buddy Jesus” sitting on the dashboard of our car, but even more confusing—how does fearing God relate to wisdom and knowledge? After sitting and pondering for some time this morning, this is my conclusion:

If I think on how great God is, how awe inspiring and downright frightful, I think it leads me into seeing things differently. Suddenly the world is less scary and all the troubles around me seem smaller. I think it leads me to seeing myself as I am, a creature, in need of God, humbled. Self-importance washes away. The need to fix everything and make everyone around me okay fades into the greatness of God. My trust in him grows. My dependence on him deepens. Peace washes over me. What I thought was important is put into proper perspective and what is really important stands out (this is discernment). God leads me in this place to his simple commandments and shows me how to love him and others well (this is knowledge). Here with him I feel the ability to do what he asks (this is action). The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

I never thought I would tell people to fear the Lord, but I think we should. We should sit back ponder his greatness, his power, and be filled with wonder and fear. We should also be like Solomon and ask for wisdom. Join me in reading Proverbs, fearing the Lord, and asking for wisdom. I cannot wait to see how God meets us in our search for wisdom.

St. Peter's Fireside