Your 50 Favorite Proverbs: #11 Fear Can Be a Good Thing

October 2014 Your 50 Favorite Proverbs | Liz Curtis Higgs

Proverbs is all about seeking wisdom, but the first step is an unexpected one: fear. Not scary costumes and frightening faces and eerie sounds (not even on October 31st!). Not agoraphobia or arachnophobia or any other phobia.

No, this is the kind of fear that makes us fall down on our faces and tremble in God’s holy presence. If we long to be spiritually smart, this is where we start.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
   and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Proverbs 9:10

"The fear of the Lord..." Proverbs 9:10

The fear of the Lord… Proverbs 9:10

God-fearing. It’s a phrase we don’t often hear. Sounds a bit dated. Old school. We’d rather focus on loving God and being loved by Him.

Sure, that’s a good thing. But it’s not the first thing we need to learn.

This is God’s lesson plan:

  • “Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (Psalm 34:11).
  • “The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever” (Psalm 19:9).
  • “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness” (Joshua 24:14).

So, what does this kind of fear look like? “Respect”(CEV). “Awe” (EXB). “Reverence” (VOICE). We stand in wonder, we kneel in worship, we live in obedience because of our holy and humble fear of the Almighty One, because of our “dread of the Lord” (WYC).

God wants us to harbor a genuine fear of His mighty power and infinite strength. As David wrote, “If only we knew the power of your anger! Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due” (Psalm 90:11).

No one but God can rightly say, “I brought you into this world, and I can take you out.” He did, beloved, and He will.

When we start to shake in our boots, we are walking in the right direction. God will show us what our healthy fear of Him produces: something wonderful, something new.

" the beginning of wisdom..." Proverbs 9:10

…is the beginning of wisdom,… Proverbs 9:10

Don’t you love fresh starts? A new journal, a calendar without anything scribbled on it yet, a blank To-Do list. For many of us, “the chief and choice part” (AMP) is “the start” (LEB).

Grace is all about starting over. Being washed clean, being made new. Since “his mercies begin afresh each morning” (Lamentations 3:23), we can start right now—right where we areto show the Lord more reverence, more honor, more awe. Truth is, “if you really want to become wise, you must begin by having respect for the Lord” (NIRV).

Anytime I lose sight of just how truly powerful God is, I read three short chapters in Scripture—Job 38-41—which begins with God’s thunderous challenge to Job, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?”

This passage is so familiar at the Higgs house, we just remind each other, “Where were you…?” and a healthy fear of the Lord quickly stirs in our hearts. Try just these four verses, and you’ll see what I mean. Oh, my.

"...and knowledge of the Holy One..." Proverbs 9:10

…and knowledge of the Holy One… Proverbs 9:10

The Hebrew word qadosh means, “sacred” or “holy.” It’s plural here, which is why some translators give us “holy things” (GNV) and “Holy Ones” (YLT), and why I’ve given you three harvest pumpkins. He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

We want to know all of Him, the whole of Him, the Holy of Him. Everything our minds can handle. Everything our hearts can hold.

We not only need to “learn about” (NLV) the Lord, we truly “must know” (CEV) Him. A relationship with our Creator and Savior is deeply personal and moves way beyond head knowledge.

It took me forever to understand this.

I knew about God for the first 27 years of my life. Then I finally knew God—or rather, was known by Him. All at once, distance was replaced with intimacy. Cold indifference became Spirit-fueled adoration. “Go away!” turned into “Please don’t leave me or forsake me!”

He doesn’t. He hasn’t. He never will.

" understanding." Proverbs 9:10

…is understanding. Proverbs 9:10

This is where fear of the Lord takes us: understanding. Our destination is a deeper “insight into life” (MSG), which inevitably “results in good judgment” (NLT). A solid foundation.

Fearing, respecting, honoring, worshiping, and reverencing God not only opens the gateway to understanding His Word and His will—it also “results in every other kind of understanding” (TLB).

Imagine it! All that goodness from putting into practice one four-letter word: fear. Not a fear that separates us from God, but a fear that draws us closer to Him.

Heavenly Father, let it never be said of us, “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Psalm 36:1). When we read Your Word, fill our minds with wonder. When we see Your creation, fill our hearts with awe. When You pour out Your mercy on us, fill our souls with gratitude. You are worthy, O Lord. So very worthy.

Proverbs 9:10 NIV

Now it’s your turn

  • Psalm 96:4 reminds us, “For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods.” What does “fearing God” mean to you?

I hope you’ll take a moment to Post a Comment below. A Printable of Proverbs 9:10 awaits you, as well as colorful pins for each verse we’ve studied on Pinterest.

Can I just say, THANK YOU for reading my weekly posts? For sharing them on Facebook, forwarding them to friends, tweeting about them on Twitter, and most of all, commenting on the blog itself. What a treasure your responses are to me!

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Your grateful sister, Liz
@LizCurtisHiggs #50Proverbs

The Pumpkin Patch Parable | Liz Curtis Higgs
P.S. Here I am, reading The Pumpkin Patch Parable at our church this week. Is there anything sweeter than a child’s face alight with God’s love?

BibleGateway Blogger Grid I love being part of (in)courage! I am honored to write for P31 Ministries

21 Responses to Your 50 Favorite Proverbs: #11 Fear Can Be a Good Thing

  1. Jaime October 31, 2014 at 4:32 pm #

    Fearing God is being in awe of His majesty, thanking Him for everything under and including the sun (and Son!), respecting Him, and knowing He is worthy, holy, and wonderful. It is giving Him the glory only He deserves. Fear is the sum of our worship, praise, adoration, and thanks

  2. Blanche Hake October 31, 2014 at 4:41 pm #

    Fearing the Lord has always meant something to be held in awe. There is nothing we can do to earn His grace, so we need to develop knowledge of Him. I am always transfixed by the marvelous sunsets, etc. Who but an awesome God could create such a sight. We show our fear by worship, praise, prayers, and gratitude in everything. I am so thankful for being who I am and where I find myself. Thank you for this study.

  3. Cheryl R. October 31, 2014 at 4:44 pm #

    I needed this today as we face another health crisis. Thank you for reminding me that only God is in charge and we will praise and thank him for the news we got!!! Thank you, Liz!!!

  4. Christina Anderson October 31, 2014 at 6:01 pm #

    Too many people neither fear or respect anything or anyone. God is infinitely holy and as such is to be feared. This is a healthy way to be.

  5. Krystal October 31, 2014 at 9:17 pm #

    Hi Liz,
    Thanks for all the great teaching you provide for us.
    What the Fear of God means to me is sitting quietly in His Presence and worshiping His greatness.

  6. Pam Erselius October 31, 2014 at 9:58 pm #

    I loved reading, “We want to know all of Him,” because He is so wonderful to know. His fearfulness tells me he is trustworthy and will protect me with a watchful eye. Respecting Him puts me in the right relationship with Him, ready for His loving will and presence.

  7. Marsha Numerich October 31, 2014 at 10:15 pm #

    This Proverb is so where I am in this season of my life. “The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom” – First I had to understand sovereignty – who He truly is – and then respect Him for that. The true triune Him Father – Son – Holy Spirit separate entities yet 1 being. All powerful in their own right. “and knowledge of the Holy One is Understanding.” I am getting it now. As well as walking in the flesh or walking in the Spirit. Fear in the flesh looks like worry, anxiety, frustration me in control. Fear in the Spirit looks like reverence for my Lord. The Job passages are so powerful thank you for encouraging me to read them. I am seeing it in a different light as I read it tonight, He is bringing even more understanding. This study of the Proverbs – laid out as you have done – is so enriching. Thank you.

  8. Ginnie Montoya November 1, 2014 at 6:24 am #

    So important to understand what really is the fear of God. We are to fear God for who He is not in a fearful way but in a respectful way.

  9. Gwen November 1, 2014 at 8:28 am #

    Fear of The Lord brings balance to the love of The Lord…if we just focus on his love, we become lax and cavalier about our walk. However, if we only focus on fear, we become uptight and legalistic. When we bring those two into balance our lives reflect the richness and depth of who God is. Thanks, Liz, for bringing that truth home to me this morning!

  10. LindaCC November 1, 2014 at 8:33 am #

    I always think of the “fear” I had of my dad as a child…yes, the fear if punishment for doing something wrong! But I also see as I grew older, it was the fear of disappointing him. He was a terrific dad and I loved him so much, so how could I not try to do the right things!? Now there are many times when I look at how I acted and I think, oh, how I must of disappointed God.
    Love and fear seems so closely related. Beautiful reminders today, Liz.

  11. Ann Amidon November 1, 2014 at 9:14 am #

    One of your best, Liz.

  12. Linda H November 1, 2014 at 9:27 am #

    Fear of the Lord…respect, honor, majesty, power, worship, praise! Knowledge comes from digesting the word of the Lord that brings me into an intimate relationship with the Lord. Respect for His authority over my life. I must take time to sit in His quiet presence so that I may hear His whispers of love and be reminded that He is Lord!!

  13. maggie November 1, 2014 at 9:42 am #

    Thank you. My Bible study was just discussing the fear of the Lord and your explanation is just wonderful. Needed this encouragement . Having a really difficult event going on in our lives–please pray for us

    • Linda H November 2, 2014 at 7:53 am #

      Praying to our loving Lord today for you Maggie. May He give you comfort and hope in every detail of what you are facing. God has this!

  14. Jodie Frye November 1, 2014 at 12:10 pm #

    I love to use imagery to describe the character of God, so when I think of “the fear of the Lord,” the ocean comes to my mind.
    * The ocean’s waters are so VAST that you can’t even take it all in with a good long stare; so are the {immeasurable} ways of our God.
    * The ocean’s depths are FULL of beautiful and hidden glory, unveiled by those brave enough to dive in; so are the {faithFUL} ways of our God.
    * The ocean’s waves can usher in calm, and also undercurrent calamity; so are the {restful and redemptive} ways of our God.

    Just as we stand in awe of the mighty sea, so we must stand in awe {fear} of the One who hold the waters of that same sea in His hand. I love Him so!! 🙂

  15. Cathy Gross November 1, 2014 at 4:06 pm #

    He is my Abba, my Papa, the one I run to, I say thank you to and the one I fuss at when I am bewildered and at my wits end. My Papa is the King of King and Lord of Lords and will not hesitate to straighten me out when I am wrong…He loves me that much. I do not doubt His wisdom nor His right to judge because I trust His character. He has proven Himself to me over and over, time and again. Fear is simply reverence for the One I love.
    Those who do not love Him should be afraid of His judgement with the shaking in their boots sort of fear. He will exhibit mercy, yes indeed but He cannot be contrary to who He is or there is no true justice for all.

  16. Susan Gruener November 1, 2014 at 6:26 pm #

    A great proverb Liz! I think of the “fear of the Lord” as being in “reverance” of Him as well. But I also like your thoughts on “fearing” Him, because He is powerful and holy! A little healthy ‘fear’ is good for the One who is in ‘charge’ of our ‘beating’ heart! 🙂
    He is AWESOME, that’s for sure!
    Loved the cute photo of the kids at your church too. Need to pick up one of your children’s books…not as familiar with them as with your other great books! 🙂
    Be blessed!

  17. Barbara Bundy November 2, 2014 at 5:29 pm #

    Fearing God means to me to reverence Him in all His splendor. It means I can come to Him when I am sad, lonely, or scared. He is always ready and willing to hear me. His word reassures me and provides the peace that passes all understanding. I don’t fully understand why He should love me the way He does, but I am thankful. God is good all the time, and all the time, God is good!

  18. Kim November 3, 2014 at 8:30 am #

    Thank you Liz. Fear of the Lord has brought me peace this morning. Bless you for your time and energy displayed in today’s devotion.

  19. Anastasia November 4, 2014 at 8:22 am #

    Dear Ms. Liz,
    I will be sitting down (or standing up…however it works out with my kiddos

  20. Joanne Myette November 5, 2014 at 12:19 pm #

    When I was young I feared God but not in the right way. I was afraid of his judgement of me because I had not learned about salvation by grace. Now, as hos child I am in awe of his love and his mercy and grace for me. Who am I that so great a God would care enough for me to send his Son to die in my place.