In his book, The Fear of the Lord Is Wisdom: A Theological Introduction to Wisdom in Israel; Tremper Longman III says:

“While we will present wisdom separately as practical, then ethical, and finally theological, we should state right at the beginning that in Proverbs the three are deeply intertwined. No one can be truly wise unless one is wise practically, ethically, and theologically.”

Another way to express the same idea is to say that part of the Biblical understanding of the concept of wisdom is knowing the right thing to do for the right reason, being able to do it appropriately, and doing it at the right time. 

If Wisdom is the foundation of what it means to know how to live well then it makes perfect sense that: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10)

Now it’s important to understand the nuance of the word we translate as “fear”. Again to the book:

“Perhaps the closest English word is “awe,” but even that word does not quite get it. The “fear” of the “fear of the Lord” is the sense of standing before the God who created everything, including humans whose very continued existence depends on him. The emotion is appropriate for wisdom because it demonstrates acknowledgment that God is so much greater than we are. He takes our breath away and makes our knees knock together. Such fear breeds humility and signals a willingness to receive instruction from God. 

This fear is not the fear that makes us run, but it is the fear that makes us pay attention and listen. Fear of the Lord makes us humble, a wisdom trait, rather than proud and “wise in our own eyes” (3:5, 7; 6:17; 11:2; 15:25, 33; 16:5, 18, 19; 18:12; 21:4, 24; 22:4; 25:6–7, 27; 26:12; 30:1–4, 13). This is why fear rather than love is the appropriate emotion for the wise. 

The fear of the Lord inevitably leads to obedience. The one who fears God will follow the advice that God imparts through the sages in the chapters of instruction in the form of lectures and proverbs that follow the preface.”

If you want to know how to live well then look to the author and designer of life and do what He says. If He is good and has your best interest at heart then he will tell you what you need to do to achieve “the good life” and become “the good people.”  But the key ingredient in this equation is obedience. 

Think of it this way. It is possible to study hard and become an expert on the right technique for doing every meaningful exercise with free weights. But if you never pick up a free-weight and actually do the exercises all of your knowledge will be of no benefit to your muscles or health at all. 

In the same way, it is possible to study hard and become an expert on the right techniques for how to live as a wise person but if you never actually implement those techniques through obedience they will be of no benefit to your life. 

The scenario of knowing what it takes and not implementing it makes up half of the definition of what it means to be a fool in the Bible. The other half of the definition is applied to those who refuse to acknowledge God’s existence or that his ways are better. In either scenario, there is a choice to live by one’s own rules, which is what lies ultimately behind the definition of foolishness. 

Jesus taught the same concept that we see in Proverbs. Living life in the “fear” of the Lord, a kind of awe that brings humility and obedience was central to so much that he taught. One example is when he washed the disciple’s feet and said in John 13:12-17

“When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

Did you catch that last line? “You will be blessed if you do them.” Knowing isn’t enough. Knowing in and of itself has never been enough. It’s why the prophet Samuel would tell King Saul, who disobeyed God’s command to destroy everything in a certain town when instead Saul decided to keep part of it to give in service to the Lord that “To obey is better than sacrifice.”

Obedience is a big deal and the foundation of leading a wise and fruitful life. 

Let me leave you with the claims Wisdom makes to the benefits to those who adhere to her. 

“I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me. With me are riches and honor, enduring wealth and prosperity. My fruit is better than fine gold; what I yield surpasses choice silver. I walk in the way of righteousness, along the paths of justice, bestowing a rich inheritance on those who love me and making their treasuries full.”

To the ones who have ears to hear, Let them hear.

Yours in the journey. . .Pastor Tim