Tuesday, March 10, 2009

JI Packer on wisdom and the fear of God

Probably the most common definition for the fear of the LORD is reverence or awe. After weeks of trying to work out what "the fear of God" is, I've come full circle and decided that this is a pretty good definition.

The reason I don't just stop there and be done with it is that "reverence" and "awe" are very slippery terms, and I'd like to unpack exactly what they mean (a vague feeling of devotion? obedient service? fear without the scary bits? all of the above?).

Here's a great passage from JI Packer where he defines "the fear of the Lord" as "reverence", and explains how it leads to wisdom.

Where can we find wisdom? What steps must a person take to lay hold of this gift? There are two prerequisites, according to Scripture.

First, we must learn to reverence God. 'The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom' (Ps. 111:10; Prov. 9:10; cf. Job 28:28; Prov. 1:7; 15:33). Not till we have become humble and teachable, standing in awe of God's holiness and sovereignty ('the great and awesome [fearful] God', Neh. 1:5; cf. 4:14; 9:32; Deut. 7:21; 10:17; Ps. 99:3; Jer. 20:11), acknowledging our own littleness, distrusting our own thoughts, and willing to have our minds turned upside down, can divine wisdom become ours.

It is to be feared that many Christians spend all their lives in too unhumbled and conceited a frame of mind ever to gain wisdom from God at all. Not for nothing does Scripture say, 'with the lowly is wisdom' (Prov. 11:2 KJV).

Then, second, we must learn to receive God's word. Wisdom is divinely wrought in those, and those only, who apply themselves to God's revelation. 'Your commands make me wiser than my enemies,' declares the psalmist, 'I have more insight than all my teachers:' why? - 'for I meditate on your statutes' (Ps. 119:98 f.).
JI Packer http://www.amazon.com/Knowing-God-J-I-Packer/dp/083081650X 113; emphases his, bit in square brackets mine.

image is from stock.xchng


Valori said...

Hey Jean! I am actually in Proverbs right now as I read through the Bible and was thinking today and yesterday about the fear of God. Today I read Proverbs 16:6b - "and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil." It's interesting to ponder. Have you ever read the book by Jerry Bridges called The Joy of Fearing God? I think you would enjoy it.

Jean said...

Thanks, Val, I should check that book out! Interesting you're reading Proverbs too!!