In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge. The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death. - Proverbs 14:26-27
Of the 25 or so occurrences of the phrase “The fear of the LORD” in the Old Testament, over half of them are found in the book of Proverbs. With another handful sprinkled throughout Job and Psalms, it’s easy to conclude that wisdom and the fear of the LORD are connected in the Israelite mind.
In Psalm 110 we heard that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the first Act of Proverbs was bookended, in chapters 1 and 9, with this affirmation. In Job 28 and Proverbs 16, the fear of the LORD is synonymous with turning away from evil. It is the fountain of life, greater than treasure and the trouble that attends it, a trustworthy refuge, and a defense against evil. Let not your heart envy sinners, chapter 23 exhorts, but continue in the fear of the LORD all the day.
Our reading continues today with quick lines of wisdom, typically by setting contrast between behaviors and outcomes. Reading Proverbs can be taxing: the cadence is repetitive, and the subject matter is narrow. Individual proverbs catch our attention when cited separately, but when reading through they can get lost in the rhythm.
My illustration above is one tool that can help. As I did with the fear of the LORD, focus on one theme or instruction and trace how it’s handled throughout the book. This is not only useful for keeping attention, but, importantly, for placing individual proverbs in a larger context, and protecting them from being misused. As with other genres, context matters. The structure of Proverbs makes this context slightly more difficult to trace, but it’s nonetheless imperative for honest application.
Our verse for this week is Psalm 119:105: Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Proverbs 14 through 17. Now let’s read it!
Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.