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"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction." (Pro 1:7)
The prerequisite for obtaining the knowledge of God is the fear of the LORD
; for it is here said to be the beginning of knowledge
But not all knowledge is created equal. There is knowledge that the natural man possesses that was not acquired through the fear of the LORD, but is rather known naturally
Jud 1:10 - But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.
Even evil spirits know things, yea, even things about God.
Act 19:15 - And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?
Mar 1:23 - And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out,
Mar 1:24 - Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.
Jas 2:19 - Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
Just as there is "the wisdom
of this world" (1Co 1:20; 1Co 2:6), which "is foolishness with God" (1Co 3:19), and "descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish" (Jam 3:15), so there is likewise knowledge
that is of this world which is not dependent on the fear of the LORD. In many respects, the worldly knowledge and wisdom that natural men achieve surpasses the acumen of God's children in this life: "the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light" (Luk 16:8).
But the knowledge
that Solomon is extolling in the book of Proverbs is not the knowledge of this world
, but is akin to the "wisdom
of God" that cannot be known naturally (1Co 1:21). Contrary to being known by nature, the knowledge of God
, like the wisdom of God
, is instead obtained through the fear of the LORD; for, "the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom
" (Pro 9:10), and "the beginning of knowledge
" (Pro 1:7).
If a man therefore will find the knowledge of God
, he must first fear God
. And to fear
God, he must first believe that He exists, for "without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Heb 11:6). Therefore, an atheist or an agnostic will never find knowledge of eternal importance as long as he fears not God, for he has not the ability to even begin
to do so.
For a man with an honest heart and a rational mind, he need only look up
(Psa 19:1), and then look around
(Rom 1:20), to know and believe that God is
. After looking up at the vast heavens, then around at the intricately designed creatures of earth, and finally at himself who is "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psa 139:14), a humble child of God should be overwhelmed with a dreadful feeling of fear
toward the omnipotent God that created all these things. Fear
is "the emotion of pain or uneasiness caused by the sense of impending danger, or by the prospect of some possible evil" (OED). A man's awareness of God's eternal power and infinite intelligence should give rise to a solemn fear
of disobeying Him.
A quick perusal of the scriptures will provide sufficient reason to be terrified at the thought of sinning against this holy God who repeatedly judged both sinner and saint alike throughout the scriptures for rebelling against him. The God of the Bible does not simply require a healthy respect
like some say, who know Him not, but rather we must, "fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him" (Luk 12:5). If a Christian knows what's good for him, he better "serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire" (Heb 12:28-29).
When a man exhibits a fearful attitude toward the God of heaven, he has the beginning of knowledge
which will be cultivated and increase as he diligently studies the scriptures, especially the book of Proverbs. But fools
, contrarily, despise wisdom and instruction
. "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God" (Psa 14:1). A fool of this magnitude will certainly not find the knowledge of God, seeing he denies His very existence. He will, of course, therefore despise God's wisdom and instruction.
But not all fools deny God's existence. Many of them profess belief in the LORD, blessing His name when things go well, but then fretting against Him when they have perverted their way by their foolishness, and are suffering for it (Pro 19:3). A cursory reading of the book of Proverbs unfortunately shows that believers as well as unbelievers often bear the characteristics of a fool
is "one deficient in judgement or sense, one who acts or behaves stupidly, a silly person, a simpleton" (OED). Such a man naturally despises wisdom
which is the "capacity of judging rightly in matters relating to life and conduct; soundness of judgement in the choice of means and ends; sometimes, less strictly, sound sense, esp. in practical affairs: opp. to folly" (OED). He also despises instruction
because he has no desire to be shown the error of his way which would require that he make changes in his life.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but a fool never gets past the first rung of knowledge's ladder because he doesn't fear God's judgment: "A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rageth, and is confident" (Pro 14:16).
If a man despises instruction, thinking he knows it all, and having no need to be taught by another, he is a fool
. This goes for the child or young man who "despiseth his father's instruction" (Pro 15:5), as well as "an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished" (Ecc 4:13). Such a man not only despises him who instructs him, but also despises himself, for "he that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul" (Pro 15:32).
What then is the would-be instructor of a fool to do? If he is of age, just walk away and leave the simpleton to his own devices: "speak not in the ears of a fool: for he will despise the wisdom of thy words" (Pro 23:9). If he is still young and under your roof, beat (spank) that foolishness out of him before it's too late.
Pro 22:15 - Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.
Pro 13:24 - He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.
Pro 23:14 - Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.