The Beginning Of Wisdom
Many years ago Great Britain had the privilege of having as its Prime Minister a brilliant man who was also a devoted follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. William Gladstone was his name. Late in life, well over 80 years of age, he made his last visit to Oxford University. In the course of that visit, he met with a class of seniors, and spoke to them about the happy changes that had come about during his lifetime. He spoke with such radiant optimism that he aroused a challenge among the students. One of the seniors spoke up and said, “Sir, are we to understand that you have no anxieties for the future? Are there no adverse signs?” Mr. Gladstone was silent, and then very slowly he replied, “Yes, there is one thing that frightens me. The fear of God seems to be dying out in the minds of men.”
These words were spoken a good many decades ago, but if they were true then, certainly they are true today; perhaps even to a more alarming degree than Mr. Gladstone had in mind.
The Bible says “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom…By the fear of the Lord men departed from evil…The fear of the Lord tendeth to life…The fear of the Lord prolongeth days.” Here are statements from the Word of God. This is one area of truth in which this world needs to make a complete turn-about. In fact one of the indictments that describes the sinfulness of man is that there is no fear of God before their eyes.
There are many ways in which God should be feared. First of all, let me suggest to you that God ought to be feared as the God of Righteousness, for He is infinitely holy. He is to be approached with care, with reverence in a prescribed manner and men are to watch themselves in the presence of a Holy God. The Old Testament economy of things, whether one thinks of the temple or tabernacle, the altar or the priesthood, the sacrifices of the great day of atonement; all of that was given with this underlying thought in mind—that God is holy, and the fear of this God is the beginning of wisdom. We have almost entirely lost this thought during our day.
The people in Moses’ day were not prepared to meet with Him, and they cried out to Moses, “Speak thou to God for us; let not God speak with us lest we die!” It was revealed to them that they were not adequate to draw into His presence; they wanted a mediator.
I suggest to you that in that experience of Israel you have what God intended for all of us. The proper understanding of His holiness, His majesty and His greatness was intended to make all of us aware that we are not fit, apart from His prescribed mediator, to talk and commune with God. We need someone to act as mediator, and we have that one in the man of Christ Jesus.
He is a God of Righteousness. It is evident on every hand that when people eliminate the fact of the righteousness of God, they eliminate any deep profound idea that man is sinful and needs a Saviour, or that the Cross is essential and Jesus had to die in our stead. I think there is the underlying fact that is partly the cause for the unbelief and straying that is so wide spread in our times—the lack of appreciation for the sacrifice of Christ and the minimizing of the Cross. People do not understand any more as they once did. Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, and we need a Mediator to come between God and ourselves. There is no wisdom possible to understand the Gospel of Christ unless we begin here—the need of a Mediator.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. We need to fear Him as the Sovereign of His creation. This was real in the Old Testament times when calamities and disasters in nature were not just attributed to some high or low pressure areas moving in, not according to schedule. Somehow the finger of God was seen in all that transpired in the created world. Does not the word of God say to us that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now? The psalmist wrote and said of God that He watereth the hills from His chambers, and looketh on the earth and it trembleth. He toucheth the hills and they smoke—He covers the heavens with clouds and rain for the earth. God made a wind to pass over the earth in the days of Noah, and He still speaks through the earthquake, wind and fire, even though men seem to describe [th]is to other phenomena.
The fear of the God of creation is a part of the beginning of wisdom. Ask Noah about it. Ask Pharoah about it, as the finger of God worked through the rod of Moses. Ask Jonah about it, and he will tell you about a great fish God prepared. Ask Amos the prophet about it and he will tell you that the Lord called to His people through the calamities of nature. The voice of God called His people to repentance and to return to Him. Did not our Lord Jesus Christ in one of His great final sermons describing the end of the age and His return, speak of the fact that the very elements of nature would be shaken by God? There would be earthquakes in divers places and even the day would come when darkness would cover the earth and the moon would be turned to blood. God is sovereign of His creation and the fear of this God is the beginning of wisdom.
Not only is He Sovereign of Creation but He is the Lord of History. John on the isle of Patmos was given a vision of Jesus Christ, and he speaks of Him as the prince of the kings of Earth. The Lord Jesus made one of His most amazing statements, it seems to me, when in Luke 20:18 He said “Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken,” speaking of Himself “but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” What a statement! Jesus Christ—the Lord of History. What a solemn thought this is, in this tragic, darkening hour, in the life of our beloved America. In this day of crisis upon crisis, we seem to stumble like a blind giant. We have forgotten that this Jesus Christ, who had so much to do with the establishment and founding of this beloved land of ours, is the Lord of History. And if we stumble over Him we will be broken. The evidence is rather alarming today that the brokenness is already upon us. Jesus warned us about this, and the fear of the God of History is the beginning of wisdom.
General Gordon, Britain’s famed Christian general, used to say as he picked up his morning newspaper “Let’s see what God is doing in the world this morning.” Sir Oliver Cromwell said “What are all our histories but God throwing down and trampling under foot whatsoever He has not planted.” In the days of the great Spanish Armada when God intervened with storm and wave, the government of Great Britain commemorated that great victory by casting in metal the words of Exodus 15, “Thou didst blow with Thy wind, the sea covered them.”
It seems to me there is a tragic situation in the United States of America today. All our fears are going in the wrong direction. There is no fear of God but what a fear there is of Russia and communism. It seems we have a deep hunger for peace at any price. We do not fear God but it seems that we fear everybody else under the sun. Our first defense is the Lord God Almighty, I still believe that and I think you do too. Proverbs tells us “When a man’s ways please the Lord he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” This applies to nations too. On the other side of the picture, there is a verse that disturbs me. It is found in 2 Chronicles 21:16–17 where God’s people who knew better and who had the special privilege of a covenant relationship to the Almighty, wandered off into loving their sins and pleasures more than God. These verses say, “Moreover the Lord stirred up against Jehoram the spirit of the Philistines, and of the Arabians, that were near the Ethiopians and they came up into Judah, and brake into it, and carried away all the substance that was found in the king’s house…” As I look out over the world today, I’m constrained to believe that this is what has been taking place for a number of years as far as America is concerned.
Would anyone dare to challenge the statement, that surely divine wisdom has been withheld from our leaders for a number of years? When we look back over some of the decisions that have been made at council tables and peace treaty conferences, surely no one will say that divine wisdom was given to our leaders. It has been withheld from us. When you have as your adversaries and foes those who are anti-God and anti-Christ you have foes who are led by Satanic wisdom. The only way to combat that is to get on the side of the Almighty God. The wisdom of statesmen and politicians and congressmen and senators is not enough. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and He is the Lord of History. You and I need to go forth and try to lead our nation to recovery of this truth. Maybe you just touch a small part of the world. Maybe it could be numbered in terms of a few dozen people, but touch them! If we all did that our influence would begin to be felt.
Again, He needs to be feared as the Head of the Church. I think we need a recovery right at this point too. There isn’t enough reverence towards the Almighty in the churches today. Since Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church, I am placed in His body by His will. I shall not grumble or complain if my station in the church is on a lower level than I think it ought to be, and I shall not be proud if it’s at a higher level than I deserve, because Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church. I shall talk carefully and walk softly and do nothing to cause the blessed work of the Holy Spirit to be withdrawn from the church. How we need to fear Him as the Head of the Church! So that He will come in our congregation and brood over it, His presence felt, His work be done because you as a member recognize when you walk through the doors of the sanctuary that Jesus Christ is the head of your church.
I am persuaded that the Church is of Jesus Christ because it couldn’t have survived this long unless God was in it! It’s a miracle that the Church of Jesus Christ is here, and it will move on in strength and power and increasing influence if somehow we can recapture in the hearts of the people the proper kind of attitude and reverence toward this truth that Jesus Christ is the Head of my church.
Let us move on. The fear of the Lord also covers this, that He is the Keeper of the Gates of Death. “I have the keys of death and Hades” saith Jesus Christ.
Stonewall Jackson when he was questioned about his coolness in the thick of battle replied, “My religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time of my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready no matter when it may overtake.” Our times are in His hands. He is the Keeper of the Gates of Death. Paul heard the Lord say “thou shalt testify for Me at Rome,” and shipwreck, and sailors, and plots to take his life all came to naught because God said “thou shalt testify for Me at Rome,” and Paul did so. He is the Keeper of the Gates of Death.
Last of all, we should fear Him as the Judge of all the earth. As Christian believers we shall stand before Him to give an account of our stewardship. It is possible that we shall be ashamed before Him at His coming; we shall be embarrassed by His return unless we’ve been diligent, faithful stewards. The hidden thoughts and counsel of the heart shall be made manifest and revealed. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God. We need to fear Him as the Judge of all the people.
Well, this is the beginning of wisdom—what then is the end of it? The Bible says that in Him are hid all treasures of wisdom and knowledge, that He is the Christ, the Wisdom of God. If then this is the beginning of wisdom who can measure the expanses of land to be possessed, to be enjoyed as one moves on from the beginning of wisdom into these inexhaustible treasures that are centered in Jesus Christ, the Eternal Son of God? My friends, let us go out from our places today, resolved to do what we can not only in relation to our own hearts but to that part of the world we touch this week; to some how bring about a recovery of the fear of God that is dying out in the minds of men. To fear Him as the God of righteousness. To fear Him as the Sovereign of His creation. To fear Him as the Lord of History. To fear Him as the Head of the Church. To fear Him as the Keeper of the Gates of Death. To fear Him as the Judge of all the earth, because the fear of this Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
Father, bless to every heart these truths from Thy Word. We want no blessing upon mere human ideas or human opinions, but if this is Thy truth use it to speak to every heart that we may boldly speak out and point people to Jesus Christ without Whom no man cometh unto the Father. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen!