Don’t be wise in your eyes; fear the Lord and turn from evil.
Continuing our look at this famous section of Proverbs 3. There is a connection, at least in meaning, between this verse and verse 5–between not leaning on one’s own understanding and not being wise in one’s eyes. We talked before about how trusting in the Lord means that we don’t form our judgments of events in our lives or the world around us based on our finite understanding of things. God has an infinite perspective; He understands the hows and whys of everything–indeed, it is by His decree that all things come to pass. Similarly, we shouldn’t set ourselves up as wise according to our own estimation of what wisdom is. As Psalm 111:10 says, fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom–a sentiment echoed in this verse, I think.
I find it interesting that the writer did not use the verb chakam, “to be wise,” in this verse, but instead use the adjectival form with the verb “to be,” which could be translated “do not be a wise man…” Whatever worldly concept we might have of a wise man–perhaps drawn from fiction (Gandalf from LORD OF THE RINGS, Dumbledore from HARRY POTTER, or Yoda from the “Star Wars” movies), or maybe from real life (a teacher, a leader, a poet), our aspirations toward wisdom should not be based on these role models. What the world considers wisdom is foolishness to the Lord, mainly because worldly wisdom doesn’t begin in the right place: fear of the Lord. If there is no fear of God in one’s heart, then the whole orientation of one’s thinking will be skewed. Your “wisdom” will be based on looking at the world through your own understanding, and not seeking to have your mind transformed by the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:2) as you submit yourself to the Lord in reverence and fear. Only through acknowledging God’s superior wisdom and understanding, and studying His word to conform our minds to His perspective, can we hope to have anything approaching the kind of humble wisdom that is true wisdom.
We often see fear as a negative thing–a debilitating cowering in the face of some terror, known or unknown. When Christians come upon passages like this, there is a tendency to change “fear” to “respect,” or some word with less negative connotations. Indeed, Biblically speaking, “respect” is included in our understanding of what it means to “fear the Lord.” But it’s more than that. When Jesus tells his disciples not to fear those who can merely kill them, but rather to fear the One who can destroy body and soul (Matthew 10:28), I think he was speaking of more than respect. In Romans 3:18, Paul quotes the Psalmist’s lament concerning the wicked: “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” If our souls truly understood the glory, power, and sovereignty of God, the He is who He says He is in His word, then we would not struggle with obedience. Fear of God encompasses reverent awe, respect, and a trembling before His throne that understands our relative insignificance in light of His supreme majesty. And we would love Him more, because we know that in spite of this vast chasm that exists between the being of God and us, He loved us enough to become man and pay the penalty for the sins of His people.
If we can get into our heads and our hearts a genuine fear of the Lord, then not only will we gain wisdom, but we will flee from evil. Anything that seeks to undermine the glory of God will sicken our hearts. We will want no part of it.
I pray that we would all take time to meditate on the excellencies, the awesomeness, and the majesty of God. And that, by His grace, we would cultivate a genuine fear of Him, that will guard us against sin, and make us truly wise.
Have a great week!