"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."

Bible Reading:
Psalms Expressing a Variety of Sentiments Psalm 111; 130; 131; 141; 146

One of the strongest motivators for small children to obey their parents is the fear of punishment. Until they are mature enough to understand the dangers and outcomes of their actions, the threat of punishment serves as an effective deterrent to destructive behavior. As they grow older, however, if the fear of punishment continues to be the primary motivation for obedience, that fear becomes a barrier in the relationship. It is important for them to feel secure in their parents' love and trusting of their wisdom. As they begin to realize that the rules are for their own good, not for their parents' appeasement or gain, their obedience will spring out of trust and love rather than fear.

"The fear of the Lord," which embodies both fear and holy reverence, has brought many of us, trembling, to the feet of the Savior. The thought of facing a holy God and giving an account for our actions has served as a strong motivator to refrain from sin and perform good deeds. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (111:10; Pr. 1:7; 9:10). But then what?

While the fear of the Lord is a dominant theme in the Old Testament, it is rarely mentioned in the New Testament. Rather, God's demonstration of love on the cross "while we were still sinners" (Rom. 5:8) becomes the pervasive, compelling theme. "Christ's love compels us" (2 Cor. 5:14). Wisdom may begin in the fear of the Lord, but it ends in Christ. "Christ Jesus...has become for us wisdom from God" (1 Cor. 1:30).

God sent the Spirit of his Son, Jesus, into our hearts so we could call God our dear Father (Gal. 4:6 NLT). He longs for us to move beyond fear, impersonal reverence and dutiful compliance into the fullness of an intimate friendship with him. He knows that, while our fear may produce temporary outward conformity, accomplished by our own efforts, his love will produce lasting transformation, accomplished by God from the inside out. As we slowly come to trust just how much he loves us and we allow our worth and significance to become rooted in him, our fear will gradually be replaced by his permeating love. God's "perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love" (1 John 4:18). Our fear keeps God's love at arms' length; all the while, God patiently tries to draw us into his tender embrace. When we finally break our resistance and let him scoop us up in his arms, we will be "stilled and quieted... just as a small child is quiet with its mother" (131:2 NLT). "He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." (Zeph. 3:17).

When the assurance of God's passionate love for us finally unshackles our fear and distrust, we see ourselves like God sees us – not as the King's subjects, but as his dearly-loved children. We relate to him, not as servants or beggars, but as friends. God is not disappointed that we cannot present ourselves perfect before him; he is delighted that we come to him just as we are - flawed and beautiful - just as he made us. He knows that, when we finally trust him enough to crawl into his open arms and rest securely in the love he so desires to lavish on us, our obedience will spring naturally out of a heart that has been transformed by his love.