7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
The fear of the LORD is not just an initial attitude necessary for obtaining wisdom. Neither is it represented as an attitude that can be ignored later in life. It is expected to be a permanent attitude, as it is always a prerequisite for wise living.
Though the word “fear” is often used in a negative sense, it is also portrayed in the Scriptures as a positive attitude that we must have towards God. While the phrase “the fear of the LORD” denotes the sense of dread and terror of His wrath against sin and rebellion, it also denotes the idea of reverence, worship, submission and filial confidence that His people expresses towards His greatness and glory. So, “the fear of the LORD” indicates the right attitude of heart towards God, as opposed to the unbelieving and disobedient attitude towards Him.
“The fear of the LORD” is then the reverential attitude that keeps us submissive to the LORD, and away from all wickedness which He hates. The covenant name of God, “the LORD”, in the phrase further enhances this understanding, for it demands a reverential, submissive, loyal response from His people.
We are urged in Proverbs 23:17 to maintain the fear of the LORD all through the day – “but be thou in the fear of the LORD all the day long.” The fear of the LORD must be a habitual influence upon our thoughts, ambitions, relationships, communications and activities. This holy frame of mind should characterise us in all of our lives’ private and public affairs all the day long, not just during times of prayer and worship.
When we fear the LORD, our minds will be attuned to the good and perfect will of God. It will keep us in reverence of His Word, which is the source of His wisdom, truth and power for our daily Christian living. It will restrain us from the follies and corruptions that accompany all defiant and godless minds. It will direct us to all good and glorious virtues that are promoted by God’s wisdom. Hence, the fear of the LORD is the root of wise conduct and right living. Only a fool would think that fearing the LORD is unwise; only a fool would show his contempt for divine wisdom and truth. Not to fear God is to wallow in the corruption and foolishness of a defiant, unbelieving, unrestrained and disobedient mind.