All over our land last month schools have opened their doors to receive students and teachers in the interest of formal education. From elementary schools that wrestle with children who have never assembled with others of their age to receive training, and resent being “cooped up” so long, through high schools, colleges and universities a set period of time has begun for turning or returning to books and instruction. One has only to travel a little and to see the sprawling university campuses, the high school layouts, the broad expanse of rooms in the elementary schools in our land to realize what a vast undertaking this really is. What a tremendous amount of fact will be reported, digested and remembered during the next nine months! Parents of kindergarten and first grade pupils will at the end of this nine-month period be amazed to see what a mass of knowledge, what an abundance of facts their children have acquired and what skills, such as reading, writing and even reasoning their children have achieved!
The question, however, is not, How much knowledge have they obtained? This is important, and essential in fact. We must know, and the more we know the better it is. But the important matter is wisdom. Listen to that wise king of old of whom it was stated, “Wisdom and knowledge is granted unto thee; and I will give thee riches, and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings have had that have been before thee, neither shall there any after thee have the like.” (I Chronicles 1:12) He states in Proverbs 4:5, “Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not.” And again in verse 7, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.”
But will our children get wisdom?
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. How many of the millions of children who will attend school this year will get wisdom? How many will be trained in the fear of the Lord? How many will have even the beginning of wisdom? Sad to say but so very true, millions of children shall be taught by men and women who have not themselves the very beginning of wisdom, because they have not the fear of the Lord. Wisdom is such a rare item, because the fear of the Lord is so exclusive a matter. Although protests will go up from shore to shore; it must be said: better is it that most of the schools in the land remain closed and formal education in these institutions be brought to a complete stop. For, instead of promoting the fear of the Lord and training in that which actually is wisdom, they militate against the very beginning of wisdom and train the children of the land to be fools!
All that glitters is not gold. All that goes by the name of Christian is not Christian. All that passes for wisdom is not wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; and it is the fool who denies this. Men reveal their folly exactly in denying this Word of God that the beginning of all wisdom is His fear. Men reveal that they do not have the very beginning of wisdom in that they challenge and deny His Word. And, therefore, you and I may not send our children to be taught in every elementary school, in every high school, in every college and in every university! Call that bigotry, if you will. Advocate tolerance of the lie, if in your folly you must. But you are never going to change the Word of God, even though you oppose it. Philosophize about freedom of speech and freedom of religion, but be sure of one truth: You are never going to change God’s mind and make Him agree with you. There is speech that He forbids. There are theories and philosophies which He condemns. There are practices upon which He pronounces the death sentence—and one of them was simply eating forbidden fruit. And you are a fool, utterly bereft of even the beginning of wisdom, if you tolerate this wickedness, and if you allow others to teach it to your children. God is not mocked, and he who has the beginning of wisdom knows that and believes it.
We may state only in passing, for we shall in a later installment of this subject treat the matter more fully, there is a vast difference between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is essential to wisdom but is distinct from it. Knowledge, then, in general, we may say is the mental possession of fact. And the more facts a person knows, the greater is his knowledge. Wisdom, very briefly, is the ability to use these facts aright. Or, if you will, wisdom is the ability to choose, out of the known facts, the best means along the best way to attain to the highest good.
And the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
The fear of the Lord, as the beginning of wisdom, is the Old Testament equivalent for the New Testament faculty of faith. We are not one given to pile fact upon fact and to list dry fact. But let it be pointed out that Young’s Concordance lists only two verses in the whole Old Testament where the word faith appears. They are Deuteronomy 32:20, “And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith”, and Habakkuk 2:4, “Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.” Even then, in each instance the word is faithfulness or fidelity rather than faith in the sense of belief. As far as the last passage quoted is concerned, Paul as directed by the Holy Spirit did interpret this faith as belief, when in Romans 1:17 he uses the word faith that comes from the Greek verb to believe. The relation between faithfulness and faith in the sense of believing, we can leave for another time. Let it simply be stated now that the word faith as appearing in the two passages quoted comes from the verb which means to be steadfast.
Then, too, the passages in the Old Testament, even though this Old Testament contains thirty nine books to the New Testament’s twenty seven, and contains nine hundred and twenty nine chapters to the New Testament’s two hundred and sixty chapters, and six hundred and ten thousand, five hundred, seventy seven words to the New Testament’s one hundred and eighty thousand, seven hundred and fifty one words (all this in the English. translation), the word believe appears four times as many times in the New Testament as in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, however, the word fear, and in the combination of the fear of the Lord far outnumbers the word and its use as the fear of God in the New Testament.
But as we began to say, the fear of the Lord in the Old Testament is the equivalent of the expression faith in God in the New Testament. This appears in many uses of the word and expression, and in many striking ways. To mind comes first of all the words of Solomon inEcclesiastes 12:13, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” Can we avoid the truth that what is meant here is that our whole duty is to believe God and to keep His commandments? The hymn is certainly true in that respect, “Trust and obey, for there is no other way.” And trust is the principal element in faith.
There are other passages too numerous to mention. But a few more will reveal the truth of this matter. Abraham explains his lie about Sarah being his sister, according to Genesis 20:11, with the words, “Because I thought, surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will seek to slay me for my wife’s sake.” By the way, we may note here also the proper relationship between that fear and obedience of Ecclesiastes 12:13 and understand how the “trust and obey” of the hymn must be maintained. Abraham found that there was no faith in God in Gerar, and therefore he did not expect the inhabitants to keep God’s commandments. We will not obey if we do not trust. We will not keep God’s commandments unless we fear Him, that is, fear Him in the sense of believe in Him. The devils know that there is one God, and they tremble in fear, according to James 2:19, but they do not keep His commandments or even try to do so. On the other hand, Pharaoh, who did not believe in God, was not afraid of Him, did not have the fear of the Lord and dared to defy Him. He dared to ask the question of Moses, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go”. Exodus 5:2. Though God sent ten terrible plagues upon Pharaoh and his country, he still did not believe in God, and therefore he still did not obey His command. If one has the fear of the Lord, which is faith in Him, he will obey Him with love.
But to return to Abraham and his conviction that the fear of the Lord was not in Gerar, if one does not fear God even in the sense of standing in terror before Him, that one will not hesitate to do anything that will “safely” bring advantage to his flesh. We say safely, because not fearing God, he may fear his fellowmen or some idol. The heathen nations round about Israel dared to attack God’s children, because they did not fear God and instead put their trust in their own gods. The Philistines dared to bring Samson out to make sport for them and praised their gods for the “victory” which they had given over Samson and his God. In that respect the devils seem to have more wisdom than the multitudes which they have deceived. The unbeliever is very, very bold. He dares to defy God, to disobey Him, to ignore and insult Him, to ascribe His works—and so teach them to your children—to the creature or to mere chance and accident. He dares to ascribe God’s glory to man; to present God with the weaknesses and frailties that characterize man; to place God at the feet of man instead of man at the feet of God; to picture God as dependent upon man (and how true this is even in the church-world that ascribes to Arminianism and Pelagianism with an offer of salvation and invitation whereby man can snub God, and God is dependent upon the sinner’s will to finish the work which they must claim Christ only began, and to apply the salvation which Christ only made possible) rather than to present the truth that man IN ALL THINGS SPIRITUAL AS WELL AS MATERIAL depends entirely and always upon God. All this is nothing less than unbelief. All this is nothing less than a lack of the fear of the Lord. We repeat, the sinner is bold! The unbeliever is conceited! And he is a fool. He does not fear God, and therefore goes his own headstrong way; but he is as big a fool as the man who dares to run down the railroad track towards the rushing freight train with all its power and momentum. Some day, he, as Pharaoh to his regret in the Red Sea, will know Who this God is. He will call for the mountains to fall upon him, the hills to cover him. And then in hell he will acknowledge his folly in hopeless despair.
Joseph obeyed God because he feared Him. He states to his brothers, according to Genesis 42:18, “This do, and live, for I fear God.” The other side of the picture is found again in Psalm 36:1, “The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes.” Transgression and the lack of the fear of the Lord go hand in hand. He who lacks the one has the other. The man who has transgression lacks the fear of the Lord. And the man who has the fear of the Lord does not transgress His law.
And the reason why faith is called the fear of the Lord is not because faith was imperfect in the Old Testament times and has finally grown to the point where it may now be called belief and trust. There is no such thing as imperfect faith. For faith is the gift of God, and all His works are perfect. Jesus speaks of having little faith. We speak of that faith being weak or strong, but faith is never imperfect. And surely the faith of the Old Testament saints was not a sickly faculty that could only be filled with terror before God and had not yet come to its own. We will not take the time to show the folly of this and will only ask you to read Hebrews 11where the deeds of the so-called “heroes of faith” are displayed before our eyes. If that fear of the Lord, called faith here in Hebrews 11, is an imperfect faith, then let us have more of that imperfect faith in’ the New Testament church. We can use the faith of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham through David, Samuel and the prophets. Let this chapter teach us what a wonderful gift that fear of the Lord is. And let it also work within us a desire to have our children possess this fear and to obtain the wisdom, of which that fear is the beginning.
Are they being trained in His fear?
Do you send them to school to become wise or to become fools?