“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; but fools despise knowledge and instruction.” Proverbs 1:7, NIV
I live in the high plains of the Midwest, and because of our geography and climate, I kind-of think living in a house without a basement is insane. I know, I know, you can huddle in a bathtub with a mattress over you for protection. But here’s the thing: I’ve seen the remnants of a community slammed by the force of swirling wind. I’ve stood in awe, surveying trees which have been twisted and snapped away from their roots as though they were nothing more than toothpicks. I’ve seen boats that have been tossed up into the air like hacky-sacks and left lying face-down, dented and deformed. And I’ve shuttered at the sight of roofs that have been peeled from their houses like frosting from a cupcake.
Having witnessed the power of an indiscriminate tornado, I appreciate the value of a safe place to hide. When I see a dark, lumpy cloud tinged with green coming my way, I’m headed for cover, and a fiberglass tub attached to some two-by-fours isn’t gonna cut it for me. I’m talking something sunk a good seven feet into the earth and fortified with concrete. I’m headed to the middle of my basement.
I think about that when I look at Proverbs 1:7. What is this “fear of the Lord” stuff? Isn’t God love and safety and salvation? I think the fear of The Lord is knowing the power, the absolute all-encompassing power of God. It’s understanding that He’s holy—set completely apart from sin, and that He is thoroughly just. This is where wisdom begins. See, a person who hasn’t witnessed the devastation of a tornado is more likely to blow off its power. More likely to get themselves into a bad spot. This idea carries forward—a person who does not understand who he is before God, unrepentant and unredeemed, is less likely to kneel before His holiness. But the one who appreciates this power; the one who, in honest humility, fears this God? He is the one who will bow. He is the one who will declare that God is God and he is not. And to come down to it, he is the one who will fall prostrate and cry out, “I am yours. Save me.”
That’s the thing about healthy fear—it drives us to a safe place. The amazing thing is this righteous, fearsome God is also the safe haven for our hearts. His perfect holiness brings together justice and mercy, righteousness and love. So when that repentant soul bows before God in fear, he is lifted to that same God’s knee and brought close to His heart with love. “You are safe here, child. I will keep you hidden in my arms.”
Way better than a concrete basement, right? That’s exactly where I want to be.