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Last week we looked at Solomon’s purpose. We looked at the four groups or types of people that would benefit from his writings. We found out Proverbs is really for all people. This morning we’ll find out Solomon’s fundamental premise for the book of Proverbs.
Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
Verse 7 kicks off with a statement that many have heard before. “The fear of the Lord.” I’m sure there are kids that are afraid of their parents. There are people that are afraid of all kinds of things. There is a difference between a healthy fear and an unhealthy fear. A healthy fear might be about something that is dangerous or could harm us. Unhealthy fears might include speaking in front of people. Fear of some things should be maintained, while fear from other things must be faced and overcome. That’s not what Solomon is talking about here. In this verse, fear means awesome; it means reverence. Eccl. 8:13 says, “But it will not be well for the evil man and he will not lengthen his days like a shadow, because he does not fear God.” When you have a healthy reverence for God’s awesomeness, knowledge may begin. When you begin understand how God works and why He does what He does, you begin to gain an understanding, respect, and trust for His ways. I say begin to understand because we will never fully grasp God’s ways. There is a level of trust with certain authority figures. We trust doctors to diagnose illnesses and prescribe the correct treatment plans. We trust lawyers to give accurate legal advice and fight for our rights. We trust teachers to make sure our kids have a proper education in order to contribute to society. When it comes to God, we think He’s out to get us, we think He doesn’t care or understand and we make excuses why He’s not to be trusted. Ps. 62:8, “Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” Knowledge can begin when you recognize who God is.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” Author Jim Newheiser says, “The fear of the Lord is not a beginning like the first stage of a rocket which is cast aside after it has served its purpose. Rather, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom in the same way in which a foundation is the beginning of a house: everything that comes after the foundation is built upon it.” Without the proper foundation, the building crumbles.
Solomon has an overarching contrast. The contrast to this respect, fear, and reverence for God is the fool. One thing we must realize is that as we pursue biblical, godly wisdom, there are those around us that will reject it. There are people – even in the church – that will encourage us to do the opposite of wisdom. “Fools despise wisdom and instructions.” This is the pattern that Solomon is setting up for the entire book of Proverbs. Wisdom and foolishness are contrasted throughout the book and for good reason. If you look at the definition of fool from various sources, you’ll discover the common theme is that a fool is a person that lacks sense or judgment. That’s why they despise wisdom. Despise means to regard with contempt, distaste, disgust, or disdain; to scorn or loathe. It is a strong dislike for someone or something that you think is bad or worthless. We’ve already determined that a fool lacks sense so it’s even more astounding that fools typically won’t listen to someone or something that will help them. When presented with sound biblical principles, the fool hates it. Each of us can be foolish at times when presented with biblical truth. We just saw from our series in stewardship that some people are foolish about money because they don’t follow biblical principles of stewardship. Some parents are foolish because they don’t discipline their children. While each of us may make a foolish decision or statement, Solomon is talking about a person that is characterized by foolishness. The fool that Solomon talks about is not someone that has isolated instances of foolishness, but rather someone that has a moral deficiency.
Fools not only despise wisdom, they despise instruction. Fools are not trainable, they hate instruction. I’ve often said the most dangerous person is the one that thinks they’re saved, but really aren’t. Fools fall into a similar category. They’re foolish and don’t even know it. Remember from v. 5, “A wise man will hear and increase in learning.” The fool has no sense and he doesn’t have sense enough to know it. Solomon is not necessarily talking about the man that won’t use Google maps, or won’t use the instructions when assembling his kid’s toys. Men think they know what they’re doing and don’t need the instructions. Again, this is not exactly what Solomon is talking about. Fools reject biblical wisdom and godly instruction.
Many professing Christians reject sound biblical guidance because they don’t like it or they don’t understand it. They rely on their own understanding and knowledge rather than the unchanging standard of God’s Word. Charles Spurgeon wrote, “To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal and are the greater fools for it. There is no fool as great as a knowing fool.” We live in an age where foolishness abounds – even in the church. We need churches that are unwilling to bend to society’s shifting morality. Proverbs isn’t just a book filled with formulaic verses so we can win in life. It is intended to teach us to treasure biblical wisdom. God offers wisdom to those that are willing to pursue it. In the end, we can only be wise through the life changing power of Christ.
 Newheiser, J. (2008). Opening up Proverbs (28). Leominster: Day One Publications.
 Newheiser, J. (2008). Opening up Proverbs (29). Leominster: Day One Publications.