WISDOM AND HUMILITY CARRY THE DAY

As adults, when we are asked a question, our most frequent response is to give an answer – usually with our chest puffed out just a bit and our head held a little bit higher.  We have been asked to pontificate and show our intelligence as we provide the individual standing before us with the information desired.

However, the wise response is to investigate the issue and then give an answer. Whether it is in the realm of the law, medicine, or any other discipline, the ability to identify the issue and then know where to look to find the answer is supremely better than just rattling off an answer based on what you recalled from yesterday, last month, or last year.  Indeed, knowledge is important, but wisdom is far better.

Scripture has much to say about the know-it-all and wisdom. 

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!

Psalm 111:10

Taylor school
A college education may indicate learning, but real knowledge comes from reverent fear of the Lord.  Praise God for Christian universities such as Taylor University, Upland, Indiana, that provide a quality education while fostering Christian growth in their students as well.

A college education may indicate learning, but real knowledge comes from reverent fear of the Lord.  Praise God for Christian universities such as Taylor University, Upland, Indiana, that provide a quality education while fostering Christian growth in their students as well.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1:7

And he said to man, “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom and to turn away from evil is understanding.”

Job 28:28

What is the “fear of the Lord”?  The answer to that requires more space than as a footnote to this post.  But, suffice it to say at this juncture, the following excerpt from “What Does it Mean to Fear God?,” an article posted October 22, 2016 by Dr. R. C. Sproul in the Ligonier Blog gives us some guidance when thinking of the fear of God as noted in the Wisdom Literature of scripture:

The focus here is on a sense of awe and respect for the majesty of God. That’s often lacking in contemporary evangelical Christianity. We get very flippant and cavalier with God, as if we had a casual relationship with the Father. We are invited to call Him Abba, Father, and to have the personal intimacy promised to us, but still we’re not to be flippant with God. We’re always to maintain a healthy respect and adoration for Him.

So, we know the source of wisdom is the fear of the Lord.  Where does humility come into the picture?

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,…

Colossians 3:12

So, what is humility?   Someone named Anonymous said “Humility is a strange thing – the moment you think you’ve got it, you lose it.”  

C. S. Lewis says that “humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” In other words, it is the quality of “self-forgetfulness”.  Rather than, “Me first,” humility allows us to say, “No, you first, my friend.” 

This does not mean that we must be passive followers; humility does not require that we lose our voice or that we cannot lead.  In Numbers 12:3 we read the following about Moses, the man who told Pharaoh to let God’s people go, the man who led the children of Israel through the wilderness for 40 years, the man who spoke directly with God and who received the 10 Commandments on tablets of stone:

“Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.”  (NIV)

Moses was humble and he didn’t seek his own welfare when attacked by his family.  God stood up for him when he was attacked by his siblings.  Read the rest of Numbers 12 to see the conflict between Moses and his brother and sister over Moses’ Cushite wife. What happened to them is priceless; but, if I may cut to the chase, I would simply summarize the story as  – spoiler alert — 

Humility Wins!

Of course this, too, is consistent with scripture.  See, for example, Psalm 147:5-6 where we read:

Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit. The LORD sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground. (NIV)

In the Lord’s calculus, wisdom comes from Him and man’s humility trumps man’s pride every time. 

Father, thank You for Your Son’s sacrifice that cleanses us from our sin and that results in life everlasting for the believer in Him.  Thank You that we can come to You, acknowledging our lack of understanding, and that You will lead us and teach us in the way of righteousness. Grant me humility and enable me to see when I am acting in disregard of that quality.  Then give me the grace to repent and return to Your side. 

 

PRAISE THE LORD

One of the things I love to do while we are camping is to sit outside in the evening/night and listen to the sounds of nature while gazing up into the heavens.   Viewing the stars, which are hidden by the city’s lights at home, is an incredible privilege.   Watching the sun set in the earth’s inexorable travel around it is mesmerizing to me.  Each second of descent below the horizon brings new colors and new beauty.

Sunset over Annandale VA 2
Sunset over Annandale, Virginia

Scripture exhorts us to praise the Lord, In fact, it further exhorts even creation to praise God.

Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars!” 

Psalm 148:3 ESV

Sunrise (C)
Sunrise at Sea

“The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises.”

Ecclesiastes 1:5 ESV

Redondo beach sunset
Sunset along Redondo Beach, California

 “And God made the two great lights–the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night–and the stars.  And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.  And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.”

Genesis 1:16-19 ESV

Super Moon  (C)
Super Moon in Mississippi.

Next time you are outside, whether at sunrise, daylight, sunset or night, look at the heavens and praise the Lord for His glorious graciousness in giving us our beautiful world.

Here is the song  “For the Beauty of the Earth” as composed by John Rutter and recorded on the album Gloria – the Sacred Music of John Rutter.  Let the beautiful tones of the hymn embrace you as you consider the glorious beauty of God’s creation.

 

 

The fear [reverence] of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever.”

Psalm 111:10 NASB

 

Father, thank You for making Your creation so incredibly beautiful in its majesty as well as in its finite detail.   I pray that my life would reflect the love of my Savior as the moon reflects the sun.  And may I praise Your holy Name.   I ask this in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

THE FEAR OF GOD

When we were in England, we visited a number of cathedrals and were amazed at the exquisite details in the construction and decoration of each of them.

bath-cathedral-c
Bath Cathedral, Bath, England

The exteriors of the cathedrals had a focal point, upward to the sky as if the very building was praising God in prayer and thanksgiving.

canterbury-side-view
Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England

 

Even the walls of the cathedrals evidenced exquisite workmanship and beautiful detail.

canterbury-wood-carvings-adorning-the-walls
Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England.  Carved woodwork adorning the walls of the Cathedral.

 

The church in Canterbury was established when Saint Augustine was sent as a missionary in 597 A.D.  In the town of Canterbury, there has been daily worship of God for over 1,400 years.  Just think about that for a moment! 

The original cathedral was rebuilt completely by the Normans in 1070 following a major fire. Although there have been many additions to the building over the last nine hundred years, parts of the Quire or Choir, which is the area between the nave and sanctuary in a cathedral, and some of the windows and their stained glass date from the 12th century.

canterbury-stained-glass-windows
Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England.  Stained glass windows. They were removed and sequestered for safety during World War II and reinstalled when the war ended.

See the Canterbury Cathedral’s website for more detailed information on this glorious church.  https://www.canterbury-cathedral.org/heritage/history/cathedral-history-in-a-nutshell/

We came to the entrance of the cathedral property and walked through this gate.  At first I thought this was the church … then I realized it was “just” the gate to the property.  Even this aspect of the cathedral was designed and constructed with an emphasis on the heavens.

canterbury-the-archway-into-the-church-property
Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England.  Arched gate into the Cathedral property.

 

Why go to all this trouble in creating such glorious buildings in which to worship God?  Why do all this incredible craftsmanship during a period of time when people were living in far less sturdy structures?  Why do this at all?

I suggest that these folks had a right understanding of the “fear of the Lord”. 

Scripture has much to say about learning and fearing God.   See for example the following passages in the Old Testament:

“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul,…”

Deuteronomy 10:12 ESV

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!”

Psalm 111:10 ESV

“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”

Ecclesiastes 12:13 ESV

So, what does it mean to fear God?  One definition of “fear” is, of course, to be afraid, to be in terror when we face God.

The struggle we have with a holy God is rooted in the conflict between God’s righteousness and our unrighteousness.  He is just and we are unjust.  This tension creates fear, hostility, and anger within us toward God.  The unjust person does not desire the company of a just judge.  We become fugitives, fleeing from the presence of One whose glory can blind us and whose justice can condemn us.  We are at war with Him unless and until we are justified.  Only the justified person can be comfortable in the presence of a holy God.

Dr. R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, Tyndale House Publishers, © 1998, p. 147

The justified person, the believer in Jesus Christ, is not afraid of God, rather God is his Father and fear is washed away.  Paul wrote this to his spiritual son, Timothy:

“for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

2 Timothy 1:7 ESV

But we are still admonished to “fear the Lord”, so if we are justified by Christ, what does it mean?

“Fear” when used in this context references our actions of “reverence” and “worship”.  We are to “be in awe of” Him and we are to “honor” Him.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

Proverbs 1:7 ESV

The note on Proverbs 1:7 in the Reformation Study Bible says, in part:

The fear of the Lord is the only basis of true knowledge.  This fear is not distrustful terror of God but rather the reverent awe and worshipful response of faith to the God who reveals Himself as the Creator, the Savior and the Judge.   

Have you ever been in awe of our God when looking at His expression through the majesty of His creation?

yosemite-2011-wrm-126-waterfalls-and-river-c
Yosemite National Park, waterfall and river.

Have you ever been in awe of our God when looking at His expression through the detail of the small baby, a child created in the image of God?

baby-girl-1-month-old
One month old baby girl.

Has your spirit ever soared when entering a place of worship as you anticipate spending time with your Savior and God in worship?

canterbury-cathedral-view-of-the-altar-area
Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England.  Interior of Cathedral looking at the altar area of the church.

Have you considered our Savior God who sent His only Son to die for your sins?  Have you thanked Him today, even this moment, for such love, grace and mercy?

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. 

Unfortunately, our culture has forgotten this precept.  We have instead turned to human philosophy and social engineers.  We have created a generation of children who have turned to Hollywood or the Internet for their heroes and role models.  The fantasy world of television and movies, with computer generated special effects, has become the reality that our youth crave.  Young and old alike seek thrills and/or escape by turning to drugs and alcohol.   We kill children without batting an eye, while we worry about the spotted owl or the snail darter fish.  

Scripture does not change – its teachings are true and they are timeless.  Thousands of years ago, God stated that the fear of the Lord was the beginning of wisdom.   It was true then, and it is true today. 

I believe that those building the cathedrals were honoring God and creating a place of worship that was a physical representation of the glory and magnificence due Him in worship. 

Note that I am not saying that all churches need to be this elaborate.  Nor am I ignoring the role that the Popes or other “leaders” likely played in desiring a place of magnificence for his own benefit. 

What I am saying is that we, even in our “modern” age, need to have a holy fear of our God.  It is a heart issue, not an architectural one.  We should give God the reverence, awe and honor to which He is due.  In short, He is not the “Big Guy in the Sky”.  He is our Creator, Sustainer and Savior … He is our Father and our God.

 

Father, forgive me when I have not given You the reverence that You deserve.  Let my heart sing “Praise God from whom all blessings flow” throughout the day and let my praise to You be last on my lips as sleep overcomes me.  May I love You and glorify You in all things.