The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 1:7 ESV
This verse is the thesis of the entire book of Proverbs and a crucial key to understanding our relationship with God. But why is the statement that fearing God is the beginning of knowledge? It seems natural to think of fear in a negative connotation. Generally, we do not like feeling fear; therefore, we call fear is bad. However, this is not how the Bible treats fear; instead, the Bible teaches that there are times when fear is justified and healthy. For instance, if faced with a ravenous tiger, fear causes one to think through a means of survival. Fear helps us to act as we should. In this way, fear is tied to knowledge. It allows us to live our lives, respecting things that are potentially dangerous to us.
And so it is with God. Few like to think of the LORD being dangerous; however, the Bible makes it clear that God is to be feared. The greatness and holiness of God is far too much for any of us to imagine or perceive. He alone “dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see.” Isaiah pronounced himself cursed with sin upon seeing the throne God, and even the angels covered their faces and feet while declaring the holiness of the LORD. God is certainly to be feared.
This does not, however, mean that we must be scared of God. His love and grace are also vast beyond all measure. Yet even when beholding God’s great love, we must still always remember the holy terror of God. He is unlike anything in all of creation and far more powerful. This proper fear of God’s character serves to also remind us of our own sinful nature, making us all the more thankful for the grace of Christ.
Let me leave you with a few words from C. S. Lewis, written in the Chronicles of Narnia. In the book, Lucy asks Mr. Beaver whether Aslan (Lewis’ representation of Christ) is safe. Mr. Beaver responds as such: “Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”
Our God is not safe, so fear is natural and needed. But He is good.