Cultivating Godly Fear
“Fear Jehovah and turn away from bad.”—PROVERBS 3:7.
1. For whom was Proverbs written?
THE Bible book of Proverbs contains a wealth of spiritual counsel. Jehovah provided this guidebook initially to instruct his typical nation of Israel. Today, it provides wise sayings for his holy Christian nation, “upon whom the ends of the systems of things have arrived.”—1 Corinthians 10:11; Proverbs 1:1-5; 1 Peter 2:9.
2. Why is the warning at Proverbs 3:7 most timely today?
2 Turning to Proverbs 3:7, we read: “Do not become wise in your own eyes. Fear Jehovah and turn away from bad.” Ever since the time of our first parents, when the Serpent enticed Eve with the promise of their “knowing good and bad,” mere human wisdom has failed to answer the needs of mankind. (Genesis 3:4, 5; 1 Corinthians 3:19, 20) At no period in history has this been more apparent than in this 20th century—these “last days” when mankind, reaping the fruits of atheistic, evolutionary thinking, is plagued by racism, violence, and every kind of immorality. (2 Timothy 3:1-5, 13; 2 Peter 3:3, 4) It is a ‘new world disorder’ that neither the UN nor the fragmented religions of the world can untangle.
3. What developments were prophesied for our day?
3 God’s prophetic Word informs us that demonic forces have gone forth to “the kings of the entire inhabited earth, to gather them together to the war of the great day of God the Almighty . . . to the place that is called in Hebrew Har–Magedon.” (Revelation 16:14, 16) Soon terror from Jehovah will envelop those kings, or rulers. It will be like the fright that fell upon the Canaanites when Joshua and the Israelites came to execute judgment on them. (Joshua 2:9-11) But today it is the one typified by Joshua, Christ Jesus—the “King of kings and Lord of lords”—who will ‘strike the nations and shepherd them with a rod of iron’ in expression of “the anger of the wrath of God the Almighty.”—Revelation 19:15, 16.
4, 5. Who will find salvation, and why?
4 Who will find salvation at that time? Those delivered will be, not the ones consumed by fright, but all who have cultivated a reverential fear of Jehovah. Instead of being wise in their own eyes, these “turn away from bad.” In humility, they feed their minds on what is good, so that the bad is crowded out of their thinking. They cherish a wholesome respect for the Sovereign Lord Jehovah, the “Judge of all the earth,” who is about to execute everyone who cleaves to badness, just as he annihilated the depraved Sodomites. (Genesis 18:25) Indeed, for God’s own people, “the fear of Jehovah is a well of life, to turn away from the snares of death.”—Proverbs 14:27.
5 In this day of divine judgment, all who devote themselves entirely to Jehovah in fear of ever displeasing him will come to realize the truth stated figuratively at Proverbs 3:8: “May [the fear of Jehovah] become a healing to your navel and a refreshment to your bones.”
6. What should motivate us to heed Proverbs 3:9?
6 Our appreciative fear of Jehovah, together with intense love for him, should motivate us to heed Proverbs 3:9: “Honor Jehovah with your valuable things and with the firstfruits of all your produce.” We are not pressured into honoring Jehovah with our offerings. These should be voluntary, as indicated some 12 times from Exodus 35:29 to Deuteronomy 23:23 with regard to sacrifices in ancient Israel. These firstfruits to Jehovah should be the very best gifts we can offer, in recognition of the goodness and loving-kindness that we have enjoyed at his hand. (Psalm 23:6) They should reflect our resolve to “keep on . . . seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33) And what results from honoring Jehovah with our valuable things? “Then your stores of supply will be filled with plenty; and with new wine your own press vats will overflow.”—Proverbs 3:10.
7. What firstfruits should we offer to Jehovah, and what will be the outcome?
7 Jehovah’s primary way of blessing us is spiritual. (Malachi 3:10) Hence, the firstfruits that we offer to him should be primarily spiritual. We should use our time, energy, and vital force in doing his will. This in turn will nourish us, in the same way that such activity became strengthening “food” to Jesus. (John 4:34) Our spiritual stores of supply will be filled, and our joy, symbolized by new wine, will overflow. In addition, as we trustingly pray for a sufficiency of material food for each day, we can consistently contribute generously from our means in support of the worldwide Kingdom work. (Matthew 6:11) Everything that we possess, including material assets, came to us from our loving heavenly Father. He will pour out further blessings, to the extent that we use these valuable things to his praise.—Proverbs 11:4; 1 Corinthians 4:7.
Reproofs of Love
8, 9. How should we regard reproof and discipline?
8 In Pr 3 verses 11 and 12, Proverbs chapter 3 again speaks of the happy father-and-son relationship that exists in godly families, as well as between Jehovah and his beloved spiritual children on earth. We read: “The discipline of Jehovah, O my son, do not reject; and do not abhor his reproof, because the one whom Jehovah loves he reproves, even as a father does a son in whom he finds pleasure.” People of the world detest reproof. Jehovah’s people should welcome it. The apostle Paul quoted these words from Proverbs, saying: “My son, do not belittle the discipline from Jehovah, neither give out when you are corrected by him; for whom Jehovah loves he disciplines . . . True, no discipline seems for the present to be joyous, but grievous; yet afterward to those who have been trained by it it yields peaceable fruit, namely, righteousness.”—Hebrews 12:5, 6, 11.
9 Yes, reproof and discipline are a necessary part of the training of each one of us, whether we receive it from parents, through the Christian congregation, or as we meditate on the Scriptures during our personal study. It is a matter of life and death for us to heed discipline, as Proverbs 4:1, 13 also states: “Listen, O sons, to the discipline of a father and pay attention, so as to know understanding. Take hold on discipline; do not let go. Safeguard it, for it itself is your life.”
The Greatest Happiness
10, 11. What are some facets of the delightful words at Proverbs 3:13-18?
10 What beautiful expressions now follow, indeed ‘delightful and correct words of truth’! (Ecclesiastes 12:10) These inspired words of Solomon describe true happiness. They are words that we should inscribe on our hearts. We read:
11 “Happy is the man that has found wisdom, and the man that gets discernment, for having it as gain is better than having silver as gain and having it as produce than gold itself. It is more precious than corals, and all other delights of yours cannot be made equal to it. Length of days is in its right hand; in its left hand there are riches and glory. Its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its roadways are peace. It is a tree of life to those taking hold of it, and those keeping fast hold of it are to be called happy.”—Proverbs 3:13-18.
12. How should wisdom and discernment benefit us?
12 Wisdom—how often this is mentioned in the book of Proverbs, 46 times in all! “The fear of Jehovah is the start of wisdom.” This is the godly, practical wisdom based on knowledge of God’s Word that enables his people to steer a safe course through the dangerous tempests that rage in Satan’s world. (Proverbs 9:10) Discernment, referred to 19 times in Proverbs, is the handmaiden of wisdom, helping us to combat Satan’s devices. In perpetrating his crafty acts, the great Adversary has behind him millenniums of experience. But we have something far more valuable than experience as a teacher—godly discernment, the ability to distinguish right from wrong and to choose the correct way to go. This is what Jehovah teaches us through his Word.—Proverbs 2:10-13; Ephesians 6:11.
13. What can protect us during hard economic times, and how?
13 The economic chaos in today’s world is a harbinger of the fulfillment of the prophecy at Ezekiel 7:19: “Into the streets they will throw their very silver, and an abhorrent thing their own gold will become. Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to deliver them in the day of Jehovah’s fury.” All the material wealth on earth does not begin to compare with the saving power of wisdom and discernment. Wise King Solomon stated on another occasion: “Wisdom is for a protection the same as money is for a protection; but the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom itself preserves alive its owners.” (Ecclesiastes 7:12) Happy indeed are all who today walk in Jehovah’s ways of pleasantness and who in wisdom choose the “length of days,” the everlasting life that is God’s gift to everyone exercising faith in Jesus’ ransom sacrifice!—Proverbs 3:16; John 3:16; 17:3.
Cultivating True Wisdom
14. In what ways has Jehovah displayed exemplary wisdom?
14 It is appropriate that we humans, who are created in the image of God, strive to cultivate wisdom and discernment, qualities that Jehovah himself displayed in performing his marvelous works of creation. “Jehovah himself in wisdom founded the earth. He solidly fixed the heavens in discernment.” (Proverbs 3:19, 20) He proceeded to make living creatures, not by some mystical, inexplicable process of evolution, but by direct acts of creation, each “according to its kind” and for a wise purpose. (Genesis 1:25) When finally man was brought forth with intelligence and abilities far superior to those of the animals, the applause of the angelic sons of God must have echoed and reechoed through the heavens. (Compare Job 38:1, 4, 7.) Jehovah’s discerning foresight, his wisdom, and his love are clearly seen in all of his productions on earth.—Psalm 104:24.
15. (a) Why is it not sufficient simply to cultivate wisdom? (b) What confidence should Proverbs 3:25, 26 awaken in us?
15 We need not only to cultivate Jehovah’s qualities of wisdom and discernment but also to hold fast to them, never slacking off in our study of his Word. He admonishes us: “My son, may they not get away from your eyes. Safeguard practical wisdom and thinking ability, and they will prove to be life to your soul and charm to your throat.” (Proverbs 3:21, 22) Thus we can walk in security and in peace of mind, even during the thieflike approach of the day of “sudden destruction” that will break forth upon Satan’s world. (1 Thessalonians 5:2, 3) During the great tribulation itself, “you will not need to be afraid of any sudden dreadful thing, nor of the storm upon the wicked ones, because it is coming. For Jehovah himself will prove to be, in effect, your confidence, and he will certainly keep your foot against capture.”—Proverbs 3:23-26.
Love for Doing Good
16. What action is required of Christians in addition to zeal in the ministry?
16 These are days for showing zeal in preaching this good news of the Kingdom for a witness to all the nations. But this witness work must be backed up by other Christian activity, as described at Proverbs 3:27, 28: “Do not hold back good from those to whom it is owing, when it happens to be in the power of your hand to do it. Do not say to your fellowman: ‘Go, and come back and tomorrow I shall give,’ when there is something with you.” (Compare James 2:14-17.) With much of the world in the grip of poverty and famine, there have been urgent calls for us to help our fellowman, especially our spiritual brothers. How have Jehovah’s Witnesses responded?
17-19. (a) What urgent need was met during 1993, and with what response? (b) What demonstrates that our beleaguered brothers are “coming off completely victorious”?
17 Take one example: During the past year, an urgent call for help came from the former Yugoslavia. The brotherhood in neighboring countries responded marvelously. During the frigid months of last winter, it was possible for several relief convoys to penetrate the war area, transporting current publications, warm clothing, food, and medicines to needy Witnesses. On one occasion, the brothers applied to take in 15 tons of relief supplies, but when they received the permit, it was for 30 tons! Jehovah’s Witnesses in Austria quickly dispatched three more trucks. In all, 25 tons reached their intended destination. How delighted our brothers were to receive these bounteous spiritual and material provisions!
18 How did those recipients respond? Earlier this year, an elder wrote: “The brothers and sisters in Sarajevo are alive and well, and what is most important, we are still spiritually strong to endure this crazy war. The situation was very difficult concerning food. May Jehovah bless and reward you for the efforts you have made for us. The authorities have special respect for Jehovah’s Witnesses because of their exemplary way of life and because of their respect of the authorities. We are also grateful for the spiritual food you delivered to us.”—Compare Psalm 145:18.
19 These endangered brothers have shown appreciation, too, by their zealous field ministry. Many neighbors come to them requesting home Bible studies. In the city of Tuzla, where five tons of relief food was delivered, 40 publishers reported 25 hours each in service on the average for the month, in fine support of the nine pioneers in the congregation. They had a remarkable attendance of 243 at the Memorial of Jesus’ death. These dear brothers are indeed “coming off completely victorious through him that loved us.”—Romans 8:37.
20. What “equalizing” has taken place in the former Soviet Union?
20 The generosity manifested in the large convoys of relief food and warm clothing shipped into the former Soviet Union has also been matched by the zeal of the brothers there. For example, in Moscow the Memorial attendance this year was 7,549, compared with 3,500 last year. During the same period, congregations in that city increased from 12 to 16. In the entire former Soviet Union (omitting the Baltic States), the increase in congregations was 14 percent, in Kingdom publishers 25 percent, and in pioneers 74 percent. What a spirit of zeal and self-sacrifice! It reminds one of the first century when there was “an equalizing.” The Christians that had spiritual and material assets made generous gifts to those in less favored places, while the zeal of these afflicted ones brought joy and encouragement to the donors.—2 Corinthians 8:14.
Hate the Bad!
21. How are the wise ones and the stupid ones contrasted in the closing words of Proverbs chapter 3?
21 The third chapter of Proverbs next presents a series of contrasts, closing out with this admonition: “Do not become envious of the man of violence, nor choose any of his ways. For the devious person is a detestable thing to Jehovah, but His intimacy is with the upright ones. The curse of Jehovah is on the house of the wicked one, but the abiding place of the righteous ones he blesses. If it has to do with ridiculers, he himself will deride; but to the meek ones he will show favor. Honor is what the wise ones will come to possess, but the stupid ones are exalting dishonor.”—Proverbs 3:29-35.
22. (a) How may we avoid the fate of the stupid ones? (b) What do the wise ones hate, and what do they cultivate, with what reward?
22 How may we avoid being numbered among the stupid ones? We must learn to hate the bad, yes, detest what Jehovah detests—all the devious ways of this violent, bloodguilty world. (See also Proverbs 6:16-19.) In contrast, we must cultivate what is good—uprightness, righteousness, and meekness—so that in humility and the fear of Jehovah we may attain to “riches and glory and life.” (Proverbs 22:4) This will be the reward to all of us who loyally apply the admonition: “Trust in Jehovah with all your heart.”
What Is Your Comment?
□ How does the theme text of this study apply today?
□ How may we honor Jehovah?
□ Why should we not belittle discipline?
□ Where is the greatest happiness to be found?
□ How may we love the good and hate the bad?
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Those who offer their best in sacrifice to Jehovah will be blessed abundantly