“The Fear of Jehovah—That Is Wisdom”
“THE conclusion of the matter, everything having been heard, is: Fear the true God and keep his commandments. For this is the whole obligation of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13) What a profound conclusion King Solomon of ancient Israel drew under divine inspiration! The patriarch Job also appreciated the value of the fear of God, for he said: “Look! The fear of Jehovah—that is wisdom, and to turn away from bad is understanding.”—Job 28:28.
The Bible places great importance on fearing Jehovah. Why is our cultivating reverential fear of God the course of wisdom? In what way does having godly fear benefit us—individually and as a group of true worshippers? Verses 26 to 35 of Proverbs chapter 14 answer these questions.*
Source of “Strong Confidence”
“In the fear of Jehovah there is strong confidence,” states Solomon, “and for his sons there will come to be a refuge.” (Proverbs 14:26) A God-fearing man’s source of trust is none other than the loyal and almighty God, Jehovah. No wonder such a man faces what lies ahead with strong confidence! His future is long and blessed.
What, though, can be said about the future of those who put their confidence in the world—its schemes, its organizations, its ideologies, and its goods? Whatever future they hope to have is short, for the Bible states: “The world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.” (1 John 2:17) Is there any reason for us, then, to “be loving either the world or the things in the world”?—1 John 2:15.
What measures can God-fearing parents take to ensure that “there will come to be a refuge” for their children? “Come, you sons, listen to me,” sang the psalmist, “the fear of Jehovah is what I shall teach you.” (Psalm 34:11) When children by parental example and instruction are taught to fear God, they are more likely to grow up to be men and women who have strong confidence in Jehovah.—Proverbs 22:6.
“The fear of Jehovah is a well of life,” continues Solomon, “to turn away from the snares of death.” (Proverbs 14:27) The fear of Jehovah is “a well of life” because the true God is “the source of living water.” (Jeremiah 2:13) Taking in knowledge of Jehovah and of Jesus Christ can mean everlasting life for us. (John 17:3) Godly fear also turns us away from the snares of death. How? Proverbs 13:14 states: “The law of the wise one is a source of life, to turn one away from the snares of death.” When we fear Jehovah, obey his law, and allow his Word to guide our steps, are we not protected from harmful practices and emotions that can lead to early death?
“Adornment of a King”
During most of his reign, Solomon was a God-fearing king who obeyed Jehovah. This contributed to a successful rulership. What determines how well a king rules? Proverbs 14:28 answers: “In the multitude of people there is an adornment of a king, but in the lack of population is the ruin of a high official.” The success of a king is measured by the welfare of his subjects. If a great multitude of people desire to remain under his rulership, that recommends him as a good ruler. Solomon had “subjects from [the Red] sea to [the Mediterranean] sea and from the River [Euphrates] to the ends of the earth.” (Psalm 72:6-8) His rulership was marked by unprecedented peace and prosperity. (1 Kings 4:24, 25) Solomon’s reign was a success. On the other hand, a lack of approval by the populace spells disgrace for a high official.
In this regard, what can be said about the glory of the Greater Solomon, the Messianic King, Jesus Christ? Think of the subjects he has even today. From one end of the earth to the other, over six million God-fearing men and women have already chosen to live under Christ’s rulership. They exercise faith in Jesus and are united in true worship of the living God. (John 14:1) By the end of the Millennial Rule, all those in God’s memory will have been resurrected. A paradise earth will then be full of happy, righteous people who have manifested appreciation for their King. What a testimony that will be to the success of Christ’s rulership! Let us hold fast to our wonderful Kingdom hope.
Spiritual and Physical Benefits
Reverential fear of God can give us calmness of heart and tranquillity of spirit. This is so because wisdom’s many facets include good judgment and discernment. Proverbs 14:29 states: “He that is slow to anger is abundant in discernment, but one that is impatient is exalting foolishness.” Discernment helps us to realize that uncontrolled anger has a damaging effect on our spirituality. “Enmities, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions” are listed among the works that could prevent us from ‘inheriting God’s kingdom.’ (Galatians 5:19-21) We are counseled against harboring even justifiable anger. (Ephesians 4:26, 27) And impatience can lead to foolish speech and action that we later regret.
Pointing to the adverse physical effects of anger, the king of Israel says: “A calm heart is the life of the fleshly organism, but jealousy is rottenness to the bones.” (Proverbs 14:30) Ailments resulting from anger and rage include respiratory troubles, increased blood pressure, liver disorders, and ill effects on the pancreas. Physicians also list anger and rage as emotions that aggravate, or even cause, such illnesses as ulcers, hives, asthma, skin diseases, and digestive problems. On the other hand, “a heart at peace gives life to the body.” (Proverbs 14:30, New International Version) We are wise, then, to “pursue the things making for peace and the things that are upbuilding to one another.”—Romans 14:19.
Fear of God Helps Us to Be Impartial
“He that is defrauding the lowly one has reproached his Maker,” says Solomon, “but the one showing favor to the poor one is glorifying Him.” (Proverbs 14:31) A God-fearing man realizes that all humans have the same Maker, Jehovah God. Therefore, the lowly one is a fellow human, and how he is treated reflects on the Creator of mankind. To glorify God, we must deal fairly and impartially with others. The Christian of little means should receive spiritual attention without partiality. We must reach the poor and the rich alike with the good news of God’s Kingdom.
Referring to another benefit of godly fear, the wise king says: “Because of his badness the wicked will be pushed down, but the righteous will be finding refuge in his integrity.” (Proverbs 14:32) How is the wicked one pushed down? It has been suggested that this means that he lacks any possibility of recovery when he experiences a calamity. On the other hand, when adversity strikes, the God-fearing man takes refuge in his integrity to God. Having implicit trust in Jehovah even to death, he displays the same determination as did Job, who said: “Until I expire I shall not take away my integrity from myself!”—Job 27:5.
Maintaining integrity calls for godly fear and wisdom. And where can wisdom be found? “In the heart of the understanding one there rests wisdom,” answers Proverbs 14:33, “and in the midst of stupid ones it becomes known.” Yes, wisdom can be found in the heart of a man with understanding. In what way, though, does it become known in the midst of fools? According to one reference work, “the fool, anxious to appear wise, blurts out what he thinks is wisdom but in the process turns it to folly.”
“Exalts a Nation”
Shifting our attention from how an individual is affected by the fear of God to how it affects an entire nation, the king of Israel says: “Righteousness is what exalts a nation, but sin is something disgraceful to national groups.” (Proverbs 14:34) How clearly this principle was demonstrated in the case of the nation of Israel! Adhering to God’s high standards resulted in Israel’s being exalted over the surrounding nations. However, repeated acts of disobedience led to the disgrace and eventual rejection of Israel by Jehovah. This principle applies to God’s people today. The Christian congregation is different from the world because it adheres to God’s righteous principles. To maintain that elevated position, though, we must individually live a chaste life. Practicing sin only brings disgrace to us personally as well as reproach on the congregation and on God.
Expressing what brings delight to a king, Solomon says: “The pleasure of a king is in the servant who is acting with insight, but his fury comes to be toward one acting shamefully.” (Proverbs 14:35) And Proverbs 16:13 states: “The lips of righteousness are a pleasure to a grand king; and the speaker of upright things he loves.” Yes, our Leader and King, Jesus Christ, is well-pleased when we act righteously and with insight and use our lips in the Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making activity. By all means, then, let us keep busy in that work as we enjoy the blessings that come from fearing the true God.
For a discussion of Proverbs 14:1-25, see The Watchtower of November 15, 2004, pages 26-9, and July 15, 2005, pages 17-20.
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Godly fear can be taught