If you attend college or graduate school, you are bound to cross paths with intelligent professors. Unfortunately, some of these teachers are so obsessed with their field, that understanding this courses is like taking a foreign language. When I first opened the Bible in high school, I had similar concerns, overwhelmed by phrases, terms and words beyond my comprehension. A priest once proclaimed in his homily, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”, quoting the passage below. When the context was added, a father teaching his son about the importance of listening to God, a light went on in my head.
To understand a proverb and a figure [of speech] or an enigma with its interpretation, and the words of the wise and their riddles [that require reflection]. 7 The [reverent] fear of the Lord [that is, worshiping Him and regarding Him as truly awesome] is the beginning and the preeminent part of knowledge [its starting point and its essence]; But arrogant fools despise [skillful and godly] wisdom and instruction and self-discipline, Proverbs 1:6-7.
Three decades later, a new term caught me off guard, “walking in the fear of the Lord.” Perhaps, Luke is referring to the events of Acts 5:1-13. A couple named Ananias and Sapphira attempted to emulate the generosity of Barnabas, the son of encouragement. However, Ananias had impure motives, seeking attention and fame. When confronted by Peter, both lied resulting in cardiac arrests, dying within hours of one another. At the end of this story, Luke highlights the fact that great fear gripped the church and that non-believers were afraid to associate with the apostles. Only genuine believers gathered at Solomon’s portico for worship. The context of this story shines light on what it means to walk in the fear of the Lord.
So the church throughout Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace [without persecution], being built up [in wisdom, virtue, and faith]; and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort and encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it continued to grow [in numbers], Acts 9:31.
When I was a teenager, death was the last thought on my mind until a boating accident placed me in the shipping channel of the Chesapeake Bay as a freighter headed for me and my neighbor Richie. This near death experience set the stage for me to begin to draw near to God. Like any prodigal, I didn’t always take the straightest path or quickest route. Nonetheless, reverent fear of God put life on earth in perspective for me. While sitting in my bed the summer before my senior year of college with a broken ankle, I was forced to consider God’s plan for my life. This is where I truly decided to follow Jesus and haven’t turned back. Sure, I have taken earthly pitstops, backsliding every now and then, but walking in the fear of the Lord has straightened me out over time.
by Jay Mankus