2 Also it is not good for a soul to be without knowledge, and he sins who hastens with his feet. 3 The foolishness of a man twists his way, and his heart frets against the Lord. (Proverbs 19:2–3, NKJV)
I grew up hearing that “ignorance is bliss.” Maybe you did, too. Sometimes it was said somewhat sarcastically to warn us against thinking it is true. But sometimes I heard it said to justify choosing a particular (usually foolish) course of action. After all, we frequently hear people say, “I didn’t know” to explain something they did or did not do. We have most likely used that line, too. The Bible does not teach ignorance is bliss; just the opposite. Solomon said a lack of knowledge propels us into doing dangerous things that lead to sin (v. 2). To think ignorance is bliss and then act without understanding puts us on a twisted path (v. 3). When trouble comes due to our foolish choices, many get angry at God for the problem. The remedy is to accept instruction from the Lord and gain knowledge and wisdom (Prov. 1:1-6). Solomon said, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:7). Bliss comes from revering God, not getting angry at Him. When we respect God, we can “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). By doing so, our feet will not run to sin but walk the path that leads to life (Matt. 7:13-14).
3 If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? 4 But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared. (Psalm 130:3–4, NKJV)
We rejoice in the truth that God forgives and does not mark (retain) our sins (cf. Psa. 6:1; 38:1). God’s lovingkindness does not free us from accountability for our sin; We are answerable for our sin, its consequences, and punishment. The way of the transgressor is hard, and the wages of sin is death (Prov. 13:15; Rom. 6:23). Today’s psalm praises God’s forgiveness, His mercy, and redemption of Israel “from all our iniquities” (Psa. 130:8). When God’s people cry to Him with repentant supplications, He hears and forgives (Psa. 130:1-2). He does not withhold forgiveness; neither should (Matt. 6:14-15; 18:32-35). God does not vindictively keep an account of evil (1 Cor. 13:5). His forgiveness generates reverential fear for His wonderful pardon (Psa. 130:4). God’s responsive mercy assures our hearts to patiently trust His purposes and hope in His word (Psa. 130:5-6). Christians trust God’s unfailing love, generous mercy, and abundant redemption. He forgives us when we repent and confess our sins (Acts 8:22-24; 1 Jno. 1:9).
1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid? 2 When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, my enemies and foes, they stumbled and fell. 3 Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; Though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident. (Psalm 27:1–3, NKJV)
Fear has gripped many. Fear of disease, civil unrest, enemies, the future, and more has settled into countless hearts, filling souls with uncertainty, anxiety, and doubt. The psalmist David turned to the Lord in moments of fear and dread. We can and must do the same. With eyes of faith, David saw the Lord God as his light, his salvation, and the strength of his life (v. 1). David put his confidence in the Lord in the face of wicked enemies. While darkness drives many to be uncertain and fearful of life’s path, Jesus Christ continues to be the light of the world (Jno. 8:12). As many trust wealth, political parties, and even violence as a means of deliverance, true salvation from evil is only found in Jesus Christ (Lk. 19:10; Acts 4:12). Pride leads us to trust in our strength and power, even when experience shows us trusting in the flesh ultimately fails (Jer. 17:5-10). God gives power to the weak who live by faith (Isa. 40:29-31; 2 Cor. 12:9-10). Whatever evil forces arise in your life, the answer to enduring them and being victorious over them is in the Lord. Put your faith in God, love Him, and keep His commandments (1 Jno. 5:3-5).
22 And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. 24 But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:22–24, NKJV)
What drives you to withstand trials, adversities, and obstacles of resistance to achieve your goal? Too often, we are driven from our spiritual goal to seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness by fear, by doubt, by uncertainty, and many other hindrances. Paul’s example helps us stay the course (cf. Heb. 12:1-2). 1) He was “bound in the spirit” (to go to Jerusalem, v. 22). His mind was set on things above (Col. 3:1-3). His obligation to Christ was fixed deep within his soul. 2) He was undeterred by personal hardship (v. 23-24). Fear of persecution did not pull him off course. He cared more about serving the will of God than his own life. 3) His goal was to finish his race with joy (v. 24). Paul would not just finish his race; he would do so with joy (2 Tim. 4:6-8). 4) The ministry the Lord gave him was more important than his life (v. 24). Paul’s priority to faithfully preach the gospel is evident from a review of what he endured for Jesus (2 Cor. 11:23-33; 4:7-11). Our faith will be tested. Will we be moved when our adversary puts the allurements of sin before us? Will we be moved when enemies of the truth put trials and persecutions in our path? Will fear of death move us away from finishing our race with joy (Matt. 10:28)? Or will we say with Paul, “None of these things move me?”
7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, (2 Timothy 1:7–8, NKJV)
Fear and shame are companions. The fear of isolation (from family and friends), the fear of retribution (from influential people), and the fear of rejection (from those we love), and the fear of reprimand are mere samplings of the fears that cause the silence of shame and the retreat of fearing men rather than following the Lord (Matt. 10:28; Jno. 9:22; 12:42-43). Paul called Timothy to the courage provoked by faith. Paul experienced abandonment from brethren due to the gospel and his imprisonment for it (2 Tim. 1:15; 4:10, 16). But, the Lord stood by him, strengthened him, and delivered him from evil for salvation in His heavenly kingdom (2 Tim. 4:17-18). We are urged not to be ashamed of the gospel that saves us or those suffering for it (Rom. 1:16). Anchored by faith in His unshakable word, we can resist the temptations of fear and shame with power, love, and soundness of mind. May we boldly face every foe of faith, confident that “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37-39).
3 Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. 4 In God (I will praise His word), in God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me? (Psalm 56:3–4, NKJV)
David’s life was in jeopardy from the enemies of Israel as well as Saul, Israel’s king. David faced his fear with trust in the Lord. This did not mean David recklessly put himself in the way of danger (1 Sam. 22:1; 23:14). His faith directed him to live with humble trust in God. God’s word shaped David’s faith. Thus, David celebrated (praised) God’s word. It gave him confident assurance amid danger. With trust formed by God’s word, David would not be drawn away from God by being afraid of men. David repeats his confidence in God in verse 11 of Psalm 56: “In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:5-6 draws Christians’ attention to this passage, where it is linked to contentment. Our faith in God is to be so resolute that external forces will not shake us from its moorings. Our faith is in God, who said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (v. 5; Deut. 31:6). Faith overcomes the world with its threats (1 Jno. 5:4-5). Faith fashions fear into contentment as we trust God and obey His word (Matt. 10:28; Rom. 8:31-39). Do not live in fear. Trust the Lord, celebrate His word with thanksgiving, and be content in Him.
12 I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge and discretion. 13 The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate. (Proverbs 8:12–13, NKJV)
Wisdom is the insight and discernment that applies knowledge sensibly and carefully. Solomon will go on to say that wisdom begins by fearing the Lord: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10). “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever” (Psa. 111:10). We cannot miss the point that wisdom hates evil because it fears the Lord. Wisdom does not love, endorse, or promote evil. Instead, wisdom knows and despises the evil of pride, arrogance, the path of sin, and the profane, perverse mouth. The contrast is vivid: Should we make life choices out of pride and arrogance, we are not fearing God, we are not doing His commandments – we are not wise. The gospel says, “See then that you walk circumspectly (carefully, JRP), not as fools but as wise” (Eph. 5:15). Today, choose wisdom as your companion. Live carefully by fearing God and doing His commands, and it will be so (Matt. 7:24-25).
And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; (1 Peter 1:17, NKJV)
Christians sing the old spiritual song, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through…,” reminding us our stay on earth is transitory. Life is temporary, and when we live as if it is permanent we forget key components of a life well-lived in preparation for eternity. First, we forget we are immortal beings. Created in the image of God, we are not defined by the physical realm, but by the spirit, the inner spiritual person. We call on our Father in heaven, not on lifeless gods craved by the art and design of men. We live before God, and therefore we must live with an immortal perspective. Second, we forget what we do on earth will be judged by God, fairly and impartially. God sees and knows everything about us. We will each give account of ourselves to God. That should persuade us to live in His favor right now (Rom. 14:11-12). It should cause us to dread sinning against Him. God’s judgment of our lives will be personal, fair, and impartial (2 Cor. 5:10). We are convinced by God’s goodness and severity to do His will faithfully each day (Rom. 11:22). We are choosing what our judgment will be by the way we live. Remember, this world is not our home. So, live for heaven (Matt. 6:19-21).
31 The ear that hears the rebukes of life will abide among the wise. 32 He who disdains instruction despises his own soul, but he who heeds rebuke gets understanding. 33 The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom, and before honor is humility. (Proverbs 15:31–33, NKJV)
When these proverbs are combined they give us good insight into developing and living in wisdom. First, we must accept the rebukes of life (v. 31). There are lessons to be learned from the school of hard knocks. Life’s ups and downs will teach us wisdom – if we will hear them. Otherwise, we foolishly continue to repeat the same mistakes. Secondly, redirecting our lives through instructive rebukes means we care our about our own soul (v. 32). Understanding comes from accepting wise instruction. Unfortunately, pride and selfishness will prevent us from learning and heeding the rebukes of life, as well as the rebukes contained in God’s inspired word (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Matt. 16:26). Thirdly, when we couple fear (reverence) of God with humility we will gain wisdom and its honor (v. 33). Jesus repeatedly said only by humbling ourselves will we be exalted (Lk. 14:11; 18:14; Matt. 23:12). God gives grace to the humble, but He resists the proud (Jas. 4:6). Let us humble ourselves to hear the rebukes of life (v. 31). Let us reverence God and properly value the life He gives us (v. 32). And let us fear God, receive His wise teaching, and humbly do His will (v. 33). God will come in due time if we will hear, heed and humble ourselves before Him (1 Pet. 5:6).