The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility.
How important is the fear of the LORD for getting wisdom? Absolutely crucial! You will not get close to wisdom without fearing God (Job 28:28). How important is humility to getting honor? Absolutely crucial! You will not get close to true honor without it (Pr 11:2; 16:18; 18:12; 29:23). If you love wisdom and seek the favor of God and men, then here are the rules for your life: humble yourself before God and men in the fear of God.
What is the fear of the Lord? It is a reverent awe for Him and His power, a deep respect for His commandments and laws, and a fearful regard for the punishment He can bring on the foolish. It is not a slavish, demoralizing fear that causes terror or distress. It is a fervent and holy desire to please Him in all things and fulfill His desire for your life as close as possible. It is the sober realization that He is God and you are His mere creature.
What is humility? It is the knowledge that you are very fallible, very foolish, and very weak. It is the willingness to reject your own thoughts and opinions in order to be taught by God or men wiser than yourself. It is the ability to take correction, confess your faults, and change your methods based on the instruction of others. It is the discipline to keep your mouth shut, avoid the conflicts of others, and forgive their offences against you.
The importance of these two prerequisites cannot be overstated. Moses taught the fear of the Lord (Deut 10:12), and so did Joshua (Josh 24:14), Samuel (I Sam 12:14,20,24), David (Ps 34:9-11), and Solomon (Eccl 12:13-14). It was the conclusion of Solomon’s conclusive experimentation! It is the whole duty of man! The very foundation of wisdom requires the fear of God: without it you cannot even get started (Pr 1:7; 9:10; Ps 111:10).
The surest and shortest way to honor is the hovel of humility! Get down, before God and men put you down! If you get down, God and men will put you up! The lesson is certain; the law is infallible. God resists the proud, but He helps the humble. It is the way of Him Who cannot stand the stench of human confidence! Joseph reached the throne through the slave market and prison. Jesus reached the throne of glory through a stable and a cross!
Moses and David became pastors of a nation after pastoring sheep in great obscurity. Gideon and Jephthah had little pedigree or position, but God promoted them over His people. Rahab and Ruth were despised foreigners, one a prostitute and one a widow, but both are in the lineage of Jesus Christ! Daniel and Esther were orphaned early and captured by pagan kingdoms, but both rose to the right hand of power! Abigail said she was unworthy to wash the feet of David’s servants, but he chose her to be his wife!
When you fear the Lord, you have no fear of man, which corrupts the hearts of most men (Pr 29:25). If peer pressure does not bother you, and if threats do not intimidate you, then you will be proportionately wiser by not wasting mental effort or making moral compromise based on what others might think or do. Can you grasp this wisdom?
When you fear the Lord, you have wonderful knowledge, precepts, and principles that others do not have – you have the words of God to guide your thinking and actions. The man who fears the Lord trembles before His word (Is 66:2). Even pagans can recognize the great advantage of the Bible (Deut 4:5-8; Ps 19:7; 111:10; 119:98-100).
When you fear the Lord, you are accountable to a Judge higher than earthly authority. Men sin easily when the only risk is the displeasure or punishment of other men, but the fear of God brings the greatest motivation for a man to make wise and righteous choices. It was this fact that kept Joseph back from Potiphar’s wife and David from killing Saul.
When you are humble, you think before you speak, and you speak gently and kindly, because you know the foolishness of your heart and lips. Such caution and reservation brings respect and honor, even from kings (Pr 15:1; 16:13; 17:27-28; 22:11). Grasp it!
When you are humble, you get down before God and men. In that position, He gives grace and wisdom. In that position, He avenges you from your enemies. In that position, He exalts you above others, for He will crush the proud and promote the humble. In that position, He knows that exalting you will not bring the arrogance of self-confidence.
Reader, you have been shown the way of wisdom and honor. The blessed God of heaven inspired these words through the wisest and most honored king in history. Do you love and fear the God of heaven with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength? If not, get down now and begin! Do you despise your deceitful heart, foolish lips, and weak flesh enough to cry unto God that you are a lost cause? If not, confess your arrogance and begin!