Proverbs 1:7 - "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction."
Growing up, there always seemed to be two ways in which God was characterised, forming opposing poles of a spectrum that church services, Christian books, and small group discussions would fall between. On one end, God was great, awesome, mighty, and to be feared; on the other, He was loving, compassionate, and generous with all that He had. It felt difficult to reconcile the picture of Almighty Lord with Gracious Father, Kind Saviour with Awesome Judge.
Going through Proverbs for my Quiet Time, I was struck again by its exhortations to wisdom through the fear of the Lord. It hit me that while knowledge may be about getting information, wisdom deals less with answers than with the attitude towards our questions. The author very emphatically emphasises that the right attitude is one of humility – the recognition of one's smallness in relation to God, one's contingency and dependence on Him. It is realising that when it comes to life's biggest questions (especially on suffering and pain), the lack of a satisfactory answer is evidence not for its absence but for the presence of a God whose ways, plans, and thoughts are higher than ours. The valleys of questioning present us with a challenge – will we love the Answer-Giver more than the answer? They also surprise us with a deeper love – our God wants to draw us first to Him, rather than the explanations we can wrestle from His mouth. The call to fear the Lord is therefore first and foremost a call to the knowledge of and trust in Him who is greater, kinder and lovelier than we can imagine. The call to wisdom is a call to a relationship with a God both loving and great.
The greatness of God, then, is not antithetical to His love. Instead, the more we meditate on the former, the more surprising and wondrous the latter will be. Indeed, who are we that He who made the stars would think of us (Psalm 8), call us friends (John 15), die for us (Philippians 2), and be ever-interceding for us at the right hand of God (Romans 8)? When we see how Almighty Lord became Gracious Father at great cost, how Kind Saviour bore the wrath of Awesome Judge, then we will know that to fear the Lord is to be called on a journey of being surprised by His greatness, goodness, and love. It will call us to higher praise, deeper holiness, and greater wonder.