Weekend Thought by John Milbank

I walked past a church building recently and, inscribed around the arched entrance, I noticed these words: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”

Taken from the book of Proverbs in the Bible, the way this text is presented to the public intrigued me. How do the words “Fear of the Lord” affect the way I see God?

For some, the word fear conjures up a picture of a mighty being, watching over us from on high, and keeping track of our behaviour with eternal consequences for the way we conduct ourselves.

Whoops. Better put down that glass, watch our language and be nice to so and so; an endless list of do’s and don’ts.

And so we live out our lives in fear, but our God is so different.

I really like this comment from Eugene H Peterson, who produced the Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language, a version that has opened up the message of the Bible in a way that appeals to young and mature people.

“A fear that pulls us out of our preoccupation with ourselves, our feelings, or our circumstances into a world of wonder. Not dread but astonishment. Not terror but reverence. Not shaking-in-your-boots panic, but enraptured-with-love fascination.”

A fear of the Lord that speaks, not of a God determined to take away our freedom to live, but to give the believer life in abundance.

As the worshipper of this saviour passes through that church doorway, that inscription comes alive.

The fear of the Lord is indeed the beginning of a knowledge that will change everything.