“Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.” (Proverbs 3:7)
The consistent witness of Scripture is clear: God is the only true source of wisdom and life. If we are faithful in following Him, He will bless us; if not, we risk peril and judgment. One of the most dangerous traps we can fall prey to is justifying ourselves based on our own judgment. When we assume that we are in the right and others are in the wrong, including God, it is a recipe for disaster.
#1 Hear, Seek, and Worship
Holding fast to God’s Word was the primary charge of His covenant with Israel. Throughout the first books of the Bible, God pleads with the children of Israel to remain faithful to Him and serve Him alone when they entered the Promised Land.
The shining pinnacle of this charge is in the passage of Deuteronomy known as the “Shema.” This word, meaning “hear,” has come to mean the verses of Deuteronomy 6:4-9, where God gives what Jesus later calls the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:36-38). In addition to wholehearted devotion, we should also pass on that faithful allegiance to our children. We should remember what God has told us every minute of the day, and continually surround ourselves with reminders of His promises to us.
#2 Holiness as the Source of Wisdom
Solomon, who wrote much of the book of Proverbs, was known as the wisest person in the world (1 Kings 3:28). He gained this notoriety and fame through a very special request from God (1 Kings 3:5-14). God visited Solomon in a dream and offered him anything he asked for. Instead of riches and glory, Solomon instead asked God for wisdom. He recognized that he was inadequate to rule over God’s chosen people, and was burdened by the responsibility that had been passed to him after his father, David, died. He knew that he could not succeed unless God was with him, so he asked God to grant him wisdom.
God was pleased with this request, and granted him wisdom as well as other blessings. Although Solomon would later turn his heart from God through a divided heart, he started his rule by earnestly seeking after the Lord.
#3 Heeding the Signs of Warning
This penchant for wisdom gained him fame with the rulers of other nations, and he frequently penned psalms and proverbs as a means of recording his wisdom for future generations. But in everything, he sought to teach with tenderness and compassion, never lording his vast knowledge and insight over others.
Look at the word he uses to address his listeners: “my son” (Proverbs 3:1, 11). This is an endearing address that invites the reader to learn at the feet of the king himself, not fearing his judgment or suffering from condescension. Solomon wants to impress upon his listeners the importance of following God, and he does so with the love of a parent. Remember that God commanded Israel to pass on such wisdom to their children (Deuteronomy 6:7). Solomon took this charge to heart.
#4 Help from Our Sin and Wandering
Nothing less than a completely devoted heart will satisfy God. We are instructed to “trust in the Lord with all [our] heart,” and to forsake self-satisfaction and self-righteousness (Proverbs 3:5). We are to hold fast to God’s love and faithfulness so that we can reap the blessings of the Father (Proverbs 3:2, 6). This charge of wisdom means that we should not be quick to justify ourselves by our own standards, but to acknowledge God first. If we fail to lean into God, we can fall victim to all kinds of evil. We should instead be strong in our resolve and remember what God has planned for us. The apostle Peter has this same message in mind: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
Peter probably remembered passages like this when he wrote this warning. If we become complacent and fail to place God at the center of our hearts, evil and sinfulness can creep in and take root. Satan desperately wants to pull us away from the safety of God’s presence so that he can tempt us and trick us into sin against God. The tiniest bit of self-justification is enough of a foothold for Satan to do real damage in our hearts. We cannot allow ourselves to be taken in by these lies.
The “fear of the Lord” is not terror and unease; it instead refers to a holy reverence and respect. When we “fear” God, we recognize Him as the sole authority over our hearts, and the guiding light for our footsteps (Psalm 119:105). We freely yield to Him the right to lead us into what He sees as good for us, and we relinquish the burden of having to do everything under our own strength. When we look to God as the standard, we will not fall under the crushing weight of perfection. We can instead breathe the fresh air of God’s love, and find peace and safety in the wisdom and goodness of the Father.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Masters Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.