“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:7). This time of year marks the beginning of many going back to school after the summer break. A new start should bring the anticipation of development and improvement unto maturity. However, there can be learning only if there is the proper approach to learning. Solomon is addressing this at the beginning of the book of Proverbs. Consider three thoughts about the basic attitude of respect for the Lord as it relates to learning.
Respect for the Source of All Learning. The Lord is the ultimate teacher. The proverbs of Solomon were not simply short statements of his personal experiences. It is written, “And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the seashore. And Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt. . . . And he spake three thousand proverbs: and his songs were a thousand and five” (1 Kings 4:29-30, 32). Solomon’s wisdom was inspired of God, not mere human accumulation of learning by the experiences of research. There is no need of trial and error with God’s wisdom for it is perfect in nature. Whenever anyone despises the Lord and thus despises the divine revelation of the word of God, it is to his own detriment. The apostle Paul stated of God and His instruction, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counselor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen” (Rom. 11:33-36).
Respect for the Sacrifice It Takes to Learn. Learning does not simply take place by sitting in front of a teacher and letting the words go into the ears. There is work, hard work, to be done to attain unto learning. One must respect the price to be paid to gain that learning in order to become wise. Solomon wrote, “Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God” (Prov. 2:3-5). Too many are not willing to be that “workman” (2 Tim. 2:15) that finds himself approved of God. Laziness and apathy eat away at the mind while worldly pursuits and pleasure turn learning into a wasteful existence. As the old adage goes, “Anything worth doing is worth doing well.”
Respect for the Structure of the Highest Learning. The knowledge that comes from God is a well-ordered life. There is structure and the use of proper judgment in all decisions of life guided by the inspired word of God. Solomon warned about fools who despise “wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:7). It is the Lord who directs the paths of those who acknowledge Him (cf. Prov. 3:6). When one fears the Lord, he will depart from evil (cf. Prov. 3:7). There is a path to follow in life and that is the one marked by the instruction of heaven (cf. Prov. 10:17). The Lord made man and knows what is best.
“And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding” (Job 28:28).
The book of Job gives great insight into various lessons learned in the midst of suffering. Job was a great man at the beginning of the book only to become a greater one at the end. The crucible of suffering brought some valuable lessons to his heart and mind. Consider three.
The Answers are not with Men. Job’s wife (cf. Job 2:9) and his three friends (cf. Job 2:11ff) said things that were extremely hurtful and incorrect. Job said to his wife, “Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips” (Job 2:10). Job knew that God was righteous in all His ways, he simply did not understand why things were happening to him like they did (cf. Job 3:11ff). Job’s three friends went about to draw a right conclusion to Job’s problems but were grossly wrong in their application of basic truths. Job said to them, “Lo, mine eyes hath seen all this, mine ear hath heard and understood it. What ye know, the same do I know also: I am not inferior unto you. Surely I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to reason with God. But ye are forgers of lies, ye are all physicians of no value” (Job 13:1-4). His friends’ diagnosis of the problem was wrong and therefore their conclusions were wrong.
The Almighty is Still in Control. Suffering can easily cause mankind to show his weaknesses. Regardless, there are no weaknesses with God. God is in complete control of both heaven and earth (cf. Job 1 and 2). When the Lord spoke to Job out of the whirlwind (cf. Job 38:1ff), there was presented a series of things that only God can do. All of creation is under the abiding control of God and dependent upon all His goodness. Job states in the middle of the revelation from God, “Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further” (Job 40:4-5). The insight to the infinite wisdom of God brought Job to the place where the sovereign control of God was not challenged. Suffering tends to draw humble men closer unto God. Those who are rebellious and self-willed face their own calamity.
The Acceptance of God is in Repentance. Job’s last words to the Lord are stated thusly, “I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withheld from thee. Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. . . . Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:2-3, 6). The Lord commended Job’s words to his three friends and reproved them for their lack of repentance (cf. Job 42:7-8). Job prayed for his friends after their sacrifices were offered and acceptance was extended even to them. They did not suffer like Job had suffered but their sin was brought to their minds. Repentance is unto salvation (cf. 2 Cor. 7:10). It is true strength in suffering to see one’s self and make the proper changes to be blessed.