The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.
Psalm 111:10 (KJV)
Fear – God is mighty and terrible (Deut. 7:21), He is a consuming fire (Deut. 4:24), and He is vengeful (Ps. 94:1). But are these what David is referring to when he says that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom?
This word is yir’ah and the Strong’s Concordance would have us believe that, yes, that’s exactly what David means. But when we research the root which is yir the meaning takes an interesting twist. Yir is “to throw” and can relate to the flowing of a river, the throwing of one’s finger toward a direction in which to walk, or even the throwing down of oneself in fear of another. This definition works it’s way into yir’ah which actually means “a flowing of the insides.” Those of us who have experienced true fear in our lives can understand this relationship. We’ve felt our insides flow. But again, is this what David means?
The structure of the sentence actually reveals something quite different. In Hebrew it is a noun (fear) followed by another noun (LORD) with a definitive article. When this happens, the first noun belongs to the second. An example of this can be found here. But for some reason we interpret this word fear as if it belongs to us – it’s our fear of the LORD which is the beginning of wisdom. In contrast, the word fear actually belongs to God – it is God’s fear, or rather, it is that which flows from the inside of God that is the beginning of wisdom.
Did you see what just happened? Certainly God is terrible and vengeful, but that doesn’t have to do with the beginning of wisdom. The beginning of wisdom is what comes forth from the bowels of God – it is His Word. And when we understand Hebrew parallelisms we immediately identify that this thought is a parallel of the next thought – a good understanding have they that keep His commandments. So if understanding comes from keeping commandments, then wisdom comes from Torah.
Now take this in relation to what Yeshua says in John.
He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
John 7:38 (KJV)
First, Torah flowed from God to us. Our understanding and wisdom grew from it. And now in Yeshua, when we actively work in obedience to Him (believing), living water flows from us. This is the cycle. It is the Hebrew model. Is your life adhering to the model and growing in God’s wisdom, or are you still trying to break the mold by relying on your own smarts?