Wisdom consists in doing the next thing that you have to do;
doing it with your whole heart and finding delight in doing it.
And this delight is the sense of the sacred.- Helen Luke
A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.
– William Shakespeare
In Psalm 111, the author praises God’s works (great, full of honor and majesty, wonderful, faithful, just) and God’s character (righteous, gracious, merciful, provider, trustworthy, redeemer, eternal covenant keeper, holy, awesome). All of this leads up to the last verse, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding.”
Are we to fear God? For most of us, fear implies dread, horror, and terror. We fear bullies, monsters, or tyrants- powers far greater than our ability to oppose.
This understanding of “the fear of the Lord” isn’t helpful or truthful. It doesn’t encourage growth or trust. It doesn’t draw us to God or reveal the true character of God. It often results in a less than healthy fear response- fight, flight, freeze, or fawn.
The point of the psalmist is literally lost in translation, the translation of the word fear. I find it helpful to replace the word fear with respect or reverence. When the deepest understandings of respect and reverence are linked with God’s awesomeness and otherness, we have a translation that draws us into worship, relationship, and the pursuit of God’s transcendent wisdom.
Reverence of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.
Assuredly, Loving Souls, you should go to God with all humility and respect,
humbling yourselves in His presence,
especially when you remember your past ingratitude and sins.
– Alphonsus Liguori
Truly humble people are grounded in reality;
they neither preen under illusions of greatness
nor suffer agonies of self-hatred.
– Paula Huston, Simplifying the Soul: Lenten Practices to Re-new Your Spirit
Fullness of knowledge always means some understanding of the depths of our ignorance; and that is always conducive to humility and reverence. – Robert Millikan
Prayer: Wisdom and Reverence
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord
Great and Faithful One
God of Honor and Majesty
Wonderful and just are your deeds
Your ways are trustworthy, gracious, and merciful
Draw us into reverent relationship with you
Save us from shallow understanding and falsehood
Pour out your wisdom upon us
That we may know you and adore you
That we may trust you and follow you
That we may receive your gifts
and use them to heal and bless and welcome
as you do
We ask this in the Name of Jesus,
Your Truth made Flesh,
Your Light to us and the world. Amen.
Wisdom and Reverence © 2021 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.