Wisdom And Fear
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles to the book of Proverbs, that portion of the Word of God which we will be studying in this lesson. We would remind you that in the preface to the book of Proverbs, which is recorded in the book of Ecclesiastes, we found that the purpose of the book of Proverbs is to save us a lot of trouble. It is to save us a lot of expending of energy. It is to spare us many, many things.

In the book of Ecclesiastes, we learned that the man who wrote the book of Proverbs is a man who experienced much, and from his experience, he provided the things which are written here in the book of Proverbs under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

In the outline, the book is divided into distinct divisions which we are following at the present time. At the moment, we are discussing with you the first division of the book of Proverbs. The first division we have labeled Thirteen Lectures on Wisdom with a summary. These thirteen lessons on wisdom represent Solomon's or a father's advice to his son. We have discovered that these thirteen lessons on wisdom all began in the same way with the same phrase, “my son.”

This does not mean that every time you find the phrase, “my son,” in the book of Proverbs that you are beginning another study on wisdom, but it does mean that each one of these lectures begins with the words “my son.” We have studied some of them up to this point. The first lesson on wisdom, found in chapter 1, related to the theme of Shunning Evil Companions . The second lecture on wisdom, found in Proverbs, chapter 2, we studied under the theme of The Search for Wisdom . The third lecture on wisdom, found in chapter 3, verses 1-10, we have studied under the theme, Trust and Obey. The fourth lecture on wisdom, found in the last portion of Proverbs, chapter 3, we learned the relationship between chastening and wisdom. There are many sources of wisdom, but one very practical, profitable source is the chastening of the Lord, keeping in mind that the word chastening is not limited to punishment, that it includes the matter of training as well.

In this lesson we want to discuss with you the fifth lecture on wisdom, which we have labeled Wisdom and Fear because we are going to notice in this particular lecture how wisdom, which we have already identified abstractly as the Word of God, the teaching of the Word of God—doctrine, whatever you want to call it—is going to spare you in many of the fears that individuals face in everyday living.

Notice, please, the paragraph which begins chapter 3, verse 21:

Proverbs 3:

21 My son, let not them depart from thine eyes: keep sound wisdom and discretion:
22 So shall they be life unto thy soul, and grace to thy neck.
23 Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble.
24 When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid: yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet.
25 Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither of the desolation of the wicked, when it cometh.
26 For the LORD shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken.
27 Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.
28 Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and to morrow I will give; when thou hast it by thee.
29 Devise not evil against thy neighbour, seeing he dwelleth securely by thee.
30 Strive not with a man without cause, if he have done thee no harm.
31 Envy thou not the oppressor, and choose none of his ways.
32 For the froward is abomination to the LORD: but his secret is with the righteous.
33 The curse of the LORD is in the house of the wicked: but he blesseth the habitation of the just.
34 Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly.
35 The wise shall inherit glory: but shame shall be the promotion of fools.

Reminding you that this fifth lecture on wisdom is related to the subject of wisdom and fear and consequently everything in the lecture should be interpreted in the light of it, we discover that there are six fears from which the believer is shielded when he is well oriented in the Word of God, six fears from which the believer is shielded when he is grounded in the Scriptures. These six fears are brought to our attention in two ways—first, by direct statement and secondly, by implication. As we peruse this paragraph which we have read, I think you will be able to follow with us, making the distinction when we are talking about a direct statement of fear and when we are talking about a fear that is brought to our attention by implication, keeping in mind that the Word of God shields us from the fears that we call to your attention.

Fear of the Day

The first one that we would like to call to your attention we have labeled The Fear of the Day . That might sound like a rather foolish thing to even suggest, but after we think about it for a while, I think you will understand that it is not so foolish. Look at verse 23:

Proverbs 3:

23 Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble.

The word then refers to what we have mentioned several times over in several different ways, and that is, if you are grounded in the Word of God, if you are familiar with the promises of the Word, then you will be able to walk in the way safely and your foot shall not stumble. You may wonder why we refer to this verse as suggesting to us the fear of the days, and the answer is because of what is seen in verse 24:

Proverbs 3:

24 When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid: yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet.

In verses 23-24, the fear of the day and the fear of the night are presented by comparison and by contrast. You might think about the fear of the day in another way. You might think of it as the fear of failure. When we use that expression, perhaps we will come closer home to where most of us live. Most of us are concerned about success and failure. Most of us are concerned about the possibility that the day that lies ahead of us when we get up in the morning will not be the successful day that we hope it will be, so God says to you in verse 23, “If you are grounded in the Word of God”:

Proverbs 3:

23 Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble.

Many individuals arise from a restless night dreading the day, wishing it were night before the day has even started. I believe that reason for that is they have not learned some of the promises of God's Word.

Turn to Psalm 37 and notice a promise which is not just a promise you would use like a little bag of magic, but is grounded in the Word of God, which has its root in truth:

Psalm 37:

23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.

The good man here is a Christian man. Keep that in mind. Don't rob yourself of this promise by saying, “I am not very good.” If you are a believer, if you have received the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, then this promise is for you. Notice:

Psalm 37:

24 Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand.

What was it we read in our book of Proverbs? Notice:

Proverbs 3:

23 Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble.

God says, “If you are grounded in the Word, then you will not stumble or fall.”

Turn with me, please, to the New Testament, to an interesting portion of the Word of God which is recorded in II Peter, chapter 1. In this chapter, there is presented to us the way that the believer might grow into a mature Christian. There is presented to us the possibility that some believers never reach that state of maturity. There is presented to us some of the abundance and some of the lack that is related to the matter of growth.

You will notice in verse 4:

II Peter 1:

4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature…

To this inheritance given by God's grace, he is encouraged to add a number of Christian graces. Notice:

II Peter 1:

5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

We will not discuss these virtues because we do not have time, but we do tell you that they are very closely related to the fruits of the Holy Spirit described in Galatians, 5, verse 22, as in verse 8 of II Peter, chapter 1, you are told:

II Peter 1:

8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

If you grow in the Word, then you will not have a barren life in relation to the Lord Jesus Christ and your knowledge of Him; but if you fail to grow in the Word, then in verse 9, a rather sad thing is mentioned. It is a pathetic condition described. Notice verse 9:

II Peter 1:

9 But he that lacketh these things is blind [spiritually], and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.

As strange as it may seem to say, this passage of Scripture should settle beyond all doubt that it is possible for a person to receive Christ as his Savior and then fail to grow. He could even forget that he was born again so that if you were to ask him if he were a Christian, he might say, “No, I'm not,” and you would have to probe very deeply to find that he had had any faith in Christ at all. This is not a happy thing, so in verse 10, Peter said:

II Peter 1:

10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: [now this doesn't mean work hard to be sure that you will get to Heaven; rather, it means to give diligence, grow in the manner that is described, to make your calling and your election evident]: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall [never stumble]:
11 For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

So as we go back to Proverbs, chapter 3, we learn from the Word of God that if we are grounded in the Word, then in verse 23:

Proverbs 3:

23 Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble.

You need not fear what the day holds for you if you are grounded in the Word of God because you will be able to interpret everything that occurs in the day in the light of the Word of God, and you will not be distressed by what occurs. You will have no need of the failure that is related to the day.

Fear of the Night

We suggest that you look at verse 24 again, recognizing that it describes another fear—the fear of the night:

Proverbs 3:

24 When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid: yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet.

That is a reference to the night, isn't it? The verse is summing it all up by saying, “When you are grounded in the Word of God, when you are in fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ, then you need not have any fear of the night nor of the darkness.” To some people, this fear of the night is a very literal thing and needs no symbolic interpretation. To some people, the fear of the night is such a horrible thing that every lock that has ever been manufactured is already in use in their homes. I say this not critically but merely by way of illustration. There are some dear souls who want to return to their homes, particularly if they live alone, before it gets dark because they are afraid of the night. No, they are not silly and neurotic, and they are not afraid of some intangible something; they just know that living in a world such as we live in with so many things happening at night, they just don't know what they might face in their homes if they should return in the night, and so they are afraid of the night.

The night has always been used symbolically in the Word of God, and it may often speak to the believer of those times of uncertainty, those times of darkness, those times of fear, for which we may be called upon to go as believers because we are not sure of the area in which we are walking. We are not sure of the place we are going.

We suggest to you that if you know the Word of God, you have the cure for the fear of the night. Turn to Psalm 56, and notice a very precious portion of the Word of God which is a good formula for the fear of the night that conquers the hearts of so many dear saints of God. In verse 3, the Psalmist said:

Psalm 56:

3 What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.

That is one thing you can do if you are afraid. You can reach out for the invisible hand of the Lord, and say, “Lord, I am trusting in you, and I am shaking while I trust.” If you do that, you won't be doing anything worse than the Psalmist did, but we have to be fair to the Psalmist and not leave him in the third verse. We have to travel to verse 11, where he said:

Psalm 56:

11 In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me.

You see, he had grown some between verses 3 and 11, hadn't he? In verse 3, he said, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee,” but when he got in verse 11, he said, “You know, if I am trusting in the Lord, there is no need in being afraid; so I have put my trust in the Lord, and I will not be afraid.”

You noticed in Proverbs, chapter 3, verse 24, the words:

Proverbs 3:

24 When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid: yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet.

One of the things that makes the night unbearable is the fact that you have to lie awake. You toss; you turn; you simply cannot go to sleep. You are afraid. The Word of God can take care of that for you. In Psalm 127, you read:

Psalm 127:

1 Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.

This is dealing with two very important things in the life of the Psalmist. One was building the house; the other was the keeping of the city. If the Lord doesn't build the house, then it doesn't matter how it is built; it isn't going to stand. You might say, “I don't know about that. Don't you think we should be wise and get our architect and our engineer?” We did when we built this building, but with all the architects and the engineers and everything else, you can talk about, if the Lord wanted this building to fall, it would fall. “Except the Lord build the house, it is built in vain, and except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.” That is, the watchman walks around the city walls and wastes his time because the Lord can cause the invasion of the city if He desires. So if God is building the house and God is watching the city, notice verse 2, please:

Psalm 127:

2 It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows…

These three phrases ought to be interpreted together. It isn't teaching that you shouldn't hire an architect if you are going to build a building. This passage of Scripture isn't teaching that we should dismiss all of our armies, our air forces and our navies, and say, “The Lord is going to take care of us.” This passage of Scripture isn't suggesting that you take all of your locks off the doors and throw the keys away; it is suggesting that after you have taken the proper precautions and you turn it over to the Lord, then it is a rather foolish thing for you to rise up early because you can't sleep because of worrying. It is rather foolish for you to sit up late as some people do because they don't want to toss and turn because they worry. It is a rather foolish thing for you to eat the bread of sorrows, for when you rise up early and sit up late on the basis of what we are talking about in this chapter, you are eating the bread of sorrows. There is no need for you to do that, because, “…the Lord giveth His beloved sleep.”

This is exactly what the wise man was saying in Proverbs, chapter 3, verse 23, when he said that the individual who is grounded in the Word of God, when he lies down, will not be afraid. When he lies down, he will find that his sleep is sweet indeed.

Fear of the Unexpected

There is another fear and I have called it The Fear of the Unexpected . I think all of you have experienced this kind of fear some time or other. I am not talking about that kind of fear that you get when somebody jumps out from behind the door and says, “Boo,” and your pulse rate increases and maybe you think you are going to faint. That is sort of child-play, and that is a physical reaction, and it can happen to anybody. I am talking about your reaction when that unplanned event occurs in your life that is described in verse 25:

Proverbs 3:

25 Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither of the desolation of the wicked, when it cometh.

You have no need to be afraid of sudden fear, but somebody will say, “But, I didn't expect anything like this. I didn't dream that it would be as bad as this.” Well, don't panic. There is no need for you to panic, and if you are grounded in the Word of God, you won't panic because you will realize what is recorded in Romans, chapter 8, verse 28:

Romans 8:

28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

You can say with Job, if you have learned the ways of God: “He knoweth the way that I take, and when I am tried I shall come forth as fine gold.” When that sudden fear, that unexpected thing, occurs in your life, you don't go to pieces and wonder what is going to happen to you here on out. You say to yourself, “He is directing my steps and though this is a surprise to me, it is no surprise to God.”

I don't know how many times I have stood by the bedside of people who were ill, perhaps rather seriously, and they were concerned. I have said to them, “You know, we don't have anything to be concerned about really. Whatever the doctors find may be a surprise to them, maybe a surprise to you, but it is not going to be any surprise to God. He knows about it already and if your times are in His hands, there is nothing unexpected to Him. He has already made the plans for it.”

Isn't it a good thing to know that? You know, we believers have so much to be thankful for. Somebody said to me recently, in relation to my wife's illness, “What are you going to do if it turns out to be thus and thus?” I said, “I don't know. I'm going to ask God what He is going to do because you see, He has already made the plans, and He knows what the situation is. He has made His plans, and all I need to do is find out what they are and carry them out. That is all.” When you are grounded in the Word of God, you are not afraid of the unexpected. You don't panic when the thing comes along that you haven't thought would come along.

Fear of Being Destitute

Notice another fear that is brought to our attention in this paragraph from which we are shielded by the depth of knowledge that we have of the Word of God and our growth in grace. I call this The Fear of Being Destitute . You remember I told you that this entire paragraph should be interpreted in the light of the verses with which it began—that some of the fears would be expressly stated and some are brought to our attention by implication. We ask you to notice verse 27:

Proverbs 3:

27 Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.
28 Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and to morrow I will give; when thou hast it by thee.
29 Devise not evil against thy neighbour, seeing he dwelleth securely by thee.

I am going to ask you to accept a statement that I am going to make on faith—not faith in me, but faith in the Word of God. All you need to do to verify what I am saying is to take your concordance and follow through the Word of God. You will find that what I am saying is true. I suggest to you that this paragraph brings to mind a fear with which many people are afflicted, and that is the fear of being destitute, the fear of being needy, the fear of not having enough money in their old age. Everything that is suggested in this paragraph in verses 27-29 is related to the sin of covetousness. Why are people covetous in relation to material goods? Because they are fearful they will not have what they need for themselves. Why would any individual withhold good from someone to whom it was due when it was in their power to do it? God is not talking about a welfare program in verse 27. The Bible says if a man doesn't work, he shouldn't eat; but God is saying that if someone comes to you and they are in need and they are worthy of help, you ought not to withhold it from them.

Some folk say, “I can't do that because if I do that, I may not have enough for myself.” He gives you another illustration in verse 28: “If your neighbor comes to you and says, ‘I need so-and-so,' and you say to him, ‘You go home and I will think about it, and tomorrow I will see if I can scare it up for you',” when all the time you've got it. You ought not to do that, and in the light of the context of the Scripture, the only reason you wouldn't do it is you are afraid you aren't going to have enough for yourself; you have not learned the Word of God yet. You haven't learned from the Word of God that it is more blessed to give than to receive. You haven't learned what is recorded in II Corinthians, chapters 8 and 9, that when you trust God for your giving, He is able to give you abundant measure, pressed down and running over. Nobody needs to be forsaken in their old age if they are grounded in the Word of God.

Turn with me to Psalm 37 and notice what David had to say concerning this thing that we are talking about—the fear of being destitute in your old age. Notice verse 25:

Psalm 37:

25 I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.

That is a tremendous passage of Scripture. David said, “There is no need for a Christian man to beg.” Now, wait a minute. Don't go out of here saying a half truth and misquoting me. Don't go out of here and say that I said that a man wasn't a Christian if he begged. I didn't say that. I said that there was no need for him to. I said that God's Word says that David said, “I have been young. Now I am old. I have seen a lot of life and I have never seen the righteous forsaken nor have I seen his seed begging bread, nor do I expect to.”

If you say to me after the service as some people do when I make a reference to some verse like this, “Well, I know a very good man and he had to beg all of his life,” you argue with the Word of God. Don't argue with me. That is what God's Word says and all I can say is, “God said it, and that settles it.”

Fear of Not Being Noticed

Another fear that is brought to our attention in this passage of Scripture is the fear that many of us face of not being noticed. If you are grounded in the Word of God and if you are matured in the grace of God, then you are never going to be bothered with this fear.

Solomon was saying to his son, “Son, there is something more important than bringing yourself to the attention of other people.” You may be saying, “I have been looking at this paragraph and I don't quite see where that fear is listed.”

Keep in mind we said that some are by implication in light of the context. Notice verse 30:

Proverbs 3:

30 Strive not with a man without cause, if he have done thee no harm.
31 Envy thou not the oppressor, and choose none of his ways.

These verses describe what we call a bully —an individual who is always picking on somebody else without any reason to pick on him, an individual who is striving when there is no reason to strive, an individual who oppresses when there is no need to oppress. Why do people do this? There is one important reason among many that they do it and that is because it is one way they can call attention to themselves because they fear that they will not be noticed and that the glory will belong to someone else.

The child of God who is grounded in the Word of God never has to deal with this fear because he knows that God gives to every one of His children gifts that please Him. He has heard the Holy Spirit say to him, “What doth thou have thou didst not receive, and if thou didst receive it, wherefore dost thou boast about it?” He knows that regardless of how unnoticed he may be, as far as the world is concerned, he is not unnoticed in God's plan and purpose. He has learned the lesson that Baruch, the prophet of God, had to learn: “Seekest thou great things for thyself. Seek them not.” He has learned from the Word of God that he does not have to get into this mad, mad swirl and struggle that has gripped this world to make a niche and to make a place. He can walk quietly on, trusting the Lord, doing what God would have him do, and not be concerned about the outcome because God has a plan and God has a purpose.

Fear of Trusting God

The last fear that I would like to bring to your attention is what I have described as The Fear of Trusting God . Are you afraid to trust God? Are you? Now think. You may say, “I have trusted Him as my Savior.” I know that, but are you afraid to trust Him? You know, there are any number of individuals who have trusted God with the destiny of their souls, and they are afraid to trust Him with their lives. They have trusted God for eternity, and they are afraid to trust Him for tomorrow. They believe their children have been born again because they have seen their children place their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, and yet, they are afraid to trust their children to God to go back and forth from school. Are you afraid to trust God?

Look at verse 33 of our paragraph:

Proverbs 3:

33 The curse of the LORD is in the house of the wicked: but he blesseth the habitation of the just.

If you are a born-again believer, then you can count on the blessing of God's resting upon your home in a way that it does not rest upon unbelievers' homes. Notice verse 34:

Proverbs 3:

34 Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly.

If you are not too proud to kneel at the throne of grace to make your wants and wishes known, you can find grace and mercy to help you for your time of need, whatever it is, and when you know that the Word of God gives you enough promises whereby you can recognize the truth of verse 35:

Proverbs 3:

35 The wise shall inherit glory: but shame shall be the promotion of fools.

You will reach the place as you get deeper into the Word of God where you are not afraid to trust God with the most valuable possession you have. I am speaking humanly now. I know that the most valuable possession you have is your soul, but most of us don't think about that. Some of us think about our home's being more valuable than our soul, but you can trust Him with the most valuable thing you have because God has promised to take care of His own.

There are many people who have gone to church for many, many years and have not even considered the fact that they can trust God for all of these things that we have been talking about. Let me remind you if you are grounded in doctrine, you will need have no fear of the day. You will have no need to fear failure of any kind. You need not fear the night. You can have the sleep that is sweet, the sleep that belongs to the beloved. You will not need to fear the unexpected.

Do you realize as I stand here and look into your faces that something could come into your life tomorrow that was completely unexpected and could demoralize you, could devastate you? Do you realize that? It could, but it doesn't have to because the Word of God can relieve you of the fear of the unexpected. The fear of being destitute is a very real fear in the society in which we are living.

Somebody said to me the other day, “What are we going to do if things go much higher?” I don't know, but I am not concerned. I am not afraid. My God is handling the situation very well, and I have nothing to be concerned about.

The fear of not being noticed, of not being the most popular girl or the most popular boy, not being the most shining example of success in the business world—are you afraid of that? Is that what has caused your ulcers and frustrationyour prostration? You don't need to be afraid of that. You can look to the Lord to give you the place that you need, the thing that He wants you to do.

Conclusion

Are you facing the real fear of trusting God? Let me encourage you to trust Him. Let me encourage you to say, “God, this thing that has been bugging me for the last three weeks I am turning over to You now. I'm trusting You with it. You can do what You want with it. I am not even going to tell You what to do. Whatever You want to do with it, do it.” You may say, “Oh, I am afraid to do that.” Well, you don't need to be afraid, for God can take care of it.


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