John MacArthur on Proverbs (Part 2) What does it mean to fear the Lord?

Over and over in Proverbs you hear the words “fear the Lord.” In fact, some of he references are Proverbs 1:7, 29; 2:5; 8:13; 9:10;14:26,27; 15:16 and many more. Below is a sermon by John MacArthur from the Book of Luke on 3 reasons we should fear the Lord.

What does it mean to fear the Lord? That is what John MacArthur looks at today. I really believe if I feared the Lord more then I would sin less. I am convicted about this and I hope to live a life in the future that will indicate to those around me that I am fearing the Lord.

John MacArthur

I remember hearing Dr. Adrian Rogers say that if he had to do it over again he would read from Proverbs every day to his kids. They turned out to be great kids and they were raised right. Nevertheless, if he had to do it over again he thought a more emphasis on Proverbs is the way to go. That is why I am spending so much time in Proverbs with my kids today.

John MacArthur does a great job on Proverbs and here is a portion of his sermon on Proverbs.

Now in this process of teaching there is one compelling over‑arching consummate summary lesson and that is that we are to teach them wisdom. The word which dominates the Proverbs is the word “wisdom.” Sometimes the word instruction appears, sometimes the word understanding appears, sometimes the word discretion appears. But all of those words are simply elements of wisdom…to know, to understand, to be instructed, to have discretion means to act in wisdom. Wisdom means not simply thought but conduct. It means to live righteously. We are to teach our sons spiritual wisdom is the noblest and greatest and purest pursuit of their life.

In chapter 1 verse 20 wisdom is shouting in the streets, wisdom is personified here. Wisdom is lifting up her voice in the square. She is crying out in verse 22 for people to turn away from being naive, scoffers who are fools and to turn to wisdom.

The call of the whole book of Proverbs is that call, a call to wisdom. In fact, in chapter 2, would you please notice, the call by wisdom comes at the end of chapter 1 as wisdom personified cries out and cries out for men to come to her. In chapter 2 then we find the father encouraging his son to seek wisdom. Verse 4, “If you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasure, then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God, for the Lord gives wisdom, from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” The father is saying pursue wisdom…pursue wisdom…pursue wisdom.

In chapter 8 the whole chapter is about pursuing wisdom, going after wisdom. Verse 11 says wisdom is better than jewels and all desirable things cannot compare with her. Again the pursuit of wisdom. And so, the overarching lesson that a father teaches his son is to pursue wisdom. And chapter 10 verse 1 says a wise son will make a father glad…a foolish son will be a grief to his mother.

We are then, fathers, responsible on this Father’s Day to rethink this priority of teaching our sons wisdom. And I would like us to look at these first ten chapters and just pick and choose the elements that are here that I think make up ten crucial lessons a faithful father must teach his sons. And I want to tell you from my own life that these are the things that I have endeavored as a father to teach my two sons. If a son learns these ten things, he will be a blessing to you and he will be blessed by God. If you want your son to be a blessing to you, to be blessed by God, to bless the culture in which he lives, these are the ten lessons that you must teach your son. The sum of them is spiritual wisdom. This is a listing of the component parts of spiritual wisdom.

Lesson number one, teach your son to fear your God…fear your God. In chapter 1 and verse 7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,” and chapter 9 verse 10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” But everything starts with fearing God. Teach your son…”Son, fear your God.”

What do you mean fear? Well it has on the one hand a positive aspect, a reverential respect, a reverential awe. That means that I have to teach my son about God. I have to teach my son what God is like. I have to teach my son the attributes of God. I have to teach my son that God is powerful, that God is holy, that God is omniscient, omnipresent. I have to teach my son that God is immutable, his nature does not change, that He is just, that He is merciful, that He is kind, that He is loving, that He is gracious, that He is merciful, that He orders providentially all the circumstance of human history and the universe for His good, that He is a sovereign, in a word. I must teach my son to reverence the greatness of God.

And then the other side of it is I must teach my son to fear God’s displeasure…to fear God’s right to punish, God’s right to chasten, God’s right to judge. And in that awe of reverencing God’s holy character there is a healthy sense of apprehension because I know as a holy God He has a right to punish sin, including mine. If you want to do your son the greatest favor any father could ever do, teach him the character of God. Teach him what God is like. On the positive side, all of His attributes.

I remember when our children were little we took them through a book, Leading Little Ones To God which taught the attributes of God. We’ve always emphasized the attributes of God. They must know who their God is and they must learn to worship their God…that’s part of fearing Him. Teach your sons to worship. And you teach not only by what you say but by what you do. Do you worship faithfully on the Lord’s day? Are you consistent and faithful in worshiping the Lord? Are you here at the opening of the day in the morning and the closing in the evening service? Are you faithful to worship God in the Word yourself personally? Does your son look at you and see a true worshiper? Because whatever patterns of worship you have established for yourself, you have established for your son and he will likely establish for his son. What kind of legacy are you leaving?

And what about living in a healthy fear of God’s holy right to punish sin? Do you have that healthy fear? Do you understand that God has the right to punish you? Do you so live to avoid that?

Notice chapter 3 of Proverbs verse 5, this is really a description of a worshiping heart. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” The point being that if I am completely focused on God, He’s going to guard my life, He’s going to straighten my path. I want to teach my son how to trust the Lord with all his heart. The word trust in the Hebrew originally meant to lie helplessly face down. And there’s a sense of humility there, but there’s also a sense of submission there to the total sovereign control of God in which the worshiper says I not only am humbled in Your presence but I bow in Your presence submissively to anything that You would choose to do, that’s how much I trust You. Teach your son to trust that way. Teach him not to lean on his own understanding. The Hebrew word does not mean to incline, it means to support yourself. Teach him not to support himself by his own wisdom but to support himself by God’s wisdom. In all your ways acknowledge Him. The word there means to be aware of, to know, to have fellowship with. In everything in life teach him to do it in union communion with the living God. Teach him how to trust God for everything. How to lean on God for support totally and how to be aware of God’s consistent presence in his life. And if he so lives with that kind of trust and that kind of leaning and that kind of acknowledging, God’s going to direct his path. Teach him to fear his God.

And I believe that when God is feared, so is sin…so is sin. Proverbs says fearing the Lord prolongs life. You want to give your son that kind of rich full life? Proverbs says fearing the Lord is more profitable than wealth, it brings about life. It keeps one from evil. It results in riches and honor and it breeds humility. Proverbs says that those who fear God sleep satisfied and are untouched by evil. They have confidence, they will be praised and they have their prayers answered. Would you like that for your son? Would you like to know that your son will have his life prolonged to its fullness? Would you like to know that he will be kept from evil, that he will be brought honor and riches? That he would be humble, untouched by evil? Satisfied, confident, praised and have his prayers answered? Then teach him to fear God. This is the most crucial lesson a father could ever teach a son.



“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”

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