Two university students ask: “What is the difference between wisdom and knowledge? How is fear the beginning of knowledge (Prov. 1:7), and what is fear for those under grace?”
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In Solomon’s day, 1,000 years before Jesus Christ, most nations had their own “wisdom” literature — distilled insights gained from long experience for living the good or happy life. Solomon collected such proverbs and composed his own — of which a sample is preserved in the biblical Book of Proverbs. By definition, proverbs are generalities, not absolute truths — someone has called them the “Probablies.” There may be exceptions, but proverbs state the general rule. It is proverbial that people who do right will prosper. But the Book of Job shows that there are exceptions to that generality.
We may think of knowledge as the acquisition of facts and wisdom as its prudent use and application. You and I both have known people running over with head knowledge but possessing very little common sense. In the wisdom literature of the Bible (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon), wisdom means viewing the circumstances and events of life through a godly perspective. The biblical “fool” (opposite of the wise person) is the one who leaves God out of his or her thinking.
To fear God is to reverence him, which is the only reasonable response by one who senses anything of God’s true holiness and majesty. The fool lacks sense enough to reverence God and to tremble at his holiness. The wise person lives in conscious awareness that God is the Creator and that we are part of his creation. There is a certain irony about this concept of “fear,” since only those who “fear” God need not be afraid of him. We know, in Jesus, that the Creator loves us intimately and eternally, but he remains the Creator Jehovah, not our “buddy” or “pal” who is somewhat our equal.