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I would like to speak to you for a little while on that last theme of knowing God. And I do it with trepidation as I realize that the theme is so vast that who could feel adequate for it. But I’d like to turn you to Proverbs 2, to a passage which has become tremendously meaningful to me. Not that I believe I’ve exhausted its meaning but that I continually find myself returning to it again and again. The passage that has preoccupied me is the first eleven verses. We’re not going to read all of them but I just want to offer an observation. As I understand the theme of the first eleven verses, it is wisdom and then wisdom in three particular aspects: understanding, insight and discretion. And shortly after Ruth and I were married—that’s the way I date things—round about l979, the Lord really began to deal with me about my need of those three things; understanding, insight and discretion. And I turned to the Hebrew and made something of a study of the words and I’d like to share them with you just by way of introduction.
I think the best way to describe understanding is the English word comprehension which is a synonym for understanding. You know, you have comprehension tests in some examinations. Well, to comprehend means in Latin to take in the whole of a thing. To get an overall perspective. And I think that’s what understanding is. It’s being able to see a situation as a whole. It means that you can look at current history and see in all of it God’s purposes being worked out and his prophetic word being fulfilled. Or you can look at a situation in a church and you can see the whole situation, all its elements, how they relate. And probably where the problems are. Or it could be in a marriage. Understanding would be seeing all the different factors in a marriage, why it’s in danger of breaking down, the root problems, the sources of those problems. That would be just a brief picture of understanding.
Then insight as I understand it, means being able to see into things and to discern between things. And so that you’re no longer just looking at a mass of people in a church but you’re looking at the different types of people. The different degrees of commitment, the different degrees of loyalty. You can look at a married couple and see what it is that’s between them. One of the ways you can do that, you know, this is giving away one of the trade secrets, is you look in the eyes of a wife when she’s talking to her husband. And you’ll find out a whole lot about that marriage from just that one little—you know, women say a lot more with their eyes sometimes than they say with their lips. In fact, wise women say less with their lips and more with their eyes. The wife that says it all with her lips is headed for trouble. So insight, I think, another English word would be discernment. To discern is to recognize and distinguish between. Discerning of spirits is recognizing spirits and distinguishing between different spirits.
But then there’s discretion which is a very interesting word. For anybody who knows Hebrew, the Hebrew word is ?mizemach?. And it comes from a root which means to plan or to plot. And it’s used probably as many times in a bad sense that it is in a good sense. But it is used in a good sense and it is used of God himself. And so what is discretion? When God has given you understanding and when he’s given you insight, discretion is knowing what to do with it. And that’s where so many of us slip up. You know, you see the truth about somebody but that’s not enough. You’ve got to know when to tell it and how to tell it. I think discretion to a large extent is knowing what to say and what not to say and knowing when to say it.
Well I had this interesting experience which I’ll just tell, it’s a purely personal experience. I was pondering on and meditating over these three things; understanding, insight and discretion, and I was praying for God to give them to me more abundantly. And I was leading together with Ruth a tour to Israel of Americans. And I was talking in a meeting, I was just giving a talk on Israel and there was this man there. I think he was a professional psychiatrist, I’m not sure. But he was not one of these quote, spiritual people. Which is so good, I mean, because then you can really trust what God shows them. If a person is always getting spiritual revelations you begin to wonder how many of them are valid. But he told the man who was conducting the tour, he was afraid to tell me. But he said while I was speaking he saw three heads behind me from my right to my left. And he thought he was seeing things so he blinked, closed his eyes, and he looked and they were still there. I mean, this is what I like. He didn’t think he was getting a spiritual revelation. So he looked again and he still saw them so he went to the leader of the tour and said, you know, while Brother Prince was talking I saw these heads over him. And so the leader of the tour came to me and said this is what this brother saw. Well the moment he began to describe what he saw I thought God is telling me something. So I went to the brother who had had the—if you want to call it a vision—and I said tell me what you saw. I hope my memory is accurate, I’m not sure that it’s totally accurate. But he said the first I saw very clearly. It was well formed, it was clear and it was a bearded head that seemed to have authority and it was firm. Then he said the next one I couldn’t tell whether it was a man or a woman. And it was wearing something like a cowl and it wasn’t so distinct. And then he said the third I could hardly see it. It was very unclear. And I said what were they doing? And he said they reminded me of the secret servicemen when the president is making an appearance. He said they were just watching earnestly for anything that would threaten you. I thought, God, how good you are. I never even knew they were there. And if you look down here in chapter 2, verse 8, “he guards the paths of justice and preserves the ways of his saints.” And in verse 11: “Discretion will preserve you, understanding will keep you.” In other words, they’re there as your protection. They are like the Lord’s secret servicemen. When you appear, they’re there to see that nothing harms you. Well, that was a tremendous blessing to me and then as I thought about it saw that those are the three things I’d been praying for. And God showed me where I’m at. This is about l980 I think. And I knew the man with the beard over here was understanding. And he was clear, he was firm, he was authoritative. And God showed me you have understanding. Then the next figure was insight and it was interesting it could be male or female. Because insight is just as much a feminine capacity as masculine. In fact, I think most husbands would agree their wives usually have more insight than they have. The problem is that we are so slow to listen to what they tell us. I didn’t hear any female amens from that. And God showed me that insight is there but it isn’t fully formed. But then here over on the left was discretion which was really not by any means fully formed. And I thought, Lord, that is certainly the truth. I need a whole lot more discretion.
And then God began to take me through a little view of my spiritual walk and show me how many times I’d gotten into trouble, not through lack of understanding and often not through lack of insight, but through lack of discretion. And if I were to describe discretion in New Testament words it would be the words of Jesus: be as harmless as the dove but as cunning as the serpent. And you see, there is a certain sense in which we need cunning. I think cunning would be the best English word to describe that.
Well that’s just a little background of what this particular passage in Proverbs has meant to me personally. And I want to tell you I am still praying earnestly for understanding, insight and discretion underlined. I always have to consider whether it’s discretion to tell you that story or not. But I felt tonight that God wanted me to relate it.
Now I want to go back to the beginning of Proverbs 2 and I want to consider the first five verses. And if you analyze the structure of these verses the first four verses are introduced by if and they state conditions that you have to meet in order to obtain the promise or the goal which is stated in verse 5. And each of the conditions typically of Hebrew poetry, each of the conditions is stated in couplet. Two parallel statements which together make up the whole statement. Like if you want to take an example from Psalm 33:6:
“By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all their hosts by the breath or spirit of his mouth.”(NKJ)
So that’s a couplet. By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; all their hosts by the breath or spirit of his mouth. But to get the full statement you have to put them together. By the word and the spirit of the Lord the heavens and all their hosts were made. Do you understand? That’s a very, very common feature in Hebrew poetry. And it’s found here in every one of these first four verses. So I’ll read all the verses and then I’ll briefly analyze them. But I want to read to the end because I want you to see what the goal is. And more and more as I meditate on this it seems to me the goal is so tremendous. It can scarcely be put in words. Notice this is addressed to God’s children, it’s not addressed to unbelievers. It’s only those who are born again through the spirit of God.
“My son [or my daughter, the Hebrew comprehends both sexes] if you receive my words and treasure my commands within you [that’s the first couplet] so that you incline your ear to wisdom and apply your heart to understanding; Yes, if you cry out for discernment and lift up your voice for understanding; if you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” (NKJ)
Now to me the climax is in that last phrase. Find the knowledge of God. And that’s really what I want to center my talk in this session on, is finding the knowledge of God. See, I think that’s what Israel missed. They got the law, they got the covenant, they entered the land. But most of them never found the knowledge of God because they bypassed the first part of the Lord’s statement, I have brought you to, not the covenant, not the law, not the land, but myself. And I trust that none of us will make that same mistake. But I am a practically minded person in spiritual things. When it comes to practical things I’m not so practical. But in the spiritual realm I’m practical if you understand what I mean. So I don’t just like a vague phrase well, the knowledge of God is what we need. I like to be able to say the knowledge of God is what we need and this is the pathway to attain to it. And I believe here the pathway is very clearly stated. Four if verses and then the goal.
So let’s consider for a moment the if verses. You see, the majority of the promises of the Bible are conditional. Not all of them but most of them. In other words, God says if you will do so and so, I will do so and so. Like Exodus 15:26, if you will diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord, et cetera, et cetera, I will be your doctor. You have no right to say the Lord is my doctor if you bypass the conditions. And here the promises you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. That’s the goal. Here are the steps.
Verse one. “If you receive my words and treasure my commands within you.” So the first thing is to be receptive to God’s words. And the epistle of James says lay aside all naughtiness, and superfluity and filthiness and receive with meekness the engrafted word which is able to save your soul. Many, many people hear the word but never receive it. Receiving it requires what James says, meekness. You have to be willing to submit to its total authority. You do not just listen and let it pass you by. You receive it within you. That’s the first requirement.
God’s primary means of revelation is his word. We have no right to bypass the word and expect revelation. If we receive the word, revelation will come through that and in other ways. But the one who does not receive the word has no right to expect revelation by some other channel, and if they do receive such revelation it’s liable to be deceptive. So we begin by receiving God’s words and treasuring his commands within you. Or the storing up of his commands. Keeping them in a sure, secure place within you.
How do you react to God’s commands? Do you resent them or do you treasure them? See, the contemporary attitude about anyone who tells you what to do is they’re my enemy. That’s the spirit that’s abroad in the earth today. Any form of authority is to be suspected and probably rejected. But God says I want you to treasure my commands. I want you to receive them as the most valuable thing. We always need to bear in mind that God’s commandments are given for our good. They’re not given to make life difficult for us, they’re given to make us successful and to preserve us. And it’s not sufficient merely to hear his commands, you have to treasure them within you.
One thing that I recommend, it’s very simple, very familiar but it’s very important is the memorizing of scripture. That is one way you can treasure God’s commands. I’ve had ladies who told me, “Brother Prince, I just can’t remember scripture. My memory just doesn’t retain scripture.” But the same lady will go to her doctor, have a fifteen minute consultation, come out and tell you verbatim everything her doctor told her. We remember what we consider to be important basically. If we really consider it important we will remember it.
Second, if you incline your ear to wisdom. Now the inclined ear is one of the themes of Proverbs. You’ll find that phrase again and again. When I was in the hospital and searching the Bible about healing, the ultimate passage that got me out of the hospital was Proverbs 4:20–22.
“My son, attend to my words, incline thine ear unto my sayings, let them not depart from thine eyes, keep them in the midst of thine heart; for they [God’s words and sayings] are life to those that find them and health to all their flesh.” (NKJ)
That’s as comprehensive a promise of health as you can find anywhere in the Bible. But it all depends on our attitude to God’s words and sayings.
And the second requirement is incline your ear. To incline means to bow down. You cannot bow down your ear without bowing down your head. I challenge you to do it. You can’t. What does the inclined head mean? What does it represent? Humility or teachability. I remember as I was reading those words in Proverbs 4 and trying to apply them and reading the Bible to find out what it had to say about healing. And I found that every page has got something to say about healing or long life or strength or prosperity. My response was that can’t be true.
See, I don’t want in any way to be critical of my background, but I had emerged from twenty years of churchgoing believing if I were to be a Christian I would be doomed to be miserable. And I decided that the price was too high to pay for what I saw. So when I really came face to face with the Bible I couldn’t believe what God really wanted for me. That he really wanted me to prosper, to be successful, to be healthy. Every time I came across clear statements I said to myself, it can’t be that way. It must be wrong, it must be different.
So one day when I was reasoning like that the Lord spoke inaudibly to me and he said, now tell me, who is the teacher and who is the pupil? And I said, Lord, you are the teacher and I am the pupil. And he said, would you mind letting me teach you? And I saw that I had not inclined my ear, do you understand? I wasn’t willing to hear what God was saying. And I find the majority of people from any kind of Christian background find it very difficult to incline their ear. By nature we’re stubborn, we’re proud, we’re unteachable. And we have formed our own concepts of what Christianity is like, what the Bible has to say and we don’t hear what God says. I tell people if you’ve never been astonished by the Bible you’ve never really understood it. Because it is an astonishing book. The things that God commits himself to do are breathtaking. But we write them off, we explain them away. Why? We haven’t inclined our ears, do you understand? So that’s the second verse, if you incline your ear to wisdom and apply your heart to understanding.
The word apply, again, is a key word in Proverbs. I think the best single adjective I can think of is diligent which is another key word in Proverbs. To apply your heart is to be diligent in seeking to understand and take in all that God wants to say to you. And it requires time. You cannot really apply your heart to anything without giving time to it. And most of you, dear brothers and sisters, do not give enough time to the Bible, that’s one of your root problems. As I’ve said, if you would exchange the amount of time you spent in front of the television set for the amount of time you spend with the Bible and make them opposite, you’d be amazed how spiritual you’d be. Very little that builds your faith or brings you the knowledge of God comes through the television set. Now there are Christian programs, thank God for them.
Another problem with television basically, even Christian television, is that it tends to make people more and more passive. People are just used to turning a knob and let things pass in front of their eyes. Well that’s not the meaning of apply your heart. It takes effort. I grew up in the days when learning was supposed to be hard work. And we were expected to learn all sorts of things that weren’t enjoyable. Then a philosophy emerged in education where if it’s difficult, don’t try it. If it involves hard work, it’s wrong. Believe me, both in the natural and in the spiritual there are lots of things you will never achieve without hard work. If you’re not prepared to work hard you can just write yourself off as second class in any area of life. No one ever yet died of hard work, that’s my opinion. People die of tension, stress, but not hard work. I don’t talk about working hard because I enjoy what I’m doing. And I’m committed to it. But I tell you, Ruth and I work hard. The young ladies that have lived in our house and served us are absolutely amazed at the amount of things we give ourselves to or the amount of time we give ourselves to things. The thing with me is I’m not really interested in secondary things any longer because I’m nearly seventy years old and I realize that as you get on in life your interests change. But I feel so grieved for people who spend all their time with the secondary and never get to the primary. That is not going to be my way of life as far as I can determine it. So those are the second pair in verse 2, incline your ear to wisdom, apply your heart to understanding.
Verse 3, “If you cry out for discernment and lift up your voice for understanding.” Notice discernment has come in now. What does the word signify to you? Crying out and lifting up your voice. They signify prayer I think, don’t they? But I think they signify more than just the famous prayer of the average church member: God, bless me and my wife, my son John and his wife, us four, no more, Acts 2:4, Amen. That’s not crying out.
But I’ve found that God appreciates desperation, have you discovered that? And sometimes he waits until we cry out, until we lift up our voice. It says of Jesus, he prayed with vehement crying and tears. He gave himself totally in prayer. I cannot exactly explain all of God’s dealings, but I tell you, there are times in your life when God waits for you to be desperate. And you say God, why are you letting all this happen to me? And God says I’m waiting for you to be desperate. Why do you want me desperate God? Because that’s the only way you can express your appreciation of what I’m offering you. Until you’re prepared to be desperate you don’t appreciate what I’m offering you. So there’s an element of prayer. The third verse deals with prayer.
I say two things today in ministry about the baptism in the Holy Spirit and deliverance from evil spirits. I discovered who they are for. The baptism is for the thirsty, and deliverance is for the desperate. Some people say to me, why don’t some people get delivered? They’re not desperate. And I sometimes tell people, you’re not desperate enough, come back when you are. And you’d be surprised how desperate that makes them! I don’t argue with people theological issues about the baptism. The baptism isn’t for theologians. Jesus said if any man thirst, let him come to me and drink. Bypass the argumentative and go to the thirsty. Bypass the argumentative and go for the desperate, do you understand? That’s the way God does.
Verse 4, “If you seek for her silver and search for her as hidden treasure.” Now this shows the kind of situation Jesus spoke about in one of the parables, the treasure hidden in the field. And do you remember what you had to do to get the treasure? You had to buy the field. I’ve often pictured the man in that parable, there’s this big useless looking plot of ground, all overgrown with thistles and has no apparent commercial value. And he sells all that he has and he buys it. And I can imagine people saying what ever did that man make that foolish investment for? But he knew that there was something in that field which nobody else knew about. And he knew that he couldn’t get the something till he’d bought the field. He wouldn’t have the legal right to it. So he paid the price for the field and then he started to dig for the treasure. And digging is hard work. It brings blisters. And the Lord says there’s a price to pay and then there’s work. If you’ll seek her as silver and dig for her as for hidden treasure.
What does all that say to you? I think one thing it expresses is single-mindedness. A person who fulfills those conditions is a single minded person. He has decided what he’s out for and he’s going to get it. I think single-mindedness is an almost invariable condition of success in any area of life. The Bible says a double minded man is unstable in all his ways. And God says he will not answer the prayers of a double minded man. I tell people if you aim for nothing you can be sure you’ll hit it. I see today so many aimless, unmotivated people in life, it is tragic. Don’t you be one of them. There is almost nothing more tragic than an unmotivated life. And if you’re a child of God this whole offer is open to you. You can make mistakes, God will overlook them. But don’t have a wrong attitude to what God offers. Because that insults him. God says here’s treasure and you say well, I think I’ve got to go and talk to my friends.
Let’s frankly ask ourselves how many unprofitable hours do we spend in all sorts of useless conversation. Bear in mind that when you’re doing that you’re sowing. But you’re sowing to your flesh. And you will reap. Paul says he that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption, that’s right. I remember I was associate pastor in an Assembly of God church in the United States for a brief while. And one of my ministries was visiting the sick in hospitals. And I had a lot of sick to visit. And I thought to myself, here’s a church that believes in and teaches divine healing, and they’ve got as many sick people as the Episcopalians or the Presbyterians. And I thought what’s the reason. And the Lord really gave me that verse. If you sow to the flesh you shall of the flesh reap corruption. Spending many, many hours in aimless, useless occupations is sowing to the flesh. And when you get in the hospital you cannot necessarily expect that God will instantly give you faith. Because you’ve neglected to cultivate it year after year. What you’re doing then is reaping what you’ve sown.
All right. Now let’s come to the conclusion, verse 5. “Then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” I’d like to talk briefly about those two aspects of that promise. I think they go together. As I’ve explained in Hebrew poetry, the two halves of a verse complement one another. They say the total thing. I really don’t believe in the long run you can find the knowledge of God without the fear of the Lord. I believe the fear of the Lord is an essential condition. God does not reveal himself to those who do not have the fear of the Lord.
Now I want to give you a number of scriptures about the fear of the Lord. But first of all I would like to try to give you a mental image by which you might, in a way, form some comprehension of what the fear of the Lord is. I came to the Lord insofar as there were any human agents in my coming to the Lord, through an elderly couple who kept a boarding house in Scarborough in Yorkshire. And they were godly people, they were Pentecostals. They were friends of Smith Wigglesworth as a matter of fact. But they allowed themselves to be circumscribed into the limits of Pentacostalism. And this man had been delivered from the spirit of fear. And he told me, when you’re a Christian there’s no fear of any kind. And young though I was in the Lord I said, oh yes there is. There’s the fear of the Lord. That’s clean and endures forever. And it was somewhat tragic because he died sick. He had to have his leg amputated because of gangrene and died shortly afterwards. And he had believed so passionately and contended so continually for divine healing that it was a tremendous blow to his own image of himself. I don’t doubt that he went to heaven and if I’m enabled by the grace of God to get there too I’ll meet him and thank him for bringing to me the truth of the word of God for the first time in my life. But it’s always remained with me what a tragedy that that man when he was delivered from evil fear concluded that he was delivered from all fear. That’s not true. And I want to give you a number of scriptures about the fear of the Lord.
But first, I remember talking to him and trying to explain to him how I understood the fear of the Lord. I was still a young believer at the time but I said imagine that you’re on a very high mountain peak. It’s a place of incredible grandeur and beauty and you can look up into the heavens and see the glory and you can look around the earth from this elevated place and see the beauty of the sea and the mountains and the fields and the forests. And there’s just no exhausting its delights. But there is a very steep cliff that goes down hundreds of feet. There is a railing that protects you but if you go to that railing and lean over, something hits you in the pit of your stomach and you say to yourself if I were to lean a little further, that would be the end and I would crash to my destruction. That’s how I picture the fear of the Lord. And I think it’s tremendously important that we allow the Holy Spirit to impart it to all of us.
You see, if you turn to Isaiah 11 you have a prophetic picture of Jesus as the Messiah in the first few verses. Just the first three verses. There’s no question, I think, for anyone who believes in Jesus, this is the prophecy of Jesus as the Messiah. And it says:
“There shall come forth a rod from the stem of Jesse and a branch shall grow out of his root. The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.” (NKJ)
Now in the book of Revelation the Holy Spirit is presented as seven lamps of fire that burn before the throne of God and they’re called the seven spirits of God or the sevenfold spirit of God. I’ve always seen the revelation here, the sevenfold spirit of God. If you’ll look for a moment, verse 2, the Spirit of the Lord. The Spirit that speaks in the first person is God. Acts 13, the Holy Spirit says, “Separate unto me Barnabas and Saul for the work which I have called.” He spoke as Lord in the church. “The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,” that’s 2 and 3. “The Spirit of Counsel and Might” that’s 4 and 5. “The Spirit of Knowledge and of the fear of the Lord,” 6 and 7. And notice that knowledge and the fear of the Lord are united. Dear brothers and sisters, it is so dangerous to have knowledge without the fear of the Lord because knowledge puffs up. What will hold you, the fear of the Lord. And notice this is a picture of the Messiah. And one of the sevenfold aspects of the Spirit that rested upon him was the Spirit of the fear of the Lord. If Jesus needed the fear of the Lord, who is there here this evening that doesn’t?
And then the next verse emphasized this particular aspect.
“His delight is in the fear of the Lord and he shall not judge by the sight of his eyes, nor decide by the hearing of his ears.” (NKJ)
Notice the one aspect which is singled out and mentioned is the fear of the Lord. Jesus delighted in the fear of the Lord. Can you do less?
And then if you turn to Psalm 19:9:
“The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring [how long?] forever.” (NKJ)
It never comes to an end. And it’s clean. If there’s one thing that will keep you spiritually clean, it’s the fear of the Lord. Paul says in 2Corinthians 7:1, “let us purge ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.” I believe the surest protection against filthiness of flesh and spirit is the fear of the Lord. And I want to give you a number of scriptures about it. I believe the impact of these scriptures is sufficient without my preaching on them. Let’s look for instance in Job 28:28. How many of you like the book of Job? I love it. Job 28:28:
“And to man he said, behold the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom. And to depart from evil is understanding.” (NKJ)
And I want to tell you brothers and sisters, without the fear of the Lord there is no true wisdom. And it always will cause you to depart from evil. The fear of the Lord and delight in evil are totally inconsistent. And then in Psalm 25:12–14:
“Who is the man that fears the Lord, him shall he teach him the way he chooses.” (NKJ)
Who does God teach? What kind of person? The one who fears the Lord. You want to be taught by God? Do you meet the qualifications? See, God doesn’t choose his students by intellectual qualifications. He chooses them by character. How wise he is. I’ve seen so many Christian institutions that chose their students by intellectual qualifications and they made some very unwise choices. God is not so foolish. He himself shall dwell in prosperity. The original version says his soul shall dwell in prosperity, his descendants shall inherit the earth. Now verse 14:
“The secret of the Lord is with those who fear him and he will show them his covenant. [or his covenant to cause them to know it]” (NKJ)
See what I’m talking about? Covenant—which is a theme I didn’t plan to speak about. You see, covenant comes by revelation. You cannot understand covenant just by intellectual study or theology. Covenant is something that God reveals to those who fear him. If you don’t receive it by revelation you can’t receive it. I’ve discovered that I cannot preach on covenant unless the Holy Spirit has prepared the audience. And it’s strange that I’m returning to that theme again and again this evening because it wasn’t in my outline at all. And I suspect the Holy Spirit has prepared the audience. And I suggest to you that it’s very worthwhile letting God show you his covenant. It’ll give you a different grasp of God. It’ll give you a sense of security that you will not know in any other way. I find the biggest single problem with Christian leaders is personal insecurity. And it causes them to do all sorts of things that they do in order to achieve security not by the leading of the Holy Spirit. And not for the good of the flock. And I want to tell you that I don’t believe that there’s any way to find true personal security except in your relationship with God. I’ve encountered Christians who are seeking security in their relationships in the body. That’s wonderful but it’s secondary. And I do not know of any Christian of whom I can say he will never let me down. I wish I did. I’m not saying there aren’t any but I’m saying I wouldn’t know how to pick them. I think God has given me one in my wife but that’s his wisdom, not mine.
But there’s one person who never will let you down. Do you know who that is? That’s God, that’s right. Ultimate security must be rooted in the knowledge of God. That’s why there are so many insecure Christians. I think almost any minister that’s dealing with people’s problems would agree that rejection and insecurity are probably the two major problems of contemporary society. And the solution to both is found in God. When you really know that God has accepted you, you do not need to be troubled with rejection. And until you know that no human rejection can take the place of God’s acceptance.
Let’s look on in Psalm 34:11–12:
“Come you children [that again is God speaking] listen to me. [Notice the first requirement is listening] I will teach you the fear of the Lord. [And what goes with it?] What man is he that desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good?” (NKJ)
That’s the product of the fear of the Lord. But notice that the fear of the Lord has to be taught. And it has to be taught by God himself. Christian ministers can do much but the ultimate source of the teaching is God himself.
And then the next fact that I want to state is that it must also be chosen. Proverbs 1:28–29. Here is the judgment of those who have rejected God’s provision.
“Then they will call on me but I will not answer. They will seek me diligently but they will not find me. [Why not?] Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord.” (NKJ)
Notice again knowledge and the fear of the Lord are combined? And notice that these people did not choose the fear of the Lord. It has to be taught but it has to be chosen. Now let me ask you and please don’t make any public response. Have you chosen the fear of the Lord? Otherwise you are in danger of finding yourself in this category; of people who rejected knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord.
Let’s look at a few other statements. I feel a sense of solemnity settling on this meeting. Psalm 11:10:
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
And where it says beginning it means the primary part. In other words, true wisdom is impossible without the fear of the Lord.
And then in Proverbs 9:10. You’ll notice that Proverbs is probably the book that deals mostly with this.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
Notice fear and knowledge. And there again we’re talking about the knowledge of the Holy One. What’s that? The knowledge of God. And then Proverbs 1:7, I’m taking you backwards and forwards because I’m following a kind of logical sequence.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”
Not only is it the beginning of wisdom but it’s the beginning of knowledge, do you understand? Now we’re not talking about intellectual knowledge, we’re talking about spiritual knowledge.
Then let’s look just for a moment, and very quickly because I have one more thing I want to deal with, some of the benefits of the fear of the Lord. If I can just introduce you to this you’ll never want to give it up. Believe me. I do not know of any one thing to which greater benefits are promised in the scripture than the fear of the Lord. They are staggering. Proverbs 10:27:
“The fear of the Lord prolongs days: but the years of the wicked shall be shortened.” (NKJ)
Now that’s a recurrent theme with the fear of the Lord, that it leads to long life. That’s the first thing in Psalm 34, come ye children, listen to me, I’ll teach you the fear of the Lord. Who is it that desires life and many days that he may see good? The fear of the Lord. Proverbs 14:26–27:
“In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence and his children will have a place of refuge.”
Strong confidence is the opposite of insecurity, you see? And it provides a place of refuge. Then the next verse:
“The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life to avoid the snares of death.” (NKJ)
The other main theme associated with the fear of the Lord is life. And then in Proverbs 19:23. This I think is perhaps one of the most staggering promises in all scripture.
“The fear of the Lord leads to life and he who has it will abide in satisfaction [or will abide satisfied].”
You see the corollary to that. Dissatisfied people don’t have the fear of the Lord. And that’s true. You meet a dissatisfied, discontented person and you can be sure he lacks the fear of the Lord. He who has it will abide in satisfaction. He will not be visited with evil. What more could you ask for than that? Life, satisfaction and exemption from evil. What’s it due to? Tell me. The fear of the Lord.
And then we could just glance in Proverbs 22:4, what does that say? I would be unfair to cheat you of that one.
“By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, and honor and life.” (NKJ)
Praise God! And I think I have to say at this point I’ve proved it in my experience. I hope I can say that without pride or arrogance but I think I would be depriving God of his glory if I didn’t say that it’s been proved in my experience. And brothers and sisters, if you’ve been associated with a Pentecostal movement for forty years and more as I have, you’ll know that it was not one of the usual benefits of being a Pentecostal pastor to abound in prosperity. I can remember when I had to buy my razor blades one at a time because I couldn’t afford a pack. Oh God is so faithful. But listen, if you put riches and honor without the fear of the Lord, you’ll go astray.
Now let’s just conclude by returning or going on to the knowledge of God. Let’s go back to Proverbs 2 for a moment. The 5th verse:
“Then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” (NKJ)
I think I’ve shown you that those two things are almost invariably associated. In fact, knowledge without the fear of the Lord is a disaster. And I just want to talk about finding the knowledge of God. And I want to illustrate it, not explain it but illustrate it from one of my favorite illustrations which is the tabernacle of Moses. And some of you have perhaps heard some of my teaching on this theme. The tabernacle of Moses is a theme that occupies many chapters of scripture. Many chapters in the book of Exodus and quite a large proportion of the epistles of the Hebrews is devoted to this extraordinary structure that was erected in the wilderness more than three thousand years ago and has long since disintegrated. And extraordinary structure. First of all a linen fence surrounding a court. And then a big bronze altar and a laver of bronze. And then this strange tent which outwardly was not at all impressive I’m sure. It was covered with badger skin and I don’t think badger skins are particularly beautiful. But inside it was a very unusual structure. In two sections, a tent. And although it was outwardly unpretentious, it had some very precious materials and some very skilled craftsmanship inside it. And it was in two sections, the first one behind the first curtain which was called the holy place. The second one behind the second curtain which was called the Holy of Holies.
Now, I’ve said about the tabernacle many times, either you get excited about it or it bores you. Some people respond one way, some people the other. I have to say it excites me. And it’s an amazing fact that there’s nothing in the scripture that gives me a greater desire for personal holiness than studying the tabernacle of Moses. It’s amazing. If you don’t respond that way, that’s between you and the Lord. He may have other ways of reaching you. But from the very first time as a Christian I began to read about the tabernacle of Moses, the whole thing was illuminated for me. It became alive and real.
Let me try and speak about the knowledge of God in the context of the tabernacle. The way I think that you can best understand the three sections of the tabernacle is by the light that was available in each. In the outer court the light was natural. The sun by day, the moon and the stars by night. Once you enter through the first curtain you had finished with natural light, natural understanding. You come into a realm where everything is by faith. And it’s not by sight. That’s why the first curtain shuts off the natural view. The light in the first compartment is artificial. It’s provided by the seven branched lampstands which is seven lamps. Each of them filled with pure olive oil which when illuminated, provided the light.
Then there was the second curtain and beyond that the Holy of Holies, the most sacred place on earth at that time. And it was moveable incidentally. So God didn’t sanctify just a few square yards somewhere, but it was wherever the conditions were met, the place was sanctified. And inside the second curtain or the second veil there was no light of any kind. It wasn’t natural, it wasn’t artificial. And there was only one piece of furniture. The ark with the cherubs overhanging it.
Now let me just suggest to you that this can be used to depict finding the knowledge of God. Where is the knowledge of God? It’s in the third compartment. Beyond the second veil. And you have to step out of the natural through the first curtain. Now you’re in the realm of faith, it’s not by natural revelation or understanding.
I believe also the first curtain represents resurrection. Because we are identified with Jesus Christ in his death, burial and resurrection. Now inside the first veil in the first compartment, the light is by revelation. It’s the word of God illuminated by the Holy Spirit. It doesn’t depend on natural knowledge at all. But the amazing thing is that when you go through the second curtain, which I believe is ascension, you see, we’re identified with Jesus in his death, burial, resurrection and ascension. Ephesians 2:4–6, “You hath he made alive who were dead in trespasses and sins, he has made you alive in Christ, he has resurrected you in Christ and he has enthroned you in Christ.” Notice all is in the past tense. Don’t settle for any destination lower than the throne because that’s where you belong. I believe the throne life is represented by the place within the second veil. It’s not just through resurrection, it’s through ascension.
I also believe for reasons I can’t specify tonight that the five main ministries of Ephesians 4: apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers represent the area within the first compartment. But the two further ministries which are the highest are in the second compartment which are king and priest. And those are the two ultimate ministries of Jesus which he eternally fulfills as a priest after the order of Melchizedek at God’s right hand. But he’s the forerunner who entered there for us. In other words, he went there to prepare the way for us to follow him.
Now, inside that second curtain there is no light. Unless what? Unless the supernatural presence of God fills it and that’s called in Hebrew the shekinah. That means the dwelling.
Now I want you to think about what’s involved in desiring the knowledge of God. To the natural mind it’s crazy. Think. You’re leaving the sun, the moon and the stars. You’re stepping inside this quite narrow place which is, I believe, forty cubits long and twenty cubits wide. That’s sixty feet long and thirty feet wide. But even there there’s light, there’s tremendous craftsmanship, there’s much to excite you and stimulate you. But you’re not going to stop there. And listen, your ultimate destination is a cubic area the same with, length and height which to me signifies the triune God. It’s only got one piece of furniture and it’s totally dark. Who would want to go there? Why would you want to go there? There’s only one reason. To meet with God. And that’s the motivation that leads to the knowledge of God. And when you get there, you’re not even dependent on scripture. Believe me, we never supersede scripture, it’s always the ultimate. And no revelation that in any way departs from scripture is from God. But you do come into the place of direct revelation of God.
And I think the key activity, well it’s really the two keys that I spoke of in the beginning, remember, fellowship and worship. And that’s the place. Fellowship is typified by the two cherubs facing one another, their wings stretched out and meeting over the center. What a beautiful picture of fellowship. And worship is the response. And you see, Paul says something very strange in 1Corinthians 6. He says he that is joined to a prostitute is one flesh or one body. He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit. Now, you cannot separate those two sections of that statement. There is a physical union of sex which makes two persons one flesh. But there is a spiritual union with God that makes you one with God. There is no other, I think, legitimate way to interpret that. Can you see how far this goes beyond being religious? Or attending church? I hope I can give you a passionate desire to get beyond the second veil.
And then it’s worship. I believe worship in the truest sense is the union of our spirit with God. He that is joined to the Lord in worship is one spirit.
Now I need to stop but let me just suggest to you also that in those three areas of the tabernacle you have the three areas of human personality. The body, the soul and the spirit. I believe the soul and the spirit are completely distinct, they’re not necessarily to be separated. Paul could not have said he that is joined to the Lord is one soul, it would have been incorrect. The soul knows about God, the soul entertains doctrine and theology, the soul has that kind of knowledge. The spirit knows God. That’s our destination. Put it in other terms, it’s the throne. To be enthroned with Jesus Christ as kings and priests after the order of Melchizedek, our great high priest. His very name means King of Righteousness and whose vocation was King of Peace. That as I see it is a pictorial way to represent finding the knowledge of God. I don’t think it can be put in theological terms. I don’t think the human mind can find the theology which will express that. That’s why God in his infinite wisdom has chosen such pictures as the tabernacle and others to describe the way to the knowledge of God.
Let me close by reading Proverbs 2:1–5 again and that will be the close.
“My son, if you receive my words and treasure my commands within you, so that you incline your ear to wisdom and apply your heart to understanding; yes, if you cry out for discernment and lift up your voice for understanding; if you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”