I am going to read the text and see if you can identify which verse as one of the most controversial verses in the history of the Christian church.
Tonight we come to the end of our series of sermons in the Book of Proverbs. We began with an account of the book in general and a study of “wisdom” in the Bible, which we defined as the skill of living well, the practical know-how that enables a person to live a godly life in a world of sin and temptation, the capacity to bring to life the ideal of biblical godliness. Then we considered a number of the principal subjects of the book: guarding the heart, the principle of obedience and reward, the sexual life, marriage, handling money, governing the tongue, the importance of hard work, the managing of controversy, the raising of children, how to make decisions, dealing with pride and with anger, and the valiant woman. Last time we picked up some loose ends (matters mentioned in the book but not treated at length): the treatment of animals, the keeping of secrets, and the importance of cultivating joy in our daily life.
We noted, at the beginning of our study, that for some in our circles today, the Book of Proverbs has fallen on hard times, at least so far as the subject of Christian preaching is concerned, in some large part because the focus of the book is on our behavior, not on the redeeming work of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is something of a modern movement in both the Reformed church and some segments of evangelicalism that has come to abominate the preaching of ethics, of right behavior. The fear is that any concentration on our behavior inevitably undermines the believer’s reliance on the work of Christ. Attention to our behavior, or so it is thought, must undermine our conviction that our salvation rests alone on Christ’s behavior, his work, his accomplishment. The point is put in various ways, to be sure, but however put the result is that many Christians today are getting much less preaching instructing them in how they are to live their lives day by day than they used to. One of your elders recently drew my attention to a sermon of Charles Spurgeon, the great London preacher of the 19th century, on the good Samaritan in Luke 15. It is a typically fine Spurgeon sermon. But it caught Mr. Pfefferle’s attention and mine for the way in which it begins.
“Our text is the whole story of the Samaritan, but as that is very long [Spurgeon was not an expositor of texts; like Alexander Whyte his contemporary and many preachers of his time he usually used a verse or two to introduce a subject or theme and preached on the subject], let us, for our memories’ sake, consider the exhoration in the 37th verse to be our text. ‘Go, and do you likewise.’ There are certain persons in the world who will not allow the preacher to speak upon anything but those doctrinal statements concerning the way of salvation which are known as ‘the Gospel.’ If the preacher shall insist on some virtue or practical Grace, they straightway say that he is not preaching the Gospel, that he has become legal and is a mere moral teacher. We do not stand in any awe of such criticism, for we clearly perceive that our Lord Jesus Christ, Himself, would very frequently have come under it.
“Read the Sermon on the Mount and judge whether certain people would be content to hear the likes of it preached to them on the Sabbath. They would condemn it as containing very little Gospel and too much about good works. Our Lord was a great practical Preacher. He frequently delivered addresses in which He made answer to questioners, or gave direction to seekers, or upbraided offenders – and He gave a prominence to practical truth such as some of His ministers dare not imitate! Jesus tells us over and over again the manner in which we are to live towards our fellow men and He lays great stress upon the love which should shine throughout the Christian character.” [MTP No. 1360; June 17, 1877]
That sermon was preached in June 1877 but you will see that it addresses a way of preaching that has become very popular in some circles again in our own day. There truly is nothing new under the sun and Goethe was right: “Everything has been thought of before; but the difficulty is to think of it again!” Spurgeon was right to protest that point of view in his day and we are right to protest it in ours because it does not faithfully represent the teaching of the Bible itself. The Bible has much to say about Christ and his redeeming work, but it devotes large tracts of its teaching to the nuts and bolts of Christian living, to both the commandments of God – the law – and to the teaching of wisdom, those finer points of right living necessary for a believer to master if he or she is to live an obedient, fruitful, and successful life in this sinful world.
There is nothing about redemption in Proverbs; nothing about the cross; nothing about the sacrifical ritual of the Mosaic law, nothing about God’s covenant with his people. The book is part of the wisdom literature of the Bible and concerns the practice of life. We mistake the book if we try to make it about something else than right behavior, which, as you might expect, a number of preachers and expositors throughout the ages have tried to do. In the New Testament, the book of James is also a specimen of wisdom literature and, as you know, it too concentrates on the Chrisitian’s behavior. Even more striking for a book of the New Testament and for a book written by the brother of the Lord Jesus, there is in James no mention of the cross, of the Lord’s resurrection, or of his coming again. All of that is assumed to be sure, but it is not the subject of James’ letter. He is concerned rather to address the behavior of his fellow Christians and, as with Proverbs, is determined to help them in the cultivation of skillful, which is to say godly living. Proverbs and James, precisely because they are books of wisdom, are about character and are writings intended to form or inculcate character.
It is significant that most of the citations of Proverbs in the New Testament (there are some 60 citations, allusions, or literary parallels from Proverbs found in the New Testament according to the editors of the principal editions of the Greek New Testament), I say most of the citations of Proverbs used by New Testament writers are employed to teach godly living to the church. Examples include: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him” (25:21-22 in Rom. 12:20), “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble,” (3:34 cited twice in the NT: Jas. 4:5; 1 Pet. 5:5), and “Fear God and the King” (24:21 in 1 Pet. 2:17). [cf. Waltke, i, 126-127]
But that is not to say that there is nothing in the book of Proverbs that concerns the Lord Jesus Christ. James mentions the Lord and speaks of faith in him in his book; we know that. But if Christ is in Proverbs,where and how is he there? Scholars have disagreed for a long time and preachers have found him there in different ways and different places. Sometimes they have thought to find him where, I think, he cannot be found. Take, for example, 1 Corinthians 1:30 where we read:
“And because of him [i.e. God] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption….”
Paul doesn’t there explain what he means by “wisdom from God,” but in the context he is contrasting God’s wisdom with the wisdom of the world and the statement we read is very likely to mean that God’s wisdom is different in just this way: that the great needs of the human soul are furnished by Christ and are received as his gifts by faith. In all likelihood, the term “wisdom” is employed by Paul because it was being used by the Corinthians who had become enamored of some elitist ideas of spirituality that were commonplace in the Greco-Roman world of that time. In context it appears that Paul used the word in a different way than it is used in Proverbs or James. He wasn’t speaking of wisdom in its Hebrew sense of the skill of living well. Rather, for Paul the wisdom of the world is its arrogant pride, its presumption that it can answer the questions of life without recourse to God and master its environment without God’s help. In contrast the wisdom of God in 1 Corinthians 1, we read earlier in the chapter, is the foolishness of the cross, not the practice of living skillfully. Neither Jews nor Gentiles could accommodate the foolishness of the cross, but the cross is the wisdom of God. [cf. Thiselton, NIGTC, 190-193] In other words, Paul does not seem to be referring to the same thing that Proverbs means by wisdom when he says that Christ has become to us wisdom from God.
But, the context of 1 Corinthians notwithstanding, historically texts like this one in the NT have often been thought to depend upon the personification of wisdom in Proverbs, especially in a concentrated form in chapter 8. You remember how in those early chapters of Proverbs wisdom is represented as a woman who thinks and speaks and calls to people, who grants her gifts to those who seek them from her, who is a person God’s people should love, and so on. It is the same sort of device in literature that you find in sculpture when justice is represented as blindfolded woman holding scales in one hand or when liberty is represented as a woman holding high a torch in New York harbor. From virtually the beginning, at least as early as Justin Martyr in the middle of the second century, the church fathers identified Jesus with the personification of wisdom, with Lady Wisdom, in the Book of Proverbs. There, in chapter 8, we read of wisdom as a woman who calls in the street to everyone to come to her and gain wisdom for himself or herself. She has what we all need. Certainly Jesus also has what we all need and he calls men and women to come to him. You can see where the identification came from. Listen to wisdom speak.
“I have counsel and sound wisdom; I have insight; I have strength.”
“I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me. Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and righteousness.” And so on. [vv. 14, 17-18]
We can easily think of Jesus Christ saying all of those things to us. Since the New Testament, as in 1 Cor. 1:30, seemed to suggest that Jesus Christ is as well the embodiment of wisdom, the early church fathers took to thinking of Lady Wisdom in Proverbs 8 as Jesus Christ. But that identification was not without its problems. In our ESVs we read 8:22-23 this way:
“The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.”
But that was not the translation the early church had before it. In Proverbs 8:22 the text was translated in the LXX (the Greek translation of the OT that was the standard Old Testament for the Greek speaking church in first centuries of her life after Pentecost): “The Lord created me at the beginning of his work…” The verb can be translated that way and that is how the LXX translators did translate it: “created.” The Arians, in the fourth century, took this text as proof that the Son of God had a beginning in time; that he was a creature and so was not equal with the Father. God made him at some point. If Jesus Christ is Lady Wisdom and Lady Wisdom was created by God, then the Son was created by the Father. He might have been the first of the creatures, but he was still a creature. He might be a god, but he wasn’t the God.
As one scholar put it, “‘The Lord created me,’ reverberated in every street and alleyway in Alexandria and everywhere else that favored Arius’ notion.” [Clayton in Waltke, i, 127] Hard to believe it, but Proverbs 8:22 – that seemingly innocent statement – is one of the most controversial texts in the history of Christianity! As controversial as the statement of the Lord Jesus during the institution of the Lord’s Supper: “This is my Body.”
Athanasius, the great defender of the orthodox doctrine of the deity of Jesus Christ, was stuck with the same translation of Proverbs 8:22. He wasn’t a Hebraist, he didn’t have a real grasp of the Hewbrew text; he assumed that what the LXX translators had given him was the meaning of the verse and so he argued in his work against the Ariansthat 8:22 was referring only to the Lord’s human nature. [cf. Letham, The Holy Trinity, 130] But, of course, the Lord’s human nature wasn’t created at the beginning, it wasn’t “the first of his acts of old” as we read in 8:22. According to the Bible, Christ’s human nature, his humanity, did not begin to be until he was conceived by the Holy Spirit in his mother’s womb. In any case, with both sides assuming that Prov. 8:22 was, in fact, a statement about Jesus Christ and arguing about what that statement meant, the idea that Lady Wisdom was Jesus Christ became the fixed dogma of the church. But, however important for the development of the theology of the person of Christ that interpretation of Proverbs 8:22-23 was, it wasn’t a particularly good translation that lay beneath that interpretation. It was a theological argument created by a bad translation. As one church historian described the debate in the early centuries, it resembled “two blindfolded men trying to hit each other.” All because they were debating what a statement meant before they understood what the statement was.
The ESV, the NIV and other English translations of the Bible do not translate the Hebrew verb in 8:22 “created,” but “possessed.” The translation “create” is certainly possible, but the verb has other meanings and there are strong arguments to be made for the ESV’s translation, arguments the details of which I won’t trouble you with tonight. But with wisdom as its subject you find the same verb in 4:5, 7 and there “possess,” in the sense of “have” or “get” makes perfect sense. The translation “create” there makes no sense at all. What is more, foolishness or folly is also personified in the book of Proverbs as a woman calling in the streets (cf. 9:13). But no one ever imagined that she was an actual person. To personify a virtue or a vice is an ancient literary device. It should not be pressed unless there is very good reason to do so.
In 8:22, then, translating the word with “possess” or “had” the statement would mean only that the Lord was wise when he made the world and, therefore, that his wisdom enabled God to make the world as perfectly and magnificently as he did. As the following verses go on to say the world is suffused with God’s wisdom. We see it everywhere we look. But, of course, that creates still another problem for the identification of wisdom with Jesus because Jesus is God, not simply a characteristic of God, something God has, not God himself. Wisdom, we read in Prov. 8, witnessed the creation but Jesus Christ created the heavens and the earth!
In other words, a great deal of folderol was created for Christology by the wrong translation of Prov. 8:22 and a more contextual understanding of the passage and a more sensitive translation do not favor an identification between Lady Wisdom and the Second Person of the Godhead, either Jesus Christ as the eternal Son or as the incarnate Son. In any case, here is a classic example of how important the correct translation of a biblical text can be. Proverbs 8:22 became the focus of a great theological dispute only because it was translated into Greek as it was. People got used to that translation, it was in their Bibles, and they couldn’t imagine that it was meant something else. And so the dispute.
But it is doubtful, more than doubtful, that Proverbs 8 can really be made a basis for teaching about the Lord Jesus. As the ESV and NIV have translated the text, the connection is much less clear and far from obvious. All in all, it is entirely simpler to say that Proverbs is about wisdom itself – about which more is said in the eighth chapter and much more the rest of the book – and that the wisdom we are to seek is like that skill with which God made the world. See how wonderfully he created everything. How beautifully he made everything? How wonderfuly everything works together? With that sort of wisdom we’re to live our lives in the world; not the same wisdom, of course, not God’s wisdom, but wisdom as much like it as ours can be.
In Proverbs 8 to make wisdom refer directly to the person of Jesus would require the term to be used in a very different way than it is used everywhere else in the book. In Proverbs wisdom concerns human behavior. The statements in the New Testament that employ the term (apart from James) – use the term in a different way. There is, in other words, a small and imprecise thematic and verbal overlap between Prov. 8 and some NT statements about Jesus, but it is a stretch to take the remarks in Prov. 8 as themselves a declaration about the Lord Jesus.
So far I would then say that these sorts of efforts to find the Lord Jesus in the book of Proverbs have been proved a failure. That is not their meaning and that’s not the way to find the Lord Jesus in Proverbs.
But if there is nothing in Proverbs that could be fairly regarded as a depiction of God the Son or as a prophecy of his life and work, are we then to conclude that the book has nothing specific to say about the Lord Jesus Christ? My answer to that question is a definite “No!” The book is suffused with the Son of God. He is everywhere in Proverbs. How do we know this? In this way. The book’s principle theme, its thesis statement as we saw at the outset of our study is that “the fear of the Lord” is the beginning of wisdom. The book is suffused with “the fear of the Lord.” The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It is, according to Proverbs, the foundation of all skillful living. The phrase itself occurs fifteen times in the book and the phrase “fear the Lord” twice more. What is more, several times we are told in Proverbs to trust the Lord.
But who is the Lord whom we are to fear, whose fear is the foundation of all true godly living, and who is the Lord we are to trust? Interrogate the Bible and the answer to that question comes back: the Lord of Proverbs, as of the rest of the Old Testament, is Jesus Christ, God the Son who later became incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth. In all these instances of “fear of the Lord” “Lord” is, in fact, a translation of Yahweh, the personal name of the God of Israel, or at least Yahweh is the rendering that most scholars now most approve of. It’s a guess. Nobody knows precisely how that name was pronounced. You remember “Jehovah” from the King James version. Jehovah was a guess as to the pronunciation of the name of the Lord, but few defend it nowadays. Yahweh is the best guess of contemporary biblical scholarship as to the pronunciation of the Lord’s personal name. And again and again the NT teaches us to think of the Lord Jesus as the Yahweh, or Lord, of the Old Testament. Perhaps you remember the evidence. There is so much of it in the NT it always amazes me that this comes as such a surprise to people and that they struggle so to grasp the implications of it.
- In a number of NT texts the history of Israel’s exodus from Egypt, at Sinai, and in the wilderness is specifically said to be a history of Israel’s relationship with Jesus Christ.
- Perhaps the most dramatic of them is Jude 5 where we read that “Jesus saved a people from the land of Egypt.” A statement the more interesting and compelling because it was written by the Lord’s own brother, Jude. Some English translations of the Bible read “Lord” there because there are some manuscripts that read “Lord” not “Jesus,” but by every principle of the textual criticism of the NT – that is the science of determing the most likely reading from the various possibilities represented in the manuscripts – the reading in Jude 5 should be “Jesus.” And the ESV reads “Jesus” for that reason. It is the reading of the best manuscripts and it is the most difficult reading, which is always far more likely to be the original reading as scribes often attempted to smooth out difficulties but they rarely created them. But stop and think about that. “Jesus” delivered Israel from Egypt. That remark is surely striking! Jesus, the son of Mary, delivered Israel from Egypt? We do not know the name Jesus until Joseph and Mary named their son. The only way that could be said is if Jude is identifying Jesus with Yahweh, who brought Israel out of Egypt according to the book of Exodus. To say that Jesus brought Israel out of bondage in Egypt is to say that he is Yahweh – at least in his Godhead – and that, therefore, the Yahweh of the exodus was God the Son, not God the Father or the Holy Spirit.
- We are confirmed in that conclusion by the fact that there are so many other texts that also relate the person of the Lord Jesus to that part of Israel’s history.
- Think of the observation in Hebrews 11:26 that Moses considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt…” Again, it is certainly a striking way of speaking The author of that letter to the Hebrews obviously intended his readers to get the point! Put Jesus back in Egypt. Put Jesus back in the personal history of Moses. But, of course, in Exodus you will not find the name “Jesus” or the title “Christ.” You find Yahweh everywhere. But in the NT we are taught to read “Jesus” or “Christ” where we find Yahweh in the Hebrew Bible as we do thousands of times.
- Or think of Paul’s famous remark in I Corinthians 10 that in the wilderness Israel “drank from the spiritual rock that followed them and the Rock was Christ. [v. 4] That again is a striking assertion that the Lord Jesus was in the wilderness and, therefore, that he was there as God the Son. The same Jesus of whom we read in the gospels was in the wilderness leading Israel to the promised land. We are discovering a theme here, are we not? Jesus was the God with whom Israel had to do.
- I won’t belabor this point but there are other texts to the same effect. A careful reading of 2 Cor. 3 indicates that the glory that shone on Moses’ face when he met with God in the tent of meeting was the glory of Jesus Christ. A similarly careful reading of Hebrews 12 demonstrates that the God whose glory was revealed at Mt. Sinai was none other than Jesus Christ. You remember the famous Christmas hymn, O Come, O Come Emmanuel. Of that Emmanuel, we read “in ancient times didst give the law in cloud and majesty and awe.” In the eighth century when that hymn was written, they were reading their Bible carefully. It was Jesus at Mt. Sinai in the thunder and the lightening when the law was given to Israel. He is the consuming fire that sinful Israel feared and drew back from. Again Jesus is Yahweh. This is the argument to use when you sit down and talk with Jehovah Witnesses. Don’t go to John 1:1, they’re all ready for you there.He led Israel out of Egypt. They are not prepared for that! Again Jesus is Yahweh, because the Exodus narrative is all about Yahweh. It never mentions the name Jesus, but the NT says that it was Jesus all the while at Sinai.
- But it is not only Israel’s history at Sinai that is said to have been the work of Jesus Christ. Think, for example, of the statement in John 12:41 to the effect that the glory of God that Isaiah was given to see in his vision of Yahweh (of which vision we read in the opening verses of Isaiah 6), was, in fact, the glory of Jesus Christ. John says that. Now we have the identification of Jesus and Yahweh from a much later period of Israel’s history, not the 15th century B.C., but the late 8th century B.C. Again the high and holy God whom Isaiah saw surrounded by seraphim singing his glory, was none other than the God who would later become the baby and then the man, Jesus of Nazareth.
- Or, consider a text such as Romans 10:11, where Paul cinches his argument that salvation comes as it has always come – he’s already quoted Deuteronomy – from believing in Jesus and confessing him Lord, by citing an OT text from Isaiah: “Everyone who believes on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” But, of course, in that OT text the “Lord” being referred to is Yahweh. In other words, to call upon Jesus is the same thing as calling upon Yahweh. In fact, in Isaiah believe in Yahweh means believe in Jesus. In Proverbs we are also taught to trust the Lord or to believe in him. We have, in other words, the very words of the New Testament Gospel in the book of Proverbs: trust in the Lord Jesus. Call him Jesus or call him Yahweh; it’s the same person. We can say that because Jesus is the Lord mentioned in Proverbs as the object of our trust. They didn’t know him as Jesus centuries before the incarnation, but it is the same person.
- Add to this the NT’s teaching that Jesus is the creator of heaven and earth, and so the God we meet in the Garden of Eden, that he is the Judge of all men, and so the God we meet not only again and again exercising his judgment in the punishment of Israel and of the other nations, but as well at the Last Judgment, and we are left with the very clear impression that wherever we find God in the first 39 books of the Bible we are encountering Jesus Christ; not specifically God the Father and not the Holy Spirit, but God the Son who would later be incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth. The person of God with whom mankind has always had most directly to do is first and foremost God the Son. The reason it was he who was made man was because he was already – for whatever reason, we know not what – because he was the person of the Triune God who was already at work in the salvation of the world and had made himself known to his people. This is a mystery, but don’t you think this must be true: the reason it was the Son who became incarnate and not the Father or the Holy Spirit, the reason it was the Son who was born a baby in Bethlehem is because it was the Son who all along had been the Savior of God’s people. It was the Son who all along was the person of the Godhead with whom his people had had to do.
There is more of this kind of evidence but take the point. In the NT there is a repeated identification of Jesus Christ of the Gospels with Yahweh of the OT. To refer to the one is to refer to the other. If there is a person of the Godhead less well known from the OT and this I think contradicts the unstudied opinion of most evangelical Christians, if there is a person of the Godhead less well known from the OT, it is not the Son or the Holy Spirit; it is the Father. And that makes sense, doesn’t it. It was by the revelation of the Son that we were prepared to understand that there was a God the Father. The Israelites may not have known Jesus by his incarnate name, the name he was given by his parents as a baby boy, by which he was known as a man, and the name by which he has been known to his people ever since the incarnation, but the person was the same. Yahweh in the OT had no human nature, but he was the same God the Son, the same divine and eternal person who came into the world as Jesus of Nazareth. Again and again that point is made in ways too clear and too emphatic to mistake. Jesus brought Israel out of Egypt!
But now consider the implications of this. If the God who struck down the Egyptian firstborn was Jesus, if the Almighty at Sinai was Jesus, if the God who led Israel through the wilderness by the cloud and the pillar of fire was Jesus, if the God of glory whom Isaiah saw high and lifted up in the temple, if the God upon whom Israel called and in whom she believed was Jesus, and if it was Jesus who in his wrath sent Israel to destruction and Judah into exile, then when Proverbs tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, we must believe – however true it may be that the authors of Proverbs did not yet know of the incarnation or of how Yahweh would someday take on flesh and blood and an authentic human nature – we must believe that when the authors of Proverbs spoke of the fear of the Lord, they were speaking of the fear of the Son of God, whom we would someday know as Jesus of Nazareth.
Take all of this evidence together and the conclusion is that in Proverbs as elsewhere in the Old Testament we find Jesus in every mention of the “Lord.” So the fear of Jesus is the beginning of wisdom; the fear of Jesus is what we need to build a truly skillful, useful, and fruitful life in this world. “Trusting in Jesus with all our hearts and not leaning on our own understanding” (3:5) is the path to true wisdom. Our life will be as our relationship to Jesus Christ. That is true in every way, of course, but especially in the matter of wisdom, and the teaching is made the more emphatic by the fact that this has been true and has been taught to be true from the very beginning. There is nothing new about this in what we call the New Testament! Only more detail!
But let me finish then with this. If that’s true, what are we to do with the fact that hardly any Christians in America nowadays thinks of Jesus as someone to fear, to regard with awe, before whom we are to bow in total, unqualified submission. There is very little fear of the Lord Jesus among American Christians. Do you think there is? More to the point: do you fear Jesus?
And don’t do what many do and empty the fear out of the fear of the Lord by thinking it means only some vague kind of reverence or respect. In Paul and in Hebrews – where Jesus is identified with Yahweh, that identification is made as part of a solemn warning to Christians. Don’t trifle with Jesus. Don’t suppose that Jesus, the holy judge, is not someone to fear. He is, in fact, a consuming fire and you must take heed lest that fire consume you. And, much as we love him, much as we trust in him, much as we may desire his company and fellowship, he is no one to take for granted, to treat lightly.
He is the holy judge; he is the God of wrath. He will call you to account on the great day. It was the Lord Jesus who leveled Jerusalem by the hand of the Babylonians and virtually wiped his people off the face of the earth because of their unbelief and disobedience to him. There should be in your heart, with the love and the trust, a hesitation, a carefulness, a circumspection in the face of Jesus Christ. This is the same Jesus who will consign the unbelieving world to hell, who will tell multitudes, “Depart from me, I never knew you.” The picture of Jesus in his terrible glory, from whom the nations shrink in horror, that we find in Revelation is enough to disabuse us of the notion of “gentle Jesus meek and mild.” The fact is, you and I will never know Jesus as his disciples knew him, a man upon whom they could look and not see the glory of God, a man so much like other men that most people mistook him for only a man. Since his exaltation to the right hand Jesus now and forever is the God/Man and his divine glory will cause all human beings, the saved and the unsaved alike, to cast themselves down before him and confess him Lord of Lords and King of Kings. This God of insurmountable glory and indescribale majesty is our Lord Jesus and Savior. He is to be loved with all our hearts but at the same time he is to be feared as the great and terrible God that he is and always has been.
The average American evangelical Christian thinks of the God of the OT as more fierce, more threatening, less accessible than Jesus. But the teaching of the NT is that the God of the OT – Yahweh – is Jesus! Don’t worry! You will love him more if you fear him more! If you fear him as you ought to fear him, his love for you will become still more amazing to you.
This Jesus Christ is the Lord in Proverbs. And to fear him is the beginning of wisdom. We don’t have to twist or mistranslate some text to find him in the book; his Majesty and glory as the Lord is everywhere in Proverbs the foundation of that wisdom, that skillful living, that Proverbs teaches us. He is the Lord and fearing him is the beginning of wisdom. Becoming wise, living wisely is hard work, and the first and last thing you are going to hear from the book of Proverbs is that the only person who is going to do that hard work is the one who fears the Lord Jesus Christ.