We are advised in this proverb to have a healthy fear of the commandments of God. This is not a slavish fear that God will strike us at any moment. But it is a genuine fear and respect that what God commands He intends for us to obey – and when He warns that a person who disobeys is choosing not just rebellion when they do – but ruin as well.
The proverb of the day today begins with a warning to those who despise the Word. Some try to make this a word spoken by a teacher or instructor – but in the second half of this proverb we are told of the one who “fears the commandment.” This refers to God’s commands in Scripture. So we are introduced to the one who “despises” God’s Word.
The word used for despise here is the Hebrew word “buz,” which means to despise, disrespect, or to hold in scorn or contempt. Here is the unwise person who hears God’s commands and has no respect for them. The person holds himself and the thinking of his own mind in higher regard than what God commands. He knows better how to live and what will make him happy than an ancient book. What is interesting is that this rebel is told that the more he despises it the more he will be in debt to it. That sounds like a strange statement until you grasp it from the Biblical viewpoint. If God has created man for His own purposes and plans – it is not odd to see that man has an obligation to obey His creator. If we understand that we will give an account to God on the Day of Judgment for our actions and for our disobedience to His word – then this begins to make perfect sense.
The more the person despises God’s Word – the greater debt he begins to accumulate to it. “Habal” is the word used here for debt and it comes from a root word that means to wind a rope tightly around something or someone – to bind them with it. The word itself is a root word for our word obligation. The idea is that as he acts and thinks contemptuously against God’s word – God nevertheless binds him to obedience to His Word. The more he disobeys the tighter is wound the case against him by the commands of God. He will not be free from this pledge until one of two things happens. Either he is redeemed from the debt he has obtained – or he is punished by the authorities when he unable to pay it. Suddenly the words of Jesus make perfect sense, “Forgive us our debts (indebtedness to God’s commands). As this proverb asserts – the more we despise the word by disobeying it – the greater is our indebtedness to that very command we despise and disobey. We claim freedom by our rebellious actions, yet nothing is further from the truth. Every disobedience only tightens the ropes that bind us as we await the day of recompense from the One Who gave that Word.
The one who fears the commandment will be rewarded! The fear here is one that respects and honors God. But it would be a disservice to everyone who reads this if it was not brought out that the Scriptures themselves warn us that is it terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Fascinating the context of this verse – so fascinating that I’ll give it to you below.
For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY." And again, "THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE." It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:26-31 (NASB)
The context of this verse is disobeying the Law of Moses – i.e. the commandments of God. We are reminded of the warnings given in the day to those who would rebel against God. But then we are told – a severer punishment is in store for those who trample the Son of God – regard the blood of Jesus as something unclean – and who insults the Spirit of grace (i.e. the Holy Spirit as He reveals to us the grace of God through Jesus – and His blood). Then we are told – it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Not exactly a proof text for those who wrongly assert the New Testament does not preach about the judgment of God.
The wise man tells us fearing the commandment is good – and a reward comes to the man or woman who embraces it. What is fearing the commandment? For us it is not a call to works. It is a call to the grace of God in Jesus Christ. The fact is that all of us have broken the commandments of God again and again. Thus what Hebrews 10:26-31 says is our destiny as one who has disobeyed God’s commands. But there IS HOPE! What God has done in Jesus Christ is wonderful. Jesus has given His life as a substitute and a payment for our rebellion and sin against God’s commandments. Thus to fear the commandment is to see our hopelessness in religious works and run to Jesus Christ for salvation. It is only in Him that we have an answer for our disobedience and rebellion against God’s law. But if that fear of the commandment does hasten our turn to Christ – we will find it is rewarded! The word for rewarded is such a sweet word to know. It means to be safe and secure. Does that not speak of what the grace of God does in our lives. We are taken from the role of the rebellious that despise the word – to those who fear the commandment and have run to Christ. Rather than fearfulness in falling into the hands of the living God – we experience salvation, grace, love, and comfort in falling into His hands. But these things come because we have run to Christ – whose sacrifice on the cross is placed to our account. Forgiven in full – given the righteousness of Jesus Himself – and born again are all credited to us. There is no more debt for it is gone in Him. He has paid the debt in full – moving us from terror to His everlasting reward – life in Jesus Christ!