Leading a life pleasing to God is the prime intent of Solomon's Proverbs. Perhaps he was experiencing an ancient version of mid-life reflection at the time Proverbs was written. Even so, these 31 chapters are more than his own personal flair and drama. Proverbs is the outcome of Solomon's treasure of wisdom graciously bestowed on him by our faithful God. This dependence on the Heavenly Father is evidenced by the baseline of his writing. Underneath all the counsel, advice, and instruction is a strong foundation upon which his wisdom declarations stand. It is the firm support of Solomon's most prominent subtext, the comparison of wisdom and folly. The one phrase that links the entire book is "The fear of the Lord...". It is the driving force of the kings teaching, translating the life of faith in more concrete terms.
Pause here. We humans conceive of fear in emotional terms. When we are threatened, faced with danger, lured into hostility, or experiencing pain, among many other dreads, we are naturally fearful. And, that fear is extensive, nearly impossible to enumerate. As you think through your own most troubling realities just add the word phobia to them, the Greek word for fear, to get some idea of our many fear factors. You can Google "phobia" and review dozens of sites specializing in our fearful behavior. What is important to know is that Solomon wasn't talking about human fear when he used the phrase "the fear of the Lord" 19 different times in the Proverbs.
There are several Hebrew terms identifying the various notions of spiritual fear. Solomon used the term yireh (see Strong's #H3374) throughout his Proverbs, a term signifying reverence for God. To "fear the Lord" is to stand in awe of his majesty and glory. It is to humbly submit to him in every aspect of life. He is the creator God who is Sovereign over all things. When we fear him we honor him. As a result our lives reflect his standards and seek his wisdom in all that we do. Note how fearing the Lord impacts the life of people submitted to him in this way---
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction (Proverbs 1:7)
...they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:29)
...then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God (Proverbs 2:5)
Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil (Proverbs 3:7)
The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil (Proverbs 8:13)
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10)
The fear of the Lord prolongs life (Proverbs 10:27)
Whoever walks in uprightness fears the Lord (Proverbs 14:2)
In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence (Proverbs 14:26)
The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life (Proverbs 14:27)
Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it.
The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom (Proverbs 15:33)
By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil (Proverbs 16:6)
The fear of the Lord leads to life (Proverbs 19:23)
The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor in life (Proverbs 22:4)
Let not your heart envy sinners , but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day (Proverbs 23:17).
My son, fear the Lord and the king, and do not join with those who do otherwise (Proverbs 24:21)
Blessed is the one who fears the Lord always...(Proverbs 28:14)
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised (Proverbs 31:30).
The fear of the Lord is the linkage that gives us mere humans the ability to live a life pleasing to God.
There is a wonderful subtext that gives further definition to the life that pleases God. It is perhaps the most memorized and copied verse in Proverbs. Solomon wrote---
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 straight your paths. Be not wise in your
own eyes, fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and
refreshment to your bones.
Proverbs 3: 5-8, ESV
Reverently fearing the Lord God opens our egocentric hearts to trust him in all things. This absolute trust transitions us from self-centered to God centered living, dependent on him in every way. And, that is the foundational principle upon which God's promises, instruction, and ethics can guide us.
The fear of the Lord is the baseline.