Question: "What does it mean that the righteous are as bold as a lion (Proverbs 28:1)?"
Answer: The proverbs that Solomon records “give prudence to the naïve and to the youth knowledge and discretion” (Proverbs 1:3–4). The wisdom they provide is better than silver, gold, and fine jewels, and there is nothing we can desire that compares with it (Proverbs 3:14–15). In Solomon’s proverbs of wisdom are found many contrasts, especially between the wise and the foolish and the righteous and the wicked. These contrasts help us understand how to hold to the one path and reject the other. One such contrast is found in Proverbs 28:1: “The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.” The wicked have many reasons to fear, but the righteous have clear consciences and no reason at all to fear. The fears of the wicked will come to pass, while the righteous will see what he desires (Proverbs 10:24).
The irony in the principle that “the righteous are as bold as a lion” is that righteousness actually involves fear. Solomon expounds, writing that the one who walks in righteousness fears the Lord, while the wicked person despises or disregards God (Proverbs 14:2). Solomon even observes that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7) and the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10).
In order to be wise or righteous, a person must begin with the fear of the Lord, which is discovered in the Word of the Lord (Proverbs 2:6). When one fears the Lord, his life is generally prolonged (Proverbs 10:27). In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence and refuge (Proverbs 14:26). The fear of the Lord is “a fountain of life, that one may avoid the snares of death” (Proverbs 14:27). By the fear of the Lord one avoids evil (Proverbs 16:6). The fear of the Lord provides life and satisfying sleep (Proverbs 19:23). The one who fears the Lord is blessed always, in contrast to the one who hardens his heart and falls into calamity (Proverbs 28:14).
The fear of the Lord, which could be defined as the proper perspective of and response to the Lord, is a key ingredient for righteousness, and Solomon lists many benefits of fearing the Lord. It is no wonder then that “the righteous are as bold as a lion” (Proverbs 28:1). The righteous one fears the Creator and Designer of life, and then accordingly follows the design that is prescribed.
Paul, like Solomon, understands that “the righteous are as bold as a lion.” Paul expresses that he has confidence through Christ toward God (2 Corinthians 3:4) and that in Christ he has found reason to boast in things pertaining to God (Romans 15:17). He acknowledges that one should boast in the Lord (2 Corinthians 10:17). Paul’s confidence in God was great, even in the most difficult of circumstances. He could have courage facing those difficulties, knowing that it was Christ who strengthened him (Philippians 4:12). And as he asked the Romans, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).
God is faithful. He is trustworthy. He is dependable. Those who rely on Him are blessed. As David remarked, “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken” (Psalm 37:25). Solomon learned well from his own father that “the righteous are as bold as a lion.”