Today’s word is a multi-generational thing. At the risk of dating my self but when I was a youth everything was “cool.” A little earlier if something was good and enjoyable we described it as being “bad.” But awesome is universally used to describe that which has really left us in many cases speechless and incapable of adequately describing what was witnessed. And I must say here I am not referring to the typical 7-11 song on Sunday morning where God is awesome in a seeker sensitive context. Remember “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:31); and that this is addressed to God’s people.
-inspiring awe or admiration or wonder
Which is ok, and we look at it and say yeah if something is awesome it does do that. And make no mistake it is a great understanding if used for a sunset or standing at the rim of the
Grand Canyon but does it cut it for describing God … not quite; I don’t think.
Webster’s 1828 did not define awesome but he did define its root – awe as:
To be astonished
- Fear mingled with admiration or reverence; reverential fear.
- Fear; dread inspired by something great, or terrific.
To strike with fear and reverence; to influence by fear, terror or respect;
It is interesting to see the first mention of this word in many if not most translations which gets to the root of “fear or dread.” Its absolute first mention ‘yare’ is found in Gen 3:10 where Adam, upon being ‘caught’ in his sin states “…I was afraid.” And I think this is where
Princeton misses it and Webster hits it on the head. In virtually every case of awe or awesome in scripture there is an accompanying fear and reverence when applied to God and to a lesser extent the angels as well.
Abraham used the absence of fear of God as an excuse to lie about Sarah being his sister (Gen 20:11) and here speaks of reverence. Jacob though uses a slightly different meaning when Laban had pursued him when Rachael stole the household gods (Gen 31:25-42). But here it is clearly evident that fear in terms of personal injury is in view (Gen 31:42) with the use of ‘pachad’.
But ‘yare’ is described as a dreadful fear of something or someone. Look at Prov3:7-8,
“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.” If we turn this over we see that not turning from evil is to not fear the Lord and to be wise in your own eyes. This leads to sickness; and the sickness of the flesh is one thing but in view here is a sickness of the soul. And the man who is soul sick needs to be filled with a healthy awe (fear) of God.