“Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.” (Acts 2:43 NIV)
Today’s word for Creative Meditations for Lent has taken me in a different direction than I expected. I started thinking about awe in the above verse.
I’ve decided my definition of awe (like most other people’s, I suspect) has been entirely inadequate. We use it so casually as in, “You did an awesome job, kid.”
Other translations of the Bible use the word fear instead of awe. I looked it up. The word in Greek is phobos, the root of ‘phobia’ –a fear so strong it makes us want to run away (like the Children of Israel wanted to run away when God showed up on Mt. Sinai.)
Phobos appears in this passage as well:
People will faint from terror [phobos], apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. (Luke 21:26)
If we use the word awe instead of fear it gives a sense of how much the word awe has been devalued.
People will faint from awe.
For years I have sung “Our God is an awesome God” with the same fervour as if the lyrics had been, “Our God is a pretty impressive God.” Some of us have hit the other ditch in reaction to the sermons about a wrathful, vengeful God that neglected emphasis on his overwhelming love, mercy, and grace. Have we gone too far the other way? We can’t ignore the scripture about awe/fear of a God more powerful than we can imagine. Solomon wrote in the book of Proverbs that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
We have no idea what awe really means. But I think we are about to find out.