February 21, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 83: Great and Awesome

Great and Awesome

"Do not be terrified by them, for the LORD your God, who is among you, is a great and awesome God. (Deuteronomy 7:21 NIV)

"Great" and "awesome" are a couple of words that make frequent appearances in our contemporary conversations. 

"Great job," I told my high school band student after her concert just the other night. "That's awesome, sweetie," I congratulated my college sophomore when she found out she'd won a new scholarship. (Those of you who've ever looked at a college tuition bill require no additional explanation for this reaction.)

Perhaps "great" and "awesome" are overused in common communication, but this stop on our Names of God journey is not a condemnation of anyone's vocabulary; it is an examination of God's character. And there is no doubt that these words are never more appropriately used than in reference to our great and awesome God.

"Great" as it is used to describe God implies size, importance, and power. It tells of the scope of every aspect of God's nature: His long patience and His deep love and His wide mercy, for example.

Scripture often ties God's greatness to a response from us. 

*We respond to His greatness by worshiping: "I will sing of the LORD's great love forever" (Psalm 89:1).
*We respond by paying attention: "Whoever is wise, let him heed these things and consider the great love of the LORD" (Psalm 107:43).
*We respond by praising: "Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom" (Psalm 145:3).
*We respond by receiving what He has for us: "How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?" (Hebrews 2:3a).

"Awesome" derives from words meaning "to be afraid" or "to revere." The Greek word that shows up in the NIV version of the New Testament as "fear" is actually "phobos," and there you see the origin of our English word "phobia." But since "do not be afraid" is God's most oft-repeated directive to us, there must be some distinction between being afraid and being in awe of God. 

I believe fear of God has to do with proper reverence for who He is and proper respect for what He is not only capable of doing but entirely justified in doing. When we gain the faintest understanding of who God is, holy fear and awe are not only reasonable but required.

Oh, friends, however overused the words "great" and "awesome" may be in our everyday exchanges, this bears repeating: God is great, and God is awesome, and though we may speak these truths for all eternity, we will never be able to say them too much.

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I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to tell me what you really think. Years ago, I explained to my then-two-year-old that my appointment with a counselor was "sort of like going to a doctor who will help me be a better mommy." Without blinking, she replied, "You'd better go every day." All of which is just to say I've spent some time in the school of brutal honesty!