Awe and Wonder
Last weekend I attended the Anglican Schools Australia Conference in Hobart. The conference theme was “Awe and Wonder” – very fitting for a location to reflect on such a theme with the view from the hotel room captured below. Chilly but inspirational.
Dr Paula Gooda was a guest from overseas. “Wonder”, she said, does not appear often in the Bible and is best linked with “Amazement” which appears quite frequently. When Jesus calmed the storm in Mathew 8:27, the disciples were amazed – “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”. We tend to overdo the words Wonder and Amazing these days. “I had an amazing time eating pizza on the weekend”. Great, but it does not equate to calming a storm or walking on water.
The word “Awe” in the Bible, she said, is not most accurately associated with spectacular or wonderful. It is best associated with “fear”. It occurred to me that we have cleaned up the word a little over the years. “Awesome” is rarely meant to mean “fearsome”, yet in our daily lives “Awesome” has lost its awesomeness and can be used very carelessly as a substitute for “good” or even “yes”.
Question: So why should the awe of God be equated with a fear of God? Why should we fear God?
Answer: We should fear God because He is dangerous. It is a mistake to just see God as a toothless grandfather who waves his finger occasionally and can be pacified with a newspaper and slippers. God is a righteous, powerful, serpent crushing Creator who hates sin and judges those who do not accept salvation through Christ. When we say God is Awesome because He loves us and because He made a wonderful world – we are right. But, we are also right to mean Awesome as Fearsome.
Psalm 111:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Dr Gooda notes that the emphasis here is on God and not on Me. Research shows that people who feel awe are more likely to care for others (90% correlation). To Fear the Creator is often to Care for His Creation. The Law of the Bible is vertical (God) centred (Love the Lord your God with all your heart ….) and horizontal (Others) centred (…. and love your neighbor as yourself). It is not ME centred: It is WE centred.
Dr Gooda compares this with the Law of Social Media – worshipped with such reverence by so many. It is an appealing Law: “The World revolves around ME”. Follow the people who like you. Fight with those who are outside the circle. Get likes to show that you are right and those who disagree are wrong.
- Think vertically.
- Think Horizontally.
- Remember to have JOY in life – Jesus first; Others second; Yourself last.
- Practice Awe and Wonder….
“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our sense to grow sharper” W.B Yates