Did you know that God is described as “awesome” in the Bible?
Yes, the actual word is used.
Psalm 47:2 declares:
“For the Lord Most High is awesome,
the great King over all the earth.”
It was last week in my once-a-week morning study with a great group of women where I realized that God was described as “awesome.” It was in our lesson on Nehemiah, which referred us to Nehemiah 1:5:
“Then I said: ‘Lord, the God of heaven,
the great and awesome God,
who keeps his covenant of love
with those who love him and keep his commandments,…’ “
I’ve read these passages before, but–obviously–I had not read them slow enough or conscientiously enough to see the word “awesome” in the way I do now. (I need to work on having “eyes to see” and “ears to hear.”) That particular word takes me back 30+ years to my teens.
You see, I am an ’80s teen. “Awesome” was a big part of our vocabulary, and it was another way of saying things like “wow,” “REALLY cool,” “pretty fantastic,” or “spazzy good.” In case we struggled with spelling, the cheerleaders at our high school (and yours, too, I’m sure) had a cheer that went:
Awesome! Awesome! Awesome are we!” (!!!!)
“Awesome,” in my mind, was more of a teeny-bopper word…until last week.
During the ’80s, I don’t think I EVER attributed “awesome” to God.
I use a New International Version (NIV’84) of the Bible for my regular study, and my exhaustive concordance is the same version. It lists “awesome” as being used 34 times in the NIV Bible. For comparison’s sake, the New King James Version (NKJV) uses “awesome” 39 times, the New American Standard Bible (NASB) uses it 32 times, and the English Standard Version (ESV) references “awesome” 33 times.
As a part of my homework for this post, I committed to read all 34 entries from the NIV.
I am in awe.
I knew and I know God is awesome, but after reading these 34 references to the word in the Word, I AM just IN AWE of who He is and how my still-’80s perspective of “awesome” falls SO far short of the real meaning of the word.
If you go to Blue Letter Bible , and you type in “awesome” and ask to see it in various versions (I pulled it up in the NASB for this particular example), and then you click the box beside STRONG’S (you can only do that on the NASB and the King James Version on this website; that’s why I used NASB…), you’ll see the word “awesome” come up in red. Just to the right of the word, you’ll see a tiny reference number. If you right-click this and open it in a new tab, you’ll see the same page I linked to above and here.
Scan down this page you just opened, and you’ll see the word broken down, defined and outlined. You can see there are some references to “fear” and “dread,” but you’ll also see references to verses and usages where “awesome” is used to mean, “to stand in awe of, be awed, to honour, to respect, to cause astonishment, and to inspire reverence or godly fear or awe.”
My takeaway — from the verse in Nehemiah we were going over last week and also after reading the 34 NIV references — brings me to seeing God in an even more astonishing and reverent, awe-filled way! He’s majestic, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present, and…AWESOME! I knew all of that, but I never deeply tied who He was to the Biblical definition and understanding of “awesome” like I do now. My ’80s idea of the word just can’t match how I see it now.
I just love reading His Word. He never ceases to amaze me. Never. He knows me SO well, and even after many years of studying Him in His Word, I still get excited to learn more about Him…and also about words which describe Him.