What’s in a Word?

I was speaking with a friend last week, and we agreed that the most overused word for 2011 has to be “epic.” The first definition of epic is “noting or pertaining to a long poetic composition, usually centered upon a hero . . .” It is the third definition, “heroic, majestic, impressively great”, that relates most closely to its contemporary use; however, it is the overuse of “epic” that actually diminishes its strength when used describe an event, person, etc. I chuckle when I hear a movie that has yet to be released is the ‘epic” film of the year or when a play in a Sunday noon football game is described as “epic”, only to have yet another “epic” play in a 3 p.m. game that same day. Really, was it epic? Or was it just a good play that was worthy of being noted?

There is another word in the English language that has been has been minimized by its overuse. That word is “awesome.” The definition of awesome is “an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear, produced by that which is grand, sublime, extremely powerful, or the like.” That is quite a definition. Time and time again in the Old Testament, “awesome” is used to describe God and His works. In Deuteronomy 7:21, as Moses speaks of driving the nations out the Promised Land, he reminds them “You shall not be in dread of them, for the LORD your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God.” Again in Deuteronomy 10:17,21 Moses encourages the Israelites once again, “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty and awesome God . . . He is the one you praise; He is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with you own eyes.”

I could go on and on through Job (10:16, 37:22), where God’s awesome power is put forth; to Nehemiah (1:5, 5:14), where the LORD is “great and awesome”; and on to the Psalms (45:4, 47:2, 65:5, 66:3), as the psalmist extols God’s awesome deeds and how awesome is the LORD Most High. There is also Daniel’s great prayer of confession where he prays the “LORD, the great and awesome God” (Daniel 9:4). Other Old Testament prophets — Isaiah, Joel, and Zephaniah — make reference to the “awesome things” God did (Isaiah 64:3), “the awesome day of the LORD” (Joel 2:31), and that “the LORD will be awesome against them” (Zephaniah 2:11). Often it is used in conjunction with LORD in capitals, referring to YAHWEH, the Most Holy God. To the Jewish people, YAHWEH was such a sacred name that they feared speaking it and instead would say “The Name.” Awesome not only referred to reverence, but also to a holy fear or terror due only to God.

Sadly, our culture has downplayed reverence (that goes hand-in-hand with fear) of our awesome God, by giving the same description to sports players, a well-done action, an event, food, dogs, cats, etc. How the Evil One must feel such satisfaction at reducing a description of our Almighty God to one given equally to a feat performed by man or a cute dog. It is not my purpose to shame anyone who uses “awesome” to describe something other than Almighty God, but just to point us to the One who really is awesome. Is that other object really awesome? Instead, is it merely incredible, great, or really good? Does it deserve reverence or awe? Is it worthy of holy fear or terror?

Join me as we celebrate the epic work of our awesome God in the incarnation of His Son, Immanuel “God with us.”

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

— Isaiah 9:6

May you have a blessed and Merry Christmas!

by Cindy Bates, Director of Connections Ministries