Awe and Living Well

HarvestfestGraphics_2The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight…. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. Proverbs 1:1-2; 9:10a

A study done in 2012 by researchers at Stanford University examined the feeling of awe and its effect on people’s experience of life. They found that awe enhances a person’s sense of well-being. They also found that people are willing to volunteer their time to help others, tend to focus less on material things, and experience greater life satisfaction. The findings of this study are not surprising. We know from everyday life that experiences of awe and amazement can inspire us to do or try things we thought to be beyond ourselves. Awe can bring great perspective or clarity, and can both humble and inspire us.

The book of Proverbs speaks about the experience of awe: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” Proverbs took shape at a time when the nation of Israel faced significant change, transition, and turmoil, and it was used in the family context to train youth to live rightly and responsibly before God— to grow in wisdom. In Proverbs 9:10 two important concepts converge: fear of the Lord, and wisdom. Fear is reverential awe, respect, and wonder in response to God’s majesty. Such a posture of standing in awe of God’s majesty, says Proverbs, is the beginning of wisdom. It is the way to skillfully live in the midst of a broken world. No theme dominates the book of Proverbs more than wisdom, and wisdom begins with reverential awe of God. Proverbs is an exposition of what it means to live wisely in the circumstances of everyday life, and it touches on every aspect of life: seeking and doing good, sexual morality, work ethic, self- concept, relationships with family and neighbors, integrity, poverty and wealth, speaking well, cultivating one’s inner life.

Skill in living well in our world touches on these areas and more, and it begins with fear—the reverential awe of God. The book of Proverbs is more than pithy sayings and parables. The Hebrew word translated “proverbs,” mashal, comes from the root verb that describes the act of ruling, reigning, or exercising dominion. Proverbs provides a deep foreshadowing of Jesus’ teaching on what the rule of God, the kingdom of God, looks like in the daily life of God’s people.

Tom Keppeler

PONDER: What elicits awe in your life and to what extent does it help you live wisely? (Consider leaving a comment below.)


* * *


•• PRAYER ••

Blessed Lord,
by whose providence all Holy Scriptures were written
and preserved for our instruction,
give us grace to study them this and every day
with patience and love.
Strengthen our souls with the fullness of their divine teaching. Keep from us all pride and irreverence.
Guide us in the deep things of thy heavenly wisdom,
and of thy great mercy lead us by the
Word unto everlasting life:
through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.

Brooke Foss Westcott, 1825–1901 From The Complete Book of Christian Prayer


Awe is an overwhelming feeling of admiration. While we can be in awe of everything from the successes of our sports teams to the beauty of the setting sun, Proverbs reminds us that the one who deserves true awe is God. As we think about who God is, we should be overwhelmed with reverence and awe for him.

Read Proverbs 9:10a. What kind of fear is this verse talking about? The beginning of wisdom
is being in awe of who God is. Read a few of the following passages out loud: Deuteronomy 10:17; 2 Samuel 22:22-24; Psalm 48:14; Psalm 62:7-8; 1 John 4:16. How can these verses help us be amazed and awed by God?

10 thoughts on “Awe and Living Well”

  1. This well written devotion causes us to part the blinds and gaze upon creation. The kaleidoscope of colors that paints the landscape this Fall is one of many ways to experience awe in God. He is the ultimate artist! Now it’s time for me to respond to Him…

    1. Thx R.C. for the reminder to let the beauty of what we see in nature, and particularly the majesty of Wisconsin autumn, to elicit awe before our Creator.

  2. We DO have an awsome God. All I have to do is look out at night (on a clear nite in WI is not always God-granted…) up at the sky & see just a tiny fraction of what’s out there. Then I understand there are 72 sextrillion stars (suns) up there – That’s 72 followed by 22 zeros. The nearest one is 4 light years (so what we’re seeing was actually 4 years ago for that star. And with our fastest spacecraft it would take 80,000 years to just reach that star! All that illustrates the awesome power of our Creator. So if He could put that all together, he certainly has the power to help me with my relatively small-magnitude problems/situations (even though it’s easy for me to feel they’re larger in magnitude …)

    The other Thing from the above passages is the frequent use of he phrase “fear of the Lord”. I’ve always had trouble with that since I believe God is a loving God and doesn’t want us to be fearful of Him being a revengeful, meanspirited being who threatens to send us to hell, etc. I grew up in Catholic schools taught by nuns, many of whom didn’t have their heads screwed on straight (maybe that was out of “habit” – sorry for a little attempt at humor). So It’s been helpful to hear that translated into an awesome God that we should respect & revere.

    Keep up the good work.

  3. When I think of the awesomeness of God, it is when I think about how He loves me even when I fail and how He sent His Son to die for me, even when I was a sinner and still fall short many times. His Love surpasses human understanding. Great is His Love and Grace.

  4. The little coincidences that happen everyday. They go unnoticed sometimes, but when you see them and realize that God makes those happen because He loves and cares about you it is truely amazing.

  5. When I read His Words and realize these very words I am repeating were spoken by Him I feel”awe” , wonder, hope, thanksgiving, and love knowing that I am speaking the very words my Shepherd spoke and still speaks to today… Therein lies the fullness of His life connecting with the life He gave me… I am forever His and I am in awe of how much He gave in love and obedience to our Abba. The thing that I am fearful of is that I continue to fail — stumble and feel I may never get this thing right; but I know I have to stretch out of my self in grasping hold of His ongoing care to help me up again again and again…this too fills me with awe!

  6. What a blessing to participate in.the Kingdom study. I am blown away by God’s awesomeness and humbled when I think (know) that He loves even me.

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