Several years ago, I decided I would only use the word “awesome” when I was referring to God, His attributes, and/or His works. My rationale then was that if I referred to anything else as awesome, what word would I use for God, who He is, and the things He does? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines awesome as “terrific, extraordinary,” and “inspiring awe.” Finding a parking spot in some places is quite an accomplishment, but is it awesome? We enjoyed a meal, but was it awesome? We may know people who cause our hearts to smile when we see or think about them, but does that make them awesome? Whenever I start to use the word casually, I check myself and use another synonym. There was nothing spiritual about my decision at the time; it was just my preference then, and it still is.
These thoughts came to mind as I reflected on the words from Psalm 47:1-2a: “Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy. For the Lord Most High is awesome” (NIV). The Living Bible puts verse 2a this way: “For the Lord, the God above all gods, is awesome beyond words.” According to Bible scholar Albert Barnes, “the meaning is that He is worthy of profound reverence or adoration.” Adam Clarke, in his commentary on the verse, says, “He has insufferable majesty,” while Matthew Henry states, “He is infinitely above the noblest creatures, higher than the highest; there are those perfections in Him that are to be reverenced by all, and particularly that power, holiness, and justice.”
When one thinks about God, the word “awesome” is perhaps the best the English language gives us to describe Him, His attributes, and His works. It is easy to say we serve an awesome God, or we stand in awe of God, without fully understanding what we are saying. Merriam-Webster defines awe as “an emotion variously combining dread, veneration, and wonder that is inspired by authority or by the sacred or sublime.” Our minds cannot begin to comprehend that awesomeness. Yet the term “awesome” is frequently employed in the Old Testament to describe God or anything connected to Him (e.g., Deuteronomy 7:21; Nehemiah 1:5).
Sometimes, when I stand in awe of God, the word “awesome” seems so inadequate. I find myself using words like “Lord, you are magnificent! and “You are glorious!” as my mind struggles to find the right words to describe the indescribable. That is how awesome He is. It is no wonder the Psalmist declared, “Who is like unto the Lord our God, who dwelleth on high? ” (Psalm 113:5). Jeremiah concluded, “There is none like You, O Lord; You are great, and your name is great in might” (Jeremiah 10:6). Our God is awesome! The next time you use the word, stop and think about it. If you were not talking about God, who He is, what He does, and/or what He is doing, was whatever it was awesome?