yes, I’m still writing about New Year’s but it is New Year’s Day, after all, the day we make promises to ourselves that we call New Year’s resolutions. Promises so easily made and just as easily broken, causing us to feel discouraged and defeated before the new year has even had time to grow old.
As I thought about this cycle of promises made, promises broken, I came across these words, “It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it. . . . Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God.” (Ecclesiastes 5:5-7) Now the author is talking about vows made to God, but I feel the same way about vows I make to others and vows (promises, resolutions) I make to myself. Better not to do so in the first place. I just end up disappointed or disappointing someone I care about. Better to just stand in awe of God.
But what exactly does that mean, to “stand in awe of God”? The dictionary definition of awe is “a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear and wonder”. Therefore the word awful should refer to something or someone full of or who fills us with that mystical mixture of respect, fear and wonder all at the same time. But we have flipped the meaning of awful, which we now use to describe anything or anyone as terrible, undesirable, horrible; a person, food or experience to be avoided at all costs because they are awful. (although our word awesome now substitutes for awful or “full of awe”)
So since I have determined not to vow or to make resolutions, I think I need to learn to “stand in awe of God.” Proverbs 9:10 tells me, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” and Psalm 46:10 tells me to “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
I need to be still and to stand in awe of God. The Romans refused to do this and it did not go well for them. “For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools . . . They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator – ” (Romans 1:21-25)
In contrast, I want to stand in reverent fear of God and receive His promises. “Who, then, is the man that fears the Lord? He will instruct him in the way chosen for him. He will spend his days in prosperity, . . . The Lord confides in those who fear Him; He makes His covenant known to them. My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only He will release my feet from the snare.” (Psalm 25:12-15) “Through the fear of the Lord a man avoids evil.” (Proverbs 16:6)
“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ ” (Psalm 14:1) but I know better. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” (Psalm 19:1) The angels testify, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory.” (Isaiah 6:3) The shepherds saw God’s glory and experienced that awe that is God’s due. “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” The shepherds were standing in awe of the Creator of the universe as the angel of the Lord shared with them the news of Jesus’ birth. They were filled with reverence, fear and wonder, which is the awe with which I am to view God. Indeed, awe is the only possible response on my part when God reveals Himself.
Even Jesus’ enemies could not avoid the response of awe when they came face to face with the revelation of Jesus’ identity. “When Jesus said, ‘I am He,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.” (John 18:6) The “they” in this scenario are the six hundred plus armed Roman soldiers who have come after Jesus to arrest Him. When Jesus answers their question as to His identity, we are told these soldiers fell instantly to the ground, all of them. They may not have been standing in awe of the Son of the Living God, but they were demonstrating proper reverential fear and wonder, for as they lay prostrate on the ground they were showing the awe they were experiencing in the presence of Jesus.
So no promises/resolutions for me because “It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it. . . . Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God.” and that is precisely what I desire to do; to stand, to kneel, to bow, to lay prostrate, to live – in awe of God.
sincerely, Grace Day